H. Rider Haggard Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Henry Rider Haggard (HAG-urd) has long been esteemed as a writer of evocative adventures involving civilized European heroes impelled to travel into unknown realms and encounter occult forces. Born in England in 1856, Haggard possessed a firsthand knowledge of Africa, having gone to South Africa at the age of nineteen as secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, the governor of Natal. Later, holding a position on the staff of the special commissioner, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Haggard became a master of the High Court of the Transvaal.

In 1879, he married and read for the bar, to which he was called in 1884. He felt drawn to literary work, however, and in 1882 he published his first book, Cetywayo and His White Neighbours, written in defense of Shepstone’s policy, which had been overthrown when the Boers took over the Transvaal. Though the book was received favorably at the Cape, it did not draw the general attention that Haggard later won. Two novels—Dawn and The Witch’s Head, the latter treating a British defeat at Isandhlwana—appeared without stirring notice. King Solomon’s Mines, however, an African adventure inspired by the Zimbabwe ruins, achieved an immediate and spectacular success. Equally well received was his next novel, She, describing explorers who meet a mysterious and eternally beautiful woman ruling a lost African tribe. These works set the pattern for a number of later novels about Africa, often...

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Henry Rider Haggard, the sixth son of William and Ella Haggard, was born at Bradenham Hall, Norfolk, England on June 20, 1856. His father was...

(The entire section is 701 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Etherington, Norman. Rider Haggard. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Contains biography, critical analysis of Haggard’s major works, a chronology, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Fraser, Robert. Victorian Quest Romance: Stevenson, Haggard, Kipling, and Conan Doyle. Plymouth, England: Northcote House, 1998. Analyzes what has turned out to be perhaps the most influential literary genre to emerge from the Victorian era.

Katz, Wendy R. Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire: A Critical Study of British Imperial Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. An unfavorable study that finds an unacceptably imperialist agenda in Haggard’s work.

Leibfried, Philip. Rudyard Kipling and Sir Henry Rider Haggard on Stage, Sceen, and Television. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999. Compares the approaches to adventure of Kipling and Haggard, especially through their dramatic adaptations.

Pocock, Tom. Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1993. A psychological biography that attempts to re-create Haggard’s worldview, touching on his feelings about Jews and Africans, his friendship with Kipling, and his relationships with his father and his son.

Siemens, Lloyd, and Roger Neufeld. The Critical Reception of Sir Henry Rider Haggard: An Annotated Bibliography. Greensboro: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. A guide to the varying critical fortunes of Haggard over the previous century.

Steibel, Lindy. Imagining Africa: Landscape in H. Rider Haggard’s African Romances. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. Approaches Haggard’s construction of an imaginary African landscape as a product of late-Victorian wishful thinking about Africa, analyzing his African topography as a vast Eden, a wilderness, a dream underworld, a home to ancient white civilizations, and a sexualized metaphor for the human body.

Whatmore, D. E. H. Rider Haggard: A Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1987. Useful for further research.