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II/ Haggard & the Imperial Dream or the end of an era

Excavating the Modern Self: Haggard’s Egyptological Romances

Nolwenn CORRIOU

Résumés

L’égyptomanie de Henry Rider Haggard se déclinait de manière variée, depuis des voyages réguliers en Égypte jusqu’à d’importantes collections d’objets antiques. Cet article se penche plus particulièrement sur la représentation que Haggard construit de l’Égypte dans son œuvre littéraire et sur les implications de ses choix narratifs dans le contexte scientifique et impérial dans lequel il écrit ses romans égyptologiques. En traçant des liens généalogiques entre l’Égypte antique et la Grande-Bretagne moderne, par le biais du genre littéraire de la fiction archéologique, Haggard propose une vision palimpsestique de l’histoire individuelle et collective qui peut recevoir une lecture psychanalytique ou être considérée dans le contexte impérial. Ce chapitre considère la place qu’occupe l’Égypte dans l’imaginaire de Haggard en analysant les éléments narratifs et narratologiques communs à son corpus égyptien, en mettant particulièrement l’accent sur The Ancient Allan et « Smith and the Pharaohs ». La représentation qu’il offre de l’Égypte comme un lieu onirique situé dans la conscience victorienne et comme l’origine d’une identité moderne stratifiée amène une interprétation ambivalente des positions impérialistes de Haggard au tournant du XXe siècle.

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  • 1 The British Egyptologist Howard Carter (1874-1939) is mostly remembered for the discovery of the to (...)
  • 2 As opposed to antique Greece or antique Rome, ancient Egypt appeared as further removed from contem (...)
  • 3 See “A Victorian Gentleman in the Pharaoh’s Court: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology i (...)

1If Henry Rider Haggard is now mostly remembered for his South African romances and the sensational imperial adventures of Allan Quatermain, ancient Egypt also occupies a prominent place in his imagination. “From a boy ancient Egypt had fascinated me, and I had read everything concerning it on which I could lay hands” (Days vol. 1. 254), Haggard writes in his autobiography, The Days of my Life (1926), before describing the many shapes this fascination took. From his links with major Egyptological figures of his day, such as Howard Carter, Sir Wallis Budge or Gaston Maspero1 to his own collection of artefacts acquired through friends or during his stays in Egypt, many elements point to the central place Egypt and its historical past played in shaping Haggard’s culture and understanding of many metaphysical questions. His knowledge of ancient Egypt went beyond the curiosity the outlandish artefacts and mysteries of Egypt’s past commonly aroused among his contemporaries. Haggard’s Egyptomania paved the way for moral and religious questions concerning the beliefs of ancient Egyptians and the treatment of their material culture in his time. Far from considering ancient Egypt as radically alien,2 Haggard was fascinated by the links he could find between the experience of his contemporaries and what he knew of ancient Egyptian culture and beliefs.3 Using the theory of reincarnation suggested by one of his friends, he playfully explains why “with [...] the old Egyptians I am at home” (Days vol. 1. 255).

  • 4 In Rider Haggard and Egypt, Shirley Addy provides a list of all the texts that have to do with Egyp (...)

2It is no surprise, therefore, that ancient Egypt should be so omnipresent in Haggard’s work,4 from the very start of his career as a writer: his first novel, Dawn, published in 1884, features Egyptological collections which play a central role in the heroine’s life. Belshazzar, his last novel, published posthumously in 1930, is partly set in Egypt and testifies to Haggard’s lifelong dedication to his Egyptological passion. Whether he was writing a sequel to the Odyssey (The World’s Desire, co-written with Andrew Lang and published in 1890), imagining a turf war between competing African peoples (The Ivory Child, 1916) or even telling the adventures of a Viking warrior (The Wanderer’s Necklace, 1914), it would appear that, for Haggard, all roads lead to Egypt.

  • 5 This access to the past can take different forms. For instance, in Cleopatra, the tale of Harmachis (...)
  • 6 See in particular the work of Ailise Bulfin, “The Fiction of Gothic Egypt and British Imperial Para (...)
  • 7 See Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. Cornell U (...)

3In Cleopatra (1889), Haggard describes the tale of ancient Egypt he is about to offer his reader as “an undiscovered land wherein you [the reader] are free to travel” (Cleopatra 9). Geography is an important dimension in all of Haggard’s novels as his tales take the reader on long journeys across remote or forgotten territories. What is noteworthy in his representation of Egypt, however, is that the historical past of the country is constructed in Haggard’s work as a place as much as it is a time period; a physical place that can be accessed and explored through the work of archaeology – with perhaps a little help from magic. Several of Haggard’s “Egyptological romances” as Andrew Lang names them (in a letter quoted by Haggard, Days vol. 1. 282) have in common a framing narrative set in the present of Haggard’s readers and an archaeological plot that takes the modern characters on a journey to ancient Egypt. Indeed, instead of giving access to excavated objects and remains of the past, archaeology, in Haggard’s fiction, offers the characters an actual, physical access to a past that can be experienced and relived through characters or narratives that hail from a bygone era.5 In this sense, archaeology is endowed with a certain magical power insofar as it opens a door to another place and/or time period. In this respect, Haggard mirrors the attitude of many writers of his time in the way he represents ancient Egypt: as archaeology was developing as a scientific discipline in the second half of the nineteenth century and claiming to bring back the past, authors of popular fiction used this idea literally, and in the lost-race genre, represented ancient civilisations resurfacing and often threatening the modern world. Egypt can be considered as one of those lost civilisations in the genre of mummy fiction which made use of the various discoveries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as the superstitions that surrounded ancient Egypt. Those were the inspirations for stories involving the return of the mummy, a mummy’s curse, murdered archaeologists but also love stories between a revived female mummy and the male archaeologist who discovered her. The representation of ancient Egypt constructed by mummy fiction can be read in the imperial context of the late nineteenth century.6 The tales of mummies rising up from the grave and attacking those who forcefully acquire them and try to submit them to their own scientific rule within the space of the museum appear as metaphors of imperial dynamics in which the mummies stand for the colonised who resist subjugation to the British Empire embodied by male archaeologists. The gothic vein of mummy fiction, in the wake of the imperial Gothic7 genre, also contributes to the exposition of fears that haunted the late‑Victorian and Edwardian mind (degeneration of the British “race”, contamination by foreign identities, historical regression, etc.).

4Haggard’s own representation of Egyptian antiquity both echoes and differs from the vision offered by mummy fiction. His fiction, for instance, does not hinge as much on the Gothic as most productions of mummy fiction do. The Empire and the relation of Britain to its Empire, however, are very much central to the understanding of his work, as is the issue of identity.

5This paper aims to examine the place that Egypt occupies in Haggard’s imagination by considering some of the elements shared by his Egyptological romances, with a particular focus on The Ancient Allan and “Smith and the Pharaohs” which most clearly articulate Haggard’s Egyptian imagination. In all the texts considered hereafter, ancient Egypt is constructed as an oneiric place, a land within the mind far more than an actual place and time. In this context, the archaeological process that uncovers the past of Egypt can be read in psychoanalytical as well as imperial terms. This double interpretation underlines both the relevance of Haggard’s understanding of history and the psyche at the time when Freud was developing his methods for psychoanalysis, but also the modernity of Haggard’s views concerning the imperial appropriation of ancient artefacts.

1. The empire of the imagination

  • 8 Haggard’s use of the Egyptological knowledge of his time is quite paradoxical: while he makes a poi (...)

6Borrowing Ayesha’s words in She, Egypt in Haggard’s work can be described as the empire of the imagination, in the sense that it is constructed as a fictional, mythological place only loosely based on actual ancient Egypt8 but also insofar as it appears as a place that exists mostly in the protagonists’ minds or imaginations.

  • 9 In She also, the journey starts in Britain although the protagonists do not reach ancient Egypt but (...)

7Like the forgotten lands of lost-race fiction, ancient Egypt is accessed through a journey – with the particularity that this journey is not so much spatial as temporal as the characters have to travel from their present back into time. The journey can be purely temporal when the characters are travelling in modern day Egypt, as is the case in “Smith and the Pharaohs” or in Cleopatra. However, the displacement can be both temporal and geographical when the journey to ancient Egypt starts in Britain:9 in The Ancient Allan, Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall travel to ancient Egypt and live many adventures there while never actually leaving Lady Ragnall’s private museum. The title of the chapter that takes Quatermain and Lady Ragnall into their Egyptian past, “Through the gates”, explicitly defines antiquity as a “temporal space” that can be accessed thanks to archaeological work.

8Indeed, in all the texts which feature a journey to ancient Egypt, antiquity is reached through an archaeological artefact which acts as a magic key establishing a bridge between the present and the past. Harmachis’s papyrus in Cleopatra, Queen Ma-Mee’s mummified hand in “Smith and the Pharaoh”, the two rolls of papyrus and the ancient taduki leaves in The Ancient Allan, and the Sherd of Amenartas in She all provide a material link with the past. Their survival through time demonstrates the persistence of a past which can still be found in the present of the protagonists and revived. In his Egyptological romances, Haggard uses archaeology as a means to literally reach the past and give it new life and actuality for the modern characters.

  • 10 This also echoes Darwin’s theory of evolution, exposed in On the Origins of Species (1859), which w (...)
  • 11 Haggard himself cared little for modern Egypt which, on his last visit to the country in 1924, he f (...)

9The idea that Egypt is forever existing in its antique past is in keeping with the motif, common in fiction and travel literature, which describes imperial territories as “perpetually out of time in modernity, marooned and historically abandoned” (McClintock 41). In Imperial Leather, Anne McClintock analyses the way the differences between Britain and colonial Africa were often described as temporal rather than geographical differences. In this perspective, the African continent and its populations are described as living in a past that the West has long since left behind.10 In the case of Egypt, however, this imperial topos is formulated differently insofar as going into the past allows the travellers to escape what they see as the degeneration of the present. Modern Egyptian characters are almost absent from Haggard’s texts and only serve as a form of comic relief as a consequence of their superstitions and cowardice.11 In Egypt, travelling back in time is actually travelling back to the grandeur of a mighty civilisation.

10The archaeological journey represented in Haggard’s Egyptological romances is echoed by the narrative form adopted in several works. The movement from the present to the past is achieved through the device of an embedded narrative that takes the reader along with the characters into an ancient adventure. That is the case in Cleopatra where the description of the archaeological excavation that opens the novel is soon abandoned to give way to the voice of Harmachis whose memoirs constitute the main element of the text. In The Ancient Allan, the drug-induced hallucination shared by Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall also opens the embedded narrative that presents the adventures of their former incarnations. In The Wanderer’s Necklace, the editor’s note frames the narrative as memories of a former life (as the Viking Olaf) remembered by an unnamed modern character. Olaf’s dreams also provide some insights into some of his former incarnations, including one as an Egyptian. The archaeological form of the narrative is analysed by Shawn Malley, using the example of the Sherd of Amenartas in She:

The sherd represents an enclosed text, a nested narrative that interconnects past and present for the reader. The motif of boxes within boxes, of stories within stories, of history buried under history, takes many forms as the party ventures toward the sherd’s provenance: a stratified narrative reflects the archaeological content. (“‘Time Hath No Power Against Identity’” 278-80)

  • 12 I have borrowed this phrase from the title of the book edited by J. Edward Chamberlin and Sander L. (...)
  • 13 Nectanebes is described in an editor’s note as “Nekht-nebf, or Nectanebo II., the last native Phara (...)
  • 14 Similarly, in King Solomon’s Mines, the quest of Quatermain and his companions follows the path of (...)

11The descent into the past indicated by the narrative form as well as the diegesis itself suggests an understanding of history and memory that runs counter to nineteenth century constructions of history as a linear evolution moving towards greater improvement. The British civilisation was seen as the apex of this evolution – the dark side of this progress12 being the threat of degeneration and regression that pervaded the late-Victorian culture. This culmination of history in nineteenth-century Britain is suggested in She by the history of Leo Vincey’s family, as told on the Sherd of Amenartas which, for Stephen Arata represents “a stay against the ravages of time” (Arata 101). Analysing the genealogy offered by the Sherd as “an heroic narrative of civilization, one which aligns Leo’s family with political imperium (Nectanebes,13 Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Elizabeth), learning (Herodotus, Erasmus, William Grocyn), art (Shakespeare), and religion (Isis, the Crusades)”, Arata demonstrates that “at the terminus and apex of Western history stands the Victorian middle class” (Arata 100). When it comes to his representation of Egypt, however, Haggard’s vision of history is not that of an upward linear development leading to contemporary Britain. Instead, Haggard offers a circular construction of history by staging the repetition, within embedded narratives, of the main plot. Thus, the love story between an ancient Egyptian version of Olaf and an Egyptian priestess, in The Wanderer’s Necklace, is repeated when Olaf meets the priestess’ descendent, Heliodore, who is also her reincarnation. In “Smith and the Pharaohs”, the love felt by Smith for the bust of Queen Ma-Mee replicates the love of Horu (a former incarnation of Smith) for the same Egyptian queen. The repetition of history is also marked by the discovery of archaeological traces that indicate the circular working of history. In “Smith and the Pharaohs”, as the eponymous character is busy excavating the tomb of Queen Ma-Mee, he finds clues demonstrating that he is not the first to loot the tomb, his action only repeating that of a “very old thief” (“Smith” 17).14 This representation of history as circular rather than linear echoes the “spiral movement” described by one of the characters of Algernon Blackwood’s The Wave: An Aftermath: “the idea – that evolution, whether individually in men and animals, or with nations – historically, that is – is not in a straight line ahead, but moves upwards – in a spiral” (Blackwood 46). In the spiral-shaped vision of history, several periods can coexist as they are superimposed onto each other. In Haggard’s novels, the embedded narratives that present the memories of ancient lives or the retrieval of the past through dreams (The Wanderer’s Necklace) or a form of trance (The Ancient Allan) emphasise this coexistence of past and present incarnations, the latter being always bound to relive the experiences of the former. The simultaneous existence of different layers of time constructs a palimpsestic representation of history in which Egypt appears as the first layer; the origin both of Western civilisation and of the British characters imagined by Haggard. This palimpsestic representation of history is particularly striking in She, through the presence of the Sherd of Amenartas. On this palimpsestic object, representing Leo Vincey’s family history and more broadly, the history of antique Mediterranean civilisations and Europe from medieval times to the Victorian era, the succession or superposition of these historical periods is given visual representation by the different languages that intermingle on the sherd, all telling the story of Amenartas. Similarly, the notion of a historical progress whereby each new generation is more evolved than the one preceding it is challenged by the motif of reincarnation which is common in Haggard’s Egyptological romances. In this perspective, the characters themselves can be read as palimpsests: Smith in “Smith and the Pharaohs”, Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall in The Ancient Allan, the unnamed narrator of The Wanderer’s Necklace are all the results of former versions of themselves whose memories they retain. Thus, in Haggard’s imagination, Egypt appears as the first layer of a personal and historical palimpsest and historical progress is no more than added experience gained in the eternal repetition of the same events.

12This palimpsestic Egyptian space, where many strata of history coexist, meet and interact, can be read, in the context of late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries archaeological imagination, as expressing what Virginia Zimmerman describes as “a coeval relationship to the past” (Zimmerman 14). Arguing that, at an excavation site, by “examining a trace, the observer brings her present into direct contact with the past” (Zimmerman 14), she shows the superimposition of time periods achieved by archaeological work. By representing coevalness quite literally as an archaeological phenomenon which brings together several layers of palimpsestic individuals, Haggard constructs a representation of Egypt that is at odds with the positivism of nineteenth-century science. In this sense, the ancient Egypt of Haggard’s Egyptological romances is first and foremost an impossible place, a place within the imagination, or even a dreamland.

  • 15 This is reminiscent of the dream-like experience related by Haggard in his autobiography where he r (...)

13Indeed, in most of the representations of Egypt Haggard offers in his fictional work, ancient Egypt is represented as an oneiric vision, one that can only be accessed in a dream state. This determines both the narrative form and the narrative content of Haggard’s Egyptological romances. The main part of the diegesis of The Ancient Allan is an account of the dream or hallucination shared by Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall as they breathe in the smoke of the mysterious taduki leaves. The months of ancient Egyptian life they experience in this dream state are condensed in the few seconds during which the clock strikes ten in the present of the characters. The condensation of time, typical of the experience of the dream, casts a doubt on the whole narrative. This also echoes the narrative structure of “Smith and the Pharaohs” in which the eponymous archaeologist encounters the members of Egyptian royal families at night in the Cairo Museum where he has fallen asleep. The rhetorical framing of the whole experience is worth noticing: “Presumably, being altogether tired out, Smith did ultimately fall asleep, for how long he never knew. At any rate, it is certain that, if so, he woke up again” (“Smith” 48). In this passage, the expressions of doubt (“presumably”) and certainty (“it is certain”) appear rather nonsensical or out of place, Smith’s awakening being dependent on his having fallen asleep. What appears most doubtful, in the narrative that follows, is whether Smith is awake or whether the whole experience is just a dream. The closing paragraphs of the novella express the unresolved uncertainty that affects the whole narrative. Finally, the whole narration of The Wanderer’s Necklace, is described as “a series of scenes or pictures” (Wanderer vii) retrieved from a past life by a method the narrator chooses not to reveal.15

14The narration of all three of these texts is shaped by the same devices, which evoke the logic of dreams. Sudden interruptions to the narrative mirror the abrupt ending of a dream: the final chapter of The Ancient Allan, “The Battle – and After” is structured, as its title suggests, in two parts separated by the return to conscience symbolised by the dash. The end of the embedded narrative is represented on the page by a space followed by the mention “AND AFTER” which announces a sudden return to the main narrative. The confusion that follows the dream appears immediately after in the dialogue between Quatermain and Lady Ragnall who struggle to determine whether the experience they shared was real or imaginary. The ellipses that can be found in the text also belong to the logic of dreams: in The Wanderer’s Necklace, the series of visions that constitute the narrative is often fragmentary as the “picture fades” (Wanderer 81) to be replaced by the next image. When “the curtain lifts again” (Wanderer 95), the setting and time are different and the narrator is unable to fill the gaps in the story.

15Haggard’s representation of ancient Egypt is determined, in most of his Egyptological romances, by the oneiric quality of both the narration and the narrative. Egypt, therefore, appears, not as a real place or time, but as a hidden corner inside the memory that can be accessed through dreams. Thus, the journey that takes the travellers to this empire of the imagination is not the geographic experience of imperial travel but rather an inner journey that leads the protagonists deep inside their own psyche.

2. “I […] saw myself”16: Egypt and the “lost-self” tale

  • 16 Allan 61.
  • 17 See Sigmund Freud, “Constructions in Analysis”, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychologic (...)
  • 18 “Let us make the fantastic supposition that Rome were not a human dwelling-place, but a mental enti (...)

16Depicted as an oneiric place that cannot be reached unless in a state of unconsciousness, a place hidden under many strata of history but also of the self, one from which the dreamers come back with new discoveries and a certain amount of confusion, the Egypt of Haggard’s Egyptological romances evokes Freud’s topographical descriptions of the mind. In this context, the archaeological process that takes the protagonists down their own history, eventually leading them to ancient Egypt, may be read as a metaphor of the work of psychoanalysis meant to allow the patient to reach the deepest parts of his or her psyche. Considering the link between the archaeological motif and psychoanalysis can shed light on many works pertaining to archaeological fiction or mummy fiction at the turn of the twentieth century – and on Haggard’s own work in particular. The analogy between the work of the archaeologist and the methods of the psychoanalyst was repeatedly suggested by Freud himself as he compared his investigations into the human mind to a form of excavation of repressed contents buried under layers of consciousness in the way history buries the past under geological strata.17 Freud’s topographical model of the mind, with its different layers (the conscious, the unconscious, the subconscious), can be understood as an archaeological site made up of different periods that echo the three parts of the mind. By using a description of Rome and its long architectural history, Freud provides his reader with a visual representation of the human mind.18

17He also perceives an analogy between the information revealed by the work of the archaeologist and what the archaeology of the psyche can bring to light. Indeed, he argues that the place of ancient and primitive civilisations in history can be compared to the place occupied in the mind by the primitive structures of the child’s psyche.

  • 19 See Norman A. Etherington, “Rider Haggard, Imperialism, and the Layered Personality”, Victorian Stu (...)

18The echoes between archaeological and psychoanalytical processes of discovery provide seminal tools to consider the work of Haggard. Norman Etherington analyses Haggard’s South African corpus as a narrativised representation of a journey across the layers of the mind.19 In his study of She, Shawn Malley also identifies the archaeological motif as a metaphorical representation of the lifting of the layers of consciousness that can reveal repressed knowledge:

In Haggard’s adventure novels, distances travelled in space represent voyages in time to remote corners within the human mind and culture; physical exploration is a trope for the examination of the temporal, psychic, and cultural layers that underlie modern civilization. (Nineteenth-Century Archaeology 175)

19Freud himself saw Haggard’s work as a literary representation of the unconscious. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud recounts a dream, inspired by the landscape of She, in which he sees himself as an explorer setting foot where no one has been before (the exploration of the human mind) while the fate of Ayesha, and her hubris, appear to him as a warning. Similarly, Carl Jung used the work of Haggard, and particularly the character of Ayesha, to shape his notion of the anima. Surprisingly, psychoanalytical readings of Haggard’s work focus mostly on his South African romances, while his Egyptological romances receive little attention. The layered form of the narrative, leading the protagonist into the past through embedded stories can be read as a representation of a psychoanalytical as much as an archaeological quest. The very characteristics of Egypt in its literary depictions (as a land of mystery, of lost secrets, full of hidden objects and buried knowledge) are in keeping with an interpretation of ancient Egypt as the most remote part of the psyche.

  • 20 “Not a second ago I had been in a shrine with Amada dressed as Lady Ragnall was to-night, in circum (...)

20Just like the unconscious part of the mind and repressed memories in psychoanalysis, ancient Egypt can be difficult to access and a number of obstacles have to be overcome for the protagonists to complete their journey to antiquity. Those obstacles, which can be attributed to the conscious “patient” himself or to the unconscious part of his or her mind in Haggard’s texts, are reminiscent of the various phenomena of resistance that Freud identifies in The Interpretation of Dreams. In The Ancient Allan, Quatermain repeatedly refuses to yield to Lady Ragnall’s request to accompany her in a trance state that is meant to reveal their shared Egyptian past. Lady Ragnall herself describes his attitude as a form of resistance to the discovery of repressed knowledge as she accuses him of cowardice: “you shrink from digging up old memories” (Ancient Allan 49). The doubt and confusion that follow the experience of the adventure in ancient Egypt as well as the embarrassment caused by the revelation of a former bond between Quatermain and Lady Ragnall20 also pertain to this resistance which Freud attributes to “the power of the psychical censorship” (The Interpretation of Dreams 521) explaining that “your opinion that the dream is nonsense only means that you have an internal resistance against interpreting it” (The Interpretation of Dreams 163).

21Moreover, the ancient part of the psyche represented by ancient Egyptian sites also resists discovery: in “Smith and the Pharaohs”, much is made of Smith’s difficulty to find and penetrate the tomb of Queen Ma-Mee and of the various obstacles that slow down his progress once he has located the queen’s resting place. The charred body he finds when he eventually reaches the tomb underlines the danger there is in exploring what should have remained buried. In The Ancient Allan, Egypt’s resistance to excavation is even more radical as Lord Ragnall gets killed excavating a temple of Isis: swept away by a “wave of sand” (Ancient Allan 13), he is quite literally swallowed by the hidden site he was trying to reveal.

22Only in dreams, when resistance is weakened, can ancient Egypt appear, only to vanish again when the characters wake up. In “Smith and the Pharaohs”, the ancient Egyptian scene is dispelled when the character is about to reach the object of his desire:

  • 21 A very similar scene can be found in The Ancient Allan when Quatermain emerges from his hallucinati (...)

She bent towards him; her sweet lips touched his brow; the perfume from her breath and hair beat upon him; the light of her wondrous eyes searched out his very soul, reading the answer that was written there.
He stretched out his arms to clasp her, and lo! she was gone.
It was a very cold and a very stiff Smith who awoke on the following morning, to find himself exactly where he had lain down. (“Smith” 71)
21

23The object of desire, just like a repressed memory or a scene pictured in a dream, escapes the dreamer’s grasp so that Smith wakes up feeling uncertain about what happened.

  • 22 In The Way of the Spirit (1906), Rupert Ullershaw, rejected by his wife, condemned by British socie (...)

24However elusive the memory of what is discovered through the archaeological or psychoanalytical quest within the ancient Egyptian mind, the journey is never vain because some forgotten or repressed knowledge is always uncovered. As the scolding Smith has to deal with on the part of the revived mummies at the Cairo Museum suggests, it would seem that the past had best be left alone: what is revealed to him during this visit to the past is indeed his own criminal character as he is accused of desecrating the tomb of Queen Ma-Mee. The revelation of knowledge the protagonists did not wish to face is evocative of the process of repression. The repressed feelings or events always remain unclear in Haggard’s texts, even though most of the characters travelling to an ancient Egyptian psyche seem to be troubled by some past trauma.22 This appears the most clearly in “Smith and the Pharaohs”: the beginning of the novella mentions some “trouble [that] came to him, the particulars of which do not matter” (“Smith” 8-9) when he was a student. This undefined event upsets his whole life and seems to decide the direction his existence takes. It is mentioned again as the “great catastrophe” (“Smith” 49) when Smith is about to find himself surrounded by ancient Egyptian kings and queens. This suggests a link between this traumatic experience and the appearance of ancient Egyptian figures. But no more is said of it and the narrative appears to repress the event in the same way Smith’s unconscious did.

  • 23 The fact of resorting to an archaeological plot to bring to light an unconscious feeling is reminis (...)

25In spite of the resistance experienced by those who travel into their own psyche, the archaeological process can still bring to light unknown or repressed feelings so that the ancient Egyptian adventure achieves the fulfilment of wishes identified by Freud as one of the functions of the dream. Thus, while spending the night at the Cairo Museum, Smith gets to meet the woman he fell in love with when gazing at a replica of her bust at the British Museum and receives a kiss from her, reciprocating the kiss he gave to her dead hand when he discovered it in her tomb. In The Ancient Allan, the unspoken love of Quatermain and Lady Ragnall is revealed through the adventures of their past personas, eventually allowing Lady Ragnall to admit her feelings for Quatermain in a slip of her tongue: “you know I had been, well, attached to you – to Shabaka, I mean – all the time – that’s my part of the story which I daresay you did not see” (Ancient Allan 309).23 The archaeological process achieved in the dream allows the protagonist to retrieve their history, their memory but also past feelings which can then be experienced in the present.

  • 24 In Ayesha, The Return of She (1905), the motif of reincarnation is taken to extremes since most of (...)
  • 25 Haggard’s (dis)belief in reincarnation is also a theme that regularly returns in his autobiography, (...)
  • 26 One should perhaps say the origin of civilised life: indeed, in The Ancient Allan, Quatermain has a (...)
  • 27 This circularity can also be found at work in Haggard’s whole work: thus, some events described in (...)

26Finally, the main discovery of the Egyptological quests represented in Haggard’s texts is the one Quatermain makes as he first set eyes on the Egyptian scene the taduki leaves allows him to relive: “I, Allan, and no one else, that is, the same personality or whatever it may be which makes each man different from any other man, saw myself in a chariot drawn by two horses” (Ancient Allan 61). Smith makes an identical discovery when he learns that, in a past life, he was Horu, the lover of Queen Ma-Mee. In She, Leo Vincey also comes face to face with himself when he is given to see the body of his ancestor Kallikrates, who is his exact look‑alike.24 The motif of reincarnation, extremely current in Haggard’s work25 suggests that his characters are layered so that journeying to ancient Egypt allows them to excavate their own modern self by finding a lost identity. Uncovering and understanding their own history and bringing their forgotten memories (or the memories of a forgotten life) to light provides them with a better grasp of their modern identity. Ancient Egypt, for Leo Vincey in She, the unnamed narrator who once lived as Olaf and Heliodore in The Wanderer’s Necklace, Smith in “Smith and the Pharaohs” or Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall in The Ancient Allan, is invariably the first and most ancient layer of their conscience, the primal origin26 that shaped their identity throughout their many lives which unfold as an unending repetition of their Egyptian experiences.27 The notion of reincarnation also depicts the mind and the self as a palimpsestic structure and echoes the idea developed by Thomas de Quincey in Suspiria de Profundis in which he describes the human brain as a palimpsest made up of “everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings” (Quincey 510). In the same way, Haggard’s characters are palimpsestic and can, in the deepest pit of the unconscious, find their own original identity as ancient Egyptians so that the representation of ancient Egypt in Haggard’s work belongs perhaps not so much to the genre of the lost-race tale but is rather a romance of the lost self.

3. “Perchance he has known the past, the far past, and will know the future, the far, far future”28: history, memory and the Empire

  • 28 Haggard “Smith” 8.

27The motif of reincarnation – one of the most recurrent motifs in Haggard’s work, and particularly in his Egyptian corpus – has to be read in the imperial context in which the Egyptological romances were written and published. At the time when Haggard started writing his first Egyptian novels, the occupation of Egypt had recently started (1882) while the death of General Gordon in Khartoum was still a bleeding wound to British pride. The “Egyptian Question”, concerning the status of Egypt within the British Empire, was only partly answered by the establishment of a “Veiled Protectorate” which hardly guaranteed British rule over the land. This political context hardly appears in Haggard’s work. Only The Way of the Spirit, through the character of Rupert Ullershaw, “an Intelligence officer at Cairo, and [who was] finally made a lieutenant-colonel in the Egyptian army” (Way 22-23), refers explicitly to the military context of the occupation of Egypt and to the violence and the uncertainty the Egyptian Question roused in British politics. The constant focus of Haggard’s Egyptian novels on the antique period erases up to a certain point the contemporary tensions to instead depict the dramas and conflicts of ancient royal families. However, the reader may still perceive the Egyptian Question between the lines, haunting the obsessive leitmotifs of Haggard’s work. For a staunch imperialist such as Haggard, the imperial discourse that underlies his Egyptological romances is surprisingly nuanced, but also contradictory.

  • 29 In the case of Cleopatra, Harmachis’s failure to regain his throne determines the tragic fate of th (...)
  • 30 This can also happen through the revelation of a hidden identity, as in Morning Star when the queen (...)

28The plots of many novels, such as Cleopatra, Queen of the Dawn, Morning Star or The Wanderer’s Necklace, are the same in their general outlines by describing royal families torn apart by greed and ambition, the usurpation of power and eventually, the heroic rise to kingship of the rightful heir to the throne of Egypt.29 This storyline, based on characters coming into their own, also appears in the Egyptological romances that take the present as a starting point, like The Ancient Allan, for instance or, to a lesser extent, “Smith and the Pharaohs”. In these texts, the theme of reincarnation, by presenting the adventures of a character reuniting with his or her ancient self or reacquiring a lost or forgotten identity, echoes the narrative baseline of the stories staging heroes recovering their place or their kingdom.30 In the imperial context, the leitmotif of reincarnation can receive two conflicting interpretations.

  • 31 In an article published in the Windsor Magazine in January 1910, Haggard imagines a romance of the (...)
  • 32 Interestingly, in an article published in The Times in October 1912, “An Egyptian Date Farm – The F (...)

29On the one hand, finding oneself – by discovering a former incarnation – in ancient Egypt allows the protagonists to recognise themselves in “an Other” who, in the Orientalist context that characterises Haggard’s writing, should otherwise have been perceived as radically different. By locating ancient Egypt as the first layer of the historical and individual palimpsest that forms the modern Victorian man, Haggard symbolically bridges the gap between Orient and Occident and underlines the continuity rather than the opposition between the two. In the imperialist context of the fin de siècle, and particularly amid the growing resistance to the absorption of Egypt within the British Empire, this is quite meaningful. Indeed, by making his protagonists the descendants or the reincarnations of ancient Egyptians,31 Haggard also justifies the imperial enterprise to a certain extent by representing it as homecoming rather than invasion. Travelling to Egypt to discover the tomb of the woman he fell in love with and appropriate the content of her tomb, Smith appears as little more than a thief – and that is in fact the word used by the mummies of the Cairo Museum to condemn his actions. However, once his past identity as Horu, a sculptor who was in love with Queen Ma-Mee and carved the statues Smith retrieved from her tomb, has been established, his archaeological activities appear far less reprehensible. Smith is no longer stealing but simply recovering his own works, claiming what historically belongs to him. Queen Ma-Mee’s final speech vindicates Smith as she asserts the continuity of history that makes Smith the heir of Horu’s possessions, including his beloved queen: “know […] that what is mine has been, is, and shall be yours for ever” (“Smith”, 70). The same continuity can be found in The Wanderer’s Necklace where the modern character describes the journey of his former incarnation, Olaf, as a return to the land of his first incarnation and, as such, as a return to the motherland – or the land of the mummy. In this respect, the identity of the queen Smith falls in love with in “Smith and the Pharaohs” is worth noticing: the name “Ma-Mee”, as the director of the museum points out, can be understood as the French phrase for “my beloved” (ma mie) or as a variation on the word “mummy”, in both senses of the word (the mummified body or the mother). As it happens, a number of the main protagonists of Haggard’s Egyptian romances are orphans (Leo Vincey in She, Smith in “Smith and the Pharaohs”, Olaf in The Wanderer’s Necklace) so that their quest for the origin of their layered self may be understood as a quest for the figure of the mother as a signifier of identity. In the imperial context, is the reader perhaps given to understand that the colonial appropriation of Egypt could hardly be denied to those British characters who are simply trying to find their “mummy”? Besides, Haggard repeatedly underlined the benefits of a British presence in Egypt that he truly believed in, in his journalistic writings but also in his fiction. In The Way of the Spirit, a declining community directly descended from an ancient Egyptian royal family is both enlivened and enriched by the leadership of Rupert Ullershaw when he decides to settle in the oasis of Tama. Under the guidance of the British soldier, the people of the oasis establish “an enormous trade in dates, salt, horses, etc., with the surrounding tribes” (Way 271).32 Thus, having discovered a persisting piece of the past in modern Egypt, Rupert Ullershaw ensures its future continuation by introducing it to modern trading practices.

  • 33 In Rule of Darkness, Patrick Brantlinger underlines the paradoxical movement whereby “impelled by s (...)

30The encounter with ancient Egypt may provide, on the other hand, a paradoxical insight into the future of the British Empire. The introductory lines to “Smith and the Pharaohs” state the meaning that can be ascribed to the dream experience that follows: “Perchance he has known the past, the far past, and will know the future, the far, far future” (“Smith” 8). This sentence suggests that Smith’s adventure may be explained by the notions of immortality of the soul and reincarnation. As a consequence, Smith (like Leo Vincey in She or Allan Quatermain in The Ancient Allan) is not necessarily the apex identified by Stephen Arata in the progress of civilisation but a mere layer in the palimpsestic existence of a soul that will come back to life, again and again across the ages. These ideas of immortality and reincarnation are particularly meaningful in the imperial context of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries33 – a period marked by an increasing destabilisation of the British Empire and the first signs of the decline that would accelerate after the First World War. The survival of the soul, the hope of rebirth of both the soul and the body: those themes which are associated with ancient Egyptian culture and funeral rituals are present in Haggard’s Egyptological romances and may be read as a sign of hope for an empire which is threatening to disappear. In Excavating Victorians, Virginia Zimmerman examines the notion of “trace” in the work of archaeology and in the display of history within museums, as well as the vision of history it conveys:

The trace insists that the past is passed, yet it endures. Perhaps the Victorians longed for a coeval relationship to the past, most of all because such a relationship would implicitly require a coeval relationship also to the future. (Zimmerman 14)

  • 34 See Lauric Guillaud, Des mines du roi Salomon à la quête du Graal. H.R. Haggard (1856-1925). Michel (...)

31In the same way, finding a trace of a former self while journeying to the past suggests that a future self may also exist, further on in time. In the collective dimension constructed in Haggard’s Egyptological romances, whereby Britain is the heir or the reincarnation of the mighty Egypt of antiquity, the coevalness of past, present and future offers a bright prospect for a declining empire: like the mummies of “Smith and the Pharaohs”, like the ancient Allan, the ancient Leo or the ancient Smith, Britain will be reborn from its ashes so that the end which is feared to be looming is only a temporary passage and the promise of a return. This is also how Lauric Guillaud analyses those anachronistic encounters between different time periods in Haggard’s work, arguing they act as a form of exorcism demonstrating that a civilisation never dies entirely and that the British Empire of the Victorian era may yet live on (see Guillaud34). However, Guillaud notes, the end of Haggard’s romances often reflects the pessimistic view of history characteristic of Haggard’s time: signs of degeneration abound and often lead to the disappearance of the anachronistic society discovered. Thus, Ayesha is turned into a sort of monkey as she steps into the flame of life, her fate evoking Darwin’s “monkey theory” (She 8); King Metesuphis laments the collapse of the great Egyptian civilisation, describing how “yonder, day by day, must my Ka sit watching my desecrated flesh, torn from the pyramid that, with cost and labour, I raised up to be an eternal house” (“Smith” 58). From the point of view of modern characters, the threat of degeneration also appears to be a concern: the narrator of The Mahatma and the Hare (1911) ponders “the workings of destiny” (Hare 18) as he realises that his spirit which “for a little while occupies the body of a fourth-rate auctioneer, and of the editor of a trade journal, dwelt in that of a Pharaoh of Egypt” (Hare 18-19). Similarly, the humble hunter Quatermain discovers in his memory that he was once the king of Egypt. This apparent decline in the fate of the reincarnated characters appears to run counter Blackwood’s conception of history as an upward moving spiral. Haggard’s pessimism echoes the fin-de-siècle anxieties concerning the degeneration of Western civilisations diagnosed by Max Nordau in his Degeneration (1894), the decline of British culture in contact with other cultures deemed less evolved, and even the decline of the British body weakened by imperial experiences abroad and the industrial revolution at home.

  • 35 This phrase is pronounced by the pharaoh Nectanebes in Wisdom’s Daughter (Haggard Wisdom 27).

32Nevertheless, Haggard’s pessimism may be qualified by the continuation of his literary Egyptological palimpsest: the return of Ayesha in the novel by the same name, as well as her immortality, may be read as a renewed hope in the survival of the soul, but also of the body – while rejecting the idea of an inescapable collective and personal decline. Moreover, the discoveries made in the past can also influence the future: for instance, Allan Quatermain’s dream of making Egypt “great again”35 while living as Shabaka may appear as an incentive to do as much for imperial Britain – as the reincarnation of ancient Egypt. The possibility for Egypt to return to its former glory in dreams and visions of the past articulates the hope that the same fate may await an eternal Britain.

A postcolonial Haggard?

33Haggard’s Egyptological romances have been an inspiration for a number of later writers. In Elizabeth Peters’ neo-Victorian detective series presenting the adventures of the Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, the atmosphere of the imperial romance and the lost-race tale is ironically rendered, while the grand imperial quest of Haggard’s protagonists becomes more prosaically an inquest as Amelia Peabody tracks dangerous criminals on all the excavation sites of Egypt. Haggard’s fictional legacy is explicitly mentioned in the sixth novel of the series, The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991), when Amelia’s husband, Radcliffe, mocks her exuberant imagination and blames her passion for Haggard’s romances for it. The plot of the novel itself, inspired by both She and King Solomon’s Mines, is centred around the discovery of an ancient Egyptian community surviving in the year 1897 and the rivalry of two siblings over the crown – both common motifs in Haggard’s fiction. A few iconic episodes of Haggard’s works (such as the unveiling of Ayesha in She) are alluded to in parodic scenes while the whole novel is characterised by an extravagance reminiscent of Haggard’s imagination. This seems to suggest that his representation of Egypt is now mostly remembered for the sense of adventure and mystery he attributed to this ancient civilisation while the Egypt of Haggard’s romances appears as an intricate and layered place accessed by a journey in time as much as in space. While it can first and foremost be read as a Freudian locus within a palimpsestic Victorian mind in search of origin and identity, it is also suggestive of varied interpretations in the context of the imperial romance. Indeed, Egypt is part of an imperialist discourse which associates ancient Egypt to modern Britain, thus asserting a natural right of the British to their historical legacy.

  • 36 For instance, in The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker (1903), the mummy of Queen Tera is never g (...)
  • 37 As opposed to the vengeful discourse of the murderous Pharos, in Guy Boothby’s Pharos the Egyptian (...)

34However, in spite of his imperialist stance, when it comes to Egypt, Haggard had – perhaps unwittingly – a surprisingly nuanced view of imperial exploitation. In The Ancient Allan, although Allan’s description of his Ethiopian companion reflects the paternalistic racism of Haggard’s time and emphasises an ideological continuity between Shabaka and the modern Allan, the reader may also discern an underlying anti-imperialist discourse. Through the character of Shabaka, Haggard glorifies the fight of antique Egyptians to throw off the yoke of a foreign ruler while in Cleopatra, Harmachis is condemned precisely because he fails to do so and eventually yields Egypt to Cleopatra and her Roman allies. Perhaps even more strikingly, Haggard is one of the few authors who chose to give a voice to Egyptian mummies. For the most part, the mummies of mummy fiction are represented as ominously mute presences standing for the colonised population. Only through supernatural happenings and the phenomenon known as the mummy’s curse36 do they get to express their rejection of the appropriation and exploitation of their bodies by Western archaeologists and museums. In “Smith and the Pharaohs”, however, the mummies encountered at night at the Cairo Museum present a very reasonable discourse37 concerning the excavation and display of their bodies by Western archaeologists:

I am the King Metesuphis. The matter that I wish to lay before you is that of the violation of our sepulchres by those men who now live upon the earth. The mortal bodies of many who are gathered here to-night lie in this place to be stared at and mocked by the curious. (“Smith” 58)

35This speech, in which Metesuphis goes on to describe the various ways in which the ancient royal bodies are defiled, mirrors personal opinions that Haggard also repeatedly expressed in his journalistic writings and his autobiography about the treatment of Egyptian mummies:

  • 38 Haggard’s concerns about the appropriation of Egyptian artefacts and their displacement from their (...)

Poor kings! who dreamed not of the glass cases of the Cairo Museum, and the gibes of tourists who find the awful majesty of their withered brows a matter for jest and smiles. Often I wonder how we dare to meddle with these hallowed relics, especially now in my age. Then I did not think so much of it; indeed I have taken a hand at the business myself. (Days vol. 1. 257)38

  • 39 Haggard mentions this episode in a series of articles published in The Pall Mall Magazine from Janu (...)

36This passage is introduced by the dramatic description of modern Egyptian women who “ran along the banks wailing because their ancient kings were being taken from among them [and] cast dust upon their hair, still dressed in a hundred plaits, as was that of those far-off mothers of theirs who had wailed when these Pharaohs were borne with solemn pomp to the homes they called eternal” (Days vol. 1. 257). Haggard was clearly struck by this scene because he described it in various articles.39 In this rare instance, he admits the ancestry that links ancient and modern Egyptians and, adopting the latter’s point of view, laments the imperial appropriation of their historical legacy. His realisation of the wrongs of colonisation – even though it only applies to archaeological exploitation – is shared by Smith who also becomes aware of the desecration he committed after hearing King Metesuphis’ speech and the testimonies of other mummies. However paradoxical this may appear from this outspoken champion of the British Empire, Haggard anticipates postcolonial discourse by giving a voice to the silent oppressed and presenting the Empire with a dark image of its moral corruption. Even though this stance was inspired by the author’s respect for ancient Egyptians rather than empathy and consideration for their contemporary counterparts, Haggard’s Egyptological romances represent a crack in the overwhelmingly triumphant portrayal of Empire of imperial romance.

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Bibliographie

Addy, Shirley. Rider Haggard and Egypt. AL, 1998.

Arata, Stephen. Fictions of Loss in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Blackwood, Algernon. The Wave: An Egyptian Aftermath. 1916. Cabin John, Maryland, Wildside Press, 2012.

Boothby, Guy. Pharos the Egyptian. London, Ward, Lock & Co, 1899.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. Cornell University Press, 1988.

Bulfin, Ailise. “The Fiction of Gothic Egypt and British Imperial Paranoia: The Curse of the Suez Canal”. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 2011, vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 411-443.

Chamberlin, J. Edward and Sander L. Gilman, editors. Degeneration: The Dark Side of Progress. Columbia University Press, 1985.

Deane, Bradley. “Mummy Fiction and the Occupation of Egypt: Imperial Striptease”. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, vol. 51, no. 4, 2008, pp. 381-410.

De Quincey, Thomas. Suspiria de Profundis: Being a Sequel to the Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. 1845. London, MacDonald, 1956.

Etherington, Norman A. “Rider Haggard, Imperialism, and the Layered Personality”. Victorian Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, 1978, pp. 71-87.

Fleischhack, Maria. “Possession, Trance, and Reincarnation: Confrontations with Ancient Egypt in Edwardian Fiction”. Victoriographies: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Writing, 1790-1914, vol. 7, no. 3, 2017, pp. 257-270.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. New York, Norton, 1962.

Freud, Sigmund. “Constructions in Analysis”. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXII. London, The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1964.

Freud, Sigmund. Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva. Fairford UK, The Echo Library, 2014.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, Basic Books, 2010.

Guillaud, Lauric. Des mines du roi Salomon à la quête du Graal. H.R. Haggard (1856-1925). Paris, Michel Houdiard, 2014.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Dawn. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1884.

Haggard, Henry Rider. She. London, Longman, 1887.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Cleopatra. London, Longman, 1889.

Haggard, Henry Rider, Lang, Andrew. The World’s Desire. London, Longman, 1890.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Ayesha: The Return of She. London, Ward Lock & Co., 1905.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Way of the Spirit. London, Hutchinson, 1906.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Mahatma and the Hare. London, Longman, 1911.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Wanderer’s Necklace. London, Cassell, 1914.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Ivory Child. London, Cassell, 1916.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Moon of Israel: A Tale of the Exodus. London, John Murray, 1918.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Ancient Allan. London, Cassell and Company, 1920.

Haggard, Henry Rider. “Smith and the Pharaohs”. In Smith and the Pharaohs and Other Stories. Bristol, J.W. Arrowsmith, 1920.

Haggard, Henry Rider. She and Allan. London, Hutchinson, 1921.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Wisdom’s Daughter. London, Hutchinson, 1923.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Queen of the Dawn. London, Hutchinson, 1925.

Haggard, Henry Rider. The Days of my Life. Vol. 1 & 2. London, Longmans, 1926.

Haggard, Henry Rider. Belshazzar. London, Stanley Paul, 1930.

Magus, Simon. “A Victorian Gentleman in the Pharaoh’s Court: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology in the Romances of H. Rider Haggard”. Open Cultural Studies, vol. 1, 2017, pp. 483-492.

Malley, Shawn. Nineteenth-Century Archaeology and the Retrieval of the Past: Carlyle, Scott, Bulwer-Lytton, Pater, and Haggard. Doctoral thesis, University of British Columbia, 1996.

Malley, Shawn. “‘Time Hath No Power Against Identity’: Historical Continuity and Archaeological Adventure in H. Rider Haggard’s She”. In English Literature in Transition, vol. 40, no. 3, 1997, pp. 275-297.

McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York, Routledge, 1995.

Peters, Elizabeth. The Last Camel Died at Noon. London, Constable, 1991.

Stoker, Bram. The Jewel of Seven Stars. 1903 (1912). London, Penguin Classics, 2008.

Zimmerman, Virginia. Excavating Victorians. State University of New York Press, 2008.

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Notes

1 The British Egyptologist Howard Carter (1874-1939) is mostly remembered for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Sir Wallis Budge (1857-1934) played a major part in the constitution and promotion of the British Museum’s Egyptological collections as Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities between 1894 and 1924. Gaston Maspero (1846-1916) is, along Auguste Mariette, one of the major figures of French Egyptology and was the Director General of the Excavations and Antiquities of Egypt when Haggard visited the country for the second time in 1904.

2 As opposed to antique Greece or antique Rome, ancient Egypt appeared as further removed from contemporary European culture. The late deciphering of hieroglyphs in 1822, the gigantic character of ancient Egyptian monuments and what appeared as odd funerary practices all contributed to constructing Egypt in popular culture as a place of magic and mystery.

3 See “A Victorian Gentleman in the Pharaoh’s Court: Christian Egyptosophy and Victorian Egyptology in the Romances of H. Rider Haggard” where Simon Magus analyses the links Haggard draws in his fiction between ancient Egyptian religion and Christian beliefs, underlining the similarities rather than the differences between the two theological systems. In novels such as Moon of Israel (1918), Egypt also serves as a background for the rewriting of biblical tales.

4 In Rider Haggard and Egypt, Shirley Addy provides a list of all the texts that have to do with Egypt in Haggard’s work.

5 This access to the past can take different forms. For instance, in Cleopatra, the tale of Harmachis discovered on a papyrus gives actuality to ancient Egypt which soon eclipses the present of the archaeologist, which is never returned to in the narration. In The Ancient Allan, the framing narrative is constructed around the time spent together by Allan Quatermain and Lady Ragnall before they plunge into a prolonged dream or hallucination that takes them to their common Egyptian past. In the novella “Smith and the Pharaohs”, ancient Egypt emerges into the present of the eponymous character when mummies come back to life during a night spent at the Cairo Museum.

6 See in particular the work of Ailise Bulfin, “The Fiction of Gothic Egypt and British Imperial Paranoia: The Curse of the Suez Canal”, English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 2011, vol. 54, no. 4 and the article by Bradley Deane, “Mummy Fiction and the Occupation of Egypt: Imperial Striptease”, English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, Greensboro, 2008, vol. 51, no. 4. Both analyse the political context in which mummy fiction emerged as a genre to narrativise the imperial anxieties that were raised by the Egyptian question.

7 See Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914. Cornell University Press, 1988.

8 Haggard’s use of the Egyptological knowledge of his time is quite paradoxical: while he makes a point of representing characters and situations as accurately as possible, as is underlined in the author’s note that introduces Morning Star, he does not hesitate to introduce magical twists in the plot of his romances and anachronistic elements of Christian theology in his representation of ancient Egyptian beliefs.

9 In She also, the journey starts in Britain although the protagonists do not reach ancient Egypt but a little pocket of antiquity preserved in Eastern Africa.

10 This also echoes Darwin’s theory of evolution, exposed in On the Origins of Species (1859), which was used to suggest that different parts of the world had reached different stages of advancement in the evolutionary process. In Imperial Leather, Anne McClintock uses the example of the evolutionary family Tree of Man to demonstrate that several moments of the evolutionary spectrum were believed to be coexisting throughout the world. African populations were invariably placed at the bottom of the tree while Aryans were always to be found at the top.

11 Haggard himself cared little for modern Egypt which, on his last visit to the country in 1924, he found “degraded with tourists, harlots and brass bands” (Haggard’s diary, quoted in Addy, 34).

12 I have borrowed this phrase from the title of the book edited by J. Edward Chamberlin and Sander L. Gilman, Degeneration, The Dark Side of Progress (1985).

13 Nectanebes is described in an editor’s note as “Nekht-nebf, or Nectanebo II., the last native Pharaoh of Egypt, [who] fled from Ochus to Ethiopia, B.C. 339” (She 30).

14 Similarly, in King Solomon’s Mines, the quest of Quatermain and his companions follows the path of the Portuguese traveller whose body they find at the top of Sheba’s Breasts.

15 This is reminiscent of the dream-like experience related by Haggard in his autobiography where he recounts a series of vignettes – one of which includes an Egyptian scene and persona – of what he assumes to be past lives of his. The description he provides of his Egyptian persona also echoes strongly the portrait Allan Quatermain gives of Shabaka, his Egyptian incarnation when he first sees him(self) in the drug-induced dream he experiences in The Ancient Allan.

16 Allan 61.

17 See Sigmund Freud, “Constructions in Analysis”, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXII. The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1964.

18 “Let us make the fantastic supposition that Rome were not a human dwelling-place, but a mental entity with just as long and varied a past history: that is, in which nothing once constructed had perished, and all the earlier stages of development had survived alongside the latest” (Civilization and its Discontents 17).

19 See Norman A. Etherington, “Rider Haggard, Imperialism, and the Layered Personality”, Victorian Studies, Vol. 22, no. 1, 1978, pp. 71-87.

20 “Not a second ago I had been in a shrine with Amada dressed as Lady Ragnall was to-night, in circumstances so intimate that it made me blush to think of them. Lady Ragnall! Amada! – Amada! Lady Ragnall! A shrine! A boudoir! Oh! I must be going mad!” (Allan 306).

21 A very similar scene can be found in The Ancient Allan when Quatermain emerges from his hallucination:

“One moment she paused, swaying in the wind of passion, like a tall reed on the banks of Nile, and then, ah! then she sank upon my breast and pressed her lips against my own.
AND AFTER
For a few moments I, Shabaka, seemed to be lost in a kind of delirium and surrounded by a rose-hued mist. Then I, Allan Quatermain, heard a sharp quick sound as of a clock striking, and looked up.” (Allan 305)

22 In The Way of the Spirit (1906), Rupert Ullershaw, rejected by his wife, condemned by British society and physically destroyed after undergoing mutilation at the hands of a cruel Egyptian sheikh, finds shelter in an Egyptian community directly descended from the ancient inhabitants of the land. The simple and traditional life he shares with their leader, Lady Tama, the heir of the royal families of antiquity, allows Rupert to recover from the traumas of his youth.

23 The fact of resorting to an archaeological plot to bring to light an unconscious feeling is reminiscent of Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva, which Freud analysed in Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva considering how archaeology in Jensen’s text can be read as a metaphor of psychoanalytical processes. A similar analysis of Haggard’s Egyptological romances, and The Ancient Allan in particular, could prove extremely fruitful. In her article “Possession, Trance and Reincarnation: Confrontations with Ancient Egypt in Edwardian Fiction”, for example, Maria Fleischhack develops an oedipal interpretation of “Smith and the Pharaohs”, suggesting that “Egypt functions as the mother of humanity, the origin of life, and something to be discovered, protected, and possessed” (Fleischhack 265).

24 In Ayesha, The Return of She (1905), the motif of reincarnation is taken to extremes since most of the main characters, including Horace Holly, find out that they are the reincarnations of one of the protagonists of the drama that played out in ancient Egypt between Ayesha and Kallikrates.

25 Haggard’s (dis)belief in reincarnation is also a theme that regularly returns in his autobiography, The Days of my Life.

26 One should perhaps say the origin of civilised life: indeed, in The Ancient Allan, Quatermain has a glimpse of an even further incarnation that he sees fighting with a mammoth in prehistoric times.

27 This circularity can also be found at work in Haggard’s whole work: thus, some events described in The Ivory Child and experienced by the modern Quatermain and Lady Ragnall are mentioned and relived (or “pre‑lived”) in The Ancient Allan by their Egyptian incarnations. The same intertextual phenomenon also appears in She, Ayesha: The Return of She and Wisdom’s Daughter (1923). The encounter between Ayesha and Quatermain in She and Allan (1921) completes the literary palimpsest which shapes the layered personality of the protagonists.

28 Haggard “Smith” 8.

29 In the case of Cleopatra, Harmachis’s failure to regain his throne determines the tragic fate of the narrator.

30 This can also happen through the revelation of a hidden identity, as in Morning Star when the queen unveils and discards her disguise as a merchant.

31 In an article published in the Windsor Magazine in January 1910, Haggard imagines a romance of the ancient Nile. His description of the Egyptians of antiquity explicitly establishes a genealogy that links ancient Egypt to modern Britain: “fair-haired men, strange to say, of whom we may meet the like in the streets of modern London” (quoted in Addy, 68).

32 Interestingly, in an article published in The Times in October 1912, “An Egyptian Date Farm – The Financial Aspect”, Haggard recommended the development of the cultivation of dates in Egypt as an immensely lucrative imperial enterprise. This seems to demonstrate that Rupert Ullershaw’s experience with the ancient Egyptian community of Tama is of a clearly imperial nature.

33 In Rule of Darkness, Patrick Brantlinger underlines the paradoxical movement whereby “impelled by scientific materialism, the search for new sources of faith led many late Victorians to telepathy, séances and psychic research” (Brantlinger 228). He identifies the publication of Helena Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled (1877) as the origin of this occult trend which characterised the late-Victorian period. Some of the ideas which can be found in Haggard’s Egyptological fiction – such as the belief in reincarnation or the notion of the “astral body” reminiscent of the Egyptian Ka – stem from this rich culture concerned with the occult and particularly from the teachings of theosophy. In his autobiography, however, Haggard appears quite dismissive of such beliefs: “of all such matters and dogmas, if so they may be called, including that of theosophy which its interesting and gigantic dreams reported to emanate from the teaching of ‘Masters’ whose address it seems impossible to discover, it may be said that, like that of reincarnation, they are superfluous” (Haggard Days, vol. 2, 250-51).

34 See Lauric Guillaud, Des mines du roi Salomon à la quête du Graal. H.R. Haggard (1856-1925). Michel Houdiard, 2014.

35 This phrase is pronounced by the pharaoh Nectanebes in Wisdom’s Daughter (Haggard Wisdom 27).

36 For instance, in The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker (1903), the mummy of Queen Tera is never given a voice and is never even described as “awake”. Only her nocturnal activities and her assaults upon the archaeologist who owns her body indicate the mummy’s resistance to imperial and scientific British rule. Her reincarnated modern self – in the person of Margaret, the archaeologist’s daughter – also allows the Egyptian queen to act and to voice her desires.

37 As opposed to the vengeful discourse of the murderous Pharos, in Guy Boothby’s Pharos the Egyptian (1899), who conveys the same accusation as he rejoices over the death of thousands of Europeans that he has himself brought about by introducing the plague on the continent.

38 Haggard’s concerns about the appropriation of Egyptian artefacts and their displacement from their land of origin bring to mind the contemporary debates regarding the restitution of artefacts plundered during the colonial era. He argued that nothing was gained by the exhibition of mummies in Western museums and that they may be replaced by wax copies without any consequence for the public. His “plea for restoration” (article published in the Daily Mail, 22 July 1904, quoted in Addy, 51), although it only concerns the bodies of ancient Egyptians, anticipates the questions raised today by decolonial scholars.

39 Haggard mentions this episode in a series of articles published in The Pall Mall Magazine from January to June 1906, entitled “Thebes of the Hundred Gates”. It is also described in an article dealing with “The Trade in the Dead” published in the Daily Mail in July 1904.

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Référence électronique

Nolwenn CORRIOU, « Excavating the Modern Self: Haggard’s Egyptological Romances », E-rea [En ligne], 18.1 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/10182 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.10182

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Nolwenn CORRIOU

Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
nolwenn.corriou@univ-paris1.fr
Nolwenn Corriou is a teaching fellow (professeure agrégée) at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research explores the archaeological motif at the turn of the twentieth century and the representations of the mummy in the imperial context, as well as their psychoanalytical implications.

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