Excerpt from the biography by Caroline Parry,
as found in Bantam Books Special Collectors Edition of
The Anne of Green Gables Novels
| " I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them," Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote in her journal when she was just fourteen. This journal entry, made in 1889, is significant to readers today who know that when she grew up she not only owned and read many books, but also became the world famous author L.M. Montgomery. Maud, as she liked to be called by family and friends, wrote twenty-four books between 1908 and 1939.
Her first was Anne of Green Gables, and her other works include seven more Anne books, the Avonlea stories, the Emily trilogy, two novels for adults, an autobiography, and the novel The Story Girl.
Lucy Maud Montgomery was always writing and reading and was quite a story girl herself, creating more than five hundred short stories. She also wrote many poems. One edition of her poetry was published during her lifetime, and today all her poems have been collected in a single volume.
L.M. Montgomery's favorite among her own work was The Story Girl, a novel about a young spinner of tales. What makes a person a "story girl"? Looking at the life of Montgomery, it seems clear that being born on beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada, inspired her. Having a literary family also fueled Montgomery's writing. But most important, she was simply full of stories, just like the characaters she created: her beloved red-head, Anne; the autobiographical Emily of the Emily trilogy; and Sara, the central story-teller of The Story Girl.
In the Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, Montgomery wrote, "I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be a writer...I was an indefatigable little scribbler." Later she added, "Nine out of ten manuscripts came back to me. But I sent them out over and over again." She pursued her goals as a writer in a remarkably focused way.
Besides her literary endeavors, Montgomery wrote many letters; she and a childhood friend even wrote some letters to themselves, to be opened ten years later. As an adult Montgomery wrote extensive letters to two "pen friends" which were published in 1960 and 1980 as The Green Gables Letters, from L.M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber, 1905-1909 and My Dear Mr. MacMillan: Letters to G.B. MacMillan from L.M. Montgomery. Besides her personal letters, Montgomery made entry upon entry in what would become ten volumes of personal journals.
She found much worth writing about; the journals run to more than five thousand pages. Discussing everything from geraniums with names to village gossip, from marriage proposals to "Great soul aches," Montgomery continued these habits for most of her life, except during a period at the beginning of World War II when she was too depressed to make her daily entries. Three volumes of her journals have been published, with other collections still to come.
In January, 1904, when she was almost thirty, Montgomery wrote, "Only lonely people keep diaries." For all her rich friendships, L.M. Montgomery was a lonely person. After her mother died of tuberculosis in 1876, her father relocated west, leaving Maud behind, and married again. Young Maud, who was not yet two years old, was largely brought up by her mother's parents. That side of her family gave her a love of literature. For the lonely girl, books were important friends.
Although she did have cousins and schoolmates for company, she had no siblings, and she had no neighborhood playmates until she was eight. But being sensitive and imaginative, she had two bookcase window companions, very much like Anne Shirley's Katie Maurice. And just like Anne, Maud named her favorite trees and plants, speaking to them as if they were friends.
In 1906 she became engaged to a minister named Ewan MacDonald, with the understanding that they would not be married until her obligation to her grandmother, who she was now caring for, following the death of her grandfather, was fulfilled. While she did not love MacDonald with any passions, she respected him and he was a more suitable match for her than any of her previous suitors. It was during their courtship that she began to write Anne of Green Gables. They married in 1911 and had three sons, one who, sadly, died at birth.
In her lifetime, Montgomery endured many strains: the horror of World War I, her husband's severe depression, and deteriorating relations with her first publisher. But she kept up apperances as both a ministers wife (Mrs. MacDonald, as the neighbors called her) and as an author. She died in 1942.
After her death, Montgomery's ambition 'to write a book that will live' was fulfilled many times over, particularily through the Anne books. Anne of Green Gables has sold millions of copies and has been translated into seventeen languages. Anne has also taken to the stage and screen, inspiring a musical and a ballet as well numerous films and several television mini-series.
*This is edited from the biography by Caroline Parry. Read the biography in full in the Bantam House Special Collector's Edition of Anne of Green Gables.