Skip to main content
Select Source:

Kipling, Rudyard

Rudyard Kipling

Born: December 30, 1865
Bombay, India
Died: January 18, 1936
Burwash, England

English writer and poet

The English poet and story writer Rudyard Kipling was one of the first masters of the short story in English, and he was the first to use Cockney dialect (the manner in which natives of London, England's, East End speak) in serious poetry.

Early life

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India. His father was professor of architectural sculpture at the Bombay School of Art. In 1871 Kipling was sent to England for his education. In 1878 Rudyard entered the United Services College at Westward Ho!, a boarding school in Devon. There young "Gigger," as he was called, endured bullying and harsh discipline, but he also enjoyed the close friendships, practical jokes, and merry pranks he later recorded in Stalky & Co. (1899).

Kipling's closest friend at Westward Ho!, George Beresford, described him as a short, but "cheery, capering, podgy, little fellow" with a thick pair of spectacles over "a broad smile." His eyes were brilliant blue, and over them his heavy black eyebrows moved up and down as he talked. Another close friend was the headmaster, (the principal of a private school) "Crom" Price, who encouraged Kipling's literary ambitions by having him edit the school paper and praising the poems which he wrote for it. When Kipling sent some of these to India, his father had them privately printed as Schoolboy Lyrics (1881), Kipling's first published work.

Young journalist

In 1882 Kipling rejoined his parents in Lahore, India, where he became a copy editor (one who edits newspaper articles) for the Civil and Military Gazette. In 1887 he moved to the Allahabad Pioneer, a better paper, which gave him greater liberty in his writing. He published satiric (sharply or bitterly witty) verses, Departmental Ditties in 1886, and over seventy short stories in 1888 in seven paperback volumes. In style, these stories showed the influence of the writers Edgar Allan Poe (18091849), Bret Harte (18361902), and Guy de Maupassant (18501893). The subjects, however, were Kipling's own. He wrote about Anglo-Indian society, which he readily criticized with an acid pen, and the life of the common British soldier and the Indian native, which he portrayed accurately and sympathetically.

Fame in England

In 1889 Kipling took a long voyage through China, Japan, and the United States. When he reached London, he found that his stories had preceded him and established him as a brilliant new author. He was readily accepted into the circle of leading writers. While there he wrote a number of stories and some of his best-remembered poems: "A Ballad of East and West," "Mandalay," and "The English Flag." He also introduced English readers to a "new genre [type]" of serious poems in Cockney dialect: "Danny Deever," "Tommy," "Fuzzy-Wuzzy," and "Gunga Din."

Kipling's first novel, The Light That Failed (1891), was unsuccessful. But when his stories were collected as Life's Handicap (1891) and poems as Barrackroom Ballads (1892), Kipling replaced Alfred, Lord Tennyson (18091892) as the most popular English author.

The American years

In 1892 Kipling married Caroline Balestier. They settled on the Balestier estate near Brattleboro, Vermont, in the United States, and began four of the happiest years of Kipling's life. During this time he wrote some of his best workMany Inventions (1893), perhaps his best volume of short stories; The Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895), two books of animal fables that attracted readers of all ages by illustrating the larger truths of life; The Seven Seas (1896), a collection of poems in experimental rhythms; and Captains Courageous (1897), a novel-length, sea story. These works not only assured Kipling's lasting fame as a serious writer but also made him a rich man.

His imperialism

In 1897 the Kiplings settled in Rottingdean, a village on the British coast near Brighton. The outbreak of the Spanish-American War (1898; a short war between Spain and the United States over lands including Cuba and the Philippines) and the Boer War (18991902; a war between Great Britain and South Africa) turned Kipling's attention to colonial affairs. He began to publish a number of solemn poems in standard English in the London Times. The most famous of these, "Recessional" (July 17, 1897), issued a warning to Englishmen to regard their accomplishments in the Diamond Jubilee (fiftieth) year of Queen Victoria's (18191901) reign with humility and awe rather than pride and arrogance. The equally well-known "White Man's Burden" (February 4, 1899) clearly expressed the attitudes toward the empire that are implied in the stories in The Day's Work (1898) and A Fleet in Being (1898).

Kipling referred to less highly developed peoples as "lesser breeds" and considered order, discipline, sacrifice, and humility to be the essential qualities of colonial rulers. These views have been denounced as racist (believing that one race is better than others), elitist (believing oneself to be a part of a superior group), and jingoistic (pertaining to a patriot who speaks in favor of an aggressive and warlike foreign policy). But for Kipling, the term "white man" indicated citizens of the more highly developed nations. He felt it was their duty to spread law, literacy, and morality throughout the world.

During the Boer War, Kipling spent several months in South Africa, where he raised funds for soldiers' relief and worked on an army newspaper, the Friend. In 1901 Kipling published Kim, the last and most charming of his portrayals of Indian life. But anti-imperialist reaction following the end of the Boer War caused a decline in Kipling's popularity.

When Kipling published The Five Nations, a book of South African verse, in 1903, he was attacked in parodies (satirical imitations), caricatures (exaggerations for comic effect), and serious protests as the opponent of a growing spirit of peace and democratic equality. Kipling retired to "Bateman's," a house near Burwash, a secluded village in Essex.

Later works

Kipling now turned from the wide empire as his subject to simply England itself. In 1902 he published Just So Stories for Little Children. He also issued two books of stories of England's pastPuck of Pook's Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910). Like the Jungle Books they were intended for young readers but were suitable for adults as well. His most significant work at this time was a number of volumes of short stories written in a different style"Traffics and Discoveries" (1904), "Actions and Reactions" (1904), "A Diversity of Creatures" (1917), "Debits and Credits" (1926), and "Limits and Renewals" (1932).

Kipling's later stories treat more complex, subtle, and somber (serious) subjects. They reflect Kipling's darkened worldview following the death of his daughter, Josephine, in 1899, and the death of his son, John, in 1915. Consequently, these stories have never been as popular as his earlier works. But modern critics, in reevaluating Kipling, have found a greater power and depth that make them among his best work.

In 1907 Kipling became the first English writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died on January 18, 1936, and is buried in Westminster Abbey in London, England. His autobiography, Something of Myself, was published in 1937.

Rudyard Kipling's early stories and poems about life in colonial India made him a great favorite with English readers. His support of English imperialism (the policy of extending the rule of a nation over foreign countries) at first contributed to this popularity but caused a reaction against him in the twentieth century. Today he is best known for his Jungle Books and Kim, a Story of India.

For More Information

Carrington, Charles Edmund. Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work. London: Macmillan, 1955.

Gilmour, David. The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002.

Ricketts, Harry. Rudyard Kipling: A Life. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001.

Wilson, Angus. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works. New York: Viking Press, 1978.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kipling, Rudyard." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kipling, Rudyard." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . (December 11, 2017).

"Kipling, Rudyard." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)

Kipling, Rudyard (18651936)

The poet, essayist, and fiction writer Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, the child of English parents. Although cherished by his parents, he also developed strong bonds with the Indian servants who tended him, to the extent that his first language was Hindustani. In 1871, however, Kipling was sent to England to be educated. He was boarded with an unfeeling foster family, an experience he later used as the basis for "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" (1888). In this short story young Punch is so ill-used by his caretaker that no amount of later love can take away his knowledge of "Hate, Suspicion and Despair." Nevertheless, Kipling also credited this period with the development of qualities that would later serve him as a writer, such as keen observation of people and their moods. In 1878 Kipling entered the United Services College in North Devon. This furnished the material for Stalky Co. (1899), the story of three schoolboys who form an alliance that enables them to outwit peers and adults. Immediately after finishing school, Kipling returned to India, where he worked as a journalist for seven years. It was during this time that he began to write and publish fiction.

Although a number of Kipling's books are categorized as children's literature, it might be more accurate to say that he wrote for a dual audience. For example, his The Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895) work on several levels: as simple adventure tales, as mystical coming-of-age stories, and as thoughtful explorations of the relationship between individuals and their societies. While children can read and enjoy these books, there is also much in them for adults to ponder.

Many readers have criticized Kipling for his imperialist views. In his famous poem "The White Man's Burden"(1899), for example, Kipling urges English readers to accept the responsibility of civilizing people of other countries. However, another poem, "The Two-Sided Man" (1913), shows a different aspect of Kipling:

   Something I owe to the soil that grew
   More to the life that fed
   But most to Allah Who gave me two
   Separate sides to my head.

The presence of "two separate sides" characterizes much of Kipling's work. The novel Kim (1901) is the story of a young Irish orphan living in India, torn between his roles as a secret agent for the British government and as a disciple of a holy lama. By presenting India as a diverse society harmoniously united under British rule, Kim justifies imperialism. On the other hand, Kim's great love and respect for the lama implies that Kipling questioned British assumptions about the inferiority of native peoples. Similarly, Just So Stories for Little Children (1902) both depicts sexist stereotypes (a henpecked husband triumphs over his wife) and celebrates female intelligence (a small girl invents writing). If Kipling reinforces many of the conventional views of his time, he also often subverts them.

Kipling's texts have been adapted for film, including The Jungle Book, which was adapted and released by Alexander Korda Films in 1942 and animated by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. Kim was adapted and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer in 1950. Kipling's writings also have been adapted for theater, radio, and television.

See also: Children's Literature.


Kipling, Rudyard. 1990. Something of Myself, ed. Thomas Pinney. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pinney, Thomas. 1990. Introduction to Something of Myself, by Rudyard Kipling, ed. Thomas Pinney. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Plotz, Judith. 1992. "The Empire of Youth: Crossing and Double-Crossing Cultural Barriers in Kipling's Kim. " Children's Literature 20: 111131.

Jennifer Marchant

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . (December 11, 2017).

"Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Kipling, Rudyard

Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936). Kipling is often thought of primarily as the trumpet of empire, but his writings were more varied than that suggests and he was far from triumphalist in tone. His parents were methodists. Kipling was born in Bombay, where his father had a chair in architecture. His first name is derived from Rudyard Lake, near Leek (Staffs.), where his parents had met. Stanley Baldwin was his first cousin. Kipling hurt his eyes reading as a boy and wore spectacles from his schooldays. After United Services College in Devon, he returned to India as a journalist and rapidly acquired a reputation. At 24 he settled in London, though continuing to travel widely, particularly in America and South Africa. Life's Handicap (1891) launched him as a London figure and he followed with The Jungle Book (1894/5). His poem ‘Recessional’ for the Diamond Jubilee of 1897—‘lest we forget’—made him a national figure. Stalky and Co. (1899) drew on his schooldays and Kim (1901) on India. He published the Just-So Stories, one of the few children's books that children enjoy, in 1902 when he moved into Bateman's in Sussex, and Puck of Pook's Hill, set in the post-Roman period, in 1906. His poem ‘The Way through the Woods’—a lovely example of controlled nostalgia—was in Rewards and Fairies (1910). Kipling declined national honours but was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1907. His only son was killed in the Great War in 1915. Kipling's reputation after his death sank even more quickly than that of most authors: the new generation did not respond to calls to shoulder ‘the white man's burden’, and whimsy was out of fashion. It is true that Kipling published too much and his work is uneven, but at his best he coined haunting phrases—‘the Captains and the Kings depart’; ‘and there's no discharge in the war’; ‘and the dawn comes up like thunder out of China 'cross the bay’.

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (December 11, 2017).

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Kipling, Rudyard

Rudyard Kipling, 1865–1936, English author, b. Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Educated in England, Kipling returned to India in 1882 and worked as an editor on a Lahore paper. His early poems were collected in Departmental Ditties (1886), Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), and other volumes. His first short stories of Anglo-Indian life appeared in Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) and Soldiers Three (1888). In 1889 he returned to London, where his novel The Light That Failed (1890) appeared. Kipling's masterful stories and poems interpreted India in all its heat, strife, and ennui. His romantic imperialism and his characterization of the true Englishman as brave, conscientious, and self-reliant did much to enhance his popularity. These views are reflected in such well-known poems as "The White Man's Burden," "Loot," "Mandalay," "Gunga Din," and Recessional (1897).

In London in 1892, he married Caroline Balestier, an American, and lived in Vermont for four years. There he wrote children's stories, The Jungle Book (1894) and Second Jungle Book (1895), Kim (1901), Just So Stories (1902), and Captains Courageous (1897). Returning to England in 1900, he lived in Sussex, the setting of Puck of Pook's Hill (1906). Other works include Stalky and Co. (1899) and his famous poem "If" (1910). England's first Nobel Prize winner in literature (1907), he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

See his Something of Myself (1937); biographies by J. I. M. Stewart (1966), J. Harrison (1982), H. Ricketts (2000), and D. Gilmour (2002); studies by J. M. S. Tompkins (2d ed. 1965), V. A. Shashane (1973), R. F. Moss (1982), P. Mallett, ed. (1989), and W. B. Dillingham (2008).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 11, 2017).

"Kipling, Rudyard." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard

Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard (1865–1936) British writer, b. India. His Barrack Room Ballads and Other Verses (1892), which include the poems “If” and “Gunga Din”, is a classic text of British colonialist literature. His novels include The Light That Failed (1890) and Kim (1901). He wrote many children's stories, including The Jungle Book (1894), the Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pook's Hill (1906). Kipling was the first English writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature (1907).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard." World Encyclopedia. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard." World Encyclopedia. . (December 11, 2017).

"Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from