Sir Henry Rider Haggard (22 June 1856 – 14 May 1925) was an English writer of adventure fiction set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a pioneer of the lost world literary genre.He was also involved in agricultural reform throughout the British Empire. His stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential.
Henry Rider Haggard, generally known as H. Rider Haggard or Rider Haggard, was born at Bradenham, Norfolk, the eighth of ten children, to Sir William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet. His father was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to British parents. 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.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. After failing his army entrance exam, he was sent to a private crammer in London to prepare for the entrance exam for the British Foreign Office, which he never sat. During his two years in London he came into contact with people interested in the study of psychical phenomena.
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. In 1876 he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. 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. 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.
At about that time, Haggard fell in love with Mary Elizabeth “Lilly” Jackson, whom he intended to marry once he obtained paid employment in Africa. 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. His father forbade it until Haggard had made a career for himself, and by 1879 Jackson had married Frank Archer, a well-to-do banker. When Haggard eventually returned to England, he married a friend of his sister, Marianna Louisa Margitson (1859–1943) in 1880, and the couple travelled to Africa together. They had a son named Jack (who died of measles at age 10) and three daughters, Angela, Dorothy and Lilias. Lilias Rider Haggard became an author, edited The Rabbit Skin Cap and I Walked By Night, and wrote a biography of her father entitled The Cloak That I Left (published in 1951).
Moving back to England in 1882, the couple settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk, Louisa’s ancestral home. Later they lived in Kessingland and had connections with the church in Bungay, Suffolk. Haggard turned to the study of law and was called to the bar in 1884. His practice of law was desultory and much of his time was taken up by the writing of novels which he saw as being more profitable. Haggard lived at 69 Gunterstone Road in Hammersmith, London, from mid-1885 to circa April 1888. It was at this Hammersmith address that he completed King Solomon’s Mines (published September 1885). Haggard was heavily influenced by the larger-than-life adventurers whom he met in colonial Africa, most notably Frederick Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham. He created his Allan Quatermain adventures under their influence, during a time when great mineral wealth was being discovered in Africa, as well as the ruins of ancient lost civilisations of the continent, such as Great Zimbabwe. Three of his books, The Wizard (1896), Black Heart and White Heart; a Zulu Idyll (1896), and Elissa; the Doom of Zimbabwe (1898), are dedicated to Burnham’s daughter Nada, the first white child born in Bulawayo; she had been named after Haggard’s 1892 book Nada the Lily. Haggard belonged to the Athenaeum, Savile, and Authors’ clubs.
Years later, when Haggard was a successful novelist, he was contacted by his former love, Lilly Archer, née Jackson. She had been deserted by her husband, who had embezzled funds entrusted to him and had fled bankrupt to Africa. Haggard installed her and her sons in a house and saw to the children’s education. Lilly eventually followed her husband to Africa, where he infected her with syphilis before dying of it himself. Lilly returned to England in late 1907, where Haggard again supported her until her death on 22 April 1909. These details were not generally known until the publication of Haggard’s 1981 biography by Sydney Higgins.
Haggard died on 14 May 1925 in Marylebone, London aged 68. His ashes were buried at St Mary’s Church, Ditchingham. His papers are held at the Norfolk Record Office.
She : A History of Adventure
The story is a first-person narrative that follows the journey of Cambridge professor Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey to a lost kingdom in the African interior. The journey is triggered by a mysterious package left to Leo by his father, to be opened on his 25th birthday; the package contains an ancient shard of pottery and several documents, suggesting an ancient mystery about the Vincey family. Holly and Leo eventually arrive in eastern Africa where they encounter a primitive race of natives and a mysterious white queen, Ayesha, who reigns as the all-powerful "She" or "She-who-must-be-obeyed" and who has a mysterious connection to young Leo.
Ayesha is a 2,000 year old woman and still looks marvelous for her age , lives in the middle of Africa during the 1800's, rules a remote tribe of hungry cannibals, people have strange taste. When Englishmen arrive in her barbaric land, with hidden wealth , instead of being eaten, are saved by the impressive Queen. Leo is one of the tireless explorers and the fierce She, believes he is a reincarnation of a former great love.
In this work, Rider Haggard developed many of the conventions of the lost world subgenre, which many later authors emulated.