|A Writer's Visual Imagination|
Elements that Inspired L.M. Montgomery's Stories
When Montgomery described her way of seeing, she talked in terms of "pictures." She recalled, as pictures, the vivid summer of 1883 when the Captain from the wrecked ship the Marco Polo stayed at the Macneill place in Cavendish and heaped its parlor table with gold to pay the crew. She remembered, as pictures, the rapidly passing colors on her first train trip out west in 1890 to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to visit her father. Perhaps she described the images in her mind as pictures because she herself was also a photographer.
When Montgomery wrote Emily of New Moon (1923), her literary autobiography, she described at the outset of the book Emily's way of seeing. Emily goes for a walk and experiences "the flash," a moment when the veil of this world is lifted aside and she glimpses perfect beauty beyond. She then hurries home so she can capture her vision in words "before the memory picture of what she had seen grew a little blurred" (8). The phrase "memory picture" suggests how Montgomery thought about the way she herself saw, collected, and re-created images in her scrapbooks, photographs, and in her writing.
Some of the images in the scrapbooks may have served to inspire Montgomery's later descriptions--or they may have been collected because they reminded her of things she was already creating. Either way, some of the scrapbook pictures and book covers invite our consideration of the way Montgomery used images.
The first-edition book cover of Emily
of New Moon urges much thought. The illustrator M.L. Kirk has, very
sensitively, captured Emily's moment of "the flash," and shows her rapt,
imaginative expression. Notice the ghost-like outline of Emily's imagined
Wind Woman and the bright colors Montgomery herself no doubt welcomed.
The cover suggests that Emily is powerfully creative in her way of seeing.
Unfortunately, the picture is printed on the book cover so that the moon
is actually an old one, with its slender, curved back to the left and
not a new one, with its curve on the right. Montgomery had noticed the
problem immediately (SJ,III,147). In her early scrapbooks she has
several examples of this reversed new moon, that no doubt amused her,