H. Rider Haggard
About the Author
Prolific English writer, who published colorful novels set in unknown regions and lost kingdoms of Africa, or some other corner of the world: Iceland, Constantinople, Mexico, Ancient Egypt. Haggard's best-known work is the romantic adventure tale King Solomon's Mines (1885), which was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's famous Treasure Island. Haggard also was an agricultural reformer and a faithful servant of the British Empire. However, his depiction of other cultures has been considered more complex than was common in contemporary popular romances.
Henry Rider Haggard was born in West Bradenham Hall, Norfolk, as the eight son of William Haggard, a barrister and a country squire, and Ella (Doventon) Haggard, an amateur writer. In his childhood young Henry Rider was seen as the family dunce by his father. Haggard educated at a London day-school, privately, and Ipswich Grammar School. After failing the army entrance, Haggard went in 1875 to Natal as a secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Governor of Natal colony. In 1877 he joined the staff of the special commissioner. Next year he became Master and Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal. For the rest of his life Haggard viewed with understanding the British colonial policy, sharing in this the conventional imperialistic attitudes of his friend Rudyard Kipling. On the other hand he also saw the dangers of European intrusion and in the end of King Solomon's Mines Haggard left the lost land of the Kukuanas to continue its own separate development.
During his years in Africa Haggard got acquainted with the Zulu culture. He had an affair with an African woman, a profound relationship, which influenced his portrayal of women and subsequent psychoanalytic interpretations of Haggard's novels. Among them is Carl Jung, who used the novel She (1887) as an example of anima. According to Jung, the anima is an archetypical form, expressing the fact that a man has a minority of female genes, and Haggard's Queen Ayesha is an unmistakable anima type - the ultimate guide and mediator to the inner world. The idea has also connections with the views presented in James Frazer's classical study The Golden Bough.
The narrator of She is Ludwig Horace Holly. The story depicts an adventurer, Leo Vincey, who receives a mysterious legacy from his father. He goes to Africa to search the truth behind the death of an ancestor, Kallikrates. He was an Egyptian priest slain by an ancient sorceress She-Who-Must-Be Oboyed, queen Ayesha, a 2000-year-old ruler of the Lost World of Kôr. With his friends Leo travels through dangerous regions and reaches catacombs of the Kingdom of Kôr. There they encounter She, the white Queen of the Amahagger people. "I could clearly distinguish, however, that the swathed mummy-like form before me was that of a tall and lovely woman, instinct with beauty in every part, and also with a certain snake-like grace which I had never seen anything to equal before." She tells that her name is Ayesha. Holly tries to teach her doctrines of Christianity but she answers: "The religions come and the religions pass, and civilizations come and pass, and naught endures but the world and human nature." She saves the life of Leo who is dying - he was wounded a fight with cannibals. Ayesha sees in him Kallikrates. She promises to make him live forever if they walk together into a pillar of flame. Ayesha enters the Fire of Life at the heart of an volcano, and emerges from it immeasurably old. She dies and asks Leo to remember her in her eternal youth and beauty. "'Kallikrates,' she said in husky, trembling notes. 'Forget me not, Kallikrates. Have pity on my shame; I die not. I shall come again, and shall once more be beautiful, I swear it - it is true!'" Ayesha dies and is swept back to nothingness. - The story was followed by two sequels, Ayesha (1905) and Wisdom's Daughter (1923).
After Haggard returned in England, he married a Norfolk heiress, Mariana Louisa Margitson. They moved to Transvaal to Haggard's ostrich farm. When Transvaal had to be ceded to the Dutch, they went back to England, where Haggard studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1884. The death of his son in 1891 was a deep blow for him.
However, Haggard hardly practiced: he had retired to a Norfolk country house and devoted himself into writing. He had earlier published a study of contemporary African history and some unsuccessful novels. According to a story, when R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island appeared, Haggard did not think much of the book, and made a five-shilling bet that he could write better one. The outcome was King Solomon's Mines, a story of a group of treasure hunters searching legendary diamond mine in a lost land. The book became a huge bestseller and it has been in print ever since. Haggard repeated his success with three novels set in Africa - She, Jess and Allan Quatermain, all published in 1887. In Allan Quatermain the heroes from King Solomon's Mines, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good, return to Africa disillusioned with Western culture. Accompanied by Allan Quotermain they journey to the lost land of Zu-Vendis, where Curtis becomes a king and Quatermain dies. However, Quatermain appeared in several other novels.
The author's fantasy and myth-making later inspired several film directors. Allan Quatermain (1987), directed by Gary Nelson, was a follow up to 1985's King Solomon's Mines (1985), directed J. Lee-Thompson and starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. The favorite adventure novel has been filmed half a dozen times, but none of the films have captured the spirit of Haggard's original work.
At the age of thirty-four, Haggard had become a household name. Haggard also tried his hand in several forms of the novel: psychological (Mr. Meeson's Will), historical (Cleopatra) and fantastic (Stella Fregelius). He wrote over 40 books, including Montezuma's Daughter (1894), Pearl Maiden (1903), Queen Sheba's Ring (1910) and Moon of Israel (1918). Smith and the Pharaohs (1920), a collection of short stories, includes his only ghost story, 'Only a Dream'.
In 1895 Haggard stood unsuccessfully for parliament for East Norfolk, and between the years 1912 and 1917 he travelled extensively as a member of the Dominions Royal Commission. Haggard was an expert on agricultural and social conditions in England and on colonial migration. His books on farming, such as The Farmer's Year Book and Rural England, were based on long journeys through the country and thoughtful research. For his non-fiction, such as The Poor and the Land (1905), and for his government services, Haggard was knighted in 1912 and in 1919 he was created Knight Commander of the British Empire. Haggard died in London, on May 14, 1925.
Haggard's works are full of action in colorful locations, in which his protagonists find exotic, hidden societies, and encounter many dangers and characters with strange powers. In this his works anticipated Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan books, or his John Carter stories set in Mars, in which the lost world idea was applied to science fiction. Although Haggard's novels first were written for adults, several of them belong now to the juvenile literature. Some of Haggard's view's, especially his belief of a Jewish world wide conspiracy, have shadowed his otherwise decent views, which were revealed in Haggard's diaries, published in 1980. His fascination with the Zulu culture, based on knowledge of history and traditions, can be seen in his portraits of Umbopa, the rightful king of the land of Kukuanas in King Solomon's Mines and the heroic Umslopogaas in Allan Quatermain, as well in the Zulu trilogy Marie (1912), Child of Storm (1913), and Finished (1917). Also in Montezuma's Daughter (1893) Haggard showed sympathy for a threatened culture. Secrets of Haggard's private life - although married to another, he lived for years close to the woman he had always loved - have revealed that behind the mask of a respected Victorian gentleman was a more complex personality than generally has been known.
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