Victorian Popular Fictions 6.1 3 Driscoll


King Solomon’s Mines for Girls

Leonard Driscoll

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King Solomon’s Mines is widely held to be the quintessential male novel – written by a man, for men, about men, and inhospitable to women readers. Much of the scholarship has accordingly examined the novel almost exclusively through this prism. In this article, Leonard Driscoll refutes this critical commonplace by drawing on previously unpublished archive material which shows that women were integral to both the production and reception of the novel. He shows that Haggard wrote King Solomon’s Mines in collaboration with a woman, his friend Agnes Barber, that he always intended it to be read by both genders, and that the novel was eagerly received by a new generation of discontented adolescent girls. Driscoll further argues that Haggard’s interest in women readers was firmly ideological – he was convinced that novels such as King Solomon’s Mines could help recruit the right kind of female readers to the imperial cause. Ultimately, the article shows that the phenomenal success of King Solomon’s Mines reveals not just the existence of an untapped female audience for professedly masculine novels. It also confirms the special appeal of imperial romances for readers seeking imaginative escape from the confines of Victorian patriarchy.


H. Rider Haggard; imperial romance fiction; women readers; collaboration; male novel: King Solomon’s Mines; “Hunter Quatermain’s Story”; Agnes Barber

Date of Acceptance: 24 June 2024

Date of Publication: 28 June 2024

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Driscoll, Leonard. 2024. “King Solomon’s Mines for Girls.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 6.1: 27-43. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI:


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