Saturday, January 13, 2024

A Literary Hero (Part One): Lucy Maud Montgomery




"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily.
"I don't exactly want to make people KNOW more... though I
know that IS the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them
have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or
happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born."
L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams


Recently I attended an online Afternoon Tea event with Hayley Solano at The Enchanted Book Club and author-artist Susan Branch. Their discussion was about literary heroes, in which Susan shared the book people who were her inspiration over her lifetime, people like Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter, Gladys Taber, and characters like Pollyanna who gave the world her glad game idea.

At the top of my list would be Lucy Maud Montgomery. For so many girls in my generation, it was almost a right of passage to be introduced to Ms Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I remember the thrill of learning that both Anne and her creator were Canadian. Just like me. And I grabbed hold of that beloved phrase 'kindred spirits'. Even at an early age, I longed for that special kinship, and I recognized that it could happen even with someone found in a book. They were, after all, real people. In my formative years, it was the storybook heroines like Anne and Emily who captured my imagination. Later it was Lucy Maud herself who became my inspiration as I began to make my way in life, trying to figure out how to live a beautiful life. I loved learning that Lucy Maud and I shared interests in things domestic, gardens, kitty cats, beauty in nature, and books. I think she gave me permission to allow myself to take pleasure in the beauty of the world around me, that it was okay to enjoy what I loved doing, to know myself better and like who I was. I appreciated knowing that Lucy Maud loved solitude but also truly enjoyed the society of others. I felt a kinship in that. Both her novels and later her published journals drew me into her world, a world that even helped me understand a little of my grandma's era who was born in the mid-1890s. I could picture things in my mind by her descriptions.

Eventually I found myself wanting to emulate Lucy Maud: I developed my letter writing skills; I took a more active interest in reading poetry and trying my hand at writing it; and I undertook what was to become a life-long joy in journaling. All because of her. My hitherto hidden interest to write surfaced - I yearned to write, just like LMM (my nickname for her). Looking back I can trace how LMM influenced my life:

- She gave me heroines in my girlhood who were so real and alive to me. From Anne Shirley and Diana Barry to Emily of New Moon, I learned about friendship and getting along with people, dealing with life's disappointments, and taking joy in the little things around me.

- She gave me words and lines on which I could pin some of my own thoughts and desires, like the familiar, hopeful words, "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it...yet." Written directly into a notebook for future reference, I cannot recall how often those words comforted me at the end of a day or week fraught with mistakes and missed opportunities. I was ever grateful for Anne's Shirley's optimism.

- She gave me a glimpse into a writer’s life - her struggles as well as her triumphs. This ignited something within me. I wanted to sit on the back step on a summer's evening and muse over lines of a would-be poem that described what I saw and how it captured my soul's imagination.

- Through her words, LMM let me delight in her discovery of beauty around her. Anne continued to be a shining example of someone ever seeking for what was good and lovely in the world. As Anne, via Lucy Maud's pen, described the joy of apple blossoms in spring, the full moon in a winter sky, or the softness of a kitty purring on a lap, I knew that's what I wanted for myself.

- LMM showed me how she felt about her own life and place in the world. She was clear in her own mind and heart. Which I believe helped me to come to some understanding of my own place in it. "The work for which we are fitted — which we are sent into this world to do — what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds!" From The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, Volume II, 5/23/1910

- She showed me how to journal. I was so excited to find her first journal, published in 1985, at the library. I chomped at the bit until the next one was edited and released. As a writer, LMM knew her journals would eventually be made available to the public. My own first attempt at journaling started out chunky and choppy but as I matured, thankfully, so did my writing. Even when it was for my eyes only. It became good practice for when I'd write for a wider audience. And what fun to reread something I'd described in an old journal of mine and discover that it wasn't half bad. In her journals, LMM strove to write out her feelings both glad ones and sad ones as well as her thoughts and beliefs, her friendships, struggles, and experiences of the late 1800s and into the early 20th century. She wrote in such a way that sparkled with truth and creativity. I was inspired to describe my own life and the era I lived in, discovering how I felt about it all.

- Then I found out LMM was a keen letter writer. Of course, that was the way people stayed connected back in the day. Writing letters in my youth was still important, and it was through Lucy Maud's published collections of correspondence that I began to see how I could be more creative and interesting in my own letter writing efforts. I enjoyed reading about her literary friendships over several decades with her Scottish pen friend, George Boyd MacMillan, and with Ephraim Weber, who was a struggling young writer living in Alberta, Canada, when he began corresponding with LMM.

"... nothing gives me such a sense of life still being worth while
as to receive a letter from one of the  'kindred spirits' of the
leisurely old days. For a moment or two I find myself back there
in the unhurried years and emerge from my brief communion
with the past refreshed as if I had drunk a rejuvenating
draught from some magic spring."
L.M. Montgomery, Letter to MacMillan, August 26, 1924 


All these years later, Lucy Maud Montgomery remains my favourite literary hero and mentor from afar. I hope to meet her one day in the wild blue yonder so I can say thank you for her gentle guidance and influence over my life. She holds a special place in my heart.

There are others whose photos hang in my literary hero gallery, and I hope to write about two in the near future: Emily Dickinson and Mother Teresa. Now, who would you consider a literary hero—that special person you met through a book?


Wishing you a pleasant bookish day,
Brenda
Photo credit:
Image by Pat_Photographies from Pixabay





14 comments:

  1. Brenda, I am sad to say that it wasnt till I was older that I read any of her books. She didnt come into British literature at the time I was young enough to appreciate her. But I know what you mean about the influence on one's life. I think my 'heroine' was Maria from 'The Little White Horse', so brave and straightforward. I wanted to be like that!

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    1. And I didn't know of Elizabeth Goudge until I started blogging some years ago. At the recommendation of Miranda Mills (on her book vlog), I finally ordered a copy of 'The Little White Horse'. I look forward to reading it soon. I shall pay special heed to your heroine, Maria. Thanks, Barbara.

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  2. Oh my!!!!! SO much to think about Brenda!!! How I wish that some of us could be around a table or in a cozy living room to share our thoughts. My mind is full of SO many things that your words have brought to mind. To TRY to be “succinct “ I will start by simply saying I have always loved Susan Branch’s cookbooks and was so happy to see her take on a new, online format. Loved her illustrations long ago ; always “homey” ( is there such a word 😂).
    “Beauty” is one of my 12 wishes for 2024 that came to me through a “World of Soul Collage (R) online event last week. I want to see and include more “Beauty” in this next year.
    As for favorite Authors I will need to think about this.☺️ I have loved to read ( and write) forever. I particularly loved the series I read as a very young girl, as an adolescent girl and many biographies of “heroines.”
    I became familiar with Anne of Green Gables , I think, as an Adult! What a shame! I know that I would have LOVED to have had “Anne” in my early days!!!
    I would like to look at the diaries you have mentioned .
    As for writing letters… I was just thinking the other day how I still treasure “Letters!!!” I am reading “America’s First Daughter” which is a book about Thomas Jefferson’s daughter going through her father’s thousands of letters. I grew up in a family where letters were written and received.
    Anyway, as ALWAYS your soul has “matched up “ with mine again , bringing such joy ( and beauty!!) to mine!!!! ~ Kindred Spirits, I like to think!!!!!
    THANK YOU!!!!!! ~ Ann ( without an E☺️ from Ohio!!!

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    1. Ann (without the E), That would be a lovely thing, indeed, to gather 'round a table in a cozy room to share our love of books with fellow kindred hearts. We'd have so much fun together. I so enjoyed your note - thank you for sharing your heart in these lovely words. xo

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  3. That was a most lovely post, Brenda. Your writing is also beautiful and touches the human heart. I'd have to agree with you that Lucy Maud Montgomery made a mighty impression on my own heart as a teenager immersed in Anne of Green Gables. I also loved Louisa May Alcott's "Little Woman." I think I would have done well in the Victorian age because I loved so many things about that era. To have the gift of reading such books and seeing life through the eyes of such talented writers is a true gift in our lives, right? And Brenda, I do believe that we are "kindred spirits." Sincerely, Susan

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    1. Thanks, Susan, for your lovely note. And yes, I do think we are 'kindred spirits' - we share so much in common, including beautiful books to read. Little Women was definitely a girlhood favourite for me.

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  4. I read this thought-provoking post yesterday, Brenda, and returned now to comment after mulling over your question. LMM is high on the list, but I came to read her writings as a young adult, not as a child. The author who captivated my childhood was Louisa May Alcott. For receiving the most A's in my Grade Three reading workbook, my teacher gave me Eight Cousins. I read and re-read the book until it fell apart. In fact, I just discarded it a year or two ago as it was in tatters. I soon read Little Women and the sequels, and anything of LMA I could find.
    Edith Schaeffer has also had a great influence on my life, after reading Hidden Art while still at BBC. I have that original paperback copy and it, too, is falling apart. She encouraged me to be creative in keeping house, cooking, childraising, and hospitality. Finding beauty and learning to recognize it is something else I learned from her, and also from the pages of Victoria magazine. How I loved reading those early issues in my jungle home.
    I've been thinking a lot about literary influences since yesterday and will likely coalesce my thoughts into writing, in my journal at least, if not on my blog.
    Thank you for sharing the way LMM has influenced you, and for putting the question out to your readers.

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    1. I loved 'Little Women' as a girl, and Jo March in particular. But the book I really loved was Miss Alcott's coming of age novel 'Rose in Bloom'. Now that I think of it, I must include young Rose as a literary hero. There was a grace to her character that I loved. Thanks, Lorrie, for your lovely contribution to this discussion.

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  5. Also, I hope you are staying warm!

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  6. I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Maude Hart Lovelace. Florence

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    1. I also loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. Thanks, Florence, for stopping in.

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  7. This is a fun topic. I keep a notebook where I list favorite book character mothers, fathers and hero/heroines. My book author heroines are Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. M. Montgomery and Gene Stratton Porter. They have each written many books where the characters are also some of my favorites. I gravitate toward “old” books normally. Recently I read a recent five book series by Marguerite Martin Gray on the Revolutionary War era in Charleston, S.C. It is called The Revolutionary Faith series. I found the two main characters, Louis and Elizabeth, to be very courageous, and they had a strong faith in God. The series gave me comfort and encouragement. I highly recommend it.
    Dianne L

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    1. Dianne, I do like Gene Stratton Porter too. I came to her writings later in life; what delightful writing. Thank you for recommendation on the book series by Marguerite Martin Gray. I think my mom might enjoy those as well.

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To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo