The Literature of G. A. Henty

G. A. Henty (1832-1902) wrote a LOT of books: over 100 novels and stories. He exclusively wrote in the historical adventure genre.

Henty’s interest in writing started at an early age. He often got sick as a child and spent his days in bed. With not much else to do, he read constantly and developed a wide number of interests.George_Alfred_Henty

Henty left his university without finishing his degree to volunteer for an army hospital; he was soon sent to Crimea, where he saw the horrible conditions of war. He regularly wrote home with detailed scenes of war. These letters impressed his father, who sent them to The Morning Advertiser newspaper for publishing.

With the war behind him and his letters published, Henty started a steady writing career by becoming a war correspondent.

This was helped along by his strong sense of patriotism toward his home country of Britain that he held for all of his life.

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This stunning copy of Through the Sikh War is available here.

Henty’s first published book was titled Out on the Pampas. The main characters in the story were named after Henty’s children. The book was written in 1868.

Almost all of his stories involved young men (occasionally women) living in hard times, especially during war. His protagonists all contained sparks of courage with strong moral compasses. Through all of his stories, Henty draws on his real-life experiences with war.

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This beautiful copy of Jack Archer is available here.

Despite the kind protagonists of his stories, some of Henty’s views sparked controversy, even in Victorian times, for xenophobia and racism. Perhaps this is why his books have not stood the test of time.

Henty had a brief stint of popularity with readers in the late 19th century, inspiring other writers to write in “the Henty tradition”. However, the period of popularity was brief, and people lost interest in his stories less than 30 years after his death.

Henty’s detailed war stories with spunky heroes sparked the imaginations of Victorian readers, and with the amount of stories he wrote, he certainly guaranteed himself a good stint of popularity. His books can now be looked upon as relics of the times they come from. 

The Incredible Story of Nellie Bly, Pt. II

 

To make a name for herself as a journalist, Nellie Bly never passed down an opportunity for a story.

(Check out Part I of Nellie’s story here!)

Bly was not done making news. In 1888, she persuaded her editor at New York World that she would take a trip around the world, a la Around the World in Eighty Days. A year later she boarded a steamer called the Augusta Victoria to begin her record-breaking journey.

The fictional Phileas Fogg as written by Jules Verne traversed the world in 80 days. Even though his record only existed in stories, it stood as a record worth beating.

But Bly had competition. The newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to race around the world in the opposite direction. The World sponsored a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” for the exact second that Bly would return from her trip.

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Bly used a number of transportation methods in her travels, including steamships, railroads, horses, rickshaws and more. In China Bly visited a leper colony and also bought a monkey in Singapore. She met Jules Verne himself in France. As she traveled she sent short reports of her positions.

Bly traveled mostly unchaperoned, a bold move for a woman of her time.

Bly had to take a slower ship than intended on the last leg of the trip, but the owner of the World hired a private train to rush her back.

After a journey of 72 days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds, Bly returned to New York. She set the world record for the fastest trip around the world.

Bisland, the reporter sent to race her, arrived in New York four and a half days later; she had missed a connection and had to finish her journey on a slower ship.

A few months later, a man named George Francis Train beat her record with a trip in 67 days.

Nellie Bly had established herself as an all-star reporter, and her name was later recognized in various pop culture and other references. The New York Press Club, for instance, gives an annual “Nellie Bly Club Reporter” journalism award to the best new journalists in the field.

When Bly passed away in 1922, she had an unmarked grave in New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery until the New York Press Club funded a gravestone with her name in 1978.

 

The Incredible Story of Nellie Bly, Pt. I

 

Nellie Bly was a remarkable woman.

Bly was not only an incredible and dedicated reporter, but she also traveled around the world in a record-breaking time of 72 days in the late 19th century. Her real name was Elizabeth Jane Cochrane; Nellie Bly was her pen name, taken from a song by Stephen Foster.

 

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Nellie Bly’s signature

Bly started her journalism career after reading an article titled “What Girls Are Good For” in the Pittsburgh Dispatch – a very misogynistic article. Bly wrote in a passionate rebuttal to the article under the pseudonym “Lonely Orphan Girl”. The editor of the newspaper found her passion impressive and offered her a job at the newspaper. (You can find excerpts of her first article, “The Girl Puzzle”, here.)

 

Bly wrote a groundbreaking journalism piece after feigning insanity to get herself into an insane asylum. Asylums at the time did not have strict regulations and often treated patients as inconvenient objects.

 

After practicing her faked insanity, Bly checked into a boardinghouse and showed telltale signs of paranoia and amnesia. Doctors examined her and declared her “Positively demented,” as one doctor said. This story alone caused newspaper frenzy, with media headlines like “Who Is This Insane Girl?”

 

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When Bly came to the asylum, she saw firsthand how horrible its conditions were. The dirty water and spoiled food alone was enough for an outcry. The asylum had poor hygiene and the nurses abused the patients.

 

Of her experiences, Bly wrote:

“What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment?…I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading…give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane.”

 

madhousecvrThe World freed her from the asylum after ten days. Bly published an account of her time in the asylum under a report called Ten Days in a Mad-House, which received acclaim and brought awareness to the awful conditions of asylums at the time. Doctors and other professionals who had examined her tried and failed to excuse why they found a perfectly healthy woman to be completely insane.

 

Bly assisted in an investigation of the asylum launched by a grand jury and recommended increased funds for the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. The Department got an $850,000 increase and the orders to make sure that only the very sick got sent to the asylum.

 

This exposé gave Bly plenty of positive attention, but it was only the start of her incredible career.

 

Check out Part II of Nellie Bly’s story here, where she attempts to make record time traveling around the world!