I am preparing a paper proposal for The L.M. Montgomery Institute’s Fourteenth Biennial Conference at the University of Prince Edward Island (25-28 June 2020; CFP due 16 Aug 2019). In my Montgomery reading, as much as I love the first Anne of Green Gables and the later Emily books, I have chosen to focus on the trilogy of Anne books set in Glen St. Mary (New London, PE): Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), Rainbow Valley (1919), and Rilla of Ingleside (1920). Though there is only a hint of the storm on the horizon, the first world war haunts through these books, and Rilla is a brilliant account of WWI from the perspective of the women left at home. These are courageous books, full of pain and contrast, but also a sense of billowing goodness and light.
To help me think about these books I wanted a closer look at L.M. Montgomery‘s biography. Her journals during the war track intimate details of campaigns in Europe and Asia. As such, they can be read closely with Rilla of Ingleside, almost as if they were writing notes rather than the painful obsession of a worried mother and minister’s wife. The first part of the war was also when Montgomery, a late-in-life mother in the age before modern medicine–suffered a terrible pregnancy with ended in a stillbirth. The sorrows of loss, combined with illness and the pressures of social life as a minister’s wife, combined with troubles from her American publisher to make 1916 a torturous year for this famous but secluded author. The tensions built throughout the entire period before finally breaking in 1917, as if the passing into a new year was also a renewal of life. Montgomery wrote in her journal on Thurs, Oct 5, 1916:
“Today I finished Anne’s House of Dreams. I never wrote a book in so short a time and amid so much strain of mind and body. Yet I rather enjoyed it and I think it isn’t too bad a piece of work. I am glad it is done however. It has taken a lot out of me.”
There would be other pains ahead, including increasing illness, the worries about what was happening in the theatres of war, the loss of local boys on the front lines, increasing threats of lawsuits from her publisher that would dominate her life in the 1920s, and ultimately the loss of her closest friend to Spanish Flu and the beginning of her husband’s lifelong battle with debilitating mental illness. These three Glen St. Mary books are a testimony in fiction to Montgomery’s life in the period.
In order to help me think about these great events–both in the context of WWI and in the mundane moments of Montgomery’s daily life and writing–I decided to create a short timeline of the period.
This WWI-era timeline is not (yet) an infographic (like this one of C.S. Lewis’ major talks), but it does help us think about culture and writing. The publication dates might be off by a week or two as they were harder to get specified details on. I relied heavily on The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume II: 1910-1921, edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. I have shaded the timeline to the Canadian experience of the war, and would like to fill out more detail about the writing periods. Meanwhile, I hope this is useful to Montgomery readers and researchers.
Nov 30, 1874, born in Clifton, PE
Aug 30, 1908, Anne of Green Gables published by L.C. Page
Dec 20, 1909, Anne of Avonlea published by L.C. Page
May 1, 1911, The Story Girl published by L.C. Page
Jul 20, 1911, marries Rev. Ewan MacDonald
Jun 1, 1912, Chronicles of Avonlea published by L.C. Page
Sep 1, 1913, The Golden Road published by L.C. Page (writing period: Apr 30, 1912-May 21, 1913)
Aug 4, 1914, Great Britain declares war on Germany
Jul 1, 1915, Anne of the Island (writing period: Sep 1, 1913-Nov 20, 1914, esp. Apr 18-Nov 20, 1914)
May 18, 1915, gives birth to Stuart
Oct 5, 1916, completed the writing of Anne’s House of Dreams
Aug 24, 1917, Anne’s House of Dreams published by McClelland & Stewart (writing period: Jun 16-Oct 5, 1916)
Apr 6, 1917, US enters WWI
Apr 9-12, 1917, Battle of Vimy Ridge
Oct 26-Nov 10, 1917, Battle of Passchendaele
Dec 19, 1917, Montgomery votes for the first time as women’s suffrage extends during WWI
Nov 11, 1918, Armistice declared, WWI ends
After the War
Sep 1, 1919, Rainbow Valley published by McClelland & Stewart (finished writing: Dec 24, 1918)
Oct 23, 1919, Ewan has a severe attack of “religious melancholy”
Sep 1, 1920, Rilla of Ingleside, a book about WWI, published by McClelland & Stewart (began writing, Mar 11, 1919)
Jul 4, 1920, series of lawsuits with L.C. Page begins, resolving on Nov 7, 1928 with a $15,000USD payout to Montgomery
Apr 24, 1941, dies at her home in Toronto; buried in Cavendish, PE