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2. Another Vision of Empire. Henry Rider Haggard’s Modernity and Legacy
II/ Haggard & the Imperial Dream or the end of an era

New perspectives on H.R. Haggard: from South Africa to the Imperial Dream

Patricia CROUAN-VÉRON

Résumés

H.R. Haggard a dédicacé Nada the Lily (1912), le premier roman d’aventures de sa trilogie zouloue à Theophilus Shepstone. Il considérait ce dernier comme son mentor, l’ayant rencontré en Afrique du Sud à l’âge de dix-neuf ans alors qu’il était au service de Sir Henry Bulwer-Lytton en tant qu’aide-de-camp. Avec eux et accompagné de Mazooku et d’autres autochtones, ils ont voyagé à travers le Natal traversant des paysages magnifiques mais voyageant dans des conditions difficiles. Comme l’a dit Haggard, « Ce n’était pas un endroit pour un touriste de l’agence Cook ! » (Haggard Diary 209). Ce premier séjour de Haggard au Natal a duré sept ans et cette expérience a joué un rôle déterminant dans sa vie et dans la rédaction de ses romans d’aventures. Se pencher sur la fiction de Haggard en adoptant une perspective sud-africaine nous amène à nous interroger sur sa vision de l’impérialisme. Dans quelle mesure son expérience sud-africaine a-t-elle façonné sa vision de l’empire et qu’est-ce qui a conduit Haggard à écrire des romans d’aventures coloniales ? Comment a-t-il concilié l’apparente contradiction entre sa posture d’« homme d’action » et d’ « homme de lettres » ? Pourquoi la question de la terre est-elle si prédominante dans cette vision ? Voici quelques questions auxquelles nous tenterons de répondre afin de montrer que la complexité de Haggard fait partie de sa modernité et qu’elle est probablement la clé de sa popularité.

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  • 2 My English translation from French: “Je suis de ceux qui pensent que les conditions narratives prés (...)

“I am among those who think that the conditions of narrative preside over all acts of comprehension, not only on the historical level but on the level of perception too […].” (Eco np)2

  • 3 Sir Henry Ernest Bulwer (1836-1914) had recently been appointed lieutenant-governor of Natal. He wa (...)
  • 4 Sir Theophilus Shepstone (1817-1893) was Secretary of Native Affairs in Natal from 1856 to 1876.
  • 5 Sompseu means “father of the nation” (Haggard Diary 8).
  • 6 Haggard was going to come back again as a commissioner for the British Empire for a short time in 1 (...)
  • 7 For details about Haggard’s impressions of this period see Coan, “When I was concerned with great m (...)
  • 8 Fred B. Finney (1840-1888) worked as an administrator and border agent and as an interpreter. He ac (...)

1H. Rider Haggard wrote his first African romance King Solomon’s Mines in 1885, one year after the Berlin Conference formalised the Scramble for Africa and legitimated the major European powers and the United States in the acceleration of the politics of colonial expansion they had been following for centuries. Britain obviously wanted to get her share in the process and as Lord Rosebery, British foreign secretary, declared in 1893, “we have to consider that countries must be developed by ourselves or some other nation” (Bongie, Exotic Memories 18, quoted by Libby 3). Hence, when Haggard arrived in Durban at the age of 19 in 1875 to work as an aide-de-camp for the lieutenant-governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer3, he experienced this period of growing interest for African territories. He even took part in the process of territorial appropriation as he happened to be the one to raise the British flag for the annexation of the Transvaal in May 1877. With Bulwer he travelled through Natal and took every possible opportunity to enjoy wild life, hunting and riding. He attended many Zulu ceremonies. Among them, in May 1876, he was particularly impressed by a Zulu war dance. He eventually published an article entitled “A Zulu war dance” in The Gentleman’s Magazine in July 1877. Then, he decided to work for Theophilus Shepstone4 who had moved from England to The Cape at the age of three and had already spent forty years there. He was very influential, spoke several tribal languages and was considered as “an old Africa hand” (Pocock 18). Haggard regarded him as his mentor and described him as “the most interesting man of all whom I came into contact in Natal ... who afterwards became my beloved chief and friend … notwithstanding the wide difference of years ... I refer to Sir Theophilus Shepstone, or Sompseu5 (sic) as he was called by all the natives throughout South Africa” (Haggard The Days vol. 1 68, quoted by Coan When I was 24 n. 52) and he dedicated Nada the Lily (1892) to him. The dedication opens up with these words “Sompseu: For I will call you by the name that for fifty years has been honoured by every tribe between Zambesi and Cape Agulbas - I greet you!”6. Thanks to his position as Shepstone’s attaché, Haggard met many important people and learnt a great deal from them7. He mainly travelled with Fred B. Finney8 and Melmoth Osborn, two great specialists of Zulu culture. In his autobiography Haggard remembers this expedition in these terms:

Those camps were very pleasant, and in them, as we smoked and drank our “square-face” after the day’s trek. I heard many a story from Sir Theophilus Shepstone himself, from Osborn and from Finney who next to him, perhaps knew as much of the Zulus and their history as any living in Natal”. (Haggard The Days vol.1, 76 quoted by Haggard Diary 7)

2He spent seven years in South Africa and this experience “was the making of him” (Stiebel Lives ix). In Diary of an African Journey (2001) when going back to South Africa in 1912 he writes:

Also my subsequent career has interested those among whom I spent the first years of my manhood, when I was concerned with great men and great events. […] It is a fair land of which the charm still holds my heart and whose problems interest me more than ever […] My name will perhaps always be connected with Africa if it remains a white man’s “house” and even if it does not-perhaps. It is impossible for me to avoid contrasting the feelings with which I leave it now that I have grown old, with those with which I bade goodbye to its shores in 1881 when I was young. (Haggard Diary 241)

3The primary concern of this paper is precisely the role that South Africa played in Haggard’s life. Since Stephen Coan published Diary of An African Journey in 2001, Lindy Stiebel and Gerald Monsman have focused on the importance of Africa in Haggard’s fiction. In his introduction, Coan contextualised Haggard’s action and writing, considering his love for South Africa and providing many precious details on Haggard’s connections with important people. Stiebel argued that landscape had a central place in Haggard’s writing (Stiebel Imagining) and Monsman studied the narrative pattern of African romances in relation to “the author’s intentions and to the cultural issue surrounding his stories and their reception” (Monsman 1). In this paper, we will try to articulate Haggard’s experience of South Africa with his vision of imperialism. In other words, we will endeavour to understand what made him a “very special kind of imperialist”. To tackle this issue this article aims at discovering what the intimate connection between this country and Haggard reveals. To what extent did his personal experience of South Africa model his vision of the Empire and how did he come to write imperial romances? How did he reconcile the apparent contradictions of being a “man of action” and a “man of letters? These are the questions we will try to answer to show that Haggard’s complexity is part of his modernity and is also probably the key to his legacy.

4This paper will consider Haggard’s personal experience and special link to South Africa, before focusing on the pivotal role of land regarding Haggard’s vision of the Empire in general and of Zulu people in particular. We will conclude on the anthropological dimension of his African romances to get a better understanding of his personal vision.

1. Haggard and South Africa: a love story

5Much has been written about Haggard’s imperialism and many critics have even studied his fiction from that sole angle. Wendy Katz’s Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire (1987), Tom Pocock’s Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire (1988), Victoria Manthorpe’s Children of the Empire: the Victorian Haggards (1996) are among the main critical works published on Haggard on this subject. But these works were all released before Stephen Coan published Haggard’s Diary of an African Journey in 2001, and we will see that this diary sheds a new light on Haggard’s position regarding imperialism.

  • 9 “His superior was the High School judge of Pretoria, John Kotze. He was only 27 while Haggard was 2 (...)

6We have mentioned that Haggard was born in a period of intense colonial expansion and his father had in mind that he should make a career in the Foreign Office. Haggard was sent to London to Scoones to prepare the examination for the Foreign Office (Haggard The Days chap 1 np). But after eighteen months his father changed his mind and sent his eighth son to South Africa. Haggard had no other choice than to start from scratch as he oversaw the catering arrangements, an unpaid post. However, he did quite well and on 1 June 1877 he was appointed Clerk to the Executive Council9 and he even became the youngest Master and Registrar of the High Court after his predecessor accidentally died.

  • 10 You can still visit the place. It has been turned into “Haggards Hilldrop B&B”. A representation of (...)
  • 11 He was knighted in 1912. In February 1917, he was elected vice-president of the Royal Colonial Inst (...)

7The road could have been paved for Haggard and he could have made a career in the Colonial Office like most members of his family. Indeed, his mother had lived in India as his father was a civil servant there and his brothers made careers in the Army, the Royal Navy, the Diplomatic Corps, the Indian Civil Service, and the Colonial Service (Manthorpe 19). Instead, he decided to resign from the colonial service and started raising ostriches in a place called Hilldrop near Newcastle (today in KwaZuluNatal)10. For most observers, his personal role in the annexation of Transvaal, combined with the fact that he was knighted for his service for the Empire11, were probably significant enough elements to associate his name with Imperialism. But a closer look at the different reports and articles he wrote after each mission and a focus on his fiction from the South African angle shows that Haggard was an “imperialist of a different kind”.

  • 12 Before writing Cetywayo, Haggard had become a freelance journalist, sending articles about Africa t (...)

8His first experience of South Africa urged him to write Cetywayo and his White Neighbours or Remarks on Recent Events in Zululand, Natal and the Transvaal (1882), which can be considered as the first clear indication of the impact of this first African stay (see Marie-Claude Barbier’s article in this volume). This essay marked the beginning of his fame as a specialist in South African issues12. His brother, Captain Andrew Haggard published an article entitled “Mr Rider Haggard in South Africa”, replying to some criticism on his brother’s authority on South African affairs. He wrote: “ May I first inform your critic who writes in no unfriendly manner, that it was not at all necessary for my brother to “ consult books” for the materials of any romance the scene of which was laid in South Africa. Young as he is still, no man knows more of South Africa, its geography and politics than Rider Haggard” (Haggard Andrew 13).

  • 13 Haggard received letters of praise from Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies and Ran (...)
  • 14 Regarding his readership, he mentions in the preface to Nada the Lily (1892): “The author’s aim, mo (...)
  • 15 “About Fiction” was published in the Contemporary Review in 1887, the same year as the article “Rea (...)
  • 16 “[Shepstone’s] after-dinner anecdotes of frontier life on the Cape border and his numerous other na (...)
  • 17 R.D. Mullen, Science Fiction Studies, vol. 5, Part 3, Nov. 1978.

9However, the essay’s reception was quite positive13 and it was reissued in 1899 before the Second Anglo-Boer war (Oct. 1899 -May 1902). But either because he wanted to enlarge his readership14 or because he was so enthralled by the South African landscapes and peoples he met, he decided to use a fictional form, imperial romance to convey a more personal message regarding imperialism. In an essay entitled “About Fiction”15, he declared himself a strong supporter of this genre and considered romance as being “like the passions, an innate quality of mankind” (Haggard About Fiction 172). Thus, he romanticized historical facts and “recycled” the numerous notes he had taken while listening to anecdotes from the people he met16 or from local people. For example, during his first stay in Natal he met Mazooku who became his servant and saved his life once, when Haggard was lost in the veldt at night during an expedition with Sir Bulwer (Coan 13). Mazooku appears under his own name in The Witch’s Head (1885). He remained faithful to Haggard and met him each time Haggard went back to South Africa. He gave Haggard his knobkerrie and Haggard always used it as a walking stick. Shepstone’s servant, Mhlophekazi, was the fictional Umslopogaas with his axe who appeared in Allan Quatermain (and Allan Quatermain’s stories) as well as in Nada the Lily. In The Witch's Head, Ernest Kershaw (Haggard’s alter ego) is accompanied by Mr Alston who is a fictionalised version of Melmoth Osborn. There are many similar examples of his fictional representations of local characters in his African romances17 and Manthorpe goes as far as to say that Haggard created the genre “faction” in which fictitious and factual characters mingle in historical stories (Manthorpe 22).

  • 18 This type of story describing the encounter between “civilised people” and “savage people” in a dis (...)

10All these elements helped him to create most of his adventure stories. He wrote his first romance, King Solomon’s Mines only two years after he went back to England in 1881. It was an immediate success and was followed by She (1886) and Allan Quatermain (1887). He became a sort of master of lost-race tales18 and he was a pioneer in the sense that he was the first British writer to write a Zulu trilogy – Marie (1912), Child of Storm (1913) and Finished (1917) –, a story mainly focused on African characters with Zikali, the witch-doctor as a central figure.

2. Conventions and contradictions: Haggard’s ambiguity

  • 19 See the map in King Solomon’s Mines, the sherd of Amenartas in She, etc.
  • 20 See character of the warrior Umslopogaas in the cycle of Allan Quatermain, for example.
  • 21 These magazines were also known as “penny dreadfuls” or “blood and thunders”. Baden Powell, the fou (...)

11There is no denying that Haggard resorted to the conventions of this genre (verisimilitude – use of fictional artefacts such as maps or pot sherd19 – circular structure of the initiatory quest – departure/travel/return to departure place – stories of rivalry, binary oppositions between good and evil, civilised and savage peoples, masculine and feminine, usual trope of the “savages”’ credulity, romantic stereotype of the Noble Savage20). As Brantlinger puts it “Haggard created Zulu characters who are more complex and interesting than mere killing machines” and “with his African romances [he] produced a mythological history of that ‘nation’ [the Zulu nation] or ‘kingdom’” (Brantlinger 92). As a romancer, he is certainly different from G.A. Henty or F.B. Brereton who also wrote late Victorian imperial romances set in South Africa. However, because they were published in the same boys’ magazines (Boy’s Own Magazine, Boys of England, Boys of the Empire, for example21) they were easily assimilated to propaganda for the British Empire (see Brantlinger; Chrisman Imperial; Dixon; Mackenzie).

  • 22 Brantlinger, Chap 4: Humanitarian Causes: Anti-slavery and Saving Aboriginals.
  • 23 See Stiebel, Imagining Africa and the works of the feminist critics – Gilbert, Gubar, Low – about t (...)

12Haggard’s fiction reflected the imperialist discourse and echoed the various scientific theories of his time (they were obviously characterised by race-minded and misogynist attitudes as well as Eurocentrism), as his stories dealt with the adventures of white colonizers encountering primitive peoples in distant countries (see Brantlinger chap. 422). But they are “products of their time”. In other words, South Africa provided Haggard with the ideal frame to express his own voice. He did not do it in a straightforward manner; he invented different characters and imagined spectacular landscapes23 to convey his own doubts and questions regarding the imperial project. He introduced his readers to his favourite subjects: adventure, love, eternal life, the importance of nature and land, immortality, etc. In her article, “Hidden Meaning: Andrew Lang, H. Rider Haggard, Sigmund Freud, and Interpretation”, Katty Psomiades demonstrates that Haggard’s adventure stories are much more than mere adventure stories written to entertain young boys. For example, she shows that “[Haggard’s She ] can be read as a kind of microcosm of late-nineteenth century ideologies of race, gender and empire, its fantastic strangeness ultimately allied to the strangeness of the imperial project itself” (Psomiades np). She adds:

Not only is She full of content that echoes Lang, Tylor, and Müller’s anthropological writing, but it also repeatedly, if jokingly announces itself as caught up precisely in the concerns of that writing – knowledge, time, truth, fiction. The larger subject-matter of She [being] knowledge, immortality, the problem of the soul, reincarnation, religious belief …. (Psomiades np)

13One can agree with Psomiades in quoting Lang, Tylor and Müller. In this regard, one of the best examples of Haggard’s duality (Stiebel calls him “Haggard the public imperialist and the private doubter” (Stiebel Imagining 68)) is probably the end of Allan Quatermain when the white adventurer Sir Henry Curtis delivers an anti-imperialist speech pleading for the “total exclusion of all foreigners from Zu-Vendis”. He says:

I have no fancy for handling over this beautiful country to be torn and fought for by speculators, tourists, politicians and teachers, whose voice is as the voice of Babel, just as those horrible creatures in the valley of the underground river tore and fought for the body of the wild swan; nor will I endow it with the greed, drunkenness, new diseases, gunpowder, and general demoralisation which chiefly mark the progress of civilisation among unsophisticated peoples. (Haggard Allan 281-282)

14King Solomon’s Mines’s ending is quite similar as the adventurers leave Kukuanaland after Umbopa/Ignosi is restored to the throne. Thus, the natural order is – apparently – not disturbed: the white man “goes back home”.

15To conclude on this aspect, it must be said that the contradictions are also relevant to the genre itself. Hence, Dixon remarks:

As in the representations of Zulus discussed by Gail Ching-Liang Low, the white man cannot lose. Because of the military prowess of the black man, the white man’s heroism is increased whether he lives or dies: to be defeated by such men is to be their equals; to defeat them in battle is to be their superiors. (Dixon 69-70)

16Haggard’s imperial involvement should rather be qualified as his “appetite for public service”, to borrow Coan’s words (Haggard Diary 21). Indeed, Haggard should be described as a patriot more than an imperialist in the sense that “he believed that in British law and British administrative skill lay the seeds of a better world” (Manthorpe 23). Such a belief not only makes him a supporter of the Empire, but it also shows that he was an idealist regarding the coexistence between peoples.

  • 24 He has it noted by Kipling between brackets.

17In a long letter Haggard dictated to his friend Kipling two months before his death he declared: “I have done my best to serve my country to the full extent of my small opportunities which generally, I have had to make” (33). Being a reformer at heart, his role as a civil servant was not as successful as he would have liked. Haggard very often expressed this feeling while talking to some close friends. In this letter, he exclaims: “Lord! How officials hate the outsider with ideas”24. Coan gives another precise example of this reserved success regarding Haggard’s report to the Royal Colonial Institute, The After-war settlement and the Employment of Ex-servicemen (1916). It was indeed largely ignored although it was a very topical issue (33). It seems that Haggard’s only choice was to resort to fiction to reconcile those things which could not coexist and to make them coexist thanks to his imagination.

3. “My empire is that of imagination”25: land as the key to Haggard’s vision

  • 25 Quote from She (1886), p.175.

18Haggard’s love of South Africa is most probably connected to his love of land and nature. He inherited from his father, William Meybohm Haggard some “‘dynastic senses’: to leave a son and lands for him to inherit, to perpetuate his name, these were strong prepossessions with him” (Lilias Haggard 6 n.17 quoted by McClintock 234). In his autography published posthumously in 1925, Haggard wrote “My father was a typical squire of the old sort […]. He reigned at Bradenham like a king […]” (Haggard The Days vol.1 chap. 1 np) and he added “[…] my father, who had the passion of his generation for land, insisted upon investing most of her [Haggard’s mother’s] fortune in that security” (vol.1 chap.2 np). Indeed, William did not only communicate this attachment to the land to his son, Rider, he influenced all his sons. McClintock points out that:

Within the Haggard family the careers of the seven sons illustrate as many shades of response to the Empire – from enthusiasm to ruinous revolt. Given the choice, most of them would have lived and died in Norfolk, to be buried in the soil which had bred them”. (McClintock 234)

  • 26 He stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate for a Norfolk constituency in the general elect (...)

19Haggard, for his part, was convinced that “imperialism should be in the hands of the landed gentry” (McClintock 247). His interest in agricultural matters even led him to stand as M.P for local elections, his motto being “Prosperity on the plough”26! But Haggard did not really get involved in politics.

  • 27 The 2 volumes of Rural England were reissued in 2011 by Cambridge University Press,

20Haggard started publishing A Farmer’s Year, a day by day account of the year 1899 (Haggard Diary 18) the same year. Then, he published Rural England (1902). This project took him two years. He visited 26 counties accompanied by his friend A. Cochrane. Both interviewed “different authorities in rural life to enquire about the state of English agriculture and the reasons and remedies for the rural depopulation that appeared to be threatening its future”. As historian Mark Freeman puts it: “Rural England27 has become a standard source for historians in rural Life” (Freeman 209).

  • 28 See notes of Mr R. Haggard’s interview with General Booth, Nov. 7, 1901, (Haggard, Rural England, 4 (...)
  • 29 About Haggard’s friendship with Roosevelt. (see also Stiebel Lives 201-203).
  • 30 J. L. Dube (1871-1946). This South African Christian minister is now known as the first president o (...)
  • 31 The Natives Land Act of 1913 defined less than one-tenth of South Africa as black “reserves” and pr (...)

21Another important element showing his involvement in agricultural and social matters is his collaboration with Charles Booth, an English Methodist preacher who founded the Salvation Army with his wife and became its first general. The interview Haggard had with General Booth on November 7, 1901 is reproduced in Rural England and it clearly shows that the two men agreed on the danger of industrialization and the primacy of land28. Their collaboration led Haggard to visit the United States in 1905 with the aim of adapting the system of the Salvation Army’s ‘Labour colonies’ to the British colonies. In the USA, Haggard met Theodore Roosevelt in the White House. The American president had read Rural England and shared Haggard’s views on agriculture29. He also met James Wilson, the Secretary for Agriculture to discuss the same subject (Haggard Diary 20). Afterwards, Haggard published The Poor and the Land: Report on the Salvation Army Colonies in the United States and at Hadleigh, England, with Scheme of National Land Settlement in 1905. Thus, it is not surprising that when Haggard visited Natal in 1914, he felt the need to meet John Langalibalele Dube30 to discuss the native and land issue because there was a strong opposition to The Natives Land Act of 191331. This interview is widely reported in his diary (chap. 8) and it really sheds a new light on Haggard’s love for Zulu people. We know Haggard had always been impressed by their culture and their beliefs (we will give precise examples in the next part to illustrate this point) but, this time, he finally decided to advocate their cause to the British government and he sent a letter to Lord Lewis Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, relating his observations during his visit to Rhodesia and Zululand. He notably stressed the paucity of cattle “[which had] resulted in considerable infant mortality, as for some years there [had] been and still [was] but little milk for the native children” (292). He goes on to explain that:

[…] since first I knew the Zulus in 1875 about two-thirds of their territory as it was at that time, including many of the best lands, have on occasion and another, and one pretext and another, by force, by so-called treaty, and by fraud, passed from them into the hands of white men. Boers and English together. In addition, those of them who wish or are forced to live on farms held by white men, developed or underdeveloped, are in future, under the Natives Land Act of 1913 liable to be allowed to do so only on condition that they labour for their owner […]. (Haggard Diary 292)

22Here, we can see that he uses his position as what we could call a “specialist regarding African questions” and “specialist on agricultural matters” (not only is he an informed observer but he can also measure the evolution of the situation over the last thirty-seven years) to strongly denounce British policy regarding the native and land question in South Africa (Crouan-Véron We Black people). Dealing with Haggard’s admiration of the Zulus, Stiebel declares: “Haggard’s admiration for the Zulus and love of African land are all of a piece for he saw the former in terms of the latter” (Stiebel Imagining 23). Reading Diary of an African Journey from this angle is quite fruitful as we understand that Haggard’s sympathy for Zulu people mainly comes from their similar “bond” to the land. In The African Experience, Vincent B. Kapoya writes:

It is not easy for those who know only the industrialized countries of the Western world to realize the significance of the position occupied by the land in the eyes of most of the peoples of Africa. Anthropologists have described the mystic bond which unites the African to the home of those ancestral spirits who continue, as he believes, to play an active part in his daily life. Jurists point out that the tribal Chief derives his authority largely from the fact that he is in war the traditional defender of the lands of the tribe and in peace the arbiter of the differences which arise regarding their use. (Kapoya 125)

23Haggard does not find it difficult to understand the importance of the primacy of the land for African peoples because he, himself, is convinced that living on a farm is a much more pleasant situation than living in an overcrowded city. However, what is more unusual and not often taken into account when considering Haggard’s life and work is his interest in anthropology and his wish to communicate his sympathy for Zulu people. We can observe that Haggard regrets his contemporaries’ lack of interest for this ethnic group. He writes:

How few people, even in South Africa, know anything about the Zulus, their conditions, history and aspirations. I believe that one might count upon the fingers of one’s hand. To 99 out of 100 a native is just a native, a person from whom land may be filched on one pretext and another, or labour and taxes extracted, and who, if he resists the process or makes himself otherwise inconvenient, may be shot with a clear conscience. […] That is the dominant note of the time to which we white people have too often sought to teach the black the way to dance! But of all this I hope to write in due course, and fortunately everybody does not think or react in such a fashion. (Haggard Diary 209)

  • 32 Today, the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia goes so far as to label King Solomon’s Mines and She “nove (...)
  • 33 Lang called this genre or sub-genre “‘the new exotic literature’, of which M. Pierre Loti is the le (...)
  • 34 See note 11 p. 6 of this paper: extract from the preface of Nada the Lily (1882).

24Here, Haggard overtly declares his wish to use his writing skills (“But of all this I hope to write in due course”) to communicate on this question. He did it taking many notes on small notebooks, writing articles, and essays and producing “‘ethnographic novels’32 which included the ‘manners and customs’ prototype of anthropological accounts” (Low quoted by Lewis 70). Analysing Nada the Lily from that angle, Lewis declares: “Haggard did not include the ‘manners and customs’ trope as a source of additional ethnic flavour; rather, the deep rhetorical structures of texts such as Nada the Lily ground the whole of the narrative in an anthropological worldview” (Lewis 70)33. Instead, right from the preface Haggard positions himself as a “transparent transmitter” of the Zulu culture to his fellow citizens34. She writes:

That Haggard revised the materials with which he worked while at the same time presenting himself as their transparent transmitter underscores the role of the preface in relation to the structure of Nada as a whole: it performs the role of a scientific introduction, seeking to establish the text within the conventions of the discourse. (77)

25We have shown that the land question is central in Haggard’s ideology. He does not make any difference between the countries regarding this issue: he takes it for granted that these territories are part of the Empire. However, it is worth focusing on some examples of “the materials with which he worked” to understand Haggard’s deeper motivations.

4. Haggard and anthropology: towards a humanitarian vision

26Reading Diary of an African Journey as Haggard’s “material”, the “primary source” from which he will take his inspiration is quite relevant when focusing on the anthropological aspect (McClintock; Monsman; Low). The many entries he writes to describe certain ceremonies or to explain the meaning of a custom highlight his knowledge of the Zulu traditions. In other words, his interest was genuine, and we can assume that, in his way, in spite of all the contradictions linked to his position as a representative of the British government, he did his best to communicate his knowledge. Manthorpe, who dedicated a book to the Haggard family and had access to some precious family documents, remarked: “In his time Rider was described as a sociologist – for which we might now read ‘anthropologist’” (Manthorpe 23).

  • 35 James Young Gibson (1857-1935) wrote The Story of the Zulus, London, 1903 (Haggard Diary 214 n. 16)

27During his second stay in Natal, Haggard clearly acts as an anthropologist trying to find local people and witnesses to talk to and trying to understand the different customs and rituals. His entry of April 23, 1914 is particularly dense when referring to local superstitions and ceremonies. Haggard first describes an indaba (a gathering) he attended with Mr Gibson, civil servant and magistrate35, and his faithful Zulu servant Mazooku. He mentions the different steps of the ceremony from the royal salute of Bayete to the concerns of each chief (their grief about the Tsetse fly sickness, “the new land law which prevents them from living on farms unless they pay rent in labour” (Haggard Diary 184) or the wild animals eating their crops) and he even quotes some of their comments taking an obvious pleasure in the description of their attire and the translation of their colourful language (185). He goes on to mention some anecdotes about the killing of two lions by “a small man named Funwayo” who stabbed them with his assegai. He concludes on this remark “Certainly these Zulus are brave men” (186). Then, he mentions two other stories (one of them dating back from Mpanda’s time) he heard from Mr Adam, whose father accompanied Livingstone on some of his expeditions (these stories are about witchcraft) as well as a visit of the site of the battle between Dinizulu (Cetywayo’s son) and Usibepu, providing historical comments. He eventually takes the opportunity of this visit to notice: “At any rate the story shews what strange beliefs the Zulus hold of things beyond those tangible on the earth, although they are supposed by ignorant persons to have ‘no religion’” (188).

  • 36 It is, in fact, the ceremony of the ukubuyiasa (“bringing back”) which was held a year after the de (...)
  • 37 The body of the dead soldiers are cleansed after a battle because “the Zulu does not like to touch (...)

28This example is only one indication of the numerous other notes on ceremonies (ceremony of “moving the spirit”36, “cleansing ceremony37” (Haggard Diary 195), performance by a witch-doctor (100), war dance (177), customs (the lobola, ilobolo translated as “bride wealth” or dowry, telepathy and hidden arts) (204), black and white medicine (205), description of the role of certain artefacts (Tshetsha’s necklace called Iziqu which can be compared to the Victoria Cross) (207, 240) etc.

  • 38 See Zulu but also Matabele peoples.

29As we can see, even if Haggard’s approach regarding the Zulu is not scientific, it is quite pioneering for the time. He relies on first-hand material and observations and adapts these elements to a fictionalised form in order to make it popular and to convey a more humanitarian vision of “primitive peoples”38. Whether consciously or not, Haggard ‘uses’ fiction to deliver a personal message. In doing so, he subscribes to the conventions of imperial romance, while introducing his personal touch. He conveys his doubts and contradictions as well as his aspirations and fantasies. Gilles Teulié insists on Haggard’s idyllic vision of Zulu people. He explains that for Haggard, the Zulu warrior is the embodiment of the “Noble Savage”. This may sound stereotypical but, according to Haggard’s codes, it is an incredibly positive value which means that he lives in an Edenic paradise in harmony with his environment (Teulié Aux Origines 240).

30Haggard’s anthropological approach can be compared to James Stuart’s approach (Wright; Coan Diary 25). Like Haggard who was always eager to play a part in his country’s agenda, Stuart held magisterial posts in Natal from the 1880’s to 1912 and used his official position as well as his skills as a linguist to record as much information as possible about the Zulu. According to him, if the government had an understanding of Zulu history and culture, then the authorities might readjust their policies towards native peoples. As John Wright observes: “Of course now we see this idea as highly naïve. […] But Stuart was an idealist” (Wright quoted on KCL39). It is not surprising, then, to know that Haggard met Stuart in South Africa in 1912. They became close friends and travelled together through Zululand. Stuart worked as a technical adviser on aspects of Zulu culture for the staging of Mameena by Oscar Ashe in 1912 in London and Haggard used the information he gathered from him while touring Zululand in 1914 in the final volume of his Zulu trilogy, Finished40, published in 1916 (Coan Mameena 17-18). Today the Stuart archives can be consulted in the Killie Campbell library in Durban41.We can read on the library’s site that “Stuart was one of a small group of colonial officials concerned that black people were being understood by the Natal colonial government”42. Killie Campbell, founder of the library was part of this group. Thanks to the patience and tenacity of personalities like Stuart and Campbell anyone interested in the history of native peoples in South Africa can now consult what is considered to be the most valuable collection of African oral traditions in existence in Southern Africa. It appears that Haggard also left a legacy in South Africa. Indeed, Nada the Lily (1892) was translated in IsiZulu by F.L. Ntuli and J.L. Dube wrote its preface in 1963. There is no need to say that this collaboration between two great men, a British “imperialist” writer and a famous South African politician, educator and publisher is highly symbolical, as J.L. Dube was also the author of the first novel to have been written in IsiZulu, U-Jeqe, Insila ka Tshaka (Jeqe, the Body-servant of King Shaka). This novel has never been out of print43.

31As Tom Pocock wrote: “[Haggard] liked to see himself as a crusader for reform: first in agriculture, then in urban society, and finally in the British Empire itself” (Pocock xii). Haggard had many talents: he was a hard worker, a good speaker, he was strong-willed and open-minded, and he was always eager to discover new horizons. As a writer, he had many skills: he wrote essays, articles, imperial romances, journals and diaries.

32As we have seen we cannot dissociate his attachment to the land from his love of South Africa and South African people and, in this respect, Haggard is much more an idealist and forerunner than most critics have declared.

33Haggard’s modernity does not lie in his rhetoric or his style, which can be considered as dated and old-fashioned, but he had a gift for creating powerful and fascinating images and he invented stock characters (Allan Quatermain, She, Gagool, Umslopogas, Zikali) who will definitely go on striking generations of young and old readers and inspire illustrators and film makers (see Coan’s article in this volume).

34Haggard’s popularity may come from his concern with transnational and everlasting issues: the importance of nature and the preservation of a balance between individuals and their environment, mutual respect between peoples, tolerance, preservation of the cultural heritage of the Zulu people and collective action to help preserve their memory and traditions (mainly using a fictionalised form), involvement in humanitarian causes (defence of the poor in big cities, finding new settlements for soldiers going back from WWI), the danger of capitalism regarding industrialisation in Europe and the greedy appetite of the entrepreneurs exploiting gold and diamond mines in South Africa. All these issues are still very topical.

35What is more, his themes of predilection are universal. He writes stories about the difficulty to communicate with others, human relationships between men and women, life and death, religious beliefs etc. Studying Haggard’s fiction and work from the African angle is very stimulating and we can see that it generates new avenues. We still have to discover a lot about Haggard as his correspondence still lies in card boxes in libraries or in collectors’ strongboxes in different parts of the world. They will probably reveal new aspects on the period and on the man himself. However, the more we read Haggard’s fiction, and the critical writing devoted to his work, the more we think that his ambiguities and contradictions are part of his legacy. On the one hand, he likes reflecting on the debates of his time and he generally makes use of them in his fiction (he often resorts to dialogues to expose conflicting positions about the mixing of races, polygamy, religious issues etc.), but on the other hand, he never gives a clear answer to these questions and he leaves the door open to new readers and new interpretations.

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Notes

1 Nada the Lily (1892), Child of Storm (1913) and Finished (1917). This trilogy is an account of the early Zulu kingdom, the recurring characters being Allan Quatermain and Zikali the Wizard.

2 My English translation from French: “Je suis de ceux qui pensent que les conditions narratives président à tout acte de compréhension des choses non seulement au niveau historique, mais aussi au niveau perceptif : pour comprendre n’importe quel phénomène, nous essayons de reconnaître une séquence plus ou moins ‘cohérente’” (Eco np).

3 Sir Henry Ernest Bulwer (1836-1914) had recently been appointed lieutenant-governor of Natal. He was Henry Bulwer-Lytton’s nephew (1801-1872), the favourite author of Haggard’s mother, Ella Doveton. The Bulwers were neighbours to the Haggards at Bradenham (Manthorpe 31 n.5). Haggard dedicated Marie (1912) to him.

4 Sir Theophilus Shepstone (1817-1893) was Secretary of Native Affairs in Natal from 1856 to 1876.

5 Sompseu means “father of the nation” (Haggard Diary 8).

6 Haggard was going to come back again as a commissioner for the British Empire for a short time in 1916.

7 For details about Haggard’s impressions of this period see Coan, “When I was concerned with great men and events”, Natalia, n. 26, 1997, p. 17-58, http://natalia.org.za/Files/26/Natalia%20v26%20article%20p17-58%20C.pdf, accessed 22 July 2020.

8 Fred B. Finney (1840-1888) worked as an administrator and border agent and as an interpreter. He accompanied Cetywayo during his visit to Queen Victoria in 1882. Melmoth Osborn (1834-189) had witnessed the battle of Ndondakusuka in 1856 during which the two brothers Cetshwayo kaMpande and Mbuyazi kaMpande fought each other. Haggard used Osborn’s account of this battle in Child of Storm (1913), the second volume of his Zulu trilogy (Haggard Diary 7). They travelled from the Transvaal to Pretoria in January 1877 (Coan/ Haggard Diary 7 n. 24). Later, in April 1879, he bought a farm – Hilldrop farm – from Osborn with his friend Arthur Cochrane near Newcastle, SA.

9 “His superior was the High School judge of Pretoria, John Kotze. He was only 27 while Haggard was 21 and they went on quite well together. They travelled through Transvaal during their court rounds” (Lilias Haggard The Cloak, 62 n.38).

10 You can still visit the place. It has been turned into “Haggards Hilldrop B&B”. A representation of Hilldrop farm can be found on the Haggard memorial window at St Mary’s small church in Ditchingham, Norfolk where Rider Haggard is buried.

11 He was knighted in 1912. In February 1917, he was elected vice-president of the Royal Colonial Institute and in April 1917, he was appointed a member of the Empire Settlement Committee, but he had some difficulty imposing his views and his impact on political decisions was not really significant (Haggard Diary 31).

12 Before writing Cetywayo, Haggard had become a freelance journalist, sending articles about Africa to the Gentleman’s Magazine and Macmillan Magazine (Pocock 28).

13 Haggard received letters of praise from Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies and Randolph Churchill who was a Tory radical Member of the Parliament.

14 Regarding his readership, he mentions in the preface to Nada the Lily (1892): “The author’s aim, moreover, has been to convey, in a narrative form, some idea of the remarkable spirit which animated these kings and their subjects, and to make accessible, in a popular shape, incidents of African history which are now, for the most part, only to be found in a few books of reference, rarely consulted, except by students.” (Haggard Nada np). We may wonder if the “poor” impact Cetewayao had on his contemporaries (“only few students or scholars actually read this type of book”) did not encourage him to write fictional books rather than essays or articles.

15 “About Fiction” was published in the Contemporary Review in 1887, the same year as the article “Realism and Romance” published by his friend Andrew Lang in the same magazine. In his article, Lang championed the work of R.L. Stevenson and Haggard over the realist domestic novel. The debate about the realistic novel and literary value was at its height in the 1880’s. It is worth mentioning that Lang valued popular culture and saw the roots of culture itself in the popular culture of the past (Reid 354-376). For him “ the natural people, the folk, has supplied us, in its unconscious way, with the stuff of all our poetry, law, ritual: and genius has selected from the mass, has turned customs into codes, nursery tales into romance, myth into science, ballad into epic, magic mummery into gorgeous ritual (Lang, Adventures Among Books 37 quoted by Reid 2011 np). There is no need to say that Lang and Haggard shared the same vision about the subject.

16 “[Shepstone’s] after-dinner anecdotes of frontier life on the Cape border and his numerous other native experiences were related with a clearness and impressiveness that made it a real pleasure to listen to him. To young Rider Haggard they were indeed a revelation and delight; and he used often, when retiring to his room, to put down what had impressed him, and then weave it into a romantic story, which was sent off to London, and duly appeared in the Gentlemen’s Magazine or the Cornhill, for even at that time Haggard was active with his pen. He on different occasions showed me some of these tales in print, and I found them very good reading” (Stiebel Lives 33, quoting John Kotze’s Biographical Memoirs and Reminiscences, p. 451). Shepstone was also a practical botanist and he participated to the creation of botanical gardens in Natal (Pocock 18). This detail is relevant if we consider that Haggard had a particular interest in land (see the second part of this paper).

17 R.D. Mullen, Science Fiction Studies, vol. 5, Part 3, Nov. 1978.

18 This type of story describing the encounter between “civilised people” and “savage people” in a distant / lost / unknown country for the rest of the world dates back from antiquity (see myths about inhabitants of conquered regions like the myth of the Atlantis), but Haggard provided the foundations of a new type of story which was going to influence authors like E.R. Burroughs. See Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916), Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1931). We can also consider that the South African popular writer Wilbur Smith is one of the most recent of Haggard’s heirs (see The Sunbird, (1972), The Seventh Scroll (1995) among other titles.

19 See the map in King Solomon’s Mines, the sherd of Amenartas in She, etc.

20 See character of the warrior Umslopogaas in the cycle of Allan Quatermain, for example.

21 These magazines were also known as “penny dreadfuls” or “blood and thunders”. Baden Powell, the founder of the Scout movement, created his own periodical The Scout.

22 Brantlinger, Chap 4: Humanitarian Causes: Anti-slavery and Saving Aboriginals.

23 See Stiebel, Imagining Africa and the works of the feminist critics – Gilbert, Gubar, Low – about the sexual undertones of the landscapes.

24 He has it noted by Kipling between brackets.

25 Quote from She (1886), p.175.

26 He stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate for a Norfolk constituency in the general election of 1895.

27 The 2 volumes of Rural England were reissued in 2011 by Cambridge University Press,

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/rural-england/748AD13BB480684562F646E881033544, accessed 25 July 2020.

28 See notes of Mr R. Haggard’s interview with General Booth, Nov. 7, 1901, (Haggard, Rural England, 494). A few years later, he wrote a book entitled Regeneration (1910) on the Salvation Army at the request from Booth (see Haggard Diary 20-21).

29 About Haggard’s friendship with Roosevelt. (see also Stiebel Lives 201-203).

30 J. L. Dube (1871-1946). This South African Christian minister is now known as the first president of the ANC.

31 The Natives Land Act of 1913 defined less than one-tenth of South Africa as black “reserves” and prohibited any purchase or lease of land by blacks outside the reserves. The law also restricted the terms of tenure under which blacks could live on white-owned farms. Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/South-Africa/Segregation#ref480695, accessed 31 July 2020.

32 Today, the Science Fiction Encyclopaedia goes so far as to label King Solomon’s Mines and She “novels of anthropological Science Fiction” (see Science-fiction encyclopaedia http://w ww.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/haggard_h_rider, accessed 23 July 2020).

33 Lang called this genre or sub-genre “‘the new exotic literature’, of which M. Pierre Loti is the leader in France”, Lang describes ‘the new exotic literature’ as follows: “There has, indeed, arisen a taste for exotic literature. People have become alive to the strangeness and fascination of the world beyond the bounds of Europe and the United States. But that is only because men of imagination and literary skill have been the new conquerors – the Corteses and Balboas of India, Africa, Australia, Japan, and the isles of the southern seas. All such conquerors, whether they write with the polish of M. Pierre Loti, or with the carelessness of Mr Boldrewood, have at least, seen new worlds for themselves; have gone out of the streets of the over-populated lands into the open air: have sailed and ridden, walked and hunted; have escaped from the fog and smoke of towns. New strength has come from fresher air into the brains and blood; hence the novelty and buoyancy of the stories which they tell” (Lang Realism np).

34 See note 11 p. 6 of this paper: extract from the preface of Nada the Lily (1882).

35 James Young Gibson (1857-1935) wrote The Story of the Zulus, London, 1903 (Haggard Diary 214 n. 16).

36 It is, in fact, the ceremony of the ukubuyiasa (“bringing back”) which was held a year after the death of a head of a family homestead and consisted in slaughtering a beast to call the spirit from its wanderings and to ‘bring it back’ to the family homestead (Haggard Diary 187 and 218n.56).

37 The body of the dead soldiers are cleansed after a battle because “the Zulu does not like to touch his [his enemy’s] body” (Haggard Diary 195).

38 See Zulu but also Matabele peoples.

39 KCL: Killie Campbell Library, see http://campbell.ukzn.ac.za/, accessed 27 July 2020.

40 “Finished’ is the name of the kraal (house) where Cetywayo’s dead body was found.

41 The Killie Campbell library is part of the University of KwaZuluNatal.

42 See John Wight on KCL: http://campbell.ukzn.ac.za/?q=node/24445, accessed 6 July 2020.

43 See Coan: https://www.news24.com/Archives/Witness/Preacher-teacher-writer-20150430, accessed 30 July 2020.

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Patricia CROUAN-VÉRON, « New perspectives on H.R. Haggard: from South Africa to the Imperial Dream », E-rea [En ligne], 18.1 | 2020, mis en ligne le 14 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/erea/11258 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/erea.11258

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Patricia CROUAN-VÉRON

Université Paris Est Créteil
pcrouanveron@gmail.com
Patricia Crouan-Véron is a Senior Lecturer in British Literature. She is interested in Colonial Studies and more particularly in Victorian and Edwardian popular fiction set in South Africa (H.R. Haggard, G.A. Henty, B. Mitford). Her research also focuses on the question of reception and on the representation of South African people in colonial literature. She also works on the hybridisation of literary genres.
Patricia Crouan-Véron est Maître de Conférences en Littérature britannique. Elle travaille dans le domaine des Etudes Coloniales et s’intéresse particulièrement à la fiction populaire victorienne et édouardienne dont le cadre est l’Afrique du Sud (H.R. Haggard, GA. Henty, B. Mitford). Sa recherche porte également sur les questions de réception et de représentation des peuples d’Afrique du Sud dans la littérature coloniale. Elle s’intéresse aussi à l’hybridité des genres littéraires.

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