Richard Henry (or Hengist) Horne by Margaret Gillies

Richard Hengist Horne (1802-1884). Portrait by Margaret Gillies (1803-1887). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Hengist Horne (31 December 1802 - 13 March 1884) was an English poet and literary critic, best known for his poem Orion.[1]

Life Edit


Horne was born in London, and educated at Sandhurst for the East India Company Service, but failed to get a nomination. After a page 200youth of adventure, partly in the Mexican Navy, he returned to England, and began in 1828 a highly combative literary career with a poem, "Hecatompylos," in the Athenæum. His next appearance, The False Medium (1833), an exposition of the obstacles thrown in the way of "men of genius" by literary middlemen, raised a nest of hornets; and Orion, an "epic poem," published 1843 at the price of 1 farthing, followed. His plays, which include Cosmo de Medici (1837), The Death of Marlowe (1837), and Judas Iscariot, did not add greatly to his reputation. In The New Spirit of the Age (1844), he had the assistance of Mrs. Browning. Though a writer of talent, he was not a poet.[2]


Horne was born Richard Henry Horne in London.[3]

He was educated at Sandhurst, with the view of entering the East India Company's service. Receiving no appointment, he became a midshipman in the Mexican navy, and served in the war against Spain. He was present at the siege of Vera Cruz and the taking of the fortress of San Juan Ulloa. Swimming in the bay of Vera Cruz, he had a narrow escape from a shark.[3]

At the restoration of peace he went (after recovering from an attack of yellow fever) to the United States, where he visited some of the Indian encampments. On one occasion he was shipwrecked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on another he broke two of his ribs near Niagara Falls. He returned to England from Nova Scotia in a timber vessel. On the voyage the crew mutinied, and later the ship took fire. In the Monthly Repository, under the signature "M.I.D.," he wrote an account of his early experiences.[3]

He was a good musician, he played excellently on the guitar, sang well, and was a marvellous whistler. He was an expert swimmer.[3]

Literary careerEdit

He began his literary career in 1828 by contributing a poem, "Hecatompylos," to the Athenæum. In 1833 he published Exposition of the False Medium and Barriers excluding Men of Genius from the public, advocating the establishment of a Society of English Literature and Art, "for the encouragement and permanent support of men of superior ability in all departments of human genius and knowledge." This was followed in 1834 by Spirit of Peers and People: A national tragicomedy.[3]

Between July 1836 and June 1837 he edited the Monthly Repository. In 1837 appeared 2 impressive tragedies, Cosmo de Medici and The Death of Marlowe; the former was reprinted in 1875, with the addition of some miscellaneous poems, and the latter (in 1 act) passed through several editions. A curious tract, The Russian Catechism; with explanatory notes, was published in or about 1837.[3]

In 1839 Horne began a correspondence with Elizabeth Barrett (afterwards Mrs. Browning), which continued until 1846; Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, addressed to Richard Hengist Horne, was published in 1877, 2 volumes. He contributed in 1840 an Introduction to Black's translation of Schlegel's Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, and in the same year published Gregory VII: A tragedy, with a prefatory "Essay on Tragic Influence."[3]

In 1841 he contributed an introduction and 3 of the modernised poems to Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer Modernised, and published The History of Napoleon, 2 volumes. About this time he was engaged as commissioner to report on the employment of children and young persons in mines and manufactures. Mrs. Browning's "Cry of the Children" was inspired by Horne's report.[3]

In 1843 appeared Orion: An epic poem, the work by which he is chiefly known. It passed through 6 editions in 1843, and 5 followed later. Attention was attracted to it from the fact that the first 3 editions were issued at a farthing.[3]

A New Spirit of the Age, 1844, republished in the same year (2 volumes), is a very interesting collection of critical essays on distinguished contemporaries. Mrs. Browning and Robert Bell assisted Horne in this work, which was illustrated with well-executed portraits. 2 stories for children, "The Good-natured Bear" and "Memoirs of a London Doll, written by herself, edited by Mrs. Fairstar" (afterwards republished together), appeared in 1846, to which year also belongs Ballad Romances.[3]

At this time Horne was writing much on many subjects. Among his fugitive pieces may be mentioned The Life of Van Amburgh, the Brute Tamer, by Ephraim Watts, Citizen of New York, and "Gottheb Einhalter; or, The philanthropic assassin" (which appeared in ‘Howitt's Journal,’ and was republished under the title of Murder Heroes). In 1847 he married Miss Foggo, but he was not fitted to lead a domestic life.[3]

Judas Iscariot, a tragedy in 2 acts, was published in 1848, and republished in a collection of Bible Tragedies, 1881. The Poor Artist, 1850 (2nd ed. 1871), is attractive; but The Dreamer and the Worker, 2 volumes, 1851, a story with a moral, is of slender interest.[3]

In AustraliaEdit

In 1852 Horne went with William Howitt to Australia, where he served as commander of the gold escort in Victoria, 1852, commissioner of crown lands for the gold fields, 1853–4, territorial magistrate, 1855, &c.[3]

Australian Facts and Prospects; to which is prefixed the author's Australian autobiography, London, 1859, written in Melbourne, is full of shrewd observation and entertaining anecdote. Prometheus: The fire bringer, Edinburgh, 1864, a dramatic poem (of little value), was written in the Australian bush; and The South-Sea Sisters; a lyric masque, Melbourne [1866], celebrated the opening of the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australasia.[3]

Horne remained in Australia until 1869, when (conceiving that the Victorian government had not kept faith with him) he returned to England in the sailing ship The Lady Jocelyn. On the voyage he kept a journal, which he printed under the title of The 'Lady Jocelyn's' Weekly Mail.[3]

When he went out to Australia he was Richard Henry, but he came back Richard Hengist.’ In the bush he had met a Mr. Hengist, whose name he took.[3]

Later yearsEdit

He continued to write verse and prose (chiefly for magazines) in his later years. "The Tragic Story of Emilia Daràna, Marchioness of Albarozzi," was published in Harper's Magazine, November 1874; The Countess von Labanoff; or, The three lovers: A novelette, was reprinted from the New Quarterly Magazine in 1877; Laura Dibalzo, a tragedy, followed in 1880, and King Nihil's Round Table; or, The regicide's symposium: A dramatic scene, in 1881.[3]

Soliloquium Fratris Rogeri Baconis (verse), from Fraser's Magazine, appeared in 1882, and The Last Words of Cleanthes; A poem, from Longman's Magazine, in 1883. Horne's last work was a curious prose-tract, purporting to be translated from an Arabic original, Sithron: The star-stricken, 1883. He died at Margate on 13 March 1884, and was buried there on 18 March.[3]


Among his papers were many unpublished plays, poems, and romances. One of the poems was a long piece in blank verse, ‘Ancient Idols, or the Fall of the Gods,’ which he regarded as his most considerable work. He appointed as his literary executor Mr. H. Buxton Forman, who in 1872 had reprinted from ‘Household Words’ (14 June 1851) his striking poem, ‘The Great Peace-maker; a Submarine Dialogue,’ on the laying of the submarine cable between Dover and Calais.[3]

Horne was a talented, energetic, and versatile writer. His epic and his early tragedies have much force and fire, but they are not born for immortality. There are eloquent passages in Orion, but the praise accorded to it by Edgar Allan Poe and others was far in excess of its merits.[3]

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition adds that: "In criticism he had insight and quickness . He was one of the first to appreciate Keats and Tennyson, and he gave valuable encouragement to Mrs Browning when she was still Miss Elizabeth Barrett."[4]

Critical introductionEdit

by John Drinkwater

For his verse dramas Horne was extravagantly praised in his own day as an Elizabethan born out of due time. Of the tumultuous and passionate poetry that was at the call of nearly all the Elizabethan playwrights Horne had nothing, and what his plays had of poetical merit was derived, in spite of the critics who so strongly asserted that here was nothing of imitation, partly from his own polished sense of verse but chiefly from sympathetic recollection. They had, however, one striking quality which he owed to no man; they moved with a real interest of action, and the action was related with honourable art to the development of character or idea and was not used for any merely vulgar sensationalism.

It is this quality that gives its value to Horne’s Orion, the epic that by reason of its original price of one farthing obtained notoriety before it secured a very just measure of fame. The poet in a preface claimed serious consideration for the philosophical theme, looking to this for his justification. The philosophical passages, however, make unprofitable reading, and the abstractions of the poem, such as Akinetos, the Great Unmoved, are almost comic in their solemnity. The epic would, moreover, be a fruitful ground for the anthologist of the flattest lines in poetry,—

“Giddy with happiness Orion’s spirit
Now danced in air.”…


“His friends Orion left
His further preparations to complete.”…


“’Gainst Merope
Some spake aloud; against Orion, all,—
Save the bald sage, who said ‘’twas natural.’
‘Natural!’ they cried: ‘O wretch!’ The sage was stoned.”


“Hence, never moved by hands unskilled
But moved as best may be. Be warned; sit still.”

— and others which readers will discover for themselves embedded in the fine passage here given.

But when all this is said, Orion remains an extremely interesting and in some respects an excellent poem. The loves of Orion for Artemis, Merope, and Eos, and his activities in the kingdom of Oinopion, are told with great force and conviction, and with many charming turns of description. Troublesome as the philosophy may be, it does not overload the poem unduly, and the reader’s attention is carried through by the sheer human interest of the story in a manner which is as refreshing as it is rare. There are very few poems of its rank and length that are so little open to the charge of dullness, and Horne on this account if on no other deserves a much wider public than he has retained. His ambition, no doubt, was to justify anew the ways of God to man, and he had not the intellectual power to translate so cosmic a plan into poetry. But he passionately realized the human nature of his hero, and in consequence he made a poem of some three thousand lines emotionally exciting, which is no mean achievement for any poet. Orion has tedious patches, but it is anything but a tedious poem, and once a poor opening has been passed it gives, for all its flaws, a great deal of pleasure of a high order.

The Ballad Romances have the same forthright qualities, telling very readable tales in good homespun verse, and keeping always in touch with emotional sanity. There is much delicacy of invention in The Three Knights of Camelott, and the story of Bedd Gelert is admirably and poignantly told, whilst in The Noble Heart and Delora[5] there are many passages of close imaginative perception. The book emphasizes Horne’s claim to no mean poetic honour.[6]


In 1874 he received a Civil List pension of £50 a year, which was augmented to £100 before Lord Beaconsfield went out of office.[3]

His poem "The Plough" was included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[7]



  • Orion: An epic poem in three books. London: J. Miller, 1843.
  • Ballad Romances. London: Charles Ollier, 1846.
  • Galatea Secunda: An odaic cantata, addressed to H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, on his first arrival in the colony of Victoria. Melbourne: Robertson, 1867.
  • The Great Peace-Maker: A sub-marine dialogue. London: 1872.
  • Soliloquium Fratris Rogeri Baconis, anno domini 1292. London: Dryden Press, 1882.



  • The Dreamer and the Worker: A story of the present time. (2 volumes), London: H. Colburn, 1851. Volume I, Volume II.




  • The History of Napoleon. (2 volumes), London: Robert Tyas, 1841.Volume I, Volume II
    • London & New York: Routledge, 1878.
  • A New Spirit of the Age. (2 volumes), London: Smith, Elder, 1844. Volume I, Volume II.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

Solitude and the Lily by Richard Henry Horne

Solitude and the Lily by Richard Henry Horne

Poems by Richard Henry HorneEdit

THE PLOUGH by Richard Henry Horne FULL AUDIOBOOK Best Audiobooks

THE PLOUGH by Richard Henry Horne FULL AUDIOBOOK Best Audiobooks

  1. Solitude and the Lily

See alsoEdit



  1. Ann Blainey, Horne, Richard Henry (1802-1884), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, MUP, 1972, p. 424. Retrieved 3 August 2009
  2. John William Cousin, "Horne, Richard Henry or Hengist," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 199-200. Web, Jan. 29, 2018.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 Bullen, 358.
  4. Horne, Richard Henry," Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1911). Wikisource, Wikimedia Foundation. Web, Sep. 2, 2013.
  5. Though it contains a line that must be a record, even for Horne: the tyrant exclaiming at the hero’s persistence — “Blight him! and blast him! What, again!”
  6. from John Drinkwater, "Critical Introduction: Richard Henry Hengist Horne (1802–1884)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Mar. 22, 2016.
  7. "The Plough," Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900 (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch). Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 13, 2012.
  8. Search results = au:Richard Hengist Horne, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Sep. 2, 2013.

External linksEdit

Audio / video

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by Leslie Stephen). London: Smith, Elder, 1885-1900. Original article is at: Horne, Richard Henry

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