“It was not exhilarating to be surrounded by crowds of strangers, most of whom had a rather alien appearance, as if not quite sure where they belonged.” This is Anne Shirley’s response to registration day at Redmond College in L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of the Island. She and her friend Priscilla “gladly made their escape” from the college in order to retreat to “Old St. John’s Cemetery,” Montgomery’s fictionalized version of the Old Burying Ground in Halifax (which I wrote about here last year), for “the first of many rambles.” Redmond College is based on Dalhousie University and the “quaint old town” of Kingsport described in Anne of the Island is based on Halifax.
Carol Dobson writes in The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album that Montgomery, like her heroine, “took a regular constitutional to Redmond (Dalhousie), a little less than a mile from the Ladies’ College. The Forrest Building still stands. Once the main administration building and nerve centre of Dalhousie, it is now home to the Department of Nursing. However, its foyer, with the heavy Victorian stairway, makes imagining Anne, Phyl Blake, Gilbert, and Charlie Sloane climbing the stairs to classes or meetings of the Philomathic Society an easy matter.”
The Forrest Building, designed by J.G. Dumaresq, was built in 1887, and until 1914, it was Dalhousie’s only building. The photo above is one I took in 2014. There’s a circa 1930 photo of the building in this story about the “Top 5 Oldest Historic Buildings at Dal.”
On that first day at Redmond, students gather “on the big staircase of the entrance hall,” and in the midst of the crowd, Anne feels “as insignificant as the teeniest drop in a most enormous bucket.” But Priscilla is right that “in a little while we’ll be acclimated and acquainted, and all will be well” – and of course, Anne being Anne, she is soon chasing academic glory while participating in “all the phases” of college life: “the stimulating class rivalry, the making and deepening of new and helpful friendships, the gay little social stunts, the doings of the various societies of which she was a member, the widening of horizons and interests.”
Lindsey Reeder is organizing an Anne of Green Gables Readalong this year, which started with the first book in the series in January and continues with one novel per month, right up to Rilla of Ingleside in August. I love rereading these books and am doing my best to keep up (although I have no illusions about finding time to write a blog post for each one!). If you’re interested, you can follow along with Lindsey by subscribing to her blog and by talking about the books on social media with the hashtag #GreenGablesReadalong.
I was planning to visit PEI this week and I thought I’d take pictures of a couple of L.M. Montgomery-related sites to share with you in this post, but then this happened on Wednesday:
More than 50 cm of snow on top of what we already had in Halifax. So of course I stayed home and watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice miniseries.
Maybe I’ll get to PEI next month. For now, instead of showing you more pictures of the huge snowbanks in either PEI or Nova Scotia, I’ll share this photo from last summer’s trip to the Blue Winds Tea Room in New London, PEI, where I always order the fabulous homemade raspberry cordial. (No currant wine to be had there or anywhere else on the Island, sadly. I’ve always wondered why no one in PEI is producing currant wine for tourists, since that’s what Diana actually drinks in that famous scene in Anne of Green Gables when she thinks she’s having raspberry cordial.)
If you want to read more about connections between Anne of the Island and Halifax, you might be interested in my earlier blog posts listed here: “L.M. Montgomery in Nova Scotia.”
You can see all eight of Elly MacKay’s illustrations for the “Anne” books on her website, along with the covers she did for the three books in Montgomery’s “Emily” series.
And, while I’m on the topic of book covers – if any of you have ever considered choosing clothes to match the covers of the books you’re reading, you might enjoy this fun blog post at Tundra Books: “Fashion Friday: Anne and Emily.” I think the dresses pictured here ought to be available as a set, perhaps even sold with the Montgomery novels. I can think of at least one friend who would buy all the Anne and Emily dresses….
Also – has anyone done something like this for Jane Austen’s novels? I’m imagining a set of six Regency gowns that match these Penguin editions.
Or, better still, a set of costumes that recreate clothes mentioned in the novels, including, for example, a red coat, a blue coat, a muddy petticoat, and a “worked muslin gown” with a “great slit” in it (Pride and Prejudice), a pink satin cloak and a lieutenant’s uniform (Mansfield Park), white, purple, and spotted muslin gowns (Northanger Abbey – see Clothes in Books for a blog post on Isabella Thorpe’s “I wear nothing but purple now”), and so on.
I’m just getting started, but I’ll stop there! I’m sure you can think of many more examples of clothes in both Montgomery’s and Austen’s novels. And I guess it’s no surprise that even when I’m writing about Montgomery, I always come back to Austen.