Why Mark Twain and L.M. Montgomery Belong in the Same Blog Post

Two renowned authors born on the same day were very different writers yet had a connection of sorts, and some similarities.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) and L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942) each came into the world on a November 30 — so their birthdays were last week.

The connection? Twain was a big fan of Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, which Twain obviously read late in life. He said Anne Shirley “is the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice” of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

Similarities between the American and Canadian authors? Both created what are among literature’s most memorable early-teen/pre-teen characters — Montgomery with Anne, and Twain with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Those protagonists are not only beloved and/or admired by young readers, but by adults as well. And the novels they appear in are highly entertaining, even as they’re also periodically depressing in subtle or overt ways.

While it’s not what they’re most famous for, both authors wrote compellingly about the horrors of war, too.

Twain did this most memorably in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court — his hilarious time-travel novel that’s also scathingly antiwar, something Hollywood pretty much sanitized in the 1949 movie version starring Bing Crosby.

And Montgomery wrote movingly about “The Great War” (now known as World War I) via the characters in Rilla of Ingleside — one of her best Anne of Green Gables sequels.

WWI is on my mind this week as I’ve been reading Pat Barker’s powerful novel Regeneration. Her historical-fiction work grippingly depicts the harrowing mental and physical effects of that brutal, bloody, almost totally senseless war on traumatized men who had been soldiers on the front and are now in a psychiatric hospital. Some of the characters are based on real people.

Regeneration author Pat Barker in 2001. (Photo by Suki Dhanda.)

While reading Regeneration, I saw it expertly reviewed on Robbie Cheadle’s blog:

And, speaking of skilled bloggers, Rebecca Budd mentioned Twain’s birthday and posted a great Twain quote the day I began writing this piece:

Also worth mentioning is that Twain and Montgomery shared the attribute of being VERY funny in their writing when they wanted to be. This is well-known with Twain, but perhaps not as well-known with Montgomery. Her novel The Blue Castle, for instance, expertly mixes hilarity with poignancy.

Here’s the only known film footage of Twain, from 1909. (Complete with typo in the clip’s headline. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) I couldn’t find any footage of Montgomery.

Anything you’d like to say about Twain and/or Montgomery?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — which laments increasingly higher rents in my town — is here.

132 thoughts on “Why Mark Twain and L.M. Montgomery Belong in the Same Blog Post

  1. Good Morning Dave…I just thought of Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 novel of manners written by Jane Austen . Supporting character who leaves a mark could be Lady Catherine, a small but unforgettable character.
    I have read the Novel so many times since my teenage years.
    Anyways HBO was showing the movie version of it today, and Madame Judy Dench was remarkable.( if you want a laugh in these trying times )
    Of course the better version of the movie was long ago the five hour series on PBS.

    Like

  2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Matk Twain`s one of the best Dave.
    Then The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, what a great read. and there are so many more.
    His life story was equally fascinationg.

    .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And also the video footage of Twain was great – really get a feel for his gait and even the way he held his tea cup.
    It also reminds me how far we have come with video – we now have recorders that go into our pockets

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Regeneration sounds like another one to add to my list – especially as I study life in between the wars for a new writing project! And you know quite well how I feel about Anne of Green Gables ๐Ÿ™‚ I haven’t yet read Rilla of Ingleside but it’s on my shelf waiting for me! While I did read Tom Sawyer a long time ago, I only this year got around to reading Huck Finn for the first time. Shameful, I know ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M.B.!

      Yes, “Regeneration” (and “Rilla of Ingleside”) would definitely be right up your alley as someone who reads and writes a lot relating to war and military history. “Regeneration” is a fairly short book, too; the edition I have is 250 pages.

      Re “Huckleberry Finn,” well, sometimes it takes a while to get to certain classics. I’ve read plenty of classics years after I should have! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Resa! As I also mentioned to Becky Ross Michael elsewhere in this comments area, I first saw the clip at the Twain house/museum about 15 years ago, and was amazed that it existed. One doesn’t often see film footage of people born as far back at 1835. (Well, there IS late-in-life footage of the 1828-born Tolstoy that can be seen on YouTube. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      Liked by 1 person

        • True! Photography didn’t really become “a thing” until the 1840s or so. And certainly not widespread for a while after that. And film footage not until the late 1800s.

          Yes, photos and videos today are not exactly scarce. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Like

          • I believe still photos were quite common by about the time of the U.S. Civil War. I’ve seen quite a few photos of the leading historical figures of that period, Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Frederick Douglass, Sherman etc. However the photos of that period did not seem to be able to capture motion, no photos of a horse running etc.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I agree, Tony, that photography was fairly widespread by the U.S. Civil War yet the images were still kind of static at that time. And, yes, many mid-19th-century leaders were captured in photos. I remember reading that the first U.S. president photographed was John Quincy Adams, though that was after he left the White House and was serving as a U.S. senator.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay!
    I’ve read both of these authors. I say that with great pride on this blog.
    Let me not digress!
    So, growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, all of Montgomery’s books were on the agenda.
    Memory – I was 11 years old, and had borrowed an Anne book from our local library, which was a couple of miles away.
    I was hoarding the book, did not want to return it.
    It was the last day to return without a fine. My parents would not pay the fine, so I had to get it back before the library closed at 6.
    Of course it got dark at 4:00 pm and we were having a blizzard.
    I had minor frostbite when I returned home. That was my parents way of teaching me.
    Later in life I worked on (as a seamstress) Jane of Lantern Hill & Road to Avonelea. (Based on:The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Chronicles of Avonlea, Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery) I did get a tail credit on “Road to Avonlea)

    So, in Jr. High our school put on an Operetta. It was a Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer story. I auditioned for all the parts, but I was not a good singer. (was told to mouth it when the choir went to competition).
    They had no choice. They gave me the role of Aunt Polly. I still remember the opening lines to the song. ๐ŸŽผ Tom, Tom, you drive me to desperation, Tom Tom you’ll be my ruination ๐ŸŽผ
    No one clapped.

    Anyway, I also was given the part of a skeleton rising out of the graveyard.
    One of the teachers helped me make my costume.
    STANDING OVATION!
    Young children were crying, terrified. Adults could not laugh hard enough.

    Ahh, Dave! thanks for the memories!
    Hey, you asked for it! ๐Ÿ˜‚
    Thank you, dear Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa, for the vivid and ultra-enjoyable comment!

      Glad you’ve had experience with the works of both L.M. Montgomery and Mark Twain, whether via the printed page or via adaptations.

      Playing a skeleton rising out of a graveyard — wow, that’s a life (death?) highlight!!! And what a story about returning that “Anne” book just in time, in awful weather.

      In the pantheon of Canadian authors, Montgomery has to be way up there — and deservedly so!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When my grandfather died, I was about eight. Among the items that came down to me after was a many-volumed set of Mark Twain’s works published in the 1930’s, sold as ‘complete’ and including even after-dinner speeches. But there was no autobiography nor “Letters From the Earth” among them, these having been withheld from publication, I think, by provisions in Twain’s will. By the time I was 18, I’d read everything in the set, save the speeches. I don’t think I’ve read as much by any one author since. And I don’t think there are many writers who can compare with him as a humorist, especially when he was ‘kidding on the square.’ He and Lincoln might be the two best writers of 19th century American English who had no benefit of college.

    But modern eyes and sensibilities must also note that Twain, in his late years, had what today would be seen by many as an over-developed taste for the company of young girls, as is more or less harmlessly apparent in his appreciation of Carroll’s Alice (theirs another disquieting relationship) and Montgomery’s Anne.

    โ€œAs for me,โ€ Twain wrote at the age of seventy-three, โ€œI collect pets: young girlsโ€”girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocentโ€”dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.โ€

    He gathered several with whom he surrounded himself, referring to them as his “angelfish”. I cling to the hope that appearances notwithstanding, there was nothing beyond appearances that would condemn him. However, his angel-fish antics, such as they were, came to an abrupt end because his daughter Clara, returning from a tour of Europe, put a stop to them.

    https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/28/mark-twains-disturbing-passion-for-collecting-young-girls/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, jhNY, for the comment and the link.

      Wow — I had no idea about Twain and young girls late in his life. I’ve read a large biography of Twain, and that was not mentioned. Maybe it was all harmless, or maybe not, but it does make a person feel uneasy.

      As for Twain’s writing, yes, few could compare with him as a humorist. His nonfiction travel book “The Innocents Abroad” is literally one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, as are large parts of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and his short stories such as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

      Like

  7. Thank you Dave for your shoutout to Milestone on OnTheRoadBookClub!

    I watched the Mark Twain video several times and placed myself beside him as he walked about his home. I wanted to say thank you to him for the many hours of reading pleasure he gave me over the years. I still use his โ€œpaint the fenceโ€ strategy because it still works. When you involve and excite the imagination, a difficult project because interesting. Set your standards so that every one wants to be on your team.

    As for LM Montgomery, what gifts she gave to us – the permission to be an outlier, the reminder that there are many kindred spirits, and the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

    You asked if there was anything youโ€™d like to say about Twain and/or Montgomery. That had me thinking over night – you always give me something to think about, Dave!

    My gratitude for these writers was amplified when I went back into their personal history. Both had serious mental health issues and yet they continue to write. Despite personal tragedies and difficult moments, they persevered and wrote with conviction and dedication. In their pain, they offered us stories filled with humour, joy hope, philosophy, even as they allowed us to experience grief and longing.

    I have read that Mark Twain’s brilliant book Huckleberry Finn might have had its roots in his tendency to depression. โ€œRight is right, and wrong is wrong,โ€ was my greatest takeaway.

    In a February 2020 article, Macleans magazine wrote this: โ€œDiaries show the disastrous extent of the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ authorโ€™s addiction to prescription drugs, as well as parallels to our modern-day opioid crisisโ€
    https://www.macleans.ca/society/health/lucy-maud-montgomerys-secret-drug-addiction/

    So my gratitude goes out to Mark Twain and LM Montgomery and all those who have chosen to be a writer. Thank you for spending hours researching, writing, and bringing stories to life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rebecca, for the wide-ranging, eloquent, and very compelling comment! And you’re very welcome for the link to one of your always-terrific blog posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The link that you posted is a real eye-opener. I didn’t realize the extent of L.M. Montgomery’s dependence on drugs. She did indeed have a partly troubled life, as did Twain — with the death of his wife and all but one of his children while he was still alive, his financial difficulties in the 1890s, etc.

      Beautiful quote about Montgomery giving readers “the permission to be an outlier, the reminder that there are many kindred spirits, and the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.” She also didn’t shy away from depicting life’s difficulties — making for a potent combination of optimism and realism in her writing.

      That 112-year-old footage of Twain is indeed mesmerizing. And, yes, there are important lessons to be learned from the famous whitewashing-the-fence scene in “Tom Sawyer”!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I see that I must have completely missed L.M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables and thank you very much, Dave for have spoken about her:) When I read “The adventures of Huckleberry Finn” I thought it very interesting to concentrate on his various groups of LIES.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Happy belated birthday to these two authors! I have read only two of the Montgomery books – ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Anne of Avonlee’. This was way back in my teens, but I do remember enjoying them very much. As ever there’s a new addition to the TBR pile and ‘Rilla of Ingleside’ sounds great.
    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Mark Twain, so the only thing I can add to this is that a ‘Mark Twain’ is a nautical term for two fathoms.
    I’m glad you’ve got to ‘Regeneration’. Robbie’s review was incredibly detailed and brought back many things I’d completely forgotten about!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Sarah, for the comment and for recommending “Regeneration”! And I agree that Robbie wrote quite a review of that novel.

      “Anne of Green Gables” is indeed a thoroughly enjoyable read (and reread), and all the sequels (seven or so?) range from good to excellent — with “Rilla” one of the best. But I think the original “Anne of Green Gables” is the best of the lot.

      Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) definitely had one of the best pen names ever! I hope you get to read one of his works at some point.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Dave, thank you for the lovely shout out for my review of Regeneration. I am so pleased you enjoyed my review and appreciated this book. I have to thank Sarah for recommending it to me here on your blog. I loved L.M. Montgomery as a girl and Emily of New Moon was my favourite series. Emily and her poet father are the reason I started trying to write myself as a young girl. I also read all of the Anne books, but I didn’t remember Rilla of Ingleside being about WW1. I have just gone over to Amazon and purchased it to re-read. I also loved Tom Sawyer and remember Tom and Becky being lost in the caves very vividly. I remember Huck hiding on the island to escape this abusive father. There are bits of Huck’s story that reminded me strongly of Tom from The Waterbabies and how he tries to escape his abusive master. Thank you for this post about two marvelous authors.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’re very welcome, Robbie, and thank YOU for the wonderful review of my literary-trivia book I saw today on your blog! Much appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m really glad Sarah mentioned “Regeneration” a while ago, and was happy to credit her, you, and Martina Ramsauer in yesterday’s first comment under this blog post.

      Great that you’ve read L.M. Montgomery! And I agree that the semi-autobiographical “Emily” trilogy is superb — one of the best fictional works about trying to become a writer (I also include Jack London’s compelling novel “Martin Eden” in that group). Lucy Maud (Montgomery)/Emily certainly had an even harder challenge as females trying to become writers more than a century ago. Fantastic that Emily was an inspiration for your own impressive writing career!

      “Rilla of Ingleside” is mostly set on the “home front” in Canada but has a strong WWI theme with important characters fighting in Europe, and a focus on how the adult Anne and others back home reacted to that.

      Yes, SO many vivid scenes in “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.” I reread those “Tom Sawyer” cave chapters countless times as a kid!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I was a big reader as a young girl, Dave. My parents and teacher were strict so I could only take books from the children’s library until I was 12. I read just about everything they had on offer. I read all these same books to my sons plus a few I never read. Greg asked me once why I didn’t read one book in a series and I told him that our library didn’t have that one. I have all these books in my home library as box sets. I am looking forward to re-reading Rilla of Ingleside and will let you know what I think of it. My favourite part of Tom Sawyer was actually when he got all the kids to pay him to whitewash the wall. What a clever scoundrel he was.

        Liked by 2 people

        • A “clever scoundrel” — perfect description of Tom Sawyer! That whitewashing-the-fence scene is SO iconic!

          Sorry you could only use the children’s library until age 12, but you certainly took maximum advantage! And passed the love of reading to your children. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also spent a LOT of time in the library as a kid, though I tended to read biographies and sports books more than novels until my teen years. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 2 people

  11. One of the most surprising facts about Mark Twain that I did not know until several years ago was how much he admired Joan of Arc. He always insisted that his novel on Joan was his best work. It is surprising because Twain seemed to be a religious skeptic and he was not favorable to the Catholic Church.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Tony!

      A surprising fact indeed, and, like you, I’ve heard that Twain considered “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” his best and favorite work. It IS an excellent book. A Twain biography I read 10 or so years ago said he spent a very long time researching Joan of Arc’s life.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, discoveringthebluehour!

      I appreciate the kind comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you’re a fan of both authors! I think L.M. Montgomery is a bit underrated. “Anne of Green Gables” has of course always been popular, but, as you know, Montgomery has a deep canon of other excellent novels.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I never read anything of Montgomery’s. I’m not sure why. She just never crossed my reading path, I guess. I do remember “Life on the Mississippi” making for a very enjoyable study session for a final exam in college.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Lol, just saw your post as I came onto start ona new blog. The only thin I’d like to say is I adore them both. Yes there’s times their characters get annoying but show me someone who isn’t. They were wonderful writers who made childhood a special place to be. Regeneration is indeed quite a book in terms of what it tackles.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Shehanne! A coincidence. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, Twain and Montgomery were terrific authors. I really like your phrase “made childhood a special place to be.”

      And, yes, Tom Sawyer, especially, could be annoying — particularly in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” As for Anne Shirley, I was a bit disappointed that she became rather conventional as an older adult in the later sequels, but I loved when she was a very unique teen and young adult.

      “Regeneration” is indeed an intensely compelling novel. I hope to finish it during the next couple days.

      Liked by 3 people

      • The young Anne was such fun. Totally unique but yeah, she was not a unique adult. And Tom was annoying in Huckleberry Finn but he did make laugh in Tom Sawyer. Thank you for the kind comment. I liked Regeneration because I never knew paternal my grandfather. he died when I was a baby. But I gather he was totally unhinged by his experiences in WW1, which he ran away to in the first place. And like that these men who did survive were given no help, no anything but just sent back to their families. So that book is a window on that time.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Anne was fun indeed until she became a bit vanilla later in life. And Tom Sawyer in ‘Tom Sawyer” was an interesting, at-times-admirable “bad boy.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Or mischievous, at least.

          Very sorry about what happened to your grandfather. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Pointless, horrific war experiences can do that even to the psychologically healthiest people, and the “treatment” is often nonexistent, as you note, or harmful — including “treatment” designed to get people “healthy” enough to be sent back to the front. I can see how “Regeneration” would be especially compelling to you.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Absolutely spot on re Tom. I mean you could see that when it came to real poverty etc, that was Huck, not Tom. But he was a sort of mischievous character in Tom Sawyer and you could relate to that. You are so right re that war. He was at the front four years, latterly as a driver rather than a gunner because he had been wounded. By the time he wa s27 there was really nowhere in life to go in a way. he’d fought a war, he’d seen horrific things, he’d lost a wife, children,, been left with four wee ones round his feet. And he was always the family black sheep so I guess the fact he had to cast himself on their mercy would not have come easy. He suffered badly all his days from shell shock.

            Liked by 3 people

            • You’re right, Shehanne — Tom and Huck were definitely in different economic situations. It sure didn’t help that Huck’s father was an impoverished alcoholic.

              What a hugely difficult and mostly luckless life your grandfather had. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Some people just never get a break. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Those in power who start wars (and of course rarely fight in them themselves) leave so much destruction and misery in their wake.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thank you Roberta, that is very kind. I would say, despite not knowing him and going from the bits I do know, given to me by those who did know him, it definitely destroyed his and consequently it made my dad’s very hard. I take my hat off to him, despite the loveless and abused childhood and young adult hood he endured, that he was a good and loving dad and the sort of person, despite being very difficult at times, who, if he could do a kindness for someone, would. x

                Liked by 2 people

                  • It was Dave. The thing was his father took him and the two sisters back from the grandparents when he remarried, the older brother and another sister refused point blank to go. Well, I guess his life might have been different but then he’d not ahve met my mum.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I mean let’s be clear I understand the grandparents had their faults too. In fact he once told me he got the hiding of his life off the grandfather when his brother found and fired this ww1 issue gun at this apparently portrait of the grandfather that was so magical the bullets just vanished . And indeed they were, into the wall, which is where he probably wished he could follow when the brother said it was him that had done it. But he could speak of that incident, kind of joke about it. It was other family members who told about all that went on at the hands of his father and step mum.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • LOL. The thing is this grandfather had been the coachman to some fancy-ancy lord who was the ambassador to the French and German courts. And him and the wife ran this fancy big house down on the front here for ‘refeened gentle-ladies.’ So I think they were sort of ‘poash’ and when they took those kids in who would have been little better than scruffs, they were not that young either. SO I can imagine him going tits re the desecration of this fancy portrait of him with his bonnie handlebar moustache and all. Then there’s the idea that that gun and the bullets which will have come from one of the six sons, all of whom were at the front, was just lying in the attic. .

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • You might say Dave. There’s a story there I’ve never quite gotten to the bottom of. Then there’s the fact that that grandfather’s swearing in german caused him to arrested during ww1, despite the fact hre had 6 sons at the front. So yeah.

                      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s