All I really need to know, I learned from Anne of Green Gables

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a huge Anne fan. Which is to say, I’m a huge Lucy Maud Montgomery fan. And I have loved Maud’s work for as long as I’ve been reading books.

Now that I’m a professional writer myself, my respect for L.M. Montgomery has only grown. Her particular, unmistakable way with words—the apparent ease with with she wielded language—always leaves me in awe, no matter how many times I re-read her work.

Maud's laudable skill won for her what all writers dream of, but so few manage to attain: immortality. Most members of the tribe of authors (sad to say) won’t exist beyond our own lifetimes. We do our best, but not every mortal penjockey is graced as Maud Montgomery was, with a deep, true understanding of character (which is born of a deep, true understanding of one’s fellow men and women); with a keen eye for those modes of story which resonate across generations, decades, and even centuries; with a natural feel for the rhythm and harmonics of language—that special charm that infuses her words and makes her prose so very bright and lively.

As a reader, I simply can’t get enough of her stories. When I read the works of her contemporaries, I usually don’t enjoy them much. They feel too saccharine or too preachy by today’s standards. But L.M. Montgomery’s works never feel anything but welcome and relevant, comforting and inspiring, no matter how many times I revisit those dear, wonderful stories.

One of the things I love best about her immortal works are the many gems of simple, no-nonsense wisdom and just-plain good advice they contain. With that in mind, I present some of my favorite life lessons from Montgomery’s four most popular Anne books, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne’s House of Dreams. Some of these speak directly to fellow writers, but most of them speak to us all, regardless of our interests or occupations. In some cases I paraphrase a little, but these quotes showcase much of the wonderful wisdom that Anne Shirley – and the other characters of Montgomery’s sweet, idyllic P.E.I. – have to offer.

Enjoy, my kindred spirits and bosom friends!

An original cover painting for  Anne of Green Gables .

An original cover painting for Anne of Green Gables.


On Imagination

Even when you’re alone, you have real good company—dreams and imaginations and pretendings. Anne’s House of Dreams

When you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile. Anne of Green Gables

What is an imagination for, if not to enable you to peep at life through other people’s eyes? Anne of Avonlea

There is one consolation when you are poor: there are so many more things you can imagine about. Anne of Green Gables

Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything. There’d be no scope for the imagination then. Anne of Green Gables

If it wasn’t for our dreams, they might as well bury us. Anne’s House of Dreams

On Writing

You can learn to write well if you train yourself to be your own severest critic. Anne of Green Gables

Your characters will do and say things you never meant them to. Then that spoils everything that went before, and you have to write it all over again. Anne of the Island

If you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them. Anne of Green Gables

What is the reason that exquisite pain seems inseparable from perfection? Is it the pain of finality—when we realize that there can be nothing beyond but retrogression? Anne’s House of Dreams

The point of good writing is to know when to stop. Anne’s House of Dreams

Fancies are like shadows. You can’t cage them; they’re such wayward, dancing things. Anne of Avonlea

Things are so mixed up in real life. They aren’t clear-cut and trimmed off, as they are in novels. Anne of the Island

Lines and verses are only the outward garments of a poem. The real poem is the soul within the words. Anne of Avonlea

Reading stories is bad enough, but writing them is worse. Anne of Green Gables

Silence is threaded through with many little silvery sounds, which you can year if you hearken as much with your soul as with your ears. Anne of the Island

Somehow, things never are so good when they’re thought out a second time. Anne of Green Gables

Those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and the natures which enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply. Anne of the Island

Write of people and places like you know, and make your characters speak everyday English, and let the sun rise and set in its usual quiet way without much fuss over the fact. If you have villains at all, give them a chance. Most people have a little decency somewhere in them. Anne of the Island

It’s so much more romantic to end a story with a funeral than a wedding. Anne of Green Gables

On Personal Betterment

It’s lovely to be going home and know it’s home. Anne of Green Gables

Half of your chocolates will taste twice as sweet if you give some to your bosom friend. Anne of Green Gables

Never saying anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings may be a negative talent, but likewise a rare and enviable one. Anne’s House of Dreams

It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven. Anne of Green Gables

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as one might think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them. Anne of Green Gables

There are lots of things that never go by rule,
There’s a powerful pile o’ knowledge
That you never get at college,
There are heaps of things you never learn at school.
Anne of the Island

Just as soon as you attain one ambition, you see another one glittering higher up still. Anne of Green Gables

Be prepared for the best. It’s just as likely to happen as the worst. Anne of Avonlea

Changes come all the time. Just as soon as things get really nice, they change. Anne’s House of Dreams

Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing. Anne of Green Gables

It does people good to have to do things they don’t like…in moderation. Anne of Avonlea

Good advice is apt to be hard to follow. Anne of Green Gables

There’s such a difference between saying a thing yourself and hearing other people say it. You may know a thing is so, but you can’t help hoping other people don’t quite think it is. Anne of Green Gables

Look your duty courageously in the face, and you’ll find it a friend. Duty ever is, when you meet it frankly. Anne of Green Gables

When somebody dares you to walk a ridgepole, stay on good firm ground and let them dare away. Anne of Green Gables

Never do the same naughty thing twice. Anne of Green Gables

One can’t get over the habit of being a little girl all at once. Anne of Avonlea

Give life your best, and it will give its best to you in return. Anne of Green Gables

Whenever you look forward to anything pleasant, you’re sure to be more or less disappointed. But there’s a good side to it, too. The bad things don’t always come up to your expectations, either. They nearly always turn out ever so much better than you think. Anne of Avonlea

There is some good in every person, if you can find it. Anne of Avonlea

We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. Anne of Avonlea

It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable. Anne of Green Gables

Your actions beautify your name, even if the name itself wasn’t beautiful to begin with. Anne of Avonlea

We should never make uncharitable speeches, but they do slip out so often before you think. Anne of Green Gables

Our lives are broad or narrow according to what we put into them, not what we get out. Anne of Avonlea

The nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string. Anne of Avonlea

If Providence placed freckles on your nose, it is your bounden duty to leave them there. Anne of Avonlea

Anybody is liable to rheumatism in her legs, but only old people should have rheumatism in their souls. When you get rheumatism in your soul, you might as well go and pick out your coffin. Anne of the Island

The bend in the road has a fascination of its own. There’s no telling how the road beyond it goes—what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows—what new landscapes—what new beauties—what curves and hills and valleys further on. Anne of Green Gables

If you can’t thine like an electric thtar, thine like a candlethtick. Anne of the Island

There is so much in the world for us all, if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves. Anne of the Island

There’s such a lot of different Annes in you. Anne of Green Gables

Humor is the spiciest condiment in the feast of existence. Laugh at your mistakes, but learn from them. Joke over your troubles, but gather strength from them. Make a jest of your difficulties, but overcome them. Anne of the Island

The Fun and the Frivolous

One can dream so much better in a room where there are pretty things. Anne of Green Gables

I do know my own mind. The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again. Anne of the Island

Bright red drinks taste twice as good as any other color. Anne of Green Gables

It’s really hard to get up a good artistic groan. Anne of Green Gables

Don’t give your word of honor about cows. Anne of Avonlea

It’s always wrong to do anything you can’t tell the minister’s wife. Anne of Green Gables

Smell the contents of the vanilla bottle before you add it to your cake. Anne of Green Gables

Plum puffs won’t minister to a mind diseased. Anne of Avonlea

You couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the sea any more if you had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. Anne of Green Gables

Be sure there aren’t firecrackers in a parcel before you throw it into the stove. Anne of Avonlea

It’s a pretty good world, after all. Anne of Avonlea

On Sorrows

You can enjoy life’s disagreeable things, too. It’s great fun thinking they can’t last. Anne’s House of Dreams

Willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy. Anne’s House of Dreams

The worst part of growing up is this: the things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them. Anne of Green Gables

One can’t stay sad very long in such an interesting world. Anne of Green Gables

If we’ve got anything about us that hurts, we shrink from anyone’s touch on or near it. That holds good for our souls as well as our bodies. Anne’s House of Dreams

There is a Book of Revelation in everyone’s life. Anne of the Island

There are so many unpleasant things in the world already that there is no use imagining any more. Anne of Avonlea

There’s always a piece of unfinished work left. But there’s always someone to finish it. Anne of the Island

On Romance

Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything. Anne of Green Gables

I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked, but wouldn’t. Anne of the Island

It’s really wonderful what you can do when you’re truly anxious to please a certain person. Anne of Green Gables

A broken heart in real life isn’t half as dreadful as it is in books. It’s a good deal like a bad tooth. Anne of Avonlea

Sunbursts and marble halls may be all very well, but there is more scope for the imagination without them. Anne of the Island

Home must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars. Anne of the Island

Things seen pass away, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Anne of the Island

On Life's Unpleasantries

No use in taking a cat’s opinion of a dog. Anne’s House of Dreams

When people say it is their duty to tell you a certain thing, you may prepare for something disagreeable. Anne of Avonlea

Human nature is not obliged to be consistent. Anne’s House of Dreams

There are so many things in life we cannot do because of the fear of what Mrs. Harmon Andrews would say. Anne’s House of Dreams

You’re never safe from being surprised till you’re dead. Anne of Avonlea

It is better to give pie to your own men than to strangers, who may be only seeking to devour. Anne’s House of Dreams

Pigs may whistle, but they’ve got poor mouths for it. Anne’s House of Dreams

Mrs. Boulter’s crude vulgarity of thought and speech cannot harm you. Anne of the Island

It takes all sorts of people to make a world, but there might be a few who could be spared. Anne of Avonlea

The little things in life often make more trouble than the big things. Anne of Avonlea

And of course...

Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet. Anne of Green Gables


I hope you’ve enjoyed my favorite tidbits of wisdom from L.M. Montgomery’s most popular books. Like Maud, I’m a professional author—that means I pay all my bills with my pen (or my keyboard, I guess I should say.) I’d love it if you’d check out my books, and if any of them catches your interest, purchase it and give it a read. You can find Libbie Hawker titles wherever you like to buy your books—or you can go directly to my Amazon author page to find a complete listing. Not sure what to read first? You might like Tidewater, my novel about Pocahontas. Thanks for reading!        –Libbie Hawker