THERE is one heroine of Canadian fiction who will never be criticized as exotic or lacking in inspiration— the winsome, gingery, redheaded girl who grew up through “Anne of Green Gables,” “Anne of Avonlea,” “Anne of the Island” and blossomed into full womanhood two years ago in “Anne’s House of Dreams.” As an ideal for the young womanhood of the country she has a place all her own, this girl of imagination and wit and dreams, strangely combined with practical common sense, to whom the blossoming cherrytree outside her window was a “Snow Queen” and the pond across the flats “The Lake of Shining Waters,” who found in the woods of silver birches a realm of “kindred spirits” and who could keep house and teach school and help most efficiently in the bringing up of two very human waifs of children. No wonder mothers want their daughters to read the Anne books.
From the first appearance of “Anne of Green Gables” the books “caught on.” This winter Anne is going to appear in the movies. The scenario rights to the four books, “Ann of Green Gables,” “Anne of Avonlea,” “Chronicles of Avonlea,” and “Anne of the Island” have been bought by the Famous Play-
ers—Lasky Corpoi’ation. A Canadian movie with the quaint and beautiful setting of the farms and orchards of Prince Edward Island, written by a Canadian author! We have been waiting for this for a long time. But the author herself, now the wife of Rev. Macdonald, the Presbyterian minister at Leaskdale and the mother of two sturdy, quick-brained little boys, doesn’t seem to consider it an event of more
importance than the next church christening.
IT has been said that in the first two Anne books, Miss Montgomery drew from the experiences of her own life. Certainly Anne got her imagination from no one else, but it is not the author’s own story. “My places are real places,” she says, “but rny people are imaginary.” They have certain points in common, however. Miss Montgomery’s mother died before she was two years old and she went to live with her grandmother, which no doubt gave her her sympathetic understanding of Anne’s little problems in a home with only elderly people. What she lacked in the way of companionship with other children, however, seem« to have been more than made up by a natural environment uniquely fitted to inspire the imagination. Her home was on a farm near Cavendish on the north shore of the Island and she says “Tourists who travel by train through the Island have no idea of the beauty of its scenery because they do not see the north shore.” She has in her home several striking pictures of the rocks and beaches along this coast, one of particular interest being a painting of the sand dunes along a favorite bathing beach—one of the finest bathingbeaches in the world, by the way— where the winds had cupped out a hollow that, as children, they used for a dressing-room.
It is not surprising that she loves the sea. “When I was a child,” she says, “I practically lived at the shore during the mackerel fishing season.
My grandfather, like all the other farmers around, had a fishingboat, and from the time the mackerel came in till the end of the season, the men would get up at four o’clock in the morning and go down to the sea. At seven o’clock we children would take their breakfast t o them. If the fishing was particularly good they would someti'mies stay all day and we would bring all their meals and spend the intervals between wading in the surf and climbing over the rocks. . .
I get homesick for the sea sometimes yet.”
YET with all her fondness for the outdoors we gather that little Maud must have been “a dark and eerie child,” wandering off by herself to commune with imaginary people or revelling in whatever books were available and already creating her own little stories. “I can imagine,” she says, “what it would be to be a drunkard for reading. Fortunately my English grandmother saw to it that I did the practical things as well. There were no lending libraries on the Island at that time and our library at home was a rather unusual collection to satisfy the reading tastes of a child. We had full sets of Dickens, Scott and all the poets; Pilgrim’s Progress and Paradise Lost, which I was allowed to read on Sundays; E. P. Roe’s stories, admitted because of their religious setting, and the Pansy books. Personally I was fond of boys’ hooks, adventure and anything dramatic. I don’t think I would have liked the kind of books I write.” But neither her early reading nor her picturesque surroundings can be wholly responsible for her literary gifts. Dreamers and writers are born as well as made, and it is not surprising that she is a direct descendant of one of the lesser Scottish poets, the Hector MacNeill who wrote “Come Under My Plaidie,” “Saw Ye My Wee Thing, Saw Ye My Ain Thing?” and “I Lo’e Ne’er a Laddie But One.” She also had a greatuncle—one of the undiscovered poets who composed verse which those who remember it appreciate now as real poetry. Unfortunately he never put his compositions on paper. He created
them as he worked about his little Prince Edward Island farm, and at night recited them to the children while
they sat around a sugar kettle hung over a fire in the yard where he boiled potatoes for his pigs.
When she grew up, Miss Mont-
gomery taught school for three years. She was already writing stories
and this was probably when she did her hardest work, getting up at five o’clock in the morning and writing till seven. “And on winter mornings before the fire had warmed the farm house
through, it was some chore,” she admits. Later she spent one winter at newspaper work in Halifax, but at the death of her grandfather she went home to be with her grandmother. Perhaps this
was a fortunate thing as it led her to give all her time to story writing.
“The first story I was ever paid for,” she says, “was published in ‘Golden Days,’ a Philadelphia magazine which has since gone under. I don’t know whether my stories killed it or not. They gave me five dollars and I have never been so rich in my life. I had had stories published before this and had received subscriptions to the magazines. It was while I was making my living writing short stories that I sneaked in time to do ‘Anne of Green Gables’ just to please myself. I believe that was the reason for its spontaneity. Five times I sent ir out and five times it was returned. The last publisher wrote : ‘Our reader has found some merit in it but not enough to warrant publication.’ This ‘damning with faint praise’ was the last straw. I put the story away and left it for a while. One day at housecleaning time I brought it out again and looked it over. As girl’s stuff, I thought, that’s not too bad, and I tried again. I had an alphabetical list of publishers, had tried everything that seemed possible down to the P’s, so I sent it to Page and it was accepted.”
Continued on page 106
The Author of Anne
Continued from page 104
“Kilmeny of the Orchard” had been written before this and published as a serial in the American Housekeeper, another defunct magazine. When it appeared in book foj-m one critic wi-ote that it was obviously a product of the pride of authorship hurriedly gotten out to sell on the merits of the other.
Two years later “Anne of Avonlea” was published. It was about this time that Miss Montgomery was married to tlie Rev. Macdonald, and came to the manse at Leaskdale. Mr. Macdonald had formerly been the minister in her home church at Cavendish. “Chronicles of Avonlea” had been written befoi*e her marriage but was not published until after. Since coming to Ontario she has written “The Golden Road,” “Anne of the Island,” “Anne’s House of Dreams,” and her latest book “Rainbow Valley” went on the book stands in August.
“I think I’ll always write of the Island,” she says. And one only needs to hear her talk of the Island, and to see the relics from the Island that she treasures in her Ontario home, to know that her first love has left a lasting impression. She has paintings of “The Lake of Shining Waters” and “The Lover’s Lane,” which figures especially in “Anne of Avonlea,” and which was really the place where the author used to wander out in the evenings to
“think out” her stories ready for writing the next morning.
But we prophesy that some day Mrs. Macdonald will write a shoi'e story with an individuality and color quite an appealing as that of the Anne books. She has a w'ealth of legend and story of the coast life, for the quiet little island has had its sea tragedies as well as its romances by land. There was “the great American storm of 1851,” and she says “If you, have ever seen a storm in the Gulf you’ll never forget it. It has a bite and a tang that no land storm could possibly have. At this time American fishing vessels used to come into the gulf for mackerel. This particular storm drove hundreds of these vessels onto the north coast, and for weeks afterwards the men of the Island gathered the bodies from the shore and buried them in the Cavendish chui'chyard. Many of the graves are there to this day, nameless and unknown.”
The author of Anne does not devote herself entirely to the making of books. She is a woman of personal charm and winsomeness, as broadminded and practical as she is imaginative, wfith a keen sense of humor, happy in the keeping of her home and the interests of the parish. She is a mother who mothers her children personally; they have always been considered before her books. When she has efficient help in the house she locks herself in her room and writes for two hours every morning; at other times she does her own housekeeping with the skill and despatch of a woman trained to it. She even takes her knitting with her on her pastoral visits; it was soldiers’ socks during the war, and since then she has nearly completed a bed spread of the kind you expect to find in some old mahogany, lavender-scented spare bed-room. She is just about what you would expect the author of Anne to be.
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