A book with a backstory

A Day Away By Mike Steely

Sometimes a find in a used book bin can lead to an interesting story about the book and the author. The battered book I recently found in a discard pile, “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a British-American author who had lived in East Tennessee.

Inside the book is a Norwood Elementary School borrower’s card filled with names from 1968 until 1988 with the last person to check out the famous novel penciled in as “Sarah Brock.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett was an English girl whose family relocated to New Market, Tennessee.

The family’s home in the little town just off Highway 11E near Jefferson City is still there today, marked with a historic sign in the front yard. Holston Springs, a noted historic deep well spring where a visitor can still fill a jug with “health-giving” waters, is next door to the house.

Frances began writing at age 19 and her family relocated again, to Knoxville, and Frances married Doctor Swan Burnett. She traveled often and lived in England, Paris, Washington, D.C., and a second marriage eventually saw her settle in Nassau County, New York.

She became a prolific and successful writer and is also well known for “The Secret Garden” and ”A Little Princess.” She died in New York at age 74 in 1924. She is buried in the Roslyn Cemetery and New York’s Central Park has a memorial to her.

The introduction of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” says that Burnett’s two sons, Lionel and Vivian, asked her to write a book that little boys would like to read. Her son, Vivian, was chosen by her to be immortalized as the main character, a young English Lord who had many adventures.

The book became a hit and is now viewed as a “period piece” still read and enjoyed.

New Market is an interesting little town with less than 2,000 residents. It has the historic Presbyterian Church, built in 1885 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the home of the Highlander Research and Educational Center.

You can find New Market on the internet or turn south off Highway 11E at Red Bull Road and take the first left, Old Andrew Johnson Highway. Follow it until you see Houston’s Miner Waters building. The house is to the right of the building.

If you’re returning to Knoxville you may want to take another side trip through “downtown” Strawberry Springs and continue along Old Andrew Johnson Highway to visit the McBee Ferry Landing Park. If you choose you can then turn right and cross the Mascot Rainbow Arch Bridge.

The Mascot Road will take you to Rutledge Pike and a left turn there will bring you back to Knoxville.