Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

Henry S. Salt - Chronology

by John F.C. Pontin

The compilation of this data, compiled by John F C Pontin, is in a condensed form showing a list of some annual dates between 1851 and 1939. Reference has been made to a number of well-known individuals, the not so well known, books by Salt and the relationships between influences which made Henry Salt the person he was. Two key writers stand out, Shelley and Thoreau.

1851. Birth of Henry S. Salt, India
Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley (d-56), daughter of William Godwin, political writer. (Salt edited a reprint of Godwin's "Essay on Property" 1929).

1852. Death: Duke of Wellington (d-83)
Salt's mother returned to Shrewsbury with young Henry.

1855. Charlotte Bronte (d-39)
Henry David Thoreau, Concord, Massachusettes (1817-1862), received 44 volumes from Thomas Cholmondely his English friend who visited him in 1854.

1857. Indian Mutiny (1857-1859)
Salt's Aunt, Emily Allnatt married Rev. Henry Stedman Polehampton, Chaplin at Lucknow. Emily was widely praised for her care of the sick and wounded. Her husband was killed and later she married Sir Henry Marion Durand, governor, North-West Provinces. Their son, Mortimer (from his first marriage) later became ambassador in Washington, was a schoolmate of Henry.

1862. Henry David Thoreau (d-45)
Essayist, poet-naturalist, social critic. Salt was 13. Lincoln call for volunteers in the Civil war (1861-1865). Charles Kingsley published "The Water Babies"

1864. Nathaniel Hawthorne (d-60)
Writer. American Counsul, Liverpool (1853-1857)

1870. Charles Dickens (d-58)
Salt was 3 when Dickens published "Hard Times" in 1854. By 1870 Salt was established at Eton.

1875. Salt: Honours Degree, Cambridge
In all subjects (Tripos). Gold medal for Greek epigram with Gerald Balfour. Offered Mastership at Eton. (The free Trade Doctrine became the ruin of agriculture with an exodus from the land and a way of life with its human and spiritual values. Disraeli warned this would happen). Richard Jefferies was 27.

1879. Salt married (December 22nd)
Catherine Leigh Joynes, daughter of fellow Master, Rev. J. Leigh Joynes. Her brother Jim was also a Master of Eton a very close friend of Henry and of the American Henry George, who was referred to by Mrs Hornby (wife of Eton's Headmaster) as "a mouldy American".

1881. Disraeli (d-77)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalist and Essayist died aged 79 in 1882.

1883. Karl Marx (d-65)
Salt did not approve of his dialectical approach. Henry was closer to the non-Marxian 'Fellowship of the New Life'. Salt was however, with Kate a needed friend to Eleanor Marx. They had many visitors to their cottage and developed many long lasting friendships. George Bernard Shaw (dramatist), Edward Carpenter (social reformer), William Morris (craftsman), John Burns (Labour Leader), Belfont Bax (philosopher), Ernest Bell (publisher), Henry Hyndman (Social Democratic Federation), Hubert Bland (Fabian), among many others.

1885. General Gordon (d-52)
England could still boast the finest trees in Europe, if judged by aesthetic standards. However bird destruction prevailed everywhere, sportsmen had a 'field day'. Vivisection, criminal law and prison reform, flogging in the Royal Navy, the slaughter of food animals, all concerned Salt and to his mind should be subject of reform.

1886. Salt's first book
"A Plea for Vegetarianism" published by the Vegetarian Society.

1887. Richard Jefferies (b-1848. d-39)
Salt's "Richard Jefferies: A Study" (1894 - 2 editions), followed by "Richard Jefferies: His Life and His Ideas" (1905 - 2 editions, and "The Faith of Richard Jefferies" (1906). It was after Henry left Eton that he became interested in Jefferies and his writings, with whom he found a great affinity, publishing a model study putting Jefferies in the tradition of Thoreau and Shelley.

1888. Anna Kingsford (d-42)
Theosophist, vegetarian.
Salt published "A Shelley Primer" in 1887 and followed with a "Study of Shelley's Julian and Maddalo". His "Literary Sketches" (Thoreau, De Quincey, etc.,) appeared at the same time.

1889. Mrs Robert Williams
This Manchester lady formed a Society for the Protection of Birds - the forerunner of the Royal Society in 1904.

1890. Henry David Thoreau
Salt published "Life of H.D. Thoreau". In 1895 his "Selections from Thoreau". A second edition of "Life" in 1896. Salt analysed Thoreau's main philosophic ideas, his belief in "the perfectibility of man" and emphasised Thoreau's reference to ancient religions, his attempts to simplify life, his clear view of the importance of civil disobedience and his individualism. Salt's "Life of Henry David Thoreau" was reprinted in the 1970's (USA). His work is still considered one of the most symphatic and noteworthy biographies. He also made an important contribution towards Thoreau's modern reputation. About this time two new editions of Herman Melville's "Typee" and "Omoo" appeared with new Introductions by Salt.

1898. W.E. Gladstone (d-89)

1900. John Ruskin (1819-1900).
Salt, while on holiday, 1878-1879, was introduced to Ruskin who attacked Tennyson's (1809-1892) verse novelette "Maud" as being warlike, vulgar and mischievous. This "sapped the simple faith of an Eton master" (Salt)!

1908. Salt's 'Conservation'
Two editions of "Cambrian and Cumbrian Hills-Pilgrimages to Snowdown and Scafell" expressed his concern for the 'wild' areas. In 1922 came "Call of the Wildflower" and in 1928 "Our Vanishing Wildflowers". To the Salt's the appeal for wild nature was stronger than for the domestic garden. Henry described "a knowledge of the loveliness, the actual life and character of plants in their relationship to man…". His approach was essentially Thoreauvian. Salt castigated those who had no respect for the countryside and called for national parks and greater protection for the flora and fauna.

1909. Algernon C Swinburne (d-72)
Poet and critic. Friend of Salt, associated with Morris and Rossetti. George Meredith (d-81). Novelist and poet also a friend of Salt.

1910. Count Tolstoy (d-82)
Aesthetic philosopher with whom Salt had correspondence.

1915. J. K. Hardie (d-59)
Scottish Labour Leader. He (like Salt and Shaw and others) was opposed to the Boer War. Hardie and Ramsey MacDonald visited Salt for advice. Salt resigned from the Fabian Society.While the Labour Party had become a force in the land, Salt was disappointed that it showed so little interest in humanitarian or 'simple life' causes.

1919. The death of Kate (February 16, 1919)
One of the most talented of women, a close friend of Edward Carpenter and Shaw. Salt was 67 and they had had 40 years of marriage, but no children. Salt in a letter said "Kate was like a thousand children to me."

1921. Prince Kropotkin (d-79)
Revolutionary and geographer. Friend of the Salt's. (Kate would dance and sing with him). Clarence Darrow the American lawyer was also a visitor. Salt published "Seventy Years Among Savages". This was about the essential savagery of his fellow islanders, in particular the eating of flesh. His "friendly account of friendly savages (by one of them)" was couched in good humour. It was also about long ago Eton, of various socialist movements and his large circle of literary friends - the world of 1851 to 1920.

1922. W. H. Hudson (d-81)
Writer and naturalist. Salt received support for Hudson. In 1923 Salt published a 'gentle book' "The Story of My Cousins", about several animals which lived with him. The book shows his sympathetic understanding for his animal cousins, the reformer who practised what he preached.

1926. Salt the classicist
An outstanding student of ancient Latin and Greek he published translations of Ovid, "Treasures of Lucretius" (1912) and Virgil's "Story of Dido and Aenaes" around the same time.

1927. Catherine Mandeville (1891-1984)
Salt was now 76. He married Catherine Mandeville of Brighton, who had been his housekeeper. It was a most happy marriage, "a most affectionate and devoted" companion, said Henry. (Catherine was over 40 years younger than Salt when she married him).

1928. Thomas Hardy (d-85)
Henry was one of the pallbearers with Galsworthy (1867-1933) and Kipling (1865-1936). Hardy fully supported much of Salt's work with the Humanitarian League.

1929. Edward Carpenter (d-85)
Social reformer, poet and mystic. Long standing friend of Kate and Henry. Carpenter's books ran into many editions, while Salt sold very little even with good reviews. Carpenter was influenced by Thoreau and Walt Whitman (1819-91).

1931. Mahatma Gandhi (d-1948-79)
Gandhi arrived in England and requested to see Henry Salt with whom he had had correspondence. Gandhi had been influenced by Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and thought highly of Salt's "Logic of Vegetarianism" (1960).

1933. Annie Basant (d-86)
Theosophist who supported the League. A Fabian who also worked with Carpenter.

1935. Salt's last book.
Salt published over 40 books by the time he was 84. "Memories of Bygone Eton" (1928), "Company I Have Kept" (1930), and "Cum Grano" (1931), etc. He summed up his humanitarian principles and faith in his last book, "The Creed of Kinship". He believed that free-thought was essential to progress and that the future of religion had to have within it, a charter for human and sub-human relationships.

1936. Havelock Ellis (d-80)
Literary expositor, writer and traveller. Friend of Salt, also R.B. Cunninghame Graham (1852-d84) Scottish author and politician. Inspired Shaw's "Captain Brassbound's Conversion".

1939. Death of Henry Salt (d-88)
Salt had been one of the most effective writers in his time. He was an advocate for a broad democrate sentiment of universal sympathy and compassion. He had qualities of humaneness, was tolerant, and gentle towards those who did not agree with him. He had no time for the established church, but had many churchmen supporting the League. He was able to rise above the nightmare of Victorian social order, made many friends from all walks of life including 'old boys' from Eton.

A reader will be drawn to Salt's essays rather than, for example, the pompous and high-flown prose of Sidney and Beatrice Webb. "Salt was original and in his own way unique" G. B. Shaw.

In his last years he was plagued with ill health and two of his old and dear friends, Agnes and John Davis would visit him and read from Shelley and Thoreau. He had more or less been forsaken by the Labour Movement which he had served for so many years. It is also a little know fact that he gave, over the years, support to the poets, Francis Adams, John Barlas, John Moultrie, James Thomson (B.V.). He published "Life of James Thomson" in 1889.

From the 'good life' of Shrewsbury and Eton with all its prospects Henry Salt took the 'simple life' of the country cottage. The Salt's lived in a number of places, Tilford, Millthorpe, Fritzroy Square, Gloucester Road, London, Holmesfield and Brighton. At his cremation, his old friend Bertram Lloyd read an Address which Salt had prepared himself.

General Information:
Stephen Winsten's book, "Salt and His Circle" (1951), was followed by Professor George Hendrick's, "Henry Salt: Humanitarian Reformer and Man of Letters" (1977) and in 1989, "The Savour of Salt A Henry Salt Anthology", edited by George and Willene Hendrick. Two other books should be noted, "Towards the Making of Thoreau's Modern Reputation" and "Thoreau Amongest Friends" (1892). The above all contain references to Jefferies.

Mrs C.M. Salt of Brighton, died at the age of 93. Mr and Mrs John Davis of Broadstairs, both of whom died in the 1980's.

Notes for the Richard Jefferies 1991 Annual Birthday Lecture

Published: Unpublished, 1991