Eng 324: Haggard, She ~ The Gothic 1
Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard
1] “[Haggard’s] openings—what story in the world opens better than She?--are full of alluring promise, and his catastrophes
triumphantly keep it” (Lewis, C. S. “The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard.” On Stories and Other Essays on Literature. Ed. Walter
Hooper. New York: Harcourt, 1982. 97).
2] Edmund Burke, from A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful
2a] Burke, “Of the Sublime” (Longman Anthology of British Literature. 6 vols. 2nd edition. 2A: 499): WHATEVER is fitted in any sort to
excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a
manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of
feeling. I say the strongest emotion, because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the
part of pleasure.
2b] Burke, “Of the Passion Caused by the Sublime” (Longman Anthology of British Literature. 6 vols. 2nd edition. 2A: 500-501): THE
PASSION caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment; and astonishment is
that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with
its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power
of the sublime, that, far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force.
Astonishment, as I have said, is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree; the inferior effects are admiration, reverence, and respect
2c] Burke, “Terror” (Longman Anthology of British Literature. 6 vols. 2nd edition. 2A: 501): NO passion so effectually robs the mind of all
its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. For fear being an apprehension of pain or death, it operates in a manner that resembles
actual pain. Whatever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is sublime too, whether this cause of terror be endued with greatness of
dimensions or not; for it is impossible to look on anything as trifling, or contemptible, that may be dangerous. There are many animals,
who though far from being large, are yet capable of raising ideas of the sublime, because they are considered as objects of terror. As
serpents and poisonous animals of almost all kinds. And to things of great dimensions, if we annex an adventitious idea of terror, they
become without comparison greater.
2d] Burke, “Obscurity” (Longman Anthology of British Literature. 6 vols. 2nd edition. 2A: 501): TO make anything very terrible,
obscurity seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great
deal of the apprehension vanishes. Every one will be sensible of this, who considers how greatly night adds to our dread, in all cases of
danger, and how much the notions of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas, affect minds which give credit to the
popular tales concerning such sorts of beings. Those despotic governments, which are founded on the passions of men, and principally
upon the passion of fear, keep their chief as much as may be from the public eye. The policy has been the same in many cases of
religion. Almost all the heathen temples were dark. Even in the barbarous temples of the Americans at this day, they keep their idol in a
dark part of the hut, which is consecrated to his worship. … No person seems better to have understood the secret of heightening, or
of setting terrible things, if I may use the expression, in their strongest light, by the force of a judicious obscurity, than Milton’s
[description of Death]:
—The other shape,
If shape it might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable, in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed;
For each seemed either; black he stood as night;
Fierce as ten furies; terrible as hell;
And shook a deadly dart. What seemed his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on
In this description all is dark, uncertain, confused, terrible, and sublime to the last degree.
3] (305-6) E.L. Wilson, “Finding Pharaoh” Century Magazine (1887)
Then lighting our torches and stooping low, we proceeded to explore the long passage and tomb at its terminus. The rough
way was scattered with fragments of mummy-cases, shreds of mummy cloth, bunches of papyrus-plant, lotus flowers, and palm-leaf
stalks, while here and there a funeral offering was found. After much stumbling we arrived at the inner chamber where, but a few
weeks before, stood or reclined the coffins of so many royal dead. …“Finding Pharaoh was an exciting experience for me,” said my
companion [Émile Brugsch, German Egyptologist]. “It is true, I was armed to the teeth, and my faithful rifle, full of shells, hung over
my shoulder; but my assistant from Cairo… was the only person with me whom I could trust. Any one of the natives would have
killed me willingly, had we been alone, for every one of them knew better than I did that I was about to deprive them of a great source
of revenue. But I exposed no sign of fear and proceeded with work. The well cleared out, I descended and began the exploration of
the underground passage.
… I came to a chamber where we are now seated, and there standing against the walls or here lying on
the floor, I found an even greater number of mummy-cases of stupendous size and weight.
“Their gold coverings and their polished surfaces so plainly reflected my excited visage that it seemed as though I was
looking into the faces of my ancestors. The gilt face of Queen Nofretari seemed to smile upon me like an old
Eng 324: Haggard, She ~ The Gothic 2
Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard
“I took in the situation quickly, with a gasp, and hurried to the open air lest I should be overcome and the glorious prize still
unrevealed be lost to science.”
“It was almost sunset then. Already the odor which arose from the tomb had cajoled a troupe of slinking jackals to the
neighborhood, and howl of hyenas was heard not far distant. A long line of vultures sat upon the highest pinnacles of the cliffs near
by, ready for their hateful work.”
4] Haggard, “Egypt” in Appendix B (318-19)
About eighteen years I revisited these tombs and found them much easier of access and illuminated with electric light.
Somehow in these new conditions they did not produce quite the same effect upon me. When first I was there I remember struggling
down one of them—I think it was that of the great Seti—lit by dim torches, and I remember also the millions of bats that must be
beaten away. I can see them now, those bats, weaving endless figures in the torchlight, dancers in a ghostly dance. [Now
eighteen years later] …when next I stood in that place I do not recall any bats; I suppose that the electric light had scared them away…
One of my tomb explorations of 1887 nearly proved my last adventure. Opposite Assouan [a city on the Nile] some great
caverns had just been discovered. Into one of these I crept through a little hole, for the sand was almost up to the top of the
doorway. I found it full of hundreds of dead, or at least there seemed to be hundred… As I contemplated these gruesome remains in
the dim light I began to wonder how it came about that there were so many of them. Then I recollected that about the time of
Christ… [Assouan] had been almost depopulated by a fearful plague, and it occurred to me that doubtless at this time these old
burying-places had been reopened and filled up with the victims of the scourge—also that the germ of plague is said to be very
long-lived! Incautiously I shouted to my companions who were outside that I was coming out, and set to work to crawl along the
hole which to the doorway. But the echoes of my voice reverberating in that place caused the sand to begin to pour down
between the cracks of the masonry from above, so that the weight of it falling upon my back, pined me fast. Like a flash I realized
that in a few seconds I too should be buried. Gathering all my strength I made a desperate effort and succeeded in reaching the
mouth of the hole just before it was too late, for my friends had wandered off to some distance and were quite unaware of my plight
5] Haggard, Chapter 4, “The Squall” (69-70)
Then I remember no more; till suddenly—a frightful roar of wind, a shriek of terror from the awakening crew, and a whip-
like sting of water in our faces. Some of the men ran to let go the haulyards and lower the sail, but the parrel [rope] jammed and the
yard would not come down. I sprang to my feet and hung on to a rope. The sky aft was dark as pitch, but the moon still shone brightly
ahead of us and lit up the blackness. Beneath its sheen a huge white-topped breaker, twenty feet high or more, was rushing on to us. It
was on the break—the moon shone on its crest and tipped its foam with light. On it rushed beneath the inky sky, driven by the awful
squall behind it. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, I saw the black shape of the whale-boat cast high into the air on the crest of the
breaking wave. Then—a shock of water, a wild rush of boiling foam, and I was clinging for my life to the shroud, ay, swept straight out
from it like a flag in a gale.
6a] Haggard, Chapter 24, “Walking the Plank”—approaching the caves (243-44)
Ayesha called to us, and we crept up to her, for she was a little in front, and were rewarded with a view that was positively
appalling in its gloom and grandeur. Before us was a mighty chasm in the black rock, jagged and torn and splintered through it in a
far past age by some awful convulsion of Nature, as though it had been cleft by stroke upon stroke of the lightning. This chasm,
which was bounded by a precipice on the hither, and presumably, though we could not see it, on the farther side also, may have
measured any width across, but from its darkness I do not think it can have been very broad. It was impossible to make out much
of its outline, or how far it ran, for the simple reason that the point where we were standing was so far from the upper surface of the
cliff, at least fifteen hundred or two thousand feet, that only a very dim light struggled down to us from above…
"Here must we pass," said Ayesha. "Be careful lest giddiness overcome you, or the wind sweep you into the gulf beneath, for
of a truth it hath no bottom;"
6b] Haggard, Chapter 25, “The Spirit of Life”—Ayesha’s caves (255-58)
We followed her, and perceived that in the wall of the cone there was a stair… Down this Ayesha began to climb, springing
from step to step… When we had descended some fifteen or sixteen steps we found that they ended in a tremendous rocky slope…
The slope was very steep, and often precipitous, but it was nowhere impassable, and by the light of the lamps we went down it with
no great difficulty, though it was gloomy work enough travelling on thus, no one of us knew whither, into the dead heart of a volcano.
As we went, however, I took the precaution of noting our route as well as I could; and this was not so very difficult, owing to the
extraordinary and most fantastic shape of the rocks that were strewn about, many of which in that dim light looked more like the
grim faces carven upon mediæval gargoyles than ordinary boulders. For a long time we travelled on thus, half an hour I should
say… After some fifty yards of this creeping, the passage suddenly widened into a cave, so huge that we could see neither the roof nor
the sides. We only knew that it was a cave by the echo of our tread and the perfect quiet of the heavy air. On we went for many
minutes in absolute awed silence, like lost souls in the depths of Hades, Ayesha's white and ghost-like form flitting in front of
us, till once more the place ended in a passage which opened into a second cavern much smaller than the first. Indeed, we could
clearly make out the arch and stony banks of this second cave, and, from their rent and jagged appearance, discovered that, like the
first long passage down which we had passed through the cliff before we reached the quivering spur, it had, to all appearance, been torn
in the bowels of the rock by the terrific force of some explosive gas. At length this cave ended in a third passage, through which
gleamed a faint glow of light.
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Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard
I heard Ayesha give a sigh of relief as this light dawned upon us.
"It is well," she said; "prepare to enter the very womb of the Earth, wherein she doth conceive the Life that ye see brought
forth in man and beast—ay, and in every tree and flower."
Swiftly she sped along, and after her we stumbled as best we might, our hearts filled like a cup with mingled dread and
curiosity. What were we about to see? We passed down the tunnel; stronger and stronger the light beamed, reaching us in great
flashes like the rays from a lighthouse, as one by one they are thrown wide upon the darkness of the waters. Nor was this all, for with
the flashes came a soul-shaking sound like that of thunder and of crashing trees. Now we were through it, and--oh heavens!
We stood in a third cavern, some fifty feet in length by perhaps as great a height, and thirty wide. It was carpeted with fine white
sand… The cavern was… filled with a soft glow of rose-coloured light, more beautiful to look on than anything that can be
conceived. But at first we saw no flashes, and heard no more of the thunderous sound. Presently, however, as we stood in amaze,
gazing at the marvellous sight, and wondering whence the rosy radiance flowed, a dread and beautiful thing happened. Across
the far end of the cavern, with a grinding and crashing noise--a noise so dreadful and awe-inspiring that we all trembled, and Job
actually sank to his knees—there flamed out an awful cloud or pillar of fire, like a rainbow many-coloured, and like the lightning
"Draw near, draw near!" cried Ayesha, with a voice of thrilling exultation. "Behold the very Fountain and Heart of Life as it
beats in the bosom of the great world. Behold the substance from which all things draw their energy, the bright Spirit of the
Globe, without which it cannot live, but must grow cold and dead as the dead moon…
We followed her through the rosy glow up to the head of the cave, till at last we stood before the spot where the great pulse
beat and the great flame passed. And as we went we became sensible of a wild and
splendid exhilaration, of a glorious sense of such a fierce intensity of Life… We reached the head of the cave, and gazed at each
other in the glorious glow, and laughed aloud—even Job laughed, and he had not laughed for a week—in the lightness of our hearts
and the divine intoxication of our brains. I know that I felt as though all the varied genius of which the human intellect is capable
had descended upon me. I could have spoken in blank verse of Shakesperian beauty, all sorts of great ideas flashed through my mind; it
was as though the bonds of my flesh had been loosened and left the spirit free to soar to the empyrean of its native power. The
sensations that poured in upon me are indescribable.
7] Haggard, Chapter 5, “The Head of the Ethiopian” (82)
Shortly after this the moon came up, and notwithstanding every variety of roar that echoed over the water to us from the
lions on the banks, we began, thinking ourselves perfectly secure, to gradually doze off.
I do not quite know what it was that made me poke my head out of the friendly shelter of the blanket, perhaps because I
found that the mosquitoes were biting right through it. Anyhow, as I did so I heard Job whisper, in a frightened voice--
"Oh, my stars, look there!"
Instantly we all of us looked, and this was what we saw in the moonlight. Near the shore were two wide and ever-widening
circles of concentric rings rippling away across the surface of the water, and in the heart and centre of the circles were two
dark moving objects.
"What is it?" asked I.
"It is those damned lions, sir," answered Job… "and they are swimming here to heat us”
I looked again: there was no doubt about it; I could catch the glare of their ferocious eyes. Attracted either by the smell of
the newly killed waterbuck meat or of ourselves, the hungry beasts were actually storming our position.
Leo already had his rifle in his hand. I called to him to wait till they were nearer, and meanwhile grabbed my own. Some
fifteen feet from us the water shallowed on a bank to the depth of about fifteen inches, and presently the first of them—it was the
lioness—got on to it, shook herself, and roared. At that moment Leo fired, the bullet went right down her open mouth and out at
the back of her neck, and down she dropped, with a splash, dead. The other lion—a full-grown male—was some two paces behind
her. At this second he got his forepaws on to the bank, when a strange thing happened. There was a rush and disturbance of the
water, such as one sees in a pond in England when a pike takes a little fish, only a thousand times fiercer and larger, and suddenly the
lion gave a most terrific snarling roar and sprang forward on to the bank, dragging something black with him.
"Allah!" shouted Mahomed, "a crocodile has got him by the leg!" and sure enough he had. We could see the long snout with
its gleaming lines of teeth and the reptile body behind it.
And then followed an extraordinary scene indeed. The lion managed to get well on to the bank, the crocodile half standing
and half swimming, still nipping his hind leg. He roared till the air quivered with the sound, and then, with a savage, shrieking snarl,
turned round and clawed hold of the crocodile's head. The crocodile shifted his grip, having, as we afterwards discovered, had one of
his eyes torn out, and slightly turned over; instantly the lion got him by the throat and held on, and then over and over they rolled upon
the bank struggling hideously. It was impossible to follow their movements, but when next we got a clear view the tables had
turned, for the crocodile, whose head seemed to be a mass of gore, had got the lion's body in his iron jaws just above the hips, and
was squeezing him and shaking him to and fro. For his part, the tortured brute, roaring in agony, was clawing and biting madly at his
enemy's scaly head, and fixing his great hind claws in the crocodile's, comparatively speaking, soft throat, ripping it open as one would
rip a glove.
Then, all of a sudden, the end came. The lion's head fell forward on the crocodile's back, and with an awful groan he died, and
the crocodile, after standing for a minute motionless, slowly rolled over on to his side, his jaws still fixed across the carcass of the lion,
which, we afterwards found, he had bitten almost in halves.
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Dr. Chris Koenig-Woodyard
8] Haggard, Chapter 8, “The Feast, and After” (109): "Run for it!" I shouted, setting the example by starting up the cave as hard as my
legs would carry me. I would have made for the open air if it had been possible, but there were men in the way, and, besides, I had
caught sight of the forms of a crowd of people standing out clear against the skyline beyond the entrance to the cave. Up the cave I
went, and after me came the others, and after them thundered the whole crowd of cannibals, mad with fury at the death of the woman.
9] Haggard, Chapter 16, “The Tomb of Kôr”—Holly’s two reactions
9a] (171) [Ayesha speaking] Look upon this great cave. Sawest thou ever the like? Yet was it, and many more like it, hollowed by the
hands of the dead race that once lived here in the city on the plain. A great and wonderful people must they have been, those men of
Kor, but, like the Egyptians, they thought more of the dead than of the living. How many men, thinkest thou, working for how many
years, did it need to the hollowing out this cave and all the galleries thereof?
“Tens of thousands,” I answered.
9b] (173) I gave a sigh of astonishment—the utter desolation depicted in this rude scrawl was so overpowering. It was terrible to think
of this solitary survivor of a mighty people recording its fate before he too went down into darkness. What must the old man have felt
as, in ghastly terrifying solitude, by the light of one lamp feebly illuminating a little space of gloom, he in a few brief lines daubed the
history of his nation's death upon the cavern wall? What a subject for the moralist, or the painter, or indeed for any one who can think!