One of the fascinating discoveries I made reading Urquhart’s biography was that Lucy Maud Montgomery kept scrapbooks all her life, in addition to her journals.
In the first chapter of her book, Urquhart the novelist prepares the ground for Urquhart the biographer by imagining Montgomery in her last moments, a third person narration focalized through Maud. One of the most touching passages from that chapter describes Montgomery’s thoughts about her many scrapbooks.
Suddenly she recalls a pastel dress she wore at fifteen, how it had changed her, lifted her from the ordinary. She had pasted a swatch of the material into her scrapbook, along with a lily of the valley from the path and a splinter from the steps leading to the clapboard hall where she had given the recitation. Dread moves through her veins as the page fades from memory. What has become of the book now? What has become of her desire to enshrine relics? What has become of the notion that everything in her life was charged with meaning, that the fragments she tore from experience to paste between the pages would in later life bring her joy? (3)
There are wonderful echoes here of T.S. Eliot: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
Well, the fragments pasted into scrapbooks still exist and you can look at them here. This is a page from one of her Prince Edward Island scrapbooks. This is the description from the website: “Page twenty-three of the red PEI scrapbook features a clipping of the poem “The Fringed Gentian,” which Montgomery kept near her from an early age as an inspiration for her writing. The cyanotype is one of Maud’s own early photographs. During the winter of 1903, Maud and Cavendish school teacher Nora Lefurgey, boarding at the Macneill’s, competed in collecting souvenirs. The napkin and the contents of the greeting card are some of Maud’s booty.”