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Though Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote more than forty books, none remains so popular as her miraculous and magical masterpiece, The Secret Garden. Has any story ever dared to begin by calling its heroine, “the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen” and, just a few sentences later, “as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived?” Mary Lennox is the “little pig,” sent to Misselthwaite Manor, on the Yorkshire moors, to live with her uncle after her parents die of cholera. There she discovers her sickly cousin Colin, who is equally obnoxious and imperious. Both love no one because they have never been loved. They are the book’s spiritual secret gardens, needing only the right kind of care to bloom into lovely children.
Mary also discovers a literal secret garden, hidden behind a locked gate on her uncle’s estate, neglected for the ten years since Colin’s birth and his mother’s death. Together with a local child named Dickon, Mary and Colin transform the garden into a paradise bursting with life and color. Through their newfound mutual love of nature, they nurture each other, until they are brought back to health and happiness.
With Charles Robinson's original illustrations.
Jill Muller was born in England and educated at Mercy College and Columbia University. She currently teaches at Mercy College and Columbia University. She is the author of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Victorian Catholicism, in addition to articles on Joyce, Newman, Hopkins, and the medieval women mystics.
In The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), William James, brother of Burnett’s friend Henry, describes a new and uniquely American contribution to religious thought and practice that he calls “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” The basis of the movement, also known as the “new thought,” was a belief in the power of the human mind and the ability of faith to influence events in the physical world. Attributing the rise of this philosophy to the “extremely practical turn of character of the American people,” James observes:
The leaders in this faith have had an intuitive belief in the all-saving power of healthy-minded attitudes as such, in the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, and trust, and a correlative contempt for doubt, fear, worry, and all nervously precautionary states of mind (p. 88).
Noting that practitioners claim remarkable effects on their physical health, he records that “one hears of . . . people who repeat to themselves, ‘Youth, health, vigor!’ when dressing in the morning, as their motto for the day” (p. 88). This late-nineteenth-century meld of religion and therapy, with roots in the writings of, among others, Swedenborg and Emerson, found expression in a range of spiritual and self-help movements from Christian Science to Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 classic The Power of Positive Thinking. Christian Science, a sect founded in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy, claimed that physical illness was illusory and could be cured by right mental attitudes and a true understanding of the scriptures. Among those who were profoundly affected by the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy were Frances Hodgson Burnett and her son Vivian. Unlike her son, Frances never formally embraced Christian Science, but, as Vivian Burnett observed in The Romantick Lady, his 1927 biography of his mother, “her method of thought, consciously or unconsciously, was influenced importantly by what she learned from Christian Science” (p. 376). Although we may question Vivian’s specific claim that The Secret Garden “is generally credited with being a Christian Science book” (p. 377), the novel is certainly a devout testament of the Jamesian “religion of healthy-mindedness.”
Frances Hodgson Burnett first encountered the new theories of “metaphysical” healing in 1885 when her friend Louisa M. Alcott, author of Little Women, persuaded her to seek treatment for nervous exhaustion from Mrs. Newman, a leading practitioner of the so-called Boston Mind Cure. Burnett was so impressed by Newman that she stayed in Boston for a month under her care. Later in her life, after the best European doctors proved unable to cure her son Lionel of tuberculosis, she turned increasingly to alternative healers. Two failed marriages to physicians did little to restore her faith in conventional medicine. Her low opinion of the medical profession is expressed in The Secret Garden, in her unsympathetic portrayal of Colin’s uncle, Dr. Craven, who is unable to cure, or even correctly diagnose, his nephew’s largely psychosomatic illness and indeed secretly hopes for the boy’s death. It is Mary Lennox who brings about Colin’s cure by introducing him to the healing power of the secret garden.
In a 1909 New York Times interview Burnett described her belief in a divine energy that could be channeled by the human mind:
We are today mysteriously conscious of this strange magic in the air that we will call the beautiful thought. It has so revitalized and stirred our souls that there has been in its most recent evolution a magnetic force that seems to me must almost stir the dead in their graves (Gerzina, p. 259).
The Secret Garden depicts this “beautiful thought” at work in the cure of Colin Craven. Until he encounters his cousin Mary, Colin is a victim of the power of negative thinking. He has spent his whole life surrounded by people who resent his very existence, blaming him for his mother’s death in childbirth and expecting him to become a hunchback like his father. The pessimistic atmosphere around him provokes an imaginary illness so overwhelming that he is actually unable to walk. Colin’s recovery begins when his cousin refuses to accept his negative beliefs, introducing him to the magic of the secret garden and encouraging him to have faith that, like the flowers in the garden, he too can grow and flourish. Burnett is so determined to propagate her belief in the power of thought to change reality that at one point, near the end of the novel, she even interrupts the narrative to address young readers directly with her explanation of the relationship between mind and body:
One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body (p. 229).
I am 9 years old, about the same age as Mary the main character in the book. When I first got the book I thought I would not be interested in it. However, I kept on reading and it got really good. The story is very well told, it is easy to follow, the vocabulary is not very hard. You just have to be patient and towards the middle the story gets very interesting. Also at the end of the book there are questions about the story that makes you wonder how you would feel in Mary's situation. My mom felt that this book would be a good introduction to reading good literature, and I agree. I felt it was very educational and appropriate for my reading level. I would recommend it to any girl or boy that is ready for some serious reading.
63 out of 71 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2009
I loved this book sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much i am speechless!!! it is an really good book!! It is acually VERY old. It is about a girl who find a secret garden.
LUVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ( dragon tales)
36 out of 70 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This book is a great book for anyone from children to adults. A reminder of what childhood can be when we give children what they need.
28 out of 40 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 2005
The first time I read this book must have been when I was in fourth grade, and I loved it so much and read it many times after that. I had to do a book report and that was when my dad recommended this book to me. I was reluctant to read this book at first, however, I was quickly captured in the magic of this book. It truly opened a door to a new world of a journey in a land of Classic books. I cried while reading this book.. because I'm also very emotional. It's about an arrogant, selfish, and lonely girl who discovers a secret world behind a door. Gradually through the stories she learns to smile, laugh, and be a child. She makes friends for the first time and becomes more bright and glowing then ever! If you don't read this book... you will regret it... Read it and enjoy!!! :)
28 out of 31 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2010
The book was awesome... a lot of description for those of u whose like that type of books like me. Is not a great plot i just a story of 3 differents kids. The lats chapters were a little boring...it felt like there was no more to say and they just kepr writing.. in gral great book.
18 out of 36 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 16, 2009
I Also Recommend:
This is a true classic. A girl named Mary Lennox was a selfish, unattractive and disagreeable child. When both her mother and her father dies, she is sent to live in her uncle's mansion. One day she discovers a key that would open a garden that has not been entered in 10 years. She goes into the garden every day and each day she's in there she becomes a little less selfish, a little more attractive , and a little more lovable. This is a must read book
18 out of 21 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2009
as a person that likes the classics with action and books of warfare, i thought my friend was crazy when he recommended this book to me. to be honest, i was very doubtful of the book when i bought it. much to my astonishment, this book is full of moral meaning in life itself; a girl who hasn't been loved at all in her life is sent to live with her uncle. she never loved anyone since she hadn't had anyone love her, and as such, was a very miserly person with no care in the world for a soul around her. as she lives with her uncle in a huge house, she often hears cries coming from the part in the house she is to refrain from going to. one night she ventures in to find her cousin whom she had never even known about; he was much the same as she was, a very horrid person. the girl meets Dickon, a very loving and caring person. his love and care rubs off on her, and in turn, it rubs off on her cousin Colin. all in all, it is a great moral in life at how one person can turn an entire family around with very little influence.
16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2010
I remember reading this book as a kid but it seemed heavy and difficult back then. After re-reading it I see all that I missed during my first reading. It is a wonderful book full of suspense, sadness, happiness and hope. I really think it should be something that middle school or high school kids read as they are more adult to understand some of the concepts in it. Otherwise I suggest parents read it with your children so you can explain the vernacular and time period. I love the descriptions of the garden and characters. It is correct to be a classic. Read it and get transported to your youth, playing outside and enjoying nature.
13 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2012
I posted on December 27, 2011 as "A PASSIONATE STORY". I forgot to recomend this book, so it's a wonderful book and you will enjoy reading it.
10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 28, 2011
Posted July 31, 2011
Posted April 30, 2011
Posted May 22, 2010
Not the book, but the loads and loads of typos. I downloaded the free version of the ebook to my nook. What a waste. I got so sick of trying to figure out what the book was trying to say, and bought the inexpensive version. I understand that free will not mean fancy, but if they are not even going to bother to at least proofread the typos out of the book, then why bother, it just makes them (Google books) look stupid.
However, the book itself, the story, it is a very interesting tale. I am at a part of the book (no, I won't spoil anything) where Mary is discovering the world around her.
A classic, and definitely worth a read.
8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2011
This book tells a story of what can happen when a child sets there mind to somethinh they belive in or what they think is right
7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2011
The Secret Garden is an emotional story. It involves drama, love, sadness, and ends in happy way. Though it is a great book it would be challenging for young readers minds.
7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2012
The story is simply told, with a kind of soft flourish that brings everything into vivid life.
It's full of the kind of simple magic that fuels some of the best kinds of stories - at once believable, and simultaneously not just magic. The three main children each comes from a different life, a different way of looking at the world - and all three find the common ground as children only can.
This is the kind of book that should be read in schools.
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2011
Posted December 31, 2011
Posted June 13, 2010
Posted January 2, 2010
If you Love the movie you will enjoy the book even more. I remember watching the movie when i was little and just hateing how boring it was, but i just wasnt old enough to appreceate the story. This is not just a childrens stroy now that im older i understand the deeper meanings and it wasnt boring to me at all. its a very good story and if you read it as a kid. You need to go back and read it agian.
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.