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H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard H. Rider Haggard[1†]

Sir Henry Rider Haggard KBE (22 June 1856 – 14 May 1925) was an English writer of adventure fiction romances set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a pioneer of the lost world literary genre[1†][2†][3†]. He was also involved in land reform throughout the British Empire[1†][3†].

Haggard was born at Bradenham, Norfolk, the eighth of ten children, to William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet[1†]. His father was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1817 to British parents[1†]. A member of the Haggard family, he was the great-nephew of the ecclesiastical lawyer John Haggard and an uncle of the naval officer Admiral Sir Vernon Haggard and the diplomat Sir Godfrey Haggard[1†].

Haggard was initially sent to Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire to study under Reverend H. J. Graham, but, unlike his elder brothers, who graduated from various private schools, he attended Ipswich Grammar School[1†]. This was because his father, who perhaps regarded him as somebody who was not going to amount to much, could no longer afford to maintain his expensive private education[1†].

In 1875, Haggard’s father sent him to what is now South Africa to take up an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal[1†]. In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal[1†]. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria in April 1877 for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal[1†].

Haggard fell in love with Mary Elizabeth “Lilly” Jackson, whom he intended to marry once he obtained paid employment in Africa[1†]. In 1878, he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, and wrote to his father informing him that he intended to return to England and marry her[1†].

Haggard’s stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential[1†].

Early Years and Education

Henry Rider Haggard, known as H. Rider Haggard, was born on June 22, 1856, in Bradenham, Norfolk, England[2†][1†]. He was the eighth of ten children born to William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet[2†][1†]. His father was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1817 to British parents[2†][1†].

Haggard’s early education was conducted at Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire under Reverend H. J. Graham[2†][1†]. However, unlike his elder brothers who graduated from various private schools, he attended Ipswich Grammar School[2†][1†]. This was because his father, who perhaps regarded him as somebody who was not going to amount to much, could no longer afford to maintain his expensive private education[2†][1†].

After failing his army entrance exam, Haggard was sent to a private crammer in London to prepare for the entrance exam for the British Foreign Office[2†][1†]. However, he never sat for the exam[2†][1†]. During his two years in London, he came into contact with people interested in the study of psychic phenomena[2†][1†].

In 1875, at the age of 19, Haggard’s father sent him to what is now South Africa to take up an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal[2†][1†][4†]. This marked the beginning of his adventures in Africa, which would later greatly influence his writing[2†][1†][4†].

Career Development and Achievements

In 1875, Haggard’s father sent him to what is now South Africa to take up an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal[1†][2†][5†]. In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal[1†]. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria in April 1877 for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal[1†]. Indeed, Haggard raised the Union flag and read out much of the proclamation following the loss of voice of the official originally entrusted with the duty[1†].

In 1878, he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, and wrote to his father informing him that he intended to return to England and marry Mary Elizabeth “Lilly” Jackson[1†]. After returning to England in 1881, Haggard decided to become a barrister[1†][6†]. He also wrote a history of recent events in southern Africa, Cetywayo and His White Neighbours (1882), and read for the bar[1†][2†].

Haggard published two unsuccessful novels but captured the public with his African adventure story King Solomon’s Mines[1†][2†]. He followed this with She (1887) and further stories of Africa, notably Allan Quatermain (1887), Nada the Lily (1892), Queen Sheba’s Ring (1910), Marie (1912), and The Ivory Child (1916)[1†][2†]. He used other settings for such striking romances as Cleopatra (1889), Montezuma’s Daughter (1893), and Heart of the World (1896)[1†][2†].

Haggard was interested in land affairs and wrote several works on the subject; in 1895 he served on a government commission to examine Salvation Army labour colonies, and in 1911 he served on the Royal Commission examining coastal erosion[1†][7†]. He was an inveterate letter writer to The Times, and had nearly 100 letters published by the newspaper[1†][7†]. In 1912, he was made a Knight Bachelor[1†][6†].

First Publication of His Main Works

H. Rider Haggard’s literary career began with the publication of his first work of fiction, “Dawn”, in 1884[7†]. However, it was his subsequent novels, “King Solomon’s Mines” (1885) and “She: A History of Adventure” (1886), that truly established him as a prominent writer[7†][1†]. These works introduced the characters of Allan Quatermain and Ayesha, respectively, both of whom became recurring figures in Haggard’s later works[7†][1†].

Here are some of Haggard’s main works:

Haggard’s works were not limited to fiction. He also wrote several non-fiction books, including “Cetywayo and His White Neighbours” (1882), “A Farmer’s Year” (1899), “The Last Boer War” (1899), and “A Winter’s Pilgrimage” (1901)[7†][8†].

Haggard’s novels, set in exotic locations and filled with adventure and romance, were immensely popular and influential. They have been adapted into numerous films[7†][9†] and continue to be read and enjoyed today[7†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

H. Rider Haggard’s works, particularly “She” and “King Solomon’s Mines”, have been the subject of extensive analysis and evaluation[10†][5†]. His novels, often categorized under the ‘lost world’ genre, were literary sensations in their time, selling over two million copies during his lifetime[10†][5†].

Haggard’s works are noted for their exotic settings and adventure-filled plots, which were influenced by his experiences in Africa[10†][11†]. His portrayal of Africa and its cultures has been analyzed in the context of the Darwinian revolution, with some critics noting that Haggard gave a literary expression to Darwinian ideas about race and evolution[10†][11†].

“She”, one of Haggard’s most famous novels, has been recognized for its gothic elements and its reflection of the imperial aggression of the fin de siècle "Scramble for Africa"[10†][12†]. The character of Ayesha, the immortal African Queen, is considered a significant figure in Victorian literature, recognized by both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung[10†][5†].

However, Haggard’s works have also been criticized for their perceived lack of literary refinement. He was known to write most of his novels within a span of three months and refused to revise drafts, believing that redrafting drained the work of energy[10†][5†]. This led to his works being regarded as crude and slipshod, even by his allies and friends[10†][5†].

Despite these criticisms, Haggard’s works have had a lasting impact. His novels have been adapted into numerous films[10†][5†], and they continue to inspire readers and writers of adventure and fantasy genres[10†][5†].

Personal Life

H. Rider Haggard was born into a family with a rich history. His father, William Meybohm Rider Haggard, was a barrister, and his mother, Ella Doveton, was an author and poet[1†]. His father was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1817 to British parents[1†]. Haggard was the eighth of ten children[1†].

Haggard’s personal life was deeply intertwined with his experiences in South Africa. He lived in South Africa for six years when he was a young man[1†][13†]. Many of his novels were set in Africa, including King Solomon’s Mines (1886), Allan Quatermain (1887), and She (1887)[1†][13†].

Haggard married into a wealthy Norfolk family and planned to return to South Africa to live as a gentleman farmer[1†][14†]. However, the increasing chaos of the Zulu rebellion and Boer War made his wife unwilling to settle there[1†][14†].

In 1919, Haggard was knighted for his services to the British Empire[1†][13†].

Conclusion and Legacy

H. Rider Haggard’s legacy is significant and enduring. He is recognized as a barometer of his age as a popular writer and continues to be of interest in the modern era[15†]. His works, set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and his pioneering of the lost world literary genre, have left a lasting impact on literature[15†][1†].

Haggard’s works created a formulaic, ideological geography that reflected his personal and political desires and fears, as well as those of his age[15†][16†]. His African romances, in particular, continue to resonate, speaking to the anxieties and desires of his time[15†].

In conclusion, Haggard’s love affair with the African land and its peoples, his romanticizing of the landscape, and his efforts to preserve parts of ‘Nature’ in enclosed wilderness areas, all contribute to his enduring legacy[15†]. His works continue to be popular and influential, and his significance as a popular writer of his age still holds true[15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Sir H. Rider Haggard: British author [website] - link
  3. Pantheon - H. Rider Haggard Biography - English adventure novelist (1856–1925) [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  5. Oxford Bibliographies - H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  6. Book Series In Order - H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  7. Wikipedia (English) - List of works by H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  8. Rider Haggard Society - Bibliography [website] - link
  9. Wikipedia (English) - Category [website] - link
  10. Graeme Shimmin - She by H Rider Haggard: Book Review and Analysis [website] - link
  11. OpenEdition Journals - Re-imagining Africa: revisiting Rider Haggard’s legacy in modern times with particular reference to South Africa [website] - link
  12. Springer Link - British Fiction and Cross-Cultural Encounters - Chapter: Explorer Ethnography and Rider Haggard’s African Romance, [website] - link
  13. Simple Wikipedia (English) - H. Rider Haggard [website] - link
  14. GradeSaver - H. Rider Haggard Biography [website] - link
  15. OpenEdition Journals - Re-imagining Africa: revisiting Rider Haggard’s legacy in modern times with particular reference to South Africa [website] - link
  16. Stanford University SearchWorks - Imagining Africa : landscape in H. Rider Haggard's African romances in SearchWorks catalog [website] - link
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