L.M. Montgomery included many references to her time in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the “Island Scrapbooks” she created. I read Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s book Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery not long after it was published in 2008, but when I bought my own copy on a recent trip to Prince Edward Island, I decided to reread it in light of my new interest in the Nova Scotia connections in Montgomery’s life and work.
Montgomery spent a year studying English at Dalhousie University, from 1895 to 1896, and she included an image of the main building with the caption “Dalhousie College, Halifax, the doors of which are wide open to women.” She received little encouragement from her family and friends when she chose to study at Dalhousie, and she must have been pleased to know that from the time it was founded in 1818, the university had never excluded women.
There are pieces of Dalhousie’s black and gold striped ribbon in two places in the Blue Scrapbook, on page 20 and tucked between pages 70 and 71, as well as a bit of ribbon on page 51 with the purple and gold colours of the Halifax Ladies’ College (and its successor, Armbrae Academy), where Montgomery boarded. The Red Scrapbook includes images of the interior and exterior of the Ladies’ College.
The Blue Scrapbook includes a card commemorating a New Year’s party held on Brunswick Street and a poem by Dalhousie English professor Archibald MacMechan entitled “My Lady of Dreams,” with this intriguing scrap of paper pasted beneath it: “What was the matter with the P.E.I. girl when she chased her room-mate through the window?” The juxtaposition between the poem and the question is intriguing. The poem is a meditation on lost love, dated “Saint’s Day, ’95,” written in a mood very different from the unanswered question, and the contrast is somewhat jarring. But that’s exactly the sort of effect Montgomery achieves in other places in the scrapbooks as she mixes “bright fragments” to “suggest metaphors and layers of story and feeling,” as Epperly says in her prefatory essay on “The Island Scrapbooks.”
Montgomery’s “last examination,” written on April 17, 1896, is represented in the Blue Scrapbook – among the requirements were instructions to “Write a note on the use of the chorus in Henry IV,” “Justify the introduction of the comic characters in Henry IV Pts I & II,” and “Contrast the ‘rake’s progress’ of Falstaff and Prince Hal.” Dalhousie’s Convocation was held privately that year, Epperly says, “out of respect for the death of George Munro, a chief Dalhousie donor” (whose legacy is still commemorated each year in February when the University observes the Munro Day holiday).
Epperly remarks on the significance for Montgomery of the phrase “The Bend of the Road” (from the poem by Grace Denio Lichfield, reproduced in the Red Scrapbook), which she used as the title of the last chapter of Anne of Green Gables. She apparently shared Anne’s optimism about the future and what lies beyond that mysterious bend. Epperly says “many of Montgomery’s photographs were organized around a similar bend or curve: Montgomery’s and Anne’s beloved Lover’s Lane is frequently photographed and described with that provocative bend.”
Given my own interest in Montgomery and Point Pleasant Park, I was interested to find that the Notman Studio image of “A pretty bit of scenery in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax” in the Red Scrapbook also highlights a bend in the road along the shore.
You can read more about the images and poetry in the Island scrapbooks – and you can see a colour postcard of the bend in the road at Point Pleasant Park – in Christy Woster’s article in The Shining Scroll, “Clippings and Cuttings: Sources of Some of the Images and Poetry in L.M. Montgomery’s Island Scrapbooks.”
Melanie J. Fishbane is writing a YA novel based on the life of L.M. Montgomery, and she recently wrote a blog post about how she created a journal inspired by Montgomery’s scrapbooks.
I’ve finally put together a brand new page here on “L.M. Montgomery in Nova Scotia,” which lists all my blog posts on Montgomery, along with the books and essays I’ve been reading as I explore the connections between LMM and NS.