G.A. HENTY Autograph Letter Signed
English author of boys' adventure stories and war correspondent.
ALS. 3pp. 23 St. Ann's Villas, Royal Crescent, Notting Hill. June 12th [no year but 1871]. To William Woodall. A fine letter with superb content reflecting Henty's right-wing political views, written following his return from Paris after reporting on the crushing of the Paris Commune. Together with a contemporary carte de visite portrait photograph of Henty.
"My Dear Sir, My order for release came as I hoped it would upon the morning after you left Paris. I remained until Wednesday night to do the funeral of the Archbishop, which by the way was by no means worth staying for and escaped the same night. I did not see O'Connell after you had left. I have this day forwarded by rail a copy of my production which I hope will arrive safely at your address. As I write, I believe, a good deal as I talk, I hope that when you read them they will recall the chats which we have had, and which I can only lament have not, at least as far as I can see, in any way converted you from your 'radical' ways. If you hear of any borough in your neighbourhood upon the lookout for a wild Conservative candidate with a quick flow of talk for the next election, be kind enough to speak a good word for me. At any rate I would promise to make a lively election of it. Do you think that shaken heads would abound? I suppose you find a general feeling of depression in your neighbourhood at the defeat of the Commune. The destruction of their body which was plainly a legitimate sequence of radicalism carried to its full logical end must have been a severe blow for Stoke. In another ten years we shall have a similar but probably even more uncertain time of it in England and you philosophical radicals who in the goodness of your hearts have been patting the lower classes upon the back and assuring them that they are the salt of the earth will stand aghast at what the mob of England will do if they do for years what you have been urging them to do, get the upper hand for only a few hours. You are like those well intentioned men who bring home tiger cubs from India and feed them and feed them and fondle them until one fine day the tiger smells blood and causes a general muck. Then you philosophical radicals, you sincere earnest men, will find yourselves in exactly the same position as those earnest and sincere men, the Girondists. . . and as the men of Sep 4th, Favre, Picard. . . found themselves on 10th March. The tiger cub they had petted and patted on the back showed that. . . he was a ferocious wild beast and his keepers and teachers were absolutely powerless to direct and manage the animal. . . The English sort may not be so bloodthirsty but it is really more brutal, really more destructive than the French one, and God help London if the mob, which the radicals have for years encouraged and patted on the back as a means of coercing parliaments into adopting radical measures, for three days finds itself master of the city. George Sala once said to me when he was chaffing my Toryism, "the day will come when a rational conservatism will sit at Westminster, and I as one of the elcted of the people shall feel it my painful duty to rise in my place and demand the head of Henty." So I say, when the Saturnalia is over, when the mob is, as it assuredly will be, crushed out, and the most Tory parliament ever known takes its seat amongst the ruins of London, I shall feel it my painful duty to rise in the House and demand the head of Woodall. Sincerely, we shall have a high time of it someday. I trust it will not be in my time but mark my words, my dear Sir, you and your party, with your philosophical theories, with your ideas admirable in theory, but altogether impractical in the world in which we live, with your wilful shutting of the eyes to the fact that you are not in Utopia but in a world in which ignorance, drunkenness. . . and crime are rife, are preparing a fearful catastrophe for this country. Jack has come to the conclusion that not only is he as good as his master but that he is a good deal better. John Bright and his followers have laboured hard and effectively in getting the lower classes to look upon the landed gentry and the aristocracy as their natural enemies, and in addition to this they have learned a lesson that John Bright and Manchester would have been the last to teach them - namely that capital is the means of labour. Jack consequently instead of going to his work with that light heart that makes hard work endurable, goes a sullen and dejected man. Radical teaching may, for ought I know, have made him a wiser man but it has certainly not made him a happier man. A little learning is a dangerous thing and in no branch of knowledge is this so true as in politics and to use the absolute madness, the bedlamite absurdity of putting the political power of the Kingdom in the hands of, I will not say semi-educated, but one-thousandth part educated classes, isa flagrant breach of common sense, which must entail a terrible punishment. After this delivery of my mind I return to easy matters. My letters are, as you see, of an erratic tendency. I am a terrible correspondent, firstly because my handwriting is destructive alike to eyes and temper, secondly because, as at present, I wonder off into interminable windings and turnings, without all ordinary limits of length and in fact go on just as in conversation, however such as I am you must take me. I hope that you will let me know when you next come up to London, and a line if you can a day or two beforehand, with details of time and place where you stay, so that I may look you up as soon as you arrive. . . and remain, dear Sir, Yours very sincerely, G.A. Henty."
The letter is written in minute writing, requiring very sharp eyesight or a magnifying glass to read it. 12mo. Approx 7 x 4.5 inches. Slight dust soiling and with small separation at foot of central fold. VG. The photograph of G.A. Henty is an albumen carte de visite by Herbert Watkins. It measures approx 4 x 2.5 inches (including photographer's original card mount) and has mounting damage to verso but the image is in fine condition.
Both the letter and the photograph are from a 19th century collection made by the radical Liberal M.P., William Woodall. G.A. Henty worked as a special correspondent for the London Standard, for whom he covered many foreign wars. It appears that Henty and William Woodall had met whilst both were in Paris in 1871 during the last bloody days of the Paris Commune. Henty to report on the savage crushing of the mob and Woodall, no doubt, to sympathise with them and show support. Woodall was one of the first to enter Paris after the siege and he published a book 'Paris After the Two Sieges' in 1872. The two subsequently became firm friends and G.A. Henty was a frequent visitor to Woodall's home, Bleak House, Burslem. Henty's fairly extreme right-wing views were controversial, even during his own lifetime, and it is, perhaps, typical of Woodall's jovial and benign form of radical Liberalism that such a friendship could endure.