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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
MRS. BURNETT has told the story of her childhood and tried to interpret her own personality in her autobiographical story, ‘The One I Knew Best of All.’ She has pictured a little English girl in a comfortable Manchester home, leading a humdrum, well-regulated existence, with brothers and sisters, nurse and governess. But an alert imagination added interest to the life of this “Small Person,” and from her nursery windows and from the quiet park where she played she watched eagerly for anything of dramatic or picturesque interest. She seized upon the Lancashire dialect often overheard, as upon a game, and practiced it until she gained the facility of use shown in her mining and factory stories. One day the strong and beautiful figure of a young woman, followed by a coarse and abusive father, caught her attention, and years afterward she developed Joan Lowrie from the incident.  1
  When the Hodgson family suffered pecuniary loss, and hoping to better its fortunes came to America, then best known to Frances from the pages of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ she was fifteen. A year or two later she began to send her stories to various magazines. In 1867 the first of these appeared. She did not however attain her great popularity until the appearance of ‘That Lass o’ Lowrie’s’ in 1877. The thoughtfully drawn group of characters—Derrick the engineer, Grace the young minister, Annie the rector’s daughter, and Joan the pit girl,—are dramatic figures, working out their life problems under the eyes and the comments of half-cynical, half-brutalized miners. There is nothing in her history to account for Joan, or for the fact that the strength of vice in her father becomes an equal strength of virtue in her. Abused since her babyhood, doing the work of a man among degrading companionships, she yet remains capable of the noblest self-abnegation. Mrs. Burnett delights in heroes and heroines who are thus loftily at variance with their surroundings. Her stories are romantic in spirit, offering little to the lover of psychologic analysis. Her character-drawing is the product of quick observation and sympathetic intuition. She does not write “tendency” novels, but appeals to simple emotions of love, hate, revenge, or self-immolation, which sometimes, as in the case of her last book, ‘A Lady of Quality’ (1895), verge on sensationalism. In 1873 Miss Hodgson married Dr. Burnett of Washington. Her longest novel, ‘Through One Administration,’ is a story of the political and social life of the Capital. ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ (1886) is the best known of a series of stories nominally written for children, but intended to be read by their elders. ‘Sara Crewe,’ ‘Giovanni and the Other,’ ‘Two Little Pilgrims,’ and ‘Little Saint Elizabeth’ are chronicles of superlunary children. After those before mentioned, ‘Esmeralda,’ ‘Louisiana,’ ‘A Fair Barbarian,’ and ‘Haworth’s’ are her best-known stories.  2
 
 
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