Classic literature or books that are considered as such don’t always have to be your taste. After all, there’s always someone who might not feel identified or happy while reading the book or novel in terms of liking it.
However, if there’s something we’ve learned since we were kids is that you should always give them a try and then either drop them or build a constructive and well-supported review.
In other words: take the time to read them before saying “I like it” or the opposite, “It’s not good.”
Among the books we have had the opportunity to regret not reading them before for such prejudice is She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard. If you’re not familiar with it, we want to start changing that.
This book comes from the 1800s, and it deserves all the attention it has for over a century, but we also get some people to find modern classics to be overrated. In contrast, others might be a bit underrated and placed lower than the usual ones.
But we promise you, this one is where it belongs.
If we pitched your curiosity and haven’t read the book yet, what about giving it a try after going over the details we have to share?
We’re confident knowing a bit more about it will boost your senses, so let’s get to know a bit more about She (short name) and see if you can binge it in a day or not.
First, Its Author – Who Was H. Ridder Haggard?
Over time, we have covered several authors, but most of the books we have added have been either their debut ones or those that rose them to fame.
Now, what if we change this a bit and focus on one that has been just another great work and is usually forgotten due to others of the same author?
This is exactly the case with H. Ridder Haggard and She, but before jumping to this part, we will need to go over his story and how he reached this modern classic.
Sir Henry Rider Haggard was born on June 22, 1856, in Norfolk, rural England at the time, and died on May 14, 1925, in London.
He was commonly known as Sir Henry Rider or Rider Haggard. He was the eighth of ten children from his parents, William Meybohm Rider Haggard and Ella Doveton, a barrister and an author and poet.
Although his father was born in Russia, William Haggard’s parents were British, which makes H. Rider a full descendant of the British colony.
While his elder brothers attended private schools, our future author went to Ipswich Grammar School, which was public and received students from 3 to 18 years old.
Henry’s education changed for two reasons: his father could not continue affording the expensive private education, and he didn’t think his son would accomplish much as he was the eighth among his siblings.
After going through Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire before Ipswich and then moving to a private crammer in London, Henry’s education and life were a bit agitated during his early years.
After failing his army entrance exam and never taking the British Foreign Office exam, he instead met many people interested in the study of psychic phenomena during his stay in London.
As a result of his failed education and accomplishment, his father decided to send him to South Africa in 1875 to work under Sir Henry Bulwer, a Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal, as his secretary.
The main issue with the position is that it was an unpaid one, and just a year after his arrival, he was transferred to work with Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who was a Special Commissioner for the Transvaal.
Under the previous role, Haggard took part in Pretoria in 1877 when the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal was made, and even got to raise the Union flag and read the proclamation.
During this period of his life, Henry came to meet Mary Elizabeth “Lilly” Jackson, who he wanted to marry after finally having paid employment in the country.
In 1878, Haggard was able to become the Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, which was followed by Henry sending a note of his intention to return to England with Lilly as his partner and future wife.
However, things didn’t go well since his father didn’t allow it until Henry was able to build his own career, and by the following year, Lilly had married Frank Archer, who was a well-to-do banker.
Having lost his first love, he returned to England and ended up marrying Marianna Louisa Margitson in 1880. She was his sister’s friend with whom he had four children, Jack, Angela, Dorothy, and Lilias, following the respective order in age and over the years.
Return & Writing Career: Becoming a Novelist
After marrying Marianna, they traveled together to Africa and returned to England in 1882 to settle in Ditchingham, Norfolk, in his wife’s ancestral home.
However, they moved to several properties later own.
Upon his return, we finally reached the part of his writing career and his interest in studying law, which he later ditched after noticing that writing his novels was much more profitable.
Focusing on what we are here for, Haggard went up and published a book based on the political situation in South Africa and many other unsuccessful novels between 1882 and 1884.
In 1885, Henry finally reached fame when publishing his book “King Solomon’s Mines,” which follows a search of an unexplored region of Africa and a group of adventures as the head of the exploration.
For this novel, he only accepted 10% of the royalty, but it was such a good move considering that he was offered about £100 for the copyright, which was a lot of money at the time, but the percentage turned out to be on his favor later.
After this success, he published the sequel “Allan Quatermain” in 1887, and finally, we reach the point where he wrote She that was publishing during the same year.
All the books that followed the first novel’s release were quite popular among readers and known for different aspects.
While “King Solomon’s Mines” is considered the book for the Lost World genre, She was included in the classics of imaginative literature.
Other popular novels followed after these, including “Nada the Lily” and “Eric Brighteyes.”
H. Rider Haggard paved his way in the literature and novel worlds and started to be known for portraying stereotypes associated with colonialism included in also some short stories.
Besides being a novelist, Henry wrote about social and agricultural reform based on his time in Africa and Europe.
Haggard showed to be a genius with his adventure novels, and besides being a great English novelist, he is also regarded as a great human being.
After all, many years later, when Haggard was married and had his children, Lilly Jackson returned to his life requesting help as her husband deserted her after he embezzled funds and fled to Africa.
Unlike many would think, Henry didn’t ignore her and help her and her sons by providing a house and taking care of the kids’ education.
However, Lilly went to her husband in Africa, who infected her with syphilis and had to return to England in 1907, where Haggard continued to support her until she died in 1909.
Although we don’t usually include this information since some descendants from the author include Stephen Haggard (writer), Piers Haggard (director), and Daisy Haggard (actress), all successful in their respective careers.
Also, you can find a lot of Haggard’s life and details in a British museum.
She: A History of Adventure’s Plot
You must be wondering why we refer to the book as “She,” but sometimes with what you think is the full name.
Even if you don’t, it is crucial to make this clear as the title of the novel isn’t the one we included but rather “She” alone.
The second part, A History of Adventure, is the novel’s subtitle and is usually used to avoid confusion among new writers and critics when the author isn’t mentioned.
Now, after learning about Rider Haggard’s story and life, we can focus on the masterpiece we will be covering today.
She tells the story of Horace Holly, a Cambridge professor, and Leo Vincey, who is his ward.
Both of them are set in their quest to find a lost kingdom within Africa. However, what was supposed to be a simple exploration ends up involving them with mystery and secrets.
Strange enough, the story starts with Holly having a close colleague to visit him, who is Leo’s father. He tells our professor that he is about to die and decides to leave a mysterious package to his son, which he should open on his 25th birthday.
After raising Leo on his own, soon the 25th birthday arrives, and Vincey then opens the box. It contains an old shard of pottery as well as several documents.
This package and its content suggest an ancient mystery about Vincey’s family, which pushes the duo to dive more into it, including a “Sherd of Amenartas” that is a huge part of the storyline.
After opening the box and having some instructions left behind, Holly and Leo eventually travel and arrive in eastern Africa, where they encounter a primitive race of natives and a mysterious white queen named Ayesha. She reigns as the all-powerful “She” or “She-who-must-be-obeyed” and happens to have an unknown connection with Leo that dates from 2,000 years ago.
Without a clear idea of what the queen might want, Leo is found in a difficult position that will lead to magic, immortality, and destiny.
One of the interesting aspects of the romantic novel by Haggard is that many of the racial, evolutionary and degenerative conceptions of late Victorians are expressed in the story.
The novel’s figure of She explored themes such as female authority and feminine behavior. Its representation of womanhood.
This means it can be such a good piece for women of all ages and should be read by any man or person in the world with new eyes compared to those from the 1880s.
Many more characters are involved in the story, which brings a new pace to every chapter, and we promise they and the entire storyline will keep you interested, and even you will want to read it once more.
How Popular Was She? – Copies Sold & Earnings
Unlike what many believe, She was a huge success right after it was published in 1887.
With the author’s reputation growing every day and the previous critics and reviews of his work with “King Solomon’s Mines” and its sequel, people were waiting for new work.
Since Haggard adventured himself and focused on fantasy and science fiction, adventure romance, and imperial gothic genres, the reception was amazing as a new and different piece.
Besides, the themes approached during She: A History of Adventure started to be people’s favorite during the decade.
Imperialism, race and evolution, and female authority and sexuality were taboos but well-received by those tired of the same romance novels.
Critics at the time praised Haggard’s work and considered it just as what they expected based on the previous books and even more, which led to the book’s rise in popularity even more.
The book was often praised as bold in conception, and with many scenes that only get greater the more you progress in the story, including the beauty and horror you can feel from them.
Victorian readers and critics acclaimed the fantasy novel the most, and the reviews positively left a huge mark for the book.
Of course, bad criticism about the work of H. Rider was also present, but the readers and overwhelmingly positive reviews in comparison left them outside of the play.
As a result, She was and is still considered one of the best romances ever written, and it is still a book people study for modern interpretations, and as the classic it is today.
However, besides the obvious popularity that remains to this date, what can we tell you about the copies sold and earnings for the author?
She became one of the most influential novels in modern literature. Since it was published, it has sold over 85 million copies as one of the best-selling in the fictional category and has been translated into 44 languages.
Unfortunately, we cannot mention the specific earnings of the book since there aren’t details for how much Haggard decided to sell his work.
It is said that he accepted a percentage of the royalties, just like with the “King Solomon’s Mines.” If we go to the average price of the novel today, which is an equivalent of what it was worth back then, the book earnings reach the $600 million mark and could even surpass it considering that normal versions range between $6 and $8, but others can cost up to $150 or more.
Going to the Big Screen – She: A History of Adventure Adaptations
Just like with influential novels in modern literature like “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien or “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis, She also had its debut on the screen.
In fact, it has more adaptations than you think, and you might not even know you’ve watched at least one of them.
With over 11 adaptations for the cinema, the first one was a short film named “The Pillar of Fire” from 1899, while the second, which was also a short film, followed in 1908.
Other adaptations came in 1911 from the American version, and a British-produced one in 1916 followed the latter release.
1935, 1965, 1985, 2001, and 2006 also came with more popular book adaptations.
The most recent one is “She-who-thinks-for-herself,” created and directed by Juliet E. McKenna in 2012. It is more of a rewrite of the masterpiece that made it funny, cunning, and feminist instead of the previous focus from the author.
However, it had good critics along with other previous short films and long movies that were title “She” in most cases.
Among the adaptations, many popular actors were involved, including Oliver Chris, Mia Soteriou, and Christopher Lee, who helped the films to attract more people in the long run.
5 Interesting Facts about She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard
- “She” actually became a series that is known as the “Ayesha Series” with the following novels connected to the first one: “Ayesha, the Return of She” (1905), “She and Allan” (1921), and “Wisdom’s Daughter” (1923).
- One of the first editions that are in good shape was recently sold for over $5.000.
- The novel is considered to cover more than the previous genres. Thus, recent critics include it in adventure fiction, romance, gothic fiction, fantasy, and chivalric romance as well.
- Although it is said to have been published in 1887, the original date is December 24, 1886.
- His youngest daughter, Lilias Haggard, went up and became an author. Among her work, her father entitled biography “The Cloak That I Left” was published in 1951.
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