Great Books of the World – Part 31

“If you have a garden and a library,
you have everything you need.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Two things cannot be in one place.
Where you tend a rose, my lad,
a thistle cannot grow.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden”

Courtesy of SchnurpselsBacke, the Soundtrack Suite from The Secret Garden (1993) by Zbigniew Preisner:


The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
24th November 1849 – 29th October 1924

Courtesy of 8SA – Books, Biographies and Literature:

Frances Hodgson (later Burnett) emigrated with her family from Manchester, England, to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1865, when she was sixteen years old. She soon embarked on a writing career that would make her one of the most successful authors of the era and beyond. Her fame rests not on many plays and novels she wrote but on her three books intended for children but loved by readers of any age. The three books were: Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. As an author, she had a great gift for vivid characterisation of both virtue and villainy, the atmospheric dramatisation of fairy-tale-like reversals of fortune, a feel for the emotional pull of a sharply defined narrative, and the important, happy ending. She was a storyteller whose creations were loved by the movie makers. All her books have been adapted several times for the screen.

Suite from “The Victorian Kitchen Garden” by Paul Reade, I. Prelude. Andante pastorale, performed by Michael Collins (clarinet) and Michael McHale (piano):


The Secret Garden story begins in India, with a sickly, plain, moody Mary Lennox. She is unloved by her beautiful mother. Mary has been raised by servants who had done nothing but indulged the child in order to appease her petulance. Orphaned by cholera, she is shipped off to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, an equally ill-tempered person whose slight hunchback symbolises his broken heart, embittered by his profound mourning for his wife, who died in an accident. Craven’s home, Misselthwaite Manor, is also an emblem of a closed and inhospitable existence: “The manor is six hundred years old,” Mrs. Medlock, the head of the household staff, tells Mary, “and there’s near a hundred rooms in it, though most of them’s shut up and locked.”

Soon after arriving on the estate, Mary stumbles upon a walled garden that’s been locked and abandoned since the death of Mrs. Craven. Unbeknownst to anyone, Mr. Craven has buried the key; Mary, guided by a helpful robin, unearths it and surreptitiously rejuvenates the dormant plot, creating – with the help of her maid Martha and Martha’s resourceful young brother Dickon  – an oasis in the midst of Misselthwaite’s detached atmosphere that would not only nurture Mary’s emotional flowering but restore the health of her invalid cousin and rouse her uncle from his profound grief.

Courtesy of Gardman:


The story is full of metaphors and a heartwarming faith in the magic of nature and friendship. This extraordinary tale of perseverance, restoration, and redemption, influenced my life like no other book or person has ever done. The Secret Garden has been adapted many times as a play, musical, and movie. The Broadway 1991 production was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning two. The best film version is one directed by Agnieszka Holland.

Courtesy of Classical Girl Child Stars:

In 1936, Frances Hodgson Burnett was paid tribute by the installation of a memorial fountain in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden. In the middle of a reflecting pool, a reclining Dickon plays the flute for Mary, who holds a bowl that serves as a birdbath:

Courtesy of quoteny:


I cannot recommend reading The Secret Garden strongly enough.

This is only visual proof of how profoundly this book influenced my life, the message about Magic of Nature is engraved upon my heart and in my soul.

Here is an extract from The Secret Garden:

“And the roses – the roses! Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sundial, wreathing the tree trunks, and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades – they came alive day by day, hour by hour. Fair fresh leaves, and buds – and buds – tiny at first, but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over their brims and filling the garden air.”

“And this was not the half of the Magic. The fact that he had really once stood on his feet had set Colin thinking tremendously, and when Mary told him of the spell she had worked, he was excited and approved of it greatly. He talked of it constantly.

“Of course, there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen, I am going to try and experiment. When I grow up I am going to make great scientific discoveries and I am going to begin now with this experiment. The great scientific discoveries I am going to make,” he went on, “will be about magic.  Magic is a great thing, and scarcely anyone knows anything about it except a few people in the old books – Mary a little because she was born in India, where there are fakirs. I believe Dickon knows some Magic, but perhaps he doesn’t know he knows it. He charms animals and people. I would never have let him come to see me if he had not been an animal-charmer  – which is boy-charmer too, because a boy is an animal. I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us  – like electricity, and horses, and steam.”

“When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead, then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing. One day things weren’t there and another they were. I have never watched things before, and it made me feel curious. Scientific people are always curious, and I am going to be scientific. I keep saying to myself: “What is it? What is it?” It is something. It can’t be nothing! I don’t know its name, so I call it Magic. I have never seen the sun rise, but Mary and Dickon have, and from what they tell me I am sure that it is Magic too. Something pushes it up and draws it. Sometimes since I have been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.”

“Everything is made of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden all around us. In this garden – in all places. The Magic in this garden has made me stand up and I know I am going to live to be a man. I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it in myself and make it push and draw me strong. I don’t know how to do it, but I think that if you think keep thinking about it and calling it perhaps it will come. When I was going to try to stand up that first time Mary kept saying to herself as fast as she could, “You can do it! You can do it! and I did. Every morning and evening and as often in the daytime, I am going to say “Magic is in me! Magic is making me well! And you must all do it, too. This is my experiment.”

“Winter Light” by Linda Ronstadt (courtesy of Mr.Oldies):


53 thoughts on “Great Books of the World – Part 31

  1. Delightful retelling, Joanna. You keep magic in your life with your writing, books, and birds.


  2. Thank you, Pat, for your wonderful comments! Greatly appreciated!



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