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|L(ucy) M(aud) Montgomery (1874-1942)|
Canadian writer, who became famous for her juvenile books, especially Anne of Green Gables (1908) with its six sequels. The main character is a spirited, orphan girl, who finds a home with an elderly brother and sister. Montgomery produced more than 20 novels and other books. Anne of Green Gables was rejected by several publishers. She was 34 when it was finally accepted.
"I'm pretty hungry this morning," she announced, as she slipped into the chair Marilla placed for her. "The world doesn't seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night. I'm so glad it's a sunshiny morning. But I like rainy mornings real well too. All sorts of mornings are interesting, don't you think? You don't know what's going to happen through the day, and there's so much scope for imagination." (from Anne of Green Gables)
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island. When she was two, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father, who was a merchant, remarried, and moved away. Montgomery was raised by her maternal grandparents in Cavendish. The place was isolated and her childhood was not particularly happy: she grew up in an atmosphere of strict discipline and punishment for the slightest reason. She joined her father briefly in Prince Albert, but then returned to Prince Edward Island. In her journal she later complained, that if she slipped out for a walk, her grandmother would suspect she had been out to "see some fellow."
At an early age Montgomery read widely. She started to write in school and had her first poem published in a local paper at the age of fifteen. In 1895 Montgomery qualified for a teacher's licence at Prince Wales College, Charlottetown. During the 1890s she worked as a teacher in Bideford and at Lower Bedeque, both on Prince Edward Island. While working in the community of Bedeque she had a romance with Herman Leard; he was four years her senior and destined to take over the prosperous family farm. In her diary she wrote that Herman "sent flame through every vein and fibre of my being."
In 1895-96 Montgomery studied literature at Dalhousie University, Halifax. She returned to Cavendish to take care of her grandmother, and worked at a local post office. In 1911 after her grandmother died, Montgomery married Ewan MacDonald, the Presbyterian minister, and moved with him to rural Ontario. While caring for her grandmother, she wrote the first book of the Anne series. It drew on her girlhood experiences. The idea was based on a notebook entry from 1904: "Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them."
Anne of Green Gables was the story of a talkative, red-haired orphan, Anne Shirley. She has big green-grey eyes and a narrow, freckled face. Matthew Cuthbert and his sister, Marilla, have adopted her from an orphanage in Nova Scotia. The book, which was aimed at a general audience of adults and children, became hugely popular, although The New York Times critic (July 18, 1908) wrote: "...there is no real difference between the girl at the end of the story and the one at the beginning of it. All the other characters in the book are human enough." Mark Twain wrote in 1908 to Montgomery to praise "Anne" as "the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice." The sequels followed Anne's life from childhood to adulthood – she marries Gilbert Blythe, a doctor, loses her first child but her life is then fulfilled with the birth of Little Jem. The initial volume has been filmed several times, adapted for stage and translated into some 40 languages.
Montgomery's success was shadowed by a nine-year dispute with her publisher and her husband's bouts of melancholy. "Looking back over his attacks I find that they have always come on suddenly when he was disappointed or homesick", Montgomery wrote in her diary on April 12, 1921. "Evidently his disappointment and loneliness were repressed into his subconscious mind and began playing tricks with his nerves, as psycho-analysis has recently discovered such things do." In 1925 the family moved to Norval, near Toronto, and then in 1935, after her husband's retirement, to Toronto. Anne of Ingleside (1939), the last volume in the Anne series, reflected Montgomery's disappointments in life. During the late 1930s Montgomery suffered a breakdown, and remained despondent until her death on April 24, in 1942. She left 10 volumes of personal diaries (1889-1942), whose publication began in 1985. The material, which was frank in many ways, was intended for those who would later became her biographers. According to Kate Macdonald Butler, the granddaughter of author, Montgomery actually committed suicide by taking an overdose of drugs.
Montgomery wrote several collections of stories and two books for adults. Her other series characters include Emily, who appeared in three novels, and Pat, who was in two novels. Montgomery's heroines are frequently motherless, but adventurous, imaginative and determined. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables has a fiery temperament, to do with her red hair. When she marries Gilbert, she abandons her career as a teacher and is often in an irritable mood. "It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?" Montgomery wrote.
After becoming tired of Anne, Montgomery created Emily Byrd Starr, who has dark hair and loves nature and loves to write. Anne's imagination leads her into conflict with her surroundings, but Emily uses her imagination to compose poems and stories. In the third part, Emily's Quest (1927), she publishes her first book, is confused by reviews, which are conflicting, and marries Teddy Kent, an artist.
For further reading: Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings by Mary Rubio (2008); Lucy Maud Montgomery Album by Kevin McCabe and Alexandra Heilbron (1999); L. M. Montgomery & Canadian Culture, ed. by Irene Gammel & Elizabeth Epperly (1999); Anne's World, Maud's World: The Sacred Sites of L.M. Montgomery by Nancy Rootland (1998); World Authors 1900-1950, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); Writing a Life: L.M. Montgomery by Mary Rubio, Elizabeth Waterston (1995); The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery's Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly (1992); L.M. Montgomery, ed. by J.R. Sorfleet (1976); The Wheel of Things by M. Gillen (1975); The Years Before Anne by F.W.P. Bolger (1974); The Story of L.M. Montgomery by H.M. Ridley (1956) - Museums: Anne of Green Gables Museum, Box 491, Kensington, Prince Edward Island - House where L.M. Montgomery spent much of her childhood. Green Gables, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island - Montgomery's neighbour's house, which is 'Green Gables' in her novels. See: Astrid Lindgren and her unconventional children's book character Pippi Longstockings. See also Louisa Alcott