Grant Martin Overton.

The women who make our novels. online

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all over the countryside you may encounter, or could
not many years back, children wearing red cloaks
given them by the Earl of Cranbrook. And what is
the secret of The Secret Garden? What does all this
delightful picturesqueness enclose? Why, an idea,
namely, that if a healthful thought be planted in the
mind it pushes out unhealthful thoughts; and that if
the body be unwell it adjusts itself to the healthful
thought and grows well. The secret garden which,
with its roses, surrounds the characters of the story,
plants in their minds all sorts of healthful thoughts.
Mrs. Burnett is not metaphysical, however. "Her
roses, she declares, are always sincere and endlessly
instructive."



362 THE WOMEN WHO MAKE OUR NOVELS

She has suffered much from people who have in-
terviewed her and have not understood her, depart-
ing to write what they wanted her to say. She has a
philosophy but it is written in her books, definitely and
decidedly. It has no other existence and it cannot be
separated from the tales which are its embodiment.
It is a peculiar characteristic of hers that the moment
an idea a "concept" philosophically speaking for-
mulates itself in her mind it does so as some part of
a story. Her pleasant persons and places have as defi-
nite ideas and theories and beliefs as the most serious
thesis but since they never presented themselves ab-
stractly to Mrs. Burnett they are not so conveyed by
her. It is really presumptuous, under the circum-
stances, to endeavor to express them abstractly as
we have just done in the case of The Secret Garden.

This will seem a hard saying to most of us, who
are trained to try to get at the kernel of everything.
All modern education is designed to teach men and
women to think and express themselves abstractly
with ease and freedom and surety. Why? Because
since the Greeks certain abstractions and abstract
thought and expression generally have been prized
as the best and safest and handiest medium of intel-
lectual exchanges. They are the intellectual coinage
a kind of verbal money that obviates the clumsy
old methods of barter. But while we are all used to
money and would not do without it we have to re-
member that the majority of mankind still carries on
a vast amount of intellectual exchange by barter. You
tell me an actual incident or a story you have heard
and I tell you what I have experienced or heard. We



FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT 363

"swap'* experiences and knowledge and each benefits
by what he gets from the other without so much as
drawing a single abstract conclusion or generalization.
The method has its disadvantages but lack of interest
is not one of them !

Understand this and you understand Mrs. Burnett.
She is dealing with you as you would deal with your
neighbor. You would not go to your neighbor and
say : "It is possible to live too long." You would go
and tell him: "John Smith's mother isn't treated de-
cently. Yesterday," etc., and you would relate the
actual occurrence. He would nod. And he would tell
you something in exchange. And neither of you
would generalize about your respective narrations,
but each of you would take the lesson in them well
to heart. That is the way of the world and of neigh-
bors. It is Mrs. Burnett's easily comprehended way
too.

When she leaves Plandome Mrs. Burnett consents
to spend a few days in noisome New York you can
buy things there, after all, and editors and publishers
there do congregate and then she flees to Bermuda.
But not until the last cosmos of autumn has perished
and gone and every flowerbed at Plandome has been
"tucked in a blanket of fertilizer." In Bermuda she
gardens. She imports, in times more favorable than
the present, countless roses from England. Her Ber-
muda cottage is unpretentious but charming.

To revert for a moment to The Shuttle, we may
note something almost prescient in what Mrs. Bur-
nett said, in 1907, about England and America, in a
letter respecting this novel. She somewhat regretted



364 THE WOMEN WHO MAKE OUR NOVELS

the characterization of the book as "a novel of inter-
national marriage." That, she argued, was hardly
her theme. Of course not. She has no abstract
themes. She wrote:

"The subject (of international marriage) is an
enormous one, and if I had written all I have been
observing for years and all I should have liked to
write I should have made a three-volume novel.

"When I say 'the subject' I do not mean merely the
international marriage question, but the whole inter-
national outlook upon a situation between two great
countries such as the history of the world as far as
I know it has not previously recorded. The won-
derfulness of it lies in the fact that two nations which
were one, having parted with violence and bitterness,
are with a strange sureness being drawn nearer,
nearer to each other. That they are of the same
blood the mere fact that they speak the same tongue
makes the thing inevitable in the end.

"I do not mean The Shuttle to be merely a story of
international marriage, but to suggest a thousand
other things. The international marriage must, how-
ever, result in being a strong factor, and in the hands
of a writer of fiction it must play a prominent part
a leading part, so to speak because it is the love
story, and without it we are lost. For the matter of
that, without it 'the shouting and the tumult' would
die, 'the captains and the kings depart.'

"Because I am English by birth and American by
a sort of adoption, and because I have vibrated be-
tween the two continents for years, I have learned to
be impersonal and unpartisan. I was neither Amer-



FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT 365

ican nor English when I told the story. I was merely
an intensely interested person who had formed a hah;
of crossing the Atlantic twice a year.

"There have been disastrous international mar-
riages and there have been successful ones; there is
no reason/why there should not be international mar-
riages at once dignified and splendid even history-
making. Still, I wish I had had room to add to The
Shuttle pictures of the thousand other things I find
absorbing."

It is not possible to do more than make suggestions
as to what books of Mrs. Burnett's a reader should be
sure to dip into. No two set of suggestions would be
identical, in all likelihood, but grownups can acquire
at least a respectable acquaintance with her work by
reading That Lass o } Lowrie's, A Fair Barbarian,
Little Lord Fanntleroy, Sara Crewe, The Pretty Sister
of Jose, In Connection With the Dd Willoughby
Claim, The Shuttle, The Dawn of a To-Morrow, The
Secret Garden, T. Tembaron and Emily Fox-Seton.
No selective list for children is worth making; give
them any or all!

BOOKS BY FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT

That Lass o' Lowrie's, 1877. Charles Scribner s
Sons, New York.
Dolly, A Love Story, 1877.
Kathleen, 1877. Hurst.

Surly Tim and Other Stones, 1877. Scribner.
Haworth's, 1879. Scribner.
Louisiana, 1880. Scribner.



366 THE WOMEN WHO MAKE OUR NOVELS

A Fair Barbarian, 1881. Scribner.

Through One Administration, 1883. Scribner.

Little Lord Fauntleroy, 1886. Scribner.

Editha's Burglar. The Page Company, Boston.

Sara Crewe, 1888. Scribner.

Little Saint Elisabeth, 1889.

Two Little Pilgrims' Progress, 1896. Scribner.

The Pretty Sister of Jose, 1896. Scribner.

A Lady of Quality, 1896. Scribner.

His Grace of Ormonde, 1897. Scribner.

The Captain's Youngest, 1898.

In Connection With the De Willoughby Claim,
1899. Scribner.

The Making of a Marchioness 1901. Frederick A.
Stokes Company, New York.

The Methods of Lady Walderhurst. Stokes.

In the Closed Room, 1904. Doubleday, Page &
Company, New York.

A Little Princess, 1905. Scribner.

Jarl's Daughter, 1906. Donohue. Given in the
United States Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Queen Silverbell, 1906. The Century Company,
New York. Given in the United States Catalogue of
Books in Print (1912).

Racketty-Packetty House, 1906. Century. Given
in the United States Catalogue of Books in Print
(1912).

Earlier Stories (Lindsay's Luck, etc.), 1907. Scrib-
ner. Given in the United States Catalogue of Books
in Print (1912).

Giovanni and the Other: Children Who Have Made



FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT 367

Stories, 1907. Scribner. Given in the United States
Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Emily Fox-Seton (Combining The Making of a
Marchioness and The Methods of Lady W alder hurst ).
Stokes.

Lindsay's Luck. Hurst. Given in the United States
Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Miss Crespigny. Donohue. Given in the United
States Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Piccino and Other Child Stories. Scribner. Given
in the United States Catalogue of Books in Print
(1912).

Pretty Polly Pemberton. Hurst. Given in the
United States Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Quiet Life. Donohue. Given in the United States
Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

Theo. Hurst. Given in the United States Catalogue
of Books in Print (1912).

Vagabondia. Scribner. Given in the United States
Catalogue of Books in Print (1912).

The Shuttle, 1907. Stokes.

The Cozy Lion, 1907. Century.

Good Wolf, 1908. Moffat, Yard & Company, New
York.

Spring Cleaning, 1908. Century.

The Dawn of a To-Morrow, 1909. Scribner.

The Secret Garden, 1909. Stokes.

My Robin, 1912. Stokes.

T. Tembaron, 1913. A. L. Burt Company, New
York.

Barty Crusoe and His Man Saturday, 1914. Mof-
fat, Yard.



368 THE WOMEN WHO MAKE OUR NOVELS

One I Knew The Best of All, 1915. Scribner.
The Lost Prince, 1915. Burt.
The Land of the Blue Flower, 1916. Moffat, Yard.
The Little Hunchback Zia, 1916. Stokes.
The Way to the House of Santa Clous, 1916. Har-
per & Brothers, New York.
White People, 1917. Harper.



THE END.



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Online LibraryGrant Martin OvertonThe women who make our novels. → online text (page 23 of 23)