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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