FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT certainly expected to be remembered as a famous author, but she would have been astonished and aggrieved to discover that her reputation rests on a few children's books. She was, in fact, a prolific, popular writer of adult novels about unhappy marriages, infidelity and illegitimacy. The malign workings of the class system are an underlying theme in nearly all the books', for humiliating childhood memories of becoming déclassée were engraved on Burnett's heart.
She had observed her family helplessly slipping down Victorian England's immutable class structure after her father's death in 1853, when Burnett was four. Mrs Hodgson could not afford to keep up the family home in one of Manchester's expensive suburbs and had to move, with her two sons and three