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  • L.M. Montgomery, A Name for Herself, Selected Writings, 1891–1917ed. Benjamin Lefebvre
  • Rita Bode (bio)
Benjamin Lefebvre, ed. L.M. Montgomery, A Name for Herself, Selected Writings, 1891–1917University of Toronto Press. xxvi, 454.

A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the first volume in the University of Toronto Press's L.M. Montgomery Library series, makes easily accessible a selection of Montgomery's wide-ranging newspaper and periodical publications, consisting mostly of personal commentaries and creative non-fiction. As he did in the three-volume L.M. Montgomery Reader, Benjamin Lefebvre again shows himself to be a skilled and insightful editor.

Lefebvre divides the volume into three parts: Part One reprints "Early and Student Publications," showing Montgomery's commitment to the writing life from an early age; in Part Two, the focus rests on Montgomery, the "Newspaper Woman," and includes short newspaper articles that show both Montgomery's versatility and the kinds of writing frequently assigned to aspiring female journalists. Also included here is the entire thirty-five instalments of the column "Around the Table" that appeared in the Halifax Daily Echoin 1901–02. Assuming the persona of "Cynthia" as author, Montgomery meanders through lively musings on the talk and activities of four women of various ages and one male figure who form a household, a living situation that allows her to comment frequently on gender differences. Lefebvre identifies this column as being among Montgomery's "most innovative work," anticipating her interest in word play, parody, and humour for conveying social criticism in her fiction. His comments emphasize Montgomery's clear-eyed, [End Page 541]often satiric handling of her material, an area that not only remains open to further research but also one effectively counters any lingering views of Montgomery as a sentimental author writing solely for young readers.

The third and final part, entitled "Upward Climb to Heights Sublime," reprints two works, the first of which is the intriguing short story "Two Sides of a Life Story," which was originally published under the name of J.C. Neville. Lefebvre's attribution of this story to Montgomery is persuasive and especially suggestive in his contention, based on where he found the clipping of it in Montgomery's scrapbook, that she likely "wanted it to be perceived as a story that followed the start of her own marriage." Critical recognition of Montgomery's life-writing with the publication of her journals beginning in the 1980s makes this story especially telling, for it is presented as an "extract from the journal of Mrs. Fitzelroy," who states unequivocally that "a woman who is married should have no need of a journal in which to find a vent for her subtle inner moods." Lefebvre's point is well taken.

The other work in the final section is Montgomery's autobiographical account of her development as a writer, The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career. While this work has been well known since its 1974 edition in book form, Lefebvre returns to the original text that appeared in instalments in the Toronto magazine Everywoman's Worldin 1917, reprinting "the twenty photographs and first person captions" that the 1974 edition omitted. This inclusion underlines some of the tensions with which Montgomery struggled in balancing her public and private personae; photos of her children, for instance, with captions naming them, appear in the magazine, yet Montgomery makes no reference to them in the written text.

Lefebvre's commentary builds on the strong Montgomery scholarship of the last forty or so years. His meticulous notes include both the obscure and the obvious, the latter obliquely acknowledging Montgomery's extensive international audience, some of whom are far removed from her Anglo-Canadian background. Lefebvre's intimate knowledge of Montgomery's writings and the scholarship that has emerged around them facilitates a useful cross-referencing among both primary and secondary sources. Patterns in Montgomery's thought and experience cross life-writing, fiction, and non-fiction, providing enriched contexts for critical reading of her vast literary output and furthering insights into the extent to which her creative process weaves and transforms similar material through different genres...