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Summary Article: Henty, G. A. from Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature

H. was born the son of a stockbroker–mine owner and became the author of some 80 popular, late-19th century adventures stories for boys. H. was a sickly boy and spent much of his childhood in bed where he read a great deal. He read natural history and took a special interest in poetry. H. attended Westminster School at age fourteen and learned boxing and wrestling as self-defense. H. 359 attended Cambridge University to read Classics. He also rowed and took training from professional boxers and wrestlers. H. left Cambridge after one year to work in his father's Welsh mine but returned to Cambridge and then left again when the Crimean War broke out. While in the war, H. wrote interesting letters home. His father took his letters to a daily newspaper and suggested that his son become their correspondent. The newspaper staff agreed and while H. remained in the army for five more years, he polished his skills as a journalist. In 1866, H. covered the Austro–Italian War as a correspondent. He wrote a series of dispatches as well as an adult novel. In 1870–71, H. reported on the Franco–Prussian War.

H. wanted to write more books for adults but his publisher urged him to write for a young audience. The first children's book was Out on the Pampas; or, the Young Settlers (1871) and the second The Young Franc-Tireurs (1872). H. continued as a correspondent in Russia, AFRICA, Spain, India, and the Balkans. After the Turkish–Serbian War of 1876, he came home exhausted and remained in England, except for one visit to the United States. In 1880, H. published The Young Buglers: A Tale of the Peninsular War and in 1881 he published The Cornet of Horse: A Tale of Marlborough's Wars. By this time he had worked out his formula: he ordered numerous reference books from the library and would write or dictate his own story with the reference books spread open in front of him.

H.'s writing gained prestige and his productivity increased. By 1886, he was producing four books a year. In 1880, he assumed editorship of a boys' newspaper called Union Jack. He moved to Boys' Own magazine when the first newspaper collapsed and collaborated on Camps and Quarters, which was produced annually. H. became the dominant figure in boys' fiction in the last two decades of the 1800s. There are several G. A. H. fan clubs. Approximately 30 million copies of his books have been sold across the English–speaking world.

H.'s formula centered on a boy of fifteen or sixteen years, physically fit, good-hearted and hot-headed. He would put the boy near a great historical moment, an insurrection, or a war. The experience allows the boy to rise to maturity, show his intelligence and his good heart, and to conquer the situation. H. made a sizable income from his fast-paced adventure stories. His writing shows unabashed pride in late Victorian imperialism. He later began his books with a letter to readers “My Dear Lads” and drew attention to the heroic exploits within the story to follow. They helped to create the British Empire.


Further Works

(SELECT):

Facing Death: The Hero of the Vaughan Pit (1883) With Clive in India (1884) The Cat of Bubastes (1889) Beric the Briton (1893) A Soldier's Daughter (1906)
Bibliography Arnold, Guy, Held Fast for England, 1979 Doyle, Brian, ed. The Who's Who of Children's Literature, 1968 Hunt, Peter, ed., Children's Literature: An Illustrated History, 1995 The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, 1985

Bernice E. Cullinan

© 2005 The Continuum International Publishing Group, Ltd

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