Hodgson Burnett is best known for The Secret Garden, but she also wrote the well-known though misunderstood Little Lord Fauntleroy. Fauntleroy has had a bad press, and his name can be used to refer to a foppish, prissy, spoiled child with a lace collar.  In fact, he’s more of a Christ figure in knickerbockers, whose innocent questions are delivered with such genuine tact and courtesy, that they are all the funnier, yielding unconscious irony which is beautifully complemented by the sangfroid understatement of his aristocratic grandfather.

In a nutshell, grandpa is a lord and the little boy is suddenly plucked from a simple, wholesome, American existence to be transplanted as heir to an English earldom.  The boy’s kindly respect of all living creatures bumps up against the aristocratic old man who is ready to chuck his starving labourers out of their homes if they don’t pay the rent.

This is the most wryly written of Hodgson Burnett’s children’s books, and the quiet transformation the boy’s innocence works on the old man is a delight.

‘Being scalped a great many times might make a person forgetful.’

 

Source: Frances Hodgson Burnett, Little Lord Fauntleroy (London: Collins Classics, 2012), p. 46

Photo credit: pixabay.com – jarmoluk

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