by Burnett, Frances Hodgson
This kindle book also includes bonus annotations:
- information on the historical context of the book
- biography of the author
- literary critique
The Secret Garden is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was initially published in serial format starting in autumn 1910; the book was first published in its entirety in 1911.
Its working title was Mistress Mary, in reference to the English nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. It is now one of Burnett's most popular novels, and is considered to be a classic of children's literature.
The main character of this story is Mary Lennox. She has been born to rich British parents that are currently living in India. Her parents were busy with extravagent parties and left Mary with her ayah for most of the time. Orphaned by an outbreak of cholera, she is sent back to England to be cared for by her mother's sister's husband, Archibald Craven, a reclusive widower. Craven's wife, Lilian, passed away ten years earlier. He is still mourning that loss. To escape his sad memories, he constantly travels abroad, leaving the entire manor, including Mary, to be cared for by his housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock. The only person who has any time for the little girl is the chambermaid Martha Sowerby, who tells Mary about a locked up garden, surrounded by a wall that was the late Mrs. Craven's favorite place. No one has entered the garden since she died because Archibald locked its entrance and buried the key. He hasn't told anyone where it is.
Mary finds the key to the secret garden hidden in a box in the house. A robin shows her where the door is hidden beneath overgrown ivy. Once inside, she discovers that although the roses seem lifeless, some of the other flowers have survived. She decides to tend the garden herself. Mary wants to keep her new found garden a secret, but she knows she needs help tending it. She gets this help from Martha's brother Dickon. He seems to have a connection with all wild animals and plants. Mary gives him money to buy gardening implements and he shows her that the roses, though neglected, are not dead. When Mary's uncle briefly meets with her for the first time since her arrival, Mary asks him for permission to claim her own garden from any abandoned part of the grounds, and he acquiesces. Thanks to her new-found interests and activities, Mary herself begins to blossom, becoming more healthy looking and more pleasant to be around.
Some nights, Mary hears someone weeping in another part of the house. When she asks questions, the servants become evasive. They tell her that she is hearing things, like a servant with a toothache. Shortly after her uncle's visit, she goes exploring and discovers her uncle's son, Colin, a lonely, bedridden boy as petulant and disagreeable as Mary used to be. His father shuns him because the child closely resembles his mother. Mr. Craven is a mild hunchback, and both he and Colin are morbidly convinced that the boy will develop the same condition. The servants have been keeping Mary and Colin a secret from one another because Colin doesn't like strangers staring at him and is prone to terrible tantrums.
Mr. Craven has been traveling through Europe, but is inspired to rush home after hearing the voice of his dead wife in a dream and receiving a letter from Mrs. Sowerby (Martha's and Dickon's mother, who also knows the secret) telling him, "I think your lady would ask you to come if she was here." He arrives while the children are outdoors and finds himself drawn toward the secret garden. As he approaches nearer, he is astonished to hear their voices inside the walls; Colin bursts out of the garden door toward him, actually winning a footrace against Mary and Dickon. The story's heartwarming ending has Colin able to walk, Archibald smiling again, and Mary has a family and friends who love her.
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