Guest Blog: Five Fascinating Facts about Frances Hodgson Burnett

In this special guest post, Harriet Devine from Shiny New Books looks at the author of children’s classic The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett…

1. Frances was born near Manchester, England. Her father was a successful ironmonger, but her family fell on hard times after his death when she was only three. They had to adopt a much simpler way of life, and eventually emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee, when Frances was fifteen, and started life there living in a log cabin.

Burnett2. Frances started scribbling stories in a notebook when she was small, but her mother made her burn them when they left England. Her first published story, in Godey’s Lady’s Book, appeared when she was just nineteen, and she continued to write stories to help support the family, turning to full-length novels only after her first child was born.

3. Frances adored her two sons, Lionel and Vivien, and dressed them in very fancy clothes. Her famous character Little Lord Fauntleroy, who had long golden curls and wore velvet suits, was based on Vivien.

4. After the death from consumption of her older son Lionel, Frances turned to Spiritualism and Christian Science. The ideas she learned from these belief systems found their way into her books, especially The Secret Garden, in which Mary Lennox persuades her sick young cousin that he can heal himself though the power of positive thinking.

5. Frances bought a manor house in England, Great Maytham Hall, which had a beautiful garden on which she based her most famous novel. She lived there for ten years, initially scandalising the local vicar by living there with her much younger lover. The couple eventually married, but separated again shortly afterwards.

Harriet Devine is one of the editors of Shiny New Books, where this post originally appeared.

Image: Frances Hodgson Burnett, by Herbert Rose Barraud (1845-96), public domain.

11 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Five Fascinating Facts about Frances Hodgson Burnett”

  1. You were right apart from the first fact I didn’t know this about one of my childhood favourite authors. Most interesting fact was that she was interested in Christian Science and that wrote those beliefs into The Secret Garden.

  2. Knoxville? Well, that sure was a surprise to me. The most surprising fact, however, was that her mother had her early writings burned. How awful a thing to do to a creative, young child who loved to write.

  3. Wow. That is seriously sad for Burnett that her mother would do that. I know I would not harbor any warm feelings towards my own parent if this happened. This post is great!

  4. One of my friends complained to me about The Secret Garden, he thought the power of positive thinking part of the plot was just nauseating. I told him, for goodness’ sake stay FAR, FAR away from Little Lord Fauntleroy!! If you don’t like The Secret Garden (which I love… Dickon is my hero!) then you will hate all her others for sure!


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