H. Rider Haggard has long been known as the premier writer of the imperial adventure novel, which is described by scholars as predominantly devoid of colonial settlers, particularly women. Yet his most innovative contribution to the genre of adventure fiction is actually his most overlooked: the colonial settler heroine. Reading beyond King Solomon's Mines (1885), She (1887), and Allan Quatermain (1887), male imperial romances that have almost exclusively been allowed to represent Haggard's vast body of work, we encounter female colonial leadership on the South African frontier. An effect of Haggard's anxiety over burgeoning metropolitan female agency and Afrikaner political strength, the heroines of Haggard's female colonial romances enabled the author imaginatively to redirect feminist energy — from metropole to colony, from self (as he saw it) to service, from suffragism to soil. Though they expand the British Empire's, rather than simply their own, sphere of influence, they belie Haggard's imaginative mastery, for in domesticating the empire these heroines transcend domestication, commanding authority far beyond the garden gate. Through an analysis of The Ghost Kings (1908), Haggard's final female colonial romance, this article compares the subgenre to the male imperial romance, demonstrates Haggard's capacity to imagine positive female leadership, and, finally, suggests the limits of that imagination.
Melissa Free; “It Is I Who Have the Power”: Settling Women in Haggard's South African Imaginary. Genre 1 December 2012; 45 (3): 359–393. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1630549
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