“40 Facts About Lucy Maud Montgomery”
When the Editor of Everywoman’s World asked me to write “The Story of My Career,” I smiled with a little touch of incredulous amusement. My career? Had I a career? Was not – should not – a “career” be something splendid, wonderful, spectacular at the very least, something varied and exciting? Could my long, uphill struggle, through many quiet, uneventful years, be termed a “career”?
(Lucy Maud Montgomery – The Alpine Path)
Almost all these facts come from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s autobiography: “The Alpine Path: The Story of my Career.” So if you’ve read that already, this post will probably bore you. If you haven’t, bask into the Maud-ian facts and then read the book. Because I hiiiighly recommend it. It’s like having Montgomery talking to you, reading that book. 🙂 I love it. You can read it online here.
1. She was born in Prince Edward Island and says, “It is a good place in which to spend a childhood. I can think of none better.”
2. She spends a lot of pages gushing about the beauty of her birthplace. Duh. I want to visit PEI so badly, people. If I had to write travel magazines about PEI, I would just paste in Montgomery’s beautiful lush descriptions of it – it would make people run to the internet to buy flight tickets.
3. Lucy Maud Montgomery had Scottish ancestors. I wonder if she had a bit of an accent.
4. Montgomery would have never known Prince Edward Island had it not been for her mother. Her father and mother – Hugh and Clara – were sailing to Canada, but Clara was so seasick that they stopped at PEI. She then told her husband that she meant to stay there. And that was that. The Montgomery’s thus came to Prince Edward Island.
5. Her mother’s side of the family (the Scottish side; the Macneill family) was the literary/writer-talent side. She inherited it, of course.
6. She was especially close with her Aunt Mary. They were very good friends, despite one being 70 and the other 13. The Story Girl was dedicated to her. “I cannot, in any words at my command, pay the debt I own to Aunt Mary Lawson.”
7. Clara, Lucy’s mother, died when Lucy was almost two years old. She remembers the funeral – and used her sad memories of it to write the sad funeral of Emily Starr’s mother in Emily of the New Moon.
8. Lucy was bought up by her Grandparents. “Whatever were their faults, they were loyal, clannish, upright, God-fearing fold, inheriting traditions of faith and simplicity and aspiration.” They seem to me rather strict, though, and it is said that Lucy’s childhood was pretty lonely.
9. She lived in an old-fashioned farmhouse, surrounded by apple orchards. (Like Green Gables. Awww.)
10. When she was five she had typhoid fever and almost died. (She ate sausages to recover.)
11. Remember that chapter in The Story Girl? “The Judgement Day”? When the kids believe that the newspaper printed the day of the Judgement Day, and they’re all really scared? Well, exactly the same thing happened to Lucy. Only, she had to bear the fear alone, poor thing.
12. When she was six, she went to school. There were two things she didn’t like. One, that she was able to go home to eat lunch. Two, that she wasn’t allowed to go barefoot. The other girls who did go barefoot, envied her buttoned boots. “Human nature always desirous of what it has not got! There was I, aching to go barefoot like my mates; there were they, resentfully thinking it was bliss to wear buttoned boots!”
13. Oh, another thing she hated was her apron she had to wear at school. It was one with sleeves, and everyone called it a ‘baby apron.’ Emily Starr, her violet-eyed heroine, got the same tragedy.
14. When she was seven, two little boys – Well and Dave – who came to board at her grandfather’s. She and Dave had a Haunted Woods, like Anne Shirley and Diana. They were very scared of the ‘white things’ they imagined and Well told her ‘blood-curdling’ stories.
15. She named trees, like Anne. Trees were her friends. Her favourite birch tree was called The Monarch of the Forest. She even wrote a poem about him.
16. When she was nine, she had two pet kittens, Catkin and Pussy-willow. There were some of the first of many cats in her life.
17. Remember when Anne Shirley gets a thrill at the words she hears in Church? “Quick as the slaughtered squadrons fell in Midian’s evil day.” Montgomery said that some people told her that perhaps Anne was too young (Anne was 11) to get so excited about words like that. But nope, because little Lucy heard the words when she was nine, and they ‘Thrilled her very soul.’
18. She loved nature.
19. She was obviously also passionately fond of reading, as she puts it in her biography. There weren’t many books in the house, but she read all she could – Godey’s Lady’s Book, A History of the World, Anderson’s tales, Pilgrim’s Progress, The Momoir of Anzonetta Peters and Talmage’s Sermons. She read and re-read them endlessly.
20. “I cannot remember the time when I was not writing.” She remembers writing biographies of her many cats, book reviews, school affairs, histories of visits, and poetry. She sometimes wrote poetry secretly in class, because, after all, one might.
21. When she was twelve, a singer lady visited her grandparents, and Lucy read her poem to her, not saying it was her who wrote it. The singer lady said, ‘The words are very pretty.’ And this made Lucy so happy that she went outside and danced between the birches. Awww. I WISH I COULD BE HER FRIEND.
22. She sent the poem, Evening Dreams, to a magazine. She dreamt of being famous but then… it got sent back and she gave up sending poems to magazines once and for all. (She really reminds me of Emily Starr.)
23. You know the Story Club they have in Anne of Green Gables?! Well, Lucy and her school friends had one TOOO. I’m so jealous! They all wrote stories about heroines drowning. How I wish I could read them!
24. When she was fifteen she finally sent another poem to a magazine. And then she got her luck! Her poem got printed on the very front page. This motivated her, of course, and sent more poems and stories. Some got sent back, some got printed. She learnt not to give up.
25. Then she taught school, writing stories in the early mornings, in the cold boarding room. She woke up at six o’clock to write as she was too tired in the evening when she came back from school. Sometimes her fingers were so frozen and cramped she could hardly hold the pen. But writing she did. “When people say to me, as they occasionally do, “Oh, how I envy you your gift, how I wish I could write as you do,” I am inclined to wonder, with some inward amusement, how much they would have envied me on those dark, cold, winter mornings of my apprenticeship.”
26. She was twenty-four she gave up teaching, to stay home with her Grandmother as her Grandfather died.
27. By the time she was twenty-seven (and hey look, this is fact number 27! What a coincidence.) she could ‘live’ on her pen. She kept resending manuscripts that got sent back until they got published. She must have had a lot of patience.
28. She became a newspaper woman, and wrote ‘society letters.’ She wrote when she came home, amongst all the other practical things she had to do. I’ve been Busy with a capital B, she wrote in her diary.
29. She kept a notebook with story ideas.
30. When she was thirty-one, she looked at her story-idea-notebook and read some old notes. “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent to them.” That’s what she read. So she blocked up chapters, brainstormed ideas and began to write. Voilà, the famous classic was born.
31. All her characters are fictional with the exception of Peg Bowen in The Story Girl. Oh, and she also had a Katie Maurice like Anne had. You know, the girl in the glass cabinet.
32. Many of the locations in her books, however, are very real. Not all of them, but many.
33. She regretted Matthew Cuthbert’s death. Duh, same here.
34. ‘They’ didn’t like Anne of Green Gables! Montgomery was upset, of course, and put Anne away in an old hatbox. But she found it again one winter and re-sent it. And then it published. I bet the first publisher regretted his decision when he saw how popular it was! Lucy Maud Montgomery got hundreds of letters all over the world, and she saw her book get translated into different languages. Some of the covers made her laugh.
35. ‘The Story Girl’ is her favourite of all her own books, and the one that gave her the greatest pleasure to write, as she says. Many of the tales and stories in it are true.
36. Surprisingly her autobiography says nothing whatsoever about her love-life. Montgomery certainly did have one – according to Wikipedia she had numerous love interests. At the age of fourteen (fourteen!) a guy called Nate Lockhart called on her – she didn’t see it as anything serious, and the relationship ended when she refused the offer of marriage. Then her teacher, Mr Mustard, became her suitor, and Will Pritchard, the brother of one of her friends, was interested in her, too. But she refused marriage offers from both. Mr Mustard, she said, was too narrow-minded, and Will was ‘just a chum.’ Then she became engaged to an Edward Simpson, but stopped that for some reason or the other. Then she had this other chap called Herman Load, but that stopped, too. Finally, in her late twenties, she married Ewan Macdonald, a preacher.
37. She had three sons; one stillborn. Her years of motherhood are said to be not her easiest ones.
38. Her last book was The Blythes are Quoted, the only book of hers I haven’t read.
39. She died at the age of 67. (I’m not going look up how.)
40. She wrote 20 novels, 530 stories, 500 poems and 30 essays. Talk about a career.