FRANCES ELIZA HODGSON, playwright and author.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson
Born: Nov. 24, 1849, Manchester, Eng.
Died: Oct. 29, 1924, Plandome, N.Y., U.S.
Frances Hodgson grew up in poor circumstances, her father
having died when she was five. In 1865 the family
immigrated to the United States and settled in New Market,
near Knoxville, TN, where the promise of support
from an uncle failed to materialize.
Frances took her ability to write and tried to earn money
from it. She began with short stories which were published
in Peterson's Ladies' Magazine and Godey's Lady's Book,
but she didn't receive marked success or recognition until
she was published the dialect story "Surly Tim's
Trouble" in Scribner's Magazine in 1872. Her days
in Manchester had made her familiar with the Lancashire
dialect and she turned to that knowledge to write the story.
This launched her career. In 1873, she married Dr. Swan
Moses Burnett of New Market (divorced in 1898).
Burnett's first novel, That Lass o' Lowrie's,
(originally serialized in Scribner's), was published in 1877. Like her short stories, the book combined
her remarkable gift for realistic detail in portraying
scenes of working class life (unusual in that day)
with a plot consisting of the most romantic and improbable
of turns. After moving with her husband to Washington, D.C.,
Burnett wrote the novels Haworth's (1879),
Louisiana (1880), A Fair Barbarian (1881)
and Through One Administration (1883), as well
as a play, Esmeralda (1881) (with William Gillette), and
In 1886 Burnett's most famous and successful book appeared.
First serialized in St. Nicholas magazine, Little Lord
Fauntleroy. In 1888 she won a lawsuit in England over the
dramatic rights to it, establishing a precedent that became
incorporated into British copyright law in 1911.
Her later books include Sara Crewe (1888),
(dramatized and currently know as A Little Princess
(1905)), and The Secret Garden (1909), both of
which were also written for children. The Lady of Quality
(1896) has been considered the best of her plays. These,
like most of her 40-odd novels, stress sentimental,
romantic themes. In 1893 she published a memoir of her
youth, The One I Knew Best of All. From the mid-1890s
she lived mainly in England, but in 1909 she built a house in
Plandome, Long Island, New York, where she died in 1924.
Her son Vivian Burnett, (the model for Little Lord
Fauntleroy), wrote a biography of her in 1927 entitled
The Romantick Lady(sic).
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