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Stephen Hubert Avenel Haggard (1911–1943) was a British actor, writer and poet.

Stephen Haggard

Stephen Haggard
Born March 21, 1911(1911-03-21)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Died February 25, 1943 (aged 31)
Cause of death Suicide
Resting place Heliopolis War Cemetery
Nationality British
Occupation actor, writer, poet, intelligence officer
Years active 1930s and 1940s


Early life

Haggard was born on March 21, 1911, in Guatemala City, Guatemala and was the son of Sir Godfrey Haggard, a British diplomat and his wife Georgianna Ruel Haggard.[1] He was the grandnephew of H. Rider Haggard, the sister of Virginia Haggard, companion of the painter Marc Chagall,[2] and the father of the film director Piers Haggard.[1][3] Haggard was educated at Haileybury College, where he became close to the artist-schoolmaster Wilfrid Blunt.[4]

Training and career

After an initial foray into journalism, and determined to obtain some overseas experience,[5] Haggard moved to Munich, where he studied for stage at the Munich State Theatres under Frau Magda Lena.[5] He made his stage debut at the Schauspelhaus in October 1930 in the play Das Kluge Kind directed by Max Reinhardt. He later appeared as Hamlet at the same theatre.[1][5]

Returning to the United Kingdom in 1931, Haggard's career path was initially discouraging: he received only small parts in various London plays and worked in repertory in Worthing.[1] He undertook further study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[5] and subsequently received good notices when he played Silvius in Shakespeare's As You Like It in London in 1933.[5] He was noticed by the playwright Clemence Dane and Haggard made his first appearance in New York in 1934 as the poet Thomas Chatterton in her play Come of Age.[5][1] Returning to Britain, he had successful roles in a number of plays, including Flowers of the Forest, a production of Mazo de la Roche's Whiteoaks, and appeared as Konstantin in Chekhov's The Seagull,[5][6] and was hailed as one of the most promising and handsome classical actor of the era.[7]

Haggard married Morna Gillespie in September 1935, and they had three children, of whom one died young.[8][9][1]

In 1938 Haggard returned to New York to reprise his role as Finch in "Whiteoaks", which he also directed.[1][5] His novel Nya was published in the same year.[1] He appeared as Mozart in the 1936 film Whom the Gods Love. The film was not a success, in part because Haggard was considered to be inexperienced and unknown. He also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's 1939 film Jamaica Inn.[1][10] He subsequently appeared as Lord Nelson in the 1942 Carol Reed film The Young Mr Pitt.[11]

Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War Haggard joined the British Army, serving as a captain in the Intelligence Corps.[1] His wife and two sons went to the United States in 1940, where his father was consul-general in New York. Shortly after their departure, he wrote his sons a letter, subsequently published in the Atlantic Monthly.[12] Haggard was posted to the Middle East and worked for the Department of Political Warfare.[7][6] There he met the author Olivia Manning and her husband, the broadcaster R.D. Smith. The latter recruited Haggard to play starring roles in his radio productions of Henry V and Hamlet on local radio in Jerusalem.[6] While in the Middle East, Haggard fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian married woman whose husband worked in Palestine. Haggard was overworked and felt that the war had destroyed his acting career. He was on the edge of nervous breakdown when after some months the woman decided to end the relationship. Haggard shot himself on a train between Cairo and Palestine on February 25 1943 at the age of 31. Manning based the character Aidan Sheridan in her Fortunes of War novel sequence on Haggard.[7][13] The manner of Haggard's death was hushed up, and is not mentioned in the biography of Haggard written by Christopher Hassell and published in 1948.[13] Haggard is buried in Heliopolis War Cemetery, in Cairo, Egypt.[14]


  • Haggard, S. (1938). Nya. London: Faber & Faber Limited.
  • Haggard, S. (1944). I’ll Go to Bed at Noon: A Soldier’s Letter to His Sons. London, Faber and Faber
  • Haggard, S. (1945). The Unpublished Poems of Stephen Haggard Salamander Press
  • Athene Seyler with Stephen Haggard (1946). The Craft of Comedy. New York : Theatre Arts


  • Hassall, C. (1948). The Timeless Quest: Stephen Haggard. London: A. Barker.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Haggard is dead on active service; British Actor and Novelist, Son of Consul General Here, Was Army Captain in Near East". The New York Times. March 4, 1943. pp. 7. Retrieved 2009-01-01.  
  2. ^ Harshav, Benjamin (2004). Marc Chagall and his times : a documentary narrative. Stanford University Press. pp. 565. ISBN 978–0804742146.  
  3. ^ McFarlane, Brian; Slide, Anthony (2003). The Encyclopedia of British Film. London: Methuen. pp. 279. ISBN 9780413773012.  
  4. ^ Kermode, Frank (1988). "Introduction". Nya. Oxford University Press. pp. 1. ISBN 9780192821355.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Bell, Nelson, B (March 13, 1938). "Youthful Hamlet Supports Star As Actor-Director in 'Whiteoaks'". The Washington Post. pp. TT7.  
  6. ^ a b c Braybrooke, Neville and June (2004). Olivia Manning: a life. London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 114. ISBN 978–0701177492.  
  7. ^ a b c Cooper, Artemis (1989). Cairo in the war 1939–1945. London: Hamilton. pp. 160. ISBN 0-241-12671-1. OCLC 18742516.  
  8. ^ Blunt, Wilfrid (1983). Married to a single life : an autobiography, 1901–1938. Wilton, Salisbury, Wiltshire :: M. Russell, 1983.. pp. 22. ISBN 9780859551007.  
  9. ^ Gullen, Zoe and Sefton, Daniel, ed (16 June 2005). "Piers Inigo Haggard". Debrett's People Of Today. Debrett's Peerage Limited.  
  10. ^ Low, Rachael (2005). The History of British Film. 7. Routledge. pp. 164–65. ISBN 9780415156523.  
  11. ^ Evans, Peter William (2005). Carol Reed. Manchester University Press,. pp. 177. ISBN 9780719063671.  
  12. ^ Fiscus, James W. (2004). "I'll go to bed at noon: A soldier's letter to his sons". Critical Perspectives on World War II. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 62–69. ISBN 9781404200654.  
  13. ^ a b Braybrooke, Neville and June (2004). Olivia Manning: a life. London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 250. ISBN 978–0701177492.  
  14. ^ "Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details". Retrieved 2009-01-02.  

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