As a twelve year old I discovered H Rider Haggard and read She his novel that has sold over 83 million copies worldwide.
It was one of the books that influenced my interest in the Gothic novel. I live in Australia and while my parents, living in suburbia, would never have thought of Australia as having Gothic elements, (they would more likely connect Gothic to haunted castles in England and Europe) these features were part of the Australian landscape to early settlers in the bush and isolated parts of the country. Women were often left alone, some with small children, while their husband worked away, fearful of the unknown, and unseen dangers around them. The bush was a living, alien thing to them.
She is also one of the central texts in the development of Imperial Gothic. Many late-Victorian authors during the fin de siècle employed Gothic conventions and motifs in their writing, stressing and alluding to the supernatural, the ghostly, and the demonic. As Brantlinger has noted, “Connected to imperialist adventure fiction, these interests often imply anxieties about the stability of Britain, of the British Empire, or, more generally, of Western civilisation”.Novels like Dracula and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde present depictions of repressed, foreign, and demonic forces at the heart of the imperial polity. In She the danger is raised in the form of Ayesha herself:
“ The terrible She had evidently made up her mind to go to England, and it made me absolutely shudder to think what would be the result of her arrival there… In the end she would, I had little doubt, assume absolute rule over the British dominions, and probably over the whole earth, and, though I was sure that she would speedily make ours the most glorious and prosperous empire that the world had ever seen, it would be at the cost of a terrible sacrifice of life”.
She’s threat to replace Queen Victoria with herself echoes the underlying anxiety over imperialism and European colonialism emblematic of the Imperial Gothic genre. Indeed, Judith Wilt characterises the narrative of She, in which British imperialist penetration of Africa (represented by Holly, Leo, and Job) suddenly suffers a potential “counter-attack” (from Ayesha), as one of the archetypal illustrations of the “reverse colonalism” motif in Victorian Gothic. Similarly, She marks one of the first fictional examples to raise the spectre of the natural decline of civilisation, and by extension, British imperial power, which would become an increasingly frequent theme in Gothic and invasion literature until the onset of World War I.
This week I received the structural edit from my publishers Allen & Unwin. A busy week coming up with this edit but I am enjoying the process of creating a book from the first word to the last full stop.
I sent my work to Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch and this was the first step to publication.
Enjoy your week, keep writing and when your work is polished send it to the appropriate publisher.
Good writing, Elise x