The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 8, 2016

December 8, 1832

George Alfred Henty (December 8, 1832 to November 16, 1902) became famous as the author of adventure stories for boys, and Henty had himself adventures proper to a Victorian imperialist.

He was "the second son ...of James Henty (...1799-1872), stockbroker, manager of coal and iron mines, and Mary Bovill (1808-1887), daughter of Dr Edwards of Putney, Surrey. At Westminster School and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, he studied classics."

Henty's letters from the Crimean war front wound up published as newspaper accounts,

.... including his description of Florence Nightingale's arrival at Scutari. While there, Henty's brother died of cholera. Henty was invalided home, receiving the Turkish order of the Mejidiye, and promoted to purveyor, as a captain. He was sent to organize Italian hospitals during the war with Austria, and briefly, without relinquishing his commission, worked as a mining surveyor in Sardinia.

We are quoting now from his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article:

On 1 July 1857 he married Elizabeth Finucane (1836-1865) in Dublin. After his marriage he found army office routine wearisome and insufficiently lucrative to support a family, and resigned his commission. Two sons and two daughters were born, but in 1865 his wife died of tuberculosis, aged only twenty-nine. Henty was devastated. He sought active life as a war correspondent, was accepted by
The Standard on the strength of his military experience and published reports from the Crimea. ....[H]e went in 1866 to join Garibaldi advancing on Milan, and later the Italian fleet at Brescia. Arrested en route as a spy, with his journalist's pass confiscated, he managed by brave subterfuge to board a frigate, and made a detailed report of the naval battle of Lissa.

In the Tyrol, Garibaldi, hearing of boxing skills Henty had used to defend himself from aggressive soldati, requested a demonstration. George Meredith, then Morning Post correspondent, volunteered as sparring partner, and a three-round contest was arranged. A year later Henty published a three-decker novel, A Search for a Secret (1867). In the following spring The Standard assigned him to Sir Robert Napier's expeditionary force to Abyssinia, and some of his reports were copied by the weekly Illustrated London News. Henty sent them more, with his own drawings, which were engraved and reproduced. An edition of his dispatches, The March to Magdala, and a second three-decker, All but Lost, both appeared in 1868.

Henty is recalled now as the author of adventure stories, often from history. From the above we can appreciate their appeal as portraying an authentic spirit of adventure. His books, over 100 in number, include:

Wulf the Saxon, A Story of the Norman Conquest
, (1895) and
The Cat of Bubastes, A Tale of Ancient Egypt, (1889 )

An early biography describes the Victorian writer George Alfred Henty as --

A man with a great love for domestic animals, Henty generally had about half-a-dozen dogs of the Scotch terrier and other breeds to share with him the quiet of his home study, supplemented by two or three cats which lived in fairly good harmony....


Back to the ODNB:

On 1 July 1857 he married Elizabeth Finucane (1836-1865) in Dublin. After his marriage he found army office routine wearisome and insufficiently lucrative to support a family, and resigned his commission. Two sons and two daughters were born, but in 1865 his wife died of tuberculosis, aged only twenty-nine. Henty was devastated. He sought active life as a war correspondent, ...[l] eaving his children in his mother's care....

Henty had had long, sad years of loneliness following the untimely death of his first wife, and suffered several bouts of ill health. He married his second wife, Elizabeth Keylock (1854-1926), twenty-two years his junior, on 21 December 1889. She was the daughter of John Keylock, a farmer, and had kept house for him and his sister over some years, and he remained devoted to her. She was with him when he died aboard his yacht, the Egret, in Weymouth harbour ....


Henty's friend Sir Henry Lucy considered him 'one of the warmest-hearted shortest-tempered men in the world' ... Edward Marston, friend and publisher, called him 'a rough diamond of the first water, sometimes boisterous, genial, generous, sympathetic, and simple-minded as a child.'


I am not sure they still make boys like Henty.

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