Monday, 12 March 2018

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett

   "The Secret Garden" is such a profound, but simple novel!
I think it affected me deeply because the delights of nature seem to have been mostly forgotten in our world today.  The change of seasons and the birds and animals are not noticed as we hustle around, absorbed by technology.
   I was also affected because I am reading through the choices of Canada Reads this year and I am deeply disturbed by the content. My reading choices do affect my phyche and I find it disturbing to focus on man's inhumanity to man in such detail.

  Frances Hodgson Burnett told her friend Vivian, "I never could write anything that would bring unhappiness into the world.  There is enough of that in all our lives that we cannot get away from.  What we all want is more of the other things- life, love, hope- and an assurance that they are true.  With the best that was in me, I have tried to write more happiness into the world."
  Well, Frances, I appreciate that!  
  I was so interested in this author that I tried to find her biography. However, the only one that I could find was written by this friend, Vivian, who admitted that she did not want to cause upset, so didn't delve too deeply into Frances' life in the biography.
   But here are the facts:
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) was born in Manchester, England, married twice and had two sons.  What her friend Vivian would not want to dwell on, is the fact that both marriages were very difficult and one of her sons died young.  Frances was extremely hard-working and was often not well.
  Frances' father died when Frances was 3 years old.  He had been a successful businessman but with his death, there was no income for his wife and five young children, who had lived comfortably in a large house with a maid and a nurse-maid in England.  So they moved in with relatives until Frances' uncle suggested that they join him in Tennessee, where his business was flourishing.  Frances was 16 at this time and was writing constantly.  
  However, the uncle's business did not continue to flourish and Frances' family lived in poverty in the United States. Frances' first story was published at 19- imagine that!  She was writing constantly for magazines and making a good income, so that she was able to move her family into a better home when she was 20.  Her mother died the next year.

Frances wrote 53 novels and 13 plays.
She is best- known for her three children's stories: "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1885), "A Little Princess" (1905), and "The Secret Garden" (1911).
"Little Lord Fauntleroy" really established her as a writer.  It was made into a play and was very popular.
Frances herself made clothes for her sons, using lace collars and frills.  In fact, she dressed her boys in velvet suits that became very popular.  She let their hair grow long and she curled it every day.
   However, the book that has lasted over the years is "The Secret Garden".
  Frances had a home in Long Island but also loved visiting England.  She had a vast social circle.  She crossed the Atlantic 33 times.
  In the 1880's, Frances became interested in a series of religions- Christian Science, Spiritualism, and Theosophy. I think these beliefs were woven into the writing of "The Secret Garden".
  I really enjoyed "The Secret Garden" and found the author most interesting!

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