The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden (1909) is one of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s most popular novels. The book tells the story of Mary Lennox, a spoiled, contrary, solitary child raised in India but sent to live in her uncle’s manor in Yorkshire after her parents' death. She is left to herself by her uncle, Mr. Craven, who travels often to escape the memory of his deceased wife. The only person who has time for Mary is her chambermaid, Martha. It is Martha who tells Mary about Mrs. Craven's walled garden, which has been closed and locked since her death. Mary becomes intrigued by the prospect of the forgotten garden, and her quest to find out the garden's secrets leads her to discover other secrets hidden in the manor. These discoveries combined with the unlikely friendships she makes along the way help Mary come out of her shell and find new fascination with the world around her.

Source: Burnett, F. H. (1909). The Secret Garden. London, England: F. H. Burnett.

Chapter 1: “There Is No One Left”
Mary is abandoned in India, where a cholera epidemic has broken out. Her parents and family have either died or fled from the terror surrounding India.
Chapter 2: “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary”
Mary is sent to live with an English clergyman and his five children. Afterwards, she is sent to live with Archibald Craven, a hermit uncle. She meets the housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock—she and Mary instantly dislike each other.
Chapter 3: “Across the Moor”
Mary and Mrs. Medlock arrive at the mansion to find that Mr. Craven does not wish to see them. Mrs. Medlock shuts Mary in her room and forbids her to wander the mansion.
Chapter 4: “Martha”
Mary awakens and meets Martha, a servant girl. Mary asks Martha to dress her, for which Martha is taken aback. Mary and Martha exchange words and Mary screams at Martha. Mary goes out to explore and learns of a secret garden. In trying to find it, she meets Ben Weatherstaff and talks about the robin that has befriended him.
Chapter 5: “The Cry in the Corridor”
Mary continues to look for the secret garden. Martha tells her more about it and about its history. The master’s wife used to climb a tree and fell from it one day causing her death. After that, the master locked the garden forever.
Chapter 6: “‘There Was Someone Crying—There Was!’”
Mary decided to explore the mansion. She comes upon several portraits of a woman that looks just like her. She continues to hear a distant crying. When she tries to find the voice, Mrs. Medlock ushers her back to her room.
Chapter 7: “The Key to the Garden”
Martha talks with Mary about her family. Mary realizes that for the first time, she actually likes and cares for someone else. Martha comes to find out that Mary doesn’t even like herself. Mary finds a mysterious key.
Chapter 8: “The Robin Who Showed the Way”
Mary continues her search for the secret garden, to no avail. Martha tells Mary that her mother is truly enchanted by the stories of the girl from India. While skipping rope down a small pathway, she discovers a hidden door which she unlocks with the key she found earlier. Inside, she finds the secret garden.
Chapter 9: “The Strangest House Anyone Ever Lived In”
Mary wanders about the garden. Later, she asks Martha if she has any tools to aid in gardening. Martha tells her to write a letter to Dickon to bring some tools for her. As Martha leaves, Mary hears a faint sound of someone crying.
Chapter 10: “Dickon”
Mary’s friendship with Ben grows stronger, but they soon fight and he storms off. Mary meets Dickon. She takes him to the garden.
Chapter 11: “The Nest of the Missel Thrush”
Mary shows Dickon the garden and he agrees to help her take care of it. Mary admits to him that she likes him and he, inturn, admits he likes her. When she leaves to go inside, she worries that she’ll never see him again.
Chapter 12: “Might I Have a Bit of Earth?”
Mary tells Martha her feelings for Dickon. Mrs. Sowerby scolds Archibald for neglecting Mary, so he sends for her at once. They meet and instantly like each other. Mary tells her uncle that she would like a bit of earth to make her happy. He tells her she can have any piece of earth on the manor grounds. Dickon promises to return to the garden.
Chapter 13: “‘I Am Colin’”
Mary hears a noise during a storm. She meets Colin, Archibald’s ill son. Mary tells him of the garden and he wants to see it someday. Colin expresses his anger toward his deceased mother.
Chapter 14: “A Young Rajah”
Mary tells Martha about Colin who is worried that she may be fired for letting anyone near the ill son. Mary returns to Colin and they talk about positive thinking. When Master Craven and Mrs. Medlock enter the room, Colin tells them that he will see Mary any time he likes because she makes him feel well.
Chapter 15: “Nest Building”
Mary talks to Colin about taking him to see the garden. Upon returning to the garden, she notices that spring has arrived and the flowers are blooming. Dickon declares that Colin will never get better as long as he only thinks of sickness and death.
Chapter 16: “‘I Won’t!’ Said Mary”
Martha tells Mary that Colin will be angry and throw a tantrum if she decides to see Dickon instead of visiting him in his room. Mary confronts Colin about his health saying that he isn’t dying—he’s only feeling sorry for himself. He tells her that he will banish Dickon if it happens again.
Chapter 17: “A Tantrum”
Mary awakens to hear Colin screaming and throwing a tantrum from inside his room. She is summoned to his room and scolds him for screaming. She tells him that she hates him and he should go on screaming forever. She then looks at his back claiming that there is nothing wrong with it. Colin realizes for the first time that his affliction is largely in his head.
Chapter 18: “‘Tha’ Munnot Waste No Time’”
Mary tells Dickon about the previous events with Colin. He is determined to bring Colin to the garden. Mary and Colin’s friendship grows and she tells him all about the garden.
Chapter 19: “‘It Has Come!’”
Mrs. Medlock and Dr. Craven visit Colin and notice his improvement. Dickon goes to see Mary and Colin and they make preparations to visit the garden.
Chapter 20: “‘I Shall Live Forever—and Ever—and Ever!’”
Mary and Dickon take Colin to see the garden. At once, his pale skin becomes rosey again. Mary and Colin both comment about this being their first time seeing springtime.
Chapter 21: “Ben Weatherstaff”
Mary and Dickon speak in a Yorkshire dialect and Colin joins them for the first time. Colin asks Dickon about the great gray tree from which his mother fell. Ben Weatherstaff sees the children and insults Colin.
Chapter 22: “When the Sun Went Down”
Colin stands to talk to Ben, Dickon and Mary are surprised at this. Ben tells the children that Colin’s mother asked him to take care of the garden once a year if something was to happen to her. Colin claims the garden as his own and plants a rose in his name.
Chapter 23: “Magic”
Mary, Dickon, Colin, and Ben continue to tend to the garden while Colin’s strength increases. He is determined to build his strength enough to surprise his father when he returns. They discuss Magic.
Chapter 24: “‘Let Them Laugh’”
The children agree to let Dickon’s mother (Mrs. Sowerby) in on the secret of the garden. They tell her of their large appetites and she sends them food. Mary and Colin find it difficult to maintain their charade.
Chapter 25: “The Curtain”
We discover more about the robin. Mary and Colin are transformed into happy delightful children. Colin has opened the drapes in his room that covered his mother’s portrait.
Chapter 26: “‘It’s Mother!’”
Mrs. Sowerby visits the garden. Everyone notices how much Colin looks like his mother. Mary and Colin embrace Mrs. Sowerby and wish that she were their mothers.
Chapter 27: “In the Garden”
Mrs. Sowerby sends a note to Master Craven saying that he must travel home and see his son at once. On the trip home, he thinks back at his son’s health history and regrets not spending time with Colin. Upon his return, he goes to the garden to see his son and is delighted to see the children playing. Mary, Colin, and Archibald walk to the house happy.
  • Year Published: 1909
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 4.0
  • Word Count: 91,265
  • Genre: Romance
  • Keywords: 20th century literature, british literature, children's stories
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