Public servant, reformer, commissioner and wellknown storyteller, Rider Haggard was the author of thirty-four adventure novels.
Rider Haggard was born at Bradenham in Norfolk in 1856. He was the sixth son of a lawyer and was educated in Ipswich. In 1875 his father procured for him the post of junior secretary to the Governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer. He set sail for South Africa and spent six years there, fascinated by its landscape, wildlife, tribal society and mysterious past. Powerful, intense and visually magnificent, “She” was written in Africa in six weeks in 1886. Rider Haggard published “She” in London in 1887. By then he was thirty-one year old, an established writer with his own fixed and hard-won ways, who had written three first-rated novels: “King Solomon’s Mines”, “Allan Quatermain”, and “Jess”. No other writer has absorbed into his work as much knowledge and experience as Haggard had. He produced a whole series of spellbinding and extravagant romances set in far-flung corners of the world: Iceland, Constantinople, Mexico, Ancient Egypt and, of course, Africa.
Travelling widely fueled Haggard’s imagination and helped him get acquainted with exotic placed and people, their old languages, laws, traditions, the deepest corners of their ancient history and antiquity.
The events described in the novel take place first at Cambridge, then in Central Africa, and refer to the period of the beginning of the 19th century. “She” takes a reader to the deepest interior of Africa, searching not for treasure but for treasure but for the secrets of a woman’s love. In Rider Haggard’s greatest romance a father’s mysterious legacy to his son brings Leo Vincey and his two fellow-adventurers to Africa. Travelling through crocodile – infested rivers, across volcanic plains and marshes they reach the vast, eerie catacombs of the Kingdom of Kór, where they encounter She, the white Queen of the Amahagger people. A woman of legendary beauty, bewitching and destructive, She has waited two thousands years for the rebirth and return of the man she loved. And this man, she believes, is Leo Vincey.
The story begins one rainy night, when a man of twenty-two Ludwig Horace Holly was sitting in his room at Cambridge, grinding away at some mathematical work. At last, wearied out, he flung his book down and happened to catch sight of his countenance in the glass. As he stood and stared at himself in the glass Horace Holly thought about his physical deficiencies. Most men of twenty-two are endowed at any rate with some share of the comeliness of youth, but to him even this was denied. Short, thick-set, and deep chested almost to deformity, with long arms, heavy features, deep-set gray eyes, a low brow half overgrown with black hair he was strikingly ugly person. It seemed that he was branded by Nature with iron strength and intellect. Ludwig Horace Holly was so ugly that the spruce young men of his College, though they were proud enough of his endurance and physical powers, did not want even to be seen walking with him. Women called him a “monster”. He had neither father, nor brother. And that is why it was not surprising that Horace Holly became sullen, lonely person, who had no wife, no children, no friends.
Suddenly, there came a knock at the door… A tall man of about thirty, with the remains of great personal beauty, came hurrying in, carrying a massive iron box. The man looked ill and was coughing with blood. Horace Holly recognized his only friend from College Mr. Vincey, whom he knew for about two years. The man said that he was dying and that is why he asked Mr. Holly to become a tutor for his five-year-old child, Leo Vincey. Before leaving he handed Horace the iron chest and said: “On the twenty-fifth birthday of my son your guardianship will end and you will then, with the keys I give you now, open the box and let Leo…” see and read the contents, which will tell the boy about his ancestors and about the ancient dynasty of Kallikrates that he belongs to.” The next day Mr. Vincey died and Mr. Holly became a guardian to his son.
Years flew by, the child grew into the young man. As he grew his beauty and the beauty of his mind grew with him. Leo got a good education, took a respectable degree at College and became the handsomest man in the University. Young Leo looked like a statue of Apollo, he was very tall, very broad, had a look of an abnormal power and grace. His face was almost without flaw – a good face as well as a beautiful one, and his head was covered with little golden curls. Women called Leo “the Greek God” for his beauty. Leo Vincey was altogether too good-looking, and, moreover, he had none of that consciousness and conceit about him, which usually spoils handsome men and makes them disliked by their fellow, was his real son, and they became faithful friends.