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Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett Frances Hodgson Burnett[1†]

Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (24 November 1849 – 29 October 1924) was a British-American novelist and playwright[1†][2†]. She is best known for her children’s novels, particularly “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (published in 1885–1886), “A Little Princess” (1905), and “The Secret Garden” (1911)[1†][2†].

Burnett was born in Cheetham, Manchester, England[1†]. After her father’s death in 1853, her family fell into straitened circumstances, and in 1865, they emigrated to the United States, settling in New Market, Tennessee[1†]. Frances began her writing career there at age 19 to help earn money for the family, publishing stories in magazines[1†].

In 1873, she married Swan Burnett, who became a medical doctor[1†]. Their first son, Lionel, was born a year later[1†]. The Burnetts lived for two years in Paris, where their second son Vivian was born, before returning to the United States to live in Washington, D.C[1†]. Burnett then began to write novels, the first of which, “That Lass o’ Lowrie’s”, was published to good reviews[1†].

“Little Lord Fauntleroy” was published in 1886 and made her a popular writer of children’s fiction[1†]. She wrote and helped to produce stage versions of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and "A Little Princess"[1†]. Beginning in the 1880s, Burnett began to travel to England frequently and in the 1890s bought a home there, where she wrote "The Secret Garden"[1†].

Her elder son, Lionel, died of tuberculosis in 1890, which caused a relapse of the depression she had struggled with for much of her life[1†]. She divorced Swan Burnett in 1898, married Stephen Townsend in 1900, and divorced him in 1902[1†]. A few years later she settled in Nassau County, New York, where she died in 1924 and is buried in Roslyn Cemetery[1†].

Early Years and Education

Frances Eliza Hodgson was born in Cheetham, Manchester, England on 24 November 1849[1†]. She was the third of five children of Edwin Hodgson, an ironmonger from Doncaster in Yorkshire, and his wife Eliza Boond, from a well-to-do Manchester family[1†]. Her father owned a business in Deansgate, selling ironmongery and brass goods[1†]. The family lived comfortably, employing a maid and a nurse-maid[1†].

After her father died in 1854, when Frances was 4 years old, the family fell on straitened circumstances[1†]. In 1865, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Market, near Knoxville, Tennessee[1†][2†][1†]. The promise of support from a maternal uncle failed to materialize[1†][2†][1†].

The only education she had received was in a dame school in England[1†][3†]. She had spent vast amounts of time reading and educating herself on her own[1†][3†]. Frances studied at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentlemen with her siblings after going to a small dame school for a year[1†][4†].

In 1868, Hodgson managed to place a story with Godey’s Lady’s Book[1†][2†]. Within a few years, she was being published regularly in Godey’s, Peterson’s Ladies’ Magazine, Scribner’s Monthly, and Harper’s[1†][2†]. Her first attempt at earning an income involved running a private school, which was unsuccessful[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Frances Hodgson Burnett began her professional writing career when she lived in Knoxville[5†]. In 1868, she managed to place a story with Godey’s Lady’s Book[5†][2†]. Within a few years, she was being published regularly in Godey’s, Peterson’s Ladies’ Magazine, Scribner’s Monthly, and Harper’s[5†][2†].

In 1873, after a year’s visit to England, she married Dr. Swan Moses Burnett of New Market[5†][2†]. After moving with her husband to Washington, D.C., Burnett wrote the novels “Haworth’s” (1879), “Louisiana” (1880), “A Fair Barbarian” (1881), and “Through One Administration” (1883), as well as a play, “Esmeralda” (1881), written with actor-playwright William Gillette[5†][2†].

In 1886, Burnett’s most famous and successful book, “Little Lord Fauntleroy”, was published[5†][1†][2†]. It was intended as a children’s book, but it had its greatest appeal to mothers[5†][2†]. The book sold more than half a million copies, and Burnett’s income was increased by her dramatized version, which quickly became a repertory standard[5†][2†].

In 1888, she won a lawsuit in England over the dramatic rights to “Little Lord Fauntleroy”, establishing a precedent that was incorporated into British copyright law in 1911[5†][2†]. Beginning in the 1880s, Burnett began to travel to England frequently and in the 1890s bought a home there, where she wrote "The Secret Garden"[5†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works:

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s first publication of her main works was in the late 1870s and early 1880s. She began writing stories for magazines at a young age and published her first novel, That Lass o’ Lowrie’s, in 1877[1†]. The novel was based on a true story of a Scottish girl who was sent to an orphanage in England and later became a successful actress. The novel was well received by critics and readers, and established Burnett as a promising writer.

Burnett continued to write novels for various magazines, such as Harper’s Monthly, Good Housekeeping, and The Century. Some of her other novels from this period include Haworth’s (1879), Louisiana (1880), A Fair Barbarian (1881), and Through One Administration (1883)[1†][6†]. She also wrote a play, Esmeralda (1881), written with actor-playwright William Gillette[1†][6†]. In 1886, Burnett’s most famous and successful book appeared: Little Lord Fauntleroy[1†].

Little Lord Fauntleroy was an instant hit with readers and critics alike. It sold over one million copies in its first year of publication[1†][2†] and won several awards, including the New York Herald Tribune Prize for Fiction[1†][7†]. It also inspired several adaptations for stage and screen. Burnett followed up Little Lord Fauntleroy with another popular children’s book, A Little Princess (1905), which she co-authored with Josephine Tey[1†][8†].

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s analysis and evaluation of her own work is a complex and nuanced topic that has been explored by various scholars and critics. Some of the main aspects that have been discussed are:

Burnett’s work has been praised for its originality, charm, humor, emotionality, and moral vision. She has also been criticized for some aspects of her work, such as its lack of historical accuracy or depth in some novels[2†][9†], its sentimentalism or melodrama in some plots or characters[2†][7†], or its conservative or patriarchal attitudes towards women or minorities[2†][10†]. However, most critics agree that Burnett was a talented and influential writer who deserves recognition for her contributions to literature.

Personal Life

Frances Hodgson Burnett had a complex and eventful personal life that influenced her writing and her relationships with others. She married twice, but both marriages ended in divorce. She also had two sons, one of whom died young. She faced financial difficulties, legal disputes, and health problems throughout her life.

Her first marriage was to Swan Burnett Jr., whom she met at Knoxville College where he studied medicine[2†][11†][12†]. They married in 1873 and had two sons: Lionel (1874-1890) and Vivian (1875-1948)[2†][11†][12†]. Lionel was the first child of the couple and the inspiration for the character of Lord Fauntleroy in Little Lord Fauntleroy[2†]. He suffered from tuberculosis and died at the age of 15[2†][11†][12†]. Vivian inherited his mother’s curly hair and became a successful businessman[2†].

Burnett’s second marriage was to Stephen Townsend, a wealthy lawyer whom she met in New York in 1900[2†][11†][12†]. They married in 1900 and moved to Long Island, where they built a house called Plandome Manor[2†][11†] .

Conclusion and Legacy

Frances Hodgson Burnett was a prolific and versatile writer who influenced many generations of readers with her imaginative and compassionate stories. She wrote for children and adults, exploring themes such as family, friendship, identity, nature, and spirituality. She also created memorable characters, such as the spoiled but lovable orphaned children in Little Lord Fauntleroy, the spirited and resilient orphaned girl in A Little Princess, and the shy and lonely boy who discovers a magical garden in The Secret Garden.

Burnett’s legacy is evident in the popularity and enduring appeal of her works, which have been adapted into numerous films, plays, musicals, television shows, and radio dramas. Her novels have also inspired many other writers of children’s literature, such as E.B. White, Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and Lemony Snicket. Her stories have also been translated into many languages and enjoyed by readers around the world.

Burnett’s life was not without challenges and tragedies. She faced financial difficulties, legal disputes, health problems, and personal losses throughout her life. She also struggled with depression and anxiety at times. However, she never gave up on her passion for writing and always found joy in creating new worlds for her readers to explore.

Burnett once said: "I love writing because it is a way of living over again."[2†] She also said: "The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it’s all that matters."[2†][1†] These words reflect her philosophy of life: to appreciate the beauty of nature, to cherish the love of family and friends, to express one’s creativity through art or literature, and to live with gratitude and optimism.

Frances Hodgson Burnett was a remarkable woman who left behind a rich legacy of stories that continue to inspire people today. As she wrote in The Secret Garden: "As long as you have a garden you have a future; as long as you have a future you are alive."[2†][13†]

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Frances Hodgson Burnett [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Frances Hodgson Burnett: American author [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia.com - Frances Hodgson Burnett [website] - link
  4. Victorian Era - Frances Hodgson Burnett Biography: Little Lord Fauntleroy, famous quotes [website] - link
  5. The Knoxville History Project - Frances Hodgson Burnett, the Knoxville Years [website] - link
  6. Goodreads - Author: Books by Frances Hodgson Burnett [website] - link
  7. Cambridge University Press - The Novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett - Chapter: Introduction [website] - link
  8. Google Books - The Complete Works of Frances Hodgson Burnett (Illustrated Edition ... - Frances Hodgson Burnett [website] - link
  9. Project MUSE - Johns Hopkins University Press - Project MUSE - [website] - link
  10. Springer Link - The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women's Writing - Chapter: Burnett, Frances Hodgson [website] - link
  11. SunSigns - Frances Hodgson Burnett Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  12. Google Books - Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden - Gretchen Gerzina [website] - link
  13. Library of America - Get 10% off your first Library of America purchase. - [website] - link
  14. New World Encyclopedia - Frances Hodgson Burnett [website] - link
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