Haggard was born at Bradenham, Norfolk, to Sir William Meybohm Rider
Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet. He was the
eighth of ten children. He was initially sent to Garsington Rectory in
Oxfordshire to study under Reverend H. J. Graham, but unlike his older
brothers who graduated from various public schools, he ended up attending
Ipswich Grammar School. This was because his father, who perhaps regarded
him as somebody who was not going to amount to much, could no longer afford
to maintain his expensive private education. After failing his army entrance
exam he was sent to a private crammer in London to prepare for the entrance
exam for the British Foreign Office, for which he never sat.
Instead, Haggard's father sent him to what is now South Africa, in an unpaid
position as assistant to the secretary to Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony
of Natal. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria for the
official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the
Transvaal. Indeed, Haggard raised the Union flag and read out much of the
proclamation following the loss of voice of the official originally
entrusted with the duty.
At about that time, Haggard fell in love with Mary Elizabeth "Lilly"
Jackson, whom he intended to marry once he obtained paid employment in
Africa. In 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, and
wrote to his father informing him that he intended to return to England and
marry her. His father forbade it until Haggard had made a career for
himself, and by 1879 Jackson had married Frank Archer, a well-to-do banker.
When Haggard eventually returned to England, he married a friend of his
sister, Mariana Louisa Margitson, and the couple travelled to Africa
together. They had a son named Jock (who died of measles at age 10) and
three daughters, Angela, Dorothy and Lilias. Lilias became an author, edited
The Rabbit Skin Cap, and wrote a biography of her father entitled The Cloak
That I Left.
Moving back to England in 1882, the couple settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk,
Louisa's ancestral home. Later they lived in Kessingland and had connections
with the church in Bungay, Suffolk. Haggard turned to the study of law and
was called to the bar in 1884. His practice of law was somewhat desultory,
and much of his time was taken up by the writing of novels, which he saw as
being more profitable. Heavily influenced by the larger-than-life
adventurers he met in Colonial Africa (most notably Frederick Selous and
Frederick Russell Burnham), the great mineral wealth discovered in Africa,
and the ruins of ancient lost civilizations in Africa, such as Great
Zimbabwe, Haggard created his Allan Quatermain adventures. Three of his
books, The Wizard (1896), Elissa; the doom of Zimbabwe (1899), and Black
Heart and White Heart; a Zulu idyll (1900), are dedicated to Burnham's
daughter, Nada, the first white child born in Bulawayo; she had been named
after Haggard's 1892 book Nada the Lily.
Years later, when Haggard was a successful novelist, he was contacted by his
former love, Lilly Archer, née Jackson. She had been deserted by her
husband, who had embezzled funds entrusted to him and fled, bankrupt, to
Africa. Lilly was penniless, and so Haggard installed her and her sons in a
house and saw to the children's education. Lilly eventually followed her
husband to Africa, where he infected her with syphilis before dying of it
himself. Lilly returned to England in late 1907, where Haggard again
supported her until her death on 22 April, 1909. These details were not
generally known until the publication of Haggard's 1983 biography by D. S.
Haggard was heavily involved in reforming agriculture and was a member of
many commissions on land use and related affairs, work that involved several
trips to the Colonies and Dominions. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1912
and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919. He stood
unsuccessfully for parliament as a candidate for the Conservative Party in
the 1895 summer election, losing by only 198 votes.
Haggard is most famous as the author of the novels King Solomon's Mines and
its sequel Allan Quatermain, and She and its sequel Ayesha, all
swashbuckling adventure novels set in the context of the Scramble for
Africa. He is also remembered for the epic Viking romance, Eric Brighteyes.
While his novels portray many of the stereotypes associated with
colonialism, they are unusual for the degree of sympathy with which he often
treats the native populations. Africans often serve heroic roles in his
novels, although the protagonists are typically, though not invariably,
European. A notable example is Ignosi, the rightful king of Kukuanaland, in
King Solomon's Mines. Having developed an intense mutual friendship with the
three Englishmen who help him reclaim his throne, he accepts their advice
and abolishes witch-hunts and arbitrary capital punishment.
Haggard also wrote about agricultural and social issues reform, in part
inspired by his experiences in Africa, but also based on what he saw in
Europe. At the end of his life he was a staunch opponent of Bolshevikism, a
position he shared with his friend Rudyard Kipling. The two has bonded upon
Kipling's arrival at London in 1889 largely on the strength of their shared
opinions, and the two remained lifelong friends.
Haggard's stories are still widely read today. Ayesha, the female
protagonist of She, has been cited as a prototype by psychoanalysts as
different as Sigmund Freud (in The Interpretation of Dreams) and Carl Jung.
Her epithet "She Who Must Be Obeyed" is used by British author John Mortimer
in his Rumpole of the Bailey series as the private name the lead character,
a barrister with some skill in court, uses for his wife, Hilda, before whom
he trembles at home. Haggard's Lost World genre influenced the popular
American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. Allan Quatermain, the hero of King
Solomon's Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain, has influenced the American
film character Indiana Jones, featured in the films Raiders of the Lost Ark,
Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Quatermain has gained
recent popularity thanks to being a main character in the League of