of flowers and Fauntleroy…

Having finished one of my favorite stories by Louisa May Alcott (An Old-Fashioned Girl), I continued on to read several stories by another favorite author. I’m sure most girls have read The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, but how many of them have read anything else by Frances Hodgson Burnett?

My mother has always loved to read, so I inherited that love, and as a child, I read through many of her own books. James Herriot’s books, The Scarlet PimpernelThe Baronet’s Song (George MacDonald), any book by L.M. Montgomery (and not just the Anne books), and many others came in my way.

One of these was a little-known book called The Lost Prince of Samavia. Well, that’s its full title, but I’m not sure of our copy had the “of Samavia” part in it. A fascinating story of a strong young man, raised by his father to always do right and stand for his country of Samavia, even though he had never been there. Young Marco runs into a pack of street urchins, led by The Rat, and befriends them. Eventually, this friendship leads them all over Europe, to secretly “light the lamp”, and let the supporters of Samavia finally come forward and stand with their Lost Prince.

Sometime in my twenties, I became aware of the existence of the book Little Lord Fauntleroy. I had heard of how the Fauntleroy suits were a fad, some time in the distant past, and thought the idea of dressing up a little boy with long ringlets and velvet suits somewhat absurd. But I reminded myself that someone who could write The Lost Prince, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden, surely there had to be more to the story than the idiotic fashions.

And I was right… but until yesterday, I couldn’t remember what the story was about, at all. Now, I’m in the middle of rereading it, and find much of interest. I do have to suspend disbelief over finding a child that seems so extremely good and perfect, but Cedric Errol, Lord Fauntleroy, is so earnest and childlike alongside this, that I let it pass.

The idea that an innocent, beautiful, and charming child could have such an influence over the irascible despot of his grandfather is a fascinating thought. Cedric, being very young, thinks his grandfather to be all that is good and wonderful, so the old Earl eventually doesn’t want his grandchild to be disabused of the notion. To have such faith and trust placed in one… you can’t but want to live up it!

I also love the contrast that the author portrays of America and England. Cedric’s father may have been English, but the child is fiercely proud of being an American. His friendship with Mr. Hobbs, especially, I find so fun and wonderful, and only possible in America, at the time. That, at age 7, Cedric can be so proud of being a ” ‘publican”, and try to talk their servant, Mary, out of being a “dimmycrat”. As a lover of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, I read a lot about England, but it’s delightful to hear of a future Earl who is so proud to be an American, and that he would like to be President.

While I haven’t finished rereading Fauntleroy, I did finish reading The Land of the Blue Flower, a short story, on my Kindle. Such a simple fairy tale, really, but very beautiful. The land was ruled for generations by evil kings by the name of Mordreth, but finally they have killed themselves off. All except a newborn babe, whose mother puts the child Amor into the hands of the Ancient One. A mysterious long-lived character, the Ancient One carries the child away to a mountain castle, to raise far from the dirt and evil of his people.

Raised to know nothing but that which is good and beautiful, eventually the young man is grown and goes to be crowned King of his very suspicious people. He has “no time for anger” and wanders into the darkest corners of his land, looking for a way to raise the people above the squalor that they have sunk into. And he mysteriously passes a law that all of his people shall plant and cultivate the Blue Flower. Such a little thing, and yet it changes them all.

I have only barely tested the waters of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s writing, but I am very grateful to the availability of free or inexpensive e-books, so I can catch up on all of my classic reading. Perhaps others will enjoy doing so, as well.

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