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)
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.
Source: “L.M. Montgomery,” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 4.
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.