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Once More Into the Breach!

August 09, 2009 |

I acquired two good condition 19th century editions of The Coral Island and Martin Rattler from an "old book" vendor. Over the next week I devoured them. I had been reading the works of G.A. Henty for a while already. And I saw similarities in that both authors spoke to many of the values and principles my father had emphasized in our home - manhood, Christian virtue, and dominion - and did so in the context of thought-provoking, globe-trekking stories. Thus began my love affair with the boys adventure novels of R.M. Ballantyne. These two editions remain among my favorite R.M.B. books. I doubt that will change.

As we entered the 21st century the book market had clearly veered away from really substantial and meaty works for young men. Many of the best classics of authors, like Ballantyne, Henty, and Verne, had fallen out of favor -- and out of print. I believed (and still do) that something had to happen to reverse this trend.

Step one was getting this type of book back in print. My father and I talked about this a lot, but it was not until April of 2007 that we were able to see this dream become a reality when Vision Forum began to republish beautifully bound editions of R.M. Ballantyne's works. Ballantyne was the man that Robert Louis Stevenson described as "Ballantyne the brave" and Ballantyne was one of the men whom England, and all the world, had been inspired by in the 19th century.

The outcome was a very classy set of ten of Ballantyne's books. As the popularity of Ballantyne's novels began to grow, so did the number of books that we republished. By mid 2008, we had a total of twenty "Ballantyne books" in print! And, God willing, many more will follow.

Beginning the process of getting the books back in print was a giant step towards raising the awareness of the importance of great Christian boys' literature. But more was needed. There needed to be a place where young men could learn more about this type of literature, its authors, and the importance of manly literature.

<center>R.M.B. at age 22</center>
R.M.B. at age 22

In January of 2008, my father and I were sitting at a restaurant in Colorado when we hatched the plan for Ballantynethebrave.com. At that point I only had a vague idea of the many possibilities for a Christian-boys'-literary-website. Over the course of the next two months, Dad helped to shape my vision and plan for a future website as we began to collect information about manly historical fiction and our own Robert Michael Ballantyne. By April of 2008, we had laid out a vision for project "Ballantyne the Brave." Thanks to the help of a great design team, some needed input from fellow Ballantyne enthusiasts, and a lot of preparatory work, we were able to officially launch the website May 14, 2008.

The mission of the site was this:

  1. To speak to the importance of Christian adventure literature for boys so that we can encourage a revival of Christian virtues, manly aspirations and godly character qualities with the present generation.
  2. To introduce today's generation of boys to the writings of Christian fiction/adventure writers such as Ballantyne, Kingston, etc., and to continue to speak to the importance of the more well known authors like Henty, Stevenson, and Verne.
  3. To fight against the modern stream of articles, ideas, and actions which criticize the 19th century's overt Christianity in literature.
  4. To write about vigorous manhood and to expel "wimpiness" from the young men of our modern age of effeminacy.

My father and I believe that there are so many unhealthy things competing for the attention of young men in today's world. The Bible exhorts boys to "quit themselves like men", to "gird up their loins like men", and to be about the business of manly endeavors. But our culture seems to perpetually point boys of the modern generation to frivolity, love of self and entertainment for entertainments sake. Few young men find themselves around the type of men and books that prepare them to be future leaders or future men. The result is a generation of weak boys who lack focus and vision.

Another problem is that too many people are fearful about presenting manly, Christian stories to young men. It is not just secular publishers but also Christians who have lost the vision to train boys up to be manly. In the absence of good preaching, good examples and good literature, many boys are taught by our culture to believe that effeminacy and wimpiness are virtues. This is wrong! Something must be done to reverse this trend. And that is why BTB was founded.

Over the last three years much has been accomplished towards this goal. The site was launched, books have been republished, articles have been written, and the site has had a steady stream of questions and comments. It has been tremendous to see so many young men and ladies around the world catch the vision for manly men and feminine women. What a great time to be in the process of fighting for Christ!

My father has made it a point to emphasize that success in any endeavor requires mentorship, and it requires training successors. From the beginning, it was our hope that we would be able to model this principle at BTB by finding a steady line of capable and professional young men of strong character and clear vision to perpetuate the mission of bold manhood. I am happy to say that God has blessed this vision by sending John Horn to assume the role of Managing Editor to Ballantynethebrave.com. With this post, I will be officially passing the torch to him.

<center>John Horn</center>
John Horn

John Horn, is a friend and a first rate chap who shares the vision for both Henty and Ballantyne. As Managing Editor, John will be responsible for overseeing the site. He will be writing blogs, posting articles, and answering questions. John is the best person I know for this role. He has spent untold hours researching R.M. Ballantyne and has even been in contact with the Hudson's Bay Company to gather further information about Ballantyne's time in Canada. John is also an expert on Henty, having read 60+ of his books over the last seven years. Like myself John has read and enjoyed many other great historical authors of fiction and non-fiction, including J. F. Cooper, Jules Verne, and R.L. Stevenson.

This transition not only allows us to see our vision press forward, but it paves the way for me to move on to some important new projects and responsibilities which build on the very foundational message communicated at BTB. I will be continuing on as Director for BTB. This means that I will remain involved. But in the future my work will be more in an advisory role. You can expect articles and comments from me to continue, but with less frequency since John will be overseeing the day to day as Managing Editor. This is a very exciting time for BTB, and we hope to be establishing a tradition of passing the torch on to different young men in future years.

John's mission is to take Ballantynethebrave.com to the next level - that means expanding the scope of our discussion to other authors, to more in-depth research and to even more thought-provoking commentary. Over the next year, John will be posting about different aspects of Ballantyne's character, and we will both be writing on complimentary authors like Kingston, Henty and others. We also want to have more hard-hitting commentary on subjects of importance to boys in the modern day. We hope to receive more book reviews, and more commentary on 19th century literature from our readers.

We also want this website to provide a helpful forum for discussion with our readers. But that means getting feedback, commentary and letters from you. We love to hear from you, so please keep writing. If you have thoughtful articles, book reviews interesting questions, or even helpful comments, send them in. The more comments and thoughts you send in, the more we can post.

The last year has been a great opportunity for me to hone my writing, reading, and comprehension skills. I have loved helping my father communicate the message of Christian boyhood through writing. Meeting so many interesting people from around the world and talking about books and ideas which have been so important in my life has also been great. This has been an excellent experience for me to begin speaking to the subject of Christian manhood and to talk about some of my favorite things. All of this makes me very grateful to the Lord for granting this wonderful opportunity, and it makes me thankful to you for your interest and readership in this important project.

As Shakespeare declared through the mouth of the great Henry V, we are headed "Once more into the breach!" Praise the Lord for a new year of adventures, battles and opportunities. For myself, I am really looking forward to all the great new projects which I will be working on over the next year. And I definitely plan to keep up with all things Ballantyne and Henty!

Once more into the breach,
Joshua Titus

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