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ClassicsOnline Home » ANGUS, D.: Ballet Stories (Unabridged)
The stories of the most popular ballets are told in refreshing style against the backdrop of the music written by Delibes, Tchaikovsky and Adam. Naxos Audiobooks draws on its own roots in classical music to present the definitive introduction for children in this sympathetic reading by Jenny Agutter.
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT
THE SECRET GARDEN
READ BY JENNY AGUTTER
Although the story of The Secret Garden takes place in the English county of Yorkshire,
Frances Hodgson Burnett lived most of her life in America. She was just 16 when
her father died and the family sailed to Tennessee – just as the American Civil
War was ending.
She started writing when she was young – she had a natural
talent for telling stories and a very strong imagination. Though she lived in
Tennessee, her imagination carried her back to those days of her childhood in
Lancashire, and her first novel was The Lass O'Lowries, about a working class girl. It immediately brought
But it wasn't until 10 years later that she had an even
bigger success. This was Little Lord Fauntleroy, a story about an American child who turns out to be an English lord.
It was first published in 1886 and proved a massive hit, selling 43,000 copies
in its first year. Having already written a number of plays, she turned it into
a drama with productions on both sides of the Atlantic.
These plays, and the original book (which went on to sell
one million copies in England alone) started a craze for everything to do with
the title character – including ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ suits (black velvet
with white lce collars), which boys of the period were made to wear!
Twenty years later, in 1909, The Secret Garden appeared. Mrs. Hodgson Burnett was prompted to write
the story because she heard that a rose-garden in a country house she used to rent
when she visited England was being pulled down. When she stayed there, she had
loved the flowers and other plants, and had made friends with a robin who lived
in the garden.
The seeds of the story, taken from her own life, were there,
but around it she wove an unforgettable tale, with very real people. In The
Secret Garden, Mary's early life was in
India. And it was true that sometimes, when there was an outbreak of cholera –
a dangerous disease then – whole families did die.
Mrs. Hodgson Burnett knew what it was like to be a child and
leave the country and home she loved (though she didn't go to America as an
orphan). She could imagine the loneliness of Mary, and how cold and bleak the
Yorkshire moors must have seemed to her after the burning sun and bright colors
And although Mrs. Hodgson Burnett lived in Lancashire, the
neighboring county to Yorkshire, and she decided to set The Secret Garden in Yorkshire, she remembered the local accent and
the local sayings very well – as can be heard in the words and language of Ben
Weatherstaff, the gardener.
So, The Secret Garden
is a mixture of the author's personal experience and her imagination.
It wasn't such a popular success as Little Lord
Fauntleroy, but in the years following its
publication in 1911 it proved itself a classic – like The Little
Princess, which she wrote a couple of years
And it is now one of a number of great junior classics,
which date from the late 19th century and early 20th century – among them Little
Women, What Katy Did and The
Railway Children – which are enjoyed by
each new generation.
ABOUT THE READER
Agutter began her performing life as a ballet dancer in the Walt Disney film Ballerina. But she rose to fame in the television production and
subsequently the film of The Railway
Children. Since then
her film credits have included The Eagle
Has Landed, Equus and An American Werewolf In London. She has been equally active in
the theater in varied roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National
Theatre and on Broadway. Her recent television credits include The Buccaneers, Heartbeat and the Channel 4 series, And The Beat Goes On.
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ANGUS, D.: Ballet Stories (Unabridged)