The L.M. Montgomery Reader

This Is September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
     With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendour for the flight
     Of summer blooms and joys –
                    This is September.

L.M. Montgomery’s poem “September,” included in The Watchman and Other Poems (1916)
Cover of the original edition of ANNE OF THE ISLAND by L.M. Montgomery

“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” Anne Shirley declares at the start of Anne of the Island (1915) – a statement that, as Rea Wilmshurst notes in her 1989 article “L.M. Montgomery’s Use of Quotations and Allusions in the ‘Anne’ Books,” is in fact a misquotation of Jeremiah 8:20 (“The harvest is past, the summer is ended”). For me as an academic, September also means the start of a new school year after a summer busy with research and writing projects – which this year included steady work on the next four volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library. It doesn’t always make sense to work on four books at once, but in this case I became like the little boy in Anne of the Island (and originally in one of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” columns) who went to see a biograph: “I have to look for what’s coming next before I know what went last.”

This year, September also coincided with the next phase in my latest overhaul of this website. After I published my three-volume critical anthology, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, I added the items included in those volumes – including hundreds of reviews of Montgomery’s books appearing in periodicals from eight countries – to the bibliography of sources. Until recently, the vast majority of the items in that bibliography were listed multiple times: by author, by type (journal article and review, for instance), and again by periodical title. As I started adding to that bibliography items appearing in A Name for Herself and A World of Songs, I soon saw that this duplication was going to be unmanageable, given that some of these items (like Montgomery’s tract “What to Teach Your Son,” originally from her 1901 sketch “Half an Hour with Canadian Mothers“) were reprinted dozens of times.

In order to make this website more manageable, I decided to eliminate individual pages for periodicals except for those in which Montgomery published her hundreds of short stories, poems, and miscellaneous pieces between 1890 and 1942. As more and more newspapers have been digitized and made text searchable, I’ve noticed some of these items being reprinted again and again, sometimes anonymously. Her 1898 poem “Irrevocable,” for instance, appeared in The Congregationalist, a Boston periodical, before being reprinted in several newspapers between 1899 and 1901, including once, without Montgomery’s signature and under the title “Beyond Recall,” in the Brown County World of Hiawatha, Kansas. I haven’t yet found any more publications of that poem in the few years after that, but another burst of citations of this poem as “Beyond Recall” starts in 1905, usually unsigned, and sometimes attributed to Ewing Herbert, who owned the Brown County World. I’ve decided to list all these newspaper reprints but not create pages for each periodical given that Montgomery in all likelihood had no knowledge of how widely her work was recirculating, and given that more and more newspapers are being digitized all the time, there will always be more instances of reprinting to discover.

I’ve also created a page for the alternate signatures Montgomery used, particularly early in her career, including “Maud Cavendish,” “Joyce Cavendish,” “Cynthia,” and “J.C. Neville” – a form of authorship that I talk about in my afterword to A Name for Herself.

September is meaningful for another reason, too: the critically acclaimed television series Anne with an “E” is returning on CBC starting on Sunday night for a third season of ten episodes (it will appear on Netflix around the world, except Canada, on 3 January 2020). As I wrote in a blog post last year, the titles of all first-season episodes are quotations from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, whereas the titles of all second-season episodes are quotations from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Brontë and Eliot were prominent models of nineteenth-century women’s authorship for Montgomery, so it was fitting that the episode titles for the first two seasons referred to their work. For the third season, the episode titles that I’ve seen so far all allude to another prominent book by a British woman – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I find quite intriguing. And based on what I’ve read about the storylines for this season, I do look forward to seeing what lies ahead for Anne, her friends, and the community of Avonlea in this most recent incarnation of Montgomery’s story.

March Madness Sale at UTP!

Cover art for three volumes of THE L.M. MONTGOMERY READER, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

UPDATE: This sale has been extended until April 7!

I’ve fallen woefully behind on my blog posts, but here’s one that simply can’t wait any longer. I found out earlier this week that University of Toronto Press is having a March Madness Sale, which means that several L.M. Montgomery books are 50% off for the rest of the month!

My three-volume collection The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which won the 2016 PROSE Award for Literature from the Association of American Publishers, is available for $60 for the entire set, whereas Volume 1: A Life in Print, Volume 2: A Critical Heritage, and Volume 3: A Legacy in Review are available individually for $29, which is a 50% discount. Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, a collection of essays I edited in collaboration with Irene Gammel, is also available at a 50% discount.

Additional books are also available at discounts of 40% to 60%: Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s book-length studies The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance and Through Lover’s Lane: L.M. Montgomery’s Photography and Visual Imagination, Gammel’s collections of essays Making Avonlea: L.M. Montgomery and Popular Culture and The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, Gammel and Epperly’s collection of essays L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, and Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen’s After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery’s Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916–1941.

This sale runs till the end of March, and University of Toronto Press ships worldwide. Complete your Montgomery collection today!

And while you’re at it, you can also pick up copies of my latest books: A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 and A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921.

Montgomery Reader Wins 2016 PROSE Award for Literature

I’m enormously pleased to announce that my three-volume critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader (University of Toronto Press) has won the 2016 PROSE Award for Literature, an award presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers.

The L.M. Montgomery Reader: Three-Volume Set

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre
The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

I’m pleased to announce that all three volumes of my critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader are now available as a hardcover set from University of Toronto Press!

A tremendous resource for fans and scholars alike, the three-volume The L.M. Montgomery Reader gathers together a captivating selection of material, much of it recently rediscovered, on the life, work, and critical reception of one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors.

Collecting material on Montgomery’s life (Volume One), her critical reputation (Volume Two), and reviews of her books (Volume Three), leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre traces the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and the public Montgomery. Each volume includes an extensive introduction and detailed commentary on the documents that provides the context for these primary sources, many of them freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and never before published in book form.

These volumes have received tremendous praise from reviewers:

“While Lefebvre’s The L.M. Montgomery Reader is a vital resource of primary sources from and secondary assessments of one of Canada’s most popular twentieth-century authors, it is his insightful and knowledgeable analysis that shapes and gives meaning to the collection. . . . The depth of his knowledge results in a work that is as comprehensible as it is comprehensive.” –André Narbonne, American Review of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre’s archival research is thorough and often brilliant, making the Reader an invaluable trove not only for Montgomery scholars but also for those working with the reception history of Canadian writers, especially women before Laurence, Munro, and Atwood. For Montgomery completists, the Reader is irresistible. For those engaged in Montgomery studies or Canadian literature more generally, it is invaluable.” –Anne Furlong, University of Toronto Quarterly

“With this volume, Lefebvre broadens our understanding of Montgomery’s reception and reputation both within Canada and internationally, unearthing previously obscure content and commentary and making it accessible to a far wider audience. This reader will thus prove a valuable resource to both existing and future scholars of Montgomery’s work and life, as well as those fans keen for a little more insight into the ever-elusive figure of L.M. Montgomery.” –Sarah Galletly, British Journal of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre has uncovered a cache of new, important material in an already impressive and crowded field of Montgomery scholarship. . . . His sensitive editing of the material brings the public side of Montgomery into better focus as she fields endless questions about how she became a writer, how Anne came to be and whether or not she was a real girl and what the author thought of young women in her day. [This book will] deepen our knowledge and understanding of this beloved Canadian icon.” –Laurie Glenn Norris,Telegraph–Journal (Saint John, NB)

“Lefebvre has thoroughly mined earlier scholars’ bibliographies and online newspaper archives to find reviews in periodicals from eight different countries, including the Bookman (London), the Globe (Toronto) and Vogue (New York). . . . Collectively, these reviews . . . represent a superb barometer of [Montgomery’s] fluctuating cultural value as a writer.” –Irene Gammel, The Times Literary Supplement

The three-volume set as well as individual volumes can be obtained directly from University of Toronto Press or from your local bookseller.

L.M. Montgomery Reader Cover Montage

My friend Melanie Fishbane, upon receiving her copy of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review last week, took a couple of photos of the three volumes on her shelf, edited them through some sort of Photoshop/Instagram rinse, and then posted them on Facebook. The arrangement looked so neat that I asked her permission to repost it, which she graciously gave. Thanks, Mel!

Montage of covers of /The L.M. Montgomery Reader/

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in ReviewI seem to have dropped the ball on my promise, made in November, to post either an extract of a review or an ad every single day on this website until I received my first copy of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review. Since mid-December, I’ve been so busy with the end-of-year rush, with illness, with the holidays, and with some behind-the-scenes updates on this website (including lists of journal articles, book chapters, paratexts, dissertations/theses, and reviews) that I haven’t posted anything in several weeks.

But I’m pleased to let you know that my first author’s copy of Volume 3 arrived last week, with the remaining author’s copies getting to me Thursday afternoon. As I mentioned on my own blog last week, the fact that this multi-year project has finally come to an end is bittersweet, and it’s been nice to clear my desk, both literally and figuratively, as I start to ponder what it is I’d like to tackle next. I do hope that the materials included in all three volumes will prove useful and interesting to Montgomery’s diverse readership, and of course I’m always happy to hear from readers in terms of questions, responses, and alerts to items I missed.

For those of you who are in the Toronto area: on the evening of Tuesday, 27 January, I will be joining Laura M. Robinson and Melanie J. Fishbane for an event called “The  Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War” at the North York Central Library branch of the Toronto Public Library. I’ll be talking briefly about how Montgomery’s shifting vision of the war appeared in periodicals of the period, not only in terms of some of Montgomery’s essays and letters published prior to the writing of Rilla of Ingleside but also the ways in which all her war books—not only Rilla but also Rainbow Valley, Anne’s House of Dreams, and The Watchman and Other Poems—were reviewed in North American newspapers and magazines. It promises to be a terrific evening, so please join us if you can.

“This Hideous War”

L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside is justly celebrated as one of the only contemporaneous Canadian novels to depict the experiences of women and children at the homefront. It is important to remember, though, that while Montgomery had planned to write about Anne’s children during the war as early as 1917, it was only early in 1919, after the war had ended that she began drafting this book, meaning that the book’s depiction of characters waiting and working at home was written only after the waiting had stopped.

Yet the novel was not the first time that Montgomery’s perspective on the war made it into print. In a letter to an unidentified friend published as part of the “Writers and Books” column in the Boston Evening Transcript in November 1915, Montgomery offered a spontaneous and uncensored account of her experience at home, one that neither relied on hindsight nor was definitively intended for publication, for the benefit of a recipient living in the United States, which would not join the war effort until 1917.

“As for ‘the boys’ keeping me from literary work—alas it is not the boys. I could manage so far as they are concerned. It is this hideous war. . . . We are at war—at close grips with a deadly and determined enemy. We live and breathe in its shadows. Never for one moment is the strain lifted. . . . This horrible waiting—waiting—waiting every day for the war news—the dreadful uncertainty—the casualty lists—it all seems to me as if I were crushed under an ever-increasing weight. . . . Amid all this think you I can sit me down to calm creation of imaginary people and their imaginary joys and sorrows? No, I cannot. Literature for a while must wait on life and death.”

The full letter is available exclusively in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, available now.

Montgomery Review 1: Rilla of Ingleside

Cover art for Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Canada) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA) in 1921.

Today, on this day of days, we look back on the prediction made by two unidentified reviewers of how L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside would eventually be remembered.

As a record of the war years, as seen from Glen St. Mary, the author has presented a faithful and worthy picture, spiced by realistic conversation and records of sentiment, and often illuminated by poetic touches in describing the charm of life in that island garden. —The Globe (Toronto)

A hundred years hence, Rilla of Ingleside will be useful to historians for a picture of Canadian home life during the Great War. Every great event of the conflict is traced with its effects on Ingleside, and Walter, the shy, sensitive boy, the poet of the family, takes his leave – but, why spoil the story? —Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg)

Coming Soon: Book Reviews

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in ReviewI’m pleased to let you all know that I’ve now returned to the publisher my corrected proofs of the third and final volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. Proofreading this last volume took quite a bit of time, energy, and patience, partly because the manuscript was far too long (as was the case with the preceding volumes!), and so the published volume includes 370 reviews in their entirety, as opposed to 410 as originally planned (as well as extracts from several hundred more). But also, proofreading the volume gave me one last chance to go through all my files and make sure I hadn’t left out something crucial. And when I saw that some of the PDFs had been on my hard drive since early 2009—before even the publication of The Blythes Are Quoted—and that some of my hard copies are from even earlier, it finally dawned on me how many years this project has been keeping me busy.

I’m not quite ready to let go of this project, though. In fact, I’m going to post a teaser for it, every single day, until I receive my first author’s copy sometime in the second half of December: either an extract of a review included in the book, part of a review not included, or a digital image related to the coverage Montgomery’s books received in print media dedicated to supporting the book industry. Most of the material in the book has never been collected in book form before, so what it offers is a unique look at Montgomery’s critical reception during her lifetime and how that evolved thanks to twenty-four additional books published after her death.

To start off, here is an ad for Anne of Green Gables published in The Publishers’ Weekly shortly before the publication of the novel.

Ad for Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The Publishers’ Weekly, 6 June 1908.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss a post! The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review can be pre-ordered directly from University of Toronto Press at a 30% discount or from your favourite bookseller.

Announcing The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review

I am very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication, in fall 2014, of the third (and final!) volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. It collects for the first time over four hundred reviews of Montgomery’s twenty-four books, originally appearing in periodicals from eight countries. The selections are accompanied by an extensive introduction as well as an epilogue that provides an overview of reviews of twenty-four additional books attributed to L.M. Montgomery after her death.

“Now that it is complete, The L.M. Montgomery Reader is sure to be the authoritative source on Montgomery’s critical and popular reception as a bestselling author. Benjamin Lefebvre has devoted many years to the Reader, and one cannot imagine anyone better suited for the work.”—Janice Fiamengo, Department of English, University of Ottawa