In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Walking among ghostsPaul Fussell
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 
edited by D.S. Higgins.
Cassell, 299 pp., £14.95, May 1980, 0 304 30611 8
Show More
Show More

The large university library I use contains few books which the undergraduates have read virtually to pulp. One is Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, published 95 years ago. Its pages are falling out and its binding has been worn to threads and cardboard. Clearly students told off to go and read Wittgenstein and George Eliot have been spending delicious secret hours enjoying Allan Quatermain’s phlegmatic accounts of people crushed to death, impaled, dismembered and beheaded. (Anyone imagining that ‘violence’ in fiction and films is somehow modern or post-modern should re-read some Victorian male-romances of the Haggard kind. They make Death of a Princess look like The Young Visiters.)

But Haggard, who produced almost sixty romances and novels, wanted to be something more than a writer of page-turners. He wanted to serve his country in a high-minded volunteer way. ‘I believe that public service is my true line,’ he wrote. ‘All the rest are side shows.’ After King Solomon’s Mines and She had made him rich and famous, he devoted himself increasingly to agricultural reform and to service on Royal Commissions and committees of the Royal Colonial Institute. He was an Empire man and a thoroughly public person, frequenting a milieu defined by conferences, public statements, reports, clubs, societies, ceremonies, speeches, official dinners, the Athenaeum, and letters to the Times. It is largely these things that he chooses to record in these so-called private diaries. Here’s a typical day (22 August 1916):

I came to town by the early train, went to the bank where they admitted their error in my accounts and then by a bright inspiration on to the Field office where I had promised to be interviewed. After lunch I went to the committee meeting at the Royal Colonial Institute where we got through a good lot of business. I hear indirectly that the Government is doing something about appointing a board, but I do not suppose I shall be on it.

Obviously, readers whose notion of the ‘private’ has been formed by, say, the diaries of Roger Casement, or even the diaries of Evelyn Waugh, will be disappointed. There are no secrets or scandals here, nothing to raise a blush or occasion any reassessment of Haggard’s character or achievement. His diaries, all 22 volumes and two million words of them, have been known for years and have been drawn on by biographers and critics like Morton Cohen and Peter Berresford Ellis. Here the Haggard collector and enthusiast D.S. Higgins has selected about one-fortieth of the text and presented it in an edition which deserves to be called amateur. He has not indicated omissions by ellipses, the annotation is sparse, and there are too many printing errors. It is nevertheless a useful book which will appeal especially to those interested in the history and mythography of the Great War.

When war broke out Haggard was in Canada as a member of the Dominions Royal Commission, inquiring into natural resources and trade. He decided to keep a diary of public events to help him write a history of the war. This he never wrote, but he did continue the diary to his death, in 1925. His view of the war is that of an elderly patriot and rentier, a church-goer and Norfolk JP whose main work seems to have been fining violators of the wartime blackout regulations. Long before the Derby Scheme, he was an enthusiast for conscription, outraged to behold able-bodied young men lounging about London. He found the savagery of the war almost a justification of his own career in the fiction of violence:

In some ways I think the war is doing good in England. It is bringing the people ... face to face with elementary facts which hitherto it has been the fashion to ignore ... How often have I been vituperated by rose-water critics because I have written of fighting and tried to inculcate elementary lessons, such as that it is a man’s duty to defend his country, and that only those who are prepared for war can protect themselves and such as are dear to them. ‘Coarse! bloody! brutal! Uncivilised!’ such has been the talk. Well, and today have I done any harm by inoculating a certain number of the thousands who are at the front with these primary facts, even although my work has been held to be so infinitely inferior to that of Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and others?

Public as he is, Haggard seems to occupy an intellectual and imaginative backwater (the Athenaeum?) where the poems of Sassoon never circulate and Massingham’s Nation is never found on the library table. Two years after the war, Haggard has still not heard of Sassoon. ‘I am not fortunate enough to be acquainted with the works of Siegfried Sassoon, who, from his name, I presume is a Jew of the advanced school,’ he writes, and when he does read Sassoon’s poems, he pronounces them ‘feeble and depressing rubbish’. (To the end of the war Haggard adhered to the diction of Rupert Brooke, passing the data of the trenches through filters like glorious, keen, plucky, gallant, honour and God.) In no sense was the modern for him. ‘There are two men left living in the world,’ he writes, ‘with whom I am in supreme sympathy, Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling.’

All this might seem pretty damning and stupid, but there’s another element in Haggard’s response to the war which complicates things. That is his capacity to be worn down by the grinding tragedy of it all. His nephews were killed. His godson was killed. His publisher’s son was killed. Kipling’s son (‘Poor lad!’) was killed. As the war proceeds, Haggard’s initial complacent bellicosity yields to misery and despair, and that does him credit. And there’s something more. Although he confesses his delight in being associated with ‘well-known and public people’, at a memorial service for Kitchener, drowned on HMS Hampshire, he is annoyed by the presiding bishop’s dilating only on ‘Kitchener and his career’. Haggard by this time has learned to extend his imagination and his sympathies: ‘For my part,’ he says, ‘I could not help thinking of the six or seven hundreds of good men and true who went to doom with him. But of these we heard little or nothing.’ Four years of ghastliness bring him to a state very like sensitivity, and by 1918 he has had enough of dismembering and impaling: ‘I see a new poster on the walls to encourage the buying of War Bonds which strikes me as more horrible and in worse taste than most of them. It represents a British soldier realistically driving a bayonet into the stomach of a German, and the legend underneath is “The last blow tells,” or something of that sort. Its coarse brutality made me feel sick.’

In 1972 Colin Perry published his fascinating teenager’s diary of 1940, Boy in the Blitz, which often acutely perceived the Second World War by means of the imagery associated with the First. One notable thing about Haggard’s diaries is the way they uncannily seem to reverse this process, depicting the Blitz and blackout of his war in the terms of Colin Perry’s war a quarter-century later. It would be impossible to assign a date (or a war) to this passage:

I have walked down Piccadilly and seen some of last night’s damage. A single bomb was dropped near the Circus, opposite Swan and Edgar ’s ... The damage done is great; Swan and Edgar’s windows and those of many other establishments are wrecked ... The roadway has a huge hole in it, and is blocked, so that the buses must go round by other routes; and the whole place is thickly strewn with fragments of glass.

That is Haggard writing on 20 October 1917. His version of the London blackout is likewise indistinguishable from an account of 1940:

In walking to the Hampstead Tube at Charing Cross, ... I fell over a high curb and was lucky to escape a sprained or broken ankle. Also these wide crossings are dangerous to negotiate in the gloom. It is strange to see the great search-lights wheeling about the sky in their quest for hostile aircraft ...

And here is his unwitting version (1915) of the Home Guard’s determination to repel invasion in 1940:

Yesterday I drilled with the Ditchingham and Bungay Volunteer Defense Corps on the Common, whereof I am a platoon Commander. The spectacle was distinctly funny – that of a lot of determined old gents stumping about and doing their best to execute manoeuvres which they did not understand. However, if only rifles and ammunition are given to them, I am convinced that they and tens of thousands like them would be most useful stuff in the event of invasion. Even if one is over 40 one can still hold a gun straight enough to shoot a German and we have the advantages of knowing the country.

And there is this startling off-hand prophecy of the Nuremberg laws and the furnaces:

                                                                                                4th December 1919

Kipling, who has been lunching here today, is of opinion that we owe all our Russian troubles, and many others, to the machinations of the Jews. If ... they are as mischievous as he believes, the evil that they do is likely to recoil on their own heads, since in extremity the world has a rough way of dealing with Jews.

But if passages like these seem to understand the future, there are others that most touchingly do not. The artistic disadvantage of a diary, as opposed to a memoir, is that its beginning doesn’t know its end. But its advantage is that just this ignorance supplies ironies the more striking for being unwilled. ‘The war news seems better,’ Haggard is pleased to notice on 29 June 1916. Two days later the attack on the Somme will dash his hopes. Commenting on the extravagant public show of Princess Mary’s wedding, a fairly minor royal occasion, he speculates with terrible vulnerability (thank God he died in 1925): ‘What will happen when the Prince of Wales’s turn comes, I wonder!’

In the same way some of Haggard’s unwitting juxtapositions say much about universal social and political determinants of perception. On 15 April 1917, Haggard converses with Lord Milner, just returned from Russia, about the revolution: ‘He is not sure where the revolutionary movement will end. Undoubtedly the hatred of kings is growing, in Russia and elsewhere, and I hear that our own George R. is very anxious about the Czar and “much upset”.’ Five days later, Haggard attends in St Paul’s the ‘solemn service to Almighty God on the occasion of the entry of the United States of America into the Great War for Freedom’. George R. was of course present, and now Haggard writes: ‘I do not think that ever before I realised how small the King is. Beside the Queen, who after all is not so very large, he looked tiny and unimpressive ... To be frank, he did not look half an inch a king, notwithstanding his Field Marshal’s uniform.’

In addition, we find some unconscious but suggestive anticipations of future imaginative and literary history. One is Haggard’s registration of his excitement at the relighting of the cities once the war has ended: ‘After more than four years of an abysmal darkness with the knowledge that often enough Death was floating overhead, I feel as though I should like to pass the rest of my days in a lake of light – as though night and day I could never be satisfied with brilliance.’ There he expresses something like the lust for the sun which enticed post-war dissidents and exiles such as Aldous Huxley and Norman Douglas and D.H. Lawrence and Osbert Sitwell to the hot beaches of the Mediterranean and the ‘lakes of light’ in Northern Italy and Mexico.

But Haggard was not their kind, and with the exception of a trip to Egypt, after the war he stayed in England, attending his meetings, delivering his speeches, trying to organise a Liberty League for the repression of Bolshevism (a trusted reactionary colleague absconded with the funds), and watching everything get worse. Now he noted with upper-middle-class dismay the onset of what Kingsley Amis calls the modern ‘unchangeable crappiness’: the deterioration of the postal and telephone service, the decline of craftsmanship and the attendant rise of publicity, the vogue of strikes and slowdowns and quitting work early, confiscatory income tax and death duties, inflation, public sullenness and discourtesy, inexplicable ‘enormous crowds’ of dreadful people everywhere bent on God knows what fatuous or sinister purpose, the collapse of manners, the disappearance of porters in railway stations, ‘the triumph of expediency over principle in high places’, and the disheartening increase in umbrella thievery by members of the better clubs.

‘I am out of tune with the day,’ he writes: ‘I am a back-number.’ And even worse: ‘For me the world is largely peopled with the dead; I walk among ghosts, especially at night.’ And as he meditates on his own value, he concludes: ‘My talent may be of copper not of gold ... but I have put it to the best use I could.’ He arranged that his epitaph describe him as one ‘Who with a humble heart strove to serve his country’. I think he’d be pleased to know that he’s done so by inventing the African witch Gagool and having her crushed to death with a great rock as fully as by attending meetings and speaking at official dinners.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.