Friday, August 15, 2014

Francis Hodgson Burnett: The Plan of Attack

I've been trying to muddle my way through how to go about organizing my reviews of Francis Hodgson Burnett's complete works. That rather pathetic review I supplied of A Lady of Quality and His Grace of Osmond a few weeks back was almost written in desperation, because I couldn't figure out how to fit those two, rather bizarre historic romances into the context of the rest of her work. She was prolific, and her novels and stories span the globe and a variety of genres, but there are some overlying themes that recur over and over again. So where does one begin? Apparently, by booting out the odd balls and list making.

Here it goes, easiest first: Burnett is best known for her children's stories. I count nine stories unquestionably intended for children:

  1.  The Secret Garden 
  2.  The Little Princess (I'm not counting the short story that was expanded into the novel -  Sara Crewe - separately) (ED)
  3.  Little Lord Fauntleroy (AB)
  4.  The Story of Prince Fairyfoot
  5.  The Proud Little Grain of Wheat
  6.  Behind the White Brick
  7.  Racketty-Packetty House (ED)
  8.  The Lost Prince (ED)
  9.  Barty Crusoe and His Man Saturday
Please note that all mentioned works are available for free at

There are two more stories that are probably intended for children as well, but I have lumped in a separate category of spiritual works. Spirituality plays a strong role in many of Burnett's stories (she was a Christian Scientist), but the following are explicitly religious texts. Those oriented towards children are marked with a C.
  1. The Dawn of a Tomorrow (ED)
  2. The White People
  3. In the Closed Room
  4. The Land of the Blue Flower (C)
  5. The Little Hunchback Zia (C) 
Also arguably religious in premise are six stories I have labeled cautionary (one is also maybe for children, as indicated. 
  1. In Connection with the DeWilloughby Claim (ED)
  2. Little Saint Elizabeth (C) (ED)
  3. Lodusky (ED)
  4. Seth 
  5. Surly Tim
  6. Mere Giraud's Little Daughter (ED)
Fifteen of her books are romances: two are historical (addressed above and marked with a H below), and three are explicitly about Americans in Britain (marked AB, as is Little Lord Fauntleroy above), I will handle the three latter stories, two of which are amongst my very favorites, as a unit, because the clash and confusion between American and British cultures comes up again and again in Burnett. Much of her best work is based upon the awkwardness between different cultures and the usually wealthy immigrant's attempt to assimilate. 
  1. Emily Fox-Seton (ED)
  2. Vagabondia
  3. Theo 
  4. Esmerelda 
  5. Louisiana
  6. A Fair Barbarian (AB)
  7. Le Monsieur de la Petite Dame
  8. The Pretty Sister of Jose
  9. The Head of the House of Combe
  10. Robin
  11. T. Tembarom (AB) (ED)
  12. That Lass of Lowrie's (ED)
  13. A Lady of Quality (H)
  14. His Grace of Osmond (H)
  15. The Shuttle (AB) (ED)
Another theme in Burnett's books is economic distinctions. I don't just mean stories in which different classes are represented, as in The Secret Garden, but those in which privilege and deprivation are thrown into explicit contrast AND it provides a major theme for the tale. This also plays upon the immigrant experience. Burnett had herself experienced both wealth and poverty. I've marked these book with an ED.

So there you have it. I think I'm going to start with the romances, in no particular order, as it keeps me on the most familiar ground. I'll link the reviews as I do them to this post.  


  1. I have read the first three on the top list and remember our third grade teacher reading us a chapter each day after recess of Little Lord Fauntleroy. We were so fascinated by the story. The Secret Garden remains one of my favorites and who can resist The Little Princess having seen it in movie versions several times.

  2. Hi Sheila! She's great! I love the books I knew as a child and discovering her other works has been a treasure trove. I'll slowly review them all.