|Almost Forgotten Genius||Ian Buckley praises Rider Haggard, another victim of political correctness|
Though a vastly popular writer at one time, Henry Rider Haggard is now more or less ignored. Even King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain and She have almost disappeared from the bookshops and libraries, to say nothing of the writer's forty-odd other books, most of which have been out of print for decades.
This neglect of Haggard is no accident, but rather reflects a considered policy of the poisonous cult of political correctness. His stories always celebrate the virtues of honour, nobility, loyalty and courage, and so are at odds with the shabby modern world, whose only real God is money. Rider Haggard saw the beginnings of this distasteful trend and, as he says towards the end of Allan Quatermain (1887):-
Or again in Allan Quatermain, we find the following pithy and wise comment:-
Surely in his own sub-creational world, the dashing Allan Quatermain has more reality about him than does the ludicrous figure of the Prime Deceiver, Mr. Tony Blair!
Henry Rider Haggard was born in 1856 at West Bradenham, Norfolk, the son of the local squire. The youngest of eight children, he was a slow developer and was originally viewed as the family dunce. Today, ambitious young people face continually diminishing horizons, but fortunately for Haggard there were many opportunities then available in Africa.
Like his close friend, Rudyard Kipling, Rider Haggard played an active part in building the British Empire. As private secretary to Commissioner Shepstone, he was one of the party that annexed the Transvaal in 1887. Again like Kipling, he was a keen defender of British imperial expansion, but also had some sympathy to spare for those displaced by the process. For, in the final analysis, was it the British Empire that advanced into the Zulu homeland... or the Rothschild Empire, seeking gold and diamonds and - more important - the raw power that these precious commodities represented?
Another reason for Haggard's present-day unpopularity can be found in his Private Diaries published in 1980. These diaries reveal him to be an unabashed conspiracy theorist. Those who hold up their hands in horror at this should reflect that Rider Haggard only came to these particular views after long and careful reflection, just as was the case with another famous author and administrator, John Buchan. Are such men, with wide experience of the world of public service, likely to have been completely wrong? My own view is that, in matters of great national and international importance, there should never be any forbidden areas of discussion. If any taboo subjects exist, then logically one should become more suspicious on encountering them, while always taking care not to descend into gibbering paranoia.
In any case, Rider Haggard's opinions on what happened in South Africa towards the end of the nineteenth century have now been mostly confirmed by a mainstream book, The Randlords, by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
Haggard's first major literary success, King Solomon's Mines, was written as the result of a bet that he made that he could produce an adventure story as good as Stevenson's Treasure Island. As with most of Haggard's later books, King Solomon's Mines is a blend of carefully observed realism and wild flights of imagination.
Interest in the esoteric
Haggard's interest in the esoteric and supernatural came to the fore in She, a story of the undying Ayesha, ruler of the lost Kingdom of Kor. She, with its blend of mysticism and carefully sketched archaeological background, was appreciated by no less a figure than Carl Jung. Rider Haggard's She can be understood and appreciated on many different levels - as is the true mark of a great writer. The following quote illustrates this:-
The rest of Haggard's many books cover so many different genres - historical fiction, fantasy and adventure, for instance - that it is quite difficult to single out specific works. A good introduction to his historical fiction would be The Wanderer's Necklace, which tells the tale of the Norseman Olaf, who becomes captain of the Varangian Guard in Constantinople:-
Form of saga
Eric Brighteyes, written some 25 years before The Wanderer's Necklace, also explores the ancient Northern world, and is perhaps the best modern work written in the form of an icelandic Saga:
The twenty-odd books and short stories devoted to the exploits of Allan Quatermain are also worthy of attention. Though some might (wrongly) view these adventure stories as juvenile, they are at the very least a welcome antidote to the electronic cesspit of television.
After his return from Africa, Haggard became an expert on the land, agriculture and rural poverty. His non-fiction books such as The Land and the Poor and A Farmer's Year based on extensive research and travelling, deal with problems such as rural depopulation. Haggard was one of the few men of influence who expressed sympathy and concern for the rural poor, a fact which should not be forgotten. It was for this work that Rider Haggard was knighted in 1912. His autobiography, The Days of My Life, published in 1926, just after his death.
Complete editions of most of Rider Haggard's books can be found on-line - including some hard-to-find out-of-print works - at http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/ and http://www.blackmask.com/.