A recent tour I organized to the birthplace and environs of L.M. Montgomery, the world famous author who wrote “Anne of Green Gables” in Prince Edward Island, focused my thinking on the importance of artists and their story in defining a country’s culture.
In general, culture is considered the social norms or more simply the way people do things, for example the preparation and types of food eaten and the design of homes and building. While these aspects certainly do provide the context for culture it is writers like Maud Montgomery, artists and musicians who reveal and preserve the “heart” of societies. As the saying goes “name a shoemaker from ancient Greece”? That is why the interest in the life of L. M. Montgomery has grown enormously over the past number of years.
She was one of the most prolific authors of her time (1874-1942) with over 30 novels, 100s of short stories, over 500 poems and reams of memoirs! Her first novel, “Anne of Green Gables”, made L.M. famous. Soon after the publication of her book, the elderly Mark Twain wrote to L. M. Montgomery to say, with regard to her Anne character, “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice”.
Every 2 years people from all over the world, and especially Japan where the Ann of Green Gables is almost a national icon, gather at the University of P.E.I. to delve into her writings and also travel across P.E.I. to view the landscapes and seascapes that inspired her as a writer. Even though she was born at the height of the Victorian era, where even table legs were covered and dresses were never to reveal even a ladie’s ankle, she her kept a sense of humor about all things Victorian, even after becoming a minister’s wife. Her writing and her poems flew with great elegance outside the strict social norms in which she lived. As she herself stated, the inspiration of the rolling green hills and red bordered seascapes that surrounded her allowed her to create a world that beautifully celebrated the culture of Prince Edward Island.
One of my favourite Maud poems!
Come Rest A While
Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray
In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.
Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,
And listen to the music, faint and sweet,
That echoes ever to a listening ear,
Unheard by those who will not pause to hear
The wayward chimes of memory’s pensive bells,
Wind-blown o’er misty hills and curtained dells.
One step aside and dewy buds unclose
The sweetness of the violet and the rose;
Song and romance still linger in the green,
Emblossomed ways by you so seldom seen,
And near at hand, would you but see them, lie
All lovely things beloved in days gone by.