You can't go to P.E.I and not visit the renowned Green Gables. Internationally acclaimed author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, was born and brought up right here on Prince Edward Island.
She was one of the first women in Canada to be able to make her living by writing and she led the way as a successful writer of Canadian children fiction. Her timeless classic, Anne of Green Gables, has been translated into many languages and is seen in plays, movies, a ballet and on television. (p17, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Famous Canadians, Jacqueline Langille)
In 1935, the Canadian government wanted to preserve the areas around Cavendish as a national park. I'm so glad they did! A literary classic, Anne of Green Gables, has reached far and wide across many a shore, and into many harbors. "A relic of Green Gables has even been built in order" to try to stem the yearly exodus of Japanese fans to Canada." p44
As an author, she was influenced by her family's Christian faith. Raised by her grandparents, who were strict Presbyterians, she was only allowed to read certain texts on Sunday, the Bible, Pilgrims Progress and Sermons by Talmage. She even married a Reverend, Ewan Macdonald, and in 1911 moved to Ontario where she had two sons. I'm not sure how she would feel today knowing that her home church has been turned into a burger joint at the Green Gables tourist depot, but... if preservationists have it that way for the sake of preservation, it's good to know that our faith can never really be confined within the walls of any architectural structure, or historical site.
"I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them." She ended up writing 24 books and more than 500 short stories, her first being Anne of Green Gables.
"Montgomery's keen sense of both beauty and justice, embodied in Anne and all her other heroines, has encouraged young people around the world."
p305, Anne's House of Dreams
Her "vivid imagination enabled her to make something exciting out of even the quiet country life of Cavendish." p17
"I cannot remember a time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be a writer... I was an indefatigable little scribbler." The Alpine Path
"Montgomery also made entry upon entry in what would become ten volumes of personal journals." (p300, Anne's House of Dreams). As the years passed, Montgomery's journals became her best friend; she called them a "personal confidant in whom I can repose absolute trust." "After a year in college and a stint as a journalist, she began work as a teacher," (p302)
She was the first Canadian woman to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England...It amazed Maud that adults from all walks of life, as well as children, were reading and enjoying her books." p34, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
It's so interesting to find out that Anne of Green Gables almost didn't make it onto anyones shelf. Thankfully, at a young age she had heeded the most important rule for an aspiring author: "Never give up!" (p17). "She persevered with her writing, determined that one day she would write something of enduring value by which she would be remembered." (p22)
"In the spring of 1904, she started work on a simple idea and began her book, which she called Anne of Green Gables. She typed out the manuscript on an old typewriter which hardly worked."
"Five publishing companies in turn rejected her book, so she put it in a hat box and hid it in a closet!" (p28)
One day, while cleaning out a closet, she found the old manuscript and "decided to give it one more try. She re-typed it and sent it to L.C. Page and Company, a publisher in Boston." They agreed to sell the manuscript on a royalty basis. "It was an instant success, selling thousands of copies all over the English-speaking world." Even Mark Twain praised her for the character of Anne in this piece of children's fiction. "She became a celebrity over night; meeting famous people like the Governor General of Canada, Earl Grey, and travelling to Boston became normal parts of her new life as a successful author." (p29)
"Nine out of ten manuscripts came back to me. But I sent them out over and over again."
Walking along the woodland path, I indulged in a mutual love - nature, and the beauty of creation.
"I would like to go away on Sunday morning to the heart of some great solemn wood and sit down among the ferns with only the companionship of the trees and the wood-winds... and I would stay there for hours alone with nature and my own soul." Journal entry of July 26, 1896
"It has always seemed to me... that, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between and me hung only a thin veil. I could never quite draw it aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting world beyond - only a glimpse, but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile."
The Alpine Path
Montgomery "endured many strains: the horror of the First World War, her husband's severe depression, and deteriorating relations with her first publisher. But she kept up appearances as both a minister's wife and an author...maintained a daily routine or writing stories, poems, and letters, and personally replied to all of her fan mail." p304, Anne's House of Dreams
She was laid to rest at Cavendish, the home of her heart. At the funeral, her poem "The Watchman" was read. A great many people attended to mourn the passing of one of the Islands greatest daughters, and one of Canada's best-loved authors.
"As a young girl, Maud had said that she wanted to do something great in literature, and this she did by firmly establishing the excellence of Canadian children's literature, by becoming self-sufficient through her pen, and by creating a lovable character in Anne of Green Gables who will live forever in the hearts of her readers." p43, Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Her "stories come to us as a breath of fresh Prince Edward Island air. One thinks that she would be happy to know that in a worlds which becomes increasingly materialistic and sophisticated, Anne has become a symbol of all that is fresh, honest and uncomplicated."
p 44, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Famous Canadians, Jacqueline Langille
It was only in the 1970's that she was "recognized as a significant writer." Scholars "questioned why a woman writer whom a poll in 1947 showed to be almost as beloved as Charles Dickens - had been pushed to the sidelines of literature." p305, Anne's House of Dreams. Recognized she became and so much so that people continue to stream from all over the world to see her home and watch musicals about her books. I was one of them...
On the way to the showing, in an attempt to boost my immune system from travel fatigue, I stopped by the health drink bar and got their $2 wheatgrass shot. It's actually really sweet! I would highly recommend this unusual looking thirst quencher, if you're brave enough to go green during your summer visit to P.E.I.
The show was beautifully performed with a colourful stage and a great set of actors.
Part way through I realized that one of the lead actors had the same name as friends I had stayed with in Toronto. I was leaving the next morning and didn't have time to meet Gilbert in person, but it sure is a small world!
"A heart-warming, tear inducing, thoroughly satisfying production" Toronto Star
Other than North America, Green Gables has gained its largest audience in Japan! Who would have thought?! I just had to switch places with one of Asia's greatest paparazzi stereotypes and capture a few Japanese tourists on camera.