Our town's landmark Haggard's Hilldrop House, and the fascinating life of Sir H Rider Haggard ~ Part Two
Recently I paid a visit to one of our town's most famous landmarks, part of Haggard's Hilldrop House, where Sir Rider Haggard briefly resided in 1881. Sir Rider Haggard, the author of famous works of fiction such as King Solomon's Mines, She, Allan Quatermain, and many more, drew much of his inspiration for his imaginative novels from the time he lived in South Africa. Apart from his famous literary legacy, he also lived quite a fascinating life.
Yesterday I ended off with Haggard leaving South Africa due to the Anglo-Boer War, and returning to England with his wife, Marianna. When back in England, he studied law, and was called to the bar in 1884. His law practice was a little half-hearted, and he decided he would make more money by writing fiction. In 1885 Haggard completed his third novel, but his first hit, King Solomon's Mines, which was advertised around London as "The Most Amazing Book Ever Written" and creating The Lost World genre of fiction writing. The book was actually the product of a wager Haggard had made with his brother that he could write a novel rivaling that of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and it was written in a time period of between six to sixteen weeks. The book was rejected by two publishers, before eventually becoming a bestseller, and copies could not be printed fast enough to meet demand.
It was Haggard's experiences in Africa that influenced most of his works. He drew inspiration from the local tribesmen, the vast mineral wealth, the Zimbabwean ruins and from real life explorers, hunters and colonialists. Haggard was not only a fiction writer, but had a great interest in land affairs due to his farming endeavours, and wrote on that subject too. Haggard also wrote numerous letters to newspapers, and had over a hundred published by The Times. A comprehensive list of all his published works can be found here.
In later years, Haggard resumed contact with his true love, Lilly, when her husband, who had lost everything due to embezzlement, deserted her. Lilly turned to Haggard for help and he supported her and her children, but sadly Lilly went back to her husband, who infected her with syphilis. Haggard also played a role in public life. He was very interested in land affairs, and belonged to a commission with the goal of reforming agriculture. In this role he traveled to the British Colonies and Dominions. He also stood, unsuccessfully, as a Conservative candidate for Parliament in 1895. Haggard returned once, briefly in 1914, to visit his old home in Newcastle, South Africa, Haggard's Hilldrop House. Haggard died in 1925.
I found this footage of Haggard in 1923 on YouTube.
Behind the house are the stables and outbuildings. The stables are currently being converted into a wedding venue.