King Solomon's Mines (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

King Solomon's Mines (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082758
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 12/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 53,550
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was an English author of adventure novels set in exotic locales, predominantly Africa. King Solomon’s Mines, one of his best-known books, details the life of the explorer Allan Quartermain. She: A History of Adventure followed, introducing the character Ayesha. While much of Haggard’s reputation stems from those two books and their subsequent series, he also wrote nonfiction and short stories.

Read an Excerpt



From Benjamin Ivry’s Introduction to King Solomon’s Mines

Haggard admitted he wrote King Solomon’s Mines in six weeks, a quickness that surprised his writer friends like Andrew Lang and Robert Louis Stevenson. The latter sent Haggard a letter cautioning him about excessive haste. Yet the famed Belgian-born detective storywriter Georges Simenon (1903–1989) often wrote entire books even faster. The French novelist Stendhal (Marie Henri Beyle, 1783–1842) typically completed novels in a matter of weeks. Speed in writing per se is not necessarily a threat to quality; adventure writers in particular can be like the journalists of whom the noted critic Karl Kraus (1874–1936) wrote, “They write worse when they have time.” Pacing was essential for Haggard, who claimed that writing a text fast helped to energize it, making it irresistibly readable. He described his approach with typical dash in his autobiography, The Days of My Life (1926; see “For Further Reading”): “Such work should be written rapidly and, if possible, not rewritten, since wine of this character loses its bouquet when it is poured from glass to glass.”

The speed of writing translates to speed of reading, with as few impediments as possible to the reader’s momentum. Although there are a number of exotic words in King Solomon’s Mines that require annotation, their frequency decreases as the book advances, and Haggard often provides his own, perfectly serviceable translation of local terms. As a result, the reader does not need to pause to understand the reference, but can plunge ahead to find out what happens next, which is essential for the enjoyment of a real page-turner like King Solomon’s Mines.

Despite Haggard’s speed and occasional carelessness about details, King Solomon’s Mines shows some real control of structural and stylistic elements, which is part of its lasting power. To cite one stylistic aspect used coherently throughout the book, Haggard used italics almost always to convey the horror of death, such as when an elephant picked up a servant “and tore him in two” (p. 62). In a cave discovered along his trip, Quatermain finds that a servant who was alive the night before is now “stone dead” (p. 96). These italics denoting urgent shock in relation to death recur throughout the story, like underlining in a letter excitedly dashed off to a friend.

One of Haggard’s goals, as expressed in “About Fiction” (Contemporary Review, February 1887), was to create an interesting book, as he felt the Anglo-American novel had declined into a series of dull domestic dramas. Haggard alluded to William Dean Howells (1837–1920), who wrote novels like A Woman’s Reason (1883), A Modern Instance (1882), and The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), as an example. By focusing on the imaginative and fantastic domains, Haggard aimed at exciting the reader in the way that he felt naturalistic nineteenth-century fiction had ceased to do. In this goal he succeeded brilliantly, as generations of readers have conceded.

In King Solomon’s Mines, with a dour feeling of fatalism, the elephant hunter Allan Quatermain agrees to join a dangerous treasure hunt. Quatermain is presented as an amateur author, whose first statement at the beginning of the book is one of modesty, of being aware of his book’s “shortcomings.” As narrator, Quatermain dithers over lore and legends that he might have included in King Solomon’s Mines had he “given way to [his] own impulses” (p. 5). Authorship as a form of discipline and control is also expressed at the end of the story, when Quatermain announces, “And here, at this point, I think that I shall end this history” (p. 317). The reader is reminded that the story does not end by itself; the writer ends it. Control and consciousness were keywords for Quatermain as an author—and quite possibly for Haggard as well.

Haggard’s protagonist Quatermain describes himself as a 55-year-old man who has survived the job of elephant hunter much longer than most of his colleagues. Quatermain explains at the start of his tale, “I am a timid man, and don’t like violence,” (p. 7) and near the end, after many heroics, he reiterates, “I never had any great pretensions to be brave” (p. 286). Such self-definitions are repeated throughout the book until the narrative itself begins to seem like a means of self-definition. The effort to write, as well as the events narrated, define the narrator.

There may not be much progression of character in King Solomon’s Mines, but Quatermain rings true precisely because of his lack of grandiose pretensions. Quatermain’s self-deflating tone may include something of Haggard’s own ironic self-regard. When Haggard traveled to Africa in 1914 and his photo was plastered on the local newspaper Natal Witness, Haggard noted in his diary that his image looked “exactly like that of the mummy of Rameses the Second,” a recently disinterred Pharaoh. This lack of vanity or vaingloriousness is unusual in a generation of writers on Africa that included such egomaniacs as Sir Richard Burton, translator of The Arabian Nights.

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King Solomon's Mines (Illustrated + FREE audiobook link + Active TOC) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 220 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My only regret is that I waited thirty-seven years to read this amazing adventure. Unlike most contemporary fiction, the author made me feel as though I were experiencing the story instead of just reading it. Treat yourself to some true story telling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Before i read this book, i avoided classics like the plague. This was my first classic that i read amd i loved it. I reread it about four times and loved better each time.
Mariamosis More than 1 year ago
The main character Allan Quatermain unexpectedly falls into the exploration of a unknown civilization in Africa on a quest to find a missing adventurer and possibly King Soloman's treasure. The explorers soon find themselves amidst African kings, tribal warriors, and an elderly sinister seer. The book is filled with adventure and is regarded as one of the best books ever written.
GordonF More than 1 year ago
The start of the Lost World style of fiction, a precursor to the pulp novels to come later - it's a good adventure. A significant portion is taken up with a rather detailed account of military maneuvers in a civil war the heroes find themselves in the middle of, not quite the two-fisted daring that Allan Quartermain holds in the public mind's eye. Historically, from a literary point of view, it's very interesting to see the early elements of adventure pulp novels planting their seeds. From a strict story point of view, the narrative occasionally bogs itself down recounting bland details, but still the adventure keeps itself apace and concludes grandly.
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
This book is undoubtedly a classic that started the whole Lost World craze. I got kind of bored reading it. The writing was pretty good, and the plot was really entertaining. Some of the travel parts just dragged on. For much of the book I found myself wondering what was so exciting. There are a few humorous parts, like Good walking around with his pants off and being worshiped as a God. The end notes helped with the context of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes a classic is a classic just because it provides so much entertainment to readers over the years. This is just a good fun read. Don't look for any deep social comment, Just take it as a fun entertaining story in which every guy can think 'I am Allan Quartermain.' This has obviously been the inspiration for so many of the adventure stories that have been written since KIng Solomons Mines publication in the the late 19th century. Just read it, and have fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
King Solomon's Mines is a very thrilling book, and contains a number of scenes and ideas that have clearly inspired many other authors and creators. Indeed, the archetype of the cynical, hard-bitten adventurer was created by Haggard, and even modern day heroes such as Indiana Jones owe a great deal of inspiration to Haggard's Alan Quartermain. Unfortunately, like most books from the era that deal with Africa, there is a fair amount of racist/imperialist stereotypes and ideas. However, readers who can overlook these regrettable concepts will find an exciting, rousing and inventive read.
johnthefireman on LibraryThing 1 days ago
A classic adventure yarn, set in 19th-century southern Africa, and written in 1885. Although it takes liberties, and reflects the limited knowledge of the interior of Africa at that time, it is at least written by someone who lived in Africa and had some idea what he was talking about. His view of the "natives" reflects contemporary views, but he comes over as relatively progressive for his times. Very British, very manly and patriarchal, but well worth reading
jcelrod on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Classic adventure story. Without Haggard's Alan Quartermain, we would not have Indiana Jones!
joririchardson on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I have owned a copy of "King Solomon's Mines" since I was a little girl. I specifically remember picking one up at a library sale around the age of 11. So, for ten years, this book has been carted around with me through 11 moves, 5 states, 4 different bookshelves, and who knows what else. Besides being a classic, I owed it to this particular copy to finally read it.I'm glad that I did (sorry it took me so long, Quatermain), because this is a fun, exciting adventure. I wish I had read it the day I took it home from that book sale as a kid, because this book reminded me of childhood adventure stories. There is a small group of people setting out on a dangerous journey, in which of course all sorts of dangers occur, but in the end through bravery and luck, everything turns out happily. It was familiar, but satisfying. The plot is that Allan Quatermain, a wild game hunter in 1800's Africa, is recruited by two other men to search for lost treasure - a diamond mine of unimaginable wealth. Apparently, others have gone before them searching for the same diamonds (including a brother of one of the men in the party) but no one has ever survived. Or, that's what we have to assume, since no one ever came back. Quatermain and his two friends, joined by an African bushman, journey across mountains and deserts, surviving thirst, hunger, murderous native tribes, witch doctors, and other such perils.I really loved that this book was set in South Africa, as my boyfriend is from there. In fact, he is from Durban, in the KwaZulu-Natal region, which is the most specific setting that the book ever offers us. I've been slowly learning Afrikaans from my boyfriend over the past 2 years, but rarely - in fact, never ever - have I found any use for it. So I can't describe how delighted I was to come across quite a few words I recognized.Haggard throws some dashes of comedy into the story, too. I thought that their first encounter with the natives was absolutely hilarious. Hunter tribesman come upon the group when Good is in the middle of dressing and shaving. He also has false teeth and glasses, leading the natives to think that he is a god. They think that he grows hair on only one side of his face, and assume that there must be some deep significance to the fact that he goes about with his legs bare. When he later attempts to put pants on, they say "Would my lord cover up his beautiful white legs?" So for the rest of the time he is with the natives, Good must keep shaving one side of his face and banish any pants. Quatermain also furthers the natives assumptions by telling them great stories about how they are from the stars. It was pretty funny.Besides adventure and comedy, a few parts in the book also got quite detailed, in a Jules Verne type of manner. Our narrator goes into great detail about the supplies they are taking with them, and then goes on to tell us all about the wagons that will be holding the supplies, and the oxen that will be pulling these wagons. He even launches into a few paragraphs about how to immunize oxen against disease - tips for anyone traveling the wilds of Africa, I suppose.I know that others would see it as tedious, but I just love tiny little insignificant details like that.As for the negative, I didn't like Quatermain's disrespect toward animals and his occasional racist quips, though the racist part wasn't exactly unexpected, as this was written by a man of 1800's British Africa. Quatermain has a habit of describing natives and animals with negative words like "brutes" and "wretches" for no apparent reason. The African people are there for him to dismiss as beneath him, and the beautiful African animals are there for him to slaughter.In the old tradition, Quatermain begins the narrative by telling us that he is speaking about his experiences and is relating the tale for his son. He never addresses his son in any part of the book, so I felt that this "fireside story" was pretty pointless. If anything, all that it does i
bookworm12 on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Before reading A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I¿d never heard of Allan Quatermain. So I went into this with low expectations and was more than pleasantly surprised at what I found. This adventure story is more about friendship than treasure. Sir Henry Curtis (Incubu) is searching for his last brother who was last scene on his way to find the illusive King Solomon¿s Mines, which are allegedly filled with diamonds. Curtis hires Quatermain (Macumazahn) to travel with him with the stipulation that if Quatermain dies, which he fully expects to, Curtis will provide for his son. Curtis¿ friend Captain John Good (Bougwan) will also embark on the quest. As the three men begin their journey they have no idea what¿s in store for them; harsh desserts, elephant hunting, a war between tribes and so much more. Though parts of the story were predictable, they were still entertaining and the plot never lags. The adventure story had real heart, which made it stand apart from more generic versions. I loved Quatermain¿s honesty. There are moments when he says he doesn¿t want to fight because it¿s senseless, courage be damned. He¿s honorable and sincere, a true friend to the end. I absolutely thing he deserves a spot in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Crazymamie on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This book is not politically correct - nor should one expect it to be because it was written in 1885 by a British man, back when colonialism was all the rage. Set in Africa, the main character Allan Quatermain finds himself leading a search and rescue mission being financed by Sir Henry Curtis. Sir Henry is looking for his brother, who was last seen headed for King's Soloman's Mines. Sir Henry's good friend-literally, his name is Captain Good, is along for the adventure. Quatermain is a hunter by trade, and so along the way there is, you guessed it, hunting. For ivory, for sport, for food - Quatermain has been promised that he and Good can split whatever financial gain and treasure they acquire during their travels. In addition, Sir Henry has made provisions for Quatermain's son in the event that they do not return from their mission. This is a great adventure story told in first person narrative that set the stage for a new genre in literature - the "Lost World" genre that was a precursor to our modern day equivalents such as the Indiana Jones stories. There is also a lot of humor in this book. For example, when the Kukuanas discover Quatermain's party on their land, the penalty would have been death if not for the fact that Captain Good is so fastidious. Caught in the middle of his "elaborate toilet" Good rises to stand before the natives half dressed, half shaved, wearing a monocle, and in his nervousness, he pulls his false teeth out of place and then returns them to their proper position."How is it, O strangers," asked the old man solemnly, "that this fat man (pointing to Good, who was clad in nothing but boots and a flannel shirt, and has only half finished his shaving), whose body is clothed, and whose legs are bare, who grows hair on one side of his sickly face and not on the other, and who wears one shining and transparent eye- how is it, I ask, that he has teeth which move of themselves, coming away from the jaws and returning of their own will?"Quatermain convinces the Kukuanas that they are "white men from the stars" and thus, their lives are spared. Captain Good, however, must now keep up his charade and is not allowed to have his pants back. The rest of the story is one rolling adventure - tribal war, treasure beyond the imagination, betrayal....I debated between 3.5 and 4 stars for this book because the story is a 4, but the book does drag a bit in places. In the end, I decided on 4 stars because the slow bits are more than made up for by all of the fun.
mrtall on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This is the first Rider Haggard novel I've read, and it was a hoot. Ripping adventure in the fictional wilds of Africa, leavened by some surprisingly lyrical descriptive and even contemplative passages. Recommended.
edgeworth on LibraryThing 3 days ago
King Solomon's Mines was reputedly written on a wager, with H. Rider Haggard betting a friend that he could write a better adventure novel than Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It's a classic adventure novel, with three stiff upper lip Englishmen venturing into the South African veldt in search of a lost brother and the fabled treasures of King Solomon's mines.I haven't read Treasure Island, but if it's anything like Stevenson's Kidnapped, which I read and enjoyed a few weeks ago, I would personally say that Haggard failed his bet. King Solomon's Mines contains all the elements of a proper adventure novel - kitting up for an expedition, nearly dying in the wilderness, uncovering a Lost World kingdom, huge battles, restoring a rightful king, beiing trapped in a treasure chamber etc. - it's almost as though he's following a recipe. I found myself quite bored throughout, particularly during the wooden and lifeless battle scenes. This is fairly typical of 19th century novels, as far as I'm concerned, and it was more that Kidnapped pleasantly surprised me than that King Solomon's Mines let me down. But Stevenson is certainly the better writer; he has a wit and a charm about him that is wholly lacking in Haggard, which is unsurprising, given that the latter wrote a formulaic novel just to win five pounds.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing 3 months ago
King Solomon's Mines is a very fun book, and one I very highly recommend. If you like adventure stories, stories set in British Africa, stories about lost treasures or brave explorers, then I recommend it to you. Considering it was written well over a hundred years ago, it still is worthwhile to read, and I'm glad I did.The basic story:Allen Quatermain has made his home in Africa, and while on a ship back to his home, he enters into conversation with two men, one of whom has decided to go and look for his brother whom he has not seen in some time and whom he fears to be lost. It turns out that his brother may have gone to seek the lost diamond mines of King Solomon, and on hearing this, Quartermain tells of an old map which has come into his possession, telling the location of this alleged treasure. The three set out with a Zulu native, who has his own reasons (untold to the group) as to why he wants to accompany them. Along the way they have some strange encounters, none the least of which is an evil witch. Very very fun, and you can almost hear the theme song to the Indiana Jones movies as you read!
Anonymous 7 months ago
Superb narrative of daring do in the British fashion.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Good book but the escape from certain death was a little too contrived.
SarahJo4110 More than 1 year ago
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IS THIS GOOD???????????
Manirul More than 1 year ago
Nice,,,, Great...!
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HeyRon More than 1 year ago
Was not disappointed. Puts you in Africa in the 19th century in imaginative world and adventure of a life time. This story led the way for all types of adventure books and movies we now enjoy today.