The first novel was followed by a series of sequels with Anne as the central character. Montgomery went on to publish 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays. Most of the novels were set in Prince Edward Island, and locations within Canada's smallest province became a literary landmark and popular tourist site—namely Green Gables farm, the genesis of Prince Edward Island National Park. She was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1935.
Montgomery's work, diaries and letters have been read and studied by scholars and readers worldwide.
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton (now New London) in Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. Her mother, Clara Woolner Macneill Montgomery, died of tuberculosis when Montgomery was twenty-one months old. Stricken with grief over his wife's death, Hugh John Montgomery gave custody to Montgomery's maternal grandparents. Later he moved to Prince Albert, North-West Territories (now Prince Albert, Saskatchewan) when Montgomery was seven. She went to live with her maternal grandparents, Alexander Marquis Macneill and Lucy Woolner Macneill, in the nearby community of Cavendish and was raised by them.
Montgomery's early life in Cavendish was very lonely. Despite having relatives nearby, much of her childhood was spent alone. Montgomery credits this time of her life, in which she created many imaginary friends and worlds to cope with her loneliness, with developing her creativity. Prince Edward Island was a mostly Christian province at the time, nearly evenly split between Catholic and Protestant. Montgomery inherited the values of the Protestant work ethic, emphasizing thrift, modesty and hard work.
Montgomery completed her early education in Cavendish with the exception of one year (1890–1891) during which time she was in Prince Albert with her father and her stepmother, Mary Ann McRae. In 1901, Montgomery wrote in her diary how at the age of 13 she had "early dreams of future fame" and submitted a poem for publication, writing "I saw myself the wonder of my schoolmates-a little local celebrity". Upon rejection, Montgomery wrote "Tears of disappointment would come in spite of myself, as I crept away to hide the poor crumpled manuscript in the depths of my trunk", going on to write "Down deep down under all the discouragement and rebuff I knew I would "arrive' some day".
In November 1890, while in Prince Albert, Montgomery's first work, a poem entitled "On Cape LeForce," was published in the Charlottetown paper, The Daily Patriot. She was as excited about this as she was about her return to her beloved Prince Edward Island in 1891. Before returning to Cavendish, Montgomery had another article published in the newspaper, describing her visit to a First Nations camp on the Great Plains.
The return to Cavendish was a great relief to her. Her time in Prince Albert was unhappy, for she did not get along with her stepmother and because by, "... Maud’s account, her father's marriage was not a happy one." In 1893, following the completion of her grade school education in Cavendish, she attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, and obtained a teacher's license. Montgomery loved Prince Edward Island, writing she was "very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a very thin veil".
During walks alone out in nature, Montgomery started to experience what she called in her diary "the flash"-moments of contemplating the beauty of nature that gave her emotional ecstasy and what she considered the awareness of a higher spiritual power running through nature and her. Montgomery's accounts of "the flash" were later the basis for her description of Anne Shirley's sense of emotional communion with nature. She completed the two-year program in one year. In 1895 and 1896, she studied literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Upon leaving Dalhousie, Montgomery worked as a teacher in various Prince Edward Island schools. Though she did not enjoy teaching, it afforded her time to write. Beginning in 1897, she began to have her short stories published in magazines and newspapers. Montgomery was prolific and had over 100 stories published from 1897 to 1907.
During her teaching years, Montgomery had numerous love interests. As a highly fashionable young woman, she enjoyed "slim, good looks" and won the attention of several young men. In 1889, at 14, Montgomery began a relationship with a Cavendish boy named Nate Lockhart. To Montgomery, the relationship was merely a humorous and witty friendship. It ended abruptly when Montgomery refused his marriage proposal.
The early 1890s brought unwelcome advances from John A. Mustard and Will Pritchard. Mustard, her teacher, quickly became her suitor; he tried to impress her with his knowledge of religious matters. His best topics of conversation were his thoughts on Predestination and "other dry points of theology", which held little appeal for Montgomery. During the period when Mustard's interest became more pronounced, Montgomery found a new interest in Will Pritchard, the brother of her friend Laura Pritchard. This friendship was more amiable but, again, he felt more for Montgomery than she did for him. When Pritchard sought to take their friendship further, Montgomery resisted. Montgomery refused both marriage proposals; the former was too narrow-minded, and the latter was merely a good chum. She ended the period of flirtation when she moved to Prince Edward Island. However, she and Pritchard did continue to correspond for over six years, until Pritchard caught influenza and died in 1897.
In 1897, Montgomery accepted the proposal of Edwin Simpson, who was a student in French River near Cavendish. Montgomery wrote that she accepted his proposal out of a desire for "love and protection", and because she felt her prospects were rather poor. Montgomery came to dislike Simpson, whom she regarded as intolerably self-centered and vain to the extent of feeling nauseous in his presence. While teaching in Lower Bedeque, she had a brief but passionate romantic attachment to Herman Leard, a member of the family with which she boarded. Of the men she loved, it was Leard she loved the most, writing in her diary:
"Hermann suddenly bent his head and his lips touched my face. I cannot tell what possessed me-I seemed swayed by a power utterly beyond my control-I turned my head-our lips met in one long passionate pressure-a kiss of fire and rapture such I had never experienced or imagined. Ed's kisses at the best left me cold as ice-Hermann's sent flame through every fiber of my being".
On 8 April 1898, Montgomery wrote she had to stay faithful towards Simpson as "for the sake of my self respect I must not stoop to any sort of an affair with another man" which was followed by:
"If I had-or rather if I could have-kept this resolve I would have saved myself incalculable suffering. For it was but a few days later that I found myself face to face with the burning consciousness that I loved Herman Leard with a wild, passionate, unreasoning love that dominated my entire being and possessed me like a flame-a love I could neither quell nor control-a love that in its intensity seemed little short of absolute madness. Madness! Yes!"
In Victorian Canada, premarital sex was rare for women (it was common for unmarried men seeking sex to visit brothels), and Montgomery had been brought up in strict Presbyterian household where she had been taught that all who sinned in "fornication" were among the "damned" who burned in Hell forever, a message she had taken to heart. Despite this upbringing, Montgomery often invited Leard into her bedroom when everybody else was out, and though she refused to have sex with him as she wanted to be a virgin bride, she and Leard engaged in kissing and "preliminary lovemaking". Montgomery called Leard in her diary only "a very nice, attractive young animal!", albeit one with "magnetic blue eyes" as she wrote in another entry.
Following objections from her family and friends that Leard was not "good enough" for her, Montgomery broke off her relationship with Leard, who died shortly afterwards of the flu. In 1898, after much unhappiness and disillusionment, Montgomery broke off her engagement to Simpson. Montgomery no longer sought romantic love. Despite breaking off the relationship with Leard in 1898, Montgomery was greatly upset when she learned of his death in June 1899, writing in her diary: "It is easier to think him as dead, mine, all mine in death, as he could never be in life, mine when no other women could ever lie on his heart or kiss his lips".
In 1898, Montgomery moved back to Cavendish to live with her widowed grandmother. For a nine-month period between 1901 and 1902, she worked in Halifax as a substitute proofreader for the newspapers Morning Chronicle and The Daily Echo. Montgomery was inspired to write her first books during this time on Prince Edward Island. Until her grandmother's death in March 1911, Montgomery stayed in Cavendish to take care of her. This coincided with a period of considerable income from her publications. Although she enjoyed this income, she was aware that “marriage was a necessary choice for women in Canada.”
In 1908, Montgomery published her first book, Anne of Green Gables. An immediate success, it established Montgomery's career, and she would write and publish material (including numerous sequels to Anne) continuously for the rest of her life. Anne of Green Gables was published in June 1908 and by November 1909, the book had already gone through six printings. The Canadian media made much of Montgomery's roots in Prince Edward Island, which was portrayed patronizingly as a charmingly quaint part of Canada where the people retained old-fashioned values because everything moved there at a much slower pace. The American media went one better by suggesting all of Canada was backward and slow, arguing that a book like Anne of Green Gables was only possible in a rustic country like Canada, where the people were nowhere near as advanced as the United States. Typical of the American media's coverage of Montgomery was a 1911 newspaper article in Boston, which asserted:
"Recently a new and exceedingly brilliant star arose on the literacy horizon in the person of a previously unknown writer of "heart interest" stories, Miss Lucy M. Montgomery and presently the astronomers located her in the latitude of Prince Edward Island. No one would ever imagined that such a remote and unassertive speck on the map would ever produce such a writer whose first three books should one and all be included in the 'six best sellers'. But it was on this unemotional island that Anne of Green Gables was born...This story was the work of a modest young school teacher, who was doubtless as surprised as any of her neighbors when she found her sweetly simple tale of childish joys and sorrows of a diminutive red-haired girl had made the literacy hit of the season with the American public...Miss Montgomery, who is entirely unspoiled by her unexpected stroke of fame and fortune, made her first visit to Boston last winter and was lionized to quite an extent, her pleasing personality making a decidedly favorable impression on all who met her...It was all very nice and novel, but the young lady confided to her friends that she would be more than glad to get back to her quiet and uneventful country life and she would far prefer it as a regular thing even to a residence in Boston. One of the most delightful of her Boston experiences was a lunch that was given her by a local publishing house that issues her books, a thoroughly Bostonian idea as well as a most creditable one....Britain possesses as a cherished literacy shrine, the Isle of Man, but on this side of the ocean we have our Isle St. Jean, where, in good old summer time, as Anne Shirley found it on the day of her arrival, the gulf-cooled air is 'sweet with the breath of many apple orchards' and the meadows slope away in the romantic distance to 'horizon mist of pearl and purple'"
The writer was mistaken; Montgomery in a letter to a friend stated: "I am frankly in literature to make a living out of it". Furthermore, the British scholar Faye Hammill noted that in the books Anne is a tall girl and Montgomery was 37 at the time, which hardly made for a "young school teacher". Hammill also noted the writer chose to present Montgomery as the idealised female author, who was most happy in a domestic/rural environment, and who disliked fame and celebrity, which was seen at the time as conflicting with femininity. In emphasizing Montgomery's modesty and desire to remain anonymous, the writer was portraying Montgomery as the ideal woman writer, who wanted to preserve her femininity by not embarking on a professional career, with writing only as a part-time job at best. At the same time, Hammill noted the writer was using the anachronistic French name for Prince Edward Island, to add to his picture of a romantic, mist-shrouded fantasy island, where the old ways of life continued "unspoiled", as just Montgomery herself was portrayed as an "unspoiled" woman.
Shortly after her grandmother's death in 1911, she married Ewen (spelled in her notes and letters as "Ewan") Macdonald (1870–1943), a Presbyterian minister, and they moved to Ontario where he had taken the position of minister of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Leaskdale in present-day Uxbridge Township, also affiliated with the congregation in nearby Zephyr. Montgomery wrote her next eleven books from the Leaskdale manse that she complained had neither a bathroom nor a toilet. The structure was subsequently sold by the congregation and is now the Lucy Maud Montgomery Leaskdale Manse Museum. The Reverend Macdonald was not especially intelligent nor was he interested in literature and nature as Montgomery was. Montgomery wrote in her diary: "I would not want him for a lover but I hope at first that I might find a friend in him". After their marriage, Montgomery took her honeymoon in England and Scotland, the latter being a particular point of interest to her, as Scotland was for her the "Old Country", the romantic land of castles, rugged mountains, shining glens, lakes and waterfalls that was her ancestral homeland. By contrast, the Reverend Macdonald's parents had come to Canada after being evicted in the Highland Clearances, and he no desire to visit the "Old Country", most notably having to be dragged by his wife to the Isle of Skye, the home of the Clan MacDonald, where the Macdonalds had once reigned as the Lords of the Isles. The MacDonalds had been Gaelic-speaking Highlanders while the Montgomerys and Macneils had been English-speaking Lowlanders, which might explain the differing attitudes held by the couple to Scotland as Montgomery was more proud of her Scottish heritage than her husband. Furthermore, Montgomery had read the works of Scots writers like Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott, whereas her husband did not read literature at all, forcing his wife to explain to him who Burns and Scott were. In England, Montgomery visited places associated with her favorite writers, going to the Lake District made famous by William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare's house in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Haworth house in the Yorkshire moors that Charlotte Brontë had lived in.
The Macdonalds had three sons; the second was stillborn. Montgomery believed it was her duty as a woman to make her marriage work, though she quipped to a reporter during a visit to Scotland that those women whom God wanted to destroy He would make into the wives of ministers. The great increase of Montgomery's writings in Leaskdale is the result of her need to escape the hardships of real life. In 1909-10, Montgomery drew upon her Scottish-Canadian heritage and her memories of her teenage years to write her 1911 novel The Story Girl. Montgomery's youth had been spent among a Scottish-Canadian family where Scottish tales, myths and legends had often been recounted, and Montgomery used this background to create the character of 14-year old Sara Stanley, a skilled story-teller, who was merely an "idealized" version of her adolescent self. The character of Peter Craig in The Story Girl very much resembles Herman Leard, the great love of Montgomery's life, the man she wished she had married, but did not, right down to having blond curly hair just as Leard did. As with her relationship with Leard, the other characters object to the lower-class Craig as he is not "good enough" for her, but unlike her real-life relationship with Leard, which was broken off because he was not "good enough", Felicity King chooses Craig.
During the First World War, Montgomery, horrified by reports of the "Rape of Belgium" in 1914, was an intense supporter of the war effort, seeing the war as a crusade to save civilization, regularly writing articles urging men to volunteer for the Canadian expeditionary force and for people on the home front to buy victory bonds. Montgomery wrote in her diary on 12 September 1914 about the reports of the "Rape of Belgium":
"But oh, there have been such hideous stories in the papers lately of their cutting off the hands of little children in Belgium. Can they be true? They have committed terrible outrages and crimes, that is too surely true, but I hope desperately that these stories of the mutilation of children are false. They harrow my soul. I walk the floor in my agony over them. I cry myself to sleep about them and wake again in the darkness to cringe with the horror of it. If it were Chester!".
In Leaskdale, like everywhere else in Canada, recruiting meetings were held where ministers, such as the Reverend MacDonald would speak of Kaiser Wilhelm II as the personification of evil, described the "Rape of Belgium" in graphic detail, and asked for young men to step up to volunteer to fight for Canada, the British Empire and justice in what was widely described at the time as a "crusade" against evil. In a 1915 essay appealing for volunteers, Montgomery wrote: "I am not one of those who believe that this war will put an end to war. War is horrible, but there are things that are more horrible still, just as there are fates worse than death." Montgomery argued prior to the war that Canada had been slipping into atheism, materialism and "moral decay", and the war had brought about a welcome revival of Christianity, patriotism and moral strength as the Canadian people faced the challenge of the greatest war yet fought in history. Montgomery ended her essay by stating that women on the home front were playing a crucial role in the war effort, which led her to ask for woman's suffrage under the grounds since women were playing an equal part to men in the war that it was unfair to give one the vote to one and to deny it to the other. On 7 October 1915, Montgomery gave birth to her third child and was thrown into depression when she discovered she could not produce breast milk to feed her son, who was given cow's milk instead, which posed major health risks in the days before antibiotics.
Montgomery identified very strongly with the Allied cause, leading her on 10 March 1916 to write in her diary: "All my misery seemed to centre around Verdun where "the snow was no longer white". I seemed in my own soul to embrace all the anguish and strain of France". In the same diary entry, Montgomery wrote of a "strange experience" as "...a great calm seemed to descend upon me and envelop me. I was at peace. The conviction seized upon me that Verdun was safe-that the Germans would not pass the grim barrier of desperate France. I was as a woman from whom some evil spirit had been driven-or can it be as a priestess of old, who out of depths of agony wins some strange foresight of the future?" Montgomery celebrated every Allied victory at her house, for instance running up the Russian flag in the front of her house when she heard that the Russians had captured the supposedly impregnable Ottoman city-fortress of Trebizond in April 1916. In the same way, every Allied defeat depressed her, as when she heard of the fall of Kut-al-Amara, she wrote in her diary on 1 May 1916: "Kut-el-Amara has been compelled to surrender at last. We have expected it for some time, but that did not prevent us from feeling very blue over it all. It is an encouragement to the Germans and a blow to Britain's prestige. I feel too depressed tonight to do anything". Much to Montgomery's disgust, Ewen refused to speak about the war as it went on as she wrote in her diary "it unsettles him and he cannot do his work properly". The Reverend Macdonald had developed major doubts about the justice of the war as it went along, and had come to feel by encouraging young men to volunteer for the war that he had seriously sinned, and under the Calvinist system of predestination where God selects the righteous "Elect" destined to go to Heaven in advance while the sinful "dammed" are only born in this world to go to Hell when they die, this meant that he was one of the "damned" destined for Hell. Macdonald had long suffered from mental illness, and his belief that he was one of the "damned, not the "Elect" was the start of his personal breakdown.
Montgomery, a deeply religious woman, wrote in her diary: "I believe in a God who is good, but not omnipotent. I also believe in a principle of Evil, equal to God in power...darkness to His light. I believe an infinite ceaseless struggle goes on between them." In a letter, Montgomery dismissed Kaiser Wilhelm II's claim that God was on the side of Germany, stating the power responsible for the death of "little Hugh" (her stillborn son) was the same power also responsible for the "Rape of Belgium", which could not possibly be the power of God and good, and for this reason the Allies were destined to win the war. Montgomery's concept of a loving God for whom only good things came meant for her the same power responsible for calamities great and small such as the death of "little Hugh" and the "Rape of Belgium" could not be the work of God, and was instead the work of the same evil power equal to God. Montgomery had worked as a Sunday school teacher at her husband's church, and many of the men from Uxbridge county who were killed or wounded in the war had once been her students, causing her much emotional distress, though she always saw them as heroes. Uxbridge county lost 21 men killed in the Great War between 1915, when the Canadian corps first saw action at the Second Battle of Ypres until the war's end in 1918. Montgomery's biographer Mary Henley Rubio observed: "Increasingly, the war was all that she thought of and wanted to talk about. Her journals show she was absolutely consumed by it, wracked by it, tortured by it, obsessed by it-even addicted to it". Montgomery was always noticeably annoyed if her husband failed to buy a newspaper daily from the local corner store as she always wanted to read the latest war news.
Montgomery underwent several periods of depression while trying to cope with the duties of motherhood and church life and with her husband’s attacks of religious melancholia (endogenous major depressive disorder) and deteriorating health: "For a woman who had given the world so much joy, life was mostly an unhappy one." In 1918, Montgomery was stricken with and was almost killed by the "Spanish Flu" pandemic that killed between 50-100 million people all over the world in 1918-1919, spending ten days bed-ridden with the Spanish flu. Despite its name, the "Spanish flu" came from China, being spread by Chinese workers taken to dig trenches in Western Europe in World War I. In her diary on 1 December 1918, Montgomery wrote after a visit to Toronto in November: "Toronto was then beginning to be panic stricken over the outbreak of the terrible "Spanish flu". The drug counters were besieged with frantic people seeking remedies and safeguards". Montgomery wrote in her diary about being infected with Spanish flu: "I was in bed for ten days. I never felt so sick or weak in my life", going on to express thanks to God and her friends for helping her survive the ordeal. Montgomery's best friend Frederica Campbell MacFaralane was not so lucky and died after contacting the Spanish flu on 20 January 1919. Montgomery was upset that her husband had been indifferent to her as she was dying of the Spanish flu, which drove her to think about divorce (something very difficult to obtain in Canada until 1967-between 1873 and 1901, there only 263 divorces out a population of six million). Ultimately, Montgomery decided it was her Christian duty to make her marriage work. After the First World War, a recurring character in Montgomery's journal that was to obsess her for the rest of her life was "the Piper", who at first appeared as a heroic Highlander piper from Scotland, leading men into battle while playing traditional Highland tunes, but who turned out to be the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a trickster taking children away from their parents forever. The figure of "the Piper" reflected Montgomery's own disillusionment with World War One and her guilt at her ardent support for the war. To inspire men to volunteer for the war, a piper had marched through the center of Leaskdale daily, playing Highland war tunes, which had given Montgomery the basis of the figure of "the Piper". "The piper" first appears in the Anne books in Rainbow Valley (1919), inspiring the men of Avonlea with his courage. In Rilla of Ingleside (1921), "the Piper" returns as a more sinister figure, inspiring Anne's son Walter to enlist in the Canadian expeditionary force, while taking on the appearance and personality of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
The Reverend Ewen MacDonald, a good Calvinist who believed in predestination, had become convinced that he was not one of "the Elect" chosen by God to go to Heaven, leading him to spend hours depressed and staring into space. The Reverend MacDonald often told his wife that he wished she and their children had never been born as they were also not of "the Elect", and all of them were going to Hell when they died as he believed that they were all predestined to be among the "damned". MacDonald refused to assist with raising the children or the housework, and was given over to erratic, reckless driving as if he was deliberately trying to get himself killed in a car crash, as perhaps he was. Montgomery herself was driven to depression by her husband's conduct, often writing that she wished she had married somebody else. Montgomery wrote in her diary that she could not stand looking at her husband's face, when he had that "horrible imbecile expression on his face" as he starred blankly into space for hours. In February 1920, Montgomery wrote in her diary about having to deal with:
"A letter from some pathetic ten-year old in New York who implores me to send her my photo because she lies awake in her bed wondering what I look like. Well, if she had a picture of me in my old dress, wresting with the furniture this morning, "cussing" the ashes and clinkers, she would die of disillusionment. However, I shall send her a reprint of my last photo in which I sat in rapt inspiration-apparently-at my desk, with pen in my hand, in gown of lace and silk with hair so-Amen. A quite passable woman, of no kin whatever to the dusty, ash-covered Cinderella of the furnace-cellear."
For much of her life, writing was her one great solace. In 1920, Montgomery wrote in her diary a quotation from the South African writer Olive Schreiner's book The Story of an African Farm which defined different types of love, including a "love without wisdom, sweet as life, bitter as death, lasting only a hour", leading her to write: "But it is worth having lived a whole life for that hour." (emphasis in the original). Montgomery concluded:
"My love for Hermann Leard, though so incomplete, is...a memory which I would not barter for anything save the lives of my children and the return of Frede [Frederica Campbell MacFaralane, her best friend]
Montgomery believed her spells of depression and migraine headaches she suffered from were both expressions of her suppressed romantic passions and Leard's ghost haunting her.
Starting in 1917, Montgomery was engaged in five bitter, costly, and burdensome lawsuits with Louis Coues Page, owner of the publishing house L.C. Page & Company, that continued until she finally won in 1928. Page had a well deserved reputation as one of the most tyrannical figures in American publishing, a bully with a ferocious temper who signed his authors to exploitative contracts and liked to humiliate his subordinates, including his mild-mannered younger brother George in public. Montgomery received 7 cents on the dollar on the sale of every one of the Anne books, instead of the 19 cents on the dollar that she was entitled to, which led her to switch publishers in 1917 when she finally discovered that Page was cheating her. When Montgomery left the firm of L.C Page & company, Page demanded she sign over the American rights to Anne's House of Dreams, and when she refused, he cut off the royalties from the earlier Anne books. Even though he did not own the U.S. rights to Anne's House of Dreams, Page sold those rights to the cheap publishing house of Grosset & Dunlap as way of creating more pressure on Montgomery to fold, as it forced Montomgery to sue Grosset & Dunlap, adding more legal fees. Page was counting on the fact that he was a millionaire and Montgomery was not, and the prospect of having to spend thousands in legal fees would force her to give in. Much to his surprise, she did not. Montgomery hired a lawyer in Boston and sued Page in the Massachusetts Court of Equity for illegally withholding royalties due her and for selling the U.S rights to Anne's House of Dreams that he did not possess.
In 1920, Montgomery was infuriated with the 1919 film version of Anne of Green Gables' for changing Anne from a Canadian to an American, writing in her diary:
"It was a pretty little play well photographed, but I think if I hadn't already known it was from my book, that I would never had recognized it. The landscape and folks were 'New England', never P.E Island...A skunk and an American flag were introduced-both equally unknown in PE Island. I could have shrieked with rage over the latter. Such crass, blatant Yankeeism!".
Reporting on the film's premiere in Los Angeles, one American journalist described Anne of Green Gables as written by a "Mr. Montgomery", who is only mentioned in passing two-thirds into the article with the major focus being on the film's star Mary Miles Minter, who was presented as the true embodiment of Anne. Montgomery disapproved of Minter's performance, writing she portrayed "a sweet, sugary heroine utterly unlike my gingerly Anne" and complained about a scene in the film where Anne used a shotgun to threaten people with, writing her Anne would never do such a thing. Montgomery had no say in either the 1919 or 1934 versions of Anne of Green Gables as the publisher, L.C. Page had acquired the film rights to the story in 1908, and as such, all of the royalties paid by Hollywood for both versions of Anne of Green Gables went to him, not Montgomery. Montgomery stopped writing about Anne in about 1920, writing in her journal that she had tired of the character. By February 1921, Montgomery estimated that she had made about $100,000 dollars from the sales of the Anne books while declaring in her diary: "It's a pity it doesn't buy happiness". She preferred instead to create books about other young, female characters, feeling that her strength was writing about characters who were either very young or very old. Other series written by Montgomery include the "Emily" and "Pat" books, which, while successful, did not reach the same level of public acceptance as the "Anne" volumes. She also wrote a number of stand-alone novels, which were also generally successful, if not as successful as her Anne books.
In 1925, a Massachusetts court ruled in favor of Montgomery against her publisher Louis Coues Page, as the judge found that he had systemically cheated her out of the profits from the Anne books since 1908. Page used every conceivable excuse to avoid paying Montgomery what he owned her, and after his brother George died of a heart attack in 1927, accused Montgomery of causing his brother's death by suing him for her rightful shares of the royalties. In fact, Louis Page was not close to George, who had just left the firm of L.C. Page & Company to get away from his abrasive and arrogant brother before he died of a heart-attack, aged 52. In October 1928, Montgomery finally won while Page, a sore loser to the end, continued to insist in public that she had caused the death of his brother, which he used as a reason why he should not have to pay Montgomery anything. Page, who was a notorious bully, waged a campaign of harassment against Montgomery, sending her telegrams accusing her of causing his brother's death and the subsequent mental breakdown of his widow by defeating him in court, asking her if she was pleased with what she had allegedly done. Page's behavior badly damaged his business as no author chose to publish with a publisher who had revealed himself to be both dishonest and vindictive, and after the 1920s Page's publishing house largely depended upon reissuing older books rather than issuing new books as authors took their business elsewhere. On 7 November 1928, Montgomery received a cheque for the $15, 000 US dollars that auditors had established Page had cheated her out of.
Montgomery in terms of sales, both in her lifetime and since, was the most successful Canadian author of all time, but because her books were seen as children's books and as women's books, she was often dismissed by the critics, who saw Montgomery as merely a writer for schoolgirls, and not as a serious writer. In 1924, the Maple Leaf magazine asked its readers to nominate the 14 greatest living Canadians, and all of the winners were men. Montgomery only made the runner's up list to the 14 greatest Canadians, coming in at 16. However, Montgomery did make it onto the another list of the 12 greatest living Canadian women. Hammill argued that Montgomery was successful at managing her fame, but the media's fixation on presenting her as the idealised woman writer which together with her desire to hide her unhappy home life with her husband meant that her creation Anne, whose "life" was more "knowable" and more easily to relate to overshadowed her both in her lifetime and after.
In 1925, Ewen MacDonald became estranged from his folk when he opposed his church joining the United Church of Canada, and was involved in an incident when he nearly ran over a Methodist minister who was promoting the union. Had he not been a minister, he almost certainly would have been charged with attempted murder. In 1926, the family moved into the Norval Presbyterian Charge, in present-day Halton Hills, Ontario, where today the Lucy Maud Montgomery Memorial Garden can be seen from Highway 7. In 1934, Montgomery's extremely depressed husband signed himself into a sanatorium in Guelph. After his release, the drug store gave Montgomery a "blue pill" intended to treat her husband's depression that was accidentally laced with insecticide (a mistake on the part of the drug store clerk) that almost killed him. The Reverend MacDonald become notably paranoid after this incident, accusing Montgomery of attempting to murder him and in his more lucid mental states, beat her. MacDonald alternated between moments of passivity, where he became catatonic, starring into space for hours with blank, empty eyes and more cogent mental states, where he declared he hated God for making him one of "the damned", would never preach again and beat Montgomery for supposedly trying to kill him.
In 1935, upon her husband's retirement, Montgomery moved to Swansea, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, buying a house which she named Journey's End, situated on Riverside Drive along the east bank of the Humber River. Montgomery continued to write, and (in addition to writing other material) returned to writing about Anne after a 15-year hiatus, filling in previously unexplored gaps in the chronology she had developed for the character. She published Anne of Windy Poplars in 1936 and Anne of Ingleside in 1939. Jane of Lantern Hill, a non-Anne novel, was also composed around this time and published in 1937. Writing kept up Montgomery's spirits as she battled depression and taking various pills to improve her mood, but in public she presented a happy, smiling face, giving speeches to various professional groups all over Canada. On 10 November 1937, Montgomery gave a speech in Toronto calling for Canadian writers to write more stories about Canada, arguing Canadians had great stories worth writing. Despite her efforts to raise the profile of Canadian literature through the Canadian Author's Association, the avant garde of Canadian litearture led by Frederick Philip Grove, F. R. Scott, Morley Callaghan and Raymond Knister complained about the mostly female membership of the CAA, whom they felt had overly glorified someone like Montgomery who was a not "serious" writer. Over time, Montgomery become addicted to bromides and barbiturates that the doctors had given to her to help treat her depression.
Montgomery was greatly upset by World War II, calling the war in a 1940 letter "this nightmare that has been loosed on the world...unfair that we should have to go through it again". In her only diary entry for 1941, Montgomery wrote on 8 July 1941: "Oh God, such an end to life. Such suffering and wretchedness". On 28 December 1941, Montgomery wrote to a friend:
"This past year has been one of constant blows to me. My oldest son has made a mess of his life and his wife has left him. My husband's nerves are even worse than mine. I have kept the nature of his attacks from you for over 20 years but they have broken me at last...I could not go out to select a book for you this year. Pardon me. I could not even write this if I had not been a hypodermic. The war situation kills me along with many other things. I expect conscription will come in and they will take my second son and then I will give up all effort to recover because I shall have nothing to live for."
In 1940, the Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King introduced conscription under the National Resources Mobilization Act, but with the caveat that conscripts could only be used in the defence of North America, and only volunteers would be spent overseas. Mackenzie King scheduled a referendum for 27 April 1942 to ask the voters to release him from his promise to only send volunteers overseas, which Montgomery alluded to in her letter mentioning "conscription will come in". In her last entry in her diary on 23 March 1942, Montgomery wrote: "Since then my life has been hell, hell, hell. My mind is gone -everything in the world I lived for has gone - the world has gone mad. I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams of what my awful position is".
In the last year of her life, Montgomery completed what she intended to be a ninth book featuring Anne, titled The Blythes Are Quoted. It included fifteen short stories (many of which were previously published) that she revised to include Anne and her family as mainly peripheral characters; forty-one poems (most of which were previously published) that she attributed to Anne and to her son Walter, who died as a soldier in the Great War; and vignettes featuring the Blythe family members discussing the poems. The book was delivered to Montgomery's publisher on the day of her death, but for reasons unexplained, the publisher declined to issue the book at the time. Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre speculates that the book's dark tone and anti-war message (Anne speaks very bitterly of WWI in one passage) may have made the volume unsuitable to publish in the midst of the Second World War.
An abridged version of this book, which shortened and reorganized the stories and omitted all the vignettes and all but one of the poems, was published as a collection of short stories called The Road to Yesterday in 1974, more than 30 years after the original work had been submitted. A complete edition of The Blythes Are Quoted, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre, was finally published in its entirety by Viking Canada in October 2009, more than 67 years after it was composed.
On April 24, 1942, Montgomery was found dead in her bed in her Toronto home. The primary cause of death recorded on her death certificate was coronary thrombosis. However, in September 2008, her granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, revealed that Montgomery suffered from depression – possibly as a result of caring for her mentally ill husband for decades – and may have taken her own life through a drug overdose.
A note was found on Montgomery's bedside table which read, in part, "...I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best." An alternative explanation of this document is provided in Mary Henley Rubio's 2008 biography Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, which suggests that Montgomery may have intended it as an entry in part of a journal now lost, rather than a suicide note.
Montgomery was buried at the Cavendish Community Cemetery in Cavendish following her wake in the Green Gables farmhouse and funeral in the Cavendish United Church (formerly Cavendish Presbyterian church).
During her lifetime, Montgomery had published twenty novels, over 500 short stories, an autobiography, and a book of poetry. Aware of her fame, by 1920 Montgomery began editing and recopying her journals, presenting her life as she wanted it remembered. In doing so certain episodes were changed or omitted.
The L. M. Montgomery Institute, founded in 1993, at the University of Prince Edward Island, promotes scholarly inquiry into the life, works, culture, and influence of L. M. Montgomery and coordinates most of the research and conferences surrounding her work. The Montgomery Institute collection consists of novels, manuscripts, texts, letters, photographs, sound recordings and artifacts and other Montgomery ephemera.
Her major collections are archived at the University of Guelph.
The first biography of Montgomery was The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L. M. Montgomery (1975), written by Mollie Gillen. Dr. Gillen also discovered over 40 of Montgomery's letters to her pen-friend George Boyd MacMillan in Scotland and used them as the basis for her work. Beginning in the 1980s, her complete journals, edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, were published by the Oxford University Press. From 1988–95, editor Rea Wilmshurst collected and published numerous short stories by Montgomery. Most of her essays, along with interviews with Montgomery, commentary on her work, and coverage of her death and funeral, appear in Benjamin Lefebvre's The L. M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print (2013).
Despite the fact that Montgomery published over twenty books, "she never felt she achieved her one 'great' book". Her readership, however, has always found her characters and stories to be among the best in fiction. Mark Twain said Montgomery’s Anne was “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice". Montgomery was honoured by being the first female in Canada to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England and by being invested in the Order of the British Empire in 1935.
However, her fame was not limited to Canadian audiences. Anne of Green Gables became a success worldwide. For example, every year, thousands of Japanese tourists "make a pilgrimage to a green-gabled Victorian farmhouse in the town of Cavendish on Prince Edward Island". In 2012, the original novel Anne of Green Gables was ranked number nine among all-time best children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily U.S. audience. The British public ranked it number 41 among all novels in The Big Read, a 2003 BBC survey to determine the "nation's best-loved novel". The British scholar Faye Hammill observed that Montgomery is an author overshadowed by her creation as license plates in Prince Edward Island bear the slogan "P.E.I Home of Anne of Green Gables" rather than "P.E.I Birthplace of L.M Montgomery. Much to Montgomery's own annoyance, the media in both the United States and Canada tried to project the personality of Shirley onto her.
Montgomery's home of Leaskdale Manse in Ontario, and the area surrounding Green Gables and her Cavendish home in Prince Edward Island, have both been designated National Historic Sites. Montgomery herself was designated a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada in 1943.
Bala's Museum in Bala, Ontario, is a house museum established in 1992. Officially it is "Bala's Museum with Memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery", for Montgomery and her family stayed in the boarding house during a July 1922 holiday that inspired her novel The Blue Castle (1926). The museum hosts some events pertaining to Montgomery or her fiction, including re-enactment of the holiday visit.
Montgomery was honoured by Britain's King George V as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), as there were no Canadian orders, decorations or medals for civilians until the 1970s.
Montgomery was named a National Historic Person in 1943 by the Canadian federal government. Her Ontario residence was designated a National Historic Site (NHS) in 1997 (Leaskdale Manse NHS), while the place that inspired her famous novels, Green Gables, was designated "L. M. Montgomery's Cavendish NHS" in 2004.
On May 15, 1975, the Post Office Department issued a stamp to "Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables" designed by Peter Swan and typographed by Bernard N. J. Reilander. The 8¢ stamps are perforated 13 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited.
A pair of stamps was issued in 2008 by Canada Post, marking the centennial of the publication of Montgomery's classic first novel.
The City of Toronto named a park for her (Lucy Maud Montgomery Park) and in 1983 placed a historical marker there near the house where she lived from 1935 until her death in 1942.
On November 30, 2015 (her 141st birthday), Google honoured Lucy Maud Montgomery with a Google Doodle published in twelve countries.
- Anne of Green Gables (1908)
- Anne of Avonlea (1909)
- Anne of the Island (1915)
- Anne's House of Dreams (1917)
- Rainbow Valley (1919)
- Rilla of Ingleside (1921)
- Anne of Windy Poplars (1936)
- Anne of Ingleside (1939)
- The Blythes Are Quoted (2009) — was given to publisher the day before her death and lost; finally found in mid–2000s.
- Emily of New Moon (1923)
- Emily Climbs (1925)
- Emily's Quest (1927)
- Pat of Silver Bush (1933)
- Mistress Pat (1935)
Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910)
The Blue Castle (1926)
Magic for Marigold (1929)
A Tangled Web (1931)
Jane of Lantern Hill (1937)
The Watchman & Other Poems (1916)
The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery, selected by John Ferns and Kevin McCabe (1987)
Courageous Women (1934) (with Marian Keith and Mabel Burns McKinley)
The Green Gables Letters from L.M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber, 1905–1909 (1960), edited by Wilfrid Eggleston
The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career (1974; originally published in Everywoman's World in 1917)
My Dear Mr. M: Letters to G.B. MacMillan from L.M. Montgomery (1980), edited by Francis W.P. Bolger and Elizabeth R. Epperly
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery (5 vols., 1985–2004), edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston
The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900 (2012), edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston
The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901–1911 (2013), edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston
The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print (2013), edited by Benjamin Lefebvre
L.M. Montgomery's Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1911–1917 (2016), edited by Jen Rubio
L.M. Montgomery's Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1918–1921 (2017), edited by Jen Rubio
- The Story Girl (1911)
- The Golden Road (1913)