FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT
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As a kid of 5 or 6, I started reading the illustrated books of fairy tales, then moved on to Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew followed by Franklin Dixon’s Hardy Boys. These were favorite even when I was 17 and didn’t think of reading the works of other authors. Then, I lost my father and we had to go to Nasik to perform his obsequies. It was at that time that my aunt took me to a book exhibition and suggested I should try reading the books of other authors. Fortunately, I picked up Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ‘ A Little Princess’. I thought it must be a story of some dream princess but when I started reading the book, I fell madly in love with the author’s narrative. It’s my most favorite book, even now.
The story is about Sara Crewe whose father, Captain Ralph Crewe, gets her admitted to a boarding school run by Miss Minchin. Sara is very kind and becomes friends with Ermengarde St. John, who’s poor in studies, Lottie, a four-year-old pupil and Becky, the scullery maid. Miss Minchin pretends to shower affection on Sara but secretly despises her for her wealth. Tragically, Sara loses her father and her wealth because of a huge investment in his friend’s venture incurring huge losses. There’s a change in the attitude of Miss Minchin. Poor Sara has to go through difficulties but what happens next is highly unpredictable and you can’t help but fall in love with this book which beautifully depicts the harsh realities of the ever changing human behavior.
About the Author:
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett won me over with her heart touching true to life story and is definitely one of my most favorite authors. She was born on 24 November 1849 at Cheetham, Manchester, England. After her father’s death in 1853, she and her family moved to New Market, Tennessee, in the United States.
She took up writing at the age of 19 to support her family and published stories in various magazines. Her mother passed away in 1870 and she married Swan Burnett, a doctor. They were blessed with two sons, Lionel and Vivian. That Lass o’ Lowrie’s was her first novel that earned great reviews. Her children’s fiction Little Lord Fauntleroy was published in 1886 and she helped writing and producing it and A little Princess on stage.
Burnett started visiting England frequently by 1880’s and acquired a new home in 1890’s where she wrote ‘ A Secret Garden’ . Her life took a tragic turn when she lost her elder son, Lionel to Tuberculosis in 1890 and experienced a severe depression which finally led her to divorce Swan Burnett in 1898 and married Stephen Townsend in 1900 only to divorce him in 1902. After a few years, she relocated to Nassau County, New York.
She passed away on 29 October 1924 (aged 74), at Plandome Manor, New York, U.S. Bessie Potter Vonnoh made a memorial sculpture for her in 1936 At Central Park’s Conservatory Garden. The statues are of Mary and Dickon, the famous characters from A Secret Garden. I highly recommend her books for reading. I wish I was born in that era and sent her an appreciative fan mail. She would continue to live through her outstanding, wonderful literary creations.
Her popular works:
That Lass o’ Lowrie’s (1877)
Surly Tim (1877)
Theo: A Sprightly Love Story (1877)
Lindsay’s Luck (1878)
Miss Crespigny (1879)
A Fair Barbarian (1881)
Esmerelda (1881), with William Gillette
Through One Administration (1883)
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886)
Editha’s Burglar: A Story for Children (1888)
The Fortunes of Philippa Fairfax (1888)
The Pretty Sister of José (1889)
The Drury Lane Boys’ Club (1892)
The One I Knew the Best of All: A Memory of the Mind of a Child (1893)
Little Saint Elizabeth, and Other Stories (1893)
Two Little Pilgrims’ Progress. A Story of the City Beautiful (1895)
A Lady of Quality (1896)
In Connection with the De Willoughby Claim (1899)
The Making of a Marchioness (1901), reprinted by Persephone Books
The Land of the Blue Flower (1904)
A Little Princess: Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe Now Told for the First Time (1905)
Queen Silver-Bell (1906)
Racketty-Packetty House (1906)
The Shuttle (1907), reprinted by Persephone Books in 2007
The Good Wolf (1908)
The Secret Garden (1911)
My Robin (1912)
T. Tembarom (1913)
The Lost Prince (1915)
The Little Hunchback Zia (1916)
The White People (1917)
The Head of the House of Coombe (1922)
Robin (1922) – sequel to The Head of the House of Coombe
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