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Finding Aid for the Mayne Reid Papers, circa 1866

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Thomas Mayne Reid (1818-1883) was an Irish-born novelist who lived and wrote in the United States and England. This collection dates from approximately 1866 and includes an original holograph manuscript for Chapter 3, “The Galatea,” of Reid's novel Afloat in the Forest, as well as related correspondence.

Administrative Information

Collection Number

MSS 166


1 half-size archival box

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Mayne Reid Manuscript (MSS 166), University Archives and Manuscripts, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Acquisitions Information

Purchased from collector, November 2000.

Biographical Note

Thomas Mayne Reid (1818-1883) was born in Ballyroney, County Down, Northern Ireland, and grew up in a family of Presbyterian ministers. Reid himself was expected to join the clergy, but after attending the Royal Academical Institution in Belfast for four years, he realized that he was not suited for that calling, and in December 1839 sailed to the United States.

Reid's literary output over the decade spanning 1839 to 1849 was minimal; however, his travel and work experiences directly influenced his later literary work and helped create his public persona as a daring adventurer. After settling in Philadelphia in 1843, Reid struck up a friendship with Edgar Allan Poe and began to publish poetry and stories in Godey’s and Graham’s magazines; he also wrote a five-act play, Love’s Martyr, which was staged in 1848 and later self-published. His most significant experiences of the era occurred in the military. Reid joined the First New York Volunteer Regiment as a second lieutenant in December 1846; while serving in the army, he was a war correspondent for a newspaper, Spirit of the Times, which published several of his pieces under the pseudonym "Ecolier." Reid was praised as a hero at the Battle of Chapultepec, where he was severely wounded in the thigh; during his recuperation he immersed himself in the Mexican culture that he later explored in many of his novels.

In 1849 Reid returned to Europe and in England found a publisher for The Rifle Rangers, a fictionalized account of his military adventures that established a literary formula for many of his later works. The plot of The Rifle Rangers is busy with adventure, yet a great amount of time is spent describing minute details of natural history, geography, and social culture. Though his characters remained fairly stereotypical, English readers were captivated by the view of the new world presented in Reid’s novels, and he enjoyed quite a bit of success, publishing over 70 works for both adults and children in a forty-year period.

After 1870, when an inflammation of his war wound and “melancholia” threatened his health, Reid published little new fiction; his most productive days were behind him and his finances were precarious. After a few years spent as a “gentleman farmer” in Herefordshire, Reid moved to London, where he died October 22, 1883.

Description of Collection

This original holograph manuscript dates from approximately 1866 and features Chapter 3, “The Galatea,” of Reid's novel Afloat in the Forest (Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1866). Also included are a carbon typescript and three letters dated October 29, 1947, April 27, 1948, and May 1, 1948 regarding identification of the manuscript.

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