H. Rider Haggard
King Solomon's Mines

"Thereupon Billali did a curious thing. Down he went, that venerable-looking old gentleman - for Billali is a gentleman at the bottom - down on to his hands and knees, and in this undignified position, with his long white beard trailing on the ground, he began to creep into the apartment beyond. I followed him, standing on my feet in the usual fashion." (She)

Sir Henry Rider Haggard was born in 1856, the sixth son of a Norfolk squire, and he spend six years while still a young man in South Africa. He was then employed on various commissions associated with agriculture and emigration while writing predictably not terribly well-known books on farming and South African history. The books for which he achieved fame were his adventure novels of which he wrote a great number - thirty-four, indeed - whose subject matter was as as varied as their settings. His novels depict life and history in exotic locations such as Constantinople (now Istanbul), Iceland, Mexico and Ancient Egypt. The most famous of his novels, however, were both set in Africa.

The first of these was King Solomon's Mines which was published in 1886. Haggard found great fortune with this book but almost lost out considerably having initially accepted a mere 100 for the copyright of the book then at the last moment demanding a 10% royalty rate instead. It was a wise choice given that the book went on to sell thirty thousand copies a year soon afterwards. Indeed, the story of the novel's inception is strange. Haggard had boasted to his brother that he could write a story to match Treasure Island in all its thrilling adventure story glory. So he wrote it in six weeks straight. She (1887) was also a considerable success. Both of these books centre around Haggard's interest in tribal activity, landscape, colourful wildlife and mysterious history.

Haggard went on to write many more tales and their popularity was strong enough that with the advent of film many of them went on to be reenacted on screen. He shared many ideas and his vision of the exotic with his close friend Rudyard Kipling and their works have much in common. Amusingly, another of his literary friends, Andrew Lang, put out no less than twenty rave reviews for King Solomon's Mines in periodicals around the time of its publication only going to show the dangers of anonymous reviewers. His autobiography, The Days of My Life was published in 1926, a year after his death.

Violetbooks.com An annotated bibliography of H. Rider Haggard's fantasy in 1st edition alphabetically arranged
Calendar of Authors Resource site which contains a biography and further information on H. Rider Haggard

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