Monday, September 1, 2014

Anne of Green Gables

We have visited three more sites devoted to the novel(s) by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Avonlea Village, the site of the author’s home in Cavendish, and the Green Gables House.

In looking through my pictures to choose some for this blog, I realized that Don has some kind of fascination with wells! What do you suppose he’s looking for? The first well was at the Fortress of Louisbourg, and these last two wells were on two of our tours today.

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The author even wrote about the well near her house (on the right). “The old house lay before me in silvery shadow. I turned aside for a moment to the old well and looked down it…” What is it about looking down into wells?

Here’s a review of the “Anne” sites.

Avonlea Village is a re-creation of the fictional community in the books by L.M. Montgomery. It’s set up to offer interaction with characters from the books, with live music, horse and wagon rides, dance lessons, etc. and includes food and treats of various types for purchase. Some of the buildings were moved here from other locations, such as this one-room school house. It’s the original Belmont School where the author taught in 1896-97.

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This is the original Presbyterian Church, built in 1872 and moved here from Long River, where L.M. Montgomery attended with her Montgomery and Campbell cousins of Park Corner. The last service was held in 1967.

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The next stop was at the site of the author’s home in Cavendish. Maud, as she was called, was brought up by her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill after her mother Clara Macneill Montgomery died at the age of 23 when Maud was an infant. She wrote many of her short stories and poems plus her first 4 books while living here. Her first publication was a poem that was published in a newspaper when she was age 15. Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, was refused by 5 different publishers, and Maud gave up and put the manuscript away in a hat box. Three years later in 1908 she came across the manuscript and decided to try again. This time the publisher accepted it and she began to write more novels. The original book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages.

Alexander and Lucy Macneill.

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The house where she lived is no longer standing. It was left abandoned for so many years and was the victim of decay and theft, so one of the descendants finally tore the rest of it down. Only the foundation of the cellar remains.

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The grounds surrounding the site still give a sense of the author and the inspiration the land gave her, with lots of trees and gardens, and paths through the woods.

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Here are some of the quotes from the author’s journals about the place where she grew up.

“I am grateful that my childhood was spent in a spot where there were many trees… When I have lived with a tree for many years it seems to me like a beloved human companion.”

“Oh beloved old place… Have not old homesteads souls that cling to them until they crumble to dust?”

“It is and ever must be hallowed ground to me.”

“I consider it a misfortune to love any place as I love this old homestead… the agony of parting from it is intolerable. I love this old home deeply… and I love Cavendish.”

“The window of my dear old room opens on a world of wonder and beauty. Winds drift by with clover scent in their breath, the rustle of leaves comes up from the poplars, and birds flit low in joyous vagrance.”

NOTE: I looked up the word “vagrance” and found it related to vagrant people. In reading the definitions I found phrases like “no permanent home,” “a wanderer, a rover,” “transient,” and “rootless.” Gee, this sounds like a definition of a full-time RVer! I think the author meant the birds flew about idly.

John Macneill, a great-grandson of L.M. Montgomery’s grandfather Alexander, inherited the land and still lives in another house down the lane.

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He and his wife Jennie have restored the original home site and still tend it, and other family members assist them by greeting visitors. We met the great-great-granddaughter of Alexander (John’s great-niece), who gave us an overview of the site. She works alongside her grandmother, who is age 85.

Our final “Anne” visit was to Green Gables House, the setting of the classic novel. So many fans of the books have come to PEI over the years wanting to see the house and grounds, the house was at one time operated as a Bed & Breakfast. The author never lived here, but she based her books on this house, owned by cousins of her grandfather. In 1937 it became part of the Prince Edward Island National Park and was later designated a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s only about 1 km from the author’s home, and she spent many happy hours visiting here, walking the distance through the “haunted woods.” The house has been set up with furniture of the period, and depicts life as it was described in the novel.

I couldn’t get a very good shot of the front of the house, as the front lawn slopes down, but here are the front and rear views. (Go to the website for better pics and full descriptions. There you’ll also find videos and lots more good stuff!)

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This is Anne’s room, featuring the brown dress with puffed sleeves that Matthew gave her.

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The sewing room is where Marilla made the plain-sleeved dresses for Anne.

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You can hike Lover’s Lane if you wish. About this L.M. Montgomery wrote, “This evening I spent in Lover’s Lane. How beautiful it was – green and alluring and beckoning! I had been tired and discouraged and sick at heart before I went…and it…stole away the heartsickness, giving peace and newness of life.”

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L.M. Montgomery at age 17.

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At age 60.

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Maud took care of her grandmother after her grandfather’s death, and didn’t marry until her grandmother had also died. She played organ at the Presbyterian church and had been secretly engaged to the minister, Ewen Macdonald, for 5 years when they finally wed; she was age 37. She then bore 3 sons, amazing for that day and age, as women in their 30’s were considered middle-aged and beyond the years of childbearing. The second son was stillborn. She lived in Ontario, then Toronto, but when she died in 1942 at age 67, she was buried in Cavendish, in a cemetery halfway between her childhood home and the House of Green Gables.

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I didn’t locate her grave, but here are those of her mother and grandparents.

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For more on the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, click HERE for the Wikipedia article. If you have a Kindle, you can download from the Amazon site for free: Anne of Green Gables Stories: 12 Books, 142 Short Stories. They are timeless classics and are really fun to read.