G.A. Henty | 1832-1902

"MY DEAR LADS, -- In the following pages I have endeavored to give you a vivid picture of the wonderful events of...." This address marks the beginning of many of the almost 80 historical adventures G.A. Henty wrote for boys in the last three decades of the 19th century. Born into a comfortable family, Henty boxed, wrestled, and rowed his way through Westminster and Cambridge (where he did not complete his degree) before serving as a war correspondent in the Crimea, Italy, and Ethiopia. Enjoying the type of adventure that he wrote about so prolifically, he witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, journeyed through India with the Prince of Wales, and traveled to California. Henty's books touched on dozens of episodes in British history, including the Norman Conquest (Wulf the Saxon), the establishment of British rule in India (With Clive in India), and the Boer War (With Buller in Natal). All followed the same basic formula: A boy-hero, generally age 15, finds himself on his own as a result of family circumstances; he meets up with a great man in whose company he has an adventure; in the course of the historical crisis he meets and rescues a girl destined to be his wife; the crisis is resolved, the British triumph, and the boy-hero returns as a man to settle down in England, modest but strengthened by the memory of his adventure. To the modern reader, Henty's books are notable for their hearty imperialism, undisguised racism, and jingoistic patriotism. To Henty's readers, though, devoted to his books in large numbers until World War II, British history was turned into adventure, and many boys learned that Great Britain became great and boys became men -- to borrow from another of Henty's titles -- "by sheer pluck."