recess radio program

11/28/03
Lucy Maud Montgomery
    by Rita Smith

If Lucy Maud Montgomery had stopped writing after her first novel was published, she would still be known and loved the world over as the creator of Anne of Green Gables, that good, honest, loyal, orphan blessed with an impulsive temperament, a lively imagination, and generous heart. Montgomery was an orphan of sorts herself. Her mother died when she was two and her father left her on Prince Edward Island in the care of her strict Presbyterian maternal grandparents, moved to Saskatchewan, remarried and raised a second family. As an only child living with an elderly couple, Montgomery was often lonely. She found refuge from the loneliness through reading and writing, in the beautiful landscape of Prince Edward Island and in the development of a vivid imagination.

Even as a young child, she wanted to be a writer. "I cannot remember," she wrote in her autobiography, "when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author." When she was nine and visiting her father in Saskatchewan she showed him a poem she had written in blank verse and became upset when he told her it was very blank indeed. But, demonstrating as much spunk as her heroines, she didn't let this discourage her, and at age sixteen she published her first poem in a Prince Edward Island newspaper. She wrote every day to hone her skills, and continued to publish poems and stories, but her writing career took a decided turn for the better in 1908 when her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, was published by L. C. Page of Boston, after being rejected by five other publishing firms. Although Anne is her best known character, she created several other heroines who also grow from girlhood into maturity. Critic Jon Stott points out that the opening sentence of Anne of Green Gables, provides a metaphor for the lives of all Montgomery's girl characters. There is a brook which runs through the property of Rachel Lynde. The brook "was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods,... but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream...." "The stream," Stott writes, "is like the heroines themselves, at first different from others, independent, often impulsive, then gradually maturing, coming to accept and adapt to social roles imposed upon them."1 Montgomery has been criticized for turning lively and original young women into responsible conventional adults, but this adaptation reflects Montgomery approach to her own life. Her grandfather died in 1898 and Montgomery gave up a fledging teaching career to live with her grandmother until her death in 1911, when she married a Presbyterian minister to whom she had been secretly engaged since 1906.

Note:
1. Stott, p. 4. (on-line edition).

Sources:
Comer, Melissa. "L. M. Montgomery" in Writers for Young Adults, Ted Hipple, ed. Charles Scribner's Son, 1997 (on-line edition)

Frazer, Frances, "Lucy Maud Montgomery" in Canadian Writers, 1890-1920, W. H. New, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 92. Detroit: Gale Research, c1990.

Stott, Jon. "L.M. Montgomery" in Writers for Children, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, c1988. p. 415-422. (on-line edition: Galegroup, Literature Resource Center)

Copyright 2003 Rita Smith

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