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Ayesha. Ayesha was created by H. Rider Haggard (Allan Quatermain) and appeared in four novels from 1886 to 1923, beginning with She: A History of Adventure (The Graphic, Oct. 1886 to January 1887).

Ayesha is a Femme Fatale. Ayesha is the immortal queen of the Amahagger people of Africa. Centuries ago Ayesha, then the “mighty Queen of a savage people,” met and fell in love with Kallikrates, an Egyptian priest who had fled Egypt with his love, the Princess Amenartas. Kallikrates would not leave Amenartas, however, and the enraged Ayesha kills Kallikrates. The pregnant Amenartas flees, but the heartbroken Ayesha remains in the ruins of the great city of Kôr, mourning Kallikrates and waiting for him to return. Amenartas meanwhile charges her descendants with avenging Kallikrates’ death. She encounters the modern day descendant of Kallikrates, Leo Vincey, and falls in love with her, but an attempt to bathe in the Flame of Life, which makes Ayesha immortal, surprisingly proves fatal to Ayesha. Ayesha’s soul flees to central Asia, and she becomes queen there, but when Vincey finds her he dies of her kiss, and she dies soon after.

* I've included Ayesha in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because her novels, like virtually all of H. Rider Haggard's fiction, are great fun. They're High Victorian pulp, grand adventures well-executed by a talented and skilled writer at the top of his game, and they succeed in making their moments and characters memorable. They aren't perfect, Lord knows; the racism of the Ayesha novels will put off some modern readers, although comparatively speaking Haggard's work is actually racially progressive compared to many of his rivals' books and stories. Nor are they particularly enlightened with regard to gender issues. But if you can set those aside--and, understandably, some or perhaps many readers cannot or will not--you will have a splendid time reading the Ayesha novels. 

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