The Secret Garden – F.H. Burnett

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The Secret Garden is a classic English children’s book written by Frances Hodgson Burnett that was published in 1911. The Secret Garden PDF tells the story of Mary Lennox, a 10-year-old girl who is from a wealthy British family. Although she is from a wealthy family, she was never really wanted so her parents don’t love or care about her. The family lives in India and she is mostly raised by servants who spoil her terribly. The story follows Mary’s life as she moves from being selfish and spoilt to loving, kind, and generous.

The Secret Garden PDF

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Is The Secret Garden PDF Free To Download?

Yes, it is! The Secret Garden was published in 1911 so it is in the public domain. You are therefore welcome to download and read it for free! We hope you enjoy it!

The Secret Garden Summary

Mary Lennox is born into a wealthy British family who are living in India. She is 10 years old and, although she has every material thing she could ever want, her parents don’t love her and she is neglected by them. She is mostly raised by servants who do everything for her and give her anything her heart desires. Because she is so spoiled she becomes self-centered, rude, and selfish.

Early in the story, Mary is orphaned when a cholera epidemic breaks out and kills her parents and servants. She is sent to England to stay with her uncle, Archibald Craven who is a widower and also a hunchback. The Craven family lives on a massive estate called Misselthwait Manor although Mr. Craven himself isn’t home very often.

Initially, Mary is miserable and hates her new home. She is appalled that her new maid, Martha will not give in to her every desire. Gradually she becomes friends with Martha, who tells her stories about Lillias Craven, Mr. Craven’s wife who had a private garden where she would spend all her time. Martha tells her that Lillias died 10 years previously and Mr. Craven was devastated. He locked the garden and buried the key somewhere in the garden so that no one could go into the garden again.

Mary is so intrigued by the idea of the secret garden that she becomes determined to find it. She starts enjoying exploring the garden where she becomes friends with Ben Weatherstaff, the estate’s gardener. One day while following a friendly little robin she became friends with, Mary finds a disturbed patch of soil. When she investigates she finds a key! A little later she discovers a door hidden behind ivy and she manages to open it with the key. At last, she has discovered Lillias Craven’s secret garden!

Because the garden has been locked for so long it is completely overgrown. But Mary is not discouraged and she starts working in the garden to clear the weeds. She asks Martha if she could have some gardening tools and Martha sends these with her 12-year-old brother, Dickon who has a wonderful connection to animals. Dickon and Mary quickly become friends and she tells him about the secret garden.

One day while listening to the wind blowing over the moors Mary is convinced that she hears someone crying. She asks Martha if she can hear it too but Martha tells her it’s just the wind. One day while exploring the house on her own, Mary finds a hidden room with a young boy in it. His name is Colin Craven and he is Mary’s cousin. Colin is sickly and has spinal problems and because of this he never leaves his room. He is very spoiled, just as Mary had been.

Mary and Colin become friends and Mary decides that Colin isn’t in fact sick, or crippled and that it is all in his mind! She tells him about the secret garden and he asks Mary to take him to see it. Mary and Dickon take Colin to see the garden in his wheelchair.

One day while in the garden, Ben Weatherstaff peeks over the wall and sees the children. He tells the children that he thought Colin was a cripple. Colin is offended by being called crippled so he gets out of his wheelchair and stands on his own! The children spend more and more time in the garden growing stronger, happier, and healthier.

One day Mr. Craven returns from a trip abroad and while walking through the garden he hears voices inside his wife’s garden. He finds the door and when he sees it’s unlocked he goes inside only to discover the children in the beautiful garden. He is shocked to see his son completely healthy and winning a race against Mary! The children tell him the whole story and he is overjoyed.

The Secret Garden Q&A

Is The Secret Garden Based On A True Story?

No, The Secret Garden is not a true story. However, the garden itself was inspired by a real-life garden.

In 1898, Burnett rented Great Maytham Hall in Kent, a Downton Abbey-style manor with a walled kitchen garden. When Burnett moved in, the ivy on the walls was so overgrown that she couldn’t find the door to the garden. Finally, like Mary in The Secret Garden, a robin sitting on a nearby branch showed her where it was. After that, Burnett threw herself into fixing up the neglected grounds, planting flower gardens, putting in rose bushes, and improving the views.

Mental Floss | 8 Lovely Facts About The Secret Garden

What Is The Main Theme Of The Secret Garden?

There are a couple of themes that the Secret Garden explores.


Both Mary and Colin begin their journeys as selfish, spoiled children who aren’t very likable at all. By the end of the book, both Mary and Colin have grown into wonderful, happy children. Colin not only heals emotionally but also physically.


One of the big themes in the book is that of happiness and how by being selfless and kind, you become happier too. Happiness brings more happiness and being miserable tends to make you more miserable.

The Power Of Thought

The book shows how much of a dramatic effect your thoughts can have on your life. Colin is an especially good example of this. When he believed that he was crippled and sick he was indeed crippled and sick! However, once he changed his mind and started believing that he was well, he healed and became healthy and happy very quickly.

The Power Of Nature

The Secret Garden shows just how powerful the healing force of nature can be. Both Colin and Mary quickly became happier and healthier just by being surrounded by sunshine and the beautiful garden.

The Power Of Friendship

The bond that the children develop in the story is very strong and it shows just how important good and faithful friendships are to healing and growth.


When Lillias Craven died, Mr. Craven also died inside. He locked up the garden and buried the key in his grief. He didn’t want to spend time with Colin because Colin reminded him of his beloved wife. However, by the end of the book, Mr. Craven is healed and embraces his family.

What Illness Does Colin Have In The Secret Garden?

In the book we are told that Colin is sickly and that he is crippled, suffering from some type of spinal problem. However, we later find out that Mary’s assessment is true, Colin’s illness is all in his mind. However, Colin is carrying around a lot of mental and emotional damage caused by the death of his mother and his father’s reaction to it

“What is the matter with him?” asked Mary.

“Nobody knows for sure and certain,” said Martha. “Mr. Craven went off his head like when he was born. Th’ doctors thought he’d have to be put in a ’sylum. It was because Mrs. Craven died like I told you. He wouldn’t set eyes on th’ baby. He just raved and said it’d be another hunchback like him and it’d better die.”

The Secret Garden

What Age Should Read The Secret Garden?

Children from around the age of 9 or 10 can read The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden Movies

There have been five Secret Garden movies made to date.

  • 1919 – Silent Flim – Directed by Gustav Von Seyffertitz
  • 1949 – Movie – Directed by Fred Wilcox
  • 1987 – Movie – Won Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program
  • 1993 – Movie – Directed by Agnieszka Holland
  • 2020 – Movie – Directed by Marc Munden

In 2001, a movie by the name of Back to the Secret Garden was released as a sequel to the 1987 movie adaptation. The story takes place a few decades after the original story and Mary and Colin are now married. Martha is the mistress of Misselthwaite Manor which is now an orphanage for children whose parents died in the war.

The Secret Garden (1993) – Trailer

The Secret Garden Trailer (2020)


The Secret Garden is a beautiful story that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Download The Secret Garden PDF and join Jane, Colin, and Dickon on their adventures in The Secret Garden.

More Free Classic Novels and PDF Books To Download And Enjoy:
The Great Gatsby
Jane Eyre
As A Man Thinketh
Pride And Prejudice
Alice In Wonderland