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Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden Hardcover – 19 Mar 2004
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But I did delight in how she was with her grandchildren & other children later on: playing on the floor with them, making up stories, etc, her belief in fairies and her enjoyment in people, other countries and pretty things like the dollhouse.
In the end, I must say I enjoyed the book very much and it is always fascinating getting to know the author of your favorite books from childhood.
I have always loved Frances Hodgson Burnett's books and am delighted that such a detailed biography is now available. I have read the previous accounts of her life but this book is especially well-written and contains plenty of new material. Highly recommended.
What's not so good: The book is written in competent, though arid, prose. Not much enthusiasm for Frances comes through. The book gives the impression of being an academic project, undertaken because academics are required to do such projects and almost every other woman has already been done.
Academic presses frequently have the authors do their own proof-reading, and this book is not well proofed. There are no glaring errors such as a spell-checker would find, but errors that would elude a spell-checker are not infrequent.
Worse, there are at least two glaring factual errors:
On page 286, the biographer states that "President Roosevelt" declared war in 1917, bringing America into World War I.
On page 215, the biographer declares that in 1900, "she was now forty-five." On page 13, the biographer declares that "Frances Eliza, the third child and first daughter, was born there too, on 24 November 1849." A little arithmetic will demonstrate that in 1900, Frances cannot have been "forty-five." She was in fact 50 or 51.
Still, for a Black British academic at Columbia University, the biographer is rather free of zeal, but she does insist on mentioning every Black maid which Frances, like other Southern women of the time, employed. However, she is forced to admit Frances' unswerving devotion to social equality, which she pushed in her novels.
As to the question of "flirtations," which are used to promote this biography, there is no evidence of them. Frances was extremely careful of her reputation (she had to be, since she was famous most of her life), and always traveled with a maid and usually a female companion as well. Whether Frances slept with Stephen Townsend during the ten years when he was around so much, one can only guess. But since he blackmailed her into marrying him in 1900 by threatening to tell the world they'd had an affair, it seems likely that there must have been some truth in it. On all occasions when she felt wronged, she threw herself publicly into the fray and defended herself indignantly. She was such a person that she could not have done that without truth on her side.
Frances Hodgson Burnett was a remarkable human being, and a biography of her should be read, since for the last fifty years or so, we have been assured by academics, psychologists and self-appointed pseudo-intellectuals that humans cannot possibly be what she in fact was.