October 22, 2011

Death of Mayne Reid: garden of God

Though born in Ireland to Scottish parents in 1818, Thomas Mayne Reid moved to New Orleans at the age of 21. In his first two years in the United States, Reid lived and worked in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to begin his literary career. Before the end of the 1840s, he had also lived and worked in Philadelphia, New York, Rhode Island, and served as a soldier during the Mexican-American War. When he died on October 22, 1883, he was in London, England. He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Captain Mayne Reid, as he was often known, was the author of scores of poems, novels, and short stories. He also used the pseudonym "The Poor Scholar" for some of his journalistic writings. Many of his works feature exotic locales and dangerous adventures undertaken by fearless males. Critics and readers alike remarked on the inherent manliness in his writing. As one obituary noted: "When his sword was in his sheath, and his fingers held the pen, he wrote with a vigour and impetuosity as if under fire."

According to his widow Elizabeth, Reid's headstone was carved with a sword crossed by a pen as well as an anchor — a design she ordered personally. It was also inscribed with an a simple quote from the first chapter of his book The Scalp-Hunters:

This is the "weed prairie." It is misnamed. It is the garden of God.

Reid's casket was adorned by a wreath ordered by the United States Consul in London. About the same time, a family friend named Caroline Ollivant quickly wrote a tribute poem:

A warrior has gone home,
   A mighty spirit fled!
Hush'd is the magic tone—
   A noble man is dead.

Oh, boys of England, mourn!
   Ye well may grieve and weep,
As to the grave is borne
   This hero, gone to sleep.

No more his wondrous pen
   Can thrill you with delight;
He may not come again
   To wreathe fresh spells as bright.

His kindly heart is stilled;
   Imagination's fire
For us is quenched and chilled,
   And seemeth to expire.

But no! Beyond the veil
   Of this dim, shrouding clay
His brightest powers can never fail,
   And there—he lives to-day!

Then, dear Mayne Reid, farewell!
   Thou'st gained a happier shore,
Where we, too, hope to dwell,
   When earth's tide flows no more.

Thou'st fallen at thy guns,
   Thy keen lance is laid by;
But in the hearts of England's sons
   Thy name shall never die!

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