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Herbert, Henry William

HENRY W. HERBERT (1807-1858)

Away with him, away with him;
He speaks Latin.
Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene 7

Henry William Herbert, the eldest son of the Dean of Manchester and known more commonly as the sports writer "Frank Forester," was born in London, April 7, 1807. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and was graduated from the latter in 1829. Having lost what property he had, through the dishonesty of an agent, he came to America in 1831 and for eight years taught Greek and Latin in private schools in and near New York. He devoted his spare time to writing. In 1833, with A. D. Patterson, he started the American Monthly Magazine, but two years later he quarrelled with his associate, Charles Fenno Hoffman, and withdrew. In 1835 he published his first novel, "The Brothers; a Tale of the Fronde," but the rewards for the time spent in its preparation were so small that he considered taking up the study of law. Finding, however, that to be admitted to the bar he had to become a citizen of the United States, he abandoned the plan. He was excessively vain of his ancestry, his father having been a cousin of the Earl of Carnarvon and his mother a daughter of Viscount Alien, and he was not quite democratic enough to be spoken of in the same breath with the hoi polloi.

Eventually Herbert published many novels. Poe(1) said that he was "not unapt to fall into pompous grandiloquence" and sometimes was "wofully turgid." Other critics said of his novels that "in general they are prolix, lacking in imagination and humor." After 1850, most of his writings were historical but he also made numerous translations from the French and wrote poetry. It is, however, upon his sport articles,'written under the name "Frank Forester,"(2) that his fame chiefly rests. In 1839 he married Sarah Barker, of Bangor, Maine, and by her had one son who was sent to England to be educated, and who remained there permanently. His wife died in 1848 and he lived alone with his dogs until February, 1858, when he married Adela Budlong. Three months later, having learned of his former dissipations, she left him and applied for a divorce. When he learned of this, he invited his literary friends to a banquet at his rooms in the Stevens Hotel, New York, May 17, 1858. Only one, David W. Judd, came, the others sending excuses, and after dinner Herbert, standing in front of a full length mirror, shot himself through the heart.

Herbert was egotistical, played the aristocrat, had a violent temper and was quarrelsome. He offended many of his friends by his superior attitude, although he could be companionable when he liked. He loved to pose and when young wore a walrus mustache and stalked down the streets of New York in a checked sport suit, and with jack boots and heavy spurs on his feet. Later, he was frequently seen in prominent checks and with a plaid shawl over one shoulder.

The only novel written by Herbert and printed by Beadle was "The Silent Rifleman." This was originally published in New York, 1848, in book form, under the title "Pierre, the Partisan. A Tale of the Mexican Marches." It was later reprinted in the New York Weekly, as "The Silent Rifleman" in 1867, and finally by Beadle in 1870, 1875, 1880, and 1901.

REFERENCES: Allibone, Dict. Eng. Lit. and Supplement; Appleton's Cyc. Amer. Biog., Ill, 179—180; Scribner's Dict. Amer. Biog., VIII, 1932, 570-72; Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog., Ill, 1893, 534-35; Billion's Pictorial, XI, August 23, 1856, 124, with portrait; Duyckinck's Cyc. Amer. Lit., II, 1877, 289; Thomas Picton, Memoir in David W. Judd's Life and Writings of Frank Forester, 2 vols. (1882); W. S. Hunt, Frank Forester, a Tragedy in Exile; W. M. Van Winkle and D. A. Randall, Frank Forester; a Bibliography of his Writings, 1832—1858, Portland, 1936, with many illustrations; L. H. Wright, American Fiction, 1774-1850, San Marino, 1939, 85-87.

American Tales. No. 62
Starr's American Novels. No. 174
Dime Library. Nos. 110, 1054


"The Silent Rifleman. A Tale of the Texan Plains." Dime Library No. 110, pp. 27-28.

She stood pale and rigid, as if struck with catalepsy. Nor did she take the least note of anything that passed around her, until the Partisan was borne in and laid down near her feet on the greensward. Then she riveted her eyes upon his ashy face and wrung her hands in mute agony, but spoke not.

"This is a sad night, dear lady, for a lady's bower," said the Partisan; "but I wished much to see you, and you will pardon much in a dying man, will you not?"

"Pardon! say only what I can do for you!"

"First let me see him," said Maxwell, coming forward; "it may not be so bad as we think for."

"No, doctor, I am past your aid."

The surgeon, who had examined his wound rapidly, pressed his hand and arose without speaking.

"It is so—is it not, Maxwell?"

"It is, Pierre—I will not deceive you."

"I knew you would not."

"How long, Maxwell?"

"Not long."

"An hour?"

The surgeon shook his head mournfully.

Then Marguerita sprung forward, and caught the surgeon by the arm, and cried:

"Muerte! muerte?" in a low, hoarse voice, choked with anguish.

The young man was moved so deeply that his voice was positively choked by his rising tears, and he could only answer by a movement of the head.

She uttered one long piercing shriek, and fell lifeless to all appearance.

The surgeon and Julia hastened to raise her up, but Pierre said quietly:

"Let her be—let her be if there is no danger. It is better she should be senseless until all is over."

"There is no danger," said Maxwell, with an air of wonder.

"God bless you, then, good Maxwell; betake you where you may do more good—my days are numbered. Commend me to McCullough and Gillespie. My rifle to the first, my pistols to the latter, and this, doctor," he added, as he handed him his knife. "Yourself, Gordon, will keep my horse. Bury me in my blanket with my sword by my side. Fare you well! Now, lady," he added, turning his eyes to Julia Gordon, "in your ear! You will permit me, Gordon?"

"Surely—most surely!"

Then Julia knelt down by his side and clasped his cold hand in her own, and listened with her whole soul in her ears, watering his face with her tears.

"That poor thing," he said, turning his eyes toward the motionless form of Marguerita, "you will be kind to her—you will care for her—you will love her!"

"As my own sister," faltered Julia through her sobs, "as my own sister."

"God bless you—you have read her secret, I never read it until yesterday, nor dreamed of it. It is most strange. But it is better thus—it is better thus! You have read her secret, Julia Gordon?"

Julia assented with a silent nod, and the dying soldier paused for a moment, and appeared to hesitate. Then he drew her down a little nearer to him, and whispered even lower than before:

"And mine also."

Julia flushed crimson through her tears and was silent.

"That I could not love her because—I loved another?"

For a moment she averted her eyes, but the next she met his gaze calmly knowing that he was dying, and answered:

"I did read it."

"But purely, honorably, chastely, as one might love a picture or—a god."

"I knew it."

"Then, indeed, it is best thus, and I die happy. Gordon," he added, raising his head a little for the last time, "this agony is well nigh over! She has promised to be a sister to poor Marguerita; will you do likewise?"

"She shall be my sister."

"God's blessing on you now, friends! I am going, fare-you-well. Weep not for me, for I have lived happily, and I hope not altogether uselessly, and I die happily, for I die with my duty done, in the arms of those I love the most dearly and in the faith of a true Christian."

Then he closed his eyes quite exhausted with his efforts, and lay for a long time speechless so that they believed him almost dead.

But he opened them again after a while, and said, very faintly:

"Brown Emperor; good horse. You will be good to him, Gordon?"

Then one of those strange things occurred which at times almost make us think that brutes have souls and reason. For, before the young soldier could reply, the brown horse, which had followed the bearers of his master to the entrance of the arbor, and paused there, as if conscious that he must not enter, no sooner heard his own name uttered in those feeble accents, than he thrust his head through the foliage and uttered a long, low plaintive neigh, utterly unlike any sound he had ever been heard to utter.

"Ah! thou art there, old friend. God bless thee, too, if it be no sin so to pray. Thou wilt be cared for; will he not, Gordon?—Julia?"

But neither could reply for sobbing. He understood the reason, and said once again, "Bless you all—may God Almighty bless you. Remember that I die a Chris—a Christian! I am go—going! Gordon, Gordon, let her —let her kiss—kiss me, Julia."

"Kiss him, quick; kiss him, kiss him, Julia."

She knelt beside him, bent her beautiful form over his bosom, and pressed her cold lips to his, and the pure spirit of the noble and high-minded soldier passed away in that last—that first embrace of the woman he had loved so chastely, so devotedly, so nobly.

Happy who so die, in the arms of love, religion, honor.


1 Edgar Allan Poe, "A Chapter on Autography," Graham's Magazine, November, 1841.
2 William Cushing, Initials and Pseudonyms, 104; and in all biographical dictionaries.

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