Mayne Reid

1818-1883 [Thomas Mayne Reid; Captain Mayne Reid]; b. April, [Kloskilt,] Ballyroney, Co. Down, nr. Mourne Mts.; son of Thomas Mayne Reid, Presbyterian rector; bapt. Thomas Mayne; spent four years at Belfast Acad. Inst.; secured work as tutor on leaving school; succombed to ‘the yearning for travel’ and adventure, and left Ireland bound for New Orleans aboard the SS Dumfrieshire, 1839; at first worked as slave overseer, but abandoned it aas distasteful; worked briefly as storekeeper at Natchez in mississippi; hunted the buffalo on the plains; reached Tennessee and briefly worked as tutor; build small school; joined band of travelling actors, but disowned his involvement in that profession; reached Pittsburgh, 1842, and commenced writing his characteristic mode of romanic adventure there; settled in Philadephia; wrote five-act play, Love’s Martyr; contrib. Godey’s Ladies Book; became friends with Edgar Allen Poe in Philadephia [err. New Orleans], later defending him against the biographer Dr Rufus Griswold, who wrote him down as a drunk and a rake; attracted by action and became war correspondent in Mexican War, enlisting as 2nd |Lieutenant in First New York Volunteers, Jan. 1847; sent his reports from Vera Cruz to Spirit of the Times (NY); struck in thigh by bullet during capture of Vera Cruz, and almost suffered amputation; challenged fellow officer to a duel on a point of personal honour; promoted Captain; returned to New York, but attracted to Europe by the reportage of Karl Marx; led American group to assist in Hungarian Revolution, reaching Liverpool mid-1849; visited his family in Co. Down for a week; returned to England to find the rising had been crushed, and forced to sell his Colt revolver to raise passage back to New York; began his fiction writing-career in earnest; novels include Scalp Hunters [1849]; Rifle Rangers (1850); Boy Hunters (1853); returned to England and wooed Elizabeth Hyde, whom he met at 15, and married in 1855; settled in Stoke-on-Church, Oxfordshire; travelled with his wife to Ireland in 1857, camping openly en route; stayed with his parents for a year; mistaken for travelling circus in Derby on return journey; War Trial (1857); issued his Treatise on Croquet (1863), and came into conflict with the Earl of Essex, who pirated it for distribution in croquet sets; Headless Horseman (1865); earnings of 2,000 p.a.; built ‘Ranche’, an exotic hacienda-like home, 1865-66; published The Little Times, a shortlived venture, 1867; moved to New York and applied for citizenship; failed again in publishing a boys’ paper; suffered life-threatening inflammation of his old wound; sent letter to papers complaining of noise of Independence Day celebrations; recovered after period of coma; set out again for England; repaired to Dr. Smedley’s Water Cure established for the delusional, and reached suicidal ebb; remained disabled for the remainder of his life, moving around London in a bathchair, persisting in his taste for fashionable shopping; late novels include The Castaways (1870), set in Borneo Wilds, and The Death Shot (1874); d. 22 Oct., Maida Vale, London, bur. Kensal Cemetery, the grave-stone monument bearing a chain with anchor, rope, and sword; there is a life by his widow; David Officer is preparing a biography (1996). PI DIB DIW DIL SUTH OCIL

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Longer Fiction, Bush-boys: or the [ ...] Adventures of a Cape Farmer and his family in the wild Karoos of Southern Africa (London: D Bogue 1856), and Do. (London: Routledge & Sons 1884, 1892), viii. 471pp.; The Boy Tar; or, a Voyage in the Dark [...] (London: W. Kent & Co. [1859]), vii, 471pp. [12 ills.]; Boy Hunters; or, Adventures in Search of a White Buffalo (1853), ill. W. Harvey; Do. (London: Routledge in 1888; 1892, viii. 464pp.; [ ?Do., as] The Boy Hunters of the Mississippi (1912), ix, 250pp.; Lost Lenore (1864); Castaways (1870); Chasing the Leviathan ... Adventures on the Ocean (1884); Cliff-Climbers ... Himalayas (1864); Garibaldi Rebuked ... letter from Mayne Reid (1864); Giraffe-hunters (q.d.); Headless Horseman [set in Texas]; Jamaica; Siluria; Plant Hunters [Himalayas]; Scalp-hunters ... North Mexico, 3 vols. (1850; reps. to 1937); White Squaw (1871); Wild Huntress, 3 vols. (1861); Yellow Chief ... Rocky Mountains (1870); rep. as Pt. 2 of White Squaw; Young Yagers [S. Africa. Also numerous French trans. by Bellamare. Translations incl. F. N., trans., Aventuras de Carlos Linden en Asia (1868). Also, [Charles Beach] ed., Mayne Reid’s Magazine. Short fiction, The Pierced Heart and Other Stories (London: J. & R. Maxwell 1885; rep. London: Griffith, Farran 1893).

Drama, Love’s martyr: A Tragedy in Five Acts (Perth: S. Cowan & Co. [1884?]) [1], 48pp. Microfilm, The Writings of Thomas Mayne Reid (1818-1883), Pt. 1: c.12 reels of 35mm. silver-halide pos. microfilm (850) [Adam Matthew Publ., Oxford St., Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, SN8 1AP.]

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Elizabeth Mayne [with C. H. Coe], Life of Captain Mayne (1900); Boy Hunters (1853; Irish trans. 1934); David Officer, ‘Ripping Yarns’ [essay on Captain Mayne Reid], Causeway (Autumn 1996), pp.44-49, ills.

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Elizabeth Reid [his widow], Mayne Reid, A Memoir of his Life (London: Ward & Downey 1890), 277pp., includes chapter titles with prominent references to Edgar Allen Poe, Kossuth, and The Times; b. April. 1818; eldest son of Thomas Mayne, Presbyterian minister, and the dg. of Rev. Samuel Rutherford, descended from a man noticed by Charles II; Mayne said, ‘I have all the talents of the Maynes and all the devilry of the Rutherfords’ (p.2).

[q.a.], Irish Book Lover Vol. 1, No XI (June 1910), p.155, request for information, letters, etc., for Mrs H. C. Mollan, pseud. ‘Helen Cromie’, Anderstown, Co. Antrim, new life in progress; earlier Life [1900] by widow, 2 eds.; Irish Book Lover, IV, 3 (1912), p.47, autograph letter for sale by Maggs, Strand, Lon.; Thomas Mayne expressing heated liberal views, intention to write a book ‘to assail Toryism today [1878] ... the scurvy rabble of so-called cavaliers’.

Justin McCarthy ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); calls Reid the son of Presbyterian clergyman; ran away, reaching America at New Orleans in 1838; excursions on Red River and Missouri; traded and hunted with the Indians; 5 yrs. ‘bracing freedom of the prairie’; systematic tour of America; commission in Mexican War, 1845; present at capture of Vera Cruz; led last infantry charge at Chatultepec, wounded and reported missing; planned to organise American legion to help Hungarian insurrection; found rebellion suppressed on reaching Paris; The Scalp Hunters, 1,000,000 copies; The Rifle Rangers; The War Trail, The Quadroon; The White Chief, and The Headless Horseman. d. 22 Oct., London. Did not especially write for boys. JMC gives extract from The Scalp Hunters.

Gerald Dorset, ‘The Wonderful World of Capt. Mayne Reid’, in Journal of Irish Literature XV, No.1 (January 1986), pp.43-49, notes that Quadroon was plagiarised by Dion Boucicault without acknowledgement or royalty; Scalp Hunters and Wild Hunters owe much to James Fenimore Cooper; author espouses abolition; Republican in politics; left ‘a poetic picture of a democratic America, full of courage, egalitarian, republican, youthful idealism embodying the promise of a new world’ [49].

David Officer, ‘Ripping Yarns’ [essay on Captain Mayne Reid], in Causeway (Autumn 1996), pp.44-49, quotations and remarks: wrote to parents, ‘For three or four years I struggled on through this life of literature and amid the charlatanism and the quackery of the age I found I must send to the everyday nothings of the daily press. I edited, corresponded, and became disgusted but the war broke out in Mexico. I flung down the pen and took up the sword’; later reminisced about his departure from Ireland; ‘I was no longer happy at home, the yearning for travel was upon me and without a sigh I behold [sic] the hills of my native land sink behind the black waves not much caring whether I should see them again.’; In answer to his mother’s interrogation on the a rumour of his marriage to a wealthy Mexican heiress, he said: ‘I believe you would as soon have me dead as marry to a papist’, to which she replied, ‘Indeed, I think I almost would’. Ills. shows engrav., ‘Caught in Quicksand’, from The Scalp Hunters, adapted for Boys Illustrated News [imp. of London Ill. News], ed. John Latey, Jnr. (Chap. III appearing in No.41, Vol. II, Wed. 11 Jan. 1882; 1d.; exclaimed on recovering from fever induced by inflammation of his old wound, ‘Turn those she-beelzebubs [sic] out of the room at once, preaching at a fellow and telling him he is going to die. I’m not going to die, bring me beef steak’.

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Dictionary of National Biography: lists as Mayne Reid [orig. Thomas Mayne], 1818-1883; novelist; passed adventurous life in US between 1840 and 1849, served in Mexican War, 1847; published The Rifle Rangers (1850), and from that time continued to write romance and tales of adventure for boys. ODNB also cites The Forest Exiles (1854); The Young Yagers (1856); The Plant Hunters (1858 ); The Wood Rangers (1861); The Finger of Fate (1868); The Vee Boers (1880) - many translated in to French and German; wrote a treatise on Croquet (1863).

Henry Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1988): first novel Rifle Rangers (1850) [err.] PI, biography by his widow; Works in 15 vols. (NY 1868); b. Crosskilt, Co. Down [sic]; emig. America, 1838; poems in Sodey’s Philadelphia Magazine; biog. notice in The Strand Magazine (July 1891).

Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), b. poss. 4 April 1818; America, 1838; Elizabeth Reid with CH Coe, Captain Mayne Reid, His Life and Adventures (London: Greening & Co 1900); Joan Steele, ‘Mayne Reid, a Revised Bibliography’, Bulletin of Bibliography, 29 (July-Sept. 1972), pp.95-100; Joan Steele, Captain Mayne Reid (NY: Twayne 1977).

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Harlow: Longmans 1988); lists The Boys Slaves (1865), in which Terence, Harry, and Colin, are shipwrecked in N. Africa with a canny old tar, Sailor Bill; slaved, and ransomed by British consul; discover Bill’s br. also a slave.

Oxford Comp. to American Literature cites Reid as an ‘Irish-born novelist’; his Quadroon (1856) was the basis of Boucicault’s Octoroon (1859), a controversial melodrama problem play about slavery; in it, an Englishman Rutherford travelling in Louisiana saves a beautiful Creole and her quadroon slave, Aurore, from drowning; he falls in love with Aurore, and though beloved by the Creole, Eugènie Besancon, is helped by her to buy Aurore (whom he actually kidnaps) when her estate is embezzled by a dishonest trustee, Gayarre. Rutherford married Aurore after his trial for her kidnapping. ADD, he was an Irish croquet champion.

Belfast Public Library holds Afloat in the Forest (1930); The Bandelero (1866); The Boy Hunters (1857, 1930); The Boy Slaves (1930); The Boy Tar (1930); Bruin (1930); The Bush-boys (1930); Castaways (1930); Child Wife (1930); Cliff Climbers (1930); Death Shot (1905); Desert (1930); Flag of Distress (1930); The Forest Exiles (1930); The Free Lances (1930); Gaspar the Gaucho (1930); Giraffe Hunters (1930); Guerilla Chief (1930); Gwen Wynn (1930); The Half-Blood (n.d.); Headless Horseman (1930); Hunter’s Feast (1879); Land of Fire (1930); Lone Ranche (1930); Lost Lenore; Maroon; No Quarter; Ocean Waifs; Odd People; Plat Hunters; The Quadroon; Queen of the Lakes; Ran Away to Sea; Rifle Rangers; Scalp Hunters; Star of Empire; Tiger Hunter ([all the foregoing] 1930); War Trail (1908); White Chief (1930); White Gauntlet (n.d.); Wild Huntress (1861); Young Voyageurs (1930). E. Reid, Captain Mayne Reid, his life and adventures (1900).

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Inspiring stuff: By way of reluctant conversation Lentilov, in Chekov's story “Boys”, asks the sisters of Volodiya (the other boy with whom he is planning to run away to America to find adventure and gold): ‘Have you read Mayne Reid?’ The boys, equipt with a revolver and 4 roubles, are stopped at the nearby station, and much of the story is given over to the girls’ thrilling eavesdropping at their door as the unprepossessing Lentilov urges their brother on in flights of boyish fancy. (BBC3, 22 Aug. 2002; Trans. Harvey Pitcher.)


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