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H. Rider Haggard on the Imperial Frontier

The Political and Literary Contexts of His African Romances

Gerald Monsman

Publication Year: 2006

H. Rider Haggard on the Imperial Frontier, the first book-length study of H.R.H.'s African fiction, revises the image of Rider Haggard (1856–1925) as a mere writer of adventure stories, a brassy propagandist for British imperialism. Professor Monsman places Haggard’s imaginative works both in the context of colonial fiction writing and in the framework of subsequent postcolonial debates about history and its representation. Like Olive Schreiner, Haggard was an Anglo-African writer straddling the moral divide of mixed allegiances—one empathetically African, the other quite English. The context for such Haggard tales as King Solomon’s Mines and She was a triad of extraordinary nineteenth-century cultures in conflict—British, Boer, and Zulu. Haggard mined his characters both from the ore of real-life Africa and from the depths of his subconscious, giving expression to feelings of cultural conflict, probing and subverting the dominant economic and social forces of imperialism. Monsman argues that Haggard endorses native religious powers as superior to the European empirical paradigm, celebrates autonomous female figures who defy patriarchal control, and covertly supports racial mixing. These social and political elements are integral to his thrilling story lines charged with an exoticism of lived nightmares and extraordinary ordeals. H. Rider Haggard on the Imperial Frontier will be of interest to readers of imperial history and biography, “lost race” and supernatural literature, tales of terror, and heroic fantasies. The book’s unsettling relevance to contemporary issues will engage a wide audience, and the groundbreaking biographical account of Haggard’s close contemporary Bertram Mitford in the appendix will add appeal to specialists.

Published by: ELT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. viii-ix

For his unstinting advice and support, grateful acknowledgment is made to Dr. Robert Langenfeld, my ELT Press editor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and to his hawk-eyed proofreader, designer, and editorial assistant, Michelle Coppedge. Two of my essays...

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pp. 1-12

This is the first book-length study of the African fiction of H. Rider Haggard (1856–1925) from the perspective of literary criticism, encompassing both his biography and the ideologies of the nineteenth century. In it, I hope to revise the image of Haggard as a mere writer of adventure stories or as an unreconstructed British...

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1 Empire and Colony

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pp. 13-40

Two definitions open the door to an interpretive reading of H. Rider Haggard’s African fiction: first, “imperialism” which derives from the Latin imperium (i.e., command, empire), and applies to the extension of any nation’s supremacy over a foreign area, either by...

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2 Heretic in Disguise

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pp. 41-71

The injury to Haggard’s reputation occurred early in his career when he ripped into the dominant fictional practices of realism and naturalism. His manifesto, “About Fiction” (1887), earned him the sort of vituperation that better known pronouncements—such as the Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800) or Virginia...

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3 Diamonds and Deities: The Spoils of Imperialism

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pp. 72-101

The site of King Solomon’s Mines(1885) is suggested by nineteenth- century maps showing stone ruins near Victoria in Mashonaland, called Great Zimbabwe, discovered and explored between 1868 and 1871 by Renders and Mauch. Of course, contemporary exploration and the politics of diamond mining were not...

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4 Zululand: Native Auto/Biography

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pp. 102-130

Haggard’s saga of the rise and fall of the Zulu empire begins with Nada the Lily (1892), set in the 1820s and dealing with Shaka, the founder of the Zulu nation. Originally serialized by the London Illustrated News, January through May 1892, it was first published at the end of April 1892 by Longmans in New York and then,...

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5 From the Cape to the Zambezi: Boer and British

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pp. 131-162

Three novels, three romances and several stories by Haggard— mainly affaires de coeur with suitors virtuous or evil—utilize the historic region of the Matabeles (amaNdebele) as the scene of their action: The Witch’s Head (1884), Jess (1887), and Swallow...

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6 From Zululand to the Far Interior: Natives and Missionaries

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pp. 163-190

Child of Storm was published in London by Cassell, January 1913, and a few weeks later in February by Longmans in New York. Haggard claimed that this, of all his novels, gave him the most literary pleasure; like She, it was “written quite easily, dictated straight away and except for a few Zulu details not altered at all, also...

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7 Romances of the Lakes Region: Tales of Terror and the Occult

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pp. 191-224

The geographical background of Haggard’s occult romances, including an Allan Quatermain subseries, is here no longer as directly based on the locale that Haggard himself observed in the 1870s and 1880s; rather, the journals of Richard Burton and other travel writers come into play. Nominally set in the 1870s in...

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8 In Concluding: “‘I Have Spoken,’ as the Zulus Say”

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pp. 225-236

The last of Allan Quatermain’s adventures, the one that concludes with his death, already had been published as early as 1887. Serialized in Longmans’ Magazine (January through August) and outrageously pirated in the United States from pre-press copies of that initial serialization, the first authorized book edition...


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pp. 237-267


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pp. 268-284


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pp. 285-288


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pp. 289-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780944318300
Print-ISBN-13: 9780944318218
Print-ISBN-10: 0944318215

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: None
Publication Year: 2006

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Subject Headings

  • Haggard, H. Rider 1856-1925 (Henry Rider), -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • Colonies in literature.
  • Africa -- In literature.
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