Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was born on 22 June at Bradenham, Norfolk. His academic career was undistinguished and after failing the Army Entrance examination he was sent to London to study for the Foreign Office examination. There he became unofficially engaged to Mary Elizabeth Jackson, known as Lilly, but the romance was put on hold when in 1875 Haggard's parents arranged for him to join the staff of Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of Natal.
In Pietermaritzburg, the Natal capital, Haggard met Theophilus Shepstone, Secretary for Native Affairs, who became his friend and mentor. In 1876 while accompanying Bulwer and Shepstone on a tour of Natal Haggard witnessed a Zulu ceremonial dance that provided the material for his first article written for publication. The Zulus named Haggard Lundanda u Ndandokalweni -"The tall one who travels on the heights".
In December 1876 Haggard joined Shepstone's mission to annex the Transvaal. During the trek to Pretoria Haggard "heard many a story of savage Africa" from his travelling companions and also from Mhlopekazi who, as Umslopogaas, features in Allan Quatermain (1887), Nada the Lily (1892) and She and Allan (1921). Another black man, Haggard's Zulu servant, Mazooku, with whom he had several adventures, features in Haggard's autobiography The Days of My Life (1926) and Diary of an African Journey (2000), and the novel The Witch's Head (1884).
Haggard helped run up the British flag in Pretoria on May 24, 1877. Shortly afterwards he was appointed Master and Registrar of the High Court. In Pretoria Haggard met Arthur Cochrane and together they built a small cottage, "The Palatial". HereHaggard learned that Lilly Jackson had decided to marry someone else. The news "left me utterly reckless and unsettled." He had an affair with a married woman, Johanna Catherine Ford, who became pregnant with his child – a girl named Ethel Rider - who subsequently died.
Looking for a new start, Haggard and Cochrane resigned from the Pretoria Horse and bought a small farm, Rooipoint, just outside Newcastle, where they intended to farm ostriches. The farmhouse was named Hilldrop and still stands today used as a guesthouse filled with Haggard memorabilia.
In August Haggard went on a visit to England and in 1880 Haggard married Louisa Margitson. The couple returned to South Africa just as the First Anglo-Boer War broke out. The British were defeated in three battles fought close to Newcastle: Laing's Nek, Ingogo and Amajuba. Hilldrop was rented by the authorities to negotiate the peace terms. "It was a strange fate which decreed that the Retrocession of the Transvaal, over which I had myself hoisted the British flag, should be practically accomplished beneath my roof."
Haggard's first child, Arthur John Rider (‘Jock’) was born at Hilldrop on 22 May 1881. But the change in British fortunes convinced the Haggard family to leave South Africa.
Back in England, while studying for the Bar, Haggard wrote Cetywayo and HisWhite Neighbours (1882), a work of non-fiction. This was followed by two novels: Dawn (1884) and The Witch's Head (1884). Haggard's third novel, King Solomon's Mines (1885), proved an instant bestseller. On the strength of this success, Haggard quit law and embarked on a literary career. A series of popular novels followed, including She (1886) and Allan Quatermain (1887)
The death of Jock in 1891, however, signalled the end of Haggard's most creative period and, as he emerged from his grief, the beginning of Haggard's life as a farmer and "man of affairs". He ventured briefly into business and also stood for parliament but failed to win a seat.Haggard's agricultural studies, A Farmer's Year (1899) and the two-volume Rural England (1902), brought him recognition as an authority on land issues. Hetravelled to the United States to investigate schemes for the resettlement of the urban poor and also served on the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation. He was knighted in 1912 for his public services.
Haggard revisited South Africa in 1914 while serving on the Dominions Royal Commission. During the trip Haggard returned to old haunts, toured Zululand, interviewed John Dube, first president of the African National Congress, and was reunited with Mazooku.
During World War One Haggard toured the dominions to investigate the post-war settlement of serviceman. He briefly visited Cape Town in 1916.
Haggard died on 14 May 1925.
From King Solomon's Mines (1885)
Behind and over us towered Sheba's snowy breasts, and below, some five thousand feet beneath where we stood, lay league on league of the most lovely champaign country. Here were dense patches of lofty forest, there a great river wound its silvery way. To the left stretched a vast expanse of rich undulating veldt or grass land, on which we could just make out countless herds of game or cattle, at that distance we could not tell which. This expanse appeared to be ringed in by a wall of distant mountains. To the right the country was more or less mountainous, that is, solitary hills stood up from its level, with stretches of cultivated lands between, amongst which we could distinctly see groups of dome-shaped huts. The landscape lay before us like a map, in which rivers flashed like silver snakes, and Alp-like peaks crowned with wildly twisted snow wreaths rose in solemn grandeur, whilst over all was the glad sunlight and the wide breath of Nature's happy life. Two curious things struck us as we gazed. First, that the country before us must lie at least five thousand feet higher than the desert we had crossed; and, secondly, that all the rivers flowed from south to north. As we had painful reason to know, there was no water at all on the southern side of the vast range on which we stood, but on the northern side were many streams, most of which appeared to unite with the great river we could trace winding away farther than we could follow it. We sat down for a while and gazed in silence at this wonderful view. Presently Sir Henry spoke. 'Isn't there something on the map about Solomon's Great Road?' he said. I nodded, my eyes still looking out over the far country. 'Well, look; there it is!' and he pointed a little to our right.
1884. Dawn. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1884. The Witch's Head. London: John and Robert Maxwell publishers. 1885. King Solomon's Mines. London: Macdonald. 1886. She. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1887. Jess. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1887. AllanQuatermain. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1888. Maiwa'sRevenge. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1889. Cleopatra. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1889. Allan's wife and other tales. London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh.
1889. Doctor Therne. London: Longman, Green and Co.
1890. Colonel Quaritch, V.C : A Tale of Country Life. London: Longman, Green and Co.
1892. Beatrice: A Novel. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1892. Nada the lily. London: Macdonald. 1894. The People of the Mist. London: McKinlay Stone & Mackenzie.
1896. Heart of the World. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1896. The Wizard. London: Kessinger Publishing. 1899. A Farmer's Year. London: Cresset Library. 1899. Swallow: a tale of the Great Trek. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1900. Black Heart and White Heart and Other Stories. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1900. The Last Boer War. London: Keagan Paul, Trench and Trubner. 1902. Rural England. London: Longman. Green and Co. 1905. Ayesha: The Return of She. London: Ward Lock. 1905. AGardener's Year. London: Longman, Green and Co. 1906. Benita. London: Cassell Publishers.
1906. The Brethren. London: Cassell Publishers. 1908. The Ghost Kings. London: Cassell Publishers. 1910. Queen Sheba's Ring. London: Eveleigh Nash. 1912. Marie. London: Macdonald. 1913. Child of storm. London: Macdonald. 1916. The Ivory Child. London: Macdonald. 1917. Finished. London: Macdonald. 1917. Elissa: the Doom of Zimbabwe. Fairford: Echo-Library.
1918. Love Eternal. London: Cassell Publishers. 1920. The Ancient Allan. London: Cassell Publishers. 1920. Benita: an African romance. London: Cassell Publishers. 1921. She and Allan. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1923. Wisdom's Daughter. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1923. Heu-Heu or the Monster. London: Hutchinson Publishers. 1926. The days of my life: an autobiography. (2 vol.). London: Longman, Green and Co. 1980. The Private Diaries of Sir Henry Rider Haggard 1914-1925 (ed. D.S. Higgins). London: Cassell Publishers. 2000. Diary of an African Journey: the return of Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan). Durban: University of Natal Press. 2007. Mameena and Other Plays: The Complete Dramatic Works of H. Rider Haggard (ed. Stephen Coan). Durban: University of Natal Press. 2008. Short Works of Henry Rider Haggard. Charleston: Bibliolife.