Sir Henry Rider Haggard, KBE (22 June 1856 - 14 May 1925) was an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a founder of the Lost World literary genre. He was also involved in agricultural reform around the British Empire. His stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential.
The Witch's Headby H. Rider Haggard
I WROTE a second novel-'The Witch's Head.' This book I endeavoured to publish serially by posting the MS to the editors of various magazines for their consideration. But in those days there were no literary agents or Authors' Societies to help young writers with their experience and advice, and the bulky manuscript always came
An excerpt from "My First Book" :
I WROTE a second novel-'The Witch's Head.' This book I endeavoured to publish serially by posting the MS to the editors of various magazines for their consideration. But in those days there were no literary agents or Authors' Societies to help young writers with their experience and advice, and the bulky manuscript always came back to my hand like a boomerang, till at length I wearied of the attempt. Of course I sent to the wrong people; afterwards the editor of a leading monthly told me that he would have been delighted to run the book had it fallen into the hands of his firm. In the end, as in the case of 'Dawn,' I published 'The Witch's Head' in three volumes. Its reception astonished me, for I did not think so well of the book as I had done of its predecessor. In that view, by the way, the public has borne out my judgment, for to this day three copies of ' Dawn ' are absorbed for every two of 'The Witch's Head,' a proportion that has never varied since the two works appeared in one-volume form.
'The Witch's Head' was very well reviewed; indeed, in one or two cases, the notices were almost enthusiastic, most of all when they dealt with the African part of the book, which I had inserted as padding, the fight between Jeremy and the Boer giant being singled out for especial praise. Whatever it may lack, one merit this novel has, however, that was overlooked by all the reviewers. Omitting the fictitious incidents introduced for the purposes of the story, it contains an accurate account of the great disaster inflicted upon our troops by the Zulus at Isandhlwana. I was in the country at the time of the massacre, and heard its story from the lips of survivors; also, in writing of it, I studied the official reports in the blue books and the minutes of the court martial.
'The Witch's Head' attained the dignity of being pirated in America, and in England went out of print in a few weeks, but no argument that I could use would induce my publishers to re-issue it in a one volume edition. The risk was too great, they said. Then it was I came to the conclusion that I would abandon the making of books. The work was very hard, and when put to the test of experience the glamour that surrounds this occupation vanished. I did not care much for the publicity it involved, and, like most young authors, I failed to appreciate being sneered at by anonymous critics who happened not to admire what I wrote, and whom I had no opportunity of answering. It is true that then, as now, I liked the work for its own sake. Indeed, I have always thought that literature would be a charming profession if its conditions allowed of the depositing of manuscripts, when completed, in a drawer, there to languish in obscurity, or of their private publication only. But I could not afford myself these luxuries. I was too modest to hope for any renown worth having, and for the rest the game seemed scarcely worth the candle. I had published a history and two novels. On the history I had lost fifty pounds, on the first novel I had made ten pounds, and on the second fifty; net profit on the three, ten pounds, which in the case of a man with other occupations and duties did not appear to be an adequate return for the labour involved. But I was not destined to escape thus from the toils of romance. One day I chanced to read a clever article in favour of boys' books, and it occurred to me that I might be able to do as well as others in that line. I was working at the Bar at the time, but in my spare evenings, more from amusement than from any other reason, I entered on the literary adventure that ended in the appearance of 'King Solomon's Mines.' This romance has proved very successful, although three firms, including my own publishers, refused even to consider it. But as it can scarcely be called one of my first books, I shall not speak of it here.
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