When I was a student learning how to become a guybrarian, I took a number of children’s literature courses and was delighted when La Trobe University in Australia accepted my paper about Frances Hodgson Burnett for publication.
The Secret Garden was the original The Secret — a New Thought parable written for an adult audience one hundred years. The real secret of this garden is that it has, over the course of its long life, found its way into the hearts and minds of so many generations of children.
Few children’s novels have been analyzed as much as The Secret Garden. Critical readings of the novel have filtered Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story through the lens of sexual awakening, class conflict, feminist and post-colonial theory, primitivism, and paganism. This novel is more than a children’s book — part of The Secret Garden’s longevity and “classic” status is that it appeals to adults. Indeed, it is a summation of an author’s belief system deliberately aimed at readers of all ages.
This study explores the author’s life through her belief system(s) and how she incorporated her ideas about life and death in her masterpiece, a “Beautiful Thought” fable that has endured because of its essential truthfulness in characterization and message.
Frances Hodgson Burnett
by Herbert Rose Barraud
carbon print on card mount, published 1888
9 5/8 in. x 6 7/8 in. (245 mm x 175 mm)
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery Photographs Collection
“Frances Hodgson Burnett in garden” courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID: 1664096