The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Part 4)

Welcome to Part 4 of  The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900.

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Montgomery begins the year cozily snug with Tennyson and doughnuts, and gets interrupted by a boy, Lou, which she laments isn’t quite as good as a fireside curled up with Tennyson and doughnuts! I adore Montgomery and hope that we would’ve been friends.

As Montgomery continues her schoolmarm years (during 1895 and 1896), her publication credits begin to pile up.

In March 1895, she receives notice that a poem, “On the Gulf Shore” has been accepted by the Toronto Ladies Journal and later, a story “A Baking of Gingersnaps”, published by the same in July 1895; in February 1896, a short story, “Our Charivari” was sold to the Philadelphia magazine, Golden Days; an article commissioned by the editor of the Halifax Herald, entitled “A Girl’s Place at Dalhousie College”;  and in March 1896, a poem called “Fisher Lassies” was published by The Youth’s Companion.

Golden Days went on to publish “Our Practical Joke” (July 1896) and “A Missing Pony” (September 1896). The Chicago Inter-Ocean published “In Spite of Myself” in July 1896. The American Agriculturist published “Home from Town” (November 1896) and “Riding to Church” (February 1897).

Maud had a tendency of submitting work under pseudonyms such as “Maud Eglinton”, “Maud Cavendish”, “M.L. Cavendish”, and once for a school contest, “Belinda Bluegrass”.

I have to wonder if Maud isn’t spinning a yarn with the reader of this journal. Apart from keeping track of her profuse writing, what I find remarkably frustrating about this point of Maud’s life, and perhaps a bit beyond belief, is how Maud casually goes around with so many boys who fancy her, and they all get their hearts broken.  How much of this was fact and how much, the author’s own fancy? I’m not quite sure whether Maud is a reliable narrator in her own story and it’s keeping me on my toes.

As Maud concludes her time in Bideford, she journeys to Halifax where she is to attend college for a year taking advanced studies at the Ladies’ College and tries to go to the opera as often as she can. She adores Faust and unluckily, catches the measles. The college term over, Montgomery is to teach school at a town called Belmont where she writes journal entries (repeatedly) about the odd neighbors she encounters and the poor living conditions of her room, including, with one snowfall, drifts of snow falling through the window sash and coating her pillow!

Reading between the lines, she’s got a wonderful sense of humour and a lively mind. I’m trying not to idolize her as I’m writing but I can tell I’m gushing (a little).

Montgomery’s purple prose is enchanting and endears me evermore to her style of descriptive writing and the word choices and colours in which she paints her canvas of words in this literary journal.

“I refreshed my wearied senses drinking in the chaste beauty of the landscape. It was very calm and still and the declining sun cast chill pure tones of pink and heliotrope over the snow. There seemed to be an abundance — not of color but of the spirit of color. There was really nothing but pure white but you had the impression of fairy-like blendings of rose and violet, blue and opal and heliotrope” (258)

Isn’t that heavenly?

At the close of 1896, Maud is still teaching in Belmont and the icy conditions make it one of the worst boarding experiences she’s encountered yet. Will summer be here soon and what adventures will the new year hold? We shall see!

The text:

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Hensley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Oxford University Press (published in Canada), 2012, hardcover, 484 pages.

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Part 3)

Welcome to Part 3 of  The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900.

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Maud is eighteen at the start of 1893 and home for the summer in Cavendish where Nate is rumoured to be coming home for a visit. Speculation flies that he is here to see Maud, but shall anything come of it?

Maud continued to have stories published in her college’s paper, founded by Tal MacMillan (one of her schoolmates) and some of the other college boys,  and in The Ladies’ World (1886), a New York magazine.

Amongst her college years, Maud doesn’t grow out of her antics — leading on a nosy landlord to believe a young man is calling for her friend instead of for her, going out for walks/rides with multiple young men over the course of the year and caring not a serious whit for any, and even passing notes during an exam!

Amongst the ephemera are several photos of Lover’s Lane, Maud’s bedroom, the college where she attended, and photos of her male and female friends. I am desperately trying not to cheat by looking ahead to see whom Maud ends up marrying but it is so hard when there’s more than one boy who likes her very much and it comes as no surprise to her (or the reader) when there are words spoken. But whom will she eventually marry? The end of 1895 holds no answers and Maud, now 20, is teaching at a small school in Bideford, P.E.I.

My Thoughts

I am amused that Maud is fond of cats (as I am) and there are two or three that merit mentioning in her diaries, including Mephistopheles “a demoniacal-looking animal, black as a coal, with long sharp ears and goblin-like green eyes” (225) and Cariss, a female cat who on at least one occasion embarrasses Maud and one of her gentleman callers with some cat calls (literally!) to some of HER admirers!

The descriptive nature of Montgomery’s writing is something I am particularly fond of and sup from like a dry wine, savoring each sip. She has an artist’s eye and the way she views the world and describes it is just magical and breathtaking.

The sky is a faintly-flushed heliotrope, the rivers and creeks are calm as glass, and the little purple points, the fringing spruces and the far-off islands are mirrored perfectly in the pale azure and rose waters, over whose surface several sailboats are gliding as gracefully as gulls. A soft lemon-hued light falls over hill and creek and island, and it seems as if tired old Nature had fallen into a chance nap at eventide. (238)

Is that not marvelous? Small wonder that I didn’t grow up with a love for purple prose and poetry, but then, nature is so changing and lovely to write about.

If you’re reading along, or following along with these blog entries, what do you make of Maud’s antics? Will she find true love?  Will she become something of a spinster schoolmarm until she’s past her prime? With the close of 1894, we’ve crossed the halfway point of volume 1 (hurrah!). Much more to come.

The text:

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Hensley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Oxford University Press (published in Canada), 2012, hardcover, 484 pages.

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of  The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900.

In last week’s post, I promised that this one would detail the “culmination of a summer romance” and I shall endeavor not to disappoint!

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In her budding sexuality, Maud is confused by Mr. Mustard’s evening calls in which he sits and talks of pre-destination and the desire to be a minister, and judging by the entries, bores her to tears. Maud’s innocent attempts to ward off “that detestable Mustard’s” (65) visits are not to be missed, some of the comic highlights of the year’s entries.

As much as Maud attempts to shake off the unwelcome suitor, she embraces the flirtatious adventures with William ‘Will’ Pritchard (Laura Pritchard’s brother) and though it is obvious that she likes him, he likes her a good deal better than she does him.

Although there are some mentions of Nate being away to college, he does not factor in Maud’s life at this point as a romantic interest, only as a happy memory. It is on a warm July evening that Mr. Mustard builds up to his inevitable question regarding Maud’s affections and I’ll leave it to you to guess what her journal might have to say on that subject!

Towards the latter half of August, the end of summer means that Maud will return home to PEI, leaving behind her father and stepmother (and new baby brother); her newly-formed chums, Laura and Will; and return to her old haunts in Cavendish, now seemingly emptier by the absence of her old schoolmates. Maud and Will’s goodbye, it should be noted, was poignant. If you’re reading along, see the entry dated ‘Wednesday, August 26th, 1891’.

AGG fans will appreciate that in Maud’s documenting of life on PEI, are the first mentions of The Lake of Shining Waters (probably Long Pond), and Lover’s Lane, “the walk from the schoolhouse towards the home of David and Margaret Macneill” (footnote, 103). Maud’s Uncle Cuthbert gets married this year to a Miss Mary McLeod, and this is of course the famous surname used for Matthew and Marilla in AGG (now we know!)

1892

Maud is such a character. She continues to get into so much mischief and yet, is rarely caught, like sneaking into an abandoned home, or the closed schoolhouse, and giving themselves a good fright in the Haunted Wood (133). There is so much of Anne in Maud’s childhood, although I suspect that Maud was more interested in boys all around than Anne, who held a grudge forever against Gilbert Blythe.  As far as I can tell, Gilbert is, thus far, a fanciful myth, there is no basis for a character out of her school chums that matches the charming, infuriating boy who calls Anne “Carrots”.

I love how Maud goes to the “Literary” meetings, a sort of society for folks who want to discuss literature and what not.  We get some idea of Maud’s taste in literature, such as preferring Irving, who “has the greater heart” to Emerson, who “has the greater intellect” (111). At one meeting in November, she does a recitation from The Lady of the Lake (1810) by Sir Walter Scott.  These attempts are not merely to pass the time as Maud struggles to continue educating herself while trying to convince her grandparents to allow her to go back to school and continue her study for a teacher’s certificate, this time at a college in Charlottetown. They finally relent and she is to return when classes resume.

My Thoughts

Maud is a spirited young woman, perhaps a bit too innocent (and this gets her in trouble), with a definite “type” of person she’s attracted to — men who like books, but not are not stuffy, these fellows like to ramble with her on walks and have a good time. Maud doesn’t have the suitors as some of her friends do (Laura Pritchard) but she is comely. Growing up under her grandparents’ care didn’t seem to prepare her for this coming of age. Although her father does dote upon her, Maud doesn’t confide in him as it seems to upset his pretty young wife.

Maud also has an interesting view towards the death of one of her classmates, Will Spear, which she describes as “the first bead on the string has slipped off and one by one, sooner or later, all the rest must follow” (68). I wonder whether this is a result of her Presbyterian faith or how she came to develop this picturesque and abstract view of death. Further reading perhaps?

Maud doesn’t comment much upon her writing endeavors but there are hints at this stage of her life that she is getting her work (articles, poems) out there and getting positive feedback. Her Grandpa Montgomery, during the summer, met Lieutenant-Governor Schultz, who:

“had read my article on Saskatchewan and admired it very much, and he told grandpa to ask me for my photo and anything I might have written since! Quite a compliment for little me, isn’t it?” (128)

Already she is a budding writer and although Maud doesn’t comment upon it, I can only hope that perhaps her maternal grandparents (depicted as stern) might begin to see her in a better light.  I wonder if her depiction of Matthew and Marilla were in some way a reflection upon her own childhood, but it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to surmise as much.

We leave Maud for now, a spirited 18 and what new adventures shall we discover next week?

The text:

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Hensley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Oxford University Press (published in Canada), 2012, hardcover, 484 pages.

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery (Part 1)

Welcome to Part 1 of  The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900.

Maud’s journal begins at the young age of 14 (a few months’ shy of 15) with the beginning of a new diary, one that she’s determined will be of substance and more than just a documentation of the weather of the day. She will go on to recount her adventures and include relevant photographs of the people and places she encounters.

1889

Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1884 (age 10)
Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1884 (age 10)

In 1889, Lucy “Maud” Montgomery lived in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a small village of fishermen and farmers and their families, with her maternal grandparents, the Macneills. Maud’s own mother had died of tuberculosis when Maud was 21 months old, and her father lives in Saskatchewan with his new wife.

Having never been to Cavendish myself,  I try to visualize the town from Montgomery’s descriptive writing, which reminds me of life in Avonlea, from the woods and pastures, the seashore and the magnificent skies, from stormy to sunsets.

What struck me the most about this first year of her life is her school days. Her teacher, Miss Gibson, has a lot of ideas about how to engage children in recitations and school events, which undoubtedly worked its way into AGG. Maud had her own kindred spirit in the form of Amanda Macneill, and the two were so inseparable that Maud was called “Pollie” to Amanda’s “Mollie”. Then there’s the proverbial group of mean girls Maud cannot tolerate, including Clemmie Macneill.  There are a lot of Macneills in Cavendish!

And then there’s also Nathan ‘Nate/Snip’ Lockhart, the Baptist minister’s step-son who flirts like anything and hangs about Mollie and Pollie and you just have to wonder if he isn’t crushing on one of them just the tiniest bit and ahhh, the age of innocence is a wonder to behold.

1890

It’s now 1890, and Maud’s comic adventures with cows and with stoves remind me again of a certain irrepressible red-head. I suppose it is inevitable that I will look for AGG references throughout this book as I so want to believe that Montgomery drew from her own life while writing the books.

Maud, in her teenage years, is discovering how enjoyable it is to be walked home by a boy (and oh, how her classmates talk!) and the complex emotions of affections requited and unrequited. She seems to share some of Anne’s romantic sensibilities (and indeed, Valancy Stirling’s, for that matter) with her love of nature:

“Those dear old woods […] we lay and gazed through half-shut-lids at the blue sky, smiling through the traceries of the spruce boughs, or explored by the eye the intersecting glades and dreamed idly of long, delicious summer days to come, when we might wander at will through those ferny depths and gather all the joys of Nature’s bridal hours” (27).

There is a lot of lovely imagery throughout these first few years’ of scenery, especially during the journey Maud takes in the summer of 1890 to visit her father and new stepmother in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a 3,000-mile journey that takes ten days. There, she will study for her teacher’s certificate. Maud recounts the social scene of Prince Albert in between her studies under the tutelage of Mr. John Mustard, and the addition in December of a new boy in class, William Pritchard, whom, Maud says, despite a “crooked mouth […] is splendid. I have lots of fun with him” (52).

Life is not all fun and play however, the weather in Prince Albert in winter requires Maud to walk to school bundled in a buffalo skin; and she struggles continually with her stepmother, whom she grows to despise and describes as “sulky, jealous, underhanded and mean” (43). Maud also has severe bouts with homesickness and wilts under periods of stress and a lack of steady female companionship.

December 7th is a highlight in Maud’s young life (now sixteen!) in which she has her first piece published in the Charlottetown Patriot, a poem about the legend of Cape Leforce.

My Thoughts

Lest I gloss over the bad, there is some decidedly racist attitudes existing at the time towards children with Aboriginal blood — French and Scot fur traders marrying “country wives” and the children resulting from such marriages, who are called “breeds” (half-breeds) or “Métis” (45); While the racist attitudes, not uncommon for the time, may offend some readers, it isn’t representative of Montgomery as a person or as a writer but it would hardly be a fair review leaving it unmentioned either.

Sixteen year old Maud views her stepmother (perhaps unfairly) as an unhappily married woman, discontent with her lot in life and jealous of Maud and her father’s shared affection. There are also hints that her stepmother’s happiness may stem from Mr. Montgomery’s lack of economical means. This is almost the stereotypical relationship of a young girl and her ‘evil stepmother’ and I wonder how much of this is factual and not just Maud’s limited perspective.

The emphasis on recitation and memory in Victorian era education is interesting, lending credit to Anne Shirley’s obsession with literature and poetry (and recitations) and in a small town like Cavendish, the productions the school puts on likely served as community entertainment beyond a mere demonstration of acquired knowledge over the course of the school year.

While I don’t recall ever reading the word ‘logging’ in Maud’s entries, the presence of forestry in Canada is prevalent during the 3,000 mile (there and back again) journey from PEI to Saskatchewan, which offers a stark contrast of mud, pigs, and tree stumps far as the eye can see, in the shadow of the mountains, as opposed to the lush, rolling hillsides, ocean views, and wildflower-studded woods of Cavendish.

Next week, I’ll be continuing the series, further discussing Maud’s time in Prince Albert, and the culmination of her summer romance.

 

The text:

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Hensley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Oxford University Press (published in Canada), 2012, hardcover, 484 pages.

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900 (Overview)

The Complete Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Hensley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, Oxford University Press (published in Canada), 2012, hardcover, 484 pages.

lucymaudmontgomery_1889-1900The Project

I have embarked upon a largish reading project, a two-volume collection of the complete journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery (who went by ‘Maud’), which runs at 928 pages (volume two is slightly shorter at 444pgs).

The journals, published by Oxford University Press, cover a period of her life from 1889-1911 (roughly twenty-two years), from the tender age of fourteen to about age thirty-six. I am guessing on the end date as I am not sure what month the final journal entry in the second volume is in and she may or may not have had a birthday at that point.  When the journal opens, she’s a few months’ shy of her fifteenth birthday.

As a reference point, Anne of Green Gables (AGG) was published in 1908, and while this is certainly Montgomery’s best-known work, besides AGG, she wrote 20 novels, 530 short stories, 500 poems and 30 essays (Wikipedia.org).

My Introduction To LMM

I am in my early thirties now but I grew up on Montgomery’s work. I still have my ratty paperback copy of Anne of Green Gables which I received in my childhood years (likely from a well-meaning aunt) and although we couldn’t afford the eight-volume set, I went on to read the complete series twice, substituting books on loan from the local library.

When I became acquainted with the Kevin Sullivan films, I was enamored all over again with ‘that Anne girl’ and I am unabashedly the proud owner of the entire Anne of Green Gables series (books and DVDs), some of the Tales of Avonlea set (books, VHS), and the Emily of New Moon (books and DVDs). I have a few random paperbacks she’s published that are non-Avonlea related, like The Blue Castle, which is in my top 10 all-time favorite novels, ever.

Then there’s the non-fiction. I recently acquired Beyond Green Gables: Kevin Sullivan’s Designscapes, when it was published a few years back. There was also Anne’s Anthology: Following the Footnote Trail, Poetry Popular in the Victorian Era, by Margie Grey. I won’t get started on my 19th century poetry collection that emerged from reading Montgomery’s work.

I consider this a small collection of her work compared to many but I mention it at all just to demonstrate how vast the body of work is that we’re talking about — barely touched really in popular media (like television shows and films) — and how one author’s work can lead to so many related materials from criticisms of her work to adaptations to plays and films and of course, the journals.

Why This Collection?

It’s worth mentioning that there were a series of journals released some years back which were organized differently from this two-volume set, but I’ve elected to try this particular collection as it is arranged with the original images that Montgomery included in her journal entries, along with footnotes accompanying the text, and it is (as previously mentioned) not a collection of journal entries, but the complete set.

When this massive tome of a journal crossed my desk at work, I cracked open the cover, the hint of a smile across my lips, and immediately became immersed in author’s writing style. I had to read from the beginning.

So, where do we start?  I think the way that I would like to begin is by posting a year at a time, perhaps with the first post covering 1889-1890, as there aren’t very many entries for 1889 when she’s first starting out the journals and all of them short(er), in my opinion.

I’m about midway through reading 1890 now, so probably in the next week or so, keep an eye out here for Part 1 in the series, where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the beginning of this journey together with Lucy Maud Montgomery.