"To be a true hero you must be a true Christian. To sum up then, heroism is largely based on two qualities- truthfulness and unselfishness, a readiness to put one's own pleasures aside for that of others, to be courteous to all, kind to those younger than yourself, helpful to your parents, even if helpfulness demands some slight sacrifice of your own pleasure. . .you must remember that these two qualities are the signs of Christian heroism." - G.A. Henty
George Alfred Henty was born on December 8, 1832, at Trumpington, England, seven years after Ballantyne was born. He was the second of four children, a sickly child who had to spend long periods in bed. We see quite often that he had almost an English version of Theodore Roosevelt's early life. During his continuous illnesses, he read almost non stop and developed a huge amount of knowledge. While attending Westminster School, he took to strenuous exercise like rowing and boxing.
Like many men of his time, he was very private, and most of what we know about him is from his books and letters. He lived through the news of many amazing events of his time from the Crimean War to the American Civil War. He attended Westminster School, London, and later Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. George and his brother Frederick left Cambridge early, without completing their degree courses, to serve in the Crimean War. He would join the Army Hospital Commissariat as a volunteer, and would win the Turkish Order of Medjidie Third Class for his work with the English and Turkish wounded. He was later promoted to Captain in the Purveyor's Department.
Much like Ballantyne, his letters home were filled with fascinating accounts of the battles and adventures he was experiencing. His father was so impressed by his son's letters and stories that he sent them to The Morning Advertiser to be published. The success of his stories among the general public was probably the reason Henty decided to accept an offer to become a "Special War Correspondent" for the newspaper, The Standard.
In 1866, the newspaper sent him to report on the Austro-Italian War. There he would meet Giuseppe Garibaldi (Garibaldi would become a character for one of Henty's later books). He went on to cover many important events such as the 1868 British punitive expedition to Abyssinia, the Franco-Prussian War, the Ashanti War, the Carlist Rebellion, and the Dreyfus Trial, to name just a few. On July 1, 1857, at age twenty five, he would finally settle down and marry Elizabeth Finucane, They had four children. Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness. Later in 1889, he would marry Elizabeth Keylock.
G.A. Henty once said his storytelling skills had grown out of the stories he told his children around the dinner table. He wrote his first boy's novel, Out on the Pampas in 1868 (but was not published until 1870), the book's main characters were named after Henty's own children, Charlie, Hubert, Maud, and Ethel, to their great delight.
Henty suffered much illness during his lifetime, and while aboard his yacht "The Egret" with his second wife Elizabeth, on the 16th of November, 1902, he passed away.This was before the completion of his last novel, By Conduct and Courage which was to be completed by his son Capt. C.G. Henty. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery in London, beside his wife and his daughters in one family grave.
Henty's boys' stories always revolved around a boy or young man in adventurous and even dangerous times. Henty's stories took place in times as far ranging as ancient Egypt all the way to the "modern" wars, such as the Boxer Rebellion. Henty's heroes are all courageous, honest, and resourceful (with an extra amount of 'pluck') but are also modest young men who don't boast about their advancements.These virtues have made Henty's novels popular today among many young men around the world who would wish to glean something from the boys of Henty's books.
One astonishing thing about these two authors, R.M.Ballantyne and G.A.Henty, is the fact that there is no competition between them. They fit perfectly together. Ballantyne seemed to know that his strength was in geographical history, where Henty was strongest in his great knowledge of historic wars and battles. And so they both supplied something which was really needed at the time: knowledge of wars and history as well as knowledge of the different parts of the globe. This is what made what we now know as the "British Empire." Without these two men history would not be what it is today!
Special thanks to Roger Childs of the Henty Society for information and editing help.