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A prince of an island.

Anne Shirley ("That's Anne with an 'e,' please"), a freckle-faced, red-haired, imaginative dynamo fictionalized by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is a character who became so real in the mind of the reader that the lives of the creator and the creation merged.

Maud, as she preferred to be called, wrote Anne of Green Gables in 1905, but five publishers rejected the manuscript before L. C. Page of Boston accepted it in 1908. The setting, her native Prince Edward Island, Canada, became and continues to be a magnet for succeeding generations of fans who come in search of the imaginary Avonlea community and its heartwarming inhabitants.

Five more books followed in the Green Gables series revolving around the impetuous orphan that Mark Twain called "the sweetest creation of child life yet written."

Maud based her stories on reality, and many of her characters and locations came from actual experiences. As we traveled the peaceful country roads of the Cavendish area, we began to appreciate how indelibly Maud and Anne had left their impression on this island in the northeast Atlantic Maritimes.

Anyone able to claim a kinship to Maud does so with great relish. Cousins and great-grand this-or-thats trot themselves out for visitors to fuss over--as though the late author's inspiration and talents were transferable. Many sites have been restored and opened to the public, and craft shops feature Anne dolls, assorted Montgomery books, and video tapes of a recent and highly successful Anne PBS film, In Charlottetown, the capital of the island, a musical.. version of the book has been playing to sell'-out audiences for a quarter of a century. Seldom have we seen such an impact.

Green Gables House was one of Maud's favorite places as a child, and she went there often to visit her elderly cousins David and Margaret Macneill. She chose it, for the setting of her book, and loosely based Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the fictional brother and sister who, adopt Anne, on her cousins. By 1909, visitors were already coming to see Green Gables and to walk down Anne's special haunt, "lover's lane." That distressed Maud, because it was also her special place--even though it was merely a dirt and gravel cow path.

In 1920 Green Gables became a tourist home, but in 1936 the park service purchased. it and the surrounding land.. Rooms have been restored in keeping with the, story, and the white shingled house with green roof, gables, and trim his not changed much over the years..

Located in the western end, of Prince Edward Island National Park (one of the most visited parks in Canada), the house had 300,000 guests walk through its familiar rooms last year.

Tracing Maud's life chronologically, we first stopped at her birthplace home in nearby Clifton Corner. The small, two-floor cottage, overlooking New London Harbor, has a display of scrapbooks, picture albums, her. wedding outfit, and various memorabilia. While reading news clippings we learned that Maud believed in reincarnation., thought cats had- souls-, and considered herself a storyteller rather than an author. She was not like the buoyant Anne, but a person of great emotional peaks and valleys who weathered many storms in her personal life.

She was born here in an upstairs bedroom in 1875. Twenty-one months later, after the death of her mother, Clara Macneill Montgomery, she was taken to live with her maternal grandparents on their Cavendish farm.

Sadly, only the stone foundation of the cozy farmhouse that Maud wrote of so lovingly remains. In the bookshop on the grounds, her distant cousin John Macneill and his wife Jennie keep a photo of the farm as it used to look, and share their recollections with those who come to visit.

Maud wrote, "I shall always be grateful that my childhood was passed in a spot where there were many trees ... old ancestral trees, planted and tended by hands long dead, bound up with everything of joy and sorrow that visited the lives in their shadow." The grounds are exquisitely peaceful, and you can still hear the same rustling of the leaves and smell the sweet scent of her favorite apple tree, now gnarled and hollowed out, but continuing to bear fruit. Maud's heart must have broken when she left the farm after her grandmother's death in 1911.

Following in Maud's footsteps, we went to the nearby Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush Home in Park Corner. It was here she came to visit her Aunt Annie Campbell' and cousin Fredericka, her best friend and the model for Diana in the best-selling series. The Campbell pond soon became the Lake of Shining Waters, where many adventures. took place.

George Campbell, Fredericka's great-grandson, operates the museum and the Shining Waters Tea Room and Craft Shop. The museum is filled with family treasures and many autographed first editions. In the kitchen sits the blue chest that was the inspiration for The Story Girl. Maud was married here on July 5, 1911, at the age of 36 to Presbyterian minister Ewan Macdonald, and returned often over the years with her family. She wrote, "I love the old spot better than any other place on earth."

Maud's books enjoy worldwide popularity and have been translated into many languages. She is especially revered in Japan, and the Japanese arrive in droves to see for themselves the pictures she painted with words. Campbell told of a Japanese college girl who was determined to visit Prince Edward Island before she returned to her country. She arrived in Charlottetown in the dead of winter, and not realizing the distance, decided to walk to Cavendish. How she made it no one knows, but she finally arrived cold and exhausted, only to find the sites closed. The friendly locals took the disappointed girl in, showed her about, then drove her back to town. They are now trying to arrange for her to return and see the place at its best.

Throughout the central section of the island, dotted by scenic bays, sand dunes, and idyllic harbor villages such as Bideford, Lower Bedeque, and Malpeque Bay, you can drive past and sometimes tour other significant places in Maud's life. The school where she taught, churches she attended, homes, and a parsonage where she boarded, all recall similar occasions in Anne's growing-up years. Is it any wonder fans can't keep the real person and the fictional character apart?

Few visitors come to the island without being touched by Maud and Anne in some way. After a while it is hard to keep in perspective that the books are fiction, as Anne has become almost larger than life itself. Yet it wouldn't be much of a shock to see the pigtailed young lady come racing around the corner.

When Maud died in Toronto in 19411, at the age of 67, she had written it total of 23 books, including a biography. She also left behind journals which have only recently been published), and many lengthy letters written to fans and friends that continue to reveal her love for the fishing and farming island where she was born and raised. She was returned to Prince Edward Island to lie in state at Green Gables House before being buried alongside her many relatives in Cavendish Community Cemetery. The memorial arch above the entrance proclaims it to be the "Resting Place of L.M. Montgomery." A bed of geraniums, candy tuft, and ivy covers the grave. Often tucked in around the headstone are small bouquets left by loving fans.

Prince Edward Island has remained just as peaceful and unspoiled as it was in Maud's lifetime. Visitors can still experience the same friendly, unhurried, and secure feeling that Anne did as she roamed its lanes and byways.

Thousands of years ago the Micmac Indians named the island Abegweit, meaning "cradled in the waves," and cradled it is in the mild Gulf of St. Lawrence waters.

The island perimeter is a patchwork of provincial and national parks that encompasses long, sandy beaches (fabulous for summer swimming), jagged cliffs, and drifting sand dunes, anchored by waving Marrom grass. Picturesque fishing villages and lighthouses dot the coast, and dramatic seascapes seem to go on forever. The salty smell of the ocean floats in the air. Gently rolling hills covered in clover, potatoes, and grain blanket the island's interior. Wildflowers dapple the roadsides, and on almost every knoll are a neat farmhouse and barn surrounded by wide open spaces. Red clay soil, rich in iron, produces fertile fields, pastures sprinkled with contented herds of dairy and beef cattle, and large stands of spruce, poplar, and fir trees. It is a wonderful place to unwind, sightsee, and sample the traditions and varied cuisines of its French, Irish, Scotch, and English communities.

Scenic drive maps will guide you on day trips to places such as Region Evangeline where the flavor and history of French Acadia remain, or to Dalvay-by-the-sea, where Irish Seisiuns (say-shoons) feature Celtic music, storytelling, and dancing by local leprechauns. Don't miss the family-style lobster supper dished up by the island housewives.

We stopped in at the New Glasgow recreation center, on the banks of the Clyde River (only five miles from Cavendish) to feast on all-you-can-cat chowder, salads, fresh lobster, homemade bread, and pies. There are a number of lobster supper places all over Prince Edward Island. A nice place to satisfy your sweet tooth is the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, also in New Glasgow. Scotsman Bruce McNaughton, dressed in his clan kilt, is there to greet and seat you.

In the southeast corner you can step back into restored 19th century island life at Orwell Farms Historic Village, or go on a whale watching cruise on the Montague River.

Be sure to spend some time in Charlottetown, the birthplace of Canada. The town dates back to 1855 and was originally named for Queen Charlotte, but came to be known as "Irish town" for its large Irish population. It was here the Fathers of Confederation came in 1864 to begin talks on a united Canada. Province House, where the delegates met, is now a National Historic Site operated by the Canadian Parks Service and open to the public. It continues to be the legislative building for Prince Edward Island. Walking tours of Charlottetown are available, as are bus tours of the city and the island.

It is only fitting we end this article with a quotation from Maud that truly captures her deep feeling for her beloved island. She wrote:

"Peace! You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields or along the winding red roads of Abegweit on a summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old, old stars are peeping out and the sea keeps its nightly tryst with the little land it loves. You find your soul then. You realize that youth is not a vanished thing, but something that dwells forever in the heart. And you look around on the dimming landscape of haunted hills and long white sand beaches and murmuring ocean, on homestead lights and the old fields tilled by the dead and gone generation who lived then ... even if you are not Abegweit born, you will say, Why, I have come home.' "
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes transportation guidelines; Prince Edward Island
Author:O'Toole, Tom; O'Toole, Joanne
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Luxury travel: back on track.
Next Article:To be correct, say it isn't so.

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