Thomas Mayne Reid - Encyclopedia

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THOMAS MAYNE REID (1818-1883), better known as Mayne Reid, British novelist, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was born at Ballyroney, Co. Down, Ireland, on the 4th of April 1818. His own early life was as adventurous as any boy reader of his novels could desire. He was educated for the church, but did not take orders, and when twenty years old went to America in search of excitement and fortune. He made trading excursions on the Red river, studying the ways of the red man and the white pioneer. He made acquaintance with the Missouri in the same manner, and roved through all the states of the Union. In Philadelphia, where he was engaged in journalism from 1843 to 1846, he made the acquaintance of Edgar Allan Poe. When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846 he obtained a captain's commission, was present at the siege and capture of Vera Cruz, and led a forlorn hope at Chapultepec, where he sustained such severe injuries that his life was despaired of. In one of his novels he says that he believed theoretically in the military value of untrained troops, and that he had found his theories confirmed in actual warfare. An enthusiastic republican, he offered his services to the Hungarian insurgents in 1849, raised a body of volunteers, and sailed for Europe, but arrived too late. He then settled in England, and began his career of a novelist with the publication, in 1850, of the Rifle Rangers. This was followed next year by the Scalp Hunters. He never surpassed his first productions, except perhaps in The White Chief (1859) and The Quadroon (1856); but he continued to produce tales of self-reliant enterprise and exciting adventure with great fertility. Simplicity of plot and easy variety of exciting incident are among the merits that contribute to his popularity with boys. His reflections are not profound, but are frequently more sensible than might be presumed at first from his aggressive manner of expressing them. He died in London on the 22nd of October 1883.

See Memoir (1890) by his widow, Elizabeth Mayne Reid.

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