H. Rider Haggard, Author of She

H. Rider Haggard became one of the most popular fiction novelists of his time. At the peak of his career, he was writing two to three novels a year. Despite his late start, he was able to keep this rate up for a good portion of his life. His bibliography includes over 40 novels, which range in genre from historical, to psychological, to the widely popular adventure novel. His earlier works were intended for adult audiences, but he did not become a household name until he started writing for young adults and children. Haggard had a way of capturing the sense of adventure in an undiscovered land like Africa or Australia. 

Much of the H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novel She was informed by his time spent in South Africa during the 1870s. He was sent by his father to be an assistant to a British politician. It was during this time as he became acquainted with Zulu culture that he saw colonialism first hand.  His novels tended to feature themes of colonialism, not unlike earlier British novels like Robinson Crusoe. Haggard did not grow disenchanted with colonialism through his time spent in Africa. Instead, his time there reinforced his sense, held by most Brits of the late Victorian period, that African peoples were savage and inferior to Europeans. Haggard saw the British empire as heroic, and this is reflected in his works. Many of his “lost world” novels feature native Africans in this way, as well as strong, white, and heroic protagonists that are forced to survive or defeat them.  His heroes go to exotic locales and have grand adventures, eventually ending in conquest.

After returning to England he would marry his wife, Mariana in 1880. Haggard became a lawyer, but law ultimately failed to keep his attention after the tragic death of his son in the early 1890s. He also tried for a political career earlier in life. Both of these professions showed little promise for him. Ultimately, Haggard was destined to be a prolific writer of grand adventure novels. He dedicated his time to writing. His first novels Dawn and The Witch’s Tale were published, but little to nothing came out of it. H. Rider Haggard was inspired to begin writing his adventure novels after his brother had wagered that he could write something better than Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Haggard published King Solomon’s Mines in 1885. It was published, and highly praised by critics. Two years later, he would go on to publish She.