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A Little Princess is a 1905 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett's 1888 serialised novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's Boarding School, which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine.
According to Burnett, she had been composing a play based on the story when she found out a lot of characters she had missed.
The publisher asked her to publish a new, revised story of the novella, producing the novel.
A Little Princess opens with seven-year-old Sara Crewe and her father, Captain Crewe, arriving at Miss Minchin's boarding school for girls in London.
Captain Crewe is very wealthy and states that Sara is destined for a lavish, comfortable future.
Despite being pampered all her life in India, Sara herself is very intelligent, polite, and creative.
Headmistress Miss Minchin is secretly jealous and dislikes Sara for her cleverness, but openly praises and flatters her because of her father's wealth.
Before departing for India, Captain Crewe purchases Sara an elegant wardrobe and a doll whom Sara adores and names "Emily." Sara's friendliness and love for pretending and storytelling makes her popular with most of the school's students.
They soon begin regarding her as a princess, which she embraces. Sara befriends Ermengarde, the school dunce; Lottie, a spoiled four-year-old student; and Becky, the scullery maid.
A few years later, Sara receives word from Captain Crewe that he and a childhood friend have become partners in a scheme to gain control of a diamond mine which could potentially multiply his wealth enormously.
Miss Minchin later treats Sara to a very luxurious eleventh birthday party per Captain Crewe's request.
Just as the party is ending, Captain Crewe's lawyer arrives unexpectedly and tells Miss Minchin that Captain Crewe has died of jungle fever and his partner has gone missing.
He then adds that business troubles rendered Captain Crewe's estate completely insolvent, leaving Sara an orphaned pauper.
Enraged that she will never be reimbursed for all the services and goods spent on Sara since receiving the last cheque, Miss Minchin seizes all of Sara's possessions except for an outgrown black frock and Emily.
Miss Minchin then tells Sara that she will live in the attic next to Becky and work as a servant to continue living in the school.
For the next several years Sara is made to teach the younger students and run errands in all weathers; she is starved and abused by Miss Minchin, the cook, and the other servants.
She is consoled by Ermengarde, Lottie, and Becky, who visit her during the night, as well as Emily and a rat she names Melchisedec.
Sara extensively uses her imagination as a means of coping, pretending that she and Becky are prisoners in the Bastille.
Sara also continues pretending she is still a princess and continues to be kind and polite to everyone including her offenders.
One day Sara finds a fourpence in the street and uses it to buy six buns from a friendly baker.
The baker witnesses Sara give five of the buns to a beggar girl before leaving. The baker regards Sara as a princess and invites the beggar girl to live with her.
Meanwhile, a sickly man from India, Tom Carrisford, moves into the house next door.
Sara sympathetises with him, and becomes interested in him. It is revealed that Mr. Carrisford was Captain Crewe's childhood friend and partner.
During their time in India, they had both caught high fevers, and in his delirium, Mr. Carrisford abandoned Captain Crewe.
However, the diamond mine scheme had not fallen through as they both had initially believed, and Carrisford became extraordinarily wealthy.
Mr. Carrisford feels extremely guilty that Captain Crewe's daughter is missing because of the ordeal and seeks to find her.