Wednesday, November 30, 2016

L.M. Montgomery's Scrapbooks

Imagining Anne: the Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery / Elizabeth Rollins Epperly
Toronto: Penguin, c2008.
170 p.

I ran across this book recently, and thought that today was the perfect day to feature it. Today is the anniversary of  Lucy Maud Montgomery's birth -- November 30, 1874.

L.M. Montgomery is one my favourite writers, and favourite Canadian women. She is so fascinating; the differential between her life and her optimistic writing can be overwhelming at times. She kept journals over most of her life, which I've read, and which can be very depressing in parts, as they were her outlet -- as journals are for many of us.

But there are other bits that are lovely, just like her novels. I personally love reading about the year she spent in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, when she was 16... probably because that's my hometown so I love the fact that she also lived there briefly.

Anyhow, I knew that she kept scrapbooks alongside her written journals, as more of a visual record that she might share with others, where she wouldn't share her private writing. But I hadn't had the chance to look through them all until now.

This book compiles pages from two of her scrapbooks kept from 1893-1910, her years on The Island (pre-marriage & moving to Ontario). Running alongside is commentary explaining the meaning and significance of the bits taped and glued in by Montgomery, provided by Montgomery scholar Elizabeth Epperly,who explains what's on the page and why it might be there, from pieces of a squirrel's tail (really!) to poems and newspaper articles, to flowers and lovely ladies from fashion magazines of the day. They are fascinating to pore over, and I'm very glad that they are printed in scrapbook size, as some of the articles require close examination even at this size. 

It's also intriguing to see LMM's handwriting all over many pages, and to note that she took care to shape her own narrative as much in these scrapbooks as she did in the journals; there are torn bits where she removed things, or added extra things to older pages much later on. Her love of colour, flowers, fashion, and friendships comes through in these pages, but as Epperly notes, she doesn't include references to some of the most important happenings in her life during this time, ranging from a traumatic romantic life to the publication of Anne of Green Gables itself.

LMM is endlessly fascinating, and I think it is because of this combination of open-heartedness and optimistic writing and sharing, and the dark depths she experienced and kept private, and often removed from her own record. This book just adds to her mystique, and was a perfect book to read through slowly, a few pages at a time. It really evokes a life and a lifestyle that is both familiar and utterly foreign to us now.

One of many things I really enjoyed about this book was that LMM kept little circular swatches of fabric stuck to a page -- she loved fashion and this was so cool to me as an fellow sewist! Check it out at this online exhibit page for an example.

You can look into the PEI and the Ontario Scrapbooks further thanks to an online exhibition hosted by PEI's Confederation Centre Art Gallery. Do go take a look, there is a LOT to explore. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

LMM's literary magazine, created with friends  


  1. I would love to see her scrapbooks. What a great post. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Do check out the online exhibit - you can see many of the pages of all her scrapbooks - the PEI and Ontario ones - and some added content as well. It is nice to have the big glossy book in your hands though :)

  2. How wonderful! I've been to PEI, and LMM's house, many times. It's lovely. I even got lost in the Haunted Woods!

    1. I hope you didn't get lost at night *shiver*

      I would love to get to PEI and visit all the touristy places, someday -- hopefully sooner than later!

  3. This is wonderful! I didn't know this book existed!

    1. Oh, it's really great! Hope you'll check out the online exhibit, it does share quite a bit of the originals


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