ANDREW LANG, COMPARATIVE ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE CLASSICS IN THE AFRICAN ROMANCES OF RIDER HAGGARD

J.L. Hilton

Abstract


The long-standing friendship between Andrew Lang (1844-1912)1 and Henry RiderHaggard (1856-1925)2 is surely one of the most intriguing literary relationships ofthe Victorian era.3 Lang was a pre-eminent literary critic and his support forHaggard’s earliest popular romances, such as King Solomon’s mines (1885) andShe (1887), helped to establish them as leading models of the new genre ofimperial adventure fiction.4 Lang and Haggard co-authored The world’s desire(1890)5 and the ideas of Lang, who was also a brilliant Classics scholar, can beseen in many of Haggard’s works. There are some significant similarities betweenthe two men: both were approximate contemporaries who lived through the mostaggressive phase of British imperialism, both were highly successfully writers whoearned their living by their pens, both wrote prolifically and fluently on a wide range of subjects,6 both were largely self-educated, both were interested in thesupernatural, both had had unhappy experiences in love at first but later maintainedlong-lasting marriages, and both were men with powerful faculties of imagination.There are, of course, significant differences also: Lang was a gifted intellectualwho had won a fellowship at Oxford, a Homeric scholar, a poet with a gift forirony and humour, and one of the earliest exponents of the new science ofanthropological mythology; Haggard was less well educated and more seriousminded,he preferred action to ideas, was personally involved in the extension ofBritish rule in Southern Africa,7 and had a close experience of African tribal life.This article sets out to investigate the relationship between these two men, and toassess the extent to which Lang’s classical and anthropological thinking shaped thenarratives of Haggard, especially those set in his imperialistic fantasy of theAfrican continent.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/56-0-7

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