Biography: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author and her best-known work is a series of books about Anne Shirley that made her famous around the world. She finished 20 novels, more than 500 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays.     

Anyone who knows Anne and her troubles and joys will certainly see many similarities between her fictional life and the life of her author.

Lucy was born on Prince Edward Island and her mother died of tuberculosis very soon. Her father gave little Lucy to her grandparents and did not express much interest in her. Lucy grew up lonely and spent her childhood dreaming. She even made up two fictional friends and magical places hidden from adults. From childhood, she was determined to become famous for her work. Later, when she was trying to get published, she found rejections difficult to deal with. Gradually, she managed to publish articles in several magazines and obtained a teacher’s license. Later she also studied literature and worked in a newspaper editorial office in Halifax.

She spent most of her life in her birthplace. She had a lukewarm relationship with her father and did not get on well with his new wife. She spent much more time with her grandmother. She loved Prince Edward Island and drew a lot of inspiration from its nature and people. She liked long walks and sudden inspiration burst kindled by the island. She has taught at several schools. It did not fulfill her but provided her with the opportunity to write and successfully publish short stories.

In her life, she had several romantic relationships and even accepted and later rejected a proposal of one of her five suitors. Another suitor almost broke her heart when he died of flu. After these experiences, Lucy, known for great romance in her books, stopped searching for the true love for herself. After her grandmother’s death in 1911, she had to marry the sixth man in her life, preacher Ewen Macdonald. She had never seen him as her dream prince, but she worked hard on maintaining the marriage her whole life. Her husband had mental problems which were exhausting for Lucy. They had three sons. Chester, Hugh, and Stuart. Unfortunately, Hugh was stillborn.

The press and reviewers received her books with enthusiasm, and her work was an international success. The most famous is, as already mentioned, her series about Anne. Lucy also created several books about Emily, the girl who dreamed of a writing career. This was due to legal disputes and various other complications with rights and publishing. Emily was a backup character to replace Anne in times of need.

The press created Lucy’s image as a romantic, gentle and feminine writer who is dedicated to the household and writing is a mere hobby for her. However, in her diaries, Lucy expresses her entrepreneurial and purposeful spirit. She had to sue her publisher, Louis Coues Paga, five times for late or missing payments for her books. Page, the owner of LC Page & Company, had a reputation for being a tyrant and often humiliated and intimidated his employees and authors. He even sold the rights to one of Lucy’s books to another publisher, which he did not own. Thanks to this mistake, Lucy managed to win and beat this millionaire in court. The tiring and disgusting process lasted more than ten years. The publisher even organized a public anti-campaign against Lucy and accused her of his brother’s death. He, thus, damaged his own reputation and lost many authors. He was eventually forced to pay Lucy $ 15,000 for all late and missing payments. Of course, she already had a different publisher. Lucy faced disappointment also when she saw the first movie version of her Anne of Green Gables. The reviewers, for example, called her Mr. Montgomery, the plot was moved from Canada to America and the plot changed significantly. According to Lucy, the main character Anne was changed into a sweetened heroine. Lucy did not approve of many deviations from the story and the promotion of American culture. Lucy has been one of Canada’s most successful and best-selling authors during her lifetime. 

She was also often seen as an author for children and women, which brought her scorn of some academics and critics. That didn’t change until long after her death. However, she enjoyed the attention of a large number of fans. She managed the fame quite well. One of the complications for her was hiding the problems in her family and the very romanticized and idealized opinion that the public had about her. 

She often performed at public events, gave lectures, and promoted feminism and Canadian culture. She often repeated that Canadians have something to say and should write. She also had a great relationship with the Native American community and shared her love and admiration for nature with her Native American acquaintances. There is a well-known story about their passionate discussion about owls and their laughter. Unfortunately, she suffered from frustration and frequent headaches during her life. She had to take a lot of drugs because of that. Later, she also developed a slight addiction. During World War I, Lucy did everything she could to maintain morale and faith in Canada. She followed the development of the conflict closely, wrote encouraging articles, and longed for an end of the violence. At the same time, she emphasized the importance of women. Ewen, Lucy’s husband, disappointed her by his inability to encourage people during his sermons. Mental problems prevented him from fulfilling his family duties such as caring for children or household. His preaching career was also waning and he was convinced that he, Lucy, and their children had long been damned. 

Another blow after the end of the First World War was the Spanish flu. Lucy also suffered from this disease for long ten days. Fortunately for the whole reading world, she recovered. Writing had become a refuge for her and a driving force to live on. She significantly expanded her fictional world and continued to organize charity events and lectures. King George V. appointed Lucy the Order of the British Empire.   

World War II struck Lucy in a very poor physical and mental condition. Worries about her mentally unstable husband and all the losses and horrors almost broke her. In diaries, she often mentioned her own suffering, loneliness, and the impression that the world became hell. She was very worried because of the consequences of the fights and the flu pandemic. She mentioned suicide several times. The story of Lucy and her Anne has a bitter and poetic ending. Towards the end of her life, she completed the ninth book about Anne, The Blythes Are Quoted. The written manuscript was delivered to her publisher exactly on the day of her death, April 24, 1942. Lucy did not live to see the end of the war she yearned for. Cardiac thrombosis is reported to be the cause of death, but speculation of intentional overdose has also emerged due to the contents of her diaries and correspondence. It was probably for the sharp criticism of the war, that the publisher refused to show this novel to the world. Later, parts of it appeared here and there as separate stories or as parts of collections. This last book was waiting for its full publication until 2009. 

2 thoughts on “Biography: Lucy Maud Montgomery

  1. Suzanna

    I always tell people: “I want to write a book that makes people feel like Anne of Green Gables makes me feel.” Glad to know that these books came from a badass lady


  2. Bernie

    Great job, I have never heard about her before. Her biography is really great. she was a brave woman .she had gone through a lot of difficulties.


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