n Akroterion - Andrew Lang, comparative anthropology and the Classics in the African romances of Rider Haggard

Volume 56, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0303-1896
  • E-ISSN: 2079-2883
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The long-standing friendship between Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) is surely one of the most intriguing literary relationships of the Victorian era. Lang was a pre-eminent literary critic and his support for Haggard's earliest popular romances, such as (1885) and (1887), helped to establish them as leading models of the new genre of imperial adventure fiction. Lang and Haggard co-authored (1890) and the ideas of Lang, who was also a brilliant Classics scholar, can be seen in many of Haggard's works. There are some significant similarities between the two men: both were approximate contemporaries who lived through the most aggressive phase of British imperialism, both were highly successfully writers who earned their living by their pens, both wrote prolifically and fluently on a wide range of subjects, both were largely self-educated, both were interested in the supernatural, both had had unhappy experiences in love at first but later maintained long-lasting marriages, and both were men with powerful faculties of imagination. There are, of course, significant differences also: Lang was a gifted intellectual who had won a fellowship at Oxford, a Homeric scholar, a poet with a gift for irony and humour, and one of the earliest exponents of the new science of anthropological mythology; Haggard was less well educated and more serious-minded, he preferred action to ideas, was personally involved in the extension of British rule in Southern Africa, and had a close experience of African tribal life. This article sets out to investigate the relationship between these two men, and to assess the extent to which Lang's classical and anthropological thinking shaped the narratives of Haggard, especially those set in his imperialistic fantasy of the African continent.

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