G.A. Henty (1832-1902) was a prolific English writer of historical adventure stories for children. A student at Cambridge, Henty abandoned higher education to join the British Army and serve in the Crimean War, first in the Hospital Service and later the Purveyor’s Department. While in Crimea, Henty wrote letters to his family that chronicle the deplorable conditions suffered by the English troops. These letters were published in the Morning Advertiser and led to Henty’s appointment as Special Correspondent for the Standard. After resigning his commission in the British Army, Henty continued to travel and report on the wars fought by a waning British Empire, including the Austro-Italian, Franco-Prussian, Ashanti, and Turco-Serbian Wars.
While Henty wrote adult fiction as well as a number of book-length war histories, he is best remembered for his historical adventure novels for children. The stories in these novels reflect his globe-trotting experiences of war. The tales feature the heroic exploits of boys, as well as the occasional girl, against the backdrop of tumultuous events. Henty’s plucky heroes — almost always intelligent, courageous, and modest — experienced adventures during a multitude of wars ranging from the Punic to the American Civil as well as the more domestic dangers of homesteading in a variety of inhospitable environments.
Originally published by Blackie & Son in London and Glasgow, Henty’s adventure tales proved enormously popular in American. American publishers were so eager to capitalize on the Henty phenomenon that many produced pirated editions.
USF’s collection of G.A. Henty includes over 500 items, featuring first editions of many of his novels as well as numerous examples of each title in pirated American editions. There are also later reprints and omnibus editions as well as an exhaustive collection of reference works for biographical and bibliographical study.