Biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of the best-known children's writers of the early twentieth century, wrote such classic novels for young readers as A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Burnett was born Frances Eliza Hodgson in 1849 in Manchester, England. She moved to Tennessee in the United States with her family after her father's death. Though her family emigrated from England largely for economic reasons, they struggled financially, and later Hodgson would engage with themes of childhood poverty and deprivation in her novels. She married Swan Burnett in 1873, while her writing career was in its early days. During this period she published stories in such popular publications as Godey's Ladies Book and Scribner's Monthly. It was in Scribner's that her first novel, That Lass O' Lowrie's, was published in serialized form. Following this first novel, Burnett wrote several more novels including Haworth's and A Fair Barbarian, as well as a play, Esmerelda, in 1881. It is her 1886 novel Little Lord Fauntleroy—published first in serialized form in St. Nicholas Magazine, and soon afterward adapted for the stage—that established her fame, and, indeed, created a new idealized image of boyhood for audiences.

The death of one of Burnett's two sons in 1890, from tuberculosis, led to some of her creative interest in illness, healing, and trauma. The popular novels A Little Princess (1905, expanded from a shorter version entitled Sara Crewe), and The Secret Garden, (published in 1909), in particular, engage with these themes. Though Burnett was a prolific writer of novels, she also published plays such as The Lady of Quality (1896), and a memoir, The One I Knew Best of All (1893). Burnett spent her adult life moving between the United States and England, and she died in Long Island, New York in 1924. However, after her death, several of her works were adapted as films: A Little Princess in 1995, The Secret Garden in 1993, and Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1980. A new film adaptation of The Secret Garden will be released in 2020.

Study Guides on Works by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess is a children’s novel written by the English-American novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett. Published in 1905 as an adaptation of Burnett's serialized novel Sara Crewe, it is considered a classic of English-language children's...