TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery was Canadian writer, who became famous for her juvenile books, especially ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1908) with its six sequels. The main character is a spirited, orphan girl, who finds a home with an elderly brother and sister. Montgomery produced more than 20 novels and other books. Anne of Green Gables was rejected by several publishers. She was 34 when it was finally accepted.

"I'm pretty hungry this morning," she announced, as she slipped into the chair Marilla placed for her. "The world doesn't seem such a howling wilderness as it did last night. I'm so glad it's a sunshiny morning. But I like rainy mornings real well too. All sorts of mornings are interesting, don't you think? You don't know what's going to happen through the day, and there's so much scope for imagination." (from Anne of Green Gables)

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island. When she was two, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father, who was a merchant, remarried, and moved away. Montgomery was raised by her maternal grandparents in Cavendish. The place was isolated and her childhood was not particularly happy: she grew up in an atmosphere of strict discipline and punishment for the slightest reason. She joined her father briefly in Prince Albert, but then returned to Prince Edward Island.

At an early age Montgomery read widely. She started to write in school and had her first poem published in a local paper at the age of fifteen. In 1895 Montgomery qualified for a teacher's licence at Prince Wales College, Charlottetown. During the 1890s she worked as a teacher in Bideford and at Lower Bedeque, both on Prince Edward Island.

In 1895-96 Montgomery studied literature at Dalhousie University, Halifax. She returned to Cavendish to take care of her grandmother, and worked at a local post office. In 1911 after her grandmother died, Montgomery married Ewan MacDonald, the Presbyterian minister, and moved with him to rural Ontario. While caring for her grandmother, she wrote the first book of the Anne series. It drew on her girlhood experiences. The idea was based on a notebook entry from 1904: "Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them."

Anne of Green Gables was the story of a talkative, red-haired orphan, Anne Shirley. She has big green-grey eyes and a narrow, freckled face. Matthew Cuthbert and his sister, Marilla, have adopted her from an orphanage in Nova Scotia. The book became hugely popular, although The New York Times critic (July 18, 1908) wrote: "...there is no real difference between the girl at the end of the story and the one at the beginning of it. All the other characters in the book are human enough." The sequels followed Anne's life from childhood to adulthood - she marries Gilbert Blythe, a doctor, loses her first child but her life is then fulfilled with the birth of Little Jem. The initial volume has been filmed several times, adapted for stage and translated into some 40 languages.

Montgomery's success was shadowed by a nine-year dispute with her publisher and her husband's bouts of melancholy. "Looking back over his attacks I find that they have always come on suddenly when he was disappointed or homesick", Montgomery wrote in her diary on April 12, 1921. "Evidently his disappointment and loneliness were repressed into his subconscious mind and began playing tricks with his nerves, as psycho-analysis has recently discovered such things do." In 1925 the family moved to Norval, near Toronto, and then in 1935, after her husband's retirement, to Toronto. ANNE OF INGLESIDE (1939), the last volume in the Anne series, reflected Montgomery's disappointments in life. During the late 1930s Montgomery suffered a breakdown, and remained despondent until her death on April 24, in 1942. At her death she left 10 volumes of personal diaries (1889-1942), whose publication began in 1985.

Montgomery wrote several collections of stories and two books for adults. Her other series characters include Emily, who appeared in three novels, and Pat, who was in two novels. Montgomery's heroines are frequently motherless, but adventurous, imaginative and determined. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables has a fiery temperament, to do with her red hair. When she marries Gilbert, she abandons her career as a teacher and is often in an irritable mood. "It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?" Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables. After becoming tired of Anne, Montgomery created Emily Byrd Starr, who has dark hair and loves nature and loves to write. Anne's imagination leads her into conflict with her surroundings, but Emily uses her imagination to compose poems and stories. In the third part, EMILY'S QUEST (1927), she publishes her first book, is confused by reviews, which are conflicting, and marries Teddy Kent, an artist.