H. Rider Haggard Biography


Birthday: June 22, 1856 (Cancer)

Born In: Bradenham, England

H. Rider Haggard (Sir Henry Rider Haggard) was an English novelist, best known for his African adventure novel, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. Born to a Norfolk barrister, he was deprived of the gentlemen’s education given to his other brothers because of his perceived dullness; but was educated at Ipswich Grammar School. At the age of nineteen, he began his career at the behest of his father as an unpaid aid to Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal, remaining in Africa for the next six years. The experience he acquired during this period would later have profound impact on his writing career. A prolific writer of immense energy, he continued to write almost till the very end, leaving behind numerous novels, short stories and non-fiction for us to cherish. A practical agriculturist, he served on several government commissions concerning agriculture throughout the British Empire, being appointed a Knight Bachelor and Knight Commander for his contribution in this field.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In June

Also Known As: Sir Henry Rider Haggard

Died At Age: 68


Spouse/Ex-: Mariana Louisa Margitson (m. 1880–1925)

father: Sir William Meybohm Rider Haggard

mother: Ella Doveton

children: Agnes Angela Rider Haggard, Angela Rider Haggard, Arthur John Rider Haggard, Dorothy Rider Haggard, Jack Rider Haggard, Lilias Rider Haggard, Sybil Dorothy Rider Haggard

Born Country: England

Novelists Intellectuals & Academics

Died on: May 14, 1925

place of death: Marylebone, London, England

Childhood & Early Life
H. Rider Haggard was born on 22 June 1856 in Bradenham, located in the English county of Norfolk. His father, Sir William Meybohm Rider Haggard, was a barrister, while his mother, Ella Doveton Haggard, was an author. The couple had ten surviving children, out of which Henry was born eighth.
Elder to him were one sister and six brothers called Ella Doveton, William Henry Doveton, Bazett Michael Doveton, Alfred Hinuber, John George, Andrew Charles Parker and Arthur. His younger siblings were Elizabeth Cecelia Western; Eleanora Mary D'Auethare and Edward Arthur Haggard. It is possible that Arthur died in infancy.
Because of his perceived dullness and lack of concentration, his father did not send him to any private school. Instead, he began his education with Reverend H. J. Graham at Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire. Later, he moved to Ipswich Grammar School, from where he might have graduated in 1873..
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In South Africa
In 1873, H. Rider Haggard moved to London to prepare for Foreign Office examination. But before he could take it, he was selected as an aid to Sir Henry Bulwer, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. Therefore in 1875, he left for Natal to begin his career as an unpaid secretary.
In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. In the following year, when the British annexation of the Boer Republic was officially announced in Pretoria, he was chosen to raise the Union flag and read out the proclamation.
During his stay in Africa, he developed an intense hatred for the Boers, but an admiration for the Zulus. However, like most Europeans, he had contempt for the Negroes in general, holding them inferior to the White, believing that they needed to be civilized by the Europeans.
In around 1877, he started writing, publishing his first article, ‘The Transvaal’ published in 'Macmillan's Magazine' in May, 1877. It was followed by ‘A Zulu War Dance’, in which he discussed Zulu martial customs.
In 1878, he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, but resigned from the post in May 1879. Thereafter, he began an ostrich farm in Newcastle, Natal, with another Englishman.
In 1880, he travelled to England, where he married an heiress. Thereafter, he returned to Africa, hoping to lead a gentleman farmer’s life. But as the First Boer War broke out in the same year, his wife became upset, forcing him to return home, possibly in 1882.
Return to England
On returning to England, H. Rider Haggard settled in Norfolk and started reading the law, eventually being called to the bar in 1884. Meanwhile in 1882, he published a non-fiction entitled ‘Cetywayo and His White Neighbours’. Although a commercial failure, it earned him good reviews.
In 1884, he published his first novel, ‘Dawn’, which was followed in the same year by ‘The Witch's Head’. Published in three parts, both these novels were commercial failures, earning him a profit of ten and fifty pounds respectively.
Bestselling Author
In 1884, Haggard had a five-shilling wager with his brother, claiming that he could write a better novel than Robert Louis Stevenson's ‘Treasure Island’. He wrote it in the weeks between January and 21 April 1885. Shortly, he embarked on writing ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. Published in 1885, it quickly became a bestselling novel.
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Although he had continued to practice law sporadically, he now gave it up and began to concentrate on writing, serializing another popular work, 'She: A History of Adventure' in The Graphic magazine between October 1886 and January 1887. Eventually, the work was published as a novel in 1887.
In 1887, he published another major work, ‘Allan Quatermain’, which was a sequel to ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. Among his other popular works of this era were ‘Cleopatra’ (1889), ‘Nada the Lily’ (1892) etc.
In 1891, he travelled to Mexico in order to research on his impending books, ‘Montezuma’s Daughter’ (1893). While there, he received news that his only son had died, which saddened him extremely. However, he continued to work, publishing ‘Heart of the World’ another Mexico based book in1895.
He began the twentieth century with ‘Lysbeth: A Tale of the Dutch’, a historical novel based on Netherlands, thereafter writing 33 novels until his death in 1925. His last work, ‘Belshazzar’ is a historical novel set in Ancient Babylon. The last four novels were published posthumously.
Some other important works of the twentieth century were ‘Ayesha, the Return of She’ (1905), ‘Queen Sheba’s Ring’ (1910), ‘Marie’ (1912), and ‘The Ivory Child’ (1916). Also during this time, he wrote his autobiography, ‘The Days of My Life’, which was published after his death in 1926.
A practical farmer, he served on several government commissions concerning agriculture. Among his more significant works on this subject are ‘A Farmer’s Year: Being His Commonplace Book for 1898’ and ‘Rural England: Being an Account of the Agricultural and Social Researches Carried Out in 1901 and 1902’.
Major Works
H. Rider Haggard is best remembered for his 1885 work, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. Known as the first English adventure novel set in Africa, it tells the story of Allan Quatermain, who led a team of adventurers through an unexplored region of the continent in order to search for a team member’s brother.
Awards &Achievement
In 1912, H. Rider Haggard was appointed a Knight Bachelor for his services in the field of agriculture. Later in the 1919 New Year Honours, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1880, H. Rider Haggard married Norfolk heiress Marianna Louisa Margitson. They had four children; a son named Jack, who died of measles at the age of ten and three daughters named Angela, Dorothy and Lilias. Lilias became an author and wrote a biography of her father entitled ‘The Cloak That I Left’.
He also had a relationship with Mary Elizabeth "Lilly" Archer nee Jackson, whom he had always loved and intended to marry. In later years, he not only took care of her, but also of her sons and saw to their education.
On 14 May 1925, H. Rider Haggard died at the age of sixty-eight in London. His ashes were buried at St Mary's Church, Ditchingham and his papers are now held at the Norfolk Record Office.
Rider, a railway point of the Canadian National Railway in British Columbia has been named after him.

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