Mr. Henry S. Salt: Scholar, Poet, Wit and Self-Styled Faddist

Mr. Henry S. Salt: Scholar, Poet, Wit and Self-Styled Faddist

Mr. Henry Stephens Salt, one of the great characters of his time, and probably the oldest surviving Eton master, died at his home in Brighton yesterday at the age of 87. He was a classical scholar, a poet, a wit, and the author of many books, and he took delight in being regarded as the most thoroughgoing faddist in Britain.

Son of the late Col. T. H. Salt, of the Royal Bengal Artillery, he was born in India. He went to Eton in 1866 and return there from King’s College, Cambridge, as a master in 1875.

Then, to the increasing alarm and bewilderment of his colleagues, he developed into a determined vegetarian, freethinker and Socialist, with a special hatred of corporal punishment.

Finally, in 1885, having convinced himself that otherwise irreproachable Eton masters “were but cannibals in cap and gown,” and out of sympathy with his ideas, he left the school.

Setting down in Surrey, he accustomed himself to living without servants. There his great friend, Mr. George Bernard Shaw, would visit him, and, on occasion, help to wash up and make the beds.


The friendship was practically life long, and one result was curious. Over a period of many years Mr. Shaw wrote him a large number of interesting letters, and a few years ago was largely responsible for their sale to Mr. Gabriel Wells, the American dealer.

After the transaction Mr. Salt acquired a house at Brighton, called it “The Shaw,” and christened the family cat “George.”

His friends including Meredith, Ruskin, Swinburne, Hardy, W. H. Hudson and many other well-known men, and he devoted himself to writing not only biographies of Shelley, Thoreau, Richard Jefferies, De Quincey and James Thomson, but a variety of other books.

He was also the tireless honorary secretary for nearly 30 years until 1920 of the Humanitarian League, flogging and vivisection being merely two of the subjects on which he campaigned. He wrote on “The Flogging Craze,” “Animals’ Rights,” and “The Logic of Vegetarianism”—this last-named book having a lasting influence on Mr. Gandhi, who read it when he was living in London.*

He first wife died in 1919. He married in 1927, Catherine, daughter of Frederick Mandeville, of Brighton.

*It was “A Plea for Vegetarianism and Other Essays” which influenced Gandhi’s thinking.

The Daily Telegraph, April 20, 1939, p. 17