The Joy of Sets or, the Allan Quatermain stories

26 July 2012

What is better than a series of novels which lets you follow the adventures of one or more protagonists over time and space, watching them age and change, and letting you link up scattered incidents to create a fulfilling alternative universe? In our time I’m aware of the Harry Potter series, the Mortal Engines series, the Twilight series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and there must be hundreds of others, especially if you include detective series like Ian Rankin’s Rebus series or the VI Warshawski series.

After his debut in King Solomon’s Mines (1885), Rider Haggard’s African hunter hero, Allan Quatermain went on to feature in over a dozen novels and short stories. There’s a close parallel with Sherlock Holmes who made his first appearance in the novella A Study In Scarlet in 1887 and went on to appear in three further novels and fifty-six short stories. Holmes’s last appearance was in a 1927 short story, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place, his publishing history thus spanning 40 years; while Quatermain’s last appearance was also in 1927, in Allan and the Ice-gods, pipping Holmes with a career of 42 years.

As with another series I’m exploring, James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking series, the new reader to Quatermain faces a bit of a conundrum – whether to read the stories in the order they were published in order to experience the author’s changing style and skill – or in the fictional chronology of the character’s life.

The excellent Wikipedia article lists the AQ stories by order of events in the hero’s life, with publication dates in brackets, helping you organise whichever option you choose.

Date            Text
1817                 Birth of Allan Quatermain

1835–1838   Marie (1912)
1842–1843  “Allan’s Wife”, title story in the collection Allan’s Wife (1887)
1854–1856   Child of Storm (1913)
1858                “A Tale of Three Lions”, included in the collection Allan’s Wife (1887)
1859                Maiwa’s Revenge: or, The War of the Little Hand (1888)
1868               “Hunter Quatermain’s Story”, in the collection Allan’s Wife (1887)
1869               “Long Odds”, included in the collection Allan’s Wife (1887)
1870               The Holy Flower (1915)
1871                Heu-heu: or, The Monster (1924)
1872                She and Allan (1920)
1873               The Treasure of the Lake (1926)
1874               The Ivory Child (1916)
1879               Finished (1917)
1879               “Magepa the Buck”, included in the collection Smith and the Pharaohs (1920)
1880               King Solomon’s Mines (1885)
1882               The Ancient Allan (1920)
1883               Allan and the Ice-gods (1927)
1884–1885 Allan Quatermain (1887)

18 June 85   Death of Allan Quatermain

But whichever option you choose you’ll have a problem trying to track down editions of these old books. As usual with older literature (and music), Haggard’s one or two greatest hits (King Solomon’s Mines and She) are available in countless editions, cheap or scholarly, but wander a few feet from the common highway and you are among thorns. There does appear to be one uniform edition of the complete Quatermain novels, by a small publisher, the Leonaur press, though a little pricey. You can, however, download them as Kindle texts from Amazon, or from the excellent Project Gutenberg Rider Haggard site.

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1 Comment

  1. Your note about the Leonaur set is quite useful. A bit pricey, as you say, but a handsome set of matched hardcovers that solves the problem of finding all the stories without encountering duplicates. Leonaur also publishes the 2-volume She set separately. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply

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