Alice's Academy

Caroline Jones, editor

Behind the Scenes: The Editing Copies of The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery

Vappu Kannas

Vappu Kannas recently completed her PhD at the Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki, Finland. Her dissertation examines the journals of L.M. Montgomery and the depictions of romance in them. She has presented her work at several international conferences, most recently at the "L.M. Montgomery and War" conference in 2014.

L.M. Montgomery’s (1874–1942) journals are a perfect example of what Lynn Z. Bloom terms “public private diaries”, that is, diaries that are “artfully shaped to accommodate an audience” (28). Although not published until 1985 onwards, Montgomery’s journals were never strictly private documents. Meticulously edited by their author, the writer of the famous Anne of Green Gables (1908), the journals as a whole resemble more an autobiography than a diary, with complex narrative patterns, inserted photographs and a central character whose development into a writer is followed.

Montgomery always intended her journals to be published posthumously (see e.g. My Dear Mr. M. 147), and the original ten manuscripts of the journals, held at the University of Guelph, Ontario archives, were shaped and rewritten by their author until the end of her life (see e.g. ”Uncertainties”). Even so, The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery (1985–2004), published in five volumes by the Oxford University Press and edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, are nevertheless a very different type of text compared to the handwritten manuscripts. As Darcy Cullen notes, editors are nowadays understood as “active participant[s] in the making and dissemination of texts”, even though they were once perceived as invisible figures who “must leave no trace” of their presence (4). Therefore, it makes sense to examine what kind of processes took place in the production of The Selected Journals, a kind of behind-the-scenes viewpoint to the editing of the published and abridged versions of Montgomery’s journals.

Rubio’s and Waterston’s editing is indeed so “sensitive and sympathetic”, in Carol Shields’ words (408), that these two “invisible figures” do not hamper the experience when reading The Selected Journals. Although unquestionably a sign of good editing, in this paper I am interested in finding some traces of that editing. Fortunately, these can be found in the editing copies of The Selected Journals, also stored at the University of Guelph archives, but as of yet uncatalogued. The Guelph archives hold numerous work versions of The Selected Journals; there are at least twenty binders in the collection. A single volume of Montgomery’s handwritten manuscripts might exist as several editing copies. For instance, there are two editing copies of volume one, and three of volume six. Some of the editing copies abide by the volume boundaries of the published volumes and thus add to the overall number. 

The editing copies have not received much scholarly attention, perhaps because they are not catalogued among the other Montgomery materials. Nevertheless, this paper adds to an already rich scholarship on the complex editing processes and narratives of Montgomery’s journals, such as recounted in Mary Rubio’s biography The Gift of Wings, her articles “‘A Dusting Off’: An Anecdotal Account of Editing the L.M. Montgomery Journals” and “Why L.M. Montgomery’s Journals Came to Guelph,” as well as in numerous articles and essays by other Montgomery scholars.

I had the good luck to be at the archives when Mary Rubio donated her papers – the editing copies among them – to the Guelph archives in 2009, and she promptly suggested that I make use of them when copying the omitted parts of Montgomery’s journals for my own research. Without the typed work versions of the handwritten manuscripts, I would probably still be in the archives trying to decipher Montgomery’s handwriting. While going over the omitted entries, I could not help noticing that the margins of the editing copies were full of commentary by both Rubio and Waterston as well as William Toye, Oxford’s representative, and, to my pleasant surprise, by Stuart Macdonald, Montgomery’s younger son. Indeed, it is the comments that make the editing copies so interesting. To be sure, the editing copies are by now a record of history in themselves, the history of editing, and as such must be added to the canon of life-writing by Montgomery.

Editorial Voices

The editing copies provide insights not only to the process of editing the Montgomery journals, but to diverse kinds of readers and ways of interpreting the text. They showcase the process of reading, especially Stuart Macdonald’s, Rubio’s, and Waterston’s, as they go over  the journals for the very first time in the early 1980s, volume by volume, slowly becoming aware of their complexity. Furthermore, the journals were not only a scholarly treasure trove: reading them was a deeply personal experience for Stuart Macdonald, as Rubio relates in her article: “It was touching to watch him [Stuart] meet that vital young woman [his mother] as he reread and discussed the early journals with me” ("Uncertainties" 59). Thus, the editing copies can shed more light on our understanding of their editing practices, but also on the personal aspects of Montgomery’s life.

The editorial commentary in the editing copies is a kind of meta-level to the journals that does not feature in any of the other versions. With four different main readers coming into view on their pages, a fascinating polyphony appears: a multitude of voices that resonates and contrasts with Montgomery’s. Mary Rubio tries to make sense of Montgomery’s personality, life and creative processes, and does not appreciate her nature descriptions overly much. Elizabeth Waterston works with the notes and has a wide knowledge of eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature; she is drawn by Montgomery’s “purple prose” more than Rubio. William Toye pays special attention to overall structure and is a more detached reader. He is also keen on omitting plenty of material and does not always value the details of a woman’s life. Stuart Macdonald engages in a more private dialogue with his mother, not being very interested in general editing, but providing a lot of family history and social historical commentary, and also vastly intelligent and funny responses.

In addition to the record of reading, the editorial commentary offers a modern-day perspective to Montgomery’s autobiographical text. When examining the editing copies, I learned with the benefit of hindsight what later happened to people who feature in the journals, since Rubio and Waterston dug these details out during their work. In short, with the editing copies one receives more information than what Montgomery includes in her entries, a veritable behind-the-scenes perspective, since many of the comments are not included as notes in The Selected Journals. A good example of this is a notation on the September 15, 1934 entry. Most likely Mary Rubio has written on top of the entry in the editing copy volume nine, “Murray [Laird, neighbour of the Macdonalds in Norval and husband of Marion Webb] himself died in 1988 after being a dreadful invalid for about 2 yrs. with cancer,” as a reference to Montgomery’s discussion of Murray’s father who had died after having been an invalid for two years (“Editing Copy 9” 175). 

Starting their work in the early 1980s, Montgomery’s editors were not only struggling with deciphering Montgomery’s handwriting and tracking down people mentioned in diaries that span seven decades, but they were also forced to abridge the text by fifty per cent (”‘A Dusting Off’” 32). Editing for the expected audience was thus crucial right from the beginning. Most of their choices were affected by the publisher’s requirements – Oxford wanted the text to “appeal to the average reader, as well as to the scholar” (“‘A Dusting Off’” 31). However, the editors’ own sense of story and narrative also played a big part in the process, in addition to being affected by the strict space limitation. As Rubio notes in her article, their “goal in editing was to speed up the movement of [Montgomery’s] narrative” (33).

Therefore it is not surprising that the editing copies of volumes one to four are particularly fascinating, since they are the volumes from which most material was omitted. Once having to decide what to keep and what to omit, the editors’ contrasting interests become evident; Toye’s and Rubio’s and Waterston’s opinions sometimes clash, as demonstrated in these examples from editing copy volume five: “How could Bill take this out??!!” (“Editing Copy 5, work version” 224 [Dec 29, 1921]; emphasis original) and “Keep! Bill has no judgement at all” (ibid. 416 [Jan 6, 1923]). Based on what Rubio has related about the attitudes of their publisher and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada at the time, women’s experience was not too highly valued in the academic world in the early 1980s, although it was certainly valued by the reading public (”‘A Dusting Off’” 29–32). According to Rubio, “Bill Toye knew that eyebrows would be raised because a reputable house like Oxford University Press was even publishing Montgomery’s journals” (email to the author, June 13, 2012). Toye’s comments support this view to some extent, but there are instances when his appreciation of what he is reading is evident, such as in his note ”Wonderful!” on Montgomery’s entry dated December 7, 1921 (”Editing Copy 5, work version” 214).

The editing copies (“single-spaced”) of volume one and two are perhaps the most valuable as they entail comments made by Stuart Macdonald before his death in 1982. Stuart’s notes demonstrate how a son’s and a biographer’s views and interests might differ, since Stuart comments on the editors’ notations as well as his mother’s diary text. For instance, on the back of the page 133 in the editing copy of volume one, Mary Rubio has written at length about her reading of Montgomery’s early story ”The Battle of the Partridge Eggs” summarised in the diary on August 1, 1892. Rubio interprets the story as representing “[a]lmost a mythic parallel with LMM’s life!” to which Stuart comments, with tongue in cheek, ”Hey now!!” (“Editing Copy 1, first single-spaced version” 133).

Stuart Macdonald’s dialogue with his mother is a highly personal response to the journals. Rather than analysing the journals as textual works and life chronicles, as Rubio and Waterston do, Stuart interprets her mother’s character and more often holds her to account. Because of his personal relationship with the famous author, Stuart’s comments plunge right into the power relations of mother and son and offer humorous yet deeply touching insights into the personality of both. Stuart and his mother’s relationship as it appears in the editing copies, where Montgomery’s voice intertwines with her son’s, is one of the most intriguing aspects of the work versions of the journals, and certainly an aspect that does not feature in any other text by Montgomery.

What happens in this dialogue of two sharp-tongued and intelligent people, with their own personal complexities and schisms, is an evaluation of diverse versions of personal history. Montgomery’s narrative of her life is naturally only one account of several possible accounts, and Stuart’s comments highlight this subjective rather than objective aspect of the journals. Stuart’s observations challenge us to ask who has the right to write personal history and, even more importantly, whose version becomes the accepted version of “a life.”

As an example of this process, consider the following comment. Written on an empty page in the editing copy volume one in Rubio’s handwriting, a contrasting view of Montgomery’s grandparents appears. Probably based on an interview with Stuart, Rubio has written: “Stuart’s comments Oct 1981 – She [Montgomery] painted Grandpa MacNeill worse than he was. He did buy her books, and that was considerable then. Grandpa MacN. was too old + remote, but was self-educated. Grandmother MacN. was a real bitch” (“Editing Copy 1, single-spaced” 26-27). Rather than arguing over whose version of the past is more accurate – especially when knowing that Stuart never met either of his great-grandparents – this kind of commentary reminds us of the convoluted aspect of life-writing. No, Montgomery does not produce an all-encompassing portrait of her grandparents and childhood in her journals, and yes, she definitely magnifies her role as a misunderstood granddaughter. But that is the life-writer’s prerogative, a freedom to paint and embellish, misinterpret and lie. Stuart’s comment about Grandmother MacNeill being “a bitch” opens up interesting possibilities of interpreting Montgomery’s account of her in the journals, but also of Stuart himself. 

Other comments by Stuart both amuse and chill the reader of the editing copies. On one hand, Stuart’s notes balance out Montgomery’s youthful magniloquence by adding a humorous and ironic touch to them: “Got to give Herman good marks for trying” (in relation to the Herman Leard affair) (“Editing Copy 2, single-spaced” 43 [April 8, 1898]), and, “Masterful put down – worthy of me” (Montgomery trashing a Miss Claxton) (“Editing Copy 1, single-spaced” 269 [Dec 24, 1895]). On the other, the comments portray an intensely private aspect of what it was like being L.M. Montgomery’s son. Stuart writes, “Mother you are a liar – but perhaps not when you wrote this”, commenting on Montgomery’s sentence, “Never since have I read anything not intended for my eyes” (“Editing Copy 1, single-spaced” 134; Complete Journals 142). Here, Montgomery refers to reading her childhood playmate’s diary behind his back and regretting this childish mishap even as an adult (Complete Journals 140). Stuart questions the truth value of this statement, as his mother had the tendency to go through his personal papers behind his back when he was growing up. [1]

Editing By Omitting

In addition to the editorial voices that appear on the pages of the editing copies, what was left out is another important feature of the work versions of The Selected Journals. Omissions have the most prominent effect on the narrative that features in The Selected Journals. They affect all aspects of the published journals from which story lines are followed to how certain characters are portrayed, how Montgomery is portrayed, which themes gain more prominence, and so forth. As it were, the editing copies present double-layered editing and commentary. While the editors edit life-writing, and fathom how one writes of life, they also create life-writing by analysing and reshaping Montgomery’s text, often by omitting.

When considering the role of editing by omitting, Montgomery’s fame and status as a popular writer played the most important part in the editing process. It is safe to say that the journals would not have been published if Montgomery had not been a world-famous author, and in this respect one of their main functions was to serve Montgomery’s readers and fans, but also scholars, with the background on her fiction. Thus, it is not surprising to find several comments in the editing copies such as, “Keep. This is the period when LMM was writing Anne” (“Editing Copy 2, double-spaced” 586, emphasis original) and “The last line here is pure ‘Anne of GG’” (“Editing Copy 1, double-spaced” 359). Most entries relating either to similarities to Anne of Green Gables or the novel’s creation were indeed preserved. The editors quite naturally favoured passages that related to or featured in Montgomery’s fiction over passages that did not.

Editorial decisions about stylistic choices also reshaped the way Montgomery’s autobiographical narrative has appeared to the readers, whether eloquent or artless. Although Montgomery’s journals are exceptional in their finished style, they are by no means non-repetitive. Knowing that the editors wanted to, and had to, produce “a readable book,” it is logical that they preferred certain material over other based on the quality of writing. Notably, these preferences are once again connected to the fact that so much of the original text had to be omitted, hence comments such as “This repeats – could we delete?” (“Editing Copy 2, double-spaced” 256), but they also tie in with the editors wanting to make Montgomery appear as skilful a writer as possible in the eyes of academia and the general public, as demonstrated in a comment such as, “Poorly written” (“Editing Copy 6” 92).

Furthermore, Rubio notes how they felt under pressure to edit out Montgomery’s most repetitive and dejected moments, so that the journal would not appear a “downer” (“‘A Dusting Off’” 32). Not only this, but the editing slightly changed the overall style of the journals to better match the twentieth-century aesthetics, as proven by comments such as, “Nature description good & not so flowery” (“Editing Copy 1, double-spaced” 590). As Rubio relates, they felt that some of the “fuzzy romanticism of the 19th century” had to go, since it seemed tiresome to them, and because they understood that readers in the twentieth century were used to reading at a different pace than the ones in the nineteenth century (“‘A Dusting Off’” 33). 

As Felicity A. Nussbaum writes in her essay “Toward Conceptualizing Diary,” diary as a genre is “poised between past and future, self and other, public and private, universal and particular” (135). If expanded to cover the editing of diaries, we can note in a concrete way how editing influences and further complicates these polarisations. By bringing Montgomery’s journal text into the twentieth century, the editing altered Montgomery’s sometimes highly Victorian style by omitting. The relationship between past and future should also be examined as it appears in editing, not only in the level of the actual diary entries and the concept of time within them. Clearly, the period of time when editing takes place affects the picture that is formed of the past as presented in a diary, stylistically and content-wise.

Even though The Selected Journals are identical with Montgomery’s handwritten journals when it comes to content – meaning that the text that was included was not changed – the omissions alter them considerably as there are instances where a whole month of entries might be absent from the published version. What surfaces is a new version of the journals altogether. When reading the handwritten journals or The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery (2012–2013), Montgomery’s diary writing might appear more repetitive and indeed more “strained and artificial” than in The Selected Journals (“‘A Dusting Off’” 33), but it also comes across as more complex, more contradictory and thus more true to the nature of life-writing. In this sense, too, omissions in The Selected Journals play an important role, since cutting the text affected every stage of the editing process, even with the final, fifth volume, despite the fact that only a few entries were omitted from it.

How, then, do the omissions affect the story that we are all so familiar with? Consider, for instance, where the volumes begin and end. The Selected Journals do not follow Montgomery’s volume boundaries, as ten volumes were squeezed into five. The editing copies are full of remarks such as “This would make excellent ending for a volume” (“Editing Copy 5, work version” 312), or, “Begin new book?” in which editors contemplate where to end the published volumes or what would make a good opening entry (“Editing Copy 6” 22). According to Rubio, they saw Montgomery’s own endings and volume boundaries “rather artificial” and not worth preserving in the published editions ("'A Dusting Off'" 33), which explains the continuous mulling over the organisation and contents of the published volumes in the editing copies.

However, one of the main impacts is on characterisation. Although the editors did not embellish the image that was formed of Montgomery, the most blatant racist remarks, for instance, were mainly left out. As with style, a big part of this process was taking into account the modern-day readers and the demands for political correctness in the 1980s. Additionally, the fact that Montgomery’s diaries are so pervasively about depression, both hers and her husband’s, forced the editors to balance the gloomy picture. Comments in the editing copies such as “Keep – yes – she says something nice about a parishioner”; “Keep … – shows affection for people”; and “Keep whole entry – shows her need for father figure + warmth” demonstrate how a slightly modified image of Montgomery was created (“Editing Copy 4, work version” 120 [Feb 25, 1917]; 150 [June 8, 1917]; 197 [Dec 19, 1917]). Remarks such as these also testify to the type of womanhood the editors wanted (or were instructed) to project. It was important to present Montgomery more emphatically as a positive, warm and motherly person.

Versions of Life

The importance of the editing copies lies in what they add to the already extensive scholarship on Montgomery. First, comparing and analysing the different existing versions of the journals encourages us to read Montgomery’s journals as narratives rather than as history. However, the meta-level of the editing copies give us a richer picture of Montgomery’s personal history, in Stuart Macdonald’s comments. Furthermore, by examining the editors’ work we might understand and appreciate better the editing done by Montgomery herself. It helps us remember her manipulation of the text and the criss-crossing layers of her diary writing, but also the kind of manipulation done by the editors. As discussed above, the story of one’s life can change considerably depending on which story-lines one highlights and which types of narratives are valued.

The final products of the editing copies, The Selected Journals, present one version of Montgomery and her life, with some downplaying of the darker aspects of it. This has changed in the two-volume Complete Journals, at least according to the press release, which states that “the unabridged journal … reveals something quite different [than the selected edition]” and that this version tells ‘a tale far thornier and far more compelling than the first selected edition could disclose.’”[2] Surprisingly enough, however, the press release calls The Complete Journals an “unedited account,” which considering everything I have discussed, is somewhat misleading. The Complete Journals are still an edited account, although they include all of Montgomery’s original entries between 1889 and 1911.

Nevertheless, a lot has changed in the seventy years between Montgomery’s death in 1942 and the publication of The Complete Journals in 2012 and 2013. Reasons for omitting material that Rubio and Waterston had to consider in the 1980s are not relevant anymore. Most people who knew Montgomery personally are long gone; there exists a plethora of Montgomery scholarship compared to the 1980s; even general readers are well aware of the events of Montgomery’s life, the gloomy details included, mainly thanks to The Selected Journals; and printing techniques have developed to better reproduce Montgomery’s combination of text and image. The next stage for Montgomery’s journals would be to digitise them, so that people around the world would have the opportunity to peruse the handwritten manuscripts electronically.

Taking into account the different versions of a diary text is still vastly important, especially so when the text in question is by nature as multifaceted as Montgomery’s journals. What version we read affects our understanding of Montgomery’s life and her way of presenting it, and we should be wary of what Bo Pettersson calls “the facile taking for granted of the textual version of a literary work” (129). The journal versions also serve diverse audiences. The published journals, both the selectedand the complete, are the most important being the most accessible, but supplementing them are the unpublished manuscripts, the typescript of the journals, and the editing copies in the Guelph archives.

The version of Montgomery’s life-story as it is presented in The Selected Journals has become accepted cultural property and authority, as well as a major component of her literary work. As Rubio mentions, assessors of the SSHRCC acknowledged that “with the publication of the first volume [of The Selected Journals], Montgomery was suddenly and permanently recognized as a serious writer whose situation and responses merited academic re-evaluation and scrutiny” (“‘A Dusting Off’” 35). On the other hand, Helen M. Buss reminds us how important the editorial process is in publishing women’s autobiographical writings (164). She rightly observes that Rubio and Waterston were aware that their editing was as important as Montgomery’s writing process, for they were “the midwives who … [brought] Montgomery’s personal voice into the world” (164). The work versions of The Selected Journals thus take us behind the scenes and showcase the often invisible editorial work in process. It is this editorial aspect that we can now turn our focus to as we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the first volume of The Selected Journals.



I would like to express my particular thanks to Benjamin Lefebvre, Mary Rubio and the anonymous Looking Glass reviewers for their comments on this article, and for helping to craft it to its current form.



1. According to Mary Rubio, this comment was made when Stuart discussed the editing of the journals with her: “Stuart knew that his mother had read letters sent to him by a girlfriend when he was in medical school, and although he revered his mother’s memory, he resented this interference in his personal affairs” (email to the author, June 13, 2012).

2. Oxford University Press, press release,, accessed December 11, 2015.

Works Cited:

Primary Sources

Editing Copies of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery. Several volumes, located in the as yet uncatalogued Mary Henley Rubio Collection. Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library.

Montgomery, L.M. The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900. Eds. Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Montgomery, L.M. The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901–1911. Eds. Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2013.

---. My Dear Mr. M. Letters to G.B. MacMillan from L.M. Montgomery. Eds. Francis W. P. Bolger and Elizabeth R. Epperly. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Rubio, Mary. Email to the author, June 13, 2012.

Secondary Sources

Bloom, Lynn Z. “‘I Write for Myself and Strangers’: Private Diaries as Public Documents.” Inscribing the Daily. Critical Essays on Women’s Diaries. Eds. Suzanne L. Bunkers and Cynthia A. Huff. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996. 23–37. 

Buss, Helen M. Mapping Ourselves: Canadian Women’s Autobiography in English. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993.

Cullen, Darcy. Editors, Scholars, and the Social Text. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2012.

Nussbaum, Felicity. “Toward Conceptualizing Diary.” Studies in Autobiography. Ed. James Olney. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. 128–140.

Pettersson, Bo. “Literature as a Textualist Notion.” From Text to Literature. New Analyticand Pragmatic Approaches. Eds. Stein Haugom Olsen and Anders Pettersson. Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 128–145.

Rubio, Mary. “‘A Dusting Off’: An Anecdotal Account of Editing the L.M. Montgomery Journals.” Working in Women’s Archives: Researching Women’s Private Literature and Archival Documents. Eds. Helen M. Buss and Marlene Kadar. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2001. 29–43.

Rubio, Mary Henley. ”Uncertainties Surrounding the Death of L.M. Montgomery.” Anne Around the World: L.M. Montgomery and Her Classic. Eds. Jane Ledwell and Jean Mitchell, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013. 45–62.

---. Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.

---. “Why L.M. Montgomery’s Journals Came to Guelph.” The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album. Compiled by Kevin McCabe, edited by Alexandra Heilbron. Toronto: Fitzhenry

Shields, Carol. Review of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume 4: 1929–1935. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album. Compiled by Kevin McCabe, edited by Alexandra Heilbron. Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1999. 407–408.


Vappu Kannas

Volume 18, Issue 2, The Looking Glass,December 2015

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