Sir Henry Rider Haggard, who lived from 1856 to 1925, was a prolific writer of romantic and adventure fiction. His titles include She and King Solomon’s Mines, both titles whose subjects gained a wider audience when they were made into films.
Whilst much of the plot for his novels may come from Rider Haggard’s vivid imagination, it is clear that he actually undertook a great deal of research and he knew a great deal in particular about Egypt, having made several trips there. He was one of the first authors to introduce what we might call “faction” to the literary world, combining fact and fiction in his novels, and so flawlessly that readers are sometimes hard put to separate them in the ten books he wrote which included Egypt.
Like many visitors to Egypt, Rider Haggard was instantly fascinated with the country, both ancient and modern, and like many other travellers at the time he collected antiquities on his travels, many of which are now scattered in museums around the United Kingdom. Shirley Addy was an avid reader of Rider Haggard’s novels, and more recently, became interested in Ancient Egypt, so this volume effectively brings two of her interests together and sheds a great deal of light on the life of a man whose many interests included Amateur Egyptologist, collector, storyteller and moral crusader. In the pages of Rider Haggard in Egypt we learn of his early interest in the subject, followed by his first visit to the country in 1887. There he saw at first hand the sites he had read about and, amongst other things, he saw the recently discovered the Royal Mummies on display in the Museum at Boulak, where Emile Bughsch (who made the discovery) told him of the dramatic discovery and clearance of the tomb.
Haggard’s first visit to Egypt was almost his last, for he entered one remote tomb at Aswan, packed floor to ceiling with mummies. He crept into the tomb through a small opening, where he found himself literally face to face with pieces of long-dead ancient Egyptians. When he shouted to his friends outside the tomb, the noise caused sand to fall from the roof of the tomb and he was almost buried alive. He escaped to find his friends had wandered away from the tomb and would have been unaware of his plight until too late.
Haggard soon afterwards began his first novel, Cleopatra, and he began to make a name for himself as an Amateur Egyptologist, writing articles for many magazines and newspapers, and writing many letters to The Times on Egyptian subjects.
In addition to the biographical portion of the book, the author has included a large number of appendices, which include reprints of many of Haggard’s newspaper articles, letters, all of which make fascinating reading.
Rider Haggard and Egypt is well illustrated and gives a fascinating insight into the background and life of Rider Haggard and also into this important period of Egyptian archaeology, when many of the major sites were being excavated and great discoveries made. These discoveries included perhaps the greatest of them all, that of Tutankhamun, which Haggard commented on in the Daily Chronicle, arguing (along with others) that the body of the King should be left in the tomb (as indeed it was).
In addition to writing splendid stories, Haggard’s work also led many of his readers to become equally as fascinated with ancient Egypt. Rider Haggard and Egypt is a valuable addition to anyone interested in the accounts of early travellers to Egypt. If you are a fan of his novels, then this book will be of great interest too, and who know, it may even inspire others to read some of his novels for the first time?
Rider Haggard and Egypt is published by AL Publications, priced £25 and can be obtained from the author direct:
2 The Hazels, Wilpshire, Nr Blackburn, Lancs, BB1 9HZ, or email, email@example.com
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