Secret gardens, magic Faraway trees, Turkish delights, and stewed impoverished Irish children

Taichiseal’s book recommendation, by author Frances Hodgson Burnett.

And his prior post on another F. H. Burnett book, her more famous The Secret Garden, which whirled me away on a flitting journey over some of my most memorable Victorian-Edwardian English literature reading from a much earlier and much less blemished rose-tinted age.

The magical passages from The Secret Garden quoted by TS:

“It was the lock of the door which had been closed ten years and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.

And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if any one was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly–slowly.

Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.

She was standing inside the secret garden.”

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.”

And my embarrassingly childish response:

Don C said…


The magic of “The Secret Garden” was one of the ingredients that made Victorian-Edwardian English literature and culture so fascinating when I was a kid:
The magical transformations and whirled-away journeys to a secret world which is yours and yours only to delight in.

And all it takes to get there, is to walk down a simple garden path, or fall back into an impossibly deep wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia), step through beyond a looking glass into a magic wonderland (Lewis Carroll), or climb up through the branches of an enchanted magic Faraway tree (The Faraway Tree series)…

I’m sure many of us dreamt of splashing around in puddles on rainy days in our Mackintosh and boots, eating treacle pudding with Golliwogs and Noddy, drinking ginger beer and trekking across misty Mystery Moors with the Famous Five, hideaway in a secret tree attic headquarters to hold meetings with the Secret Seven, and most definitely of all, to go away to boarding school with The Naughtiest Girl in School…

Then you grow up and realize its not all magic sugar and spice, and all things nice…
I discovered writers like Hector Hugh Munro@Saki and his macabre stories satirizing Edwardian society and culture; and earlier still, the high priest of social satire Jonathan Swift and his much-misjudged works: “A Modest Proposal” and “Gulliver’s Travels”.

A contrast indeed, to go from tasting sweet heavenly turkish delights (Narnia), to gobbling down stewed impoverished Irish children (Swift)…
Losing your childhood innocence and growing up into awareness and knowledge of the real world sucks.

Sigh, to return to the magical worlds of our Secret Gardens once again…

Be it anglophile or chinese chauvinist, I really miss treacle pudding and ginger beer, and especially Moon-Face with his Pop Biscuits and Google Buns:

“Come on,” said Moon-Face. “Come and eat a Google Bun and see what you think of it.” Soon they were all sitting on the broad branches outside Moon-Face’s house, eating Pop Biscuits and Google Buns. The buns were most peculiar. They each had a very large currant in the middle, and this was filled with sherbet. So when you got to the currant and bit it the sherbet frothed out and filled your mouth with fine bubbles that tasted delicious. The children got a real surprise when they bit their currants, and Moon-Face almost fell off the branch with laughing.

Here is the fantastic passage from Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, on stewed Irish children:

A Modest Proposal

For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland
From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and
For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

By Jonathan Swift (1729)


”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …”

Now I’m really itching to post a long-delayed musing on turkish delights and other such logic puzzles…

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