Henry William Herbert was born into a decorated family in London to parents Rev. William Herbert and Hon. Letitia Emily Dorothea. He emigrated to the United States in 1831 and he spent the following eight years working as a professor of Latin and Greek at a New York City school. His brilliance as a teacher was undeniable; “as a classical scholar he had few equals in this country . . . his knowledge of English history and literature was extensive; he was a pen-and-ink artist of marked ability; as a sportsman he was unsurpassed; his pupils idolized him” (Starr) Hemstreet suggests that he had already started working on early manuscripts while teaching at in Whitehall, notably his historical romance Cromwell (216).
Herbert left his teaching job to devot himself entirely to his writing career, throughout which he wrote prodigiously. He co-founded the American Monthly Magazine in 1833 and, in 1835, he anonymously published the historical romance, The Brothers, a Tale of the Fronde. He published several other novels before transitioning into the mode of historical writing. He wrote The Knights of England, France, and Scotland (1852), The Captains of the Roman Republic (1854) and also continued to publish work in periodicals (Starr).
Herbert adopted the alias Frank Forester in 1839 when he began writing for American Turf. As Forester, he published several novels, including The Warwick Woodlands, or Things as They Were There Ten Years Ago (1845) and his prodigious Frank Forester’s Field of Sports of the United States, and British Provinces, of North America (1849) (Starr). Hemstreet writes that he was made famous by these novels, and “was the first to introduce sports of the field into fiction in America” (216-7). These books also highlighted Herbert’s artistic ability--he drew many of the illustrations found within them (Starr). Thomas Butler Gunn recalls meeting Herbert at a publishing house in 1849, describing him as a “very overbearing, self willed man” with a great deal of passion (9.151-3). While Gunn is sometimes overly critical, Starr writes that he sometimes alientated friends with his egnimatic mood swings, ambition, and aritsocratic pretensions.
Herbert was evidently known to Pfaffians, who mourned him when he committed suicide in 1858. Herbert's wife left him after only a few weeks of marriage, and her departure brought on a fit of depression which culminated when he shot himself. Gunn writes that his second wife, following his earlier widowhood (Starr), was “not herself unexceptional, flightyish &c, had a horror of her husband. He had struck and sworn at her” (Gunn 10.110) Charles Hemstreet describes the “hour of sadness” which hit Pfaff’s when his suicide was known, as “even his dearest friends were not prepared for the news” (216-7).
Yet, Herbert, whom Parry calls “an aristocrat among the Bohemians of New York, evidently did not spend much time at Pfaff’s. Parry writes, “He appeared among them rarely, and as seldom he included them among his guests at his New Jersey estate of the Cedars. An older man than most of the mansarders, he treated them with a certain touch of lordly superiority...but insisted that he was part of New York’s Bohemia." "The Pfaffians gladly accepted him as their own man” due to the intrigue provided by his love affairs and unpredictable actions. Parry’s account also sheds a more grisly light on Herbert’s suicide: “When his last young wife left him, Herbert-Forester arranged a grand dinner at the Stevens House on Broadway, near Bowling Green. There he invited his friends to eat, drink, and see him shoot himself dead before a large mirror" (49-50).
Herbert was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Newark and was gifted a gravestone eighteen years later by the Newark Herbert Association. Frank Forester’s Sporting Scenes and Characters and Life and Writings of Frank Forester, at two volumes each, were published in 1881 and 1882, respectively.
Herbert (who wrote under the name of Frank Forester) may be the "dreamy Frank" referred to in the poem.[pages:9]
Gunn retells a story from Picton about Herbert: "This set Picton talking. Stories of Herbert (Frank Forrester.) How he, in an interview with Putnam had produced a four inch bowie knife, gravely laying it on the table, at the commencement. How he had awfully alarmed Stringer the publisher by chopping up a drawing on wood with said bowie knife, (drawing having been condemned by the little publisher,) and then – demanding payment for the same. More stories of all sorts credible & incredible."[pages:110]
Gunn writes about Herbert's suicide, "Haney came home to dinner with news of Herbert's suicide...Talking of Herbert Banks said he had avoided being introduced to him! This I think – of course not crediting it – the severest thing that will be said about the wretched suicide – God forgive him!" (150).
Gunn reflects upon meeting Herbert, his character, and his death, "I was introduced to Herbert in 1849, on coming to this country, at Stringer and Townsend's the publishers. Having seen a portrait of "Ned Buntline" and not knowing the fellow's character, I fancied Herbert the man and thinking the recognition might be a compliment (!) said so! The publishers roared but Herbert got rather excited, exclaiming "For God's sake don't take me for that scoundrel! – call me Burke or Hare, or Thurtell, but not Ned Buntline. I have seen him more than once subsequently, and remember him at the "Sachem" office door with Picton and others about him. He impressed me as a very overbearing, self willed man. As an instance of his passionate nature, he once drew a bowie knife in Stringer & Townsend's office, set a box wood block up edgewise and chopped it to pieces. He had made a drawing on it which wasn't wanted, and which they demurred at paying for or something of the sort. One of the publishers was horribly frightened. Herbert's death, like North's, exhibits the dreadful egotism commonly attendant on suicides. Most men seem to think their death's by their own hand will produce a very great sensation. Herbert's prayer wont be respected by the press, but Silence will settle down upon his memory soon enough" (151 & 153).
Gunn annotates a newspaper engraving of Herbert, "[newspaper engraving] Not by any means vicious- looking enough. Face less strongly marked" (152).[pages:150, 151&153, 152]
Gunn talks about Jackson, Herbert's wife's lawyer: "To Hitchings' in the evening; Oliver there, Jackson the sculptor and a lawyer – jolly fellow. Songs and stories. This lawyer had Henry William Herbert's wife for a client. The woman, not herself unexceptionable, flightyish &c, had a horror of her husband. He had struck and sworn at her. She told a wild story of 'the Cedars,' the house at Newark having secret rooms and passages. Oliver says the current rumor as to the crime which compelled Herbert to leave England was incest with a sister Fellow was a bad lot anyway."[pages:110]
According to Gunn, Herbert is among Thomas Mapleson's intimates: "I find out he knew, pretty intimately, Thomas Mapleson, brother to the scoundrel who married my aunt Annie. This Thomas was an intimate of Porter of the 'Spirit of the Times', of Richards, Herbert ('Frank Forrester') and spreed and squandered with them, finally dying in a cellar, kept by a negress, Stedman was a sort of college chum of this Mapleson's."[pages:217]
This text identifies the following pseudonym: Henry William Herbert (37).[pages:37]
Hemstreet mentions that George Arnold caused "an hour of sadness when he took there [Pfaff's] the story of Henry W. Herbert, who was well-known to all the habitues" (216). According to Herbert's life story, his father was the Dean of Manchester and cousin to the Earl of Carnarvon. He had traveled to New York from London and taught at the school on Beaver St. near Whitehall. He wrote part of Cromwell, a "historical romance," at the school and had planned other stories. Herbert wrote several works under the name "Frank Forester": American Game in its Season, The Horse and Horsemanship in North America, and gained fame through novel-writing (216). Hemstreet claims he was "the first to introduce sports of the field into fiction in America" (216-17).
According to Hemstreet, "Some of his comrades knew the unhappiness that had crept into his life, but even his dearest friends were not prepared for the news Arnold brought one day, that 'Frank Forester' had died by his own hand in a room on the second floor of the Stevens House, there in Broadway by the Bowling Green, not more that the throw of a stone from the place where, in his early days in New York, he had taught school" (217).[pages:216-217]
Parry mentions that Herbert's (Frank Forester) suicide followed North's on May 16, 1858. Like North, Herbert was "another roving Englishman." Parry writes, "This prolific writer on game, the first in America to introduce hunting and fishing into ficiotn on an extensive scale , still read by hordes of rural American sportsman of today, was an aristocrat among the Bohemians of New York. He appeared among them rarely, and as seldom he included them among his guests at his New Jersey estate of the Cedars. An older man than most of the mansarders, he treated them with a certain touch of lordly superiority (he was, indeed, related to the Earl of Carnarvon), but he insisted that he was part of New York's Bohemia. The Pfaffians gladly accepted him as their own man. His literary temper tantrums and his stormy love affairs were among the most favorite topics in Clapp's circle. When his last young wife left him, Herbert-Forester arranged a grand dinner at the Stevens House on Broadway, near Bowling Green. There he invited his friends to eat, drink, and see him shoot himself dead before a large mirror" (49-50).[pages:49-50]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015