Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, L.M. Montgomery!

syndetics-lcOn this day in 1874, Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island. As a fellow Islander, I'm happy that such an incredibly talented author put PEI on the literary map. She is, of course, most famous for her novel Anne of Green Gables about that red-haired orphan, but did you know there are seven more wonderful books in the series? As with many authors, Montgomery's life is partially reflected in the books she wrote. Montgomery herself felt like an orphan - her mother died when she was less than two years old, and her father left her in the care of her strict grandparents.

syndetics-lc Published in 1909 right after the first novel, Anne of Avonlea details a young Anne's experiences teaching school in PEI starting at the tender age of 16! L.M. Montgomery was also a teacher at three different Island schools, but she did not enjoy the experience. She preferred to focus on her writing and her teaching career was short-lived - although it probably gave her some good experiences to draw on for writing material.

syndetics-lc In Anne of the Island, Anne moves to Nova Scotia for further education. Montgomery attended Dalhousie University and you may recognize parts of the fictitious town of Kingsport as Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Dalhousie University and Halifax Harbour (Stop #6 on our virtual Halifax Literary Walking Tour). Montgomery also spent time working in Halifax for the Daily Echo, writing columns and proofreading, before returning to PEI to care for her widowed grandmother. 
It's in the third novel that Anne finally realizes who she truly loves, but Montgomery's love life wasn't as clear cut. She turned down several marriage proposals, broke off her first engagement after falling in love with another man, and finally married Ewen MacDonald in 1911 after her grandmother died. She had been secretly engaged to the minister since 1906 and moved to Ontario to be with him, but it was not a happy life. Montgomery bore three children (her second son was stillborn) and suffered from periods of depression. While raising her children, she also cared for her husband during his bouts of mental and physical illness, and many now believe her death in 1942 was a suicide.

syndetics-lcIn 1917 a magazine asked Montgomery to write the story of her career. It was later published as The Alpine Path. In it she describes her childhood and career up to the time when she moves to Ontario with her husband, but the short tome does not give many details of her life. However, as of 2012 and 2013, people were able to get a glimpse into the more honest (and somewhat darker) side of the author when The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1900 and The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901-1911 were published. 

Montgomery's son donated her journals and scrapbooks to the University of Guelph in 1981 and an edited version of her journals had been published before, but it was carefully edited for size and revised to provide a certain positive slant to her life. These two new uncensored volumes by Mary H. Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston are a must-read for fans. They contain not just Montgomery's writing but newspaper clippings, postcards, photographs, and other paraphernalia that reflect her life and her thoughts throughout these years. Happy 141st birthday, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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