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Mayne Reid A Memoir of his Life   By:

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Mayne Reid A Memoir of his Life By Elizabeth Reid Published by Ward and Downey, 12 York Street, Convent Garden, London. This edition dated 1890.

Mayne Reid, by Elizabeth Reid.




To most of the world, Captain Mayne Reid is known only as a writer of thrilling romances and works on natural history. It will appear in these pages that he was also distinguished as a man of action and a soldier, and the record of his many gallant deeds should still further endear him to the hearts of his readers.

He was born in the north of Ireland, in April, 1818, at Ballyroney, county Down, the eldest son of the Reverend Thomas Mayne Reid, Presbyterian minister, a man of great learning and ability. His mother was the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Rutherford, a descendant of the "hot and hasty Rutherford" mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion."

One of Mayne Reid's frequent expressions was: "I have all the talent of the Reids and all the deviltry of the Rutherfords." He certainly may be said to have inherited at least the "hot and hasty temper" of his mother's family, for his father, the Reverend Thomas Mayne Reid, was of a most placid disposition, much beloved by his parishioners, and a favourite alike with Catholics and Protestants. It used to be said of him by the peasantry, "Mr Reid is so polite he would bow to the ducks." Several daughters had been born to them before the advent of their first son. He was christened Thomas Mayne, but in after life dropped the Thomas, and was known only as Mayne Reid. Other sons and daughters followed, but Mayne was the only one destined to figure in the world's history.

Young Mayne Reid early evinced a taste for war. When a small boy he was often found running barefooted along the road after a drum and fife band, greatly to his mother's dismay. She chided him, saying, "What will the folks think to see Mr Reid's son going about like this?" To which young Mayne replied, "I don't care. I'd rather be Mr Drum than Mr Reid."

It was the ardent wish of both parents that their eldest son should enter the Church; and, at the age of sixteen, Mayne Reid was sent to college to prepare for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church, but after four years' study, it was found that his inclinations were altogether opposed to this calling. He carried off prizes in mathematics, classics, and elocution; distinguished himself in all athletic sports; anything but theology. It is recorded, on one occasion when called upon to make a prayer, he utterly failed, breaking down at the first few sentences. It was called by his fellow students "Reid's wee prayer."

Captain Mayne Reid has been heard to say, "My mother would rather have had me settle down as a minister, on a stipend of one hundred a year, than know me to be the most famous man in history."

The good mother could never understand her eldest son's ambition; but she was happy in seeing her second son, John, succeed his father as pastor of Closkilt, Drumgooland.

In the month of January, 1810, Mayne Reid first set foot in the new world landing at New Orleans. We quote his own words: "Like other striplings escaped from college, I was no longer happy at home. The yearning for travel was upon me, and without a sigh I beheld the hills of my native land sink behind the black waves, not much caring whether I should ever see them again."

Soon after landing, he thus expressed himself, showing how little store he set upon his classical training as a stock in trade upon which to begin the battle of life: "And one of my earliest surprises one that met me on the very threshold of my Transatlantic existence was the discovery of my own utter uselessness. I could point to my desk and say, `There lie the proofs of my erudition; the highest prizes of my college class... Continue reading book >>

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