H.R. Haggard page
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||Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925)|
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.
"Welcome, white men from the stars," he said; "this is a different sight from what your eyes gazed on by the light of last night's moon, but it is not so good a sight. Girls are pleasant, and were it not for such as these" (and he pointed round him) "we should none of us be here to- day; but men are better. Kisses and the tender words of women are sweet, but the sound of the clashing of men's spears, and the smell of men's blood, are sweeter far! Would ye have wives from among our people, white men? If so, choose the fairest here, and ye shall have them, as many as ye will;" and he paused for an answer.' (from King Solomon's Mines)
Henry Rider Haggard was born in West Bradenham Hall, Norfolk,
eight son of
William Haggard, a barrister and a country squire, and Ella (Doventon)
Haggard, an amateur writer. In his childhood, the young Henry Rider was
seen as the family
dunce by his father. Haggard was not sent to a good public school like
his brothers, but he was educated at a London day-school,
although privately, and Ipswich Grammar School. At eighteen he fell in
love with Mary Elizabeth "Lilly" Jackson. She married a few years later
Frank Archer, a banker who was caught in
an embezzlement and deserted her.
After failing the army entrance, Haggard went in 1875 to Natal as a secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Governor of Natal colony. In 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 attitudes of his friend Rudyard Kipling. On the other hand, he also traveled widely and saw the dangers of European intrusion. Thus 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
culture. Especially he admired the individual prowess of their
warriors: "When death comes, he meets it without fear, and goes to the
spirits of his fathers boldly, as a warrior should." Although Haggard
himself had been brought up to believe in the superiority of European
culture and the Christian religion, he did not condemn the polygamic
system of the Zulus, writing that "the Zulu women are much attached to
the custom, nor would they as a general rule consent to marry a man who
only proposed taking one wife." Haggard himself had an affair with a
married woman, Johanna Catherine Ford (née Lehmkuhl); she gave birth to
a child who died.
Psychoanalytic interpretations of Haggard's novels have paid much attention to his female characters. Among his devoted reader was 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. 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 oservations of James Frazer in his classical study The Golden Bough. Also Haggard's idea of a journey into the "darkest Africa," which turns into a spiritual search, has been used my a number of writers, including Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness (1902).
The narrator of the hallucinatory 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. "My empire is of thye imagination," she says. 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 in 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 disintegrates, she is swept back to nothingness. The story was followed by two sequels, Ayesha (1905), in which Haggards asked, "Who and what was Ayesha, nay - what is Ayesha?" and Wisdom's Daughter (1923).
After Haggard returned to England, he married in 1880 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 continued his law studies. The death of his son in 1891 was a deep blow for him. Haggard was admitted to the bar in 1884, but showed little interest in practicing his profession – he had other plans.
After retiring to a Norfolk country house, Haggard devoted himself into writing. He had earlier published a study of contemporary African history. His first books, Dawn (1884) and The Witch's Tale (1884), were undistinguished. According to a story, when R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island appeared in book form in 1883, Haggard did not think much of it, and made a five-shilling bet with his brother, that he could write better one. The outcome, created in six weeks, was King Solomon's Mines, a story of a group of treasure hunters searching legendary diamond mine in a lost land. In the story Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and the veteran hunter Allan Quatermain, accompanied by Umbopa, their native servant, set off to reveal the fate of Curtis's missing brother – he has gone to look for the treasure of King Solomon in the land of Kukuanas. They cross terrifying deserts, nearly freeze in the mountains, and after a long journey they reach their destination. Umbopa turns out to be a king, and he wins the villainous King Twala, who dies in the combat with Curtis. The adventurers find Solomon's mines, but are left to die in an underground vault by Gagool, the horrific witch-doctor. After an escape they find Curtis's brother and return to the civilization.
The adventure tale became a sensation and Haggard's book 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 Quatermain they journey to the lost land of Zu-Vendis, where Curtis becomes a king and Quatermain dies. However, Quatermain appeared again in several other novels. In Allan and the Ice-Gods (1927) the hero ingests a hallucinogenic drug and finds his mind transported to the body of a prehistoric caveman. 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. He published one to three books a year, in which the setting ranged from Iceland to the South Seas. Haggard also tried his hand in several forms of the novel: psychological (Mr Meeson's Will), historical (Cleopatra) and fantastic (Stella Fregelius). During his career, he wrote over 40 books. Many of his titles referred to a female character or attribute – Montezuma's Daughter (1894), Pearl Maiden (1903), Queen Sheba's Ring (1910), and The Virgin of the Sun (1922). Although the Victorian age was the first Golden Age of the ghost story, Haggard's sole attempt in this genre was 'Only a Dream,' published in Smith and the Pharaohs (1920), a collection of short stories. With the editor and historian Andrew Lang he wrote a sequel to Homer's Odyssey, The World's Desire (1890). Eric Brighteyes (1891) was Haggard's excursion into the Norse saga.
"And now that time which she foresaw has come, and Heaven knows that I have thought of her, poor dear. Ah! those footsteps of one dead that will echo through our lives, those woman's footprints on the marble flooring which will not be stamped out. Most of us have heard and seen them at some time or other, and I hear and see them very plainly tonight. Poor dead wife, I wonder if there are any doors in the land where you have gone through which you can creep out to look at me tonight? I hope that there are none. Death must indeed be a hell if the dead can see and feel and take measure of the forgetful faithlessness of their beloved." (from 'Only a Dream')
In 1895 Haggard stood unsuccessfully for parliament for East Norfolk. 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. In 1919 he was created Knight Commander of the British Empire. Haggard died in London, on May 14, 1925. He left behind four completed novels. Three of Haggard's siblings – Andrew, Edward, and Eleanora – also published fiction, Eleanora under her married title as Baroness Albert D'Anethan.
Like his friend Rudyard Kipling, who celebrated the heroism of British colonial soldiers, Haggard believed in the British Empire. His works are full of action in colorful locations. There his protagonists find exotic, hidden societies, and encounter many dangers and characters with strange powers. In this his works anticipated Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan books, or the John Carter stories set in Mars, in which the lost world idea was applied to science fiction. Haggard's own mythological world can also be seen as a precursor of H.P. Lovecraft's 'Cthulhu Mythos' stories.
Although Haggard's novels first were written for adults,
them belong now to the juvenile literature. Some of Haggard's opinions,
belief of a Jewish world wide conspiracy, have shadowed his later
reputation and otherwise open-minded approach to foreign cultures.
Moreover, the Haggard bloodline included Jewish and Indian relations.
Haggard's diaries, published in 1980, reveal his curiosity to a wide
variety of subjects. 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
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
set in Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest, Haggard showed
sympathy for a threatened culture.
Although married to another, he lived for years close to the woman he had always loved, Lilly Archer, née Jackson. Secrets of Haggard's private life have revealed that behind the mask of a respected Victorian gentleman was a more complex personality than generally has been known.
For further reading: The Cloak that I Left by L.R. Haggard (1951); Rider Haggard: His Life and Works by M.N. Cohen (1960); Rider Haggard as Rural Reformer by P.B. Ellis (1976) Rider Haggard by P.B. Ellis (1978); Rider Haggard by D.S. Higgins (1983); Anima as Fate by C. Brunner (1986): Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire by W. Katz (1987); Children of the Empire-The Victorian Haggards by Victoria Manthorpe (1996); Rudyard Kipling and Sir Henry Rider Haggard on Screen, Stage, Radio and Television by Philip Leibfried (1999); Imagining Africa: Landscape in H. Rider Haggard's African Romances by Lindy Stiebel (2001); H. Rider Haggard on the Imperial Frontier: The Political and Literary Contexts of his African Romances by Gerald Monsman (2006); She: Explorations into a Romance, edited by Tania Zulli (2009)
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