Rider Haggard Chapter 2



Rider Haggard:  His Extraordinary Life and Colonial Work. A Literary Critical Biography.

The Online Publication

By Geoffrey Clarke.



The Transvaal.

In 1876 Rider Haggard had joined Sir Theophilis Shepstone as a junior member of his staff.  He soon put his talents to use and produced a pencil sketch of Shepstone which was subsequently published in the English journal “The World”.  It was here that he encountered ‘Umslopogas’, or more exactly, Mr M’hlopekazi, a Swazi who was on the staff of the Residency.  He used the character of Umslopogas, whom he featured in Allan Quatermain and other romances. 

 In King Solomon’s Mines he is the character, Umbopa, one of the local African chiefs duped by the three Englishmen, as discussed above.  Captain Good is probably his brother, Jack, Sir Henry Curtis the archetypal Anglo-Saxon-Berserker hero, and Allan Quatermain could be taken, with only a pinch of salt, to be Haggard himself, as his granddaughter agreed with the present author.[1]  Again, in King Solomon’s Mines he is known as Ignosi, a great Zulu head of a regiment of fierce warriors who comes into conflict with Twala, the king.  In his autobiography Haggard reports how Umslopogas had reputedly killed ten men in mortal combat.  He was “a tall, thin, fierce-faced” man who had “a great hole above the left temple over which the skin pulsated”,[2]  which injury Haggard recounts was received in battle.

On hearing that Haggard was using his name in his novels, Mr M’hlopekazi claimed that he should be paid for his inclusion in the romance.  Haggard offered him a hunting knife as a means of paying him his royalties.  However, when questioned whether he minded being featured in Haggard’s books, Mr M’hlopekazi stated that he was pleased to receive the chance of being remembered by posterity.[3]

The trek with Osborn, Fynney and Shepstone (Sompseu to the Zulus) from Pietermaritzburg to Pretoria took place on 20th December, 1876 when Haggard was 22, the journey lasting into the New Year of 1877.  In the heat of the day, he still enjoyed the opportunity to explore the wilderness of the high veldt of the Transvaal with its varied climate and vegetation.  On the journey, Osborn recounted some of his adventures.  Osborn had witnessed the battles of Tugela, and Haggard went on to describe the tremendous loss of life in that conflict in his story “Child of Storm”. (1913)[4]

 In Child of Storm where he encounters a group of impis, a unit of Zulu warriors, engaged in battle, his character, Macumazana experiences terror as the party turns on the Englishman and threatens to kill him:

I became aware of two great fellows rushing at me with their eyes starting out of their heads and shouting as they came:

“Kill Umbelazi’s white man! Kill!  Kill!

Then, seeing that the matter was urgent and that it was a question of my life or theirs, I came into action.

In my hand I held a double-barrelled shot gun loaded with what we used to call “loopers” or B.B. shot, of which but a few went to each charge, for I had hoped to meet with a small buck on my way to camp.  So as these soldiers came, I lifted the gun and fired, the right barrel at one of them and the left barrel at the other, aiming in each case at the centre of the small dancing shields, which from force of habit they held stretched out to protect their throats and breasts.  At that distance, of course, the loopers sank through the soft hide of the shields and deep into the bodies of those who carried them, so that both of them dropped dead…[5]

At the battle of Tugela, Cetewayo’s brother, Umbelazi was killed.  There was a total, bloody, annihilation of the Zulus.  Armed only with shields and the assegai, the slender javelin or spear of the Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa, the clash of the shields in battle was described by Haggard “like the roar of the sea.”[6]  The two armies were lined up against each other and wave upon wave of impis, threw themselves upon the front to be met by death and destruction.  Behind each line was a solid array of spearsmen ready to fall into the breach.  Each regiment of Zulu warriors took the place of the fallen one and the numbers of dead ran into tens of thousands, and the “ground around them was piled with dead."[7]  The attack left tens of thousands strewn upon the battlefield in scenes not to be repeated until the First World War.

In 1873, sixteen years after the battle, Cetewayo (1826 - 08. 02. 1884) was nominated by Shepstone to the throne of the Zulus on the death of his father, Mpande.  Subsequently Cetewayo turned against the English administration of Bulwer, and defiantly resisted English colonisation of Zululand.  The Boers used the English against Cetewayo.  They claimed part of Cetewayo's land and began to build on it, but Cetewayo drove them out.  The English, who were called in to arbitrate, legislated in favour of Cetewayo, naming him as King of the Zulus, but took the opportunity to blame him about his kingdom.  Cetywayo later visited England as a guest of Queen Victoria, and was feted throughout the land.  Subsequently, his kingdom was divided into three parts by the British.

In his work, Haggard stresses the virtues of Zulu society by contrasting it with the rule of law in England, positing African societies as a kind of exemplar for the west, from which much of benefit could be gained, as it appears to place more emphasis upon the person than on property.  In Haggard’s phrase “a man may half-kick his wife to death”[8]  and be less accountable than if he were to steal something trivial.  Haggard’s emphasis on the cultural benefits of Zulu society to the west is part of a larger pattern of Haggard as a committed anthropologist whose reference markers are more frequently to the east than to the west.

Arriving at the Cape Colony in January 1877, Haggard and his group were welcomed with alacrity.  Balls were arranged and receptions and dinners held.  Relations with the Boers were fraught and anxious while Shepstone conducted negotiations and talks with their leaders.  Meanwhile the Zulus under Secocoeni were making peace with the Dutchmen.  On March 26 they set out for Secocoeni’s camp.  After the parlays and a treaty with the Zulus had been signed, Haggard’s party were able to escape a murderous ambush that had been arranged by the Zulus under Maakurupiiji.  Upon the Annexation, peace broke out in the Transvaal and Haggard was able to take notes to be used in his adventures.  When he returned home to England, he published his account of the Zulus under the title Cetywayo and his White Neighbours [9] 

 Cetywayo and his White Neighbours was published privately in Austria on 22 June 1882 with Trubner and Co in green covers when 750 copies of a limited edition were produced.  It did not sell particularly well and it was not until Haggard achieved fame with his romances that there was any financial success involved.  The work covers the ground in South Africa of the annexation of the Transvaal, and eye opening and absorbing accounts of events in Zululand, and Natal around the First Boer War that Haggard may have witnessed.  His cultural take on the Zululand population remains broadminded and fair, taken in terms of his times and his background.  One usually writes in accordance with one’s background and experience as exemplified in Haggard’s work with its class position, African knowledge and love of gold, lost kingdoms, adventures and treasure.  His anthropological study reveals him as a man of perspicacity and catholicity; and, against the grain for English readers of the times, would express admiration for aspects of Zulu culture such as hospitality, fair dealing and social cohesion.

 Parts of the book were reissued later in 1889 by Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner with the title The Last Boer War the cover of which was simple and monochromatic illustrating a colonial soldier and the contents, because shortened and edited, more available to the general reader.  Renowned for their disregard for copyright, the United States publishers issued the book under the title of A History of the Transvaal.  The publication included A Zulu War Dance and A Visit to Chief Secocoeni which in 1887 featured in The Gentleman's Magazine that, since 1731, had regularly featured essays, dissertations and topical stories for men.

 In A Visit to Chief Secocoeni published later also in revised form In Cetywayo and his White Neighbours Haggard describes, with some derogatory remarks on the general demeanour, attitudes and even cleanliness of the Dutch settlers, the journey by the members of the Commission to visit the Zulu chief.  They passed through territory, traveling eastward, that was reputed to be disease ridden, and a gloss can be put on his remarks that the experience was not a pleasant one.

 The party was met initially by Maakurupiiji. or otherwise known as Secocoeni’s “Mouth” or first minister.[10]  They were greeted hospitably by the chief, however a request for strong spirits was turned down by Haggard’s cautious party.  Meeting with hundreds of his men, the actual talks with Secocoeni were bathetic, considering the chief spent the time chewing on an intoxicating leaf and making only a few pithy remarks, as he spat out the juice.  On their return, the expedition group encountered further difficulties, when a number of horses died, but they managed to escape the endemic fever and reach safety.

Such an account resembles Haggard’s adventures with their perils, mutinous attacks, pitfalls and dangers, at the same time as which an intense cultural tension around his encounters with the Boers dominates and interesting passing detail enhances the discourse.

Due to English intransigence and obstinacy over issues like African slavery and the rights of the Boers to land, the Boers started the ‘Great Trek’ to the East where they set up Boer republics in the Orange Free State, Natalia and the Transvaal.  

 Haggard was aware of all the history of the Boers and in The Ghost Kings he sets the story in Zululand at the time of Dingaan, the King of the Zulus and his brother Shaka, who allegedly he murdered.  Dingaan is supposed to have mandated that the Boers under Piet Retief recover some stolen cattle before he would listen to any representations with regard to the ownership of land, but Retief was killed allegedly by the Zulu warriors.  Mpande, Dingaan’s rival, took his army of Zulus down south to join with the Boers under their leader Andries Pretorius, and the joint forces of Mpande and the Boers were strengthened, so Dingaane’s army was defeated near the  Pongolo River. 

 In the novel, Rachel Dove is the fifteen year old daughter of a priest who has gone as a missionary to the land of the Zulus.  They soon settle into domestic harmony despite climate and dietary challenges.  Rachel is sent rather unthinkingly on an errand to pick wild gooseberries on the island of a dried up river bed and, marooned by a sudden flash flood, she is only rescued by the courage and fortitude of an Englishman, Richard Darrien, which fateful meeting leads to a romance.  After surviving the flood, wild animals and a lightning storm, Rachel is termed by the Zulus Inkosazanna-y-Zoola and Udade-y-Silwana or Lady of Heaven and Sister of the Wild Beasts.

 King Dingaan demands the presence of Rachel to which she agrees and, because of the kidnap of her friend, Noie (Nonha) and because she is granted mystic powers after her rescue from the flood, she proceeds fearlessly to cross the Tugela river into Zululand.  And after several alarming encounters with ‘witch doctors’ and shows of superb horsemanship, she meets the Zulu king at his great hut.

 Inevitably Rachel’s parents have to follow; Rachel is impelled or at least is self impelled to see the Ghost Kings; and she acts as a judge of the Zulu population there because of the spiritual powers she has been given and her social standing amongst the Zulus.  Whilst her friend Noie has gone away, and after a premonition that she will see Richard Darrien again, she finally reunites with him and the effect is electric.  It was Fate that they should be united in love: ““Yes’’, he answered. “Fate.””[i]

Their reunion is temporary for they are again separated as Richard is poisoned by those who fear him.  Long struggles ensue as she loses her spiritual powers and regains them again.  Searching for Richard everywhere, only the spiritual understanding of where he could be comes to her aid.  Here Haggard avoids the temptation to take the route of the Romeo and Juliet story, for although Rachel is thought dead and therefore Richard wants to give up the ghost, nevertheless they are reunited and the easy Shakespearian path of allowing both to die is averted and they can live to love again.

Similarities abound between the heroine of this story and that of Beatrice, the local school teacher in the novel of the same name.  [See Chapter 5] They are outstandingly beautiful, resolute, independent, fearless, headstrong, self willed and courageous, and importantly defiant of marriage with one that they do not love.  In the case of Rachel with Ishmail, the ‘renegade Englishman’, and in the character of Beatrice with Squire Owen Davies, neither of whom succeeds in marrying the other.  Yet, the former story contains remarkable spiritual passages that reflect Haggard's time among a people who believe completely in the power of their ancestors - the Ghost Kings, the power to transmit messages through the ether without rational explanation, and the total control of human life and destiny at the mere pointing of a wand.

In the adventure, animal rights are surprisingly alluded to and seemingly upheld where the Haggard authorial voice regrets the killing of a buck:

Down it went dead, whereon rejoicing in his triumph like any other young hunter who thinks not of the wonderful and happy life that he has destroyed, Richard sprang upon it exultantly.[i]

This Haggard title cannot be bought as a specimen copy easily in any condition or at any price in these days, and Haggard would surely be delighted to know that some of his works fetch extremely large sums of money with antiquarian booksellers asking  thousands of pounds for certain difficult to obtain editions,  


In 1879 Rider Haggard left South Africa and returned to Bradenham in Norfolk. Subsequent on his conversion to Catholicism, he paid off all his debts and, according to his autobiography he “had got out of Chancery ... and had begun reading for the bar in a Conveyencer’s room”[11]  Whilst in Africa, Haggard had purchased land and decided with his brother, Jack, to develop a farm, named Hilldrop, for the raising of ostriches, the feathers of which were favoured in England for wearing in ladies’ hats.

At home in Bradenham, Norfolk, he contracted a marriage at the age of 24 with Louisa Margitson, the daughter of Major Margitson of the 19th regiment.  A rather plain girl, she however brought a dowry and the inheritance of a Norfolk estate, Ditchingham, despite opposition from her uncle, which would enable them to return to South Africa and take up ostrich farming in a big way.  Having gone to court to fight the ruling in favour of her uncle and to sanction the marriage, they marry on 11 August, 1880.  They travel out to Natal in South Africa in November, when Louie was 21.  He also persuaded his brother, Will, to travel from Tehran in Iran to join them in the venture.

Louie is the daughter of John Margitson, who had retired from the army due to ill health and sold his commission in 1852.  Her mother is Elizabeth Mary-Anna Hamilton who was affectionately known as Mary-Anna.  A strong willed girl, she turns out to be quite difficult to manage for her grandmother when her mother was not well and her maiden aunt Hannah takes over her welfare.  Mary-Anna suffered ill health and lost three babies in childbirth, mentally and physically wearing her down, so she spent time travelling abroad visiting spas to ‘take the waters’ in a quest for improved health, as was the wont of the upper-classes in nineteenth century South England.  She goes back to Ditchingham after the death of her husband in Switzerland in September 1868.  Returning to the continent in 1878, she attempts to take the waters in Schwalbach in Germany, but is so weak she dies and is buried there.

Yet all the same Rider needed to provide an income for his family.  He applied for the position of Secretary to Melmoth Osborn, and travelled out to the Cape, arriving at Newcastle in April 1881.  On 23 May, their first child, Arthur (Jock) Haggard was born.  But by August they had seen the difficulty of making a success of ostrich farming at Hilldrop.  The land chosen was unsuitable for the raising of ostriches, being too arid, and of course the events of the Boer war were becoming frighteningly close.  They had lost four hundred and fifty pounds on the venture.[i]  They were decided upon returning to England again with their new family, so they sold up.  Returning via Durban, they were leaving Africa for the last time, with George Blomefield given charge of the farm.





Ditchingham House.  Kind permission of Ms Dorothy Cheyne.


Home again at Ditchingham House, the grand seventeenth-century mansion, Louie’s parental house, Rider began writing Dawn, a romantic novel involving a disputed will, and about a young woman whom he named Maria Lee.  Rider attended St Mary’s church, Bungay with Louie and they both noticed in one of the pews an attractive young girl upon whom the character of Maria became focussed:[13]  She is described as:


not very pretty at her then age – just eighteen – but she was a perfect specimen of a young English country girl; fresh as a rose, and sound as a bell…

 Indeed, there may have been input from Louie Margitson on the characterisation of Maria, for according to Mrs Nada Cheyne, Louie “helped with plotting, characterisation and detail on Dawn, despite not being accredited”[14]  by Haggard, as we will see was the case with Mrs Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang.  The story was eventually self-published in 1884 with Trubner.  The first main stream British publisher later that year was Hurst and Blackett.  The romance appeared in the three volume format, common at the time.  According to Alfred Tella, the first authorised American edition of Dawn appeared in 1887, and was advertised for sale in April of that year under the imprimatur of D. Appleton and Company, 1, 3, and 5 Bond Street, New York, USA.[i]

Haggard also wrote The Witch’s Head, whose character, Alston, was based on the British resident in Natal, Melmoth Osborn.  Haggard's anthropological studies had led him to conclusions about the nature of the African people and society.  He noticed social arrangements such as polygamy and polyandry, which were practised in Africa.   In the novel, Haggard highlights the benefits of aspects of Eastern philosophy and culture such as maternalism, and went on to feature these in later writings.  The novel was published in the three volume format, popular at the time, by Hurst and Blackett in 1885.[15]

His brother, Jack, discussed with Rider their various exploits in Africa.  Jack’s visits to the diamond mines of Kimberley suggested the vast treasure trove to be found by adventurous English explorers into Africa.  The lost kingdom of Queen Sheba was a source for the imaginative mediations between Jack and Rider over a possible African adventure story.  Rider Haggard recounts in his autobiography that he had read Robert Louis Stevenson’s gripping and highly original adventure romance, Treasure Island.  Actually, he “procured and studied that work, and was impelled by its perusal to write a book for boys”.[16]  Jack had taunted Rider with the suggestion that he could not write anything “half as good”.  It was enough to set Haggard on his way to writing the story of the fabulous mines of Solomon featuring Jack himself, Rider as Allan Quatermain, and Sir Henry Curtis as the heroic English adventurer.

 Standing to write at his pedestal writing table in his study, after working in the Temple, through the summer of 1883, it was soon finished.  It had taken quite a short time for the writing of an African adventure.  Haggard recounts “I think the task occupied me about six weeks”[17]

 On March 28 1883 Haggard had received a letter from Andrew Lang, the Scottish journalist and editor of Harper’s stating that he had read a copy of a story entitled “Bottles”.  In the letter Lang compliments Haggard upon the work, and informs Haggard of the pleasure reading The Witch’s Head had given him.  In a further letter dated only ‘Sunday’ Lang told Haggard that he had been reading the manuscript draft of King Solomon's Mines.  He had only reached the part about the duel between Sir Henry Curtis and the African king.  His remarks were most complimentary, but he was exercised with the problem of finding a publisher for the work suggesting Harper’s Boy’s Magazine.

 The issue for Lang, in a further letter dated “Sunday”, was “what is the best, whereby I mean the coiniest, way to publish it?”[18]   On its eventual publication, Lang wrote to Haggard acknowledging receipt of his reviewer's copy.  Lang's review in the Saturday Review[19]  was highly complimentary, excessively so, it might be said, for a routine literary review.  For Haggard, Lang was “admitted to be perhaps the soundest and ablest critic of his time.”[20]

 Haggard had sent the manuscript to Cassell who decided to make a scoop of it.  Using new printing and production methods coming into use in the 1880s such as photomechanical techniques which allowed them to put together and print books much more quickly, they advertised the story all over London with the headline in bold capital letters: ‘King Solomon’s Mines: The Greatest Story Ever Told’.  England had seen nothing like it.  It was an immediate success and sold 31,000 copies in its first year.  The first issue reached a sales figure of 50,000. 

 Some three years later Lang wrote on 4 August,1888 offering more figures on sales,  “We are thinking of beginning to set the type of “Quaritch, V.C.” on Sept. 1st. You will give us your finally corrected sheets, I suppose. We have sold 20,000 copies of “Maiwa” on day of publication.”[21]

 The story involves three English adventurers, Captain Good, Sir Henry Curtis and Allan Quatermain, three white, upper class, imperial voyagers on board the Dunkeld - the name of which reminding the reader of a dunker or prophylactic - at Durban South Africa.  Also "she is a flat-bottomed punt", as he describes her, is a cause of some merriment.

The continent of Africa in many ways exists as a locale for sexual penetration where imperial and sexual uncertainties and suppressions are made apparent.  The search for Africa in which the characters take part often becomes a self-reflexive study of what it is to be English, and Africa proves to be, more often than not, a testing ground for male potency.  The exploration party remain intent on a penetrative journey into Africa to discover the lost mines of Solomon, protected only by their shotguns, ammunition and astrological tables. 

The association of blackness with eroticism is a constant factor in the novel.  Haggard continues to regard black women as unchallengable by men, and as having special qualities of beauty, strength, patience and beauty, their blackness being a particular cause for erotic interest.  There is an aspect of supressed sexuality in Haggard's featuring of black women as an object of desire for it may have been impossible in the environment in which he was operating for Haggard to express an open interest in his characters in the delights of sexual congress with the African Other as woman.  There is a tension to be seen in Haggard's work, however, between his notion of the black African as being an object of attraction and his repeated contention that the white person is superior.

Reaching the land of Ignosi, after a while Captain Good becomes the object of attraction to a young African girl named Foulata, who falls in love with his attractive white, untrousered legs, but for Allan the significant emotional link is to his son, whom he hopes to assist with his medical studies.  Pocketing the scores of jewels, they proceed into the interior.

Andrew Lang

© THE WEE WEB http://www.theweeweb.co.uk/public/author_profile.php?id=88

 Lying on Lang’s couch at No. 1 Marloes Road, South Kensington, Haggard would discuss the aesthetics of their fiction and consider the portrayal of sexual matters.  But there is an ambivalence in Haggard, for in “About Fiction” he castigated too much realism in sexual characterisation in a paper where he criticises the Realists in strong terms:

Lewd, and bold, and bare, living for lust and lusting for life and its good things, and naught beyond, the heroines of realism dance, with Bacchanalian revellings, across the astonished stage of literature.[22]  

Haggard’s own use of sexual imagery, however, undermines his forthright and somewhat ambivalent attitude to the free use of sexual imagery in children’s fiction in the patriarchal mode in which he was operating.  He complains about the limitations imposed upon him and upon a fiction which “should be judged by the test as to whether or no (sic) it is suitable reading for a girl of sixteen.”[23]  It is unusual that he should mention reading matter for a girl, for Haggard’s work spoke, for the most part, to a male audience. 

Concerned about the scenes of violence in She, Lang wrote to Haggard about the hot-potting scene [hot potting entails being boiled alive in a large earthenware vessel] suggesting that:  "the potting might be modified slightly in the selling interest of the book, as many people funk giving children or boys anything of that sort."
Despite these rather prudish comments, it appears that Lang, who did not want to “disestablish” the pot in the story, but to “glisser him”,[25]  was aware of the problems connected with publishing children’s literature based on a patriarchal system of authorship.

 In the corpus of Haggard’s work, the imperialist character more often than not finds himself in Africa in the midst of a crisis which, with his superior wisdom as a white man, his civilising manner and his vastly superior technical knowledge, he has no difficulty in solving.  The Haggard hero in some foreign milieu, encounters a situation such as a revolution where battles are being fought, statesmen are being toppled, old regimes swept aside, and new reforming ones being put in their place.  Then he enters the arena of action, defies the odds against him, and turns them in his favour.

 Haggard's depiction of the Kukuana women who line up in order to view the Westerners is grudgingly flattering for a “native race”:


These women are, for a native race, exceedingly handsome.  They are tall and graceful, and their figures are wonderfully fine.  The hair, though short, is rather curly than woolly, the features are frequently aquiline, and their lips are not unpleasantly thick, as is the case in most African races.[26]

 The description is given in the spirit of an anthropological text book which notes, in turn, various categories for examination — 'the hair', 'the features' [my emphasis] and 'their lips' — which because of the inclusion of the very indefinite definite article, the, robs it of any real, vital, liveliness.  Also their features are given as "European" in some sense, or at least, not Negroid, emphasising the shortness of the African women’s black, curly hair, the women’s fine stately figures, and their aquiline features which are usually aspects of northern countenance.  Haggard was struck forcibly by "their exceeding quiet, dignified air".[27]  Haggard recounts that these particular Africans were, "as well-bred in their way as the habitués of a fashionable drawing room".[28] 

 Foulata is described as "a beautiful creature" and "our lovely guide".[29]   He frequently compares native women in Zululand and western ladies in the refined atmosphere of Victorian, imperial England.  In that respect they were not the same as their "cousins" the Masai who were to be found in, "the district behind Zanzibar."  The Masai women, presumably, did not carry the same weight with Haggard as possessing the dignity and the refinement of the Kukuanas, but it underlines the fact that Haggard, through the persona of Allan Quatermain, found sections of the Zulu-speaking population to be worthy of his admiration.  In the representation of the colonial Other[30]  as woman she becomes a figure of desirable sexuality, attractiveness and beauty.  The association of blackness with beauty is a remarkable feature of the discourse; African women are portrayed as polite, noble and respectful of their elders.

 Empire and visions of Empire were a stimulus to adventure romance, based on notions of hyper masculinity in an adventure genre that subsumed itself to imperial concerns, (or that, alternatively, fed upon the rise of colonialism in Britain).  The adventure novel was from the 1880s an increasingly commercialised form, gaining money for writers and publishers alike.  The nineteenth-century adventure romance was read principally by boys, male juveniles, and bachelors, and, indeed, the adventure romance defines its intended readers as being boys rather than girls and men and women.  The emphasis was to be on manliness, male bonding and masculine adventure.  The novels were born in the ferment of empire and begin to show some of the negative effects of colonialism.  The character of Ignosi is resolute that only the three adventurers would be allowed into Kikuanaland and that no other European interlopers could enter. If so, he would turn them away. 

 Haggard seems to be aware of the dangers of imperialism to Africa, and, after his first-hand experiences, he felt that the provision of guns, alcohol and the spread of western diseases would have a deleterious effects on the inhabitants.  In his memoirs, Haggard lamented that the imperialist Boer war “cost us twenty thousand more lives and two hundred and fifty millions of treasure”.[31]  He regretted that nothing had been achieved.  According to Haggard, “the annexation of the Transvaal, which cost a million to surrender and two or three hundred times that sum to reconquer, was effected at an expense of about 10,000 pounds in all.”[32]

 The imperial project was not exactly the “civilising mission” that missionaries had led the English to believe.  Expansionism was thought to be a continuing process that has recently been  termed by a prominent contemporary commentator as “a Good Thing”,[33]  but that was an interpretation put upon Empire by nineteenth century propagandists to extol its advantages to a doubting public at home.  Of course, Empire could be viewed as a noble self-sacrificing project, but the claim by missionaries that the Empire had a redemptive or improving mission sheds a hypocritical light on their motives in view of the venality of imperialism.

 When Haggard expressed his ideas about the Jameson Raid to Sir Abraham Bailey, at a dinner party, he was quickly told “You are old fashioned”.  On speaking about the Jameson Raid, Sir Abraham disagreed with Haggard's view that it was not a success.  On the contrary, it was not a failure either, because it led to the Boer war and all that resulted from the war, Sir Abraham argued.  When Haggard pointed out the cost to England in lives, as mentioned above, Bailey replied:  “What matters? Lives are cheap”.

 After finishing Jess on 18 March 1886, Haggard only paused for one month before he commenced work on his most successful novel, She, the story of the African Queen, Ayesha known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.  The deep psychological traits of her character may have had their provenance in Rider Haggard’s early romantic attachment with Mary Archer and her subsequent rejection of him.  The characterisaton of Ayesha draws on images of a matriarchy derived from within Haggard's anthropological studies, and his knowledge of societies where women were all-powerful, domineering and dictatorial.  He had observed in Zululand a matricentred society in which women made choices affecting marriage.  In his notebook Haggard had sketched out a plan which imagined She as a "...mental vampire in shape of a woman sucking the life out of a man who worships her."[34]

 In early scenes, Leo Vincey and Ludwig Holly reveal the great seal of Amenartus, the wife of Kalikrates, the Pharaoh, (sic) written on a broken piece of potsherd which Haggard transcribes in the actual calligraphy of Egypt, into Latin and other scripts.  The artefacts were kept in a chest, which Leo’s father had deposited earlier with the narrator of the story.   Upon reaching his majority, Leo claims the contents of the box which had not been opened for twenty years and decides upon an African adventure to rediscover the “rolling Pillar of Life” and, failing that, in any event he claims “I shall get some first class shooting.”[35]  Arrived in Africa, after some initial shooting of game,[36]  Leo and Holly encounter She Who Must Be Obeyed, or Ayesha, the white African  queen of legend.  Yet, they are not to be killed since She has given orders that “if white men come, kill them not”.

 Ayesha remains the omniscient female leader of a matrilineal tribe.  The character of She is not a monstrous figure but a combination of Lover and Avenger.  Her final inability to save herself from the immortal flame underlines not only the danger to Englishmen which she represents, but the danger of handing over power to men — by granting immortality to Leo which he can achieve in the all-consuming flame.  Her lack of the power of self-preservation shows the danger of the reversal of power from men to women in the Otherland which Haggard has created.

 Rider Haggard uses ‘black’ Africa as a springboard for its usability as a place of sexual metaphor.  In many of the Haggard romances Africans as associated with exotic and attractive sexual features.  Ayesha, although not black, is "an incarnation of lovely tempting womanhood" whose eyes “pierced me through with their beauty”[37]  and Holly says “The woman had attractions I could not forget”[38]  The treatment of women here is exaggerated: “No merely mortal woman could shine with such a supernatural radiance.  As to that, at least,  she had been in the right - it was not safe for any man to look upon such beauty.”

 She is another tale, like King Solomon's Mines, told by a returned traveller.  In this work, the emphasis on male ties is reflected in the devotion of Leo and Holly for each other and the dogged affection given by Job to his employer.  The hypercharged relationship between master and servant in the some of the late-Victorian novels is thematically dominated by male bonding, and it crosses class, master, servant divides and gender differences.  In turn, it wreaks vengeance on women. 

In She, the relationship between Leo and Holly generates a greater sexual compulsion due to the proximity of their companionship.  In the scene where Leo and Holly are escaping danger each must help the other to jump across a yawning chasm, a “rocky chamber... for ever sealing the passage that leads to the Place of Life”, clearly a sexual reference.   Leo reconfirms their mutual ties:

I heard his sinews cracking above me, and I felt myself lifted up as though I were a child, till I got my left arm around the rock, and my chest was resting on it.  The rest was easy; in two or three more seconds I was up, and we lay panting side by side, trembling like leaves, and with the cold perspiration of terror pouring from our skins.[39]

 One can sense the depth of the experiences they share together.  At another point, running away from the allegedly cannibalistic warriors we learn that:


There was a curious gleam in Leo's eyes, and his handsome face was set like a stone.  In his right hand was his heavy hunting knife.  He shifted its thong a little up his wrist, then he put his arm round me and embraced me.[40]

 This discourse presents unusual intimacy in an era renowned for its prudery and repressions.  One wonders what has occasioned the “curious gleam in Leo’s eyes”: could it be a sexual attraction for Holly?  Violence is juxtaposed with the vocabulary of male bonding, for during the fight with the allegedly cannibalistic warriors: "they did not know but that we could continue shooting for ever."[41]

Leo, Holly and the Queen set out for the Pillar of Life, which is depicted as a magical flame.  The queen, Ayesha, who has already endured one such experience, enters into the crematory fire, and beckons Leo to follow but she does not survive, and is turned into a hideous burnt out old hag with the face of a wizened monkey, while Leo does not enter.  With no option but to return home, Leo Vincey and Ludwig Holly travel back to England where they can contemplate further adventures to complete the unfinished story.

The size of the readership of popular/adventure fiction in the 1880s may be gauged by the number of people who purchased the abridgement of Haggard's She (1887) by the firm of W. T. Stead, in the Penny Novelist volumes.[42]  Sales amounted to a total of 500,000.[43]

 Indeed, Lang confirms sale figures in a message stating:

 "You have broken the record — at least so I am told. We have subscribed  over 10,000 copies of “Quatermain” in London, which they say is more
 than has ever been subscribed of a 6 /— novel before. . . . We printed  20,000 of “Quatermain,” as you know and we are now ordering paper
 in readiness for another lot."[44]

In 1897 Lang could also obtain assistance from Haggard in the act of examining his proofs.  A letter from Lang dated 2 June, asking if his work could be padded out, stated: "I send you five chapters of my romance."  Lang requested Haggard to send the work on to the publishers rather than return it to him, if it was satisfactory, perhaps hoping for the assumed cachet of its provenance from Haggard's address: "Can I get any more flesh on the dry bones?"[45] he asks. 

 In further evidence of their co-operation, Lang wrote to Haggard informing him that he had incorporated some of his (Haggard's) ideas into the text, and asked for further assistance: "I've worked in your dodge in my fairy tale; it's no more an extravaganza than anything you like...Could you read it when typewritten?"[46]  

Lang wrote: “I really must congratulate you.  I think it is one of the most astonishing romances I ever read.  The more impossible it is, the better you do it, till it seems like a story from the literature of another planet.”[47]

Yet, even so, ten years earlier, Lang had produced a parody of She with W E Pollock in the St James’s Gazette.  It announced on 24 February, 1887 that

[T]here is to be published immediately by Messrs Longmans and Co a travesty of Mr Rider Haggard’s She.  The writer is the author of Much Darker Days.

 The parody was prefaced by a sonnet, and the whole work was published ultimately as a shilling (5p) edition by W Reade including a cover design that, in turn, imitated or reflected the cartouche of Kallikrates, the priest in the novel from whom Leo Vincey was reputed to have been descended.  It bears the title He (by the author of She, King Solomon's Wives, Bess, Much Darker Days, Mr Morton’s Subtler and other romances).  It is dedicated to “Dear Allan Quatermain”, and dated “Kor, Jan 30th, 1887”.

The sonnet, scanned in Shakespearean form, declares:

Not in the waste beyond the swamps and sand

The fever-haunted forest and lagoon,

Mysterious Kor thy walls forsaken stand,

Thy lonely towers beneath the lonely moon,

Nor there doth Ayesha linger, rune by rune

Spelling strange scriptures of a people banned.

The world is disenchanted; over soon

Shall Europe send her spies through all the land.


Nay, not in Kor, but in whatever spot,

In town, or field, or by the insatiate sea,

Men brood on buried loves, and unforgot,

Or break themselves on some divine decree,

Or would o’erleap the limits of their lot,

There, in the tombs and deathless, dwelleth SHE!

 In his notebook Haggard had explained that She was a “mental vampire in the shape of a woman sucking the life out of a man who worships her”.[48]

 W T Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, was featured in the parody of She  as ‘old Pell Mell’ possibly because he had led an attack on Haggard’s work in an article entitled “Who is She and Where Dis She Come From?”[49]

 Haggard was dispirited by the accusations that had been made against him, and had threatened to give up his writing.  Thereupon, Lang encouraged Haggard to prevent him from taking that course, threatening “If you jack up Literature, I shall jack up Reading.”[50]

 Lang also sent a satirical poem to Haggard that drew attention to the problem of copying another writer’s work, referring to ‘cribs’ which are an euphemism for derivative versions of original work which the author had plagiarised unscrupulously, and ‘crabs’ meaning both literary efforts and to grumble or complain:

“The Critics, hating men who’re Dabs

At drawing in the dibs

Declare that Haggard cribs his crabs

And so they crab his cribs.”[51]

 The production of these parodies was the “amusing emanation of the ‘gay mind’”, as Lancelyn Green puts it, and can be seen in the spoof of She that Lang sent to ‘Hyder Ragged’ entitled “Twosh”:

 Not ‘mid the scamps who swagger in the Strand

The siren-haunted concert and saloon,

Mysterious Twosh, thou takest oft a hand

At double-dummy with some wandering “coon”!

Not there doth Noegood with Fullarder spoon,

Wrapped in wild music of some brazen band;

Nay, these proceedings are not opportune,

But such as the Police would scarcely stand.[52]

 The poem has the hallmarks of a piece of Late-Victorian effervescence.  From “amusing emanations of the ‘gay mind’”, we move on to Egypt, the publication of Cleopatra, and Haggard’s cooperation with Lang on The World’s Desire. 


 [1] Interview. Mrs Nada Cheyne, Haggard’s maternal granddaughter. 30 June, 2012. Ditchingham Lodge, Bungay, Norfolk.

[2] Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life (London: Longmans, 1926) Chapter 4.

[3] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 4.

[4] Rider Haggard, Child of Storm (London: Cassell, 1923).

[5] Haggard, Child of Storm, 240 -241.

[6] Haggard, Cetywayo and his White Neighbours, 10.

[7] Haggard, Cetywayo and his White Neighbours, 11.

[8]Rider Haggard , Allan Quatermain, (London; Hodder and Stoughton, 1887) 536-7.

[9] Rider Haggard, Cetywayo and his White Neighbours  or Remarks on Recent Events in Zululand, Natal, and the Transvaal. 2nd. ed.  (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1882)

[10] Haggard, , “A Visit to Chief Secocoeni” In Cetywayo and his White Neighbours, 55.

[i] Rider Haggard ,The Ghost Kings (London: Cassel, 1908) 126.

[11] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 7.

[12] Victoria Manthorpe, Children of the Empire, The Victorian Haggards (London: Gollanz, 1996) 103.

[13] Manthorpe, Children of the Empire).

[14] Interview. Mrs Nada Cheyne. 30 June 2012. Ditchingham Lodge, Bungay, Norfolk.

Dorothy Cheyne, “So What Do We Know About Louie?”, Talk given to the Rider Haggard Society, 20 September, 2008.

[15] Haggard, The Witch's Head 3 Vols (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1885).

[i] Rider Haggard, The Ghost Kings (London: Cassel, 1908) 55.

[i] Alfred Tella, The First Authorised American Edition of Dawn.  Rider Haggard Society, The Haggard Journal (ed. Roger Allen).

[16] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 9.

[17] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 10.

[18] Letter from Lang dated only “Sunday” Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 10.

[19]  Andrew Lang, Saturday Review LX (10 October1885) 485-6.

[20] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 10.

[21] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 11.

[22]  Rider Haggard, “About Fiction” Contemporary Review 51 (1887): 383.

[23]  Haggard, “About Fiction”, 384.

[24]  To Haggard, 24 July 1886.  Quoted in Morton Cohen, Rider Haggard: His Life and Works  (London: Hutchinson, 1960) 182.

[25]  To Haggard, 24 July 1886.

[26]  Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, 310 - 11.

[27]  Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, 310.                                                    

[28]  Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, 310 -11.

[29]  Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, 394.

[30]  'The Other', a term derived from Lacan, in whose psychoanalytical theory it means that which initiates desire in one by a lack of that element in oneself.  See Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (London: Tavistock, 1977).

[31] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 6.

[32] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 6.

[33] Niall Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (London: Allen Lane, 2003).

[34] Jotting books for the year 1886, quoted in Norman Etherington, (Boston: Twayne, 1984) 9.

[35] Rider Haggard, She (London: Collins, 1887) 37. 

[36] Madhudaya Sinha, “Triangular Erotics: The Politics of Masculinity, Imperialism and Big-Game hunting in R Rider Haggard’s, She.”  Critical Survey Volume 20 Number 3 2008. 29-43.

[37]  Haggard, She, 143-44.

[38]  Haggard, She, 129.

[39]  Rider Haggard, She  (New York: Dover Publications, 1951) 230.

[40]  Haggard, She, 78.

[41] Haggard, She, 78.

[42] W. T. Stead issued a form of abridged novels in this series, which Punch magazine referred to as the "Penny Steadfuls", a pun on W. T. Stead's involvement in the genre of the "penny dreadful".  Frederic Whyte, The Life of W. T. Stead (no date)  I. 229.

[43] Richard Altick, The Common Reader (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957) 315.

[44] Haggard, The Days of My Life Chapter 11.

[45]  Lang to Haggard, Lockwood Collection, University of Buffalo, 2 June 1897. Lockwood Memorial Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.

[46]  Lang to Haggard, Lockwood Collection, 1 January 1897.

[47]  Lang to Haggard. Roger Lancelyn Green, Andrew Lang: A Critical Biography with a short Bibliography (Leicester:  E. Ward, 1946) 120.

Sol Adeyemi, Review of Haggard,’ Diary of an African Journey’ H-Afr- Lit Cine (Oct 2000) inH-Net Reviews in Humanities and Social Sciences Avail;abe Online www.h-net.msu.edu

[48] Peter Beresford Ellis, Rider Haggard A Voice from the Infinite (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987) 124

[49] Pall Mall Gazette, 11 March 1887. Peter Beresford Ellis, Rider Haggard A Voice from the Infinite (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987) 124.

[50] Lang to Haggard, Lockwood Collection, in Peter Beresford Ellis, Rider Haggard A Voice from the Infinite, 124.

[51] Lang to Haggard, Lockwood Collection, in Peter Beresford Ellis, Rider Haggard A Voice from the Infinite, 124.

[52] Letter.  Lang to Haggard with poem entitled Twosh.  Lancelyn Green, Andrew Lang (Leicester, Edmund Ward, 1946).