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Tag: The Alpine Path

How Fair the Realm Literary Allusions Open to the View

Extract from the first edition of ANNE OF AVONLEA, by L.M. Montgomery.
"Splendid," Anne agreed, gray shining eyes looking down into blue shining ones Anne and Paul both knew
"How fair the realm
Imagination opens to the view,"
and both knew the way to that happy land. There the rose of joy bloomed immortal by dale and stream; clouds never darkened the sunny sky; sweet bells never jangled out of tune; and kindred spirits abounded. The knowledge of that land’s geography … “east o’ the sun, west o’ the moon” … is priceless lore, not to be bought in any market place.
Detail from page 167 of the original edition (first impression) of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea,
published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.

Earlier this year, I received a message from a fellow L.M. Montgomery reader asking about an apparent quotation that appears in chapter 15 of Anne of Avonlea: “How fair the realm / Imagination opens to the view.” Some digging revealed that this was one of the quotations that Rea Wilmshurst, in her pioneering 1989 article entitled “L.M. Montgomery’s Use of Quotations and Allusions in the ‘Anne’ Books,” had not been able to identify. And although the quotation also appears, in identical form but without the line break, in an entry in Montgomery’s comic diary written collaboratively with Nora Lefurgey (included in The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, edited by Irene Gammel) and in a 1927 letter from Montgomery to Ephraim Weber (included in After Green Gables, edited by Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen), the editors of those volumes were unable to identify this source either (see Montgomery to Weber, 16 November 1927, in After Green Gables, 148; Montgomery, 26 January 1903, in Montgomery and Lefurgey, “‘ . . . Where Has My Yellow Garter Gone?,” 27).

What I found intriguing is that Montgomery used this quotation, in identical form except for the line break, on three separate occasions, years apart from each other (1903, 1909, and 1927), and yet, the fact that this quotation still hasn’t been identified indicates that either Montgomery quoted the text inaccurately (as she often did, since when dropping quotations into her work she evidently relied on memory, which is rarely exact) or the source in question is incredibly obscure. At the same time, judging by the large number of results from a Google search for the text of this quotation, it’s clear that its text has resonated with Montgomery readers, many of whom, faced with no evidence to the contrary, credit Montgomery herself as the source of the quotation.

Still, as I’ve remarked several times before, the increased digitization of old print materials over the last fifteen years or longer has given researchers opportunities to fill many of the gaps in the work of earlier scholars like Wilmshurst, who had to rely on dictionaries of quotations and sayings and to comb through hard copies of the complete works of innumerable poets and prose writers in order to complete her research, and so it is a testament to Wilmshurst’s determination and skill that she identified as many quotations and allusions as she did. Digitization allows researchers not only access to books, magazines, and newspapers beyond the physical holdings at individual libraries but also the ability to search through electronic texts.

Detail from the title page of the original edition of ANNE OF AVONLEA, published by L.C. Page and Company, in 1909, with text as follows:
"Flowers spring to blossom where she walks / The careful ways of duty, / Our hard, stiff lines of life with her / Are flowing curves of beauty." —Whittier.
Detail from the title page of the original edition (first impression) of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Avonlea,
published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.

And so, in most cases, a few rounds on Google will solve lingering mysteries or confirm earlier findings quite easily: it takes less than a minute to determine that “east o’ the sun, west o’ the moon,” quoted in that same paragraph in Anne of Avonlea, refers to the title of a Norse fairy tale that appears in translated form under the title “East of the Sun & West of the Moon” in Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book (1889). It is equally straightforward to determine that the epigraph to Anne of Avonlea—“Flowers spring to blossom where she walks / The careful ways of duty, / Our hard, stiff lines of life with her / Are flowing curves of beauty,” attributed on the title page simply to “Whittier”—is from John Greenleaf Whittier’s long poem “Among the Hills” and to read the extract in the context of the whole poem. And as I pointed out last year when discussing the epigraph to Rilla of Ingleside, the digitization of old print materials can sometimes allow us to determine not only what text but also what version of a text Montgomery is quoting.

After trying multiple combinations of terms from the “imagination opens to the view” quotation, I finally came across a single instance of something that initially looked like a dead end: a poem entitled “Day-Dreams,” attributed to Harriet Trowbridge, which begins with what looks like an epigraph: “How fair the realm / Imagination opes [sic] to view— / Soft emerald fields / And skies of melting blue!” The poem appears in the February 1886 issue of Wide Awake, a Boston periodical, but doesn’t offer a source for the epigraph. I couldn’t find any other hits for this version of the quotation, which disappointed me; while at least I could answer my fellow Montgomery reader’s question and confirm that yes, this is a real quotation, I didn’t seem to be any closer to determining where it was from.

Page from a digitized nineteenth-century magazine, beginning with the following textual items:
Harriet Trowbridge
“How fair the realm
  Imagination opes to view—
Soft emerald fields
  And skies of melting blue!”
What follows is the first half of a poem, consisting of two-couplet stanzas (beginning with "O tell me, pretty, Alice, tell me, I pray, / Where have you been wand’ring this midsummer day?") and including a drawing of a little girl with frizzy hair accompanied by a caption that reads "Pretty Alice."
Detail from “Day-Dreams,” a poem by Harriet Trowbridge that was published in the
February 1886 issue of Wide Awake, a Boston periodical. Courtesy of Google Books.

Still, figuring this discovery was better than nothing, I sent all of this to my longtime friend Jennifer H. Litster, whose Ph.D. on Montgomery at the University of Edinburgh involved a tremendous amount of work on Montgomery’s literary allusions (and was completed prior to the widespread digitization of older print materials). And I’m glad I did, because her response made me reconsider my initial assumption that I’d hit another dead end.

“She read Wide Awake, didn’t she? So there is of course the possibility that this is the source for her.”

Jenny reminded me that Montgomery had read Wide Awake as a child at some point during the years Wellington and David Nelson had lived with her and her grandparents in Cavendish, something I had forgotten. And so, armed with our respective copies of Montgomery’s journals are both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, we pieced together a possible chronology as best we could using the clues Montgomery had left behind in both her journals and in her celebrity memoir “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career.” The first thing to do was to determine if it was possible that Montgomery had read the February 1886 issue of Wide Awake, given that, as Montgomery mentioned in a journal entry dated 7 January 1910, it was Wellington Nelson who had been sent this monthly magazine (CJLMM, 2: 258). Elsewhere in her journal, she mentioned that the Nelson boys had stayed with her until she was eleven (3 May 1908, in CJLMM, 2: 185) and that they left sometime in the winter (7 January 1910, in CJLMM, 2: 266). Given that Montgomery turned eleven at the end of November 1885, it is plausible that she read that February 1886 issue of Wide Awake before the Nelson boys left. And it’s also plausible that she incorporated the contents of this magazine into her own creative life, given that she mentioned earlier in that 1910 journal entry that as a child she had named her cat Topsy “after a cat in ‘Wide Awake’” (CJLMM, 2: 264).

And if it seems unlikely that Montgomery clipped or copied items she had read in magazines as a child and used them in her own writing as an adult, we do have evidence of her doing just this. In a journal entry dated October 1916 in which she mentioned that she had written “the story of ‘My Literary Career’” for the Toronto magazine Everywoman’s World, she reported that she had selected “The Alpine Path” as a her title, an echo of “a bit of fugitive verse entitled ‘Lines to the Fringed Gentian’ by some forgotten author. The last verse haunted my memory and has been with me all these years as an aspiration” (LMMCJ, 1: 251). When she mentioned this memoir again in an entry dated January 1917, she specified that the poem, entitled “The Fringed Gentian,” had been “published in the old Godey’s Lady’s Book” and referred to it as “the little verse which I wrote in my port-folio” (LMMCJ, 1: 268). In the late 1980s, Carol Gaboury established that this poem had appeared as part of a sixteen-chapter serial entitled “Tam: The Story of a Woman,” by Ella Rodman Church and Augusta de Bubna, published in six instalments between January and June 1884, when Montgomery was nine (see Lefebvre, Headnote, 232).

What Montgomery did not mention in either journal entry is that she also clipped the poem from the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book and pasted it in what is now known as her Red Scrapbook, on a page that was reproduced in Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s book Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery.

Scan of a yellowed scrapbook clipping from an old periodical, cropped around the full text of a poem called "The Fringed Gentian"; the full text of this poem is in the blog post.
Scan of a clipping from an old periodical, cropped around the full text of a poem called "The Fringed Gentian"; the full text of this poem is in the blog post.
Two clippings of the poem “The Fringed Gentian,” appearing in a fiction serial entitled “Tam:
The Story of a Woman,” by Ella Rodman Church and Augusta de Bubna, published in the March 1884
issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book (Philadelphia). On the left is a detail from the page in Godey’s Lady’s Book
(courtesy of the Internet Archive); on the right is a detail from a page in Montgomery’s Red Scrapbook,
appearing in Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s Imagining Anne: L.M. Montgomery’s Island Scrapbooks.

I’m not aware that anyone has found a clipping of Harriet Trowbridge’s “Day-Dreams” in Montgomery’s scrapbook, but since the issue of Wide Awake in question didn’t belong to her, perhaps she had to content herself with transcribing it in a notebook (one that, like her “port-folio,” no longer survives).

In a sense, this is one of the reasons I chose to make Montgomery the central focus of my academic research more than twenty years ago: that there’s always some new to investigate and discover, especially as the digitization of older print materials reveals new clues that can be added to the mix. And given that Montgomery was born 148 years ago today, it is worth taking stock of all of the ways that her life, her work, and her legacy continue to fascinate readers all around the world.

Still, when it comes to the literary allusions in Montgomery’s work, for every mystery that’s solved are a dozen more than remain elusive. The opening line of Anne of Avonlea refers to Anne as “a tall, slim girl, ‘half-past sixteen’” (AA, 1), but my attempts to find a source for that quotation have so far led me nowhere, except for Mrs. A.D. Hawkins’s 1879 novel Hannah: The Odd Fellow’s Orphan (where the phrase “half past sixteen” also appears within quotation marks) and various references to 4:30 in the afternoon. But maybe one day, the right print publication will be digitized and made text searchable, and someone will have better luck solving that mystery, too.


Church, Ellen Rodman, and Augusta de Bubna. “Tam: The Story of a Woman” (third instalment). Godey’s Lady’s Book (Philadelphia), March 1884, 233–46.

Epperly, Elizabeth Rollins. Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2008. 100 Years of Anne.

Hawkins, Mrs. A.D. Hannah: The Odd Fellow’s Orphan. Indianapolis: Douglass & Carlon, 1879.

Lefebvre, Benjamin. Headnote to “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career,” by L.M. Montgomery. In Montgomery, A Name for Herself, 231–35.

Montgomery, L.M. After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery’s Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916–1941. Edited by Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

—. Anne of Avonlea. Boston: L.C. Page and Company, 1909.

—. The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901–1911. Edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2013.

—. L.M. Montgomery’s Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1911–1917. Edited by Jen Rubio. N.p.: Rock’s Mills Press, 2016.

—. A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917. Edited by Benjamin Lefebvre. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018. The L.M. Montgomery Library.

Montgomery, L.M., and Nora Lefurgey. “‘ . . . Where Has My Yellow Garter Gone?’ The Diary of L.M. Montgomery and Nora Lefurgey.” Edited, annotated, and illustrated by Irene Gammel. In The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, edited by Irene Gammel, 19–87. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.

Trowbridge, Harriet. “Day-Dreams.” Wide Awake (Boston), February 1886, 164–65.

Wilmshurst, Rea. “L.M. Montgomery’s Use of Quotations and Allusions in the ‘Anne’ Books.” Canadian Children’s Literature / Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse 56 (1989): 15–45.

5 July 1911

One hundred and seven years ago today—on 5 July 1911—L.M. Montgomery married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald, in Park Corner, Prince Edward Island, at the home of her maternal relatives, the Campbells (the location is now known as the Anne of Green Gables Museum and is a delightful place to visit).

Since I started this website eleven years ago, I’ve blogged on the anniversary of Montgomery’s birth and on the anniversary of her death, but I don’t believe I’ve ever blogged to commemorate her wedding day. This year, as I finish work on a restored and annotated edition of Montgomery’s celebrity memoir “The Alpine Path,” which will appear in A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on what made this day rather complicated for Montgomery, and to consider the contrast between the public face she put on for her guests that day and the clues she planned to leave behind that would make future friends aware of some of the drama that at the time she had to hide.

One aspect that has always amazed me about Montgomery’s journals is the murkiness of her overall portrait of Ewan Macdonald. Montgomery’s first mention of him in her journals is when she announces their engagement, in an entry dated October 1906 in which she devotes far more space outlining why marrying him would be a bad idea before revealing that she’d indeed accepted his proposal, ending with a lukewarm statement: “I feel content.”

The engagement wasn’t exactly promising: Macdonald proposed to her just as he was about to embark on further studies in Scotland, although Mary Henley Rubio notes in her biography of Montgomery that there’s no evidence that he completed any work there, whereas Montgomery would not be free to marry for as long as her elderly maternal grandmother was still living, hence the five-year engagement. Scholars who have tried to establish the composition and submission timeline of Anne of Green Gables based on Montgomery’s few (and conflicting) clues have pointed out that, if the novel was accepted in April 1907 after being refused by four other publishers—as well as an unspecified amount of time in which the typescript sat in a hat box, something the recent Heritage Minute on Montgomery captured very well—then quite possibly Macdonald’s proposal coincided with a particularly discouraging point in her attempt to launch herself from freelance writer of short stories and poems to novelist.

Not only that, but two major changes happened after the 1906 engagement: the publication of Anne of Green Gables in June 1908 changed the trajectory of Montgomery’s career completely, and Macdonald being called to a parish in Leaskdale, Ontario, in early 1910—something Montgomery does not mention in her journals—meant that she would have to leave Prince Edward Island in order to marry him. In short, marriage would not resemble what either of them had had in mind in 1906. But there’s no record that indicates that Montgomery contemplated breaking off the engagement at any point.

Tombstone for L.M. Montgomery and Ewan Macdonald, Cavendish. Photograph taken 25 June 2008 by Benjamin Lefebvre.

Macdonald proved in many ways to be a difficult husband, according to Montgomery’s account. Not only did he express no interest in Montgomery’s career, but also, he resented her success as an author as well as any tribute she received for her work as a minister’s wife. What’s most noticeable about Montgomery’s record of him in her journals, however, is how often he disappears from the journal for pages at a time, almost as though it often didn’t occur to Montgomery to write about him unless something was wrong. Still, he made a mistake in underestimating the power of her pen. Although Macdonald spelled his name “Ewen,” Montgomery consistently wrote it as “Ewan” in her journals—consequently, everyone now follows her lead. Not only did they name their second surviving son “Ewan Stuart Macdonald,” but also, both spellings appear on their tombstone in Cavendish. Every time I go to the Cavendish cemetery to pay my respects, I ponder this.

I also frequently wonder about the fact that no photograph of the wedding or of Montgomery wearing her wedding dress survives. (The dress itself is on display at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace in Clifton, PEI.) Instead, we have nine trousseau photographs depicting Montgomery, standing in roughly the same spot, wearing elaborate dresses and hats. Two different combinations of six of these images appear in cropped form in Montgomery’s Selected Journals and Complete Journals, but to me, the uncropped versions are even more fascinating. She must have been aware of the laundry flapping on the clothesline behind her, but if so, I can’t imagine what point she was trying to make. (Actually, on second thought, maybe I can.)

All images courtesy of L.M. Montgomery Collection, Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library.

When she wrote about her wedding day in a retrospective journal entry in 1912, she records feeling “contented” the night before her wedding and again the morning of the wedding, repeating the term she used in her journal the day of her engagement. After the ceremony was over, however, her emotions took a decidedly different turn:

I had been feeling contented all the morning. I had gone through the ceremony and the congratulations unflustered and unregretful. And now, when it was all over and I found myself sitting there by my husband’s side—my husband!—I felt a sudden horrible inrush of rebellion and despair. I wanted to be free! . . . At that moment if I could have torn the wedding ring from my finger and so freed myself I would have done it! But it was too late—and the realization that it was too late fell over me like a black cloud of wretchedness.

The mood passed, and she does not record expressing these feelings to anyone else at the time. But she immortalized this moment in the pages of her journal, which she wanted to be published after her death, as though she wanted future readers to understand why, at that wedding feast, “I was as unhappy as I had ever been in my life.”

What Montgomery omits from her journals, however, is that she’d done whatever she could to keep the media away from the event, as revealed in an unsigned piece appearing in The Boston Herald three weeks later and reprinted in Volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader:

Well, of course, a time came when she had to share her secret with a few intimate friends outside of her own family. Her publisher, Mr. L.C. Page of Boston, was one of the earliest of these, and naturally he wished to share it with the public. But straightway he received a letter, part of which ran as follows: “As for the ’embargo’—no, it must not be lifted until after the event. I am resolved that no hint of the matter shall get into the ‘paper news’ until it is over, and I shall be much annoyed if anything of the sort occurs.”

It is unclear how the Boston Herald had obtained a copy of this letter or whether Montgomery was aware they had published this piece, but it seems a safe bet that she did not consent for it to be published. After all, when she wrote about her marriage in “The Alpine Path,” she was brief and to the point: “As my husband was pastor of an Ontario congregation, I had now to leave Prince Edward Island and move to Ontario.” Not only did she not identify her husband by name or disclose either the denomination they belonged to or the Ontario location they lived in, but also, Montgomery’s wording emphasizes that her departure from Prince Edward Island had not been her choice. I have a new theory about why she chose to say so little about her husband in this public memoir, thanks to a new piece of evidence given to me by a longtime friend of mine, which I talk about in the afterword to A Name for Herself, coming this fall from University of Toronto Press.

UPDATE, 5 JULY 2018: I’ve just been reminded by someone in the Montgomery community that the dress on display at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace is a replica of Montgomery’s wedding dress, not the original.

“‘Spleet-New’ from the Publishers”: Anne of Green Gables at 110

Cover art for Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.

In a journal entry dated 20 June 1908, L.M. Montgomery wrote:

Today has been, as Anne herself would say, “an epoch in my life.” My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence—my first book! Not a great book at all—but mine, mine, mine,—something to which I had given birth—something which, but for me, would never have existed.

This morning, one hundred and ten years later, at a desk several hundred kilometres away from Montgomery’s home in Cavendish, I began correcting the proofs of my next Montgomery book, A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, due out in September. What I like best about this stage of a book’s production is that the manuscript that I’ve watched evolve through several stages of compilation, drafting, editing, annotating, and revising is finally starting to look like a book. Proofreading Montgomery’s work one last time against the original copy-texts also allows me to immerse myself in the text again. And while there are still some adjustments to be made to ensure that everything fits on the page, for the most part, the book is done.

The reason I’m especially drawn today to this quotation from her journal entry dated 20 June 1908 is because of how it appears in Montgomery’s 25,000-word celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path,” first published in 1917 and included in my volume. Although Montgomery makes reference to a journal entry with that date, the entry she quotes reads slightly differently:

To-day has been, as Anne herself would say, “an epoch in my life.” My book came to-day, “spleet-new” from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was to me a proud and wonderful and thrilling moment. There, in my hand, lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence—my first book. Not a great book, but mine, mine, mine, something which I had created.

In a sense, the two versions are more or less identical—the most noticeable difference is the term “spleet-new,” which she places within quotation marks (it’s basically an archaic form of “brand new” or “perfectly new”). But now that I’m at this late stage in the editorial process for a new edition of “The Alpine Path,” I see these discrepancies differently than I used to. One of the aspects of “The Alpine Path” that I discuss in the book is the source of all this material. Montgomery quotes self-consciously from her journals on a number of occasions, complete with dates, but, to quote my headnote in the book, “a closer comparison of this text and her private life writing reveals that she mined her journal for far more material than she let on, changing only details that would contradict the public myth of her life that she aimed to construct for public consumption.”

In other words, most of the text of “The Alpine Path” is cobbled together from journal entries dated 1892 to 1912. I identify all of these borrowings in my notes, but what I want to say for now is that, except for details she wanted to keep private, most of the changes between her journals and “The Alpine Path” are fairly minor. This means that, with some exceptions, the differences between the journal entries dated 20 June 1908 are more noticeable than those between her journals and the rest of the “Alpine Path” text.

The other question, of course, is this: which of these is the “true” entry of 20 June 1908?

Starting in the winter of 1919—two years after she wrote “The Alpine Path”—Montgomery announced her plan to transcribe all of her journals from a variety of notebooks into a uniform set of ledgers because she saw her journals as having significant cultural value. It’s these ten ledgers that survive as the “official” journals that form the basis of five volumes of Selected Journals and six volumes to date of Complete Journals. When she finished this transcription a few years later, she left explicit instructions to her heirs about both conserving the ledgers and publishing their contents after her death. Because she destroyed the original notebooks, we have to take her at her word that she transcribed the full text without alteration—even though she frequently uses the beginning or the ending of a ledger volume as an opportunity to reflect on her life. (Vanessa Brown and I talk about this and other archival mysteries in a chapter that’s reprinted in Volume 2 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader.)

So again—which is the “true” entry of 20 June 1908, given that the version that was actually written that day was subsequently destroyed? Did she add the term “spleet-new” when rewriting the entry for “The Alpine Path,” or did she delete it when she “transcribed” her early journals into uniform ledgers? There’s no way to answer this question, and for that reason I don’t know what to make of the fact that the terms “spleet-new” and “The Alpine Path” return in chapter 21 of Emily’s Quest, at which point Emily receives copies of her first book, The Moral of the Rose:

There lay her book. Her book, spleet-new from the publishers. It was a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment. The crest of the Alpine Path at last? Emily lifted her shining eyes to the deep blue November sky and saw peak after peak of sunlit azure still towering beyond. Always new heights of aspiration. One could never reach the top really. But what a moment when one reached a plateau and outlook like this! What a reward for the long years of toil and endeavour and disappointment and discouragement.

I’ve always enjoyed this kind of detective work, even when—especially when—burning questions aren’t followed by concrete, plausible answers. But I should get back to proofreading, since I have a fair bit of work left to do before I can receive “spleet-new” copies of A Name for Herself from my own publisher.