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VBM 5: Leaving winter behind

January’s selection for the Victorian Book of the Month series is inspired by the cold and snowy weather here in Provo, or at least the desire to escape it: A Winter Pilgrimage by H. Rider Haggard.

IMG_0734Haggard is most famous for his adventure novels of Africa, like King Solomon’s Mines and She (which provided escapist fare for readers in a damp English climate), but he also produced non-fiction. A Winter Pilgrimage is an account of Haggard’s travels in the winter of 1900 to much warmer destinations: Italy, Palestine, and the island of Cyprus, then a British colony. Haggard had intended to write up a series of current affairs articles on Palestine and Cyprus for the London Times newspaper, but all did not go as planned. Haggard had invited a nephew along with him to act as his secretary, but as Haggard related later in his memoirs:

…he proved the most erratic secretary with whom I have ever come in contact. I could never find him when I wanted him, and as for the heavy typewriter which we dragged about with us, all he did with it was to drop it on my toes out of the rack of a railway train. At last I got sick of the article, which alone clung to us after he had lost all the luggage on the Italian railways, causing us to proceed to Cyprus with practically nothing but the clothes in which we stood, and sent it home from that romantic isle packed in the remains of a mule-saddle, or something of the sort. (Haggard, The Days of My Life, chap. 18)

Haggard published A Winter Pilgrimage in 1901 both in book form as well as serially in the illustrated newspaper The Queen. The newspaper editors were most interested in the section about the Holy Land and actually printed the second half of the book first; the piece proved popular enough with The Queen’s readership that they printed the sections on Italy and Cyprus later in the year.

The Victorian Collection contains extensive holdings of H. Rider Haggard’s works, including first editions, presentation copies, and early reprints of his novels. Other interesting Haggard-related items in Special Collections include original 19th century illustrations for his novels Nada the Lily and She as well as the original script for Merian C. Cooper’s 1930s film adaptation of She.

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