Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924)

Born in Manchester, England on November 24, 1849, Frances Eliza Hodgson was the eldest daughter in a family of two boys and three girls. After her father’s death when she was three years old, the Hodgsons experienced severe financial difficulties. As a young girl, she would scrawl little stories on sheets of old notebooks, as she was unable to afford proper writing materials. In 1865 the family moved to Tennessee where they lived in a log cabin and the teenage Frances set up a little school. She began submitting stories to women’s magazines and in a time when most women did not have careers, Frances Eliza Hodgson was a literary success. In 1873 she married Dr. Swan Burnett and they had two sons — Lionel, born 1874, and Vivian, born 1876 — but the marriage was not a happy one. Her younger son, Vivian, clamored for something for little boys to read, so Frances wrote “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and modeled the main character after him. In 1890 tragedy struck when her eldest son, Lionel, died of influenza. Frances and Swan separated and finally divorced in 1898, and she went on to remarry Stephen Townshend. Frances moved to Long Island, New York in 1901 and there began to write her two most famous stories — A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, inspired by her poor childhood and her love for gardening. She became rather eccentric in her old age, but delighted in her grandchildren. Frances Hodgson Burnett died on October 19, 1924.

Selected Bibliography

Little Lord Fauntleroy (fiction), 1886
A Little Princess (fiction), 1905
The Secret Garden (fiction), 1911
The Lost Prince (fiction), 1915

Selected Links

Michael Sims’s essay on Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Secret Garden at Chapter 16

The Secret Garden at Project Gutenberg:

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s page at

The Vivian Burnett Collection of Frances Hodgson Burnett at Princeton University: