Henry Rider Haggard
King Solomon’s Mines
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When King Solomon’s Mines, Henry Rider Haggard’s first book, was published in 1885, it became an instant bestseller, establishing the lasting fame of both the author and the book’s hero and first-person narrator, Allan Quatermain.
King Solomon’s Mines is the story of one man’s quest for his lost brother and two other men’s quest for a legendary treasure, that leads them deep into unknown, fantastic and deadly territory. This book has given birth to the “Lost World” genre of fantasy literature, and has been exerting its influence on writers of adventure stories (and makers of adventure movies) ever since.
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Sir Henry Rider Haggard was one of the creators of the modern fantasy adventure genre, and to this day is justly considered to be one of its finest contributors.
She, first published in 1887, is a wonderfully compelling story about three Englishmen, an aging University professor, his good-looking adventurous young ward, and their faithful servant, traveling into the unknown African interior in search of a mythical source of immortality.
What they find is one of the most intriguing female characters that fantasy fiction ever had to offer, She-who-must-be-obeyed, the unapproachable, cruel, passionate and immortal Queen whose life is still in the throes of a love affair gone tragically wrong more than two thousand years ago.
Masterfully told, this story, one of the best-selling novels of all time, still does not fail to most satisfyingly grip the reader's mind and imagination.
About the Author
Henry Rider Haggard was born on June 22nd, 1856 in the rural surroundings of Norfolk, England, as eighth of ten children to William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet. Haggard’s professional life did not begin promising: he failed his army entrance exam, and when his father sent him to London to prepare for the entrance exam for the British Foreign Office, he never took it. Instead, in 1875 his father arranged for him to go to what is now South Africa, as assistant to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal; in 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal.
Haggard went to England in 1880, got married, and moved back to South Africa with his wife. After the defeat of the British in the First Boer War, which ended the British government of Transvaal, the couple returned to England by the end of 1881. The three years that Haggard had spent in Africa would provide the background for most of his literary work.
Back in England Haggard studied law and was called to the bar in 1884 in London, but he never practiced, for by then his main interest was in writing. In 1885 King Solomon’s Mines was published, and became an immediate success, followed by the equally successful She in 1987. Haggard went on to write a total of 58 novels, among them the Allan Quatermain series as sequels to King Solomon’s Mines, where this character had been introduced, and the sequel to She, Ayesha, but he also wrote non-fiction books about Africa, farming, and agricultural and social reform. With these matters he also actively concerned himself, becoming a member of many commissions on land use and related affairs, which took him on several trips to the Colonies and Dominions. In 1912 he was made Knight Bachelor and in 1919 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as a reward for his humanitarian endeavors and dedicated public service. On May 14th, 1925 Sir Henry Rider Haggard died in a London nursing home.
Haggard was politically conservative and a staunch supporter of colonialism, but this did not keep him from portraying native African populations with sympathy, and often giving Africans heroic roles in his novels.
The influence of Haggard’s adventure tales and the “lost worlds” genre that he shaped is widespread and unbroken — it can be seen in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and many others, and also, of course, in many movies — the Indiana Jones series, for instance — and his books will surely, directly and indirectly, continue to inspire future writers and filmmakers. Both Allan Quatermain and She, however, deserve to be enjoyed by the reader in their original form, in Henry Rider Haggard’s own distinctive words.