What the Editors Are Reading

I discovered the novels of Henry Rider Haggard as a boy living in London, where I came across them in a public library.  His name was unknown to me, and I can no longer remember why I first pulled one of his books from the shelf and took it home.  I must have devoured five or six of the many novels—and promptly forgot about Haggard until a month or so ago, when I came across Morton Cohen’s biography (Rider Haggard: His Life and Works) in a secondhand bookshop and read there that Haggard was a friend of Rudyard Kipling’s, and that Kipling—along with Robert Louis Stevenson, Graham Greene, C.S. Lewis, and Henry Miller—admired his works.

As a young man Haggard (born in Norfolk in 1856) served as an assistant to British officials in Natal and the Transvaal from 1875 to 1882, where he gained his familiarity with Africa.  The novels are, I suppose, best described as imaginative romances, an aspect that must have appealed to Lewis, as the native background and adventure did to Kipling.  So far I’ve reread She, King Solomon’s Mines, and am in the middle of Allan Quatermain, three of Haggard’s best-known works.  While the African...

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