Today’s post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” series. This month we are going to focus on Lucy Maud Montgomery (or, as she’s more popularly known, L.M. Montgomery). I read Anne of Green Gables and absolutely fell in love with the book and Anne’s world.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
A Little Bit About Their Life
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on 30th November 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island. Her parents were Hugh Montgomery and Clara Macneill Montgomery. Her father was a former sea captain turned merchant and came from a long line of successful families from Prince Edward Island. Her mother died before Maud, as she was more commonly known, turned two years old and so her father sent her to live with her maternal grandparents at their isolated farmhouse in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.
Young Maud felt very out of place at her grandparents house. She was quiet, sensitive, imaginative and enjoyed spending time reading and writing. In 1890, with her father remarried and starting a new family, he invited her to live with his family in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Maud found her stepmother to be unfriendly and the two did not get along. Maud was expected to act as an unpaid maid and nanny in their new home. Although she was thrilled in November 1890 when her first published work, a poem, appeared in the Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Daily Patriot, she was equally excited to return to Prince Edward Island in August 1891.
In 1893, Maud joined Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown to prepare for her teaching career. She later worked in various rural schools for three years though she found the work boring and unrewarding. By the mid-1890s, Maud had become relatively successful and many of her stories and poems had been published for money.
In 1897, Maud became engaged with a young man who she quickly became disillusioned with. Whilst engaged, she met another young man whom she loved but knew was unsuitable for her and she could not marry. She ended up breaking up with both men and stopped looking for love. Maud was very traditional for her time and saw marriage as the ultimate goal for herself and other women. She was a romantic at heart and marriage was her biggest goal.
Her grandfather died in 1898 and she spent the next thirteen years caring for her grandmother. Although her life was very constrained and she had a lot of responsibility, she found happiness in her writing and that in turn provided a considerable income for her. During this time she also became close friends with Ephraim Weber and G.B. MacMillan. In the letters to her friends, she expressed her hopes and fears as a writer.
In 1908, Maud’s previously rejected first novel, Anne of Green Gables, was published. It was an immediate success. Among the thousands of fan letters Maud received was one from Mark Twain, who described her heroine as “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.” A sequel, Anne of Avonlea, followed in 1909 (there eventually were eight Anne books) and, despite not having received very favorable royalty terms from her publisher, Maud’s professional and financial success was cemented.
Maud’s grandmother died in 1911 and four months later, Maud married a man called Ewan MacDonald (a minister to whom she had been engaged to secretly for five years). They honeymooned together in the British Isles and then returned to begin their life together in Ontario. Maud soon discovered that being a minister’s wife involved a lot of responsibility (meetings, choir practice, home visits…). Although she did not enjoy these activities, she performed them well. She also became a mother; she had two sons, Chester in 1912 and Stuart in 1915.
World War I was a greart source of concern for Maud and the end of the war gave her no respite. In 1919 her cousin died. Later in the same year, her husband suffered an attack of what was called “religious melancholia”, a feeling of hopeless certainty of eternal damnation. Maud was worried for her children as mental illness was then understood to be hereditary. Maud was also worried that other people would hear of Ewan’s illness. Although they sought medical help in Boston and Toronto, nothing helped and Ewan continued to have mental attacks for the rest of his life. In addition, in 1920 she became engaged in a series of acrimonious, expensive, and very trying lawsuits with publisher L.C. Page, which dragged on until Maud finally won in 1929. In the early 1920s, Maud created a new heroined, Emily of New Moon, who became nearly as popular as Anne. Her achievements were recognised in 1923 when she became the first Canadian woman to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England. She was furthered honoured in 1927 when she was asked to meet the visiting Prince of Wales and the then British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin.
Her success continued on into the 30s. Several of her books were well received. She was invested with the Order of the British Empire in 1935, and in 1936 the Candian government created a national park on Prince Edward Island because of the renown of her books. Despite this, Ewan was still her main concern and in 1935 he suffered a complete breakdown and was institutionalised for months. Although Ewan improved, Maud herself suffered a breakdown. In 1939, Maud wrote that she had felt the best she had in years. Though this was short lived. The outbreak of World War II depressed her greatly. Ewan’s health declined and Maud became very ill. Her condition worsened and she died on 24th April 1942.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read
I have read Anne of Green Gables and I absolutely loved it. I’d love to continue reading the rest of the Anne series as well as Emily of New Moon. I love Lucy Maud Montgomery’s writing.
Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work
I think the most popualr TV adaptation of her work is probably Anne with an E on Netflix. I’ve not watched this yet. I’m waiting for the perfect time (aka autumn) to get cosy and watch, what I think, will be a very autumnal programme.
“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
“You may tire of reality but you never tire of dreams.”
“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”
“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.”
“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”
“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”
“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
If you would like to learn more about L.M. Montgomery, I would recommend reading Lucy Maud Montgomery: the Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio or House of Dreams: the Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg.
Have you read any of L.M. Montgomery’s work?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x