The Manuscript Montgomery Created
Elizabeth R. Epperly
Everything in the Anne of Green Gables manuscript rewards close reading. Looking at the deletions and insertions, seeing such things as where the names Laura and Gertrude are stricken through and Diana is settled on, we see Montgomery weighing the appropriateness of every word, sometimes writing quickly (with forward-slanting script and even flow of ink) and other times writing in a cramped, unevenly slanted hand that suggests hesitation and struggle.
This manuscript (more accurately called a holograph, meaning all written by the person named as author) is a stack of now-thin pages that turns out to be two bundles: 716 (numbered) pages of story and 137 pages of “Notes,” passages Montgomery would add to the manuscript when she later typed it up.
Many of the methods Montgomery used to create her first published novel 1 are ones she had developed in writing the hundreds of short stories and poems she successfully published in the 1890s and early 1900s.2 She continued to use the same planning and revising techniques for the next 19 novels published in her lifetime. Sixteen3 of the novel holographs have survived and invite study, but the Anne of Green Gables manuscript stands out for the evident pleasure Montgomery had in crafting it.
The very first paragraph introduces Montgomery’s two processes of revision: she spontaneously added, deleted, and corrected words while she wrote or when she revised, using carets and strike-throughs; and she created a system of additions involving a set of “Note” pages kept at the end of the manuscript, and, in the story text, a corresponding sequence of additions consisting of the word "Note" followed by an alphabet letter, with a number added to the letter after the full alphabet had been run through. So, after A through Z, she moved to A1, B1, and so on. The first page of Anne introduces “Note A” and “Note B.”
Never one to prize dates or numbers, Montgomery sometimes mis-numbered pages or even re-numbered them incorrectly. The total number of pages, rather than 853, is really 844 since Montgomery skipped some pages in numbering the story and the Note pages, but also added some “a” and “b” versions of single pages in both sections.4
More than 230 pages of the story manuscript, and some 50 pages of the Notes, are written on the backs (called “verso” pages) of some of Montgomery’s older story and poem manuscripts. These pages make compelling study in themselves; they also show early pen-names Montgomery tried and puzzling numbers in the margins of some stories.
Local insertions and added Notes alike reveal an artist’s eye and ear at work.