Frances Hodgson Burnett

Today would have been Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 172nd birthday if she was still alive. Granted, she passed away almost a hundred years ago (1924), but I still thought it’d be nice to post an homage to an author who I didn’t mention on my Influences entry.

She wrote the books The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, books I loved as a little girl. I had the imagination equivalent to the main character in her book A Little Princess, Sara Crewe. I loved how Sara was kind to everyone she came across, regardless of their social standing.

To me, Sara was a role model in some ways; she kept her kindness and charitable nature intact throughout the novel. Even when she stood up to the antagonist, she was still respectful. During her hardships, she remained hopeful. That theme of hope has remained me with me, even as an adult. I faced abuse as a child and a young adult until my mid-20s, and hope kept me alive sometimes. People often called me resilient, but I simply chalk it up to never losing hope.

I have several favorite quotes from the book, but the one that provided me with light on my darkest days was from after Sara loses her riches.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

A Little Princess, Frances Burnett

I remember reading how Sara, even when she was punished in the attic, maintained a positive personality. She uses her imagination to get through the worst of her experiences, pretending to be in the Bastille, and I attempted to bravely face my darkest hours by using my imagination to survive.

So, in a way, though this book didn’t influence my writing style, it did influence me as a person.

Burnett began writing to earn money for her family when she was only 19. She struggled with depression especially after her son died. Yet her characters all seem to find a way of making it through difficult circumstances, which was enough to inspire me, even as a child.

She described herself as a “story maniac”, something I could – and still do – relate to. She began writing when her imagination took her places and invented characters as she looked out onto a garden. She passed away in 1924.

If you want to read her, I’d suggest A Little Princess or The Secret Garden.