The Works of H. Rider Haggard


Sir Henry Rider Haggard, KBE, Kt (1856 – 1925), known as H. Rider Haggard, was an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic locations, still widely read today. Ayesha, the female protagonist of She, has been mentioned by psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. She is generally considered to be a classic of imaginative literature. 83 million copies of it were sold by 1965, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

Haggard's Lost World genre influenced popular American pulp writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Philip José Farmer. Allan Quatermain, the adventure hero of King Solomon's Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain, was a template for the American character Indiana Jones. Predominantly featuring Africa, Haggard’s stories pioneered the Lost World literary genre.

Here are some quotes from his work:

'The unknown is generally taken to be terrible, not as the proverb would infer, from the inherent superstition of man, but because it so often is terrible. He who would tamper with the vast and secret forces that animate the world may well fall a victim to them.'

'Yea, all things live forever, though at times they sleep and are forgotten.'

'Listen! What is life? It is a feather, it is the seed of the grass, blown hither and thither, sometimes multiplying itself and dying in the act, sometimes carried away into the heavens. But if that seed be good and heavy it may perchance travel a little way on the road it wills. It is well to try and journey one's road and to fight with the air. Man must die. At the worst he can but die a little sooner.’

'As I grow older, I regret to say that a detestable habit of thinking seems to be getting a hold of me.'

'Strange are the pictures of the future that mankind can thus draw with this brush of faith and these many-coloured pigments of the imagination! Strange, too, that no one of them tallies with another!'

'The moon went slowly down in loveliness; she departed into the depth of the horizon, and long veil-like shadows crept up the sky through which the stars appeared. Soon, however, they too began to pale before a splendour in the east, and the advent of the dawn declared itself in the newborn blue of heaven. Quieter and yet more quiet grew the sea, quiet as the soft mist that brooded on her bosom, and covered up her troubling, as in our tempestuous life the transitory wreaths of sleep brook upon a pain-racked soul, causing it to forget its sorrow. From the east to the west sped those angels of the Dawn, from sea to sea, from mountain-top to mountain-top, scattering light from breast and wing. On they sped out of the darkness, perfect, glorious; on, over the quiet sea, over the low coast-line, and the swamps beyond, and the mountains above them; over those who slept in peace and those who woke in sorrow; over the evil and the good; over the living and the dead; over the wide world and all that breathes or as breathed thereon.'

'Thinking can only serve to measure out the helplessness of thought.'

'Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again for ever.'

'Ah! how little knowledge does a man acquire in his life. He gathers it up like water, but like water it runs between his fingers, and yet, if his hands be but wet as though with dew, behold a generation of fools call out, “See, he is a wise man!” Is it not so?'

'So they crucified their Messiah? Well can I believe it. That He was a Son of the Living Spirit would be naught to them, if indeed He was so.... They would care little for any God if he came not with pomp and power.'

'There is no such thing as magic, though there is such a thing as knowledge of the hidden ways of Nature.'

'Though the face before me was that of a young woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health and the first flush of ripened beauty, yet it bore stamped upon it a seal of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion. Not even the slow smile that crept about the dimples of her mouth could hide the shadow of sin and sorrow. It shone even in the light of those glorious eyes, it was present in the air of majesty, and it seemed to say: “Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is, undying and half-divine; memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand--evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.”’

'...For like a rugged tree you are hard and sound at the core.'

'Man doeth this and doeth that from the good or evil of his heart; but he knows not to what end his sense doth prompt him; for when he strikes he is blind to where the blow shall fall, nor can he count the airy threads that weave the web of circumstance. Good and evil, love and hate, night and day, sweet and bitter, man and woman, heaven above and the earth beneath--all those things are needful, one to the other, and who knows the end of each?'

'And what, O Queen, are those things that are dear to a man? Are they not bubbles? Is not ambition but an endless ladder by which no height is ever climbed till the last unreachable rung is mounted? For height leads on to height, and there is not resting-place among them, and rung doth grow upon rung, and there is no limit to the number.'

'It is a well-known fact that very often, putting the period of boyhood out of the argument, the older we grow the more cynical and hardened we become; indeed, many of us are only saved by timely death from moral petrification, if not from moral corruption.'

'And now let us love and take that which is given us, and be happy; for in the grave there is no love and no warmth, nor any touching of the lips. Nothing perchance, or perchance but bitter memories of what might have been.'

'It is a hard thing when one has shot sixty-five lions or more, as I have in the course of my life, that the sixty-sixth should chew your leg like a quid of tobacco. It breaks the routine of the thing, and putting other considerations aside, I am an orderly man and don't like that. This is by the way.'

'Yet man dies not whilst the world, at once his mother and his monument, remains. His name is lost, indeed, but the breath he breathed still stirs the pine-tops on the mountains, the sound of the words he spoke yet echoes on through space; the thoughts his brain gave birth to we have inherited to-day; his passions are our cause of life; the joys and sorrows that he knew are our familiar friends--the end from which he fled aghast will surely overtake us also!

'Women love the last blow as well as the last word, and when they fight for love they are pitiless as a wounded buffalo.'

'How can a world be good in which Money is the moving power, and Self-interest the guiding star?'

'Wealth is good, and if it comes our way we will take it; but a gentleman does not sell himself for wealth.'

'Time after time have nations, ay, and rich and strong nations, learned in the arts, been, and passed away to be forgotten, so that no memory of them remains. This is but one of several; for Time eats up the works of man.'

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