Saturday, April 05, 2008

History of Anne of Green Gables

Amid the commemorations of the centenary of Anne of Green Gables, I recall that Anne is actually a child of federalism.

When Prince Edward Island joined confederation in 1873, among the first senators the Island sent to Ottawa was Donald Montgomery, a farmer in his sixties who the next year became grandfather to Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Lucy Maud's mother died before she was two. Her widowed father, the senator's son Hugh John, was a not very successful merchant. So the senator, in the best traditions of Canadian political patronage, secured Hugh John a government job in the new North-West Territories. Off he went, leaving his baby daughter effectively orphaned, in the not-so-tender care of her grim and elderly maternal grandparents, the MacNeills of Cavendish.

It's generally agreed by critics, I think, that Lucy Maud's unloved childhood inspired the wish-fulfillment story of orphan Anne, who is loved and who teaches her adoptive parents to love. But no one ever seems to note it was confederation politics that left her abandoned by her surviving parent.
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