In this new, revised and updated edition of his comprehensive
biography of Rider Haggard, D.S. Higgins uses both the mass of
previously unpublished material he unearthed and the evidence
contained in Haggard's sixty-nine novels to show that the
best-selling author left much more for posterity than he would
knowingly have revealed to his millions of readers. Sydney Higgins
discovered the identity of the woman with whom Haggard fell in love
when he was a teenager. Although the affair was unconsummated and
both married other partners, he believed that their love was
eternal and they would be reunited after death. This love that
haunted Haggard throughout his life, combined with feelings of
guilt and disgust at his early sexual encounters, led him to
believe that it was the fire of sex that destroyed the otherwise
untarnished beauty of pure love. It is this belief that powered his
vivid description of the transformation scene in She where the
'most beautiful woman in the world' who had lived for an eternity
withers and dies in the flames immediately prior to marrying the
man she had always loved. Haggard, the ill-educated younger son of
a blustering Norfolk Squire, was inspired by these secret inner
feelings to write, in a golden five-year period that started when
he was twenty-nine, five books that were the sensation of his age -
'King Solomon's Mines', 'Allan Quatermain', 'Jess', 'She' and
'Cleopatra'. The last, he dedicated to his mother whom he always
loved deeply and appears to have written to please her. Shortly
after 'Cleopatra' was published, she died. A few weeks later,
Haggard finished 'Nada the Lily' and that too was justifiably a
great success. He was at the height of his success and at an age
when many writers had just begun their careers but with his
mother's death he seemed to lose his inspiration and his obsession
to write. He did not start another book for sixteen months. During
the next twelve years, he did write another twenty-five novels but
much time and effort were spent producing non-fiction books that
are now all but forgotten although one at least, 'A Farmer's Year'
is a charming and illuminating literary gem. For the rest of his
life, writing novels became a way of earning money and his
interests and quest for success were concentrated on agricultural
research, politics, business and public service. In his
meticulously researched biography, D.S. Higgins explores the many
mysteries of Haggard's life, revealing a man more complex than had
previously been understood and whose work is acknowledged as having
influenced many writers including Rudyard Kipling, Henry Miller,
C.S. Lewis and Graham Greene.
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