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Montgomery, Lucy Maud (1874–1942)

Montgomery, Lucy Maud (1874–1942)

World-renowned Canadian author of Anne of Green Gables and over 20 juvenile books and stories, who immortalized Canada's Prince Edward Island and the childhood experience. Name variations: Maud Montgomery. Born Lucy Maud Montgomery on November 30, 1874, in the tiny village of Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada; died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on April 24, 1942; daughter of Hugh John Montgomery (an entrepreneur) and Clara (Woolner Macneill) Montgomery; attended public school, Prince of Wales College, obtaining a teacher's license, and one year at Dalhousie University, 1895–96; married Reverend Ewan Macdonald, in July 1911; children: Chester (b. 1912); Hugh Alexander (stillborn August 1914); Stuart (b. 1915).

Lived with maternal grandparents (1876–91); composed first poem (1883); published first poem (1890); was a teacher for three years; was a newspaper columnist for one year; wrote and took care of aging grandmother (1902–11); published Anne of Green Gables (June 1908); wrote eight "Anne" books (1908–39); became fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (1923); was invested with the Order of the British Empire (1935); by the time of her death, over 21 books of fiction and countless stories and poems were published, and Anne of Green Gables had sold more than a million copies and was circulating the world in over 11 languages in book, movie, play or stage form (1942).

Selected publications:

Anne of Green Gables (1908); Anne of Avonlea (1908); Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910); The Story Girl (1911); Chronicles of Avonlea (1912); The Golden Road (1913); Anne of the Island (1915); The Watchman and Other Poems (1916); Anne's House of Dreams (1917); Rainbow Valley (1919); Rilla of Ingleside (1921); Emily of New Moon (1923); Emily Climbs (1925); The Blue Castle (1926); Emily's Quest (1927); Magic for Marigold (1929); A Tangled Web (1931); Pat of Silver Bush (1933); Mistress Pat (1935); Anne of Windy Poplars (1936); Jane of Lantern Hill (1937); Anne of Ingleside (1939).

In 1904, Lucy Maud Montgomery (called Maud by family and friends) was rummaging through some of her past writings and found an idea for a story in an old notebook. It read: "Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for boy; by mistake a girl is sent to them." Believing the idea just might work, she sat down at her typewriter.

Eighteen months later, Anne Shirley became not only the "girl sent by mistake," but also the tempestuous red-haired heroine of Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery suffered through four rejections of the manuscript and finally relegated it to the closet. Nonetheless, those "icy little rejection slips" did not deter her: "whatever gifts the gods had denied me they had at least dowered me with stick-to-it-iveness." Four years later, the 34-year-old author of countless poems and short stories received the first copy of Anne of Green Gables published by L.C. Page Publishing Company of Boston. As she held the attractively bound book with her name inscribed on it, she had little idea of the fame this story would bring her. Anne Shirley would become one of the most beloved children in fiction since the immortal Alice in Wonderland. Anne of Green Gables went to four editions in three months. By 1956, this novel and the more than 20 other novels written by Lucy Maud Montgomery comprised three million copies in British countries alone. Since 1954, Anne of Green Gables has circulated in more than seven million copies in Japan and in more than 15 languages. Montgomery became the quintessential writer of mythical childhood experiences on that fair, green isle of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.).

I can not remember the time when I was not writing or when I did not mean to be an author.

—Lucy Maud Montgomery

She was born in 1874 in a North Shore village on P.E.I. Her mother died when Lucy was 21 months old, and her father left Prince Edward Island for Western Canada. Her care and upbringing was in the hands of her maternal grandparents Alexander and Lucy Macneill until she was in her teens. In 1879, a violent headache resulting from a burn on her hand was incorrectly attributed to typhoid fever. "For the time being," said Montgomery, "I was splendidly, satisfyingly important." The Macneill homestead, "an old-fashioned Cavendish farmhouse, surrounded by apple orchards," was less than a mile away from the Atlantic and about 24 miles from the railway station. Thus Montgomery, a shy and lonely child, grew up in relative isolation until age six, when she began to attend public school. This seclusion did not appear to be a hindrance to the young girl's development. She would later describe the scene:

Everything was invested with a kind of fairy grace and charm, emanating from my own fancy, the trees that whispered nightly around the old house where I slept, the woodsy nooks I explored, the homestead fields … the sea whose murmur was never out of my ears—all were radiant with "the glory and the dream." … [A]mid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty.

Her natural inclination to regard all of nature as beautiful, coupled with her active imagination, gave way to imaginary friends and her love for cats and trees. "Trees have personalities of their own," she wrote, "being bound up with everything of joy and sorrow that visited my life, a life that was very simple and quiet." These trees would later find places in her fiction.

In addition to rock climbing and berry and apple picking, she began to write, a skill that came easily to her since the Macneill house was always full of books. The young Montgomery read Hans Andersen's Tales, poetry by Byron, Milton, Scott, and Longfellow, and novels such as The Pickwick Papers. Her writing habits developed early in life, and her imagination became "a passport to fairyland": "I had no companionship except that of books and solitary rambles in wood and fields. This drove me in on myself and early forced me to construct for myself a world of fancy and imagination very different indeed from the world in which I lived."

Her first poem was written when she was nine, the year she began keeping the journals which became an outlet for the feeling of "difference" she felt among her peers; she recorded her loneliness, and her curiosity about faith, evolution, and the divinity of Christ. Her surviving handwritten journals date from 1889 to her death in 1942. At age 11, she sent her first story to a publisher. Though it was rejected, the determined Montgomery wrote continuously through her teen years.

In a quest for adventure and freedom, so evident in her journal writing, she left Prince Edward Island in her teens. She settled for a year out "West" in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, with her father, who had become a government official and real-estate agent, and his new wife. The area provided plenty of scope for her imagination. The prairie town was in the midst of forests, lakes, and rivers, and its population was varied. Success came for Montgomery there: the first publication of a 39-verse poem arrived in winter. "It was the first sweet bubble on the cup of success and of course it intoxicated me," Montgomery later wrote. Other verses and stories were printed in Montreal and Prince Albert newspapers. She continued to write while minding her baby half-sister Kate and sent stories to various magazines and newspapers. Rejections

followed, yet she "had learned the first, last, and middle lesson—Never give up!"

In 1891, her half-brother Bruce was born. Montgomery's stepmother could not cope with her, and she missed her beloved Island home: "I am ready to cut my throat in despair. Oh I couldn't live another year in this place if I were paid a thousand dollars an hour." Returning to Prince Edward Island in the summer of 1891, she prepared for examinations to enter Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. Successful, she studied for one year and obtained her teacher's license. Her three years as a schoolteacher began at Bideford, P.E.I. Montgomery's ambition to become a writer never waned, and she diligently arose at 6 am, wrapped herself in a heavy coat, and wrote by lamplight in a cold house until it was time to begin her teaching duties for the day. Later she would comment: "When people say to me, as they occasionally do, 'Oh, how I envy you your gift, how I wish I could write as you do,' I am inclined to wonder, with some inward amusement, how much they would have envied me on those dark, cold winter mornings of my apprenticeship."

In the fall of 1895, Montgomery attended Dalhousie College in Halifax, taking a course in English literature. The winter of that year proved to be a happy one. Her "Big Week" brought a five-dollar check for a short story. It was her first payment for her writing, and she "did not squander it in riotous living" but rather bought five volumes of poetry with her earnings, feeling that she had finally "arrived." The 21-year-old Montgomery could now count herself as a paid, published author. The same week, she received $5 and $12 for further stories submitted much earlier. "I really felt quite bloated with so much wealth!"

After her successful winter in Halifax, she taught school for two more years, while also writing stories for Sunday-school publications and juvenile periodicals. When the death of her grandfather Macneill in 1898 left Montgomery's aging grandmother alone, she decided to do her "duty" to family by returning to Cavendish. For the next 13 years, Montgomery would write and care for her grandmother until Lucy Macneill's death in March 1911. Montgomery's father died of pneumonia in 1900. The following year, her work began getting accepted by U.S. journals. Now selling enough of her writing to keep her in food and clothing, she confided in her journal, "I never expect to be famous. I merely want to have a recognized place among good workers in my chosen profession."

From the autumn of 1901 to the summer of 1902, she wrote a weekly gossip column and edited a society paper. In these years of caring for her grandmother, Montgomery wrote and sold countless poems and stories. At times, editors asked her to write serials with fanciful plots, and these she produced. Though she only occasionally wrote what was dear to her heart, she was becoming successful. Her work ethic was formidable. In Canadian Children's Literature she was quoted as saying: "To work at once, stick to it, write something every day, even if you burn it up after writing it."

By 1904, she earned $591, then a large sum for a writer. That spring, she began that story from the idea found in a notebook. She had dreamt of writing a book but remained daunted by the prospect of it for some time. However, her imagination was spurred on by the thought of a girl sent by an orphanage to an elderly couple by mistake. She began to write of the famous Ann without an "e," and Anne of Green Gables began to take form in her little gable bedroom. Montgomery's favorite childhood haunts on the Island became the "Shore Road," "The Lake of Shining Waters" and "Lover's Lane" in the tale of Anne Shirley. She wrote of the myths of her girlhood and the legends of her imagination.

In April 1907, Anne of Green Gables was accepted by the publishing firm of L.C. Page. Montgomery wrote to her friend Ephraim Weber: "It is merely a juvenilish story, ostensibly for girls. … Grown ups may like it a little." By mid-September 1908, Anne was through its fourth edition. The book immediately brought wealth, fame, adulation from Mark Twain and Canadian poet Bliss Carman, and a publisher's contract with 10% of the royalties. Montgomery received over $7,000 in royalties in the first two years of publication—an amount unheard of in a province where the average yearly income for women was less than $300.

Anne of Avonlea, the sequel, was written in haste in the hot summer of 1908. The remaining six "Anne" volumes would be produced between 1908 and 1936. Montgomery also published numerous other books in the early years of the 20th century, including a collection of poetry entitled The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). During these busy years, the author's fame spread, and she began to receive hundreds of letters from around the world about Anne. She also met the Canadian governor-general at his request and was received by literary clubs across Canada and the United States.

In November 1910, Montgomery was a guest at the home of her publisher, Lewis Coues Page, in Boston. "I lived more, learned more, and enjoyed more in those fourteen days," she remarked, "than I had done in the previous fourteen years." The relationship with Page, however, would not remain so amiable.

In 1911, several months after her grandmother died, Montgomery married a Presbyterian minister, Reverend Ewan Macdonald, to whom she had been secretly engaged since 1906. After an extended honeymoon abroad, they settled in Leaskdale and Montgomery lived the life of a country minister's wife. Her husband's position brought certain constraints ("What agonies I have endured betimes when I was dying to laugh, but dared not because I was the minister's wife"), and Montgomery's ideas were not always entirely in keeping with her role as a minister's wife: "Perhaps a little evil is necessary to give spice to existence—like the dash of cayenne that brings out the flavours of a salad and saves it from vapidity? Wouldn't it be a frightfully tasteless world if there were absolutely no evil?"

Their first son, Chester Cameron, was born in July 1912, and a second son, Hugh Alexander, was stillborn in August 1914. Montgomery worked tirelessly, devoting herself to church work, sick calls, quilting bees, and the Red Cross. World War I weighed heavily on her, to the point that she had trouble eating: "It is no joke but a simple fact that I have not had one decent dinner since the war began. … When I tell this to our comfortable, stolid country people who, from a combination of ignorance and lack of imagination, do not seem to realize the war at all, they laugh as if they thought I was trying to be funny. Those who perceive that I am in earnest think I am crazy."

In October 1915, her last son, Ewan Stuart, was born. The following year, she switched publishers due to problems with Page Co. and found a home at Frederick Stokes & Co. Under pressure, Montgomery allowed Page to publish Further Chronicles of Avonlea, the revised stories for which she dutifully sent them. The book appeared in 1920 and to the author's horror contained not the revised stories but rather original drafts from 1912 which Page had in its vaults. Much of the material from these originals had already been used by Montgomery since 1912 in her published titles. The publication of Further Chronicles by Page could have exposed her to a breach of contract suit by Stokes; it also could have marred her literary credibility by including "no end of paragraphs and descriptions which were to be found in my other books." Montgomery sued Page:

The case came up in May, 1920. I went down to Boston for it. Page's lawyer thought the case would be over in two days. My lawyer was not so optimistic and thought it would take three. It took nearly nine years. … One whole day those three grave lawyers and myself wrangled over the exact color of Anne's hair and the definition of "Titan" red. Ye gods, it was funny. … They had two "art experts" on the stand who flatly contradicted each other.

In October 1928, the final Page appeal was refused. Montgomery received profits Page had withheld as well as an injunction against the book.

In 1919, her husband was diagnosed with nervous prostration. While maintaining a strong sense of duty to family and church, she was prolific and continued to publish juvenile books such as the "Emily" series and the "Pat" books. The Blue Castle (1926) was an attempt to write for adults, as was A Tangled Web (1931). All the while, the "Anne" books became universally popular and were adapted for films (twice starring Anne Shirley ), musicals, and plays the world over. Today Anne of Green Gables has become an annual festival in Charlottetown, P.E.I., to which thousands of tourists come each year to see Anne's house and the beauty of Prince Edward Island so vividly described by Montgomery. In 1939, a national park, embracing Cavendish and "Green Gables," was opened.

Lucy Maud Montgomery's life was a full one, although she suffered from poor health in her later years and an on going internal conflict with respect to her beliefs in Christianity and her role as a Presbyterian minister's wife. In 1934, her husband had a complete breakdown, which took its toll on her. In mid-1937, his health again deteriorated:

It was more than nerves this time—for about two months in the summer he was a mental case, and among other symptoms, lost his memory completely. I could not bear to have him go to any institution for I knew no one could understand him as I did, for I have nursed him through so many of these attacks.

Shirley, Anne (1917–1993)

American actress. Born Dawn Evelyeen Paris on April 17, 1917, in New York, New York; died of lung cancer on July 4, 1993, at her home in Los Angeles; married John Payne (an actor), in 1937 (divorced 1942); married Adrian Scott (a producer), in 1945 (divorced 1948); married Charles Lederer (a screenwriter), in 1949 (died 1976); children: (first marriage) Julie Payne ; (third marriage) one son.

Anne Shirley was born Dawn Paris in New York City in 1917. When her father died 18 months later, her mother found work for her modeling baby clothes and in New York-based silent films, such as The Miracle Child (1923). Accompanying her mother to Hollywood, she worked as Dawn O'Day in Pola Negri 's The Spanish Dancer. She was also cast in The Fast Set (1924), Riders of the Purple Sage (1925), Mother Knows Best (1928), and Liliom (1930), and she played the tsar's daughter Anastasia in Rasputin and the Empress (1932).

Mother and daughter were struggling throughout to put bread on the table. Then Shirley got her big break when rising RKO star Mitzi Green had to be replaced in the title role of the film adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery 's Anne of Green Gables. It was said that Green was being difficult—often a euphemism for contractual differences. At shooting's end, Dawn Paris changed her name to that of the movie's heroine, Anne Shirley. Within months, she was the juvenile lead on the RKO lot.

In addition to the sequel Anne of Windy Poplars, Shirley was featured in Chasing Yesterday (1935), Chatterbox (1936), Mother Carey's Chickens (1938), Career (1939), Saturday's Children (1940), All That Money Can Buy (1941), The Powers Girl (1942), and Murder, My Sweet (1944). Her most memorable role, besides the "Green Gables" series, was that of Barbara Stanwyck 's daughter Laurel in Stella Dallas; this role earned Shirley an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1937.

In 1945, at age 27, Anne Shirley abruptly quit acting. She told Richard Lamparski: "My mother wanted me to be a star so she could say she was Anne Shirley's mother. Well, I became one and now we're both happy. They were wonderful years but I did it all for her."

sources:

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of …? 5th series. NY: Crown.

Despite many physical and emotional setbacks, Montgomery continued to write. Pat of Silver Bush and Jane of Lantern Hill appeared in 1933 and 1937, respectively. However, Montgomery had a nervous breakdown in the winter of 1937–38, which was followed by another in 1940. Few knew her true feelings about life except for Ephraim Weber, with whom she had carried on a 40-year correspondence. She conversed with Weber on such issues as life after death, reincarnation, morals, and psychic experiences. These letters became her outlet for her true self as she felt her public self could never reveal her innermost beliefs and feelings. At the end of December 1940, she wrote him: "Dear Friend. I do not think I will ever recover. … Let us thank God for a long and true friendship." By 1941, now in her late 60s, she expressed a loss of hope for her recovery: "My husband is very miserable. I have tried to keep the secret of his melancholic attacks for twenty years, as people do not want a minister who is known to be such, but the burden broke me at last, as well as other things. And now the war. I do not think I will ever be well again." Lucy Maud Montgomery died on April 24, 1942. Her husband died two years later.

The hearts of young children and adults throughout the world have been captured by Montgomery's female characters—Anne, Emily, Pat and Jane. Prince Edward Island and Canada owe much to her. Through Montgomery's telling of girlhood myths and dreams in a beautiful regional setting, Canadian literature and P.E.I. have enjoyed fame for decades.

sources:

Canadian Children's Literature. Vol. 1, no. 3. Canadian Children's Press, Autumn 1975.

Eggleston, Wilfrid, ed. The Green Gables Letters. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1960.

Gillen, Mollie. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Don Mills: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1978.

——. The Wheel of Things. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1975.

Montgomery, L.M. The Alpine Path. Don Mills: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1917.

Rubio, Mary, and Elizabeth Waterston. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery. Vols. I–III. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Waterston, Elizabeth. "Lucy Maud Montgomery" in The Clear Spirit. Edited by Mary Quayle Innis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966.

suggested reading:

Angus, Terry, and Shirley White. Canadians All Portraits of Our People. Toronto: Methuen, 1976.

Ridley, Hilda M. L.M. Montgomery. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1956.

collections:

Journals, photographs, account books, publishing records, personal library and memorabilia are located at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario.

related media:

Anne of Green Gables, Realart Pictures, 1919.

Anne of Green Gables (80 min.), starring Anne Shirley, RKO Radio Pictures, 1934.

Anne of Windy Poplars (85 min.), starring Anne Shirley, RKO Radio Pictures, 1940.

"Anne of Green Gables," adaptation by Julia Jones for BBC-1 television, 1972.

Anne of Green Gables (195 min.), Kevin Sullivan Productions, 1986.

Anne of Green Gables, The Sequel (232 min.), Kevin Sullivan Productions, 1986.

"Avonlea," television series based on stories by Montgomery, Disney Channel.

Natania East , historian and freelance writer, British Columbia, Canada

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