Walking among ghosts

Paul Fussell

  • The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 edited by D.S. Higgins
    Cassell, 299 pp, £14.95, May 1980, ISBN 0 304 30611 8

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.)

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