Like Anne of Green Gables, many story concepts and characters used in the series Road to Avonlea were based upon the works of L.M. Montgomery. But many of these stories were more than mere fiction and were closer to the author’s heart than some readers may know.
In Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery, by Elizabeth Waterston, it is revealed that the short story “Old Lady Lloyd” – upon which an entire episode in the first season of Road to Avonlea was based – may hold certain clues to Montgomery’s own past.
The story, from Chronicles of Avonlea, tells of an old lady (played by Zoe Caldwell in Road to Avonlea) who secretly helps a young woman who is a struggling musician, as well as the daughter of the man she used to love.
“The old lady sends flowers, sells a heritage jug, and begs for help from a hated cousin,” Waterston writes. “Happy recognition follows after the old lady takes a dangerous long walk in the rain and falls ill.”
But the story’s relation to Montgomery’s life can be found in the actions of the young girl. “In the story’s conclusion, the young artist, like Montgomery around 1898, delays her flight to the world outside in order to be a companion to the old lady.” Montgomery, at some point in writing these short stories, was the sole caregiver to her aging grandmother. In addition, one of her cousins, Tillie Mackenzie Houston, revealed to Montgomery that she was once in love with the author’s father.
“Certainly the theme of love concealed was close to Montgomery’s own experiences,” adds Waterston. “[Montgomery] had carefully hidden since 1898 her passion for Herman Leard.” Herman was a young farmer to whom Montgomery felt a strong connection, though he was vastly different from the other more intellectual and cultured men that she was attached to at different points in her life.”
According to her journals, Montgomery’s rejection of Herman was based on the fact that he was her inferior. But in actuality, Herman was engaged to another woman when Montgomery’s feelings were at their strongest. Tragically, Herman died unexpectedly in 1899 from a case of influenza. Montgomery learned the news when her grandmother read the report from the local paper.
It is suggested that the physical appearance of the character of Peter Craig, in Road to Avonlea, matches the real life Herman Leard.
To find out more about the many connections between Montgomery’s life, short stories and the episodes of Road to Avonlea, take a look at Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery.