Stephen Haggard

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Stephen Hubert Avenel Haggard (21 March 1911 – 25 February 1943) was a British actor, writer and poet.

Stephen Haggard
Stephen haggard.jpg
Stephen Haggard
Born (1911-03-21)21 March 1911
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Died 25 February 1943(1943-02-25) (aged 31)
Cause of death Suicide
Resting place Heliopolis War Cemetery
Nationality British
Occupation actor, writer, poet, intelligence officer
Years active 1930s–1940s

Early life[edit]

Haggard was born on 21 March 1911 in Guatemala City, Guatemala and was the son of Sir Godfrey Digby Napier Haggard, a British diplomat, and his wife Georgianna Ruel Haggard.[1] He was the grandnephew of author H. Rider Haggard, and the brother of photographer and author Virginia Haggard, the companion of the painter Marc Chagall.[2] He was also 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[edit]

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 Schauspielhaus 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.[1][5] 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 he appeared as Konstantin in Chekhov's The Seagull,[5][6] and was hailed as one of the most promising and handsome classical actors of the era.[7]

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

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 film Whom the Gods Love (1936). The film was not a success, in part because Haggard was considered to be inexperienced, and was unknown. He also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film Jamaica Inn (1939)[1][10] and subsequently appeared as Lord Nelson in the Carol Reed film The Young Mr Pitt (1942).[11]

Second World War[edit]

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, which was subsequently published in the Atlantic Monthly later that year as "I'll Go to Bed at Noon: A Soldier's Letter to His Sons."[12] Haggard was posted to the Middle East and worked for the Department of Political Warfare.[6][7] 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 a nervous breakdown when after some months the woman decided to end the relationship. Haggard shot himself on a train between Cairo and Palestine on 25 February 1943 at the age of 31.[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]


Manning based the character Aidan Sheridan in her Fortunes of War novel sequence on Haggard.[7][13]



  • 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. 4 March 1943. p. 7. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  2. ^ Harshav, Benjamin (2004). Marc Chagall and his times : a documentary narrative. Stanford University Press. p. 565. ISBN 978-0-8047-4214-6. 
  3. ^ McFarlane, Brian; Slide, Anthony (2003). The Encyclopedia of British Film. London: Methuen. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-413-77301-2. 
  4. ^ Kermode, Frank (1988). "Introduction". Nya. Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-19-282135-5. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Bell, Nelson, B (13 March 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. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7011-7749-2. 
  7. ^ a b c d Cooper, Artemis (1989). Cairo in the war 1939–1945. London: Hamilton. p. 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. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-85955-100-7. 
  9. ^ Gullen, Zoe; Sefton, Daniel, eds. (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 978-0-415-15652-3. 
  11. ^ Evans, Peter William (2005). Carol Reed. Manchester University Press,. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-7190-6367-1. 
  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 978-1-4042-0065-4. 
  13. ^ a b c Braybrooke, Neville and June (2004). Olivia Manning: a life. London: Chatto & Windus. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-7011-7749-2. 
  14. ^ "Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Casualty Details". Retrieved 2 January 2009. 

External links[edit]