George Alfred Henty, 1832 – 1902, History Teacher?


By: Roger Childs

Henty was a writer best known for adventure stories that taught history to generations of impressionable British and American youngsters, along with all the benefits of manliness, honesty and self-reliance. Many biographies from readers of the time tell the same story of schoolroom classes, after the boys being told that they may read, echoing to the sound of desks being opened, noisily closed and every boy banging down a Henty volume onto his desk !

Henty wrote 122 books, contributed to 72 books and annuals, and 34 periodicals and newspapers. More contributions and stories continue to be discovered as researchers for The Henty Society continue investigations.

This ‘essay’ was prompted by the errors of judgment that well-meaning sellers of Henty books make with their internet listings. My main complaint being that these errors are always seen as fact by the reader, thereby compounding the problem.

A common mistake is that of sellers stating that dated American editions of Henty are the ‘true firsts’! Not so!?! Blackie & Son Limited was the prime publisher in the UK of Henty books. The majority of Blackie first editions were dated for the coming year so, for example, the Blackie first edition of Held Fast for England was published on 1st August 1891 with the title page showing 1892. The American first edition of Held fast for England published by Charles Scribner’s Sons showed a title page date of 1891. The Blackie edition, despite the post-dating, was the very first issue of this title. There was just one Henty title published in America before the UK. That was In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers by Harper & Brothers of New York with a title page date of 1900. The UK edition from Blackie was issued on the 18th July 1902 and the title page was undated.

The very first authorised publisher of Henty in America was Scribner & Welford (S&W) of New York. The agreement was that Blackie printed the S&W titles and shipped them to New York. S&W then replaced the title page with their own and inserted their catalogue prior to issue. There were 32 titles issued by S&W between 1886 and 1890, some dated, but most not. An American collector of Henty researched these S&W editions and The Henty Society published a booklet of the results that is invaluable.

Another bone of contention is the number of unauthorised or ‘pirate’ editions of Henty from American publishers. The many unscrupulous publishers of the time included Burt, Donohue, Hurst, Lupton and Mershon, who was probably the most prolific. The Boy’s Dumas by John Cargill Thompson, published in 1975, lists 58 American publishers of Henty titles.

The problem with these ‘pirates’ is that they were usually very cheaply produced on poor quality paper and within bindings that reflected patriotic American themes that were nothing to do with the Henty story. Collectors have nothing against Americans, but the sight of an American cavalryman leading a charge of uniformed troopers with a Stars and Stripes on the cover of a book about the freeing of The Netherlands in 1585 is extremely annoying. But that was the problem with ‘pirate’ publishers who also didn’t pay a penny to the English author.

If any reader is interested in collecting G.A. Henty, the following publications may help:

Bibliography of G.A.Henty & Hentyana by R.S Kennedy & B.J.Farmer

  • privately published in c1955

G.A.Henty A Bibliography by Captain R.L.Dartt

  • published by Dar-Web Inc. and John Sherratt and Son Ltd in 1971

G.A.Henty 1832- 1902 A Bibliographical Study by Peter Newbolt

  • published by The Scolar Press in 1996

Each is useful and includes information that the others do not, but by far the best is the Newbolt book of 710 pages of solid detail. Included are pictures of over 330 of the editions on 74 plates. Unfortunately now out of print.

The Henty Society organised a ‘Gathering’ to remember the life of Henty on the one-hundredth anniversary of his death on his yacht in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, England on 16th November 1902. The Gathering occurred over three days, with almost 70 attendees, was a great success and took place in an hotel overlooking Weymouth Harbour.

If any reader is interested in joining The Henty Society, the contact detail is:

Dr Bruce Lees, Hon. Secretary, The Henty Society, Hayfield, Bourne Fields, Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1NY England

The Henty Society was formed in 1977 by a small group of enthusiasts, led by the late Roy Henty, a distant relative of G.A. Henty, and has thrived ever since. We have members all around the world. It is probably fair to say that the best collection of Henty is with an American collector. The second best collection may also be in America, but there are some very good collections on this side of the ‘Pond’.

The titles shown in the picture are of Henty rarities from English publishers, with the one title to be issued in America before the UK, In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers.

Roger Childs
Collector and Henty Society Researcher
Email address: roger@childs.freeserve.co.uk
April 2003



 

   
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