It’s Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Birthday!

One of my favourite authors is Lucy Maud Montgomery, the creator of the ‘Anne of Green Gables‘ series. I’ve enjoyed her stories because of her wonderful settings and delightful characters. I mean, what’s not to like about Anne Shirley?

I’m glad both of my daughters read her books, too, and followed her escapades during a long-running television series. Megan Follows brought Anne to the screen with the very personality I had always attributed to Montgomery’s creation.

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L.M. Montgomery (1897)

Beyond the magic of story, however, L.M. Montgomery’s writing has something more to offer aspiring writers. There’s much to learn from her. She began writing when she was nine, keeping a journal and writing poetry, but it was many years before her writing was published.

“During her years in Cavendish, Montgomery continued to write and send off numerous poems, stories, and serials to Canadian, British, and American magazines. Despite many  rejections, she eventually commanded a comfortable income from her writing. In 1899, she earned $96.88 – certainly not much by today’s standards but a nice sum at the turn of the century. Her earnings from her writing increased to $500 in 1903.

“In 1905, she wrote her first and most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables. She sent the manuscript to several publishers, but, after receiving rejections from all of them, she put it away in a hat box. In 1907, she found the manuscript again, re-read it, and decided to try again to have it published. Anne of Green Gables was accepted by the Page Company of Boston, Massachusetts and published in 1908. An immediate best-seller, the book marked the beginning of Montgomery’s successful career as a novelist.” *

Despite the success of her Anne stories, she was often anxious about how her writing was perceived and disappointed that her poetry never received much acclaim. “Montgomery herself considered her poetry to be more significant than the novels she sometimes characterized as ‘potboilers’.” ** And yet she never stopped writing. She was still journalling in 1942, the year she died.

She once said, “I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author.” I’d say Lucy Maud Montgomery proved the value of persistence, of refusing to let rejection or fear deter her from pursuing her goal.

The Green Gables farmhouse featured in her series is a heritage building in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island, and I loved the opportunity to see it during a cross-Canada trip our family made in 1980. (Another highlight was taking in a live performance of Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown.)

But there’s another connection our family has with Montgomery’s history, although it’s rather tenuous. In 1911 she married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald, and they moved to Leaskdale, Ontario, where Macdonald ministered in the Presbyterian church until 1926. Half of L.M. Montgomery’s twenty-two novels were written during her years living in the church manse in Leaskdale.

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The Presbyterian manse in its original state ****

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The Presbyterian manse (circa 2000) ***

The history of the Leaskdale Manse dates to 1886. It is now both an Ontario and a National Historical Site. I remember being in it at one time, but can’t recall if it was during our cross-Canada trip, or during the time my brother- and sister-in-law lived in it. Murray spent a year as minister in Leaskdale Presbyterian Church in 1972-73 while on furlough from his missionary work in Taiwan. All I remember for sure is seeing a small pump organ in the manse and being awed that it had belonged to LMM.

An encouraging lesson from Lucy Maud Montgomery, and lots of good memories. 🙂

Happy 141st Birthday, LMM!

~

* (Her Life: L.M. Montgomery Institute)

** (Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

 *** (Photos: Canada’s Historic Places / Parks Canada)

 **** (The Toronto Star)

LMM Photo: (Wikimedia Commons)

~  ~  ~

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6 thoughts on “It’s Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Birthday!

  1. The Historical Diaries says:

    I could read the entire Anne of Green Gables series every week , I almost do! I especially love the later books in the series , it is an amazing story , I love the twins especially davey , and wish i could have someone in my life like gilbert lol

  2. Darlene says:

    Happy Birthday to one of my favourite authors. She is indeed an inspiration. There are 5 generations of Anne of Green Gables fans in our family. I have not visited yet the house in PEI but my dad took mom there as part of their 50th Anniversary tour of the maritime provinces. She was delighted. Love the connection you have to the manse.

  3. Happy Birthday, Lucy. I was able to see her museum on a visit in the early part of this millennium. So glad I did. The people of PEI cherish her. What a lovely accomplish that was for Lucy. To be appreciated at home as well as abroad.

  4. Mary Helen says:

    I well remember our year in Lucy Maud’s house in Leaskdale, and the stories that were told about the time when Ewan was minister at St. Paul’s. I used to wonder if Lucy Maud’s spirit ever visited us there! Certainly we had lots of tourist visits with the sign on the lawn indicating that Lucy Maud had lived there. I have a copy of the wonderful biography, “Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings” by Mary Henley Rubio published by Doubleday Canada in 2008 if any of your readers are interested.

  5. Mary Helen says:

    An Addendum: The manse and St. Paul’s church have been turned into a museum, run by the Lucy Maud Montgomery organization. The manse was relatively unchanged from Lucy Maud’s day when we lived there in 1973, and when I visited there about 5 years ago, it was being totally restored to the state it had been in when the MacDonalds had lived there. It was fun for me to visit since I knew more about the layout of the house than the new docent. I could also tell her which rooms the bats most liked to inhabit!

    • Carol says:

      Wonderful to read your memories of Leaskdale, too. I enjoyed re-reading that section in Murray’s memoir as I was researching. I haven’t read Rubio’s biography, but will have to look it up. I see it’s available at Chapters.ca (and probably many other bookstores as well).

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