Rider Haggard : a study in popular fiction

Bursey, Wallace (1972) Rider Haggard : a study in popular fiction. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

In this thesis my dual purpose is to account for Haggard's lasting popularity and to examine hitherto ignored aspects of his work that, in my opinion, deserve critical attention. The thesis is essentially a re-assessment of Haggard's status as a novelist. -- My introduction gives a brief outline of Haggard's life and indicates my approach to his work. -- Chapter I deals with Haggard's boyhood and youth, and the early influences on the formation of his personality. It demonstrates that Haggard's literary subject matter was influenced by family relationships and personal experiences in Africa as a young man. The chapter presents Haggard as a product of the contemporary literary scene and indicates the extent to which he reflects contemporary beliefs and attitudes. Most important perhaps, it shows him to be possessed of a social consciousness that invites comparison with such writers as Hardy and Gissing. -- Chapter II examines Haggard's very special talents as a romantic writer, talents that produced some of the most memorable romantic adventure novels ever written. The chapter involves a discussion of the characteristics that he shares with other romantic writers and how his works illustrate certain generally accepted theories of what constitutes the romantic. A detailed examination of a number of his romances serves to illustrate the special characteristics that set Haggard apart and to demonstrate his outstanding achievements in the romantic vein. The importance of setting and stylistic devices in creating memorable romantic effects is given special consideration. -- Chapter III deals with the contribution of symbolism to the total effect of Haggard's work. It examines Haggard's use of symbolism both as a revelation of the author's philosophy and also as a device to increase the imaginative effect on the reader. A number of Haggard's highly symbolic works such as Eric Brighteyes and She are discussed at length. -- Chapter IV is concerned with those books that reveal Haggard's experience and knowledge of African history and affairs, and his dream-vision of Africa that transcends the reality, an imaginative concept that for many of his readers becomes the reality. Haggard's knowledge of African customs, politics and special problems is discussed with reference to such novels as Jess, Marie, and Swallow, while his interpretation of Zulu history is dealt with at length. His careful, and on the whole unbiased, presentation of English, Dutch, and Zulu viewpoints (unusual from an Englishman of his time) is illustrated and discussed. Throughout this chapter the continuing value of Haggard's first-hand observations and shrewd opinions of African peoples and affairs is assessed. -- Chapter V categorizes Haggard's characters into five groups: the personal reflection, the ideal man, the ideal woman, types of good and of evil, and the real. Various examples of each type are selected for discussion. A large segment of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of Haggard's presentation and development of the character of Allan Quatermain, certainly one of the author's finest achievements. Hans and Umslopogaas are considered at some length as excellent examples of Haggard's understanding of African natives. -- My conclusion reiterates the very important point that, although various aspects of Haggard's work may lend themselves to critical analysis, his essential appeal is on an imaginative level that evades criticism; the impact of Haggard's best romances is on the imagination rather than the critical faculties of the reader, and the lasting impression on the reader defies analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7159
Item ID: 7159
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [392]-401.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1972
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925--Criticism and interpretation

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