Thursday, October 17, 2013

Frances Hodgson Burnett

This all started because I was looking for something new to read on my Kindle that was cheap! I have been rereading some of my favorite books so I decided to see if there was a free/cheap version of The Secret Garden or The Little Princess, both written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  To my delight, I found the entire collected works of Frances Hodgson Burnett for under $3.00!
After downloading the book, I was surprised at how many books there were in this collection, so I decided to find out what I could about the author.  I was shocked at how little information is out there, and so much of it is contradictory!  For heavens sake, she didn't live that long ago.  She was born in 1849 and died in 1924 and her children's books are considered classics!  Well, that just made me more curious.
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in England and emigrated to the United States at the end of the Civil Way at age 15.  Some websites call her English and other call her American.  All agree that she started writing as a child and continued throughout her entire life.  I could not find any agreement on when her father died.  I read he died in 1852, 1853, 1854, 1865.  After his death, the family lived in abject poverty, genteel poverty, or gradually declining affluence.  However, everyone agrees that she supported her family with her writing.  I saw that she was successful enough to support her family starting at age 18, 19, or 20, and that she was not successful until much later in life.
Again, websites disagree about how many books Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote.  They range from just a few to thirty, forty, fifty and sixty.  Now, she is strictly known as an author of children's books.  But during her lifetime, she was apparently best known for her children's book or her historical novels or her books for adults or for her plays.  Speaking of her plays, I read that she was a playwright as well as that she didn't write plays, just that her novels that were dramatized for the stage.
Some websites say the critics loved Frances Hodgson Burnett and others say that the critics really disliked her, critiquing her more for her private life than for her writing.  She was considered scandalous.  She married and divorced twice, she earned her own money and controlled it herself, she liked fashion and travel, and was entirely too independent.
Most everything I read agrees that her first marriage was unhappy.  Frances Hodgson met her first husband, Swan Burnett, shortly after arriving in Tennessee as a teenager.  Swan Burnett became a doctor, and I read on one website that she put him through medical school with her earnings as a writer.  Or she just financed his advanced training.  Or her husband was Dr. L. M. Burnett out of Washington, DC.
The most interesting contradictions I found is regarding Frances Hodgson Burnett's second husband.  Some websites state he was an English doctor, a secretary, her business manager, or an actor.  One website stated that he blackmailed her into marriage in order to control her fortune.
With all the contradictions I found, I felt that I had to find out more about Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I downloaded her biography to my Kindle and I should be able to find out the true story of this fascinating woman.