I just received a notification email telling me that University of Toronto Press is offering free shipping, in Canada and the United States, on all its orders between now and the end of this Sunday, November 29. Since UTP has published a number of books by or about L.M. Montgomery over the years, and given that these books are substantially discounted on their website, this is the perfect time for readers to complete their collections!
Among the books available are the first two volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Library and the three volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which are still available in hardcover as well as the paperback editions released earlier this year. I was also pleased to see that paperback copies of Mary Quayle Innis’s The Clear Spirit: Twenty Canadian Women and Their Times (1966), which includes Elizabeth Waterston’s chapter on Montgomery that is widely acknowledged as the starting point of L.M. Montgomery studies, are still available.
I decided to take advantage of this sale myself, and I ordered two books that will certainly come in handy as I continue my work of preparing all of L.M. Montgomery’s short stories and poems for book publication: T.K. Pratt’s Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English (1996) and T.K. Pratt and Scott Burke’s Prince Edward Island Sayings (1998). I look forward to reading these!
I started writing this as a post in the L.M. Montgomery Readathon, where we’re currently reading and discussing chapter 3 of The Blue Castle, but since it’s rather on the long side for a post, I thought I’d turn it into a blog entry instead. Comments welcome, either here or on Facebook, but please—no spoilers!
Right in the first chapter of The Blue Castle, the narrator establishes the unique, almost undefinable appeal that the work of John Foster has for Valancy: “She could hardly say what it was—some tantalising lure of a mystery never revealed—some hint of a great secret just a little further on—some faint, elusive echo of lovely, forgotten things—John Foster’s magic was indefinable.” Although the librarian notes that John Foster’s books are popular with the library’s patrons, she doesn’t see the appeal of them herself, whereas Mrs. Frederick and Cousin Stickles consider all pleasure reading to be “idleness,” meaning that John Foster’s “magic” is not only indefinable but also not shared by everyone. In chapter three, Valancy “open[s] Thistle Harvest guiltily at random” when she’s supposed to be looking for her thimble, and the experience of rereading just one paragraph makes her feel “the strange exhilaration of spirit that always came momentarily to her when she dipped into one of John Foster’s books.” In other words, John Foster’s books are a form of bibliotherapy for Valancy: they centre her, calm her down, distract her from her problems, and make her feel as one with the world.
It may surprise you—and it may not—to learn that the source of this extract from John Foster’s Thistle Harvest is none other than L.M. Montgomery. As Elizabeth Rollins Epperly reveals in her 2007 book Through Lover’s Lane: L.M. Montgomery’s Photography and Visual Imagination, in creating these extracts from John Foster’s books Montgomery borrowed from a quartet of nature essays she’d published in The Canadian Magazine (Toronto) in 1911: “Spring in the Woods,” “The Woods in Summer,” “The Woods in Autumn,” and “The Woods in Winter.” Although the essays are not set anywhere explicitly, for Epperly they are “memory pictures of her favourite home in nature, Lover’s Lane.” And although Montgomery mentioned to one of her correspondents that she’d written these essays in mid-1909, they ended up being published in the midst of perhaps her most significant life transition: after her grandmother died in March 1911, she left her beloved home in Cavendish, spent three months with relatives in nearby Park Corner, married her longtime fiancé at the beginning of July, honeymooned with him in England and Scotland, moved with him to Leaskdale, Ontario, to start her new responsibilities as the wife of a Presbyterian minister in an entirely new community, and soon became pregnant with her first child, who would be born the following summer.
Here are the first two paragraphs from “Spring in the Woods,” which correspond almost exactly to the extract from Thistle Harvest included in chapter 3 of The Blue Castle:
The woods are so human that to know them we must live with them. An occasional saunter through them, keeping, it may be, to the well trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy. If we wish to be near friends we must seek them out and win them by frequent reverent visits at all hours, by morning, by noon, and by night, and at all seasons, in spring and in summer, in autumn and in winter. Otherwise, we can never really know them, and any pretence we can make to the contrary will never impose on them. They have their own effective way of keeping aliens at a distance and shutting their heart to mere casual sight-seers.
Believe me, it is of no use to seek the woods from any motive except sheer love of them; they will find us out at once and hide all their sweet, world-old secrets from us. But if they know we come to them because we love them they will be very kind to us and give us such treasure of beauty and delight as is not bought or sold in market nor even can be paid for in coin of earthly minting; for the woods when they give at all give unstintedly and hold nothing back from their true worshippers. We must go to them lovingly, humbly, patiently, watchfully, and we shall learn what poignant loveliness lurks in the wild places and silent intervals, lying under starshine and sunset, what cadences of unearthly music are harped on aged pine boughs or crooned in copses of fir, what delicate savours exhale from mosses and ferns in sunny corners or on damp brooklands, what dreams and myths and legends of an older time haunt them, what unsuspected tintings glimmer in their dark demesnes and glow in their al- luring by-ways; for it is the by-ways that lead to the heart of the woods, and we must not fail to follow them if we would know the forests and be known of them.
The last sentence from the corresponding extract from Thistle Harvest occurs several paragraphs later in this first “Woods” article:
This is where the immortal heart of the wood will beat against ours and its subtle life will steal into our veins and make us its own forever, so that no matter where we go or how wide we wander in the noisy ways of cities or over lone paths of sea, we shall yet be drawn back to the forest to find our most enduring kinship.
I blogged a few days ago about Montgomery’s “self-repetitions,” and of course this is yet another example of her doing so in a way that would have been difficult for readers at the time to pick up on, given that the “Woods” articles had been published in a periodical fifteen years before The Blue Castle and were not collected in book form until I included them in Volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader. But what I want to draw your attention to are two complications with this instance of self-repetition.
The first is that Valancy’s stated experience of reading John Foster’s work—seemingly straightforward nature writing that’s really so much more than that for readers who are willing to take these books seriously—is remarkably similar to the way innumerable readers of Montgomery’s books have described the impact that her work has had on their lives. This response to Montgomery’s work is hardly a new phenomenon—by 1926, she’d already received enough fan mail to have a clear sense of the impact her books were having on readers. So what is Montgomery doing here by describing Valancy as having a similarly “indefinable” reaction to John Foster’s work, but cloaking herself as the author of that work and attributing it within the book to a male author (or at least to a male pseudonym), especially given that the book in which John Foster’s work appears was written by an author with a gender-neutral name (“L.M. Montgomery”)?
The second complication is that, intrigued by Epperly’s discovery about the links between John Foster and these “Woods” articles and unable to shake the nagging feeling that the rest of the text of these four nature essays seemed strangely familiar, I took a closer look at these essays when I prepared them for republication and discovered that Montgomery reused extracts from them in nearly all of her Ontario novels, from The Golden Road (1913) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), making only minor changes. Here is part of page 90 of Volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, with part of “The Woods in Winter” with some of the passages underlined.
The phrase beginning with “beautiful pagan maidens” appears in Rilla of Ingleside; the sentences beginning with “But the conebearers” and “See how beautiful” appear in two different chapters in Emily Climbs; the phrase “at peace in their white loveliness” appears in Mistress Pat, along with the sentences beginning with “Every step I took”; the phrase beginning with “so taintless and wonderful” is in The Golden Road; the sentences beginning with “Every twig and spray” are in The Blue Castle. Not only that, but immediately after the second extract in Emily Climbs, the narrator adds, “Emily decided she would write that sentence down in her Jimmy-book when she went back.” Presumably, Emily, too, would want to use it again.
In my introductory headnote to Montgomery’s four nature essays, which I included in my book under the collective title “[Seasons in the Woods],” I noted that “these borrowings reveal an attempt on [Montgomery’s] part to recapture [when living in Ontario] a delightful ‘spot’ that loved on in her memory.” Since writing those words, I’ve started to look at this a bit differently. Although she expressed ambivalence to her correspondent about the literary quality of these essays, she must have come to see them as authoritative depictions of Prince Edward Island scenery in order to turn to them again and again for several of the nature descriptions that appeared in most of her novels written in Ontario. In other words, these essays acted as a bridge between the Montgomery of Lover’s Lane and the Montgomery of Ontario who never recovered fully from leaving her beloved Cavendish behind.
In other words, Montgomery’s acts of self-repetition don’t need to be understood merely as a busy writer taking shortcuts or being strategic, although certainly that can be part of it too. Perhaps these essays became a form of bibliotherapy for Montgomery as well, as she sought to centre herself in the Cavendish woods that she had renamed Lover’s Lane and that she could access only in written form while writing in Ontario. To my mind, anyway, the complexity here is worth further consideration.
Epperly, Elizabeth Rollins. Through Lover’s Lane: L.M. Montgomery’s Photography and Visual Imagination. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
Lefebvre, Benjamin. Headnote to “[Seasons in the Woods].” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 73–74.
—, ed. The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.
Montgomery, L.M. The Green Gables Letters from L.M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber, 1905–1909. Edited by Wilfrid Eggleston. Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1960.
—. “[Seasons in the Woods].” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 73–97.
—. “Spring in the Woods.” The Canadian Magazine (Toronto), May 1911, 59–62.
—. “The Woods in Autumn.” The Canadian Magazine (Toronto), October 1911, 574–77.
—. “The Woods in Summer.” The Canadian Magazine (Toronto), September 1911, 399–402.
—. “The Woods in Winter.” The Canadian Magazine (Toronto), December 1911, 162–64.
I’m very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication, in paperback, of all three volumes of my award-winning critical anthology, The L.M. Montgomery Reader (Volume 1: A Life in Print; Volume 2: A Critical Heritage; Volume 3: A Legacy in Review) from University of Toronto Press. This project took up the bulk of my professional life over a five-year period, so I’m thrilled that all three volumes will be available in paperback soon.
Once again, the best way to order these books is from the University of Toronto Press website. Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 are also available in hardcover and ebook formats.
There’s also been a lot of work going on behind the scenes here at L.M. Montgomery Online. As I mentioned in a blog post last September, I’ve been reorganizing and streamlining the information on this website to make it more manageable. When I started this website (as L.M. Montgomery Research Group) back in 2007, I wanted to showcase all contributors to L.M. Montgomery studies, and accordingly, I created stand-alone pages for every author, every periodical, every major book, and every actor in a screen adaptation of Montgomery’s work. As a result, this website became so large that I couldn’t make back-ups of it anymore, so this year I decided to eliminate pages for periodicals and to list actors, writers, and directors of screen adaptations on single pages (in the case of actors, listed alphabetically by surname with one page for each letter of the alphabet). Doing so has brought the website down to a more reasonable size, which has enabled me to start featuring lists of Montgomery’s periodical pieces.
A World of Songs consists of a selection of fifty poems—roughly 10% of Montgomery’s total output—published over a quarter of a century, starting when she was a student at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. In my afterword, I talk about Montgomery’s poems in terms of “the competing forces of literary reputation, reader recognition, financial profit, and enduring literary quality” and attempt to position this work against poems by some of her contemporaries, including Duncan Campbell Scott, Bliss Carman, and Isabella Valancy Crawford. It’s meant to be a companion of sorts to The Blythes Are Quoted, which features forty-one of Montgomery’s poems, most of which were first published in magazines from 1919 onward. It will be followed by a much larger volume of all of Montgomery’s poems, something that I’ve been working on for several years already.
Although several new trade editions of Montgomery’s books appeared in 2019, the year was also notable for the appearance of three new biographies of Montgomery, two of them for very young readers. In 2018, María Isabel Sánchez Vegara published a picture-b0ok biography for the Little People, Big Dreams series (whose books tell the story of several prominent women, including Frida Kahlo, Ella Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and Marie Curie). This past August, Sánchez Vegara published Lucy Maud: My First L.M. Montgomery, a board-book version of her biography with a simplified text in order to “introduce your baby to Canada’s favorite author.” (I especially appreciated an image showing Montgomery’s newspaper column, signed Cynthia, which I collected last year in A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917.) Sarah Howden also published a short biography for HarperCollins’s I Can Read! series, whereas a revised edition of Stan Sauerwein’s 2004 biography for the Amazing Stories series appeared as Lucy Maud Montgomery: Canada’s Literary Treasure, published by Formac Publishing Company.
Also for young children are two more volumes in Kelly Hill’s series of Anne-related concept books from Tundra Books: Anne’s Feelings and Anne’s Alphabet, which follow Anne’s Colors and Anne’s Letters from 2018. Also from Tundra this past year is Kallie George’s Anne’s Kindred Spirits, a second abridgement for children of Anne of Green Gables, following 2018’s Anne Arrives, republished in paperback in 2019.
Claudia Mills, “Trying to Be Good (with Bad Results): The Wouldbegoods, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, and Ivy and Bean: Bound to Be Bad,” in Children’s Literature
David Myles, “‘Anne Goes Rogue for Abortion Rights!’: Hashtag Feminism and the Polyphonic Nature of Activist Discourse,” in New Media and Society
Cornelia Rémi, “From Green Gables to Grönkulla: The Metamorphoses of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Its Various Swedish Translations,” in Barnboken: Journal of Children’s Literature Research
Åsa Warnqvist, “‘Don’t Be Too Upset with Your Unchivalrous Publisher’: Translator–Publisher Interactions in the Swedish Translations of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne and Emily Books,” in Barnboken: Journal of Children’s Literature Research
Twenty nineteen was also the year that the third—and ultimately the last—season of Anne with an “E” aired on CBC television. I was really disappointed to learn of the series’ cancellation, not only because I thought the show overall was excellent, but also because of the point at which it stops. The third season was released worldwide (except Canada) on Netflix just last Friday, so I don’t want to go into too much detail for viewers who haven’t finished it yet, but I was disappointed by what the networks decided was a suitable way to end a young woman’s story, given that the creators evidently hadn’t intended to end the story there. In spite of a petition and a flurry of positive responses on social media, it looks unlikely at this point that the series will be continued beyond the twenty-seven episodes already produced, which is a real shame. Although the television series departed in many ways from the book, it clearly struck a chord with viewers all over the world, much like how readers have responded to Montgomery’s writing for more than a century.
As for me, 2019 has been a busy year in terms of future volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Library. After completing the bulk of the work on the first of several chronological volumes of Montgomery’s short stories, I ended up deciding, in consultation with my editor, to move a few things around and to present this aspect of her work in a new way, with the result that I’ve spent six months working on three volumes simultaneously. One reason this has taken longer than anticipated is that I’ve been searching for a multi-chapter serial entitled “The Luck of the Tremaynes,” which Montgomery published in the January and February 1907 issues of The American Home of Waterville, Maine. I’ve searched through every digital repository I can think of and contacted libraries, collectors, and booksellers, and so far I haven’t had any luck. (I’ve come close a few times, though—a microfilm that claimed to have the full run of the issue ended at 1906, whereas copies of other 1907 issues are currently available on eBay.) In the off chance that you have a copy or have a suggestion of someone who might, please contact me. In the meantime, watch this space for news about future volumes in the series!
I guess that’s it. I look forward to seeing what 2020 will bring!
I was also thrilled to come across Jennifer Scott’s review of A Name for Herself in the Fall 2019 issue of Victorian Periodicals Review.
“Lefebvre, one of the top Montgomery scholars in the world, has painstakingly collected these scattered publications from throughout Montgomery’s career to provide a valuable resource. . . . By including Montgomery’s contributions to these publications, many of which were fleeting, Lefebvre enriches our knowledge of the periodical landscape in North America and demonstrates how these magazines and newspapers were important vehicles for women authors in Canada and the United States.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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.”
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. —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)
I’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.
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.
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
Seventy-two years ago today, L.M. Montgomery died at her home in Toronto, at the age of sixty-seven. Her death was interpreted by her family and by her physician as a suicide—a belief not revealed to the public until an article appeared in the Globe and Mail in September 2008. But in 1942, the circumstances of her death were omitted from the many obituaries that appeared in newspapers across the country, including one from the Calgary Daily Herald. Instead, these obituaries celebrated her life as well as her work, namely twenty-two book-length works of fiction, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), and one volume of poetry, The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). Moreover, the obituary appearing in the Globe and Mail, entitled “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” noted that “for the past two years she had been in ill health, but during the past winter Mrs. Macdonald compiled a collection of magazine stories she had written many years ago, and these were placed in the hands of a publishing firm only yesterday.” That book was The Blythes Are Quoted, and it was published in its entirety only in 2009.
In addition to obituaries and coverage of her burial in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a number of tribute pieces appeared in daily newspapers in the days and weeks following Montgomery’s death, including two unsigned editorials appearing on the same day in the Windsor Daily Star:
When L.M. Montgomery (Mrs. Ewan Macdonald) died in Toronto at the age of 67, a literary career that was built upon an appreciation of the simpler things of Canadian life was brought to a close. No cold realist, no pseudo-sophisticate, she wrote of life as she knew and lived it in her girlhood in Prince Edward Island, and the homely truth and honesty of those works brought her international renown. [. . .]
It was not only a flair for plot and facility of expression that made Mrs. Macdonald a great writer. Her understanding of human nature was deep and thorough, and her interest in the loves, joys and sorrows of everyday folk transcended professional curiosity. It was from all these gifts that she wove her stories, and it was from them that her novels drew their wide-ranging appeal.
Another tribute, appearing two pages earlier, is a reminder of the fact that Montgomery’s death occurred in the midst of the Second World War:
People were beginning to discover the delights of Cavendish and other parts of Prince Edward Island. The war and the consequent curtailment of travel have meant many journeys to the island will have to be postponed. But, after the war has been won, people will be going in ever-increasing numbers of Prince Edward Island, a province which Lucy Maud Montgomery helped to make famous.
As these and several more tribute pieces demonstrate, L.M. Montgomery’s work touched a chord with many readers during her lifetime, and part of its uniqueness is that her readership has only grown in the seven decades since her death, especially since volumes of journals, letters, and periodical pieces began to appear in the 1970s and 1980s, alongside popular television adaptations of her books. Her work continues to gather an international community of readers and researchers whose interest in all things L.M. Montgomery shows no signs of slowing down.
Following on the heels of the first volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, this second volume narrates the development of L.M. Montgomery’s (1874–1942) critical reputation in the seventy years since her death. Edited by leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre, it traces milestones and turning points such as adaptations for stage and screen, posthumous publications, and the development of Montgomery Studies as a scholarly field. Lefebvre’s introduction also considers Montgomery’s publishing history in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom at a time when her work remained in print not because it was considered part of a university canon of literature, but simply due to the continued interest of readers.
The twenty samples of Montgomery scholarship included in this volume broach topics such as gender and genre, narrative strategies in fiction and life writing, translation, and Montgomery’s archival papers. They reflect shifts in Montgomery’s critical reputation decade by decade: the 1960s, when a milestone chapter on Montgomery coincided with a second wave of texts seeking to create a canon of Canadian literature; the 1970s, in the midst of a sustained reassessment of popular fiction and of literature by women; the 1980s, when the publication of Montgomery’s life writing, which coincided with the broadcast of critically acclaimed television productions adapted from her fiction, radically altered how readers perceived her and her work; the 1990s, when a conference series on Montgomery began to generate a sustained amount of scholarship; and the opening years of the twenty-first century, when the field of Montgomery Studies became both international and interdisciplinary.
This is the first book to consider the posthumous life of one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors.
I was thrilled to receive, last Friday afternoon, a padded envelope containing my first author’s copy of my new book, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, published by University of Toronto Press. I’m always rather in awe of the transformation from a PDF of proofs to a physical book, and this time was no different. I’m enormously pleased with how it turned out, and I do look forward to hearing the reactions of those who read it.
What is especially gratifying, of course, is that it’s taken six years to reach the point where I could hold the book in my hands as a tangible object. Between August 2007 and July 2009, I held a postdoctoral fellowship (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, otherwise known as SSHRC) at the University of Alberta while living in my current hometown of Waterloo, Ontario (it’s a long story). My project was entitled “Branding a Life: The Case of L.M. Montgomery™” and my plan was to write a book-length study about Montgomery’s body of work, leading up to her final work, The Blythes Are Quoted, which at the time remained unpublished). Although I did a lot of researching and writing during those two years, I also spent a fair bit of time travelling to libraries and archives in order to track down Montgomery’s short stories, serials, poems, essays, and interviews, including a good number that are not listed in Lucy Maud Montgomery: A Preliminary Bibliography (1986). Initially my plan was to introduce all of this little-known material in the book, but then two things happened: first, Penguin Canada accepted The Blythes Are Quoted in March 2008, and second, I realized that I now had so many essays and interviews for a book of their own. Initially my plan was to put together a volume entitled How I Began: L.M. Montgomery’s Essays and Interviews 1910–1939. But then, somewhat inevitably, I kept finding material that I found just as fascinating—early scholarship, entries in reference works, profiles, and book reviews—and started to think of ways to place all this work in the context of Montgomery’s publishing history within her lifetime and in the seven decades since her death. And soon, the book-length study that I had originally planned got shelved, and the three-volume L.M. Montgomery Reader emerged. Like most big projects, this one has been several years in the making and it has evolved considerably as time went on, but I am very happy with the final shape of each of the three volumes.
Speaking of the three volumes, I’m pleased to announce that Volume 2: A Critical Heritage will be published in May 2014! And who knows? Maybe at some point I’ll be able to resume work on the book-length study that I had originally planned!
The L.M. Montgomery Reader assembles significant primary material on one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors throughout her high-profile career and after her death. Each of its three volumes gathers pieces published all over the world to set the stage for a much-needed reassessment of Montgomery’s literary reputation. Much of the material is freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and has never before been published in book form.
The selections appearing in this first volume focus on Montgomery’s role as a public celebrity and as the author of the resoundingly successful Anne of Green Gables (1908). They give a strong impression of her as a writer and cultural critic as she discusses a range of topics with wit, wisdom, and humour, including the natural landscape of Prince Edward Island, her wide readership, anxieties about modernity, and the continued relevance of “old ideals.” These essays and interviews are augmented by additional pieces that discuss her work’s literary and cultural value in relation to an emerging canon of Canadian literature.
Each volume is accompanied by an extensive introduction and detailed commentary by leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre that trace the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and public Montgomery. This volume—and the Reader as a whole—adds tremendously to our understanding and appreciation of Montgomery’s legacy as a Canadian author and as a literary celebrity both during and beyond her lifetime.