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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.
Portrait of H. Rider Haggard c. 1902
South Africa, 1875-1882
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.
H. Rider Haggard in later life (undated picture)
Aid for Lilly Archer
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.
After returning to England in 1882, Haggard published a book on the political situation in South Africa, as well as a handful of unsuccessful novels,  before writing the book for which he is most famous, King Solomon's Mines. He accepted a 10 percent royalty rather than £100 for the copyright.
His novels portray many of the stereotypes associated with colonialism, yet they are unusual for the degree of sympathy with which the native populations are portrayed. Africans often play heroic roles in the novels, although the protagonists are typically European (though not invariably). Notable examples are the heroic Zulu warrior Umslopogaas and Ignosi, the rightful king of Kukuanaland, in King Solomon's Mines. Having developed an intense mutual friendship with the three Englishmen who help him regain his throne, he accepts their advice and abolishes witch-hunts and arbitrary capital punishment.
Three of Haggard's novels were written in collaboration with his friend Andrew Lang who shared his interest in the spiritual realm and paranormal phenomena.
Haggard also wrote about agricultural and social reform, in part inspired by his experiences in Africa, but also based on what he saw in Europe. At the end of his life, he was a staunch opponent of Bolshevism, a position that he shared with his friend Rudyard Kipling. The two had bonded upon Kipling's arrival at London in 1889, largely on the strength of their shared opinions, and remained lifelong friends.
Graham Greene, in an essay about Haggard, stated, "Enchantment is just what this writer exercised; he fixed pictures in our minds that thirty years have been unable to wear away." Haggard was praised in 1965 by Roger Lancelyn Green, one of the OxfordInklings, as a writer of a consistently high level of "literary skill and sheer imaginative power" and a co-originator with Robert Louis Stevenson of the Age of the Story Tellers.
Rider Haggard has been widely criticised for perpetuating negative stereotypes about non-Europeans. For instance, in his canonical book Decolonizing the Mind, Ng?g? wa Thiong'o refers to Haggard as one of the "geniuses of racism." The Kenyan author and academic Micere Mugo wrote in 1973 that reading the description of "an old African woman in Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines had for a long time made her feel mortal terror whenever she encountered old African women."
James Powell and Sons' presentation drawing for the Rider-Haggard window at Ditchingham Church, Norfolk (1925)
In 1925, his daughter Lilias commissioned a memorial window for Ditchingham Church, in his honour, from James Powell and Sons. The design features the Pyramids, his farm in Africa, and Bungay as seen from the Vineyard Hills near his home.
Influence on children's literature in the 19th century
During the 19th century, Haggard was one of many individuals who contributed to children's literature. Morton N. Cohen described King Solomon's Mines as a story that has "universal interest, for grown-ups as well as youngsters". Haggard himself wanted to write the book for boys, but it ultimately had an influence on children and adults around the world. Cohen explained, "King Solomon's Mines was being read in the public schools [and] aloud in class-rooms".
Films based on Haggard's works
Haggard's writings have been turned into films many times including:
She has been adapted for the cinema at least ten times, and was one of the earliest films to be made, in 1899 as La Colonne de feu (The Pillar of Fire), by Georges Méliès. An American 1911 version starred Marguerite Snow, a British-produced version appeared in 1916, and in 1917 Valeska Suratt appeared in a production for Fox which is lost. In 1925 a silent film of She, starring Betty Blythe, was produced with the active participation of Rider Haggard, who wrote the intertitles. This film combines elements from all the books in the series.
P. C. Wren (1875-1941), British writer of adventure fiction. He is remembered best for Beau Geste, a much-filmed book of 1924 involving the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, and its sequels, Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal.
^H.P. Lovecraft has stated in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature: The romantic, semi-Gothic, quasi-moral tradition here represented was carried far down the nineteenth century by such authors as Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, Wilkie Collins, the late Sir H. Rider Haggard (whose She is really remarkably good), Sir A. Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Robert Louis Stevenson
^"Based on a 1885 novel by Henry Rider HaggardArchived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, the exploits of Alan Quatermain have long served as a template for the Indiana Jones character. In this particular film, King Solomon's Mines (1950), Quatermain finds himself unwillingly thrust into a worldwide search for the legendary mines of King Solomon. The look and feel of Indiana and his past adventures are quite apparent here, and his new quest follows some very similar through lines. Like Quatermain, Jones is reluctantly forced into helping the Russians find the Lost Temple of Akator and the Crystal Skulls mentioned in the film's title. Both Quatermain and Jones are confronted by angry villagers and a myriad of dangerous booby traps. Look to King Solomon's Mines for a good idea on the feel and tone Lucas and Spielberg are after with their latest Indiana Jones outing".
^Greene, Graham (1969). Rider Haggard's Secret. Collected Essays. New York: Viking Press. pp. 209-214.