L.M. Montgomery’s After Many Years, and Thoughts on Reading Montgomery’s Short Stories

As L.M. Montgomery was a consummate storyteller, it is lovely when we get the occasional pleasure of a new L.M. Montgomery story collection.

We must admit to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to access to Montgomery’s short stories. Her 500 or so published stories are not in some archive in manuscript form, simply waiting to be published. Montgomery’s work is scattered among dozens of magazines and periodicals over a period of 50 years. Thus, our short-story richness has come with the time and commitment of hard-working Montgomery readers and editors over the past generation.

Of Montgomery’s work in her lifetime, we have Chronicles of Avonlea (1912), followed by the illicit Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920)–initially published without Montgomery’s permission and the subject of a legal drama. Finally, we now have The Blythes Are Quoted, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre in 2009, which is the complete version of the 1974 Road to Yesterday collection.

Through the late ’80s into the ’90s, Rea Wilmshurst carefully provided us 8 thematic collections that follow a similar editorial design as The Doctor’s Sweetheart and Other Stories (1979), edited by Catherine McLay.

Here is a list of Rea Wilmshurst’s collections:

  • Akin to Anne: Tales of Other Orphans (1988)
  • Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea (1989)
  • Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side (1990)
  • After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed (1991)
  • Against the Odds: Tales of Achievement (1993)
  • At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales (1994)
  • Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence (1995)
  • Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories (1995)

Hidden behind these lovely volumes are hundreds of hours of detective work, discovery, transcription, editorial revision, administrative tasks, correspondence, and collection–work carried on by Rea Wilmshurst and many invisible hands. In 1986, Ruth Weber Russell, D.W. Russell, and Rea Wilmshurst published Lucy Maud Montgomery: A Preliminary Bibliography–which is hard to find but available in research libraries. Carrying on the attention to detail of Rea Wilmshurst and others, Carolyn Strom Collins has compiled and edited materials for eager readers, both published in 2016 by the L.M. Montgomery Institute:

  • An Annotated Bibliography of L.M. Montgomery’s Stories and Poems (which specifically extends Wilmshurst’s 1986 bibliography)
  • A Guide to L.M. Montgomery’s Story and Poem Scrapbooks 1890–1940: Stories and Poems Published in Periodicals and Preserved by L.M. Montgomery in Twelve Scrapbooks

With all of this good work of story collecting, editing and anthologizing–including individual pieces published in places like Fr. Bolger’s The Years Before Anne (1974, reprinted in 1991), there are still fewer than 200 stories in print.

It is always a treat, then, when we hear about a new collection. Ben Lefebvre’s LMMIOnline web resource notes that a 9th volume of 17 stories selected by Rea Wilmshurst will appear in May 2022, Around the Hearth: Tales of Home and Family, edited by Joanne Lebold. In their years of commitment, Carolyn Strom Collins and the late Christy Woster have each found dozens of Montgomery stories that might have been lost, or they have succeeded in finding the original publications of those stories later published in anthologies.

In 2017, they also edited and published a new Montgomery story collection, After Many Years: Twenty-one “Long-Lost” StoriesAfter Many Years is an anthology of rediscovered short stories by L.M. Montgomery–21 pieces originally published in periodicals between 1900 and 1939 that Collins and Woster came across in their research. The volume has a preface and notes by Collins and Woster, as well as a foreword by Kate Macdonald Butler, one of Montgomery’s grandchildern. After Many Years is published by Nimbus and available in paperback, as a Kindle e-book, and in an audiobook reading by Elva Mai Hoover.

As you might expect of Montgomery in this mode, the stories are full of charm and grace. In the warp and weft of something like fate or providence, families shatter, hearts break, and lovely things are lost. But in that same movement of the weaver’s tale, there is space for discovery, healing, and life-after-brokenness. Children are faced with terrible decisions that, in the moment, are so intimate and life-changing that the characters almost lose themselves in the choosing. Lovers have a chance to find their way back to lost loves–or the chance to turn with bitterness toward the future. Neighbours chase and peck and quarrel, but there is every opportunity for neighbourliness to return in the end. Cats inspire adventure and lead the way home. Ghosts shake the root of injustice while fair houses haunt the lonely and mirrors speak more than the truth. More than one good soul dies too young, and more than one old soul lives long enough to laugh at themselves.

For at the heart of Montgomery’s best humour-laden short story-telling is the truth that folly waits at the edge of every one of our stories.

Since Montgomery’s copyright has expired on much of her work–though it still continues in the US for another 15 years or so for many pieces–the stories have been collected into chronological bundles and released as inexpensive Kindle books and read on Librivox–at least up to 1922 (check out Librivox’s volunteer-read Montgomery story collections here).

However, without the work of Carolyn Strom Collins and Christy Woster–as well as other editors that work with them and came before them–these stories would be lost to us.

In a note of sadness, After Many Years book is dedicated to the memory of co-editor Christy Woster, who died in April 2016 as the book was moving toward print. One of my favourite collections of Montgomery’s short stories to date, After Many Years is a fitting tribute to the work of these longsuffering literary detectives and Christy Woster’s memory.

Besides the treasures, the bibliographies, and this collection of stories, Carolyn Strom Collins is also the editor of Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript–a never-before-published version of the original text of Montgomery’s most famous manuscript. This recent publication of the Anne of Green Gables manuscript provides readers with a rare chance to peek in on Montgomery’s creative process, allowing us to see the author’s scribbled notes, additions and deletions, and other editorial details and marginalia.

I have read Anne of Green Gables in my old Seal paperback, and I have listened to the story read by professional and amateur audio readers. Each time the book becomes brighter and better for me. However, reading this original manuscript edition resulted in my most fruitful and fun summer reading of Anne yet. With restrained and professional editorial comments, critical notes, and photocopies of Montgomery’s handwriting, Carolyn Strom Collins has done a superb job editing this version, providing us insight into Montgomery’s writing process and allowing us a way to read this classic text anew.

As host and founding producer of the MaudCast, I was privileged to sit down with Carolyn Strom Collins for an interview about her work. In the episode (which you can find here or on Spotify), we discuss Carolyn’s editorial work and we focus in on her work in the archive and her final manuscript publication. I hope you enjoy this resource–as well as the wealth of resources for reading Lucy Maud Montgomery’s short stories.

*if anyone locally needs a copy of Fr. Bolger’s The Years Before Anne, I have an extra that I would part with

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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8 Responses to L.M. Montgomery’s After Many Years, and Thoughts on Reading Montgomery’s Short Stories

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Clearly and attractively presented: thank you!

    Oddly, I cannot immediately remember which collection of her stories I’ve read – I suspect Chronicles of Avonlea (though possibly Further Chronicles of Avonlea), but will have to reread to see what, if anything, I recognize…

    Do you have a sense of her as short-story writer compared to as novelist? Some writers seem better at one or the other, others equally good at both, despite their different characteristics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry David, I wanted to think about this question more and I forgot. I’ve wondered this very thing for a long time. It’s hard for me to answer precisely. I think if you picked LMM’s best 20 stories, they are strong pieces of work. But I don’t think they have the buoyancy or artistry of her best 5 novels. I think “Each in His Own Tongue” to be brilliant, but it may well still have flaws, and I think it lacks a little something in its mode that Emily of New Moon does in the mode of the novel.
      That said, she is a short story-centrered writer, whether the book is episodic (like most of the Anne books) or really circles around short stories, like The Story Girl and The Golden Road. It is here she seems to take the short story up into the novel genre well.

      Like

  2. Kishwar says:

    Love this, I will include this in my tbr! Thanks for the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Literary Magic of L.M. Montgomery’s Storied Domains: The King Orchard and The Story Girl | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  4. Pingback: My New Online Short Course: “Spirituality in the Writing of L.M. Montgomery” at AST in May, 2022 | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  5. emilywoster says:

    Just now stumbled across this lovely post. Thank you for your considered reading and kind words about Mom’s (Christy’s) work! She did a lot of sleuthing for the Shining Scroll newsletter and she was so, so excited for _After Many Years_ to get out into the world.

    Like

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