"Dear Rider Haggard"
a dedicatory epistle
by Andrew Lang
together with Rider's return epistle
and needless commentary by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
"Of colored fairy books fame" underestimates Andrew Lang, for it was his wife & her friends who wrote the majority of those tales drawing on every conceivable source plus some planely made up, & Lang merely edited them, as he admitted again & again with some embarrasment that people thought they were his. But he was definitely a writer of actual merit & Romantic temperament, whose poems, essays, translations & tales were all marked with the same love of the fantastic that induced him to edit Mrs. Lang's wrongly credited project.
The following public letter was addressed to Andrew Lang's friend H. Rider Haggard, appearing as a dedicatory epistle in front of a collection of adult fantasy tales all his own, entitled In the Wrong Paradise & Other Stories (Ln: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1886). One tale, "The End of Phaeacia," is a Haggardesque piece about a lost race on a Pacific island, & which had previously appeared an anthology issued to raise charity funds. Lang the following year published in paperback a rare parody of Rider's classic She under the title He (Ln: Longmans Green, 1887) besides publishing a shorter comic piece in Old Friends: Essays in Epistolary Parody (Longmans Green, 1890), containing a letter purporting to have been written by Allan Quatermain to Sir Henry Curtis. In 1896 Rider included the sonnet by Andrew Lang at the front of a new edition She, & by then they had long previous published a novel with shared byline. That was The World's Desire (Longmans Green, 1890) about the further adventures of Odysseus & Helen of Troy who went on to Egypt after the Trojan War. In reality Lang's contribution was very slight. The fondness Rider felt for Lang was clearly enormous, & he must have been moved indeed by the Lang's generous words reproduced below.
Dear Rider Haggard,
I have asked you to let me put your name here, that I might have the opportunity of saying how much pleasure I owe to your romances. They make one a boy again while one is reading them; & the student of "The Witch's Head" & of "King Solomon's Mines" is as young, in heart, as when he hunted long ago with Chingachgook & Uncas. You, who know the noble barbarian in his African retreats, appear to retain more than most men of his fresh natural imagination. We are all savages under our white skins; but you alone recall to us the delights & terrors of the world's nonage. We are hunters again, trappers, adventurers bold, while we study you, & the blithe barbarian wakens even in the weary person of letters. He forgets proof-sheets & papers, & the "young lion" seeks his food from God, in the fearless ancient way, with bow or rifle. Of all modern heroes of romance, the dearest to me is your faithful Zulu, & I own I cried when he bade farewell to his English master, in "The Witch's Head."
In the following tales the natural man takes a hand, but he is seen through civilized spectacles, not, as in your delightful books, with the eyes of the sympathetic sportsman. If Why-Why & Mr. Gowles amuse you a little, let this be my Diomedean exchange of bronze for gold -- of the new Phoeacia for Kukuanaland, or for that haunted city of Kor, in which your fair Ayesha dwells undying, as yet unknown to the future lovers of She.
Very sincerely yours
Cromer, August 29, 1886
Rider had already dedicated the greatest of his great works to Lang. Robert Louis Stevenson in a letter to W. E. Henley, written December 1887, because Stevenson hoped for permission to provide a returned dedication for Henley, commented: "In the matter of the dedication, are not cross dedications a little awkward? Lang & Rider Haggard did it, to be sure." Rider's initial dedication had been in She. It was simple & loving:
INSCRIBE THIS HISTORY TO
IN TOKEN OF PERSONAL REGARD
MY SINCERE ADMIRATION FOR HIS LEARNING
AND HIS WORK.
London, December, 1886
And understanding that Lang's admiration of She was equally sincere, Rider extended an additonal Dedication to his friend years later when publishing Ayesha, starting off this sequel to She with a dedicatory epistle much in the manner of Lang's previous:
My Dear Lang,
The appointed years -- alas! how many of them -- are gone by, leaving Ayesha lovely & loving & ourselves alive. As it was promised in the Caves of Kor She has returned again.
To you therefore who accepted the first, I offer this further history of one of the various incarnations of that Immortal.
My hope is that after you have read her record, notwithstanding her subtleties & sins & the shortcomings of her chronicler (no easy office!) you may continue to wear your chain of "loyalty to our lady Ayesha." Such, I confess, is still the fate of your old friend.
H. Rider Haggard
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