What’s on the Backs of the Pages?
Elizabeth R. Epperly
For the first 15 chapters of the novel, and approximately 45 pages of the Notes, Montgomery drafted Anne on the backs (verso) of some earlier short story and poem manuscript pages. What do these verso pages themselves reveal about Montgomery’s composing and editing? Are her paper choices significant?
Some of these seemingly random, out-of-order scrap pieces were from works already published when she drafted Anne in 1905 and 1906, and other unpublished pieces were probably typed up and kept elsewhere. Some verso scrap sheets show early experiments: “A Baking of Gingersnaps” (1895) was her first published short story; she tested the pen names Maud Cavendish and Maud Eglinton. Why did she switch from scrap pages to fresh sheets?
Tracking the verso scrap pages may reveal Montgomery drafting and revising at the same time. For the first couple of hundred pages, she seemed to make Note additions while she drafted the novel. She drew from the same pile of scrap paper—made from completed stories such as “The Courting of Prissy Strong,” “Old Lady Lloyd,” “Each in His Own Tongue,” “The End of a Quarrel,” and others—to write the novel and create the Notes.
Did she simply run out of scrap paper, or did she start to revise at a different pace and in a different way?
It is intriguing that two of the longest additions to the novel occur in Chapter 16, after she also stopped using the scrap paper. Judging from the handwriting, she seemed to write quickly in this chapter, maybe using her own alpha-numeric markers so she could go back later to make the thoughtful additions she knew she wanted to make but did not want to slow down to make at the time.
In later novel manuscripts, the revelations on the verso pages can rival the story pages themselves for interest. And her choice of letters and personal notes for scrap paper then may not have been entirely accidental or random. In 1922, 14 years after the publication of Anne of Green Gables and nine other novels, Montgomery suspected she would be famous even after her death, and she was careful to keep all subsequent novel manuscripts since one day they “may have a certain value.” 1 When she finished writing Emily of New Moon in 1922, Montgomery lamented that she had not kept all of her manuscripts and vowed to keep the Emily one. All subsequent novel manuscripts have survived. Just as she wanted her posthumously published journals to tell the “real” story of her own life, so she may have intended for the verso pages of some late manuscripts to preserve revealing fragments of her private life.
Here is one puzzle yet to be solved. Almost all of the scrap manuscript pages (mostly from short stories) have numbers in the upper-left corner that scholars have not been able to explain. These numbers are separate from page numbers in the stories themselves, and in several instances, the last digits show changes in ink from the first part of the long numbers. Are they word counts of the kind that Kate Waterston discovered and identified in the margin of the Rilla of Ingleside manuscript? 2 Or do they belong to something else altogether?
Welcome to the fascinating study of Montgomery’s imagining and creating!
The Verso Pages
The verso pages can be browsed in the order in which they appear in Montgomery’s manuscript. Captions on each page identify the material from short stories and poems. You may also browse only the verso pages from the story section of the manuscript or the verso pages, in order, from the Notes section of the manuscript.
Below is a list (in order of their first known publication) of short stories and poems that appear, in part or whole, on the verso pages.3 Note that most of these stories were later published in the collection, Chronicles of Avonlea (1912).
“A Baking of Gingersnaps,” 1895
“The Hurrying of Ludovic,” 1905
“Aunt Olivia’s Beau,” 1905
“Ol’ Man Reeves’ Girl” 1905; titled “Old Man Shaw’s Girl” in Chronicles (1912)
“Pa Rudge’s Purchase,” 1906; titled “Pa Sloane’s Purchase” in Chronicles (1912)
“The End of a Quarrel,”1907
“The Courting of Prissy Strong,” 1909
“Each in His Own Tongue,” 1910
“Old Lady Lloyd,” 1910; recorded by Montgomery as “A Fairy Godmother”
“The Violet’s Spell,” 1894
“The Last Prayer,” 1894
“On the Gulf Shore,” 1895
“When the Apple-Blossoms Blow,” 1895
“Wading in the Brook,” 1898
“The Pot of Gold at the Rainbow’s End,” 1898
And here is one of those puzzling and intriguing details to be uncovered by studying the verso pages: Montgomery seems consistent in referring to “Old Man Shaw” in the scrap pages she used from “Old Man Shaw’s Girl” (even though the 1905 version of the story was published under the title “Ol’ Man Reeves’ Girl”); but on a verso page from the Notes section, we find Montgomery stroking through the name “Reeves” and writing in “Shaw.” The short story “Old Man Shaw’s Girl” was not published until years later (1912) in Chronicles of Avonlea. Was Montgomery already, in 1905 when she drafted Anne, trying to find a new home for the short story by changing the hero’s name and the title? Similarly, in the verso pages, we find only “Pa Sloane” when the original published story was “Pa Rudge’s Purchase,” and that short story was not published until 1906. “Pa Sloane’s Purchase” was, like “Old Man Shaw’s Girl,” not published until 1912 in Chronicles of Avonlea.