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Sir Henry Rider Haggard
Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856 – 1925). Public servant, reformer,
commissioner and wellknown storyteller, Rider Haggard was the author of
thirty-four adventure novels.
Rider Haggard was born at Bradenham in Norfolk in 1856. He was the sixth
son of a lawyer and was educated in Ipswich. In 1875 his father procured
for him the post of junior secretary to the Governor of Natal, Sir Henry
Bulwer. He set sail for South Africa and spent six years there, fascinated
by its landscape, wildlife, tribal society and mysterious past. Powerful,
intense and visually magnificent, “She” was written in Africa in six weeks
in 1886. Rider Haggard published “She” in London in 1887. By then he was
thirty-one year old, an established writer with his own fixed and hard-won
ways, who had written three first-rated novels: “King Solomon’s Mines”,
“Allan Quatermain”, and “Jess”. No other writer has absorbed into his work
as much knowledge and experience as Haggard had. He produced a whole series
of spellbinding and extravagant romances set in far-flung corners of the
world: Iceland, Constantinople, Mexico, Ancient Egypt and, of course,
Africa.
Travelling widely fueled Haggard’s imagination and helped him get
acquainted with exotic placed and people, their old languages, laws,
traditions, the deepest corners of their ancient history and antiquity.
The events described in the novel take place first at Cambridge, then in
Central Africa, and refer to the period of the beginning of the 19th
century. “She” takes a reader to the deepest interior of Africa, searching
not for treasure but for treasure but for the secrets of a woman’s love. In
Rider Haggard’s greatest romance a father’s mysterious legacy to his son
brings Leo Vincey and his two fellow-adventurers to Africa. Travelling
through crocodile – infested rivers, across volcanic plains and marshes
they reach the vast, eerie catacombs of the Kingdom of Kуr, where they
encounter She, the white Queen of the Amahagger people. A woman of
legendary beauty, bewitching and destructive, She has waited two thousands
years for the rebirth and return of the man she loved. And this man, she
believes, is Leo Vincey.
The story begins one rainy night, when a man of twenty-two Ludwig Horace
Holly was sitting in his room at Cambridge, grinding away at some
mathematical work. At last, wearied out, he flung his book down and
happened to catch sight of his countenance in the glass. As he stood and
stared at himself in the glass Horace Holly thought about his physical
deficiencies. Most men of twenty-two are endowed at any rate with some
share of the comeliness of youth, but to him even this was denied. Short,
thick-set, and deep chested almost to deformity, with long arms, heavy
features, deep-set gray eyes, a low brow half overgrown with black hair he
was strikingly ugly person. It seemed that he was branded by Nature with
iron strength and intellect. Ludwig Horace Holly was so ugly that the
spruce young men of his College, though they were proud enough of his
endurance and physical powers, did not want even to be seen walking with
him. Women called him a “monster”. He had neither father, nor brother. And
that is why it was not surprising that Horace Holly became sullen, lonely
person, who had no wife, no children, no friends.
Suddenly, there came a knock at the door… A tall man of about thirty,
with the remains of great personal beauty, came hurrying in, carrying a
massive iron box. The man looked ill and was coughing with blood. Horace
Holly recognized his only friend from College Mr. Vincey, whom he knew for
about two years. The man said that he was dying and that is why he asked
Mr. Holly to become a tutor for his five-year-old child, Leo Vincey. Before
leaving he handed Horace the iron chest and said: “On the twenty-fifth
birthday of my son your guardianship will end and you will then, with the
keys I give you now, open the box and let Leo…” see and read the contents,
which will tell the boy about his ancestors and about the ancient dynasty
of Kallikrates that he belongs to
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