Brenda Clough's Reviews > The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
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's review
Nov 08, 2011

really liked it

A classic of children's literature. Unusually for the period (and even for Burnett) the children are sickly, unpleasant, and thoroughly tiresome. A superb musical of the same name ran on Broadway.
(Spoilers to follow, but surely you've read this thing -- it came out in 1911.)
What interests me, as an adult, is the setup of the book. It is obvious that the estate of Misselthwaite is entailed upon Archibald Craven. His younger brother has to go to work as an MD because he has no inheritance. However, as Archibald's brother he is second in line to inherit the land and the money tied to it. Only when, unexpectedly, the hunchbacked Archibald marries and begets a son do the brother's prospects diminish.
Since Colin is the now the heir, it is folly indeed for Archibald to entrust Colin's medical care to the brother. Since he is not an unmitigated rat, the brother is not going to actually murder his nephew. But he can select a course of medical treatment (continual bed rest? Solitary confinement? and heaven knows what destructive Edwardian potions and drugs) that is unlikely to allow the boy to survive to adulthood. In the musical this incredible conflict of interest is much more clear. If Colin is confined to an invalid life and the depressive Archibald is off in Europe, essentially the brother is left to be lord of the manor, with full expectation of inheriting the kit and caboodle.
A couple more questions do come to mind. Did Lilias Craven have money of her own when she married Archibald? It is obvious that her brother Captain Lennox (no first name, but I do hope it was Larry -- Larry and Lilias Lennox!) lived fast and died without a cent, and it would be unreasonable for the period, for her to have money if he did not. Perhaps he spent it all.
Another thought: Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is significant that everybody, including Archibald, feels better out in the sun. Yorkshire surely must be a horrible place if you suffer from SAD -- all that wuthering!
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