G. A. Henty


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G.A. Henty (1832–1902), English author and journalist wrote a prolific amount of children's stories during his lifetime, including A Knight of the White Cross (1896).

As a war correspondent Henty gained the knowledge and acumen to quickly produce works to capture an audience, to bring them right to the frontlines. This style translated well to his fictional adventures when he wrote for his children Out on the Pampas (1871). His almost eighty works in total would soon be read across Britain and North America, and many translated for schools across Europe.

George Alfred Henty was born on 8 December 1832 at Trumpington, near Cambridge, England, the son of stockbroker James Henty (bap. 1799, d. 1872) and Mary Bovill (1808–1887). He was the second of four children. Whilst attending the Westminster School he took to physical pursuits such as rowing and boxing, activities he would continue at Caius College, Cambridge where he studied the classics. Later in life a passion would be yachting. At the outbreak of the Crimean War he and his brother Frederick were commissioned for service and the Morning Advertiser published his letters home. Frederick died after contracting cholera, and Henty was invalided home.

Upon arrival home he continued his writing whilst rehabilitating. The now-promoted captain and Elizabeth Finucane (1836–1865) married on 1 July 1857, with whom he'd have four children. In 1865 Elizabeth died of tuberculosis. His two daughters Maud Elizabeth (d.1879) at the age of eighteen and Ethel Mary (d.1882) at the age of nineteen also died of tuberculosis. Overcome with grief which would take years for him to recover from, he resigned his position as captain because it wasn't sufficient to support his family, so he launched into a career as war correspondent for The Standard. He endured many adventures of derring-do whilst in the company of Garibaldi in Italy and Sir Robert Napier in Abyssinia. The March to Magdala and All but Lost, collections of his reports were published in 1868. During the Franco-Prussian War he spent time with both the German and French sides. He then found himself reporting on campaign events in Russia and Africa. The Illustrated London News as well as The Standard were publishing his reports. After writing of the Spanish Civil War, Henty accompanied the Prince of Wales on a royal tour of India. After many years of service, Henty was starting to weary of the travails of war and conflict, physically and spiritually, and finally resigned.

In 1871 he had published Out on the Pampas, some of the characters named after his own children. It was his first real break from non-fiction aimed at a juvenile audience. The Young Franc-tireurs (1872) while also aimed at young male readers was based on his army experiences. Henty had already lived a full life of hard work, integrity, and virtue based on Christian values and his characters and their experiences embodied the true spirit of that which he believed in so fully. He was a man known to be quick to temper, but just as quick to forgive. He was strong-willed and ambitious, and took to smoking a pipe as he dictated his stories. With his war correspondent background, his attention to detail and authenticity earned him rave reviews. His historical adventures encompassed many periods of time and history, set in various countries from America to Africa. Blackies of Glasgow would become his main publisher, for whom he began a prolific period of writing, often three books a year.

The Young Bugler (1880), Under Drake's Flag (1883), With Clive in India (1884), When London Burned, A Story of Restoration Times and the Great Fire (1895), Moore at Corunna (1898), At Aboukir and Acre, A Story of Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt (1899) and his best-selling titles With Buller in Natal (1901), With Roberts to Pretoria (1902), and With Kitchener in the Soudan (1903) were some of his many titles to follow. On 21 December 1889 Henty married Elizabeth Keylock (1854–1926), who had been his devoted housekeeper and assisted his sister in caring for his children for many years. Henty suffered numerous bouts of illness during his lifetime, and whilst aboard his yacht "The Egret" with Elizabeth in Weymouth Harbour on 16 November 1902 he passed away. He lies buried beside his wife "Lizzie" and his daughters in their family grave in Brompton cemetery, London. His sons James and Charles Gerald survived him.

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on G. A. Henty

With Clive in India

I notice that, in the list of his works, the a/n title, nor "the Beginnings of an Empire", neither appear to be present. Is there any particular reason? I remember reading this book when I was a kid, in the late 1950's or early 1960's. I also read Lion of the North. My Dad read his books when he was a youngster and encouraged me.


The Boy Knight

Hello to All! This is my first posting with LNF. I look forward to "meeting" other members and discussing our mutual interests. I am a recently retired professor of human communication from Pepperdine University with some fiction and nonfiction writing credits...no books (yet). I do some book collecting and have recently found a publication by G. A. Henty, The Boy Knight. (I am still try to figure out how to underline the book title on this site!) I am wondering if anyone knows the publication date of this book since no date appears within the book. Thank you in advance for any assistance you might offer. WGA


Henty - Imperialist writer

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.


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