H. Rider Haggard's many novels are now safely stored away in limbo--or as George Sampson said, ""mainly found on the...

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THE PRIVATE DIARIES OF SIR H. RIDER HAGGARD, 1914-1925

H. Rider Haggard's many novels are now safely stored away in limbo--or as George Sampson said, ""mainly found on the juvenile shelf""--but this judicious selection from his diaries (only about two percent of the total!) makes for a live and affecting document. Haggard began the diaries at the outbreak of World War 1, and kept at them faithfully more or less until his death. The War and the hard times afterward cast a heavy pall over these pages. And this gloomy atmosphere is matched by the personal despair darkening Haggard's final decade of life: the deaths of nephews and the sons of close friends in battle, doubts about his value as a writer, frustrated desires to serve his country in high office, and rising proper-bourgeois dismay at the whole postwar scene--Bolshevism, inflation, crippling income taxes, sexual license, loss of respect by the lower class for their betters, threats to the Empire, etc. Still, Haggard is no mere stuffy lover-of-times-past, or strait-laced champion of a squirearchy trapped between the proletarian rabble and the dissolute rich. There's a good deal of that, but the man's sheer honesty and decency transcend it. The impression his journal leaves is of a fragile, worn-out relic from a bygone era. (Each Christmas he mourns his brothers and sisters: ""Where are they now? A few remain, bent, scarred and weary from struggling with the world, while the rest are dust--like the holly wreaths they wove. And whither they have gone we follow apace."") An illuminating sample of the stuff that, for better or worse, made late-Victorian/Edwardian England what it was.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Stein & Day

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980