The Secret Garden (Paperback) Frances Hodgson Burnett
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The Secret Garden (Paperback) Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Frances Hodgson Burnett, née Frances Eliza Hodgson, (born Nov. 24, 1849, Manchester, Eng.—died Oct. 29, 1924, Plandome, N.Y., U.S.), American playwright and author who wrote the popular novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. Frances Hodgson grew up in increasingly straitened circumstances after the death of her father in 1854. In 1865 the family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Market, near Knoxville, Tennessee, where the promise of support from a maternal uncle failed to materialize. In 1868 Hodgson managed to place a story with Godey’s Lady’s Book. The Secret Garden, novel for children written by American author Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in book form in 1911 (having previously been serialized in The American Magazine). The pastoral story of self-healing became a classic of children’s literature and is considered to be among Burnett’s best work. The novel centres on Mary Lennox, who is living in India with her wealthy British family. She is a selfish and disagreeable 10-year-old girl who has been spoiled by her servants and neglected by her unloving parents. When a cholera epidemic kills her parents and the servants, Mary is orphaned. After a brief stay with the family of an English clergyman, she is sent to England to live with a widowed uncle, Archibald Craven, at his huge Yorkshire estate, Misselthwaite Manor. Her uncle is rarely at Misselthwaite, however. Mary is brought to the estate by the head housekeeper, the fastidious Mrs. Medlock, who shuts her into a room and tells her not to explore the house. Mary is put off when she finds that the chambermaid, Martha, is not as servile as the servants in India. But she is intrigued by Martha’s stories about her own family, particularly those about her 12-year-old brother, Dickon, who has a nearly magical way with animals. When Martha mentions the late Mrs. Craven’s walled garden, which was locked 10 years earlier by the uncle upon his wife’s death, Mary is determined to find it. She spends the next few weeks wandering the grounds and talking to the elderly gardener, Ben Weatherstaff. One day, while following a friendly robin, Mary discovers an old key that she thinks may open the locked garden. Shortly thereafter, she spots the door in the garden wall, and she lets herself into the secret garden. She finds that it is overgrown with dormant rose bushes and vines (it is winter), but she spots some green shoots, and she begins clearing and weeding in that area.

March 2022