View Full Version : Henty - Imperialist writer

02-04-2007, 08:05 AM
I notice in the biographical details on Henty that it says he reported on The Spanish Civil War. I think that should be clarified lest some young reader think of him as a type of Hemingway. Spain was convulsed with civil conflict rather regularly during the 19th century but most readers might assume it refers to Franco's coup d etat / attempt to restore order (Take your pick) Clearly it must refer to an earlier conflict but which I am not sure.
Henty was a vigorous story teller for boys. He was of the muscular Christian type but suffered from the usual 19th century British disease of imperialist belief. He wasn't a racist but did have fairly stereotypical views of foreigners and the ethnic groups within the British Isles.

I remember as a child in bed ill being given 'Jack Archer' to read. What a yarn - full of adventure, dash and spilled blood, courage and the triumph of good. The drive and certainty of his own beliefs allowed Henty to concentrate on telling the story of his heroic central character and never mind subtle moralising. That is the fundamental quality that a writer of novels needs - the ability to make the story engaging- but now I look back and wonder if he was all that healthy. The cataclysm of The Great War swallowed up thousands of young men who would have been readers of Henty as children and would have shared his strong patriotic, imperialist and idealistic beliefs, might indeed have had these beliefs laid down by Henty and his likes.

Still it is good to see this important 19 th century children's writer represented here. Henty in fact would have been popular with boys well into the 20th century. I doubt if girls read him much. Females in his stories were either stong healthy maidens of noble virtue or conniving foreign countesses trying to corrupt the square-jawed hero out of the way of duty. The latter group always lost.