PLEASE NOTE: if you click on most individual titles, you will be offered a link to an online version for free--some even have audio books!
Many modern readers are fond of deriding Rudyard Kipling for his British Empire jingoism and "racism." It's an oddly short-sighted criticism—will future Americans look back on our era and criticize the war protests? or our preoccupation with naming ethnic and racial minorities? Given a slightly different context, those could just as easily be seen as gravely xenophobic.
George Alfred Henty is often accused of Kipling's crimes: portraying the "lower" races as brutish children, glorying in British Empiricism, revelling in Victorian patriarchalism. The charge is undeniable and flavors his 100 novels (and numerous short stories), but it would be surprising if it didn't. "The sun never sets on the British Empire" was the boast of every loyal Briton during the twilight of the 19th century, and no one thought twice about it except to extol their Island virtues.
What few critics admit is that Henty's non-white characters are far more human than those found in the majority of books by his contemporaries. A former military man and war correspondent who'd been everywhere and seen everything, his depictions of native peoples may shock our hyper-sensitive ears, but hardly contradicts or overplays what honest historians tell us.
One suspects what anti-Henty spokesmen really don't like is the Christianity and virtue of his heroes. These are perfect books for boys—long on action and historical detail, short on romance, and always featuring a young man whose sterling character and sheer grit ushers him successfully from one hardship to another. He always gets the girl, and though most 12-year-olds won't admit it, that makes them happy, too. But it's the blazing action and harrowing adventure that gets them involved.
Most of Henty's novels take place in a Victorian colonial or historical setting. His adventurers fight beside King Alfred, General Clive, Wellington, Robert E. Lee, Nelson, William Wallace, and hosts of other great military leaders, always in the name of truth and justice. Henty's knowledge of military history lends a realism lacking in stories written by those with "researched" knowledge; he was present at many of the conflicts he depicts, and we smell the tang of powder and hear the metal clashing.
Not that these are high literature. After researching a period, Henty dictated hisstory to a secretary, more like a bard in the oral tradition than a modern novelist. Yet what he lacks in literary grace he makes up for in the things every boy needs to grow up manly, virtuous, and normal: blood, fire, sand, steel, prayer, struggle, and bravery. It's not a good idea to let your sons read exclusively Henty, but they should get a dose. The renaissance of popularity his books are enjoying is well deserved, especially in a culture devoid of legitimate masculinity.
A number of publishers are reprinting all or some of the novels, and many are doing a fantastic job. We've elected to carry the new editions from Robinson Books, which appear both in hardcover facsimiles and quality paperback and include nearly the entire catalogue. We also offer audio versions read by Jim Weiss (slightly abridged and recorded on regular CDs) and Jim Hodges (uncut and recorded on single MP3 discs). If you've never read Henty, you're in for a unique and enjoyable experience; if you have, we'd love to help you fill out your collection.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
If you're interested in collecting old editions of G.A. Henty novels, there are a few basic things you should know. The first thing is that he had authorized publishers in Britain (Blackie & Sons) and America (Scribners). First editions are circa 1890-1905, with beautiful gold-gilded titles in a hand-lettered look. These babies are HEAVY compared to later editions. Popular editions from the same publishers came along a little later circa 1910-1920. Blackie adopted a look with a full figure on the spines of the books, while Scribner started using their "sword & wreath" design.
But these weren't the only publishers. Knock-offs include A.L. Burt, Donohue, Hurst, The Mershon Co., Worthington, W. Foulsham, Henry T. Coates, and others. Although still scarce, these generally have less value than the authorized publishers.
Preston Speed reintroduced Henty in the 1990s with very handsome editions, color-keyed to historical eras. But they had a hard time competing with the Robinson 1st edition facsimile editions , especially after Robinson had gotten all 99 titles back on the market. The main thing we dislike about these is their glossy covers, which don't look that great on the shelf with older copies. Dover has also published a number of paperbacks. If you're just interested in reading these books, many are available online for free.
Hugh Pruen's Henty Companion and William Potter's Boy's Guide are both helpful introductions to the stories.
List of all Henty's books (with publication date):
- All But Lost Vol. I (1869)
- All But Lost Vol. II (1869)
- All But Lost Vol. III (1869)
- At Aboukir and Acre: A Story of Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt (1899)
- At Agincourt: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris
- At the Point of the Bayonet: A Tale of the Mahratta War (1901)
- Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion (1897)
- Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden (1888)
- Both Sides the Border: A Tale of Hotspur and Glendower (1899)
- Bravest of the Brave: Or, With Peterborough in Spain (1887)
- By Conduct and Courage: A Story of Nelson's Days (1904)
- By England's Aid: Or, The Freeing of the Netherlands, 1585-1604 (1891)
- By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic (1890)
- By Right of Conquest: Or, With Cortez in Mexico (1891)
- By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War (1884)
- Captain Bayley's Heir: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California (1889)
- Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt (1889)
- Chapter of Adventures: Or, Through the Bombardment of Alexandria (1891)
- Colonel Thorndyke's Secret (1901)
- Condemned as a Nihilist: A Story of Escape from Siberia (1893)
- Cornet of Horse: A Tale of Marlborough's Wars
- Curse of Carne's Hold
- Dorothy's Double: The Story of a Great Deception (1895)
- Dash For Khartoum: A Tale of the Nile Expedition (1917)
- Dragon and the Raven: Or, The Days of King Alfred (1886)
- Facing Death: Or, The Hero of the Vaughan Pit: A Tale of the Coal Mines (1882)
- Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia (1887)
- For Name and Fame: Or, To Cabul with Roberts (1886)
- For the Temple: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem (1888)
- Friends Though Divided: A Tale of the Civil War
- Gabriel Allen M.P.
- Held Fast for England: A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar 1779-83 (1892)
- Hidden Foe (1891)
- In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce (1885)
- In Greek Waters: A Story of the Grecian War of Independence 1821-1827 (1893)
- In the Hands of the Cave Dwellers (1903)
- In the Heart of the Rockies: A Story of Adventure in Colorado (1896)
- In the Irish Brigade: A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain (1901)
- In the Reign of TerrOr, The Adventures of a Westminster Boy (1888)
- In Times of Peril: A Tale of India
- Jack Archer: A Tale of the Crimea
- Jacobite Exile: An Englishman in the Service of Charles XII. of Sweden (1893)
- John Hawke's Fortune: A Story of Monmouth's Rebellion (1907)
- Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes (1896)
- Lion of St. Mark: A Story of Venice in the Fourteenth Century (1888)
- Lion of the North: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of Religion (1886)
- Lost Heir
- Maori and Settler: A Tale of the New Zealand War (1891)
- March on London: Being a Story of Wat Tyler's Insurrection (1898)
- March to Coomassie (1874)
- March to Magdala (1868)
- No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée (1914)
- On the Irrawaddy: A Story of the First Burmese War (1896)
- One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo (1890)
- Orange and Green: A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick (1910)
- Out on the Pampas: Or, The Young Settlers
- Out With Garibaldi: A Story of the Liberation of Italy (1900)
- Plague Ship
- Queen Victoria: Scenes from her Life and Reign (1901)
- Queen's Cup: A Novel (1898)
- Redskin and Cow-Boy: A Tale of the Western Plains (1892)
- Roving Commission: Or, Through the Black Insurrection of Hayti (1900)
- Rujub, the Juggler (1901)
- Search for a Secret
- Sovereign Reader: Scenes from the Life and Reign of Queen Victoria (1888)
- St. Bartholomew's Eve: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars (1894)
- St. George For England: A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers (1885)
- Sturdy and Strong: Or, How George Andrews made His Way (1888)
- Those Other Animals (1891)
- Through Russian Snows: A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow (1896)
- Through the Fray: A Tale of the Luddite Riots (1886)
- Through the Sikh War: A Tale of the Conquest of the Punjaub (1894)
- Through Three Campaigns: A Story of Chitral, Tirah, and Ashantee (1904)
- Tiger of Mysore: A Story of the War with Tippoo Saib (1896)
- To Herat and Cabul: A Story of the First Afghan War (1901)
- Treasure of the Incas: A Tale of Adventure in Peru (1902)
- True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence
- Under Drake's Flag: A Tale of the Spanish Main (1883)
- Under Wellington's Command: A Tale of the Peninsular War (1899)
- When London Burned: A Story of Restoration Times and the Great Fire (1898)
- Winning His Spurs: A Tale of the Crusades (1896)
- With Buller in Natal: Or, A Born Leader (1903)
- With Clive in India: Or, The Beginnings of an Empire (1884)
- With Cochrane the Dauntless: Lord Cochrane in South American Waters (1897)
- With Frederick The Great: A Tale of the Seven Years War (1898)
- With Kitchener in the Soudan: A Story of Atbara and Omdurman (1902)
- With Lee in Virginia: A Story of the American Civil War (1890)
- With Moore at Corunna (1898)
- With Roberts to Pretoria: A Tale of the South African War (1901)
- With the Allies to Pekin: A Story of the Relief of the Legations (1903)
- With the British Legion: A Story of the Carlist Wars (1902)
- With Wolfe in Canada: Or, The Winning of a Continent (1887)
- Woman of the Commune: A Tale of Two Sieges of Paris (1897)
- Won by the Sword: A Story of the Thirty Years War (1908)
- Wulf The Saxon: A Story of the Norman Conquest (1918)
- Young Buglers: A Tale of the Peninsular War
- Young Carthaginian: A Story of the Times of Hannibal (1887)
- Young Colonists: A Tale of the Zulu and Boer Wars (1897)
- Young Franc-Tireurs
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