L.M. Montgomery

French River Lupins
Maurice Bernard – 2007 – 11.5" x 17.5" pastel on paper

L.M. Montgomery

L.M. Montgomery (Lucy Maud Montgomery) was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island, on November 30, 1874, to Hugh John Montgomery and Clara Woolner Macneill. When Montgomery was 21 months old, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father left her in the care of her mother’s parents, Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill of Cavendish, and moved to western Canada, where he eventually settled in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and remarried.

As an only child living with an elderly couple, Montgomery found companionship in her imagination, nature, books, and writing. When she was nine, she began writing poetry and keeping a journal. She also spent time with her Uncle John and Aunt Annie Campbell (her mother’s sister), and their family in Park Corner. There she spent many happy days, playing with her cousins and visiting her paternal grandfather, Senator Donald Montgomery, who lived close to the Campbells.  She loved her Cavendish home and Silver Bush (as the Campbell farm was called) in Park Corner.

At the age of six, she began attending the one-room school near her grandparents’ home in Cavendish. She completed her early education there, with the exception of one year (1890-1891) which she spent in Prince Albert with her father and his wife, Mary Anne McRae. While in Prince Albert, she achieved her first publication – a poem entitled “On Cape LeForce" published by a Prince Edward Island newspaper, The Patriot. In September of 1891, she returned to Cavendish, too late to go to school that year, but she completed grade ten in 1892-1893. The following year (1893-1894), she studied for a teacher’s license at Prince of Wales College, completing the two-year course in one year and graduating with honours.

During her brief teaching career, Montgomery taught at three Island schools: Bideford, Belmont, and Lower Bedeque respectively. She left teaching for one year (1895-1896) to study selected courses in English literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, becoming one of the few women of her time to seek higher education. It was during her stay at Dalhousie that she received the first payments for her writing.

In 1898, while Montgomery was teaching in Lower Bedeque, her Grandfather Macneill died suddenly. She returned to Cavendish immediately to take care of her grandmother who otherwise would have had to leave her home. She remained with her grandmother for the next thirteen years, with the exception of a nine-month period in 1901-1902 when she worked as a proof-reader for The Daily Echo in Halifax.

During her years in Cavendish, Montgomery continued to write and sent off numerous poems, stories, and serials to Canadian, British, and American magazines. Despite many rejections, she eventually commanded a comfortable income from her writing. In 1899, she earned $96.88 – not much by today’s standards but a nice sum at the turn of the century. Her earnings from her writing increased to $500 in 1903.

In 1905, she wrote her first and most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables. She sent the manuscript to several publishers, but, after receiving rejections from all of them, she put it away in a hat box. In 1907, she found the manuscript again, re-read it, and decided to try again to have it published. Anne of Green Gables was accepted by the Page Company of Boston, Massachusetts and published in 1908. An immediate best-seller, the book marked the beginning of Montgomery’s successful career as a novelist.

After Grandmother Macneill died in March of 1911, On July 5, 1911 Montgomery married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald, to whom she had been secretly engaged since 1906. Prior to her engagement to Macdonald, she had had two romantic involvements: an unhappy engagement to her third cousin Edwin Simpson, of Belmont, and a brief, but passionate romantic attachment to Herman Leard, of Lower Bedeque.

After their marriage, Montgomery and Macdonald moved to Leaskdale, Ontario, where Macdonald was minister in the Presbyterian church. She had three sons: Chester (1912), Hugh (stillborn in 1914), and Stuart (1915); assisted her husband in his pastoral duties; ran their home; and continued to write best-selling novels as well as short stories and poems. She faithfully recorded entries in her journals and kept up an enormous correspondence with friends, family, and fans. Maud Montgomery Macdonald did not live on Prince Edward Island again, returning only for vacations.

Montgomery was a very sensitive and intelligent woman who suffered deeply from events that affected her personally and the world. In her journals, she expressed her pain at the death of her infant son Hugh, the horrors of the First World War, the death of her beloved cousin Frederica (Frede) Campbell, and the discovery that her husband suffered from religious melancholia. But despite these and other problems, she continued to write, expressing her love of life, nature, and beauty in her fiction, journals, and letters.

In 1926, the Montgomery Macdonalds moved to Norval, Ontario, where they stayed until Macdonald resigned from the ministry in 1935. They then moved to Toronto, where they could be close to their sons. Maud Montgomery Macdonald died in Toronto, Ontario, on April 24, 1942; Ewan Macdonald died in November 1943. In death, Montgomery returned to her beloved Prince Edward Island, where she was buried in the Cavendish cemetery, close to the site of her old home.

Montgomery immortalized this tiny province through her wonderful descriptions of life, nature, community, and people on Prince Edward Island. All but one of her 20 books are set on Prince Edward Island. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people, directly or indirectly influenced by the way of life she depicted in her writing, come to Prince Edward Island to see the place she loved so much.

SOURCE: The L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island