Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery, writer (b at Clifton, PEI 30 Nov 1874; d at Toronto 24 Apr 1942). Lucy Maud Montgomery published her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, in 1908.
Lucy Maud Montgomery, writer (b at Clifton, PEI 30 Nov 1874; d at Toronto 24 Apr 1942). Lucy Maud Montgomery published her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, in 1908. The book became an instant bestseller in Canada and the US, and has remained in print for nearly a century in English as well as in numerous translations. Although Montgomery was 34 when Anne of Green Gables appeared, she had been writing short stories and poems since her mid-teens, selling them for many years with considerable success to magazines in North America. By the time she died, Montgomery had published 22 novels and books of short stories, in addition to one book of poetry (The Watchman, and Other Poems in 1916); a brief autobiographical account (The Alpine Path: the Story of My Career in 1917); and the many and still incompletely catalogued poems, stories, and articles she wrote for magazines throughout her whole life.
Montgomery's contract with her first publisher, L.C. Page in Boston, required her to produce two sequels to Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Avonlea in 1909 and Anne of the Island in 1915). She wrote 4 more books under contract to Page (Kilmeny of the Orchard in 1910, The Story Girl in 1911, Chronicles of Avonlea in 1912, and The Golden Road in 1913). Then, following a bitter lawsuit, she shifted in 1917 to Canadian publishers McClelland and Stewart and American publishers Frederick Stokes. In 1920, although Montgomery had not renewed her contract with him, Page published a collection of short stories still in his possession (Further Chronicles of Avonlea). Another lawsuit ensued, more or less concluding Montgomery's relationship with her first publisher, who by this time held the rights to her first six books, including Anne of Green Gables.
With McClelland and Stewart/Stokes, Montgomery wrote five more Anne books (Anne's House of Dreams in 1917, Rainbow Valley in 1919, Rilla of Ingleside in 1920, Anne of Windy Poplars in 1936, and Anne of Ingleside in 1939). They also published her "Emily" trilogy (Emily of New Moon in 1923, Emily Climbs in 1925, and Emily's Quest in 1927), as well as six other novels (The Blue Castle in 1926, Magic for Marigold in 1929, A Tangled Web in 1931, Pat of Silver Bush in 1933, Mistress Pat in 1935, and Jane of Lantern Hill in 1937). Montgomery's income from her writing enabled her to maintain a comfortable life for her family. She did not, however, significantly benefit from the profits accruing to her first books, particularly from Anne of Green Gables. The royalties she was assigned in her first contract with Page were small, and the profits pertaining to licensing and reprints, including the fees for the first two cinematic adaptations of the novel in 1919 and 1934, remained for the most part with the publisher.
Montgomery became an astute businesswoman, managing what was remarkable for a woman writer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: to ensure a reasonably stable and solid income from her work. She did, however, have considerable artistic anxiety early in her career and throughout her life. She felt that her work was perceived to be less literary and less modern than the writing of many of her contemporaries, something even her extraordinary international popularity did little to assuage. She was also disappointed that her poetry, which she continued to write and publish for her whole life, was not taken as seriously as her fiction. Montgomery herself considered her poetry to be more significant than the novels she sometimes characterized as "potboilers."
If the critical response to her writing was not entirely satisfying, it is clear from her journal that it was not the only disappointment in her life. Following the early death of her mother, Clara Woolner Macneill (1853-76), Montgomery's childhood was spent with her maternal grandparents. Her father, Hugh John Montgomery (1841-1900), moved west to Prince Albert in what is now the province of Saskatchewan while Montgomery was still a child. Montgomery joined her father and his new family in 1890, but, homesick and somewhat disheartened by her relatively marginal position in her father's new home, she returned to the Macneill homestead in PEI in 1891. She began publishing her work in local newspapers, and completed the teachers' training course at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown in 1893-94. She also studied for one year in Halifax, at the Halifax Ladies' College at Dalhousie University, but did not complete her degree.
During the 1890s, Montgomery taught in various PEI village schools. Between 1899 and 1901, she returned to Nova Scotia, working as proofreader and weekly "society" writer, "Cynthia," for the Halifax Morning Chronicle and Daily Echo. During the 1890s and past the turn of the century, she continued to write poems and stories, including many moral tales for children or "Sunday School" stories.
Montgomery returned to the McNeill homestead in 1901, and remained there until her grandmother's death in 1911. Working in the house and in the post office run by the Macneills from the homestead, she continued to write and publish stories and poems. After her grandmother's death, Montgomery married Presbyterian minister Ewen Macdonald, to whom she had been secretly engaged since late 1906. At the time of their marriage, the Macdonalds left PEI to take up residence in Leaskdale, Ontario. The Macdonalds and their two sons would remain in Ontario, living later in Norval and Toronto.
After her marriage, Montgomery's roles as mother and as minister's wife made many demands on her time, demands that were exacerbated by the increasingly frequent episodes of Ewen Macdonald's evident depression. She continually sought to find a productive equilibrium between the writing she wanted to do and her domestic responsibilities. Montgomery repeatedly demonstrated in her writing and in interviews that she believed motherhood to be the most important work for women. This sentiment indicates both her engagement with early twentieth-century ideas about a woman's maternal duty and her sense of her own unhappiness due to the early loss of her mother.
Montgomery's fiction returns again and again to representations and narratives related to questions of motherhood and maternity. Her novels and stories repeatedly focus on orphans, children abandoned by parents or separated from them, and children in the care of unloving relations, as well as absent mothers and childless women or "spinsters." Much of Montgomery's writing, from the first novel, Anne of Green Gables, to such late novels as Magic for Marigold and Jane of Lantern Hill, is underpinned by an almost didactic imperative with regard to motherhood as a crucial work for women and a primary focus in the education of girls.
Although Montgomery maintained that she wanted to preserve a clear separation between her fiction and her life, the two have come to be inextricably entwined in the construction of the various heritage and tourist sites associated with Montgomery and her work. Thousands of tourists visit PEI each year to see the "sacred sites" related to the writing of the book and to its imaginative landscape. A concomitant industry in Anne-related commodities such as souvenirs and dolls has flourished, as has the production of new televisual films (Anne of Green Gables in 1985, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel in 1986, and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story in 2000), a related series (Road to Avonlea, 1989-1996), and an animated series in 2000.
Montgomery died in Toronto in 1942, just before the first Canadian edition of Anne of Green Gables was published by Ryerson Press. Her body was transported by train to PEI, and a funeral ceremony was held at what had by then become Prince Edward Island National Park, the homestead in Cavendish that she had indicated was a model for Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert's farm in the first novel. She was interred at Cavendish. Montgomery's novels remain in print, and continue to be the focus of increasing critical and scholarly attention. The ten handwritten volumes of the journal that she kept from 1889 to 1942 have been published in selected form (edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston) in five volumes.