The Secret Garden (goodreads link) is a children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett about an orphaned girl who discovers a locked abandoned garden on her uncle’s British estate. First published in 1911, it has been made into a movie numerous times, most recently in 2020 with Colin Firth in a cameo role as the uncle. As I enjoyed re-reading Anne of Green Gablesso much I’m adding this one to my To Read list, and the movie also, as I’ve heard the cinematography is stunning, especially as there won’t be any garden tours again this summer.
After five months in lock-down we are slowly and cautiously reopening, with ten people allowed for an outdoor gathering in stage one, and the rest of the stages contingent on receiving second doses earlier than our scheduled 16 weeks apart. Although they are trying to speed things up, only 17% of the population have received two doses so far, and with the shot being only 30% effective against the Delta variant after one dose, I think my garden will be remaining secret for awhile longer. It’s a shame not to be able to share all the loveliness, so please join me for a tour of what’s new and what grew.
The weather has been weird and wacky all spring, an unseasonable hot spell the first of April, followed by a cold month, then hot and humid again in May, then cold with frost warnings at night, then hot and humid again and despite thunderclouds no rain for two weeks….and all this by mid-June! Most things in the garden bloomed earlier than usual and have already come and gone, (see Wordless Wednesday Peonies) or are past their peak. The roses (see Wordless Wednesday Roses blog) have become blowzy and even with succession planting I’m wondering what there will be left to look now that summer has officially arrived. Wilted hydrangeas perhaps?
Morning glories and zinnias if they survive the heat and the weed-wacker?
My lily of the valley, seen here peeking out from around the Dipladenia plant, was just starting to bloom but after being hit by frost the delicate little flowers turned brown overnight.
The daisies were particularly abundant this year and early as they are usually July flowers.
My regular Common Lilac bushes were duds flower-wise again this year, although they have lots of foliage. I was disappointed in these Bloom Again Lilacs too which I bought two years ago. The flowers are small and the bush spindly, without much greenery. They smell nice but I would not plant these again, as I do not like wimpy bushes. I like things which make a statement!
Prep Work: For me the fun is in the planning and buying, not the watering (I try) and weeding (I don’t). Whereas last year my entire garden expenditure was $8 (two tomato plants and some lettuce), this year I shopped, even if the selection was poor due to the yo-yo spring and the rationing by suppliers, the result of a lack of seasonal migrant workers due to COVID so one nursery owner informed me. I bought (but wisely) as I figured if I’m stuck at home I want pretty…….preferably in pink!
Nice hanging baskets were scarce and expensive so I did my own pots using vinca instead of my usual geraniums and petunias. I’ve never bought vinca before but it’s heat tolerant and looked bright and cheerful. Plus at $4 a pot and two per basket, it’s a cheap alternative if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. (I’ve found those vinyl pandemic gloves very useful for gardening – just throw them away.)
I put some in my ceramic planter, where I would normally have wave petunias, also in short supply this year.
The navy ceramic planter came with a couple of matching pails which I couldn’t pass up. Winners/Homesense had a whole gardening line of the same pattern but the thing about that discount store is if you see something buy it, as if you go home and think about it it’s always gone when you go back.
Seeing this colorful pot of pink vinca from my kitchen window every morning is a nice way to greet the day.
The Subject was Roses: I had to replace one dead Knock-Out Rose from last year when I couldn’t find any stock and I transplanted three others with too much dead wood, so four pink Double Knock-outs went on my list. At $25 per pot these are worth it as they are repeat bloomers and provide beauty all summer. The double pink can be hard to find although there are always plenty of red ones. The ones I moved are doing poorly from transplant shock as they had been in for ten years so I’m not sure if they will survive. (For more on Knock-outs’ check last years post – link) I wish Knock-outs had a climbing rose, but they don’t and the nurseries were all sold out of climbers. I finally located some “John Davis” ones at a pop-up nursery at $8 per pot so bought three for in front of some bare trellis. They’re small and not quite the color I wanted but the other choice was a clematis and I wasn’t happy with that selection either, although I did buy one “The First Lady” a pale lavender, also $8. One upscale nursery had Clematis for $49 per pot! The prices have really skyrocketed this year, (supply and demand), things sold out early and it’s even hard to find bags of garden soil.
The plant in the blue pot above is an Italian Bugloss, a hardy perennial which can grow to four feet, so I planted it in front of a trellis. It likes sun and attracts butterflies. It appealed to me in the nursery because of it’s bright gentian-blue color (I’m partial to blue – see The Blue Garden) so I overlooked the fact that even at $16 it appeared scraggly and half dead from lack of watering. I try and add something new every year, even if it’s something I’ve never heard of. Later I saw it on a list of easy to grow no-maintenance perennial favorites in a gardening magazine.
I’ve discovered the name of this blue plant from last year which I did not remember buying but might have been from the annual horticultural sale. It’s a Virginia Bluebell and bloomed well this year too. It likes shade and blooms in late spring.
I bought two Lavender plants ($4 each) as you can never have too much lavender, although these were an organic Blue lavender instead of my regular English type. I planted one in front of a hole under the deck hoping the smell might deter the mice and/or other creatures from establishing an empire underneath, the other went in a blue pot until I can figure out where to plant it, probably to replace something which will inevitably die.
I had good luck with Dipladenias two years ago so I bought three pink ones ($7 each) for my pink recycled plastic pots. I’m always up for a bargain especially with annuals. They’re similar to a Mandevilla, are drought resistant and repeat bloomers, and give the the deck that tropical feel, like you might be on vacation somewhere exotic instead of stuck at home. They come in red and white too.
The lavender is blooming already too.
The Russian sage/lavender/pink knock outs make a nice contrasting mix.
Of course one cannot live on flowers alone, so the vegetable garden went in early too and seems to be thriving….four kinds of lettuce, some from seed and some seedlings, carrots, cucumber and pole beans, plus the everbearing strawberry plants if the birds don’t get them first.
And for the first time I planted brussel sprouts as they are supposed to be good for you.
Wish List: for when the end of July nursery sales come on, I’m looking for a rhododendron although they are hard to grow here. I tend to scoop up my perennials on the bargain table.
What I’m Reading: My (virtual) library bookclub is currently reading The Last Garden in England,(link) a three generational story about restoring a historic British garden. A light fluffy read if you’re a garden fan, although the garden was incidental to the story and I don’t think there will be much to discuss.
And last but not least, a study in pink, one of mom’s paintings.
It’s rhubarb season for those of you who are fans of this tart seasonal favorite. Two years ago, I posted a recipe for Rhubarb Lunar Coffee Cake, (recommended for hungry astronauts) and at the end I mentioned that I had just planted some rhubarb. Two years later I have enough of a crop to make my own rhubarb treats. I’ve already harvested twice this year as it got off to an early start and I was able to share some with the neighbors,
and make rhubarb scones.
In that post I also reminisced about our large rhubarb patch on the farm and how it had been there for decades.
Recently I found the photos of when we set up a rhubarb stand at the end of the driveway under the shade of a big tree.
We had a big homemade sign advertising our wares, 25 cents a bunch, similar to this one. It was a quiet country road, so we didn’t have many customers, just a few people out for a Sunday afternoon drive. The profits ($1) were spent on penny candy.
This is making me nostalgic for our dog, King. He was a blonde border collie, (not a Lassie dog like the TV show which was popular at the time but the same color), and I’ve never seen another dog like him since. He wasn’t a cuddly dog, a pat by a stranger was barely tolerated. He was a working dog. His job was to fetch the cows from the back field if they hadn’t come up at milking time (my dad had a dairy farm) and to supervise the children. He was very protective of us, and could be found wherever we were. He could tell time too, as my mother said he would sit at the west side of the house at 3:30 every day like clockwork and wait for the school bus. He was an outside dog and slept in the doghouse or in the barn if it was very cold. One of my earliest memories was of going to pick him out, (I was four) and he died fifteen years later when I was first off to university. He was replaced by the black and white border collie (Shep) in the picture above who was the dumbest dog ever. He was also an outside dog, but the white Samoyed (Ruff), my mother’s empty-nester pet, was allowed inside the house as were later a succession of Golden Retrievers (Fergie, Murphy and Co), who were friendly but annoying in the fact they needed endless attention. I’m also feeling nostalgic about those big old trees which used to line the country lanes before they were all cut down to widen the road. Many farms had horses out in the fields so a drive in the country was a pleasant and scenic experience on a Sunday afternoon.
Enough of the memories, back to the rhubarb, as you must be hungry by now. Today’s recipe is for Rhubarb-Walnut muffins, which I adapted from a local magazine. When I say adapted, well you know I sometimes don’t follow a recipe exactly, with mixed results…
I didn’t have any buttermilk and while I know you can sour milk by adding lemon or vinegar I didn’t have any baking soda either, so I just used plain milk and my premixed flour with the baking powder already in it. I halved the recipe, as what do I need with 2 dozen muffins when we’re in month five of lockdown. I also microwaved the diced rhubarb to soften it as I didn’t think it would cook in the 25 minute baking time.
Beat the brown sugar, oil (I used butter), vanilla, egg and milk with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix by hand until just blended. Add the rhubarb and walnut pieces.
Here’s where things got interesting. The batter seemed too runny so I added some more flour, and not quite sweet enough, so a bit more sugar. Just a few tablespoons, nothing measured, but I still only got ten muffins not twelve. Spoon into muffin tin.
Sprinkle the melted butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture on top.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
They certainly looked pretty and turned out okay, but not great. But then I compare everything to my Rhubarb Lunar Coffee Cake, which is moist (from a whole cup of sour cream) and has a nice contrast between the sweet topping and the tart rhubarb. I found this topping skimpy and it had too much cinnamon plus I missed the brown sugar. I liked the chopped walnuts, as I’ve never added those to muffins before. The rhubarb sort of disappeared, not sure if I nuked it too long before hand and it disintegrated, or there just wasn’t enough of it. Next time I would add more rhubarb, and maybe some strawberries. They were better with some strawberry jam. I tend to be fussy with my food, but I gave some to my neighbors and my grass-cutter and there were no complaints.
The rhubarb patch is experiencing a third wave so after I have my cholesterol re-checked, (it was a spur of the moment decision so I didn’t fast, but we have been eating very well over the past year), I may make the Rhubarb coffee cake again. Muffins are portable, but that cake was great!
(949 words, about 700 if you eliminate the stuff about the dogs, kind of makes up for last weeks 3000 essay on LLM…..)
L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables (see Part One for the Original Manuscript)kept journals for most of her adult life, starting in 1889 when she was just fifteen until shortly before her death in 1942. She willed them to her younger son Stuart with the express wish that after a suitable time had elapsed, they be published, in accordance with his judgement. Before his death in 1982, he turned over the handwritten journals and a much abridged version which she had typed, as well as her scrapbooks, photographs, and other papers to the University of Guelph. The journals span ten large legal-size volumes of approximately 500 pages each and almost 2 million words.
When Professors of English at the University of Guelph, Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, first read the journals in the 1980’s, they were surprised by what they found.
But First a Short Biography of Maud’s Life:
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Nov. 30 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was 2 years old and her father was unable to care for her, so she continued to live with her maternal grandparents in Cavendish, who had been looking after her during her mother’s illness. Despite a large network of relatives and cousins, she spent much of her childhood alone and resorted to creating imaginary friends to cope with her loneliness. When she was sixteen, she spent a year out west with her father (they were “chums”) and step-mother (who resented her) but things did not work out so she returned to the island. During that year she made her father proud by publishing her first poem in a Charlottetown newspaper.
When she returned to the island, she obtained her teacher’s certificate and taught in Bideford for a year. Her first story was published in Ladies Journal in July 1895. She attended Dalhousie College in Halifax for a year (all she could afford), then returned to PEI and did two more teaching stints, until her grandfather MacNeil passed away in 1898 and she felt it her duty to return to Cavendish to care for her grandmother. During all those years she published many more stories and poems. Anne of Green Gables was written in 1905, accepted in 1907 and published in 1908.
In 1911 her grandmother died, and Maud, who had been engaged for five years to the Reverend Ewan MacDonald, was married that June. After a wedding trip to England and Scotland, they moved to Leaksdale Ontario for fifteen years, where her husband was the minister at a church. In 1926 they moved to a different ministry in Norval Ontario, until they retired to Toronto in 1936. Maud died in 1942.
These are the facts of her life, but the journals reveal the stories between the lines.
The two professors had been invited by Dr. Stuart MacDonald, LLM’s youngest son, to edit and publish the journals, which they did in four volumes over the subsequent decade. They were astonished by the dichotomy between the cheerful Anne stories and the troubled and often unhappy life of this famous author.
Maud considered them her “grumble books” and was often quite blunt in her opinions of people, hence the forty year publishing delay ensured no one mentioned in them would still be alive.
Recognizing their historical significance, Maud began to recopy the earlier diaries into legal-sized ledgers in 1919. Of note the page recording her first impression of her future husband was cut out and replaced, and it’s difficult to tell how many other entries were altered from the original. Still they read as honest and real. As well they stand as a record of what life was like for women in the early half of the century, a century which saw enormous social and technological change, (from horse and buggy to motor cars), a Depression and two world wars.
When you read through the journals, especially the first volume from 1889 to 1910, shortly after Anne was published, you can see the seeds of Maud’s stories, in her schooldays and her teaching career. Although Maud always said Anne was not modeled after a real person, including herself, there is a similarity between their “orphan” status, vivid imagination, love of beauty and “purple prose,” and highly sensitive nature.
Maud proclaimed Cavendish her favorite place in the world, and it always puzzled me how someone who loved the island so much could stand to leave it? Could her minister husband not have obtained a placement there, or were his mental problems already apparent? Perhaps after her grandmother’s death, there were too many ghosts, and she looked forward to a fresh start in a different province? Although she came back in the summers to visit her cousins it wasn’t the same.
After her grandmother’s death her uncle inherited the farm, (there is a hint of family politics in one entry where she records that her uncle had not spoken to her grandmother in five years) and then a nine month gap in the journals while Maud is grieving her death and the loss of the only home she has ever known. When she does resume, the record is a particularly anguish filled one. With no home left, Maud stayed with her cousins in Park Corner and was married from there in June of 1911 to a minister, Ewan McDonald, to whom she had been engaged for five years, and whom she was ambivalent about marrying. They seemed to have little in common, she was by far the more intelligent, and he did not share her love of literature or nature.
Maud had had several past love interests, including a broken engagement to a distant cousin, but as she writes she wanted companionship and children. The man she had fallen in love with years earlier, a farm hand she met while she was boarding during one of her teacher placements, was of lower station and education and so she ended the relationship. He died a few years later of the flu and she was grief-stricken.
Even self-supporting authors were expected to marry back then (Maud made $500 off her writing in 1903, a decent amount for the time), but if you describe your wedding day as “I sat at that gay bridal feast, in my white veil and orange blossoms, beside the man I had married and was as unhappy as ever I had been in my life…..the mood passed. By the time I was ready for going away, it had vanished completely and I was again my contented self.” – well there’s really nowhere to go but down.
The marriage was not a happy one. Ewan suffered from some sort of “religious persecution or melancholia”, where he felt he was dammed to hell, as well as his wife and children. Frequently he was not well enough to preach, and suffered from “nervous breakdowns.” At one point he was so severely depressed he signed himself into a mental sanatorium in Guelph. Several nerve specialists were consulted over the years – although sometimes he had remissions and could appear quite well, at other times he was almost catatonic. It surprised me that “manic-depressive insanity” which was contemplated as a diagnosis by one of the psychiatrists, was known back then. He also had attacks where he heard voices, had delusions and raved obsessively, so there may have been a schizophrenic component. As a minister’s wife, it must have been a burden for Maud to act the ever-cheerful minister’s wife, arranging church suppers and socials, and trying to hide his acute mental health problems, as well as deal with her own issues. She wrote that she regretted marrying him, but divorce would have been scandalous back then and she felt it was her duty as a Christian woman to make her marriage work.
Maud herself struggled with depression and bouts of anxiety during her life, much of which is made evident in her journals, especially the later volumes. There were numerous entries of her pacing the floor at night dealing with insomnia over named and unnamed worries. As a medical person I found the medications prescribed for both of them of historical interest – barbiturates and choral hydrate were still around when I first graduated forty years ago, although fallen out of favor. Perhaps the flip side of having an active imagination, is always imaging the worst, but she often seemed to be in the “depths of despair” as Anne put it.
Note: I read these back when they were first published,and although I bought the first three, the latter volumes were so depressing that I borrowed the fourth from the library.
Ewan’s mental problems worsened to the extent they had to change parishes, he was sued in a car accident (cars were in their infancy and he was a reckless driver), he refused to assist with raising the children or the household chores, and her son Chester was causing her much grief. As an older mother (she was 36 when she married), she had three sons – Chester, Hugh (stillborn) and Stuart, her “good son” who became a respected doctor. Chester was described as a never-do-well, who lied, stole and manipulated. He failed law school several times and got a young girl pregnant whom he hastily married, but could not support their children. It may have been the flapper era but this was scandalous stuff for a minister’s wife. Maud wrote later that her oldest son had made a mess of his life, and his wife had left him.
Maud was under a lot of pressure and stress, so the cheery Anne sequels, and other novels like Emily of New Moon, must have provided a needed distraction from her everyday life. To shut herself up in her parlor and write for a few hours each day must have been a blessed escape. Although even there was stress, including several legal disputes with her initial publisher Page and Company, whom she had left for McClelland and Stewart in 1917 when she discovered he was cheating her. (She received seven cents off each copy instead of the 19 cents she was entitled to). Page boasted that he had made millions from the Anne books (including the movie rights in 1919), while she made $100,000, a tidy sum but “it’s a pity it doesn’t buy happiness.” She stood her ground and eventually won her court case in 1928.
One wonders how she even found time to write, with her motherhood, household and church duties. She also read extensively and there were committee meetings and public speaking engagements, but Maud was good at multi-tasking and had tremendous work ethic and discipline. During her lifetime she wrote 20 novels, (seven with Anne as the central character), 530 short stories, 500 poems, 30 essays, a book of poetry and a short autobiography. In her later years she had tired of writing about Anne and wanted to try something different, not what the publishers and readers expected – she felt “she had never achieved her one ‘great’ book.” I disagree, although it is a juvenile book, Anne of Green Gables is as close to perfection as can be.
Her declining years were plagued by poor health and mental anguish. In a handwritten journal entry dated July 8, 1941, she wrote “Oh, God, such an end to life. Such suffering and wretchedness.” Then on March 23, 1942, she wrote her final entry “since then [July 8, 1941] my life has been hell, hell, hell. My mind is gone — everything in the world I lived for has gone — the world has gone mad. I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams what my awful position is.” (quoted from The Gift of Wings – 2008 biography written by Mary Rubio, the definitive biography of LMM). (Note: the comment re the world has gone mad could pertain to her political concerns about WW2 and conscription as she had two young sons.)
On April 24 1942 Maud was found dead in her bed, at the age of 67. The primary cause recorded on the death certificate was coronary thrombosis. However in 2008 her granddaughter Kate revealed in a Globe and Mail article that Maud might possibly have taken her own life through a drug overdose. She had become addicted to barbiturates by then having been given them by doctors to treat her depression. A note was found on her bedside table which read,
“This copy is unfinished and never will be. It is in a terrible state because I made it when I had begun to suffer my terrible breakdown of 1940. It must end here. If any publishers wish to publish extracts from it under the terms of my will they must stop here. The tenth volume can never be copied and must not be made public during my lifetime. Parts of it are too terrible and would hurt people. I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.”
An alternative suggestion, presented by Professor Mary Rubio in her 2008 biography, is that Maud may have intended it as an entry in part of a journal now lost, rather than a suicide note. There were typed versions of the journals as explained in this article, Accident or Suicide, posted by the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society. (link)
Rubio believes that the number “176,” written at the top of the note, indicates that it was page 176 in a handwritten journal, which Montgomery would have intended to transcribe by typewriter, as was her custom. The missing 175 pages, which have never been found, may have been taken by Montgomery’s eldest son, Chester Macdonald, who was living in the basement of their Riverdale house, and whose dependency and cruelty reportedly exacerbated his mother’s poor mental health. Or perhaps they were destroyed by her husband? Dr. Stuart MacDonald said that in her last few years she had burned quantities of letters and papers she considered unimportant, and others mysteriously disappeared before he was able to have them removed from the house.
I think I prefer Rubio’s version, that the note serves as instruction regarding the journals, and perhaps forgiveness for hurting people with some of the entries. It jibes with my recollection of the latter entries in the fourth volume which were gloomy and sporadic as she knew her life and her mind were waning. Whatever the cause, she was certainly in poor health and troubled by family problems, and her once bright mind was clouded by medication.
No autopsy was performed, and her son who was a medical intern at the time and her family physician disposed of any evidence. The note was handed to Professor Mary Rubio decades later by her son Stuart Macdonald, who died in 1982 and she did not ask for particulars about it at that time. Ewan MacDonald died a year later. They were both buried in Cavendish, P.E.I. Whatever happened, whether it was an accidental or intentional overdose or death from natural causes, it was a sad ending to a life once so full of hope and joy.
I found Maud to be a fascinating person. She was extremely intelligent and articulate, and possessed of an extraordinary imagination and memory, but behind the smiling cheerful face she presented to the world, was an anxious tormented soul.
It would be wrong to assess a life solely from journals, but they do provide a window into the soul. As she had no close confidante, they became a refuge of sorts, a place to air her unhappiness and grievances, but certainly she had more than her fair share of life’s troubles. In addition, there were two world wars to be gotten through, and other deaths including that of her beloved cousin Frede from the Spanish flu. Although there are happier entries, including those of her seeking solace in nature and when her children were young, predominantly I remember the journals overall as having a dark tone. Success doesn’t always guarantee happiness, and she must have looked back on her younger years on the island as the happiest time of her life.
Prince Edward Island:
In the 1980’s I visited the east coast of Canada, but only spent a couple of days in P.E.I. including an afternoon visiting the Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish. I have surprisingly few photos. Film was 24 per roll and you rationed it as I recall.
Cavendish is to a large extent the Avonlea of the books. Maud’s grandparent’s house was torn down in 1920 by her uncle as he was tired of people traipsing by to see it. The Green Gables of the book was drawn from the old MacNeil/Webb place, “not so much the house itself as the situation and scenery, and the truth of the description of it is attested by the fact that everybody has recognized it,” Maud recorded.
The home’s period furnishings reflect the novel’s late 1800’s setting. Visitors can stroll the grounds, including Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Woods.
I was disappointed in the area, as while pretty it just looked like ordinary farmland to me, albeit with red earth and the sea shore nearby. The Haunted Woods did not exactly look spooky on a bright summer afternoon. The Lake of Shining Waters looked like a big flat pond. I did not get a chance to stroll along Lover’s Lane, as it was farther away. Even the remnants of the apple orchard and the famous Snow Queen just looked like gnarled old trees.
I’m not sure what I was expecting – the vivid descriptions from the book? Perhaps that is the difference between books and reality – what you imagine or envision in your mind, very seldom ever matches real life. Maybe the same can be said of success. Still it was a nice place to visit if only for a few hours.
PS. I’ve often wondered that about other famous authors, the more tragic figures like Sylvia Path, the Brontes and Jane Austen. If they could have happiness or lasting fame – which would they choose? And why does it so often seem that people can’t have both?
This time of year when the trees are blossoming always reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. Anne declared Prince Edward Island “the bloomiest place ever,”
and there are numerous references to them in the book, from the Snow Queen and the cherry orchard right outside Anne’s bedroom window to the White Way of Delight, where the overarching trees created an avenue of bloom on the buggy ride home from the train station, to a simple arrangement of apple blossoms in a chipped blue jug on the table. Anne Shirley was a fan of nature, and so was her famous creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Last summer I had the delight of re-reading this favorite children’s class, and I enjoyed it just as much as when I first read it as an eleven year old girl, the exact same age as Anne.
This month’s Literary Salon pick – Anne of Green Gables – the Original Manuscript was released by Nimbus Publishing in Halifax in July of 2019.
The Publishers Blurb:
This fascinating book presents the original text of Montgomery’s most famous manuscript, including where the author scribbled notes, made additions and deletions, and other editorial details. For example: Diana was originally called Laura, and then Gertrude, before the author settled on Diana. L.M. Montgomery scholar Carolyn Strom Collins offers a rare look into Montgomery’s creative process, providing a never-before-published version of the worldwide phenomenon.
Differing from previous versions of Anne, this book provides a transcription of the text and notes from Montgomery’s original manuscript, and shows how they were integrated to form the full novel.
As a life long fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery, our most famous of Canadian authors, being given permission to scan all 844 pages of the original handwritten manuscript must have been a labor of love for editor, Carolyn Strom Collins.
The manuscript is kept in the archives at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, in Charlottetown PEI, in a dark room with no photography allowed as befitting an object of such literary reverence. It is 116 years old now, and Maud kept it all her life, (in her journal she proudly proclaimed it “mine,mine,mine” the day the first copy arrived in the mail), although the typed copy she submitted to the Page Publishing company in Boston in 1907 has since been lost.
The manuscript is in two parts, the main body of 709 pages and 135 pages of notes, some of them misnumbered. Maud wrote quickly and sometimes overlooked punctuation, especially in the notes section. The pages measure 8.5 X 6.5 inches, considerably smaller than the average typed page, and are about 3 inches thick in total.
In this newly released edition, there is a scanned copy of the first handwritten page at the beginning of each chapter.
The editor decided to place the changes and additions Maud made in the notes beside the corresponding pages for easy viewing.
I was amazed at how few changes Maud made to the handwritten copy. Likely her stint working as a copy editor and columnist for a Halifax newspaper came in handy. As the typewritten copy she submitted has not survived, it’s unclear whether final changes in the book were made by Maud or the editors, or both. Mostly they had to do with punctuation. Although this was her first book, Maud was an experienced author by then, having published well over 300 short stories and poems in the previous decade, enough to provide a source of income, but I suspect she was also one of the lucky ones whose words just flowed out of her head.
Although she records in her journals “brooding” up her heroine and and blocking out chapters and incidents, if there are any written copies of this prep work they are long gone.
The story behind the book and it’s publication is an interesting one, and lucky for us it didn’t stay in a hatbox.
Anne of Green Gables began as an idea jotted down in a notebook many years earlier, “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them.” In the spring of 1905 Maud was searching through the notebook for suitable ideas for a seven-part serial for a Sunday School paper, but as the story progressed Anne took possession of her, and casting morals and lessons aside she decided to write a whole book about her instead. Many of Maud’s own childhood experiences and dreams were worked into it’s chapters. Didn’t we all sigh over Gilbert Blythe who was based on one of her school-chums? Many of the scenes of Avonlea in the book – the Lake of Shining Waters, Lover’s Lane – were based on locales in the small farming community of Cavendish where she lived.
After sketching out the plot outline, she began to write in May 1905, finishing it eight months later, in January 1906. She wrote for a few hours a day, mostly in the evenings after the rest of her work was done, and in longhand with a pen that had to be dipped in ink. “It was a labor of love and nothing I have ever written gave me so much pleasure to write.” She then typed it up on her second-hand typewriter, which didn’t print w at all. (I saw the typewriter, set up on the kitchen table, when I visited the Anne of Green Gables museum many years ago.)
She mailed the typed manuscript out to four American publishers (one new firm, one “betwixt and between” firm, and two old established firms, MacMillan and Henry Holt “some merit but not enough to warrant acceptance”) over the course of 1906, with universal rejection, so she gave up and stored it in a hatbox, where it remained until the winter when she decided to try again, this time with the Boston publisher L.C. Page and Co, a company she admitted she knew nothing about. It was close to rejection again, but a staff member who was from Prince Edward Island, advocated for Anne.
Maud signed a contract for a paltry royalty and five years of any future work, which she agreed to reluctantly, thrilled to have the book accepted, and promptly began work on the sequel – Anne of Avonlea – which was published a year later in 1909. I remember her journals being full of legal disputes with Page & Co. in later years when she had switched to McLelland and Stewart in Toronto.
She was pleased with the final appearance of the book, “lovely cover design, well bound, well printed. Anne will not fail for lack of suitable garbing at all events.”
The book sold well right from the beginning, went through seven printings and 20,000 copies by the end of the first year 1908, and has never been out of print since, with 50 million copies worldwide and over forty translations.
She recorded in her journal, “I can’t believe that such a simple little tale, written in and of a simple P.E.I. farming settlement, with a juvenile audience in view, can really have scored out in the busy world.”
She produced seven more Anne books, ten other novels, two collections of short stories, a book of poetry and many stories, essays and articles before her death in 1942, but it is her first novel that remains the most famous. “It was born of true love and often such books are most successful.”
I enjoyed reading the story again and taking a peak into the author’s creative process. It was interesting to see how a book goes from an idea jotted down to a few chapters to a completed manuscript to a printed copy….with all it’s many sequels. She never seemed to run out of ideas. I can’t imagine having to dip your pen in ink every few lines – we have it so much easier today. But I also wonder when things are so quickly deleted if we will lose this recording of how a book comes about….for it did not spring fully formed, even though her words may have flowed easily.
What lessons can aspiring novelists learn from this?
The best writing is a labor of love.
If you should be so lucky as to be published, don’t be too eager to sign everything away. Research a bit first.
Just to begin, for that is often the hardest part, even for Maud.
“Of late years I have been thinking of it seriously but somehow it seemed such a big task I hadn’t the courage to begin it. I have always hated beginning a story. When I get the first paragraph written I feel as though it were half done. To begin a book therefore seemed a quite enormous undertaking. Besides, I did not see just how I could get time for it. I could not afford to take time from my regular work to write it.”
And most importantly perseverance – many books have been written in just a few hours a day. I hope you have found this tale of how Anne came to be inspiring.
PS. The manuscript will be online in 2022, as part of a digital exhibition entitled Exploring a National Treasure: LMM’s Anne of Green Gables Manuscript, curated by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of PEI. It’s nice they gave the editor of this book, Carolyn Strom Collins, a few years to profit from her efforts.
PS. Next week in Part Two I will blog about The Journals of L.M. Montgomery, published fifty years after her death, which provide a fascinating insight into her successful but often tormented life. Plus a bit about my trip to Cavendish, Prince Edward Island – holy ground for Anne fans – if I can find the photos.
I’ve been neglecting my baking. Not in real life – that would never happen – but here on the blog. So this month’s recipe is for date-nut loaf, a quick and easy treat, perfect for morning coffee outside on the deck while listening to the birdsong and admiring the eighty daffodil and tulip bulbs I planted last fall. I know it sounds like a lot but they barely made a dent in my big back yard so next year I need to double it.
And if company is allowed in your neck of the woods, they might enjoy it too. We’re still in lock-down and I don’t have my furniture outside yet, so the only company I’ve seen lately is the nest of baby bunnies living under the deck. (No photo, as they’re camera shy and quick like rabbits.)
This is an old recipe from the my mother’s farmhouse cooking bible.
She used to make this when I was a kid and it was always a favorite after-school treat after a long and hungry bus ride home. Sometimes she would add raisins too, but I don’t, because some people think eating a raisin will kill them. (If you’re reading, you know who you are) It’s doesn’t contain a ton of sugar as it’s sweet enough with the dates, and add in the nuts, and it’s a fairly healthy quick bread. I started making this over a decade ago, when the cookbook was re-issued, and make it several times over the course of the winter. It’s one of those never-fail recipes, although I like to use a glass pan to make sure I don’t burn it and I only leave it in 50 minutes.
Pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over the dates and one teaspoon of baking soda, to soften them. I buy the chopped dates. Let cool.
Mix together 3/4 cup of white sugar (not brown), 1 beaten egg, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of softened butter. I use butter instead of shortening as I grew up on a dairy farm, but it’s an old recipe from the days when people used Crisco etc.
Add the date mixture, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or walnut pieces, 1 and 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt and stir until combined. I use the premixed flour with the salt and baking powder already in it, and omit the baking soda from step one.
The mixture will be fairly thick. Pour into a greased 9X5 inch pan and bake in preheated oven at 350. Check after 50 minutes. The recipe says 60-70 minutes but in my oven that would be burnt.
The End Result:
It’s nice slathered with butter, but tasty without too.
Enjoy outside while communing with nature.
And if company drops by they might be persuaded to pose for a picture.
It’s time for my annual April in Paris post. With France on the list of countries to avoid, I wonder how long it will be before we’re comfortable traveling anywhere again…..even to the drugstore to buy a new lipstick.
During the 1940-50’s women were advised to buy a new lipstick to cheer themselves up, back when a tube of Max Factor could be had for cheap at the five and dime. Women were encouraged to keep buying lipstick during the war years to boost the morale of the soldiers by adding lipstick covered kisses to their letters to the front. Victory Red was popular, and applying it like a movie star was truly a glamorous thing.
And so I took their advice and bought one….from Avon….because sometimes you just have to do something frivolous, like buy lipstick during a pandemic.
I found the booklets hanging on my front door, the way they have shown up faithfully over the past year, even though I haven’t ordered anything in ages. Think of the paper involved in distributing all those campaigns. I’m surprised they still print them, but perhaps the demographic they cater to prefers paper. And yes, if you don’t have an Avon lady, there’s a website with a digital catalog online.
When I did place an order, it wasn’t usually for makeup, but a musical church addition for my Christmas village, or a plaid scarf for gifting. Their 99 cent lip balms made nice stocking stuffers too.
Avon has been around forever – 135 years – and the history of the Avon company is a fascinating one. It was founded in 1886 by David McConnell, a travelling book salesman who realized that women were more interested in his free fragrance samples than in the books. His was one of the first companies to hire women as sales representatives, giving them the opportunity to earn their own income. They started selling makeup in the 1920’s during the flapper years. Today they have sales of 5.5 billion worldwide with over 6 million representatives, and are the fourteenth largest beauty company.
Here’s a vintage 1956 commercial with their “Avon calling” signature slogan.
But Avon sells so much more than beauty products now.
As well as jewelry and gift items, they have branched into clothing, candles, aromatherapy and lately even disinfectants and household cleaning supplies.
This past winter they had a very stylish Parisian theme.
Now I’m a sucker for anything French, but I resisted…..the prices – yikes!
I’m a sucker for cats too – she even has a French name – Yvette – so classy. It reminds me of the time my little brother gave us long black plastic cats filled with bubble bath for Christmas. Although I’m sure he picked them out at the drugstore, they must have appealed to him as a little kid. (He also bought us Charlie one year, a scent I hated and re-gifted to a more appreciative room-mate).
While I didn’t buy anything Parisian, I remain appreciative of the marketing campaign – they had me at vintage charm and romance.
Avon has been around for ever. Even our quiet country road had an Avon lady back in the 1970’s. I remember ordering the Clear Skin line, although my makeup then consisted of Cover Girl and Maybelline. Avon books have been a staple of many of my workplace staff-rooms in the past, even the pharmacies with extensive cosmetic departments and beauty boutiques. Someone was always selling Avon.
But my, those prices have increased substantially. In the Christmas campaign, there was a perfume listed for $1300 in a crystal-encrusted decanter. There was a tester patch and while it was nice, you would expect nice at that price. I often wonder who buys all those fragrances, when so many places have a no-scent policy, but then I haven’t worn perfume in years.
Even Avon’s popular Anew line of anti-aging creams is a bit pricey. It does sometimes seem the more companies charge for these things, the better they sell (the Kardashian effect). The only high-end face cream I use is Night Repair, a fancy serum I buy faithfully twice a year, timed with their gift with purchase. (usually nothing I can use but I give them away) After 35 years, I figure Estee Lauder should be paying me by now. I can’t credit my not-too-bad-for-my-age skin to the wonders of a miracle cream however, as being cursed with fair Celtic genes, I could never tolerate the sun. A jar of $20 LaRoche Posay moisturizer for sensitive skin lasts me a whole year.
Pandemic or not, I don’t wear much makeup anymore either, and what’s the point of lipstick when you’re wearing a mask. Lipstick sales must have fallen dramatically over the past year. Still in a fit of optimism one day, I placed an Avon order for a lip balm crayon thing with just a hint of color. L’Oreal discontinued the shade of lip-gloss I had worn for years – don’t you hate it when they do that?
It was delivered to my front doorstep in the familiar white bag with the pink logo, although my friendly Avon lady did not come in for a visit like she normally would, neither of us having been vaccinated. So much more civilized than the rushed grumpy Purolator guy who once tossed my Sephora order behind a geranium pot where the $24 Tarte lipstick promptly melted in the ninety-degree heat.
Was I pleased with my purchase?
Yes! It was a nice light shade (Loving Life – the rest were too dark and I’ll leave the red to younger faces) and texture, and not too bad a price for the size. They even threw in a free lip liner (the mystery gift). Now, I just need someplace to wear it, for what would an aspiring Frenchwoman be without her lipstick? Hoping for better days ahead.
PS. Despite the creative marketing campaign, both the Eiffel Tower and Yvette are now discounted in the latest Bargain Booklet – I guess no one was in the mood for Paris – another travel-related casualty of the pandemic…