Beyond the Secret Garden: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett

Beyond the Secret Garden: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett

Ann Thwaite

Language: English

Pages: 366

ISBN: 1447253051

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Most people have heard of Little Lord Fauntleroy, and of The Secret Garden. Yet few people realize that the same woman wrote both books, 25 years apart, and was considered, along with Henry James, one of the leading writers in America on the strength of the adult novels which made her name in the 1870s and 1880s. Frances Hodgson Burnett's favourite theme in fiction was the reversal of fortune, and she herself knew extremes of poverty and wealth. Born in Manchester in 1849, she emigrated with her family to Tennessee at the close of the Civil War. On the surface, her life was extremely successful. She played the roles of Famous Writer and Fairy Godmother with enthusiasm, but happiness eluded her. She was always waiting for the party, but it went on in other rooms.

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and good at the level she intended, that of the fairy story diluted with unromantic realism. But it is, in today’s light, a more interesting novel than she could have known it would become, for she could never have supposed its realism to be as harsh as we now perceive it to be. It is a measure of the real joy Frances had in writing, in storytelling, that she could find such happiness in producing this book, even at this particularly unhappy period of her life. Her gifts made it possible for her

Tennessee State Guards were busy suppressing the first Ku Klux Klans and Swan was appointed to the State Guards’ Hospital. There is a vivid picture of Frances and Swan and of the life in the house on the Tennessee River in Frances’ book Dolly or Vagabondia, which was first published as a serial in Peterson’s Magazine in 1873, but not until 1877 as a book. The story is set in London, in Bloomsbury Place, but there is no doubt that it reflects a good deal of the atmosphere in Knoxville after Mrs

trying to write and the baby was crying and the patients were not coming to Swan’s surgery, it was not easy to thank God. Knoxville was really too small to support an eye and ear specialist. The family depended more and more on Frances’ pen. Swan thought if only he could further his studies in Paris, he would on his return find it easier to establish himself in Washington. But how on earth could they afford to live in France? Frances had some money saved but it would not keep them long. There

blow And Summer rose will pale to Winter snow And—No, you will not know Why the end came and why I wearied so. There was one great excitement to sustain her. In spite of all the difficulties, That Lass O’ Lowrie’s had been completed on time and began to appear in monthly instalments in Scribner’s, starting in the February issue. It reached Frances just before the baby arrived and she was amused to see an announcement which grouped her with Bret Harte and Edward Everett Hale as authors of

Kitty Hall: I find Prime Ministers agree with me. He is a fascinating old man, and said the most lovely things. Fauntleroy has charmed him—he told me he believed the book would have great effect in bringing about added good feeling between the two nations and making them understand each other. He and Mrs Gladstone and his son and two daughters and the Duchess of Sermoneta went out to the villa—which is seven or eight miles from Florence—in the train, which, finding itself overweighted with the

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