Argh Har, Me Hearties! (or.. Henty v’s Strang)

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Herbert Strang, that writer of rousing books for boys, is a phantom of the ilk of Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon.

Just in case you didn’t grow to adolescence on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon were pseudonyms for a team of writers hired by the Stratemeyer  Syndicate.   I was very disillusioned, later in my reading career, to find two of my favourite childhood “standby” authors were not, actually, two authors.

So before I begin extolling the virtues of Herbert Strang, I will undeceive you as to that character’s true identity.  George Herbert Ely (1866–1958) and Charles James L’Estrange (1867–1947) were members of staff at Oxford University Press, and put their hand to the task of writing adventure stories for boys, under the nom de plume, Herbert Strang.

With that shocking revelation out of the way, I will share with you some of the newspaper reviews of the time:

“Boys who read Mr Strang’s works have not merely the advantage of pursuing enthralling and wholesome tales, but they are also absorbing sound and trustworthy information of the men and times about which they are reading.” _ Daily Telegraph.

“He has won for himself a reputation at least as high as that of Mr Henty by work far more earnest and sincere”. _ Speaker, Dec. 8, 1906

“Herbert Strang tells a story as well as Henty told it, and his style is much more finished”. _ Saturday Review, Dec 8, 1906

How does he compare to Henty?  Not being a boy, I am perhaps not the best judge.  However, there were no passages I felt compelled to glaze over, and I confess that Henty’s tendency to describe in detail the strategies of war are sometimes trying to me.  In fairness, none of the five stories I have read of Mr Strang’s were about war, so it hardly seems a fair remark, though true.

The main characters, in line with Henty’s, are stout hearted, honourable boys of courage and daring, and I have found nothing in the stories to make a conservative, homeschooling mama flinch.

While there is historical detail to pick up in any story written during a different time period to our own, I believe Henty wrote more to the purpose of education than what I have so far sampled of Strang.  Still, if you are after an out and out adventure story, with arresting language and no boring bits, Stang is worth hunting up.

Before you do a used book search, you may want to visit project Gutenberg and have a read online to see if the writing style is to your taste, but if you have a boy who is a confident reader, and has enjoyed Treasure Island, or Henty, or that style, then these books should be appreciated.

After reading several of Strang’s tales back to back, entertaining as they were,  I am so ready for a girl-themed book. It might be time to dig out a copy of Pride and Prejudice, and leave the buccaneers, freebooters, shipwrecks and cannibals for another day..

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St. George for England

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St. George for England is now complete and available as a free audio download from Librivox. (Hooray for Librivox volunteers!).

This is one you won’t want to miss if you’re currently studying the reign of Edward III; the Black Prince;  the battles of Cressy and Poitiers; the destruction of the Spanish fleet; the Black Death; and the Jacquerie rising.

As an interesting aside, we met in this book characters first introduced to us in “A Chaplet of Pearls”, by Charlotte Yonge, about the slaughter of St Bartholomew’s Eve (France, 1572).

If you are desiring to be immersed in the era, you can’t go past Ronald Welch’s “Bowman of Crecy”.  He doesn’t cover the battle of Poitiers, but you’ll never forget his account of Crecy!

Happy listening, folks!

By Pike and Dyke, Free Audio

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Hey, Henty fans!

Librivox volunteer David Leeson,  has just finished an unabridged recording By Pike and Dyke.  To download this free audio book, visit:

http://librivox.org/by-pike-and-dyke-by-g-a-henty/

Summary by D. Leeson

It is the 1570’s, and the people of the Netherlands live in terror under the cruel dominion of Spain. Though many long to be free of Spanish tyranny, efforts at rebellion are failing, and allies are nowhere to be found. Edward “Ned” Martin, son of an English captain and a Dutch lady, is thrust into the conflict when he resolves to help his mother’s people and avenge his murdered relatives. Entering the service of the revolutionary leader William the Silent, Prince of Orange, Ned is called upon to carry out dangerous secret missions deep within occupied territory. Through hairbreadth escapes, fierce sea fights, terrifying sieges, and daring rescues, Ned becomes a witness to the inspiring and heartbreaking events of the rise of the Dutch republic.

Enjoy!

Free Henty Audio Book-St Bartholomew’s Eve

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st-bartholomews-eve-g.a.henty

Just in time for holidays!  If you’re a Henty fan, or the parent of a history buff who has not yet been introduced to Henty, you may want to rip over to Librivox, and download Anna Christensen’s reading of the book, “St Bartholomew’s Eve”, by G.A. Henty.

You can burn the story to disc or put it on your ipod and play it in the car.  You can subscribe to a chapter a day,  in iTunes, or RSS feed.  How cool is that?

Here’s a summary:

Set in the days of the religious wars of Europe, St. Bartholomew’s Eve is the tale of the Huguenot’s desperate fight for freedom of worship in France. As the struggle intensifies, the plot thickens, culminating in the dreadful Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve. Henty, “The Boy’s Own Storyteller” weaves the life and adventures of Philip Fletcher and his cousin, Francois DeLaville, into the historical background with thrilling battles, sieges and escapes along the way (not to mention a fair damsel in distress!). (Summary by Minkona)

Librivox is staffed by volunteers who love books, and share their time and enthusiasm so that books in the public domain can become audio books…..for free!  Isn’t that great?

Thank you Anna!

By Sheer Pluck

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Henty’s protagonist does, in true Henty style, save the lives of an inordinate number of people. How so many characters manage to throw themselves in harms way is wonder enough, but that Frank is always on hand to save them is a remarkable providence.

After a difficult start in life, Frank finds himself as an assistant to a highly respected naturalist on a collection journey through Africa. While there he becomes involved in the Ashanti wars, and all sorts of dramas ensue.

Although we are fine to tolerate a certain amount of war in a story, in particular one which clearly labels itself as such, the descriptions of manoeuvres became a wincy bit tiresome, and I confess to glossing over a few.

Chapter 12, A Negro’s Story, is very interesting, though a challenge to read aloud, being written in the vernacular. It gives the perspective of one man who aided others through the underground railroad, and made it back to Africa after escaping. However, the blatant racism expressed throughout the book, a characteristic of the time of writing, is very confronting and required much editing during our reading aloud.

I also found this particular story to be more graphically violent than the others we have read so far, with a lot of human sacrifice and descriptions of brutality that were a trifle too gory to add anything to the appreciation of the story.

While we did find we cared enough about Frank’s fate to pursue the book to its conclusion, it was with a sigh of relief that we turned the final page. This was not a roaring success as a real aloud, and I would hesitate to give it to a younger child without the benefit of discussing some of the themes presented. This one’s for older, confirmed Henty fans only.

On the Irrawaddy

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Stanley was in difficult straits. Finding himself a P.O.W during the Burmese/British war was just the start of his adventures. He was also hunted by Burmese officials across the countryside, falls in with a band of renegades, rejoins the British, leads a daring rescue, was besieged in ancient temple ruins, and ultimately returns to England.

These endeavours require all his ingenuity, a measure of luck, and a few feats of courageous daring. In typical Henty style, the protagonist is of sterling character, selfless, honest, reluctant to accept acclaim for service rendered to others, and all with a decided air of manliness.

While we all enjoyed this book, (from 6 year old up!) it was very difficult to read aloud. It was something of a torturous business to pronounce some of the names of people and places, and there was a substantial recounting of battle strategies and implementation.

On the Irrawaddy is a worthwhile addition to our Henty library, but I would hesitate to recommend it as an introduction to his work, or to give it to a less than confident reader. Overall, a good book, combining history, adventure, a fine example of positive character traits and an interesting writing style.

Captain Bayley’s Heir

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Treachery, highway robbery, rampaging Indians, and life on the gold fields, are just some of the adventures G.A. Henty supplies his young novice, Frank, in Captain Bayley’s Heir.

While attending an English boys school, Frank is driven by an unjust charge of theft to board a ship leaving for New Orleans. He sets out to make his fortune in the new land, leaving the way clear at home for his rival cousin to become heir to their uncle’s fortune.

In traditional Henty style, Frank’s stirling character, honour, and steadfastness, win him many true friends in the course of his adventures.

While Henty’s books are aimed primarily at boys, my girls were captivated with the story. We consumed this read aloud at a rate of 100 pages a day. Croak!