WAITING FOR THE PARTY: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett by Ann Thwaite

WAITING FOR THE PARTY: The Life of Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Who remembers Little Lord Fauntleroy, Sara Crewe, The Secret Garden? Almost everyone? But in that inverse proportion no one today knows very much about their creator, Frances Hodgson Burnett, however high-handed, curious and sometimes notorious her story. Mrs. Burnett wanted her life to be a Party -- she never found where it was held. She also thought of herself as a Fairy Godmother, a benevolent ""Happifier,"" and while she brought a great deal of snuffling pleasures to generations and generations of youngsters, she contributed deliberately little to the lives of her two husbands and her two boys who often went by default -- long periodS of time spent away from them, letters unanswered. Both had ""picture faces and golden love locks"" -- one was lost at a relatively early age to consumption, neither served as the model for her immortal sissy. Frances emigrated from Manchester to Tennessee, her strong jaw indicating her dominant nature. She began to write at an early age -- commonplace little potboilers which were ultimately serialized but only the three above books went on to a longer life and were read, filmed and sometimes acted on the stage. She seemed to be endlessly commuting between the U.S. and England where she had a far busier social and literary life; Henry James called her ""the most heavenly of women"" although he avoided her; prominent people admired her and there were many friendship/flirtations ending in an ill-advised marriage to a much younger man -- she became Little Lord Fauntleroy's ""Mamma."" Periods of depression and at the end physical ill health which she carried off bravely concluded her almost sad life where she never found the love she was incapable of giving. A discerningly undeluded and surely attractively handled portrait of a woman who was bemused by her own self-image and mishandled the real world outside that secret garden of dreams which never came true.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1974
Publisher: Scribners