Author(s): Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was initially published in serial format starting in the autumn of 1910, and was first published in its entirety in 1911. It is now one of Burnett's most popular novels, and is considered to be a classic of English children's literature. Several stage and film adaptations have been produced. Mary Lennox is a sour-faced, sassy, 10-year-old girl, who is born in India to selfish wealthy British parents who had not wanted her and were too wrapped up in their own lives. She was taken care of primarily by servants, who pacify her as much as possible to keep her out of the way. Spoiled and with a temper, she is unaffectionate, angry, rude and obstinate. Later, there is a cholera epidemic which hits India and kills her mother, father and all the servants. She is discovered alone but alive after the house is empty. She is sent to Yorkshire, England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven at his home called Misselthwaite Manor. The garden is the book's central symbol, inspired by Burnett's interest in Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science theories. 1] The secret garden at Misselthwaite Manor is the site of both the near-destruction and the subsequent regeneration of a family. 2] Using the garden motif, Burnett explores the healing power inherent in living things. (H. G. Wells's short story 'The Door in the Wall' described a similarly transforming secret garden.) The story constitutes a struggle between common sense and the accepted wisdom of the day, in which common sense wins. Servants and father are seen to do harm by getting caught up in false ideas that come from the doctor who espouses medical practices of the day, though another doctor does take a different view. The children, by their own observations, strengthened by the common-sense of Dickon's family, break free of the imposed regime and triumph. This struggle also existed in the Christian Science movement that Burnett followed. The same fundamental struggle continues today though, especially in the area of psychology and mental distress where differing 'schools of thought' prevail. The psychoanalytic school in particular continue to emphasize the power of mind over body. Marketing to both adult and juvenile audiences may have had an effect on its early reception; the book was not as celebrated as Burnett's previous works during her lifetime. The Secret Garden paled in comparison to the popularity of Burnett's other works for a long period. Tracing the book's revival from almost complete eclipse at the time of Burnett's death in 1924, Anne H. Lundin noted that the author's obituary notices all remarked on Little Lord Fauntleroy and passed over The Secret Garden in silence. With the rise of scholarly work in children's literature over the past quarter-century, The Secret Garden has steadily risen to prominence, and is now one of Burnett's best-known works. The book is often noted as one of the best children's books of the twentieth century. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 51 on the BBC's survey The Big Read. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. Jeffrey Masson considers it, "one of the greatest books ever written for children".