Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Burnett, Frances Hodgson

(1849-1924) UK-born writer, in the USA from 1865, and a working author from 1868 to 1922, by which time she had published at least 70 books, few now remembered. Her most famous titles are Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911), an important early-20th-century children's book whose title itself has become a common term (see Secret Garden). The supernatural content of the tale is slight – a touch of pantheism with reference to the life-affirming ambience of the garden itself, which cures two children of their worldviews; and a call from his dead wife to a bereft widower – but the book as a whole, like the best fantasies, generates a sense of earned Transformation. (Fantasy is entirely absent from the two significant movie adaptations, The Secret Garden [1949] and The Secret Garden [1993], although the former lovingly stresses its Gothic ambience.) Generally, like many 19th-century writers, FHB tended to eschew outright fantasy, which at the time continued to lack even the precarious adult cachet accorded to Supernatural Fiction. So a tale like "Behind the White Brick" (1879 St Nicholas Magazine) – later assembled in Little St Elizabeth and Other Stories (coll 1890) – stands out. Unjustly punished, the child heroine, reversing Alice's descent (see Lewis Carroll), falls up a chimney into Chimneyland, a Little Big paradise with clear Wonderland characteristics, where she meets fictional characters, Santa Claus, a talking Doll and others. The tale has a swing and a drive that make one regret that FHB did not write full-length fantasies. Of her other books of interest, The White People (1917) is about a young girl with second sight (see Talents) who sees Ghosts and the eponymous folk. [JC]

other works: In the Closed Room (1904); The Land of the Blue Flower (1909 chap).

Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.