Is Captain Jim's Lighthouse Real? Discover L.M. Montgomery's Lighthouse of Dreams
When L. M. Montgomery published Anne's House of Dreams in 1917, she was far from home.
She lived 1,675 km from Prince Edward Island. In 1911, she'd moved to Leaskdale, Ontario where her husband had accepted a position as a Presbyterian minister.
But her heart returned to Prince Edward Island in her writing. Anne's House of Dreams is infused with the author's love for the small island where she was born on November 30, 1874.
A place of winding red roads and a wealth of lighthouses, Prince Edward Island is described so lyrically in Montgomery's writing that I feel her deep connection and love of place along with her.
When she wrote this entry in her journal on June 1, 1909, she had no way of knowing she'd leave her home and Prince Edward Island within two years:
"The good hour came as I was walking home alone. Before me arched the afterlife of a glorious sea-sunset. The tall slender firs along the moist red road came out against it in a grace and beauty that made me ache for joy,..
It is at such moments that I realize how deeply rooted and strong is my love for this old place...a love of instinct and passion, blent with every fibre of my soul.
It is terrible to love things—and people—as I do!"
— The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1
Away from the Island, and going through the devastating war years, she was now far from that "good hour" when she'd walked home on an early summer evening. It was in her imagination that she returned to the sea as she penned a bittersweet story of hope and loss.
In a previous blog, I mentioned that I think Anne's House of Dreams is one of Montgomery's most deeply felt books. Reading the story again now is even more poignant. I realize the author was looking back at a time and place that was no longer there when she looked out the window in the morning.
When she went back to the Island in her imagination, she made the lighthouse, Four Winds, a place of dreams too.
When reading the book, I wondered: "Did L.M. Montgomery base the Four Winds light on a real lighthouse on Prince Edward Island?"
Part of the answer came when I walked home from work one summer day—in a very different world than Prince Edward Island. I stepped inside a Berkeley, California used bookstore (not a rare thing to happen!). There, I found the first volume of L. M. Montgomery's journals and quickly snapped it up.
Opening the cover, I saw that it was originally purchased at the Anne of Green Gables Museum on Prince Edward Island, making it an even more special "find."
Through the years, I've enjoyed browsing among the journal entries here and there. However, when I read the passage dated June 3, 1909, I had no idea until now that it was a clue about the Four Winds Lighthouse in Anne's House of Dreams.
"Away to the westward six or seven miles the view was bounded by New London Point, a long, sharp tongue of land running far out to sea.
In my childhood I never wearied of speculating what was on the other side of that point—a very realm of enchantment surely, I thought. Even when I gradually grew into the understanding that beyond it was merely another reach of shore like our own it still held a mystery and fascination for me. I longed to stand out on the remote, lonely, purple point, beyond which was the land of lost sunsets.
I have seen few more beautiful sights than a sea-sunset off that point. Of late years a new charm has been added to it—a revolving light, which as seen from here, flashes on the point in the dusk of summer nights like a beacon
'O'er the foam
Of perilous seas in fairyland forlorn.'"
The second clue comes from Anne's House of Dreams itself.
Lighthousefriends.com writes "The following description of the setting of the lighthouse, given in Chapter 9 of the book, leaves little doubt that it was based on Cape Tryon Lighthouse."
“The Four Winds light was built on a spur of red sandstone cliff jutting out into the Gulf.”
— L.M. Montgomery
Anne's House of Dreams
Although the Four Winds Lighthouse is very much its own self in the story, L. M. Montgomery based Four Winds on the location of this very real lighthouse:
Lighthousefriends.com cites an article by Carolyn Strom Collins titled "A Visit to 'Four Winds Lighthouse'" (The Shining Scroll, December 2010). I haven't seen the article yet, but I'll be looking for a copy soon.
Update — I came across the acticle, and it is filled with a wealth of L.M. Montgomery and lighthouse lore. You can find Carolyn Strom Collins's complete article here →
The model for the Four Winds Lighthouse has been purchased by a private party and moved from its original location. The lighthouse is now used as a residence in Park Corner, PEI.
In the 1960s, a new Cape Tryon Lighthouse was built, This is the one visitors see while walking along the coast in a "good hour" of their own:
Montgomery did return to Prince Edward Island on visits, but never lived there again. A year after Anne's House of Dreams was published, she came back to PEI to nurse victims of the Spanish Influenza pandemic at Park Corner in 1918.
I like to think all the lighthouses on Prince Edward Island were especially bright on the evening when she returned, just as the lighthouse in Anne's House of Dreams represents all the good things associated with beacons and the light that guides wanderers home.
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"Your blog is a joy to read. It showed the happiness and sadness of a life lived. Looking at the beautiful pictures caught my eye. The writing touched my heart. Well done! "
"Thank you, SoaringEagle. Since I'm reading Anne's House of Dreams right now, it deepened my appreciation to know more about what was going on in L.M.M.'s life. I empathize with the way she found solace in the natural beauty around her. I appreciate your comment."
Reply from Linda
Although I grew up in a desert-like place (it can be 110 degrees in the summer!), I've always had a fascination for lighthouses around the world. My book, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island along the Washington Coast in 1893. I now live in the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are 30 degrees cooler and lighthouses are close by.