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All about Anne

By kerryclare
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LM Montgomery's books are the just the beginning of all there is to learn about Anne Shirley, and the story of her creator.
Magic Island

Magic Island

The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery
edition:Hardcover
tagged : canadian

Elizabeth Waterston is a 2011 Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada.

L.M. Montgomery grew up in Prince Edward Island, a real place of "politics and potatoes." But it's her fictional island, a richly textured imaginative landscape that has captivated a world of readers since 1908, when Anne of Green Gables became the first of Montgomery's long string of bestsellers.

In this wide-ranging and highly readable book, Elizabeth Waterston uses the term "magic" to suggest that peculiar, indefinable combina …

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Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Gift of Wings
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

Mary Henley Rubio has spent over two decades researching Montgomery’s life, and has put together a comprehensive and penetrating picture of this Canadian literary icon, all set in rich social context. Extensive interviews with people who knew Montgomery – her son, maids, friends, relatives, all now deceased – are only part of the material gathered in a journey to understand Montgomery that took Rubio to Poland and the highlands of Scotland.

From Montgomery’s apparently idyllic childhood …

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Excerpt

Introduction

In November 1907, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote to a friend that biography is a “screaming farce.” She added that the best biographies give only two-dimensional portraits, but every person has a half dozen “different sides.” In 2008, one hundred years after the publication of Anne of Green Gables, we know much more about the many sides of “Maud,” as she liked to be called. And in fact many now feel that Maud’s greatest literary creation was her own tortured self­portrait, now published in her private journals more than fifty years after her death. But the truth may be even more complicated than that.

Maud’s life feels at times like a smoke-and-mirrors game. By 1920, when her name was famous all over the English-speaking world, Maud began preparing material for those who would later interpret her life. She compiled scrapbooks, account books, review-clipping books, and a multitude of other memorabilia. Although she was (in her son’s words) a “packrat” by nature, this material was also intended as a cache of information for those who would later become her biographers. She carefully recopied her journals, starting in 1919, making an edited, permanent copy. She saw her journals as her greatest gift to future biographers: they presented her life as she wanted it remembered.

When Elizabeth Waterston and I began editing the L. M. Montgomery journals in the 1980s, we took them at face value. Later we came to question elements in these fascinating life­documents. They did not hold the truth, we felt, so much as a truth. These journals, frank in so many ways, and so rich as social history, began to seem to us a cache of concealments, displacements, contradictions, and omissions. Initially, they seemed such a boon, but eventually they became another layer to excavate through. This biography will track some of my own processes, as well as my conclusions. In the nearly three decades that she has been the object of my part­time research I have never grown bored with Maud. She is truly a biographer’s dream subject: you never feel that you have found the master key that fully unlocks all the rooms in her house.

In 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery burst onto the literary scene with her first novel, Anne of Green Gables. At age thirty­three, she had already published scores of short stories and poems, but this best­selling novel achieved instant acclaim, with seven impressions printed in its first year alone. It churned up so much attention that her home province, Prince Edward Island, soon had a flood of visitors, all wanting to see the landscapes she painted so vividly. Her publisher demanded sequels, and she obliged, eventually making her beloved Island a site for tourists from all over the world. Her books appeared to be “simple little tales” (to echo her own modest phrasing in a journal entry dated October 15, 1908), but that was misleading: the last quarter century of scholarly research has shown that her writing has been, in fact, a very powerful agent of social change.

Anne of Green Gables was not written as a novel for children. It was aimed at a general audience of adults and children, men and women, sophisticates and simple readers, as were many of her other books. It appealed to famous statesmen as much as to ordinary people. In 1908, the celebrated author Mark Twain wrote Maud to praise “Anne” as “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice.” In 1910, Earl Grey, one of Canada’s most beloved Governors General and an esteemed writer himself, travelled to Prince Edward Island just to meet her. In 1923, she was the first Canadian woman to be elected as a member of the British Royal Society of Arts.

By 1925, translations into other languages were expanding her readership in Sweden, Holland, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Australia, and France. Two prime ministers of Great Britain expressed admiration for her books: Stanley Baldwin made a point of meeting her during his 1927 tour of Canada; his successor, Ramsay MacDonald, is reported to have said that he read all of her books that he could find – not just once, but several times.

At home in Ontario, where she moved in 1911 following her marriage to Presbyterian minister Ewan Macdonald, Maud was in constant demand as a storyteller and speaker. She was also active in organizations associated with the Canadian cultural scene, particularly the Canadian Authors Association. In 1928, a rapturous audience of two thousand gave her a standing ovation at the annual Canadian Book Week in Toronto, Ontario. In 1935, she was elected to the Literary and Artistic Institute of France for her contributions to literature. In the same year, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in Canada. In 1937, the Montreal Family Herald and Star reported from a survey that she and Charles Dickens were the “most read” authors in Canada. Also in 1937, the Prince Edward Island National Park was established to preserve the landscapes her books had made so famous. Her status as an international celebrity seemed secure.

By the time of her death in 1942, she had published over twenty books, and more than five hundred short stories and five hundred poems, all while raising a family, living a busy life as the wife of a country minister, and completing ten volumes of secret journals. Her books were read all over the English-speaking world, and were translated into many more languages. No other Canadian writer had reached such a pinnacle of success on so many fronts: she was truly an international celebrity.

But a reversal of her literary reputation had been slowly occurring. For the first decade after Anne of Green Gables was published, critics praised Maud’s books. However, as Modernism set in, with its grim focus on the breakdown of social norms, critics dimmed their view of her cheerful books, with their witty treatment of human behaviour and their celebration of the imagination and nature. Instead, the professional critics started faulting her novels for their splashes of purple prose and their “sentimentalism,” ignoring the darker soundings that haunted her stories before the reader got to the “happy endings.”

In the mid-1920s, the growing cadre of men who panned her books included influential newsmen, university professors, and writers in Canada, and they all knew each other. In 1926, one of Canada’s powerful newspaper critics led the attack, labelling her books the nadir of Canadian fiction. A much respected professor of literature termed her books “naïve” with an “innocence” that suggested “ignorance of life.” A grudging evaluation was made by another male novelist, who wrote: “ . . . not that those books may not have their readers who profit from them: I have found that out. But how a woman who judges so accurately can stand writing that stuff . . .” In the face of such attacks, even the critics who had previously lauded her writing started being careful to temper their praise.

Nevertheless, all these men were impressed (and annoyed) by her sales success. While some allowed that her large readership might speak to some undefined cultural need, others felt that her popularity merely proved her “lowbrow” quality. These detractors spoke with such a powerful voice in Canada between the mid-1920s and her death in 1942 that her work fell into disfavour. Librarians heeded what the influential critics said, and some libraries even shunned her books. In 1967, the don of Canadian librarians, Sheila Egoff, wrote a groundbreaking study of Canadian children’s literature that gave definition to the field. She repeated the view of the earlier critics, and attacked Maud for “sentimental dishonesty.” By the 1970s the general wisdom was that Montgomery was a sentimental writer who appealed to the uncultured and masses of undiscriminating women and children, and still in the 1980s, expressing an admiration for Maud’s books was rather risky. She was relegated strictly to the category of “children’s writer,” and was judged by her weakest books, not by her best.

My thinking for this biography began in summer 1974. At that time, I was a young academic attending an international children’s literature conference in Toronto, which brought together librarians, academics, and writers from North America and the United Kingdom. I was surprised to hear several Canadians there refer to Maud’s writing in terms that depicted it as a national embarrassment. That, I learned, was the legacy of the critics of the previous fifty years: their view was entrenched.

This puzzled me. I had come from the United States and a background in American literature. I taught Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn at the University of Guelph. In my view, Anne of Green Gables held up very well in comparison. The main difference was that Huck, a boy, could challenge conventions, but Anne, a girl, had to conform to them. Otherwise, there were many interesting similarities between the two books. Each author had a wonderfully comic way with satire, and each book – though telling a simple, episodic story – had a great deal of depth.

I soon discovered that one of my senior colleagues, Elizabeth Waterston, believed that Maud was undervalued, too. In 1967 – Canada’s centennial year and the year Sheila Egoff’s book was published – Elizabeth had written the first substantial scholarly article taking Maud’s books seriously. Soon after, she had been quietly advised by a distinguished university colleague not to waste any more time writing about Maud if she wished to advance up the academic ladder. He meant the advice in a kindly way, fearing that her critical talents would be squandered on an unworthy subject – at least in the eyes of the English Department’s Promotion and Tenure Committee.

By 1974, Elizabeth had moved on, and had become Chair of the Department of English at the University of Guelph. In 1975, a group of us in the department decided to start the journal CCL: Canadian Children’s Literature. (We had already started a course in “Children’s Literature,” a new academic field then.) Maud became the focus of our third issue, with Elizabeth’s 1967 piece reprinted as the lead article. We were scrabbling for material in a new field, and I set about writing a comparison of Huckleberry Finn and Anne. Writing this article intensified my interest in Maud. I didn’t like the sequels as much as I liked Anne of Green Gables, but there was something magnetic about her writing.

This ultimately led to a long journey into literary archaeology. In the late 1970s I met Maud’s son, Dr. E. Stuart Macdonald (who, as our friendship developed, I came to call “Stuart”), after sending him a complimentary copy of our special issue. By this time, I had formed an image of the personality I believed to be behind Maud’s books: she had a wonderful sense of humour and she looked at humankind with a bemused, tolerant smile. I thought she must have been the ideal mother, and said so early in my first meeting with her son. That ill­advised remark clearly hit a nerve, and I will never forget Dr. Macdonald’s slow, appraising look, first at me and then into me and finally through me. A succinct (and more measured) version of his response to me is found in a letter he once wrote to a Swedish woman:

. . . although in her writings, [my mother] . . . gave the impression of broad tolerance of human weaknesses, she did not condone any such elasticity in herself or her family. . . . She was extremely sensitive, although an excellent dissembler, and though she experienced great peaks, she also fell to great depths emotionally, which does not make for tranquillity. This rigidity and sensitivity, prevented any easy camaraderie in the family, but she was capable of inspiring deep affection in us all.

By the end of the interview, I was rather intimidated by Maud’s son, a busy and respected medical doctor who knew how to speak his mind forcefully when journalists and academics intruded on his time. But my curiosity about his mother’s personality was piqued to the extreme. Where did those funny, happy novels come from?

Dr. Macdonald died suddenly of an aneurysm in 1982, and Elizabeth Waterston and I began the long process of editing Maud’s journals together. Maud had willed them to Dr. Macdonald with the instruction that he should publish them eventually. I expected them to answer my evolving fascination with Maud’s hold on people – including me. A friend working on a Ph.D. told me her theory: “I reread Montgomery to wash the academic sludge out of my mind.” Other’s comments confirmed that reading Maud’s books seemed to make people feel happy, refreshed, and part of a special community. I mused over the possibility of measuring happiness through people’s neural responses while reading different writers, and I fancied the fun in matching Maud against a Faulkner or a Joyce.

As Elizabeth and I went through the journals together, editing them, we puzzled over the astonishing disjunction between the bright, happy novels and the dark, often painful life. How could one personality produce such different documents simultaneously – writing cheerful novels in the morning and tortured journals in the evening, so to speak? Maud was quite aware of her own bifurcated life. As a minister’s wife with a very judgmental nature, she developed a carefully controlled public persona and revealed little of her inner thoughts. Her journals were clearly a safety valve for a highly volatile woman. What was this complex woman really like?

Once, when a journalist came to interview her, she wrote that she was keeping her inner life private and hidden: “Well, I’ll give him the bare facts he wants. He will not know any more about the real me or my real life for it all. . . . The only key to that is found in this old journal.” But as Elizabeth and I worked closely with the journals, those “tell-all” documents, we discovered they did not reveal everything.

Dr. Macdonald had asked me to write a biography of his mother based on her journals shortly before he died. I argued that the proper order was to publish the journals first, and then write a biography, after more research. Elizabeth and I wrote a short biography called Writing a Life: L. M. Montgomery in 1995, and it is now available on the Internet (www.lmmrc.ca). Dr. Macdonald told me that if I did write his mother’s biography, he wanted it to be as truthful as possible for several reasons: first, because she herself hated prettied-up biographies that made no attempt to get behind the real truths in lives; second, because her achievements would be more remarkable if people knew the conditions under which she wrote; and finally, because there would be things people could learn from her life that might prevent them from making the same mistakes. His mother had left him written instructions that he was to publish all of her journals intact, eventually, but there is much in this biography that is not in her journals and that he himself did not know.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

tagged :

2008 is the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables.

Anne Shirley, Mark Twain observed, is “the dearest and most loveable child in fiction since the immortal Alice,” and like the elderly Cuthberts, who had hoped to adopt a boy instead of the spunky red-headed girl, generations of readers have grown to love the impetuous orphan. 2008 is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of this much loved classic.

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Excerpt

Daring was the fashionable amusement among the Avonlea small fry just then. It had begun among the boys, but soon spread to the girls, and all the silly things that were done in Avonlea that summer because the doers thereof were “dared” to do them would fill a book by themselves. . . .

Now, to “walk” board fences requires more skill and steadiness of head and heel than one might suppose who has never tried it. But Josie Pye, if deficient in some qualities that make for popularity, had at least a natural and inborn gift, duly cultivated, for walking board fences. Josie walked the Barry fence with an airy unconcern which seemed to imply that a little thing like that wasn’t worth a “dare.” Reluctant admiration greeted her exploit, for most of the other girls could appreciate it, having suffered many things themselves in their efforts to walk fences. Josie descended from her perch, flushed with victory, and darted a defiant glance at Anne.

Anne tossed her red braids.

“I don’t think it’s such a very wonderful thing to walk a little, low, board fence,” she said. “I knew a girl in Marysville who could walk the ridge-pole of a roof.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Josie flatly. “I don’t believe anybody could walk a ridge-pole. You couldn’t, anyhow.”

“Couldn’t I?” cried Anne rashly.

“Then I dare you to do it,” said Josie defiantly. “I dare you to climb up there and walk the ridge-pole of Mr. Barry’s kitchen roof.”

Anne turned pale, but there was clearly only one thing to be done. She walked towards the house, where a ladder was leaning against the kitchen roof. All the fifth-class girls said, “Oh!” partly in excitement, partly in dismay.

“Don’t you do it, Anne,” entreated Diana. “You’ll fall off and be killed. Never mind Josie Pye. It isn’t fair to dare anybody to do anything so dangerous.”

“I must do it. My honour is at stake,” said Anne solemnly. “I shall walk that ridge-pole, Diana, or perish in the attempt. If I am killed you are to have my pearl bead ring.”

Anne climbed the ladder amid breathless silence, gained the ridge-pole, balanced herself uprightly on that precarious footing, and started to walk along it, dizzily conscious that she was uncomfortably high up in the world and that walking ridge-poles was not a thing in which your imagination helped you out much. Nevertheless, she managed to take several steps before the catastrophe came. Then she swayed, lost her balance, stumbled, staggered and fell, sliding down over the sun-baked roof and crashing off it through the tangle of Virginia creeper beneath — all before the dismayed circle below could give a simultaneous, terrified shriek.

If Anne had tumbled off the roof on the side up which she ascended Diana would probably have fallen heir to the pearl bead ring then and there. Fortunately she fell on the other side, where the roof extended down over the porch so nearly to the ground that a fall therefrom was a much less serious thing.

Nevertheless, when Diana and the other girls had rushed frantically around the house — except Ruby Gillis, who remained as if rooted to the ground and went into hysterics — they found Anne lying all white and limp among the wreck and ruin of the Virginia creeper.

“Anne, are you killed?” shrieked Diana, throwing herself on her knees beside her friend. “Oh, Anne, dear Anne, speak just one word to me and tell me if you’re killed.”

To the immense relief of all the girls, and especially of Josie Pye, who, in spite of lack of imagination, had been seized with horrible visions of a future branded as the girl who was the cause of Anne Shirley’s early and tragic death, Anne sat dizzily up and answered uncertainly:

“No, Diana, I am not killed, but I think I am rendered unconscious.”

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The Blythes Are Quoted

The Blythes Are Quoted

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :

The Blythes Are Quoted is the last work of fiction by the internationally celebrated author of Anne of Green Gables. Intended by L.M. Montgomery to be the ninth volume in her bestselling series featuring her beloved heroine Anne – and delivered to her publisher on the very day she died – it has never before been published in its entirety.

This rediscovered volume marks the final word of a writer whose work continues to fascinate readers all over the world.

Adultery, illegitimacy, revenge, …

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Before Green Gables

Before Green Gables

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :

Before she arrived at Green Gables, Anne Shirley had a difficult early life. Orphaned as a baby, she is sent from one foster-home to the next, caring for other people’s children though but a child herself, and escaping from her dark reality through the power of her vivid imagination. Curious, inventive, and outspoken, even at a young age, Anne battles to make a life for herself by searching out kindred spirits, finding solace in her books, and dreaming of the day she has a family of her own. A …

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The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume I: 1889-1910

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume I: 1889-1910

edition:Paperback
tagged :

Elizabeth Waterston is a 2011 Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada.

Beginning when Lucy Maud Montgomery is fourteen, this first volume takes her to 1910, the year before her marriage, when she left Prince Edward Island. It recounts her schooldays in Cavendish, redolent with incidents, impressions, and romantic "crushes" that found their way into her fiction; a year spent in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan with her father and stepmother; a year of study at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, wh …

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Extraordinary Canadians: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Extraordinary Canadians: Lucy Maud Montgomery

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

New material about the private life of Lucy Maud Montgomery has prompted a searching look at the beloved author of Anne of Green Gables. While her fictional characters inhabited a world where love and close community bonds overcame all tribulations, Montgomery's real life was marked by grief and loneliness. Married to a clergyman who suffered from a debilitating mental illness, Montgomery struggled to keep up appearances in a Victorian society that valued propriety at all costs. As she aged, dep …

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Looking for Anne

How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

By any standard, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is a stunning success. The novel about a plucky redhead from Prince Edward Island has been in print for one hundred years, sold more than 50 million copies, been translated into more than 17 languages (including Braille), and become the focus of international academic attention. But why Anne? How did this little book create such enduring interest? The answer, though more intriguing than even Anne could have imagined, is strangely …

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