ABOUT THE BOOK
The idea for The Secret Garden first came to Burnett while living in Maytham Hall in Kent, England. She used the Hall's pattern as the blueprint for the book's Misselthwaite Manor and its surrounding gardens, including the "secret" garden. The Secret Garden started life as a "serial," or an ongoing story which has one installment published in each edition of a magazine over a period of months or even years.
The adaptation of a work serial work to novel is a common occurrence. In fact, many of Charles Dickens' books were originally published as serials, as was Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. The Secret Garden first appeared in The American Magazine in the U.S. and the Children's Magazine in the UK in 1910. Burnett gathered the installments together and had them published in book form in 1911. The work passed into the public domain in 1987 and its full text is available online from the University of Virginia Library and other sources.
The Secret Garden reflects upper-middle-class English life in the Victorian period, from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Mary's early life as the daughter of an English colonel stationed in India during its British colonization, and the significant differences between upper class and working class life, speech, and thought, both characterize major themes of the Victorian era.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Mary's life in India is soon interrupted by an outbreak of cholera which kills both her parents and all the servants in the house. She's found by another English colonist and shipped to England to live with her only remaining relative, her uncle Archibald Craven.
Mr. Craven is a hunchback and lives in a sprawling, run-down house called Misselthwaite Manor, in the Yorkshire region of England. As Mary learns from the housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, the house has over a hundred rooms, most of them closed. Mr. Craven is still in mourning for his wife, Lily, who died when she fell out of a tree in their special garden ten years ago. After her death, Mr. Craven locked the garden's door and buried the key.
Having nothing better to do in a secretive house full of adults, Mary soon starts searching for the secret garden, encouraged by the tales of the Yorkshire housemaid, Martha, and the gruff gardener, Ben. She finds the key to the garden where a mole has dug it up in the bare March soil. She searches the walled gardens until she finds the door, then lets herself into the secret garden.
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