November 24 - Happy Birthday, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Posted on November 24, 2018

A few days ago, on National Princess Day, I mentioned that I love the book A Little Princess.

Well, that book is written by today's famous birthday!

Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in England on this date in 1849. Unfortunately, just a few years later her father died, and the family was plunged into financial distress. 

When Burnett was a teenager, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in Tennessee. In order to help raise money for the family, she began to publish stories in magazines. Her first paid story was printed when she was just 19 years old.

Aaannnndddd, just a few years after that first publishing success, Burnett's mother died.

Burnett married a man who became a doctor, raised two sons, and lived first in Paris, France, and then in Washington, D. C. She expanded her writing from stories to novels, and both her children's fiction and her romance novels (meant for adults) were popular.

Little Lord Fauntleroy was so popular that people bought merch! Back then, fans bought things like Fauntleroy playing cards, costumes, and dolls.

Burnett was also able to write and help produce stage versions of both Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess. In more modern times, people have made movies and TV versions of those two books and of The Secret Garden, which has probably become her best known and loved book.

Money was a lot more plentiful, what with her writing earnings and a doctor's salary. Burnett loved living in a more lavish style, and she began to travel to visit her childhood home, in England. 

But when Burnett was in her early forties, one of her sons died of tuberculosis. Burnett became quite depressed, and by her early fifties she divorced her husband, married another man, and divorced him - all within five years!

It seems that Burnett's life was filled with terrible luck, and to some extent that's true. But we have to remember that we are the lucky ones to live in better conditions and with better medicine - back when Burnett lived, many more people died while still young. 

Burnett herself lived quite a long life, for the times, and died in New York at age 74.

There is a memorial sculpture honoring Burnett in Central Park in New York City. The statue depicts two main characters from The Secret Garden.

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