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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Alpine Path: Lucy Maud Montgomery

L. M. Montgomery
One of my very favorite authors is Lucy Maud Montgomery. This post is for all of her fans. I am sharing excerpts from a school report I wrote about her last year. For research, I read her autobiography The Alpine Path: the Story of My Career, a thick, intriguing book called The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album compiled by Kevin McCabe, a short book called Spirit of Place: Lucy Maud Montgomery and Prince Edward Island by Francis W. P. Bolger, Wayne Barrett, and Anne MacKay, and Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L. M. Montgomery by Elizabeth Rollins Epperley. There are a few little-known facts about her life included in this post. Enjoy!

Born in 1874 to Hugh John and Clara Montgomery, Maud began life as an ordinary child. When Maud was only 21 months old, tuberculosis caused the premature death of her mother. While her father moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the child was sent to live with her grandparents, a stern couple who provided Maud with every luxury and the latest fashions in clothing, but lacked the love and encouragement the young girl craved. Nevertheless, Maud's childhood proved a happy one. Growing up in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Maud gained an early love for the sea and her homeland that later influenced much of her writing.
Young Maud's first experience in publication was at age nine, when her article about the wreck of the Marco Polo, which had washed ashore on the Cavendish beach, was printed in the Montreal Witness and the Charlottetown Daily Patriot. The first of her literary successes ignited Maud's passion for writing. In the same year, Maud discovered a poem in one of her grandmother's magazines. It was titled "The Fringed Gentian," author unknown. Maud adopted the final stanza as her life's poem:
"Then whisper, blossom, in thy sleep
How I may upward climb
The Alpine Path, so hard, so steep,
That leads to heights sublime,
How I may reach that far-off goal
Of true and honored fame,
And write upon its shining scroll
A woman's humble name."
These lines inspired Montgomery for many years. Her heroine Emily, from the Emily of New Moon trilogy, adopted this verse of poetry as her own inspiration, as well. (And I have done the same--it has been the poem that inspires my writing since I first read Emily of New Moon, my favorite book in the whole, wide world.)
From 1901-1902, Miss Montgomery authored "Around the Table," a series of weekly columns in the Daily Echo which covered various topics--serious, humorous, lighthearted, and sentimental.
In 1911, Maud married the Rev. Ewen MacDonald and after a two-month honeymoon tour of Scotland and England, the couple settled into the Leaskdale Manse, which became their home for fifteen years. Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald's first child, Chester Cameron, was born on July 7, 1912. By 1914, World War I was just beginning, a difficult time for everyone. This and the tragedy of their stillborn child, Little Hugh, left Maud anxious and depressed. She volunteered helping the Red Cross nurses, and on October 7, 1915, at age 41, Maud gave birth to a another baby boy, Ewen Stuart.
Though Rev. MacDonald constantly battled depression and an incessant fear that he was predestined to go to hell, he loved and spent time with his family and was very proud of his two sons.
The idea for L. M. Montgomery's most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, was derived from a true occurence. A brother and sister with whom Maud was acquainted intended to adopt a strong, young boy to help with the work on their farm. When they arrived at the train station, the couple found a small boy and his younger sister. Feeling that the two should not be separated, the couple adopted both of the children. With a small variation, Maud had her story.

Originally, Anne of Green Gables was intended to be printed in installments in a newspaper, but once Maud began writing, the tale was expanded into a novel-length story. It became Maud's first published novel. The sequel, Anne of Avonlea, soon followed, and eventually the story of Anne Shirley the orphan girl and her beloved Gilbert Blythe became a series of eight books. The Watchman and Other Poems, Montgomery's only book of poetry, was published soon after, in 1916.
In 1923, Maud began her Emily of New Moon trilogy. These books were said to have been her most autobiographical works. In later years, Montgomery said of her heroines Emily and Anne, "People were never right in saying I was Anne, but in some respects, they will be right if they write me down as Emily."
At the time of her death in 1942 (at age 67), Maud had published over twenty novels and hundreds of short stories. Her husband Ewen died in December, 1943, at age 73. After their deaths, a plaque was placed in the Norval Presbyterian Church, where they had served for nine years: "To the glory and in the grateful and affectionate memory of the Rev. Ewen MacDonald, minister of this congregation from 1926 to 1935, and his beloved wife L. M. Montgomery, authoress of Green Gables and other books. Together they worked for the Master, showing understanding and devotion that endeared them to all."

                                                                 Climbing the Alpine Path,

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