- A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 by Benjamin Lefebvre
L. M. Montgomery is, of course, best known as the author of Anne of Green Gables (1908). Anne, who never really went out of style in Canada, has re-emerged on the global stage thanks to CBC's popular new television series, Anne with an E, which has been a global success with its first two seasons released in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Early Canadian scholars and Montgomery experts have long known that Montgomery's authorship goes well beyond Green Gables and its most popular orphan. A Name for Herself follows Benjamin Lefebvre's three-volume L. M. Montgomery Reader (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013) and is the companion to his 2019 publication, A World of Songs: Selected Poems 1894–1921 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). In A Name for Herself, Lefebvre brings together Montgomery's literary contributions to Canadian and American periodicals, her journalistic work for local, national, and international newspapers, and her autobiographies. As Lefebvre reminds us in the preface, her "book-length fiction … obscures the more than one thousand items that Montgomery published in periodicals" between 1890 and 1942 (xv). Lefebvre's collection brings a sample of Montgomery's other publications out of Anne's shadow and into light.
A Name for Herself separates Montgomery's writing into three broad categories: "Early and Student Publications," "Maud Montgomery, Newspaper Woman," and "The Upwards Climb to Heights Sublime." Born in 1874 in Prince Edward Island, Canada, Montgomery had her first poem published just before her sixteenth birthday and an essay published in the Montreal Star the following year. The early publications selected by Lefebvre illustrate how even the young Montgomery could move with relative ease between genres and topics as she published everything from literary essays on Shakespeare, opinion pieces, short stories, plays, and perhaps [End Page 646] most interestingly, autobiographical works. Lefebvre has included several pieces that beautifully illustrate Montgomery's sense of adventure and her willingness to put convention aside as she documents her approximately 4,000-kilometer solo journey across Canada to visit her estranged father in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Along the way, she published in local Saskatchewan and Manitoba newspapers, and her recollections of the journey were published in her local college paper upon her return. Lefebvre also includes accounts of her time as an undergraduate at Dalhousie College (now Dalhousie University) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Read together, these early publications demonstrate how Montgomery's independence and feminist perspective have always been woven into the fabric of her writing.
The second section details Montgomery's time as a journalist in Halifax. Lefebvre has collected, for the first time, the full run of Montgomery's column "Around the Table," a fun and generally light-hearted series that demonstrates "some of Montgomery's most innovative work" (75). This column, which ran in thirty-five instalments in the Halifax Daily Echo between September 1901 and May 1902, was popular enough to be regularly reprinted by another Halifax daily, the Morning Chronicle, and to have appeared on the front page of the Daily Echo more than a dozen times. Montgomery published these columns under a variety of pseudonyms representing members of a fictitious family whose foibles and opinions provided her content. The remainder of this section demonstrates that Montgomery was popular locally, nationally, and internationally by offering a selection of pieces published in Toronto, Halifax, Boston, and Philadelphia, the most popular of which—"Half an Hour with Canadian Mothers"—would be republished as separate sketches in "at least three dozen North American newspapers" (192).
The third section of A Name for Herself contains Montgomery's autobiographical writing. An undated publication, "Two Sides of a Life Story by J. C. Neville (Extract from the Journal of Mrs. Fitzelroy)," is a fictionalized autobiographical sketch of Montgomery's personal life. Lefebvre dates the piece from 1908, but because it was included in Montgomery's own scrapbook alongside postcards from her honeymoon he suggests that Montgomery wanted this piece to "be...