Burnett, Frances Hodgson: Letter to Mr. Waldmen

Letter by Secret Garden author about Bermuda
Letter by Secret Garden author about Bermuda

Burnett, Frances Hodgson: Letter to Mr. Waldmen

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Burnett, Frances Hodgson (1849–1924)

Letter by Secret Garden author about Bermuda

Frances Hodgson Burnett beloved English-born American author of such literary classics as The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Autograph letter signed. (“Frances Hodgson Burnett”). 2 pages. 8vo. (5 3/8 x 6 ¾ inches). Plandome, Long Island, 12 April 1916. On her Plandome Park stationery. To Mr. Waldman, an artist.

My dear Mr. Waldman, I am so sorry. I am sailing for Bermuda next Wednesday & every moment is occupied. I only go to New York to do some important shopping to keep a dinner engagement. I should not have time to go to you on Saturday I am sorry to say. I shall only be about six weeks on Bermuda I think. Perhaps I can see your studio after my return. Your pictures at the Salmagundi interested me enormously. Yours with regret, Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Born in Manchester, England and raised in the U.S. state of Tennessee, Burnett lived in Paris; Washington, where she hosted a literary salon; London; the English countryside; Long Island; and Bermuda, where she maintained a winter residence from 1911 until her death in 1924 and indulged in her hobby of gardening. In 1911, the year The Secret Garden was published, ‘Frances rented a white cottage called Clifton Heights. It overlooked Baily’s Bay, near the entrance to Castle Harbor… [She wrote of it] “It is such a pretty dear, with a lily field enclosed with oleanders on its left side, and a banana field on the right of its sloping hill side garden – and a heavenly view… And at the lower part of the sea garden – shielded by a white coral wall – are to grow six hundred and seventy two roses blooming in one’s face when New York is seventy degrees below zero and London is black with fog or slopped with mud and rain,”’ (Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley, Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden, Lerner Publications Company, 1990). It was in Bermuda that she worked on such works as T. Tembarom and The Lost Prince.

Burnett continued to divide her time between Bermuda, her home in Plandome as well as England and the Continent until ‘the sinking of the Lusitania [on May 7, 1915] brought the war closer to home, and she decided to give up trips to Bermuda as well as voyages to Europe’, (Gretchen Gerzina, Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden, Rutgers University Press, 2006). In February of 1916, a lawsuit was brought against Burnett by her nephew’s wife who accused her of libel. To escape the very public accusations and accompanying publicity, she fled to her retreat in Bermuda, as noted in our letter, despite her prior intention to avoid travel. 

The reference to Burnett’s ‘important shopping’ is interesting as Burnett is known for her attachment to clothes and fashion. Prior to her first wedding, she went to Paris to have a gown made. When she returned to the U.S., ‘she arrived ahead of the dress, and as a lifelong lover of fashion and finery, she postponed the wedding as long as she possibly could hoping for its arrival. Finally, [the groom] put his foot down, and a quiet wedding took place,’ (ibid.). Burnett was also well known for dressing her sons in homemade velvet suits trimmed with delicate lace. This style was made popular with the publication of her first novel Little Lord Fauntleroy, serialized between 1885 and 1886.

The Salmagundi Club, founded in 1871, is one of the oldest arts clubs in the United States, hosting classes, exhibitions and other events for notable members such as Childe Hassam, Howard Pyle, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, William Merritt Chase, Charles Dana Gibson, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and N.C. Wyeth.

Written on a folded sheet with some separation along the vertical fold. One horizontal fold. Darkly written and mounted to a stiff, trimmed album page. In very good condition.

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