Born: June 22, 1856, in Norfolk, England
Died: May 14, 1925, in London, England
H. Rider Haggard was an English novelist. His work has been compared to that of Robert Louis Stevenson for its suspense and effects. Many of his imaginative, African-based stories have been adapted for movies.
He was the eighth child in a family of ten children. His father, William, was a Norfolk squire and his mother, Ella, was an amateur author. Haggard's brothers were educated at public school. Haggard, however, was educated at a private school in London because his father thought he wasn't very bright.
Haggard traveled to South Africa at the age of nineteen as secretary to the governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer. He worked his way into the High Court of the Transvaal at the same time as he was a part of the staff of the commissioner Sir Theophilus Shepstone.
He and Rudyard Kipling became close friends and often traded stories. At the time, Haggard was considered the better writer. In 1879, he was married to an heiress, Louise Margitson.
His first book, Cetywayo and His White Neighbours, was published in 1882. The book defended a policy of Shepstone's that was defeated by the Boers. He was called to the bar in 1884. He continued to write, publishing two more books in 1884 and 1885. These books, Dawn and The Witch's Head, were not as successful as his first novel.
In 1885, King Solomon's Mines, a work inspired by the Zimbabwe ruins, was immediately successful. This story recounts the exploits of an English explorer among African tribes. The characters developed in this story reappear in many of Haggard's future works.
Haggard followed King Solomon's Mines with a series of short stories that were often set in Africa and reflect experiences from his own life. The romantic and self-reliant heroes in stories such as She and Allan Quartermain often found themselves immersed in the occult or in danger from the indigenous peoples.
Throughout his life, Haggard was actively involved in the study of agriculture. As a result of his experience, he published The Poor and the Land in 1912. That same year, he was knighted for his contribution to agriculture.