In 1985, Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston edited the unpublished journals of one of Canada’s most beloved authors, L.M. Montgomery – best known for writing the Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables. However, they ran into a couple of issues. At the time, their editor didn’t think that the Canadian public would be interested in, among other things, the adolescent musings of a small town girl or her bouts with depression. So when the first of what would be five selected volumes were published, many of Montgomery’s original passages were omitted.
Montgomery was also a meticulous editor of her own life writing, returning to her journals and revising them, including inserting images throughout. However, 1980s technology hadn't evolved to the place where text and images could be placed and printed on the same page, so the solution was to insert a series of photos midway through the book.
Now, almost thirty years later, we have an opportunity that only a few who have gone to the Guelph archives have had—to see Montgomery’s journals the way she had intended (or at least closer.) Not only has this first volume of the journals been printed in its entirety, but the images are included alongside the text.
This past June, I attended the biennial L.M .Montgomery conference in Prince Edward Island where we had a book launch for the newly revised, The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1900. Unfortunately, due to a death in the family, Elizabeth Waterston couldn’t attend, but her editorial partner and long-time friend, Mary Rubio, was there along with her daughter and current editor at Oxford University Press, Jennie Rubio. The Rubios graciously agreed to do this Q&A for the Indigo Nonfiction Blog.
Indigo Non-Fiction Blog: What inspired you to return to L.M. Montgomery’s journals?
Jennie: The first edition was fine but admittedly less-than-ideal (nowadays the world is more willing to accept that women might have some dark moments and that women artists might even wrestle with artistic process!) It was definitely time to set the record straight.
Mary: Many people asked us to. LMM lovers and scholars were coming to the University of Guelph Archives to read the full text of her PEI years, since that section had been reduced by approximately 50%. Many people traveled from Japan, Scandinavia, the UK, and the USA to consult the originals - a huge expense for them.
INFB: What differences can readers of the selected journals discover in this updated version?
Jennie: A fuller emotional and visual canvas reflecting the world of PEI as it looked to her in her youth – more detailed (and some very beautiful) descriptions, all her photos and other souvenirs, plus the record of artistic development that in the 1985 edition did not make it into the narrative!
Mary: I worked from the full journals for my award-winning biography, Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, so things were not new to me. However, I was constantly aware of the fact that the full text, with so many pictures, created a much more complete picture of LMM's time, her development as a writer, and rural nineteenth century Canada. I am sure that elementary and secondary school teachers, who use the journals as background for teaching Canadian culture and history, will find the extra material useful.
INFB: Are these meant to replace the selected journals, or supplement them?
Jennie: To me, these are a different experience altogether. The Complete Journals are laid out as closer to her own original as possible, contain 50% more material, and ultimately tell a new story. I think The Selected Journals as they stand tell one very worthwhile version; but these put a new and far more nuanced complexion on her young life in PEI.
Mary: People who want a quick overview may start with The Selected Journals, but history and literature lovers will probably want the full journals.
INFB: What were some of the challenges and successes you had editing this time versus in the 1980s?
Jennie: Challenges, don’t get me started. Working with my mother and Elizabeth Waterston, not a challenge. Organizing some 500 photos of varying quality plus 500 captions, 400,000 words of text, how to explain to the world at large why we decided to do this … that was a challenge. As for successes, I have a very talented colleague who does a great job of making the actual book come together in a lovely and pleasing sort of way, plus a great designer who balanced LMM’s frilly Victorian outfit with a fresh modern look, and a very determined and patient production coordinator and a departmental direction with vision to go forward. When I saw the book, having waited with bated breath, I thought – wow, this really does look good!
Mary: We completely re-proofed the entire text and updated the notes....over a year's fairly steady work. That's hard on the eyes. A huge help with the notes: Google and E-mail, since there are now lots of independent LMM scholars in Europe, North America, and the UK, and we could discuss / query things with them. The Selected Journals have made a new scholarship on LMM possible.
INFB: Are you planning on republishing all of L.M. Montgomery’s journals?
Jennie: We’re still recovering. Don’t ask me for at least 6 months.
Mary: Less is cut out as we progress through the five "selected journals" so we don't yet know. The first volume of The Selected Journals had been a best-seller so there was less pressure to cut as we went along and demand increased.
INFB: While reading and revising the journals, was there anything that you read that you had not noticed before? If so, what?
Jennie: I have to admit – when I reread some of her descriptions I found a new depth in them. Her writing on the Herman Leard affair – I don’t think I’ve read anything that raw and, one could only use the word “steamy,” in a long time (forget Fifty Shades of Grey). I came away thinking all over again, LMM was a truly gifted artist. And I am glad her own record can now reflect that.
Mary: No, except we found a few typos in the original journals. As noted above, I have always worked from the full journals, especially when writing the biography.