Monday, 4 January 2010


The blog is back, having recovered from a surfeit of mince pies, mulled wine and general Christmas pleasantry.

I've been in contact with Professor Linda Dryden, of Edinburgh Napier University, who is an admirer of H Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain (published by Capuchin in October 2009) and who uses the book in teaching her Literature of Empire module. Linda was kind enough to offer the following observations and to permit me to publish them in this form.

I came to Rider Haggard via Joseph Conrad when I was doing my PhD thesis on Conrad's early imperial romances. At that time I was very much of the opinion that Haggard was a 'thorough going racist,' a term used by Chinua Achebe to describe Conrad. I also regarded him as an imperial apologist and characterised Haggard in my thesis and subsequent book as such. Since then I have revised my opinion and now feel that Haggard's attitude to Africa was much more complex. The Allan Quatermain books, and She, are very much tongue-in-cheek and could be seen to be gently satirising the white man in Africa. Indeed, Haggard's respect for the Zulus in AQ is palpable through Quatermain's comments, and when one reads Nada the Lily, one senses a genuine affection for African peoples and sorrow for their plight. I do not mean to imply that there are no problems with these books, far from it. However, it seems to me that we need to be careful not to dismiss Haggard completely.

Although Conrad reviled Haggard's characters, objecting particlarly to Captain Good, according to David Garnett, we can detect traces of influences in Heart of Darkness, albeit perhaps subversive of Haggardian romance. Haggard's place in English literature has been problematic, but his influence over the genre of imperial romance is undeniable. I am still revising my opinion of Haggard and I currently supervise a PhD student who is working on his diaries and the explorers and other figures whose experiences helped to formulate Haggard's imagination. His legacy in our popular culture is very significant and there is still much to be said about Haggard's work.

Regular visitors to our website may have noticed that we are publishing a uniquely handsome edition of Heart of Darkness in July 2010.

A happy and culturally prosperous new year to you all.


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