Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.
Frances Hodgson Burnett Overview
Stories about young girls dealing with hardships in life, little boys finding out they are Lords, rags-to-riches, coal miners, and many others - these are the stories written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Throughout her lifetime she wrote dozens of novels, plays, and short-stories. She often writes in a 3rd-person omniscient point of view.
Burnett started writing stories as a teenager to help earn money for the family, but it wasn't until she was 28 that her first book became somewhat widely known, That Lass o' Lowrie's (published 1877). Nine years later, she wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), which established Burnett as a household name.
Today Burnett's most popular books are:
- Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886)
- A Little Princess (1905)
- The Secret Garden (1909)
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Little Lord Fauntlery was published in 1886 and was Burnett's most popular book during her lifetime. This story is about a young American boy, Cedric, who learns that he is the heir to a title, as Earl, in England.
'He (Cedric) knew nothing of earls and castles; he was quite ignorant of all grand and splendid things; but he was always lovable because he was simple and loving. To be so is like being born a king.'
The Earl (Cedric's grandfather) invited Cedric to live with him, because both of his sons have passed away, and as Cedric is now the only living heir, he needs to go live in England. But, the Earl still hates Cedric's mother (because she is American), and won't allow her to live at the castle, instead he gives her a home nearby so that Cedric can still see her.
The Earl grows to love Cedric, who is a kind and generous boy. But then news comes that there may be another heir to the title! The older son (Cedric's uncle) had briefly married a woman, and she claims that her son is a result of that marriage. The boy is a spoiled brat and the woman is un-ladylike and crass. The Earl is saddened to learn that his now beloved Cedric (possibly the first person he ever truly loved) won't inherit his title. But, then it is discovered that the woman is a fraud, and the Earl realizes that Cedric's mother is a true lady and invites her to also live at the castle, and they all live happily ever after.
This story taught young boys everywhere that they should be good and kind, that their role, living here on Earth, should be to leave it a little bit better than they found it:
'It is better than everything else, that the world should be a little better because a man has lived.'
A Little Princess
A Little Princess was the rewritten story of Burnett's popular story 'Sara Crewe' (a rags to riches story), this rewritten version was published in 1905. Sara is the beloved daughter of a wealthy English man, he lives in India and thus must send her to a boarding school in London for her education. While she is there, news comes that her father has died, penniless. The head mistress of the school had grown to dislike Sara but allows her to stay at the school if she becomes a servant. Despite Sara's awful circumstances, she continues to be kind and loving (a true princess).
'Whatever comes. . . cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.'
We then learn that her father didn't actually die penniless, he had invested all of his money in a diamond mining scheme. His partner (who did find a great wealth in diamonds) is now in England searching for his partner's daughter, Sara. He eventually finds her, and she receives the wealth she deserves and the love of a new father figure (her father's partner).
The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden is the most read story by Burnett today, but it wasn't very popular while she was alive. This story is about a spoiled little girl, Mary, who goes to live with an uncle she doesn't know after she is left as an orphan. The servants at her uncle's ignite Mary's imagination by telling her that there is a secret garden somewhere on the grounds. Her late Aunt had loved this garden, but ended up dying there, and her husband (Mary's Uncle) locked up the garden and buried the key.
Eventually Mary finds the key and the garden, she then takes care of the garden in secret, bringing it to life.
'However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.'
Meanwhile, she has also been hearing strange cries in the house. One night, she goes to investigate the sounds and finds a boy, her cousin, Colin. He is crippled and sickly. Mary starts visiting him, and tells him about her secret garden. Eventually she takes him out to the garden, and she helps strengthen his legs and learn to walk. When Colin's father comes home from a trip he is surprised to see people in the garden, but is overjoyed to see his son walking! The garden, Mary, and Colin only needed a little care and attention, and they became beautiful.
'At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done - then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.'
France Hodgson Burnett wrote dozens of books, starting when she was a teenager. During her lifetime Little Lord Fauntleroy was her most popular book, making her a household name. Another popular book during her lifetime was A Little Princess, a story about a girl who is good and kind despite her circumstances. Today, her most popular book is The Secret Garden, but it didn't become popular until after Burnett's death.
Burnett typically wrote in the 3rd-person omniscient point of view. Her stories often had character's facing hardships, but they stayed (or became) good despite their hardships and were rewarded for their goodness.
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