NOTES FROM A CONVERSATION WITH REA WILMSHURST November 28, 1995
Mary Beth Cavert (c) 1995
We began by mentioning the "Christmas Carol" aspects of LMM's stories. The publishers omitted one
story from CHRISTMAS WITH ANNE. It was called "The Pink and Gold Heart" [read it in the Lucy Maud Montgomery Album,
p. 500]. Rea was crushed when she saw it was not included because it always brought tears to her eyes. It is about a little
girl who gets a pink and gold enamel heart for Christmas and she cherishes it. She overhears the adults talking about a neighbor
who won't keep Christmas - she thinks that is dreadful so she gives him her pink and gold heart. He changes -- he joins the
church and extends his generosity to the community. McClelland and Stewart publishers left this story out because the
character used baby talk.
MS want to do another book with Anne in the title because "Anne" sells well. Rea was
thinking about a Cooking With Anne book.
The next book depends on what they insist. They reduced price on this one
for a quick Christmas seller. She isn't sure what she will decide if they want another "skimpy" little book. LMM
stories "really require more volume" - one cooking story alone was a seven-part story, serialized.
original plan was to have the next collection focus on the village, about neighbors like the two women who live side by side,
quarrel and reconcile. MS was thinking only about two more books so she was trying for a broad theme so she could fit
a lot in it. However, this Christmas book has been a "blockbuster" so MS is considering "letting me do what I want to do."
plan is to go farther afield - possible title AWAY FROM HOME -TALES OF BOARDING SCHOOL. Another idea is ALWAYS THE ROMANTIC
TALE. There are only 10 or 12 with a western theme. One is "How We Went to the Wedding" in AGAINST THE ODDS. She
would also like to try a children's theme - that is, Children's Stories, under age 10 -- there's not that much "baby talk"
Rea was given Anne by her mother when she was 11. She started to read it but thought Mrs. Lynde was
boring. A true confession! So, her mother opened the book to the "A Tempest in the School Teapot" chapter. Rea
read the book from there to the end and then started back at the beginning. After that, she read everything.
phoned her in the hospital where she is recovering from surgery to correct complications from her first round of chemotherapy
last year. In her partner's words, she has been "swatted down" by the return of the cancer and surgery but
loves all the good wishes from kindred spirits. She wants to recover well enough to finish the publication of these stories
and go to the Symposium on PEI next year  (while she was in the hospital last year, she thought of eight new titles
that begin with "A" ). She has had three incisions in her abdomen in the last year so while she is hospitalized
she does "light" reading - books she can hold up easily and which do not weigh heavily on her stomach. She likes Patricia
Wentworth, has about 50 of them. She has received fan letters from the states, Australia, Sri Lanka, Japan. She has
a bibliography of all the stories alphabetically by title, chronologically, and by magazines. She would welcome
any positive thoughts directed her way.
IN HER OWN WORDS
I first read Anne of Green Gables when I was eleven, and I have been re-reading it and L.M. Montgomery's
other novels and short stories regularly ever since. Most people read Anne, then perhaps a few other of her novels,
and go on to other things (not, of course, real Montgomery fans). But no matter what else I read, I was always re- reading
some Montgomery novel or other.
As a teen-age reader in the '50s I also knew Chronicles of Avonlea and Further
Chronicles of Avonlea, and I was delighted when The Road to Yesterday and The Doctor's Sweetheart came
out in the '70s. Forty-eight Montgomery short-stories, all very satisfying. But I was always wishing there was more. When
you really love an author's work, you want more and more.
So you can imagine how delighted I was in 1977, when visiting
Montgomery's birthplace in Clifton Corner, P.E.I., to discover a treasure trove: twelve scrapbooks into which she had pasted
360 of her published stories. I discovered later that she had written over 500 stories … not to mention over 500
poems … and, when compiling a bibliography of these stories, I found about 50 more. So, I have a collection of 400 of
her 500 stories, and since 1988, have edited seven volumes of these tales. With the publication of Christmas With Anne
and Other Holiday Tales, there are 190 more Montgomery short stories in print. I hope eventually to publish them all.
work has been a labour of love. Montgomery's stories never fail to amuse me, to enchant me, to make me weep. I have been delighted
to discover that they are as pleasurable to many of today's readers as they are to me. "
More from Rea Wilmshurst by Mary Beth Cavert (c) 1996
I first heard of Rea Wilmshurst when I ordered a copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery: A Preliminary Bibliography
at the start of my LMM book collecting days in the early 1990s. Before the bibliography was printed in 1986, Wilmshurst contributed
articles to Canadian Children's Literature, such as "L.M. Montgomery's Short Stories: A Preliminary Bibliography" in 1983.
In 1989, CCL also printed "L.M. Montgomery's use of quotations and allusions in the Anne books".
A note in this article said that a reader could contact the author and buy a copy of her index of quotations
from the rest of novels as well. I wrote to Rea in 1994 to request the index and she sent me "copy #6 of 10 printed in November
1990." I treasure it very much as a resource and tribute to her diligence, passion and intellect. I bought all her short
stories collections as soon as each one was published and wrote to tell her how much I loved them (at this time,
I don't know of any plans to continue the series).
We exchanged two notes in the spring and summer of 1994. She was terribly disappointed to have missed
the announcement of the first LMM symposium at UPEI -- she had made plans to travel to Europe and could not attend. In
July 1995, she wrote a few brief words from her summer cottage about the new Anne Christmas book she had compiled and her
6 month complete and unexpected occupation with cancer.
In November 1995, I contacted Rea to do an interview about her new collection of Christmas stories for
our holiday meeting of The L.M. Montgomery Literary Society here in Minneapolis. When I called, she was in the hospital
and we had a marvelous talk.
She was extremely pleased to have been invited by Kathy Gastle and the members of the Kindred Spirits Society
of Hamilton to present at the Norval, Ontario Christmas celebration and autograph her new book (it was the first time she
had been asked to do a signing, I believe she said)! Her illness prevented her from attending, but she reveled in the honor
and did sign books in the hospital. When the gravity of her illness became clear, I wrote a note to the Kindred Spirits e-list:
… Here is my request: "give" Rea a thought or two when you can and, if you
have enjoyed the story collections she has brought to us in the last 7 years, e-mail a response or words of encouragement
for her in care of me. I will print it and put what I get in a basket (like "Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket") and mail
it to her next week."
We sent Rea a basket full of dozens of email notes printed on colored paper and a plastic ball filled
with sand from PEI:
"We are doing nothing but thinking of you these days. We were most overawed with your work: "L.M. Montgomery's
use of quotations and allusions in the "Anne" books." We adore and admire that your devotion to your search for Lucy
Maud's short stories, and depth of love for English literature. We were amazed to realize that so many of your books
had titles that started with the letter "A" ;-)
******* We both want to thank you a million times for presenting us so many of Lucy Maud's lovely works.
You are our Santa Claus, giving us warm feelings all year around. We hope for your quick recovery, and hope see you next June
at the LMM conference on PEI. ******* Thanks to you and your hard work I (and thousands of others) have been exposed
to more of LMM's eloquent writing and wonderful characters. I, personally LOVE the compilations because they feed my hunger
for more adventures and characters to love/hate. I send you my best wishes for peace and a very speedy recovery. ***** Rea,
thank you *so* much for all the hard work and heart you have put into compiling these wonderful new LMM books. I just purchased
CHRISTMAS WITH ANNE two weeks ago and have been reading it slowly and in great enjoyment. I love the book -- it's so small
and cozy and ...*familiar*. Thank-you so much. It is hard to express in words the joy you have brought to us through all your
hard work ******* Dear Rea: I first read Maud's books when I was a pre-teen and young teen - in the late forties
and early fifties. I remember feeling a great sadness when they came to an end - or so I thought - and there were
no more of her books to which I could look forward. It was a real delight to discover the short stories, and to realize that,
thanks to you, there was still more Maud to read.
Reply from Rea Wilmshurst
December 20, 1995
I've asked a friend to e-mail my overwhelmed gratitude
to you. We got your package yesterday (I regret to say the ball had come apart) and I simply wept over all the messages
you had so carefully printed out for me on such excitingly coloured pages. … I do truly appreciate it and thank
you from the bottom of my heart. Can you circulate somehow to all the people who wrote my joy and uplift at receiving their
messages. And assure everyone that the project will continue. I have chosen my successor, and she will keep the series
going as long as the publisher will. Your many messages will help convince the publisher (if they need convincing) to
Medically--I am at home, kept comfortable with a permanent morphine drip (portable), and feeling fine for
the moment. No predictions have been made; no one really knows how fast or slowly things will progress. Having so many
unknown friends' wishes with me will surely keep the road easy.
I am the person Rea
asked to send you an e-mail message in response to the many colourful messages of support you sent her from the many Kindred
Spirits around the world. Today I am the bearer of sad news. Rea died on Friday afternoon, peacefully, with Andy, her mother
and her aunt at her side. I believe that she and Andy wrote the obituary that appears in the Toronto papers today. I am sending
it to you in the hope that you will send it to whomever you think would be interested. She was a great person and we miss
her a lot. The college is flying its flag at half mast in her memory.
WILMSHURST, Irene Rea -- Peacefully, relieved of pain and having continued
throughout her illness the deep contentments of her life, in Toronto, her native city, on Friday, March 22, 1996. Born
in 1941, Rea, is the dear daughter of Mildred and the late Harry Wilmshurst; the dear sister of J.P. and David; a
dear niece, aunt, and cousin within her large, close family; and the dear partner of Andy Silber. By her talents and devotions,
she also has other "families" mutually cherished over many years and closer than ever during the past year. Her love
of literature and her editorial acuteness made her a kindred spirit to many people, near and far, who share her belief
that preserving literature matters. For more than twenty years she assisted in producing scholarly editions of J.S.
Mill and S.T. Coleridge. Rea also recovered from obscurity hundreds of stories and poems by L.M. Montgomery; eight
volumes of the stories have been published by McClelland and Stewart. Her love of ballet and admiring affection for
many dancers, with Andy's, has enlarged her family even more. One of Rea's last gestures was to mime, with a smile on
her face, the Sugar Plum Fairy's curtain-call dedication to her, from the whole Company, of a performance of the National
Ballet of Canada's new Nutcracker. A first memorial gathering will be private, for family only. To a later celebration
of Rea's life all her friends will be invited. By love for the place and of people there, Rea has had another home
on the island of Grand Manan, N.B., where her ashes will rest in a favourite spot.
FROM THE TORONTO STAR written
by Nicolaas Van Rijn:
REA WILMSHURST FOUND AUTHOR'S SCRAPBOOKS
Rea Wilmshurst couldn't believe her eyes.
into a cardboard box, surrounded by pellets of mouse poison, were scrapbooks jammed with stories and poems written by
her childhood idol Lucy Maud Montgomery.And Ms Wilmshurst, who thought she'd read every word written by Montgomery, the
creator of the immortal Anne of Green Gables and Canada's most famous author, didn't recognize a single piece. "She
was fascinated," said longtime companion B. Anderson Silber, an associate professor of English at the University of Toronto's
Victoria College, who was with her when she made the discovery in 1977 while visiting Montgomery's birthplace, New London,
P.E.I.Ms Wilmshurst, who delighted Montgomery fans worldwide by editing the treasure trove and publishing it in eight new
collections, died of ovarian cancer Friday in the Salvation Army's Grace Hospital in Toronto after a lengthy illness. She
was 54. Born in Toronto, Ms Wilmshurst worked for a decade as a Bell Canada service representative before returning
to school and graduating from the U of T in 1971, with a degree in English.After teaching French in several public schools
in Newmarket, she returned to Toronto and worked as a freelance academic typist.The bulk of her work was as an editorial assistant
on two massive projects that produced, for the University of Toronto Press, the 33-volume Collected Works of J.S. Mill, a
19th-century political philosopher; and, for Princeton University Press, a collection of the works of poet and thinker Samuel
Taylor Coleridge.After her discovery of the Montgomery scrapbooks, Ms Wilmshurst spent years tracking down the newspapers,
magazines and other periodicals which had published - and then forgotten about - the short stories and poems.
in 1988 she published, under the McClelland and Stewart imprint, eight volumes of the collection.After they began appearing,
Ms Wilmshurst "heard from Anne fans around the world," Silber said. "Entire fan clubs from Japan, Sri Lanka, Denmark,
New Zealand wrote to thank her for uncovering a treasure trove." Ms Wilmshurst, who shared a passion for ballet with her
companion, also leaves brothers J.P. of Vancouver and David of Grimsby.