G. A. Henty

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George Alfred Henty
Portrait of G. A. Henty.jpg
G. A. Henty, by Elliott & Fry.
Born (1832-12-08)8 December 1832
Trumpington, Cambridgeshire, England
Died 16 November 1902(1902-11-16) (aged 69)
Weymouth, Dorset, England
Occupation Writer (novelist), war correspondent
Nationality English
Period 19th century
Genre Children's literature

George Alfred Henty (8 December 1832 – 16 November 1902) was a prolific English novelist and war correspondent.[1][2] He is best known for his historical adventure stories that were popular in the late 19th century. His works include The Dragon & The Raven (1886), For The Temple (1888), Under Drake's Flag (1883) and In Freedom's Cause (1885).


G. A. Henty was born in Trumpington, near Cambridge. He was a sickly child who had to spend long periods in bed. During his frequent illnesses he became an avid reader and developed a wide range of interests which he carried into adulthood. He attended Westminster School, London, and later Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge,[3] where he was a keen sportsman. He left the university early without completing his degree to volunteer for the Army Hospital Commissariat when the Crimean War began. He was sent to the Crimea and while there he witnessed the appalling conditions under which the British soldier had to fight. His letters home were filled with vivid descriptions of what he saw. His father was impressed by his letters and sent them to The Morning Advertiser newspaper which printed them. This initial writing success was a factor in Henty's later decision to accept the offer to become a special correspondent, the early name for journalists now better known as war correspondents.

Shortly before resigning from the army as a captain in 1859 he married Elizabeth Finucane. The couple had four children. Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness and shortly after her death Henty began writing articles for the Standard newspaper. In 1866 the newspaper sent him as their special correspondent to report on the Austro-Italian War where he met Giuseppe Garibaldi. He went on to cover the 1868 British punitive expedition to Abyssinia, the Franco-Prussian War, the Ashanti War, the Carlist Rebellion in Spain and the Turco-Serbian War.[4] He also witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal and travelled to Palestine, Russia and India.

Henty was a strong supporter of the British Empire all his life; according to literary critic Kathryn Castle: "Henty...exemplified the ethos of the new imperialism, and glorified in its successes".[5] Henty's ideas about politics were influenced by writers such as Sir Charles Dilke and Thomas Carlyle.[4]

Henty once related in an interview how his storytelling skills grew out of tales told after dinner to his children. He wrote his first children's book, Out on the Pampas in 1868, naming the book's main characters after his children. The book was published by Griffith and Farran in November 1870 with a title page date of 1871. While most of the 122 books he wrote were for children, he also wrote adult novels, non-fiction such as The March to Magdala and Those Other Animals, short stories for the likes of The Boy's Own Paper and edited the Union Jack, a weekly boy's magazine.

His children's novels typically revolved around a boy or young man living in troubled times. These ranged from the Punic War to more recent conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars or the American Civil War. Henty's heroes – which occasionally included young ladies – are uniformly intelligent, courageous, honest and resourceful with plenty of 'pluck' yet are also modest.[6] These virtues have made Henty's novels popular today among many Christians and homeschoolers.

Henty usually researched his novels by ordering several books on the subject he was writing on from libraries, and consulting them before beginning writing.[6] Some of his books were written about events (such as the Crimean War) that he witnessed himself. Hence these books are thus written with greater detail as Henty drew upon his first-hand experiences of people, places, and events.

On 16 November 1902, Henty died aboard his yacht in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, leaving unfinished his last novel, By Conduct and Courage, which was completed by his son Captain C.G. Henty.

Henty is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.[7]

Funerary monument, Brompton Cemetery, London


G. A. Henty's commercial popularity encouraged other writers to try writing juvenile adventure stories in his style; "Herbert Strang", Percy F. Westerman and Captain Frederick Sadleir Brereton all wrote novels in "the Henty tradition", often incorporating then-contemporary themes such as aviation and First World War combat.[8] By the 1930s, however, interest in Henty's work was declining in Britain, and hence few children's writers looked to his work as a model.[9]

The Henty series was part of F. Scott Fitzgerald's boyhood reading.[10]


Cover of the 1902 first edition of To Herat and Cabul, A Story of the First Afghan War by G. A. Henty and illustrations by Charles A. Sheldon, published by Blackie and Son Ltd., London.

Henty wrote 122 works of historical fiction and all first editions had the date printed at the foot of the title page.[11] Several short stories published in book form are included in this total, with the stories taken from previously published full-length novels. The dates given below are those printed at the foot of the title page of the very first editions in the United Kingdom. It is a common misconception that American Henty titles were published before those of the UK. All Henty titles bar one were published in the UK before those of America. The simple explanation for this error of judgement is that Charles Scribner's Sons of New York dated their Henty first editions for the current year. The first UK editions published by Blackie were always dated for the coming year, to have them looking fresh for Christmas. The only Henty title published in book form in America before the UK book was In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers dated 1900 and published by Harper of New York. This title was published in book form in the UK in 1903, although the story itself had already been published in England prior to the first American edition, in The Boy's Own Annual.


A book published in 1884 in the "Fireside Henty Series" called Forest and Frontier or Forests and Frontiers and Adventures Among the Indians was discovered to be by Thomas M. Newson.[12]

UK and US availability

In the late 1990s, a number of American publishers, such as Polyglot Press (Philadelphia, PA), PrestonSpeed, and the Lost Classics Book Company, began reprinting Henty's books and advocating their usage for conservative homeschoolers.[13] Reprints of all Henty's works are available from modern day British and American publishers. One such publisher and major modern advocate of Henty is the American scientist, homeschool curriculum publisher, and one-time political candidate Arthur B. Robinson, who promotes the use of Henty's books as a supplement to his self-teaching homeschool curriculum.[14]

Controversial views

Even during his lifetime, Henty's work was contentious; some Victorian writers accused Henty's novels of being xenophobic towards non-British people and objected to his glorification of British imperialism.[6] In such books as True to the Old Flag (1885) which supports the Loyalist side in the American War of Independence,[15] and In the Reign of Terror (1888) and No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée (1900) which are strongly hostile to the French Revolution.[16] However, In Henty's novel In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce (1885) the hero fights against the English, and bitterly denounces the acts of England's king, Edward I.

Henty's novel With Lee in Virginia has a protagonist who fights on the side of the "aristocratic" Confederacy against the Union.[17]

Henty's popularity amongst homeschoolers is not without controversy,[18] Quoting from the chapter of By Sheer Pluck called "The Negro Character" ("like children ..."), political commentator Rachel Maddow called Henty's writings "spectacularly racist".[19][20][21] Carpenter and Pritchard note that while "Henty's work is indeed full of racial (and class) stereotypes", he sometimes created sympathetic ethnic minority characters, such as the Indian servant who marries a white woman in With Clive in India, and point out Henty admired the Turkish Empire. Some even accuse Henty of holding blacks in utter contempt, and this is expressed in novels such as By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War and A Roving Commission, or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti.[6] Kathryne S. McDorman states Henty disliked blacks and also, in Henty's fiction, that "...Boers and Jews were considered equally ignoble".[4] In By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War, Mr. Goodenough, an entomologist remarks to the hero:

They [Negroes] are just like children ... They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. ... They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed. They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery[21]

In the Preface to his novel A Roving Commission (1900) Henty claims "the condition of the negroes in Hayti has fallen to the level of that of the savage African tribes" and argues "unless some strong white power should occupy the island and enforce law and order" this situation will not change.[22]

In the novel Facing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines Henty comes down against strikes and has the working class hero of the novel, Jack Simpson, quell a strike among coal miners.[23]

A review by Deirdre H. McMahon in Studies of the Novel in 2010 refers to his novels as jingoist and racist and states that during the previous decade "Numerous reviews in right-wing and conservative Christian journals and websites applaud Henty’s texts as model readings and thoughtful presents for children, especially boys. These reviews often ignore Henty’s racism by packaging his version of empire as refreshingly heroic and patriotic."[24]

In 1888, on the bookjacket for Captain Bayley's Heir, The Times (of London) writes that Henty's character in With Lee in Virginia, "...bravely proving his sympathy with the slaves of brutal masters..." and escapes through "..the devotion of a black servant and of a runaway slave whom he had assisted.." The reviewer recommends the book.[25]

List of titles

Title Title Page date
A Search for a Secret 1867
The March to Magdala 1868
All But Lost, Volumes I, II and III 1869
Out on the Pampas: The Young Settlers 1871
The Young Franc-Tireurs and Their Adventure in the Franco-Prussian War 1872
The March to Coomassie 1874
The Young Buglers, A Tale of the Peninsular War 1880
The Cornet of Horse: A Tale of Marlborough's Wars 1881
In Times of Peril: A Tale of India 1881
Facing Death, The Hero of the Vaughan Pit – A Tale of the Coal Mines 1882
Winning His Spurs: A Tale of the Crusades (aka Boy Knight) 1882
Friends Though Divided: A Tale of the Civil War 1883
Jack Archer: A Tale of the Crimea 1883
Under Drake's Flag: A Tale of the Spanish Main 1883
By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War 1884
With Clive in India: The Beginnings of an Empire 1884
In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce 1885
St. George For England: A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers 1885
True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence 1885
The Young Colonists: A Tale of the Zulu and Boer Wars 1885
The Dragon and the Raven, or The Days of King Alfred 1886
For Name and Fame: To Cabul with Roberts 1886
The Lion of the North: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of Religion 1886
Through the Fray: A Tale of the Luddite Riots 1886
Yarns on the Beach: A Bundle of Tales 1886
The Bravest of the Brave, or, With Peterborough in Spain 1887
A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia 1887
The Sovereign Reader: Scenes from the Life and Reign of Queen Victoria 1887
The Young Carthaginian, A Story of the Time of Hannibal 1887
With Wolfe in Canada: The Winning of a Continent 1887
Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden 1888
For the Temple: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem 1888
Gabriel Allen M.P. 1888
In the Reign of Terror: The Adventures of a Westminster Boy 1888
Orange and Green: A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick 1888
Sturdy and Strong: How George Andrews Made His Way 1888
Captain Bayley's Heir: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California 1889
The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt 1889
The Curse of Carne's Hold: A Tale of Adventure, Volumes I and II 1889
The Lion of St. Mark: A Story of Venice in the Fourteenth Century 1889
The Plague Ship (1889)
Tales of Daring and Danger, Five Short Stories 1890
By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic 1890
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo 1890
With Lee in Virginia, A Story of the American Civil War 1890
The Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades 1891 the American title for Winning His Spurs
By England's Aid: The Freeing of the Netherlands, 1585–1604 1891
By Right of Conquest: With Cortez in Mexico 1891
Chapter of Adventures: Through the Bombardment of Alexandria aka The Young Midshipman (USA) 1891
A Hidden Foe, Volumes I and II 1891
Maori and Settler: A Tale of the New Zealand War 1891
Those Other Animals (1891)
The Dash For Khartoum: A Tale of the Nile Expedition 1892
Held Fast for England: A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar (1779–83) 1892
The Ranche in the Valley (1892)
Redskin and Cowboy: A Tale of the Western Plains 1892
Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion 1893
Condemned as a Nihilist: A Story of Escape from Siberia 1893
In Greek Waters: A Story of the Grecian War of Independence (1821–1827) 1893
Rujub, the Juggler, Volumes I, II and III 1893
Dorothy's Double: The Story of a Great Deception, Volumes I, II and III 1894
A Jacobite Exile: Being the Adventures of a Young Englishman in the Service of Charles XII of Sweden 1894
Saint Bartholomew's Eve: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars 1894
Through the Sikh War: A Tale of the Conquest of the Punjab 1894
In the Heart of the Rockies: A Story of Adventure in Colorado 1895
When London Burned: A Story of Restoration Times and the Great Fire 1895
Woman of the Commune: A Tale of Two Sieges of Paris (aka Cuthbert Hartington, A Girl of the Commune,Two Sieges and Two Sieges of Paris 1895
Wulf The Saxon: A Story of the Norman Conquest 1895
A Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes 1896
Through Russian Snows: A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow 1896
The Tiger of Mysore: A Story of the War with Tippoo Saib 1896
At Agincourt: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris 1897
On the Irrawaddy: A Story of the First Burmese War 1897
The Queen's Cup, A Novel, Volumes I, II and III 1897
With Cochrane the Dauntless: A Tale of the Exploits of Lord Cochrane 1897
Colonel Thorndyke's Secret (aka The Brahmin's Treasure (USA)) 1898
A March on London: Being a Story of Wat Tyler's Insurrection 1898
With Frederick the Great: A Tale of the Seven Years War 1898
With Moore at Corunna: A Tale of the Peninsular War 1898
Among Malay Pirates; A Tale of Adventure and Peril (1899)
On the Spanish Main: A Tale of Cuba and the Buccaneers (1899)
At Aboukir and Acre: A Story of Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt 1899
Both Sides the Border: A Tale of Hotspur and Glendower 1899
The Golden Cañon and The Stone Chest, or The Secret of Cedar Island, (The Stone Chest is a filler title, not by Henty) (2-in-1 book) 1899
The Lost Heir 1899
Under Wellington's Command: A Tale of the Peninsular War 1899
In the Hands of the Cave Dwellers 1900
No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée 1900
A Roving Commission, or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti 1900
Won by the Sword: A Story of the Thirty Years War 1900
In the Irish Brigade: A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain 1901
John Hawke's Fortune: A Story of Monmouth's Rebellion 1901
Out With Garibaldi: A Story of the Liberation of Italy 1901
Queen Victoria: Scenes from her Life and Reign 1901
With Buller in Natal: A Born Leader 1901
At the Point of the Bayonet: A Tale of the Mahratta War 1902
To Herat and Cabul, A Story of the First Afghan War 1902
With Roberts to Pretoria: A Tale of the South African War 1902
The Treasure of the Incas: A Tale of Adventure in Peru 1903
With Kitchener in the Soudan, A Story of Atbara and Omdurman 1903
With the British Legion: A Story of the Carlist Wars 1903
Through Three Campaigns: A Story of Chitral, Tirah, and Ashantee 1904
With the Allies to Pekin: A Story of the Relief of the Legations 1904
Gallant Deeds, Five Short Stories 1905
By Conduct and Courage: A Story of Nelson's Days 1905
In the Hands of the Malays 1905
Among the Bushrangers from A Final Reckoning 1906
Indian Raid, An from Redskin and Cowboy 1906
Cast Ashore from With Clive in India 1906
Charlie Marryat from With Clive in India 1906
Cornet Walter from Orange and Green 1906
A Highland Chief from In Freedom's Cause 1906
The Two Prisoners from A Soldier's Daughter 1906
The Young Captain from With Clive in India 1906


There is one known instance of a book title by Henty having been filmed, along with two audio theater productions, Under Drake's Flag,[26] and With Lee In Virginia.[27]


A Final Reckoning (1929), American, B&W: Serial/24 reels

Directed by Ray Taylor.
Cast: Frank Clark [Jim Whitney], Newton House, Louise Lorraine, Jay Wilsey, Edmund Cobb.
Universal Pictures Corporation production; distributed by Universal Pictures Corporation.
Scenario by Basil Dickey and George Morgan, from a novel by George Alfred Henty.
Cinematography by Frank Redman.

Twelve episodes (two reels each): [1] “A Treacherous Friend,” released 15 April 1929. / Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format. / [?] Website-IMDb lists the release date of the first episode as 15 April 1928.

Audio Theater Productions

  • Under Drake's Flag[28] (2013), Heirloom Audio Productions
  • In Freedom's Cause[29] (2014), Heirloom Audio Productions

See also


  1. "Henty, George Alfred". Who's Who 1901: An Annual Biographical Dictionary. London: Adam & Charles Black. 1901. p. 556.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "George Alfred Henty". Literature. Athenæum (4182): 792–93. 21 December 1907.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Henty, George Alfred (HNTY851GA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Kathryne S. McDorman,"Henty, George Alfred" in Historical Dictionary of the British empire edited by James S. Olson and Robert Shadle. Greenwood Press, 1996 ISBN 0-313-27917-9 (pp. 152-54, Volume 1).
  5. Kathryn Castle. Britannia’s children : Reading Colonialism through children’s books and magazines. Manchester University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-7190-2853-1 (p. 55).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard,The Oxford Companion to children's literature Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-19-860228-6 (pp. 244-7).
  7. Brompton Cemetery Website.
  8. Carpenter and Prichard,The Oxford Companion to children's literature, (p. 7).
  9. Thwaite, Mary Florence (1963). From Primer to Pleasure: An introduction to the history of children's books in England. Library Association. p. 181.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Turnbull, Andrew, Scott Fitzgerald (NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962), p. 14.
  11. Newbolt, Peter. G.A.Henty 1832–1902 A Bibliographical Study. ISBN 978-1-85928-208-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Minnesota Stories In The "Fireside Henty Series "". Minnesota History. 14: 86–87. 1933.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Henty's Heroes", The Economist, 9 December 1999. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  14. Administrator. "Adventure, Character, History, and Vocabulary - Robinson Books - GA Henty Collection - Adventure Books for Boys". henty.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Henty was a British imperialist, and his attitude to the War of Independence is totally coloured by this doctrine. He thought that Britain was right and the American colonists were wrong". Dennis Butts, "Exploiting a Formula: The Adventure Stories of G.A. Henty" (1832-1902)" in Popular Children's Literature in Britain. Edited by Julia Briggs, Dennis Butts, and Matthew Orville Grenby. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008. ISBN 978-1-84014-242-6 (pp. 149-164).
  16. Butts, 2008.
  17. "The English devotion to the cause of a Southern aristocracy sank to rest in the quieter formulas of a G. A. Henty's boy's novel". "The English Novelists and the American Civil War", Charles E. Shain, American Quarterly. Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1962), (p. 420).
  18. Krepel, Terry (28 October 2010). "The Question to Ask About Art Robinson's Love of Racist Novels". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. The Rachel Maddow Show, October 11, 2010, Guests: Mark McKinnon, Gov. Ed Rendell, Nola Foulston.
  20. "'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, Oct. 8th, 2010". MSNBC. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 Quotes at By Sheer Pluck (1884), p. 118, via forgotten books.com (2013, London). Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  22. Chris Bongie, Friends and enemies: the scribal politics of post/colonial literature Liverpool University Press, 2008, ISBN 1-84631-142-X (p. 140 ).
  23. Guy Arnold, Held Fast for England: G.A Henty, Imperialist Boys' Writer. Hamish Hamilton, 1980, ISBN 0-241-10373-8 (p. 21)
  24. McMahon, Deirdre H. (Spring–Summer 2010). ""Quick, Ethel, Your Rifle!": Portable Britishness and Flexible Gender Roles in G.A. Henty's Books for Boys". Studies of the Novel. 42 (1 & 2). Retrieved 19 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Henty, GA (1889). Captain Bayley's Heir: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Under Drake's Flag
  27. In Freedom's Cause and [http://www.withleeinvirginia.com/ With Lee In Virginia
  28. "Under Drake's Flag". underdrakesflag.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "In Freedom's Cause - InFreedomsCause.com". infreedomscause.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links