Kipling, Rudyard (20 December 1865 - 18 January 1936)
Rudyard Kipling (20 December 1865 - 18 January 1936)
1907 Nobel Prize in Literature Presentation Speech
This entry was expanded by Gray from his Kipling entry in DLB 156: British Short-Fiction Writers, 1880-1914: The Romantic Tradition. See also the Kipling entries in DLB 19: British Poeh, 1880-1914; DLB 34: British Novelists, 1890-1929: Traditionalists; and DLB 141, British Children’s Writers, 1880-1914.
BOOKS: Schoolboy Lyrics (Lahore: Privately printed, 1881);
Echoes, by Kipling and Alice Kipling (Lahore: Privately printed, 1884);
Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (Lahore: Privately printed, 1886; enlarged edition, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, 1886; enlarged edition, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink / London: Thacker, 1888; enlarged edition, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink / London & Bombay: Thacker, 1890); enlarged as Departmental Ditties, Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses (New York: United States Book Company, 1890); republished as Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads (New York: Double-day & McClure, 1899);
Plain Tales from the Hills (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink / London: Thacker, 1888; New York: Lovell, 1890; London & New York: Macmillan, 1890);
Soldiers Three: A Collection of Stories Setting Forth Certain Passages in the Lives and Adventures of Privates Terence Mulvaney, Stanley Ortheris, and John Learoyd (Allahabad: Pioneer, 1888; London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890);
The Story of the Gadsbys: A Tale Without a Plot (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1888; Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890; New York: Lovell, 1890);
In Black and White (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1888; Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890);
Under the Deodars (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1888; Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890; New York: Lovell, 1890);
The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Tales (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1888; Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890);
Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1888); republished as Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories (Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890);
“Turnovers,” by Kipling and others, 9 volumes (Lahore: Privately printed, 1888-1890);
Soldiers Three[and In Black and White] (New York: Lovell, 1890);
Indian Tales (New York: Lovell, 1890);
“The Courting of Dinah Shadd and Other Stories (New York: Harper, 1890);
The Light That Failed (London & Melbourne: Ward, Lock, Bowden, 1891; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1891; revised edition, London & New York: Macmillan, 1891);
The City of Dreadful Night and Other Places (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1891; Allahabad: Wheeler / London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1891);
Letters of Marque (Allahabad: Wheeler, 1891; republished in part, London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1891);
American Notes (New York: Ivers, 1891);
Mine Own People (New York: United States Book Company, 1891);
Life’s Handicap: Being Stories of Mine Own People (London & New York: Macmillan, 1891);
The Story of the Gadsbys and Under the Deodars (New York: United States Book Company, 1891);
The Naulahka: A Story of West and East, by Kipling and Wolcott Balestier (London: Heinemann, 1892; New York & London: Macmillan, 1892);
Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses (London: Methuen, 1892); republished as Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads (New York & London: Macmillan, 1892; enlarged edition, New York & London: Macmillan, 1893);
Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, In Black and White (London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1892; London & New York: Macmillan, 1895; enlarged edition, New York & London: Macmillan, 1895);
Wee Willie Winkie, Under the Deodars, The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Stories (London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1892; London & New York: Macmillan, 1895); republished as Under the Deodars, The Phantom ʾRickshaw, Wee Willie Winkie (New York & London: Macmillan, 1895);
Many Inventions (London & New York: Macmillan, 1893; New York: Appleton, 1893);
The Jungle Book (London & New York: Macmillan, 1894; New York: Century, 1894);
The Second Jungle Book (London & New York: Macmillan, 1895; enlarged edition, 1895; New York: Century, 1895);
Out of India: Things I Saw, and Failed to See, in Certain Days and Nights at Jeypore and Elsewhere (New York: Dillingham, 1895)–includes The City of Dreadful Night and Other Places and letters of Marque;
The Seven Seas (New York: Appleton, 1896; London: Methuen, 1896);
Soldier Tales (London & New York: Macmillan, 1896); republished as Soldier Stories (New York & London: Macmillan, 1896);
The Kipling Birthday Book, compiled by Joseph Finn (London & New York: Macmillan, 1896; New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899);
“Captains Courageous”: A Story of the Grand Banks (London & New York: Macmillan, 1897; New York: Century, 1897);
An Almanac of Twelve Sports, text by Kipling, illustrations by William Nicholson (London: Heinemann, 1898; New York: Russell, 1898);
The Day’s Work (New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1898; London: Macmillan, 1898);
A Fleet in Being: Notes of Two Trips with the Channel Squadron (London & New York: Macmillan, 1898);
Kipling’s Poems, edited by Wallace Rice (Chicago: Star Books, 1899);
Stalky & Co.(London: Macmillan, 1899; New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899);
From Sea to Sea, 2 volumes (New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899); republished as From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, 2 volumes (London: Macmillan, 1900);
A Ken of Kipling (New York: New Amsterdam Book Company, 1899);
The Kipling Reader: Selections from the Books of Rudyard Kipling (London & New York: Macmillan, 1900; revised, 1901);
Kim (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1901; London: Macmillan, 1901);
Just So Stories: For Little Children (London: Macmillan, 1902; New York: Doubleday, Page, 1902);
The Five Mations (London: Methuen, 1903; New York: Doubleday, Page, 1903);
Traffics and Discoveries (London: Macmillan, 1904; New York: Doubleday, Page, 1904);
Puck of Pook’s Hill (London: Macmillan, 1906; New York: Doubleday, Page, 1906);
Collected Verse (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1907; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912);
Letters to the Family: Notes on a Recent Trip to Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1908);
Actions and Reactions (London: Macmillan, 1909; New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909);
Abaft the Funnel (New York: Dodge, 1909; authorized edition, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909);
Kipling Stories and Poems Every Child Should Know, edited by Mary E. Burt and W. T. Chapin (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909; abridged edition, New York: Garden City, 1938);
Rewards and Fairies (London: Macmillan, 1910; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1910);
A History of England, by Kipling and C. R. L. Fletcher (Oxford: Clarendon Press / London: Frowde/Hodder & Stoughton, 1911; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1911);
The Kipling Reader for Elementary Grades (New York & Chicago: Appleton, 1912);
The Kipling Reader for Upper Grades (New York & Chicago: Appleton, 1912);
Songs from Books (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1912; London: Macmillan, 1913);
The New Army, 6 pamphlets (Garden City, N.Y.: Double-day, Page, 1914); republished as The New Army in Training, 1 volume (London: Macmillan, 1915);
France at War (London: Macmillan, 1915); republished as France at War on the Frontier of Civilization (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1915);
The Fringes of the Fleet (London: Macmillan, 1915; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1915);
Sea Warfare (London: Macmillan, 1916; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1917);
A Diversity of Creatures (London: Macmillan, 1917; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1917);
The Eyes of Asia (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1918);
Twenty Poems (London: Methuen, 1918);
The Graves of the Fallen (London: Imperial War Graves Commission, 1919);
The Years Between (London: Methuen, 1919; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1919);
Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Inclusive Edition, 1885-1918 (3 volumes, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919; 1 volume, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1919);
Letters of Travel (1892–1913) (London: Macmillan, 1920; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1920);
Q. Horati Flacci Carminum Librum Quintum a Rudyardo Kipling et Carolo Graves Angelice Redditum et Variorum Notis Adornatum ad Fidem Codicum Mss. Edidit Aluredus D. Godley, by Kipling and others (Oxonii [Oxford]: Blackwell, 1920; Novo Portu [New Haven]: Yalensi [Yale Alumni Association], 1921);
Selected Stories from Kipling, edited by William Lyon Phelps (Garden City, N.Y. & Toronto: Doubleday, Page, 1921);
A Kipling Anthology: Verse (London: Methuen, 1922; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1922);
A Kipling Anthology: Prose (London: Macmillan, 1922; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1922);
Kipling Calendar (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1923);
Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides (London: Macmillan, 1923); republished as Land and Sea Tales for Boys and Girls (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1923); republished as Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Scout Masters (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1924);
The Two Jungle Books (London: Macmillan, 1924; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1925);
Songs for Youth (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1924; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1925);
A Choice of Songs (London: Methuen, 1925);
Debits and Credits (London: Macmillan, 1926; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1926);
Sea and Sussex (London: Macmillan, 1926; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1926);
Songs of the Sea (London: Macmillan, 1927; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1927);
Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Inclusive Edition, 1885-1926 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1927; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1927);
A Book of Words: Selections from Speeches and Addresses Delivered Between 1906 and 1927 (London: Macmillan, 1928; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1928);
The One Volume Kipling (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1928);
The Complete Stalky & Co.(London: Macmillan, 1929; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1930);
Poems 1886-1929, 3 volumes (London: Macmillan, 1929; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1930);
Selected Stories (London: Macmillan, 1929);
Thy Servant a Dog, Told by Boots (London: Macmillan, 1930; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1930);
Selected Poems (London: Methuen, 1931);
East of Suez (London: Macmillan, 1931);
Humorous Tales (London: Macmillan, 1931); republished as The Humorous Tales of Rudyard Kipling (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1931);
Animal Stories (London: Macmillan, 1932; New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1938);
Limits and Renewals (London: Macmillan, 1932; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1932);
Souvenirs of France (London: Macmillan, 1933);
All the Mowgli Stories (London: Macmillan, 1933; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1936);
Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Inclusive Edition, 1885-1932 (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1933; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1934);
Collected Dog Stories (London: Macmillan, 1934; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1934);
All the Puck Stories (London: Macmillan, 1935);
A Kipling Pageant (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1935);
Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown (London: Macmillan, 1937; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1937);
Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Definitive Edition (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1940; New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940);
Kipling’s India: Uncollected Sketches, 1884-1888, edited by Thomas Pinney (London: Macmillan, 1985);
Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling 1879-1889: Unpublished, Uncollected, and Rarely Collected Poems, edited by Andrew Rutherford (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1986);
The Jungle Play, edited by Thomas Pinney (London & New York: Allen Lane, 2000).
Editions and Collections: The Sussex Edition of the Complete Works of Rudyard Kipling, 35 volumes (London: Macmillan, 1937-1939); republished as The Collected Works of Rudyard Kipling, The Burwash Edition, 28 volumes (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1940);
Something of Myself and Other Autobiographical Writings, edited by Thomas Pinney (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990);
Writings on Writing by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Sandra Kemp (London & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
OTHER: André Chevrillon, Britain and the War, preface by Kipling (London, New York & Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton, 1917); republished as England and the War (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1917);
The Irish Guards in the Great War, 2 volumes, edited by Kipling (London: Macmillan, 1923; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1923).
The first paragraphs of the presentation speech for the award to Rudyard Kipling of the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature praise his accomplishments as a poet. It is true that the poems collected in Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses (1892) played an important part in Kipling’s rapid emergence during the 1890s as an eminent–perhaps the preeminent–British writer of his generation, and the sounds and themes of some of them still reward attention. But even in many of his poems it is clear that Kipling’s principal talent is for narrative. He is best-known now as the fabulist of the The Jungle Book (1894), The Second Jungle Book (1895), and Just So Stories: For Little Children (1902) and as the teller of the episodic adventures of the hero of his novel Kim (1901). And his most significant literary achievement lies in a remarkably extensive and varied body of short stories, the form in which he began his career in the 1880s and practiced all through his life.
In his fragmentary autobiography, Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown (1937), Kipling wrote, “Everything in my working life has been dealt to me in such a manner that I had just to play it as it came.” Certainly one of the strongest influences was his birth and early experience in India. Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, who had worked as a sculptor during the construction of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in the 1860s, had come to India as professor of sculptural history at the University of Bombay. His mother, Alice Macdonald Kipling, had also moved in the company of artists in London. The family was affectionate and interesting, a structure of support and encouragement that Kipling was later to depend on as “the family square.”
When Kipling was not yet six years old, he was sent away with his younger sister, Alice (called Trix), to begin his education in England. He and his sister were lodged at Southsea with a religiously Evangelical family who held strict views about the upbringing of children. Kipling perhaps exaggerated the meanness and punitive rigor of this time in his life when he recalled it in his autobiography and in the short story “Baa, Baa Black Sheep,” included in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories (1888). He remembered himself as the black sheep. His energy and curiosity about books and almost everything else steadily drew down punishments at home, and undiagnosed problems with his eyesight created difficulties at school. When he was eleven years old his mother came to England, probably summoned by a friend who had discovered Kipling’s predicament. She placed her son in the United Services College, a school organized to prepare the sons of military officers and colonial administrators for similar careers.
Kipling flourished in his new school. Here the code of the boys and the rules of the masters made a discipline that was masculine and institutional, its principles and hierarchies clear, its administration consistent. Kipling read widely, learned Latin well enough to amuse himself as an adult by translating and imitating Horace, and wrote for the school paper. He formed the close friendships memorialized in his school novel Stalky & Co. (1899) and became what he admired the rest of his life: a capable, knowledgeable member of a group of like-minded males.
At the end of 1882 Kipling returned to India to work as subeditor (the editor was the only other staff member) of the Civil and Military Gazette, a daily newspaper in Lahore. He wrote, edited, and translated “scraps” of news: “Wrote in course of year 230 columns matter,” he noted in his diary in 1884. He soon began to write stories for the newspaper that had to be fitted into columns of two thousand words, and he also contributed poems and some prose to an all-India newspaper, the Pioneer, six hundred miles away in Allahabad; these works, he wrote in a letter to his aunt Edith Macdonald (30 July 1885), “have taken the public’s somewhat dense soul and have been widely quoted” in other papers. When in 1887 he moved to a larger paper as a reporter and editor of its supplement, the Weekly News, he immediately contracted to supply fiction to the supplement. A collection of his verse, Departmental Ditties and Other Verses, was published in India in 1886, and the same Indian publisher collected his short stories in Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888.
As a reporter Kipling traveled to public events and the courts of native rulers, and he spent many of his evenings at clubs where, he wrote in his autobiography, he met “none except picked men at their definite tasks.” In his poems and stories he characteristically wrote from the perspective of such men, adopting a tone of knowing detachment to tell stories of intrigue, betrayal, ambition, and disillusionment in the garrisons, offices, and bungalows of the British in India. Departmental Ditties (three editions in two years) and Plain Tales from the Hills were widely read and talked about by the English in India, although the one thousand copies of the latter collection the publisher sent to England were not much noticed. Kipling followed this local success, again in 1888, by collecting some of the stories he had written for the Weekly News in six volumes for the Indian Railway Library, published by the proprietors of his newspaper. (Kipling retained the titles of these volumes when they were republished in England and America in 1890 and later in his collected works: Soldiers Three, In Black and White, The Story of the Gadsbys, Under the Deodars, Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories, and The Phantom ‘Rickshaw and Other Stories) Then, having completed what he called a seven-year apprenticeship in India, he left in 1889, sailing east to visit China, Japan, and California, then traveling across the United States to sail for England.
Kipling arrived in London in the fall of 1889, three months short of his twenty-fourth birthday. By the end of the next year he was famous. All throughout 1890 he wrote about India in new stories and poems that appeared monthly, sometimes weekly, in British and American periodicals. He collaborated on one novel, The Naulahka: A Story of West and East (1892), and completed another, The Light That Failed (1891). British and American publishers reprinted the stories of Plain Tales from the Hills, which went through three editions in six months in England, and the volumes of the Indian Railway Library. At the end of 1890 Kipling put his new stories together with some unpublished fiction and a dozen stories from Indian newspapers to make his first substantial volume of short stories to be published initially outside India, Life’s Handicap: Being Stories of Mine Own People (1891). In 1890 his Indian publisher published an edition of Departmental Ditties in London, and in 1892 the poems he had been contributing to magazines were published in Britain and America in Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses.
In the poems he wrote in India and collected in Departmental Ditties, Kipling writes of British and Indians who scheme for honors and advancement, of the heat and disease and drink that disable young men, and of the skirmishes and ambushes that kill them: “The flying bullet down the Pass, / That whistles clear: ’All flesh is grass’” (“Arithmetic on the Frontier”). The short lines, easy movement, and steady rhymes and beats of these poems give them a light, sometimes even a breezy tone. But from the start Kipling consciously set himself to write of the costs as well as the material and moral benefits of empire. “I have written the tale of our life / For a sheltered people’s mirth / In jesting guise,” he writes in a “Prelude” to Departmental Ditties,“–but ye are wise, / And ye know what the jest is worth.”
In the poems he wrote in England and put into Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses, Kipling dug more deeply beneath the jest to describe yet more graphically the unsheltered conditions of India and other outposts of the British Empire. Some of the most effective of these poems are ballads written in working-class or Irish dialect, and the freshness of their language and the vigor of their lines and refrains made them stand out amid the subdued tonalities and melancholy themes of fin-de-siècle decadence. Each four-line stanza of “The Young British Soldier,” for example, moves into a version of its refrain, “Serve, serve, serve as a soldier, / Soldier of the Queen!,” and then ends:
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An go to your Gawd like a soldier,...
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!
“Gentlemen-Rankers” is sung to, and by, “the legion of the lost ones, . . . the cohort of the damned,” who are “done with Hope and Honour, . . . lost to Love and Truth”: “God help us, for we knew the worse too young!”
In this setting of violence and loss, in which youth is wasted and the familiar pieties of home dissolve, the hero is the man who continues to do honest work. Kipling dedicated Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses to Wolcott Balestier, an American who was his agent and his collaborator on The Naulahka, and whose sister Carrie married Kipling in 1892. Balestier died young in 1891, and in the dedication Kipling sends him to heaven where he is welcomed by “the Strong Men” because, like them, he “had done his work and held his peace and had no fear to die.” Kipling admired people who do their jobs wherever he found them–Gunga Din, for example, and “Fuzzy-Wuzzy,” one of the Africans “with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air” whose manic courage “broke a British square.”
In the stories of Plain Tales from the Hills and Life’s Handicap the name of this hero is Private Terence Mulvaney, described in “The Three Musketeers” (1887, collected in Plain Tales from the Hills) as one of “the worst men in the regiment as far as genial blackguardism goes.” Mulvaney gets drunk; gets into fights; flirts with other people’s wives; and finally loses his corporal’s stripes. But when it comes down to it, Mulvaney is capable. He is a brave and effective soldier. In a story that is at once comic and scary he leads a group of naked men in “The Taking of Lungtunphem” (1887, collected in Plain Tales from the Hills): ‘Twas the Lift’nint got the credit; but ‘twas me planned the schame.” In “The God from the Machine” (1888, in Soldiers Three) he prevents the inappropriate elopement of the Colonel’s daughter. In “The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney” (1888, collected in Life’s Handicap) he destroys a scheme in which a contractor is cheating his coolie workers and then, after a farcical sequence created by his drunkenness, impersonates the god Krishna and extorts 434 rupees and a gold necklace from a priest. After he marries and leaves the army, he returns to India in “The Big Drunk Draf” (1888, in Soldiers Three) as a civilian, “a great and terrible fall.” Even out of uniform he helps to discipline an unruly regiment of men waiting to go home by advising its young officer to tie one of the men spread-eagled to tent pegs and leave him out all one frosty night: ‘“You look to that little orf’cer bhoy. He has bowils. ‘Tis not ivry child that wud chuck the Rig’lations to Flanders an’ stretch Peg Barney on a wink from a brokin’ an’ dilapidated ould carkiss like mesilf.”
Even competent men can be swallowed by the rules and routine of British India, and beneath it, by the strangeness of India itself. Bureaucratic rigidity defeats Dicky Hatt in “In the Pride of His Youth” (1887, included in Plain Tales from the Hills), who works “like a horse” to save money to bring his wife and child out from England. But “pay in India is a matter of age, not merit, you see, and if their particular boy wished to work like two boys, Business forbid they should stop him.” By the time Dicky is given a salary that will enable him to pay the cost of passage, his child is dead and his wife has divorced him.
Beneath what the British do to one another in India lies what India does to them. Kipling’s India is violent, dangerous, and only lightly marked by British rule. When Englishmen cross into this India, even the most compassionate and competent are baffled. Trejago, the hero of “Beyond the Pale” (1888, included in Plain Tales from the Hills), is undone just because of his knowledge of India. When he receives a packet of objects from a young woman who has spoken to him from behind a grated window in an alley, his translation of this message begins an affair that lasts until one night, after an interval of three weeks, he knocks at the grating and the girl “held out her arms into the moonlight. Both hands had been cut off at the wrists, and the stumps were nearly healed.” Trejago never discovers what has happened.
Kipling’s manner in these stories is that of a realist, a devotee of what he calls, in “The Judgment of Dungara” (1888, included in In Black and White), “The Great God Dungara, the God of Things as They Are, Most Terrible, One-Eyed, Bearing the Red Elephant Tusk.” The world according to Dungara has the glamour of the terrible, and Kipling compounds the thrill by suggesting that he tells the real story beneath the official narrative and superficial glamor of empire. He fills the stories with the place names of India and words from its languages, and with the dialects, jargon, and shoptalk of British soldiers and administrators. His tone, with a few lapses, is matter-of-fact. He wants to shock his readers, but he is not shocked, and some of his most devastating stories concern events that at home would be quite ordinary. In “Bitters Neat” (1887), for example, a story from the Civil and Military Gazette that Kipling did not put into Plain Tales from the Hills until a collected edition of his writing in 1897, a young woman falls in love with Surrey, an efficient, rather dull man who plods along unaware of her infatuation. She refuses a proposal from another man, goes a little crazy, and is sent home. When Surrey learns why the young woman has gone, he is unstrung: “I didn’t see, I didn’t see. If I had only known.” The narrator, who has known the whole story all along, spends no other words of pity or irony on Surrey but cuts directly to what this story is really about: “the hopelessness and tangle of it–the waste and the muddle.”
Kipling thus brings to the poems and stories of his first books not only the pleasure he finds in being one of the men who know what they are talking about but also the sense of how things can go suddenly wrong, as he learned at Southesea and wrote about in “Baa, Baa Black Sheep.” He makes India into a place that expresses his abiding, although not always paramount, sense of reality as a finally incomprehensible mystery within which humans constructed different codes of belief and conduct, some more honorable and availing than others, but none essentially more true. In some of these stories he makes his skepticism about certainty and permanence into parables about empire itself. The heroes of “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888, in The Phantom ‘Rickshaw), Peachy Carnahan and Daniel Dravot, are capable soldiers in the style of Terence Mulvaney. They use their knowledge of India to disguise themselves to make a dangerous journey beyond the northern frontier. Then they use their training to drill an army and organize an anarchic region. The region once had been conquered by Alexander, who introduced Masonic rituals, and the two Englishmen use their knowledge of Masonry finally to pass themselves off as gods. The ambitious Dravot has himself crowned king and imagines that he will “make an Empire.... Two hundred and fifty thousand men, ready to cut in on Russia’s right flank when she tries for India!... Oh, it’s big! It’s big, I tell you.” After Dravot is tricked and killed by suspicious priests, Carnahan survives a crucifixion and is set free, maimed and mad, to make his way back to India, carrying Dravot’s head and crown in a sack. When Carnahan dies in an asylum, the narrator, who has seen the contents of the sack, asks ‘“if he had anything upon him by chance when he died?’ ‘Not to my knowledge,’ said the Superintendent. And there the matter rests.” Like Alexander yesterday, like England tomorrow, another empire has come to nothing, this time leaving no trace at all on the undisciplined and unprogressive remoteness that absorbs or expels it.
Throughout the 1890s and into the new century, with an energy and fecundity that had not been known in British letters since Charles Dickens, Kipling consolidated his popularity and broadened the range and tactics of his writing. After his marriage to Carrie Balestier in 1892, he moved to Vermont, where he lived for four years. He and his wife had three children: Josephine, born in 1892; Elsie, born in 1896; and John, born in 1897. Kipling’s stories and poems were steadily published in magazines and by publishers in Britain and the United States. He wrote two more novels in the realistic manner of many of his stories– “Captains Courageous” (1897), a story of fishermen on the Grand Banks off North America, and, more notably, Kim. He remembered his school days in Stalky & Co. For children he wrote the fables of three of the books for which, with Kim, he is principally remembered: The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, and Just So Stories. Two new collections of his stories were published (Many Inventions, 1893, and The Day’s Work, 1898), and two collections of poems (The Seven Seas, 1896, and The Five Nations, 1903).
When he wrote for children, and when he wrote of his own boyhood in Stalky & Co., Kipling moderated his sense of the fundamental incoherence and incomprehensibility of existence. In the fables of the Just So Stories he explains biological adaptations sometimes as sensible mechanisms for survival (“How the Leopard Got His Spots,” “The Beginning of the Armadilloes”), and sometimes as just punishments for foolish behavior. “The Elephant’s Child” has his nose pulled into a trunk when he gets too close to a crocodile to ask about its eating habits, a punishment that turns into a reward when the child discovers the utility of a trunk in picking fruit, taking baths, and spanking the members of his family who have chided him for his admirable curiosity. Even “The Cat That Walked by Himself” in scornful independence works out a durable contract for fitting harmoniously into domestic society: “He will kill mice, and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and the night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him.”
Kipling admits into the stories of The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, written for older children, much of the violence, loss, and ignorant rigidity that he considered in his first poems and short stories. Mowgli, the principal character of most of the stories, is an abandoned human child adopted into a wolf pack (“Mowgli’s Brothers”). He learns the language of animals, successfully negotiates the politics of the pack, acquires enemies and powerful allies (Baloo the bear, Kaa the python), and discovers his own power (no animal can look him in his eyes) to become the master of the jungle. He also learns the Law of the Jungle, which has several clauses (hunt for food and not for pleasure; don’t kill men except to demonstrate how to kill, because men have guns) but which comes down to a single injunction: Obey the leader. The Bandar-log, monkeys whose ways closely resemble those of humans, have not learned this law: “They were always just going to have a leader, and laws and customs of their own, but they never did, because their memories would not hold over from day to day, and so they compromised things by making up a saying: ‘What the Bandarlog think now, the Jungle will think later,’ and that comforted them a great deal.”
Human society has its own kind of lawlessness. The Monkey-People live near the Cold Lairs, a ruined city that holds a treasure guarded by snakes. In “The King’s Ankus,” Mowgli and Kaa manage to take a jeweled ankus–a cruel implement used to train and discipline elephants–from the hoard. They return it after six men kill one another in their lust to possess it. “That thing has killed six times in one night,” Mowgli tells the old Cobra responsible for its guard. “Let him go out no more.”
But Kipling affirms order even in this welter of ignorance and anarchy. In the strongest story in the two collections, “Red Dog,” Mowgli saves the wolf pack by using the ferocity of bees to defeat the rapaciousness of wild dogs. Then, in the last story, “The Spring Running ,” Mowgli obeys the law of his biology and returns to his own kind, eventually, as Kipling has promised, to marry and presumably breed. “But that,” Kipling writes, “is a story for grown-ups.” In these stories for young readers he allowed the competent leader–here a boy–not simply to fashion a satisfying if temporary structure of useful work in the world, but to organize and prevail in material creation by understanding and directing its powers.
In Stalky & Co. the boys who go to school with Stalky and his confederates–M’Turk, the son of an Irish landed family, and the bookish and bespectacled Beetle, Kipling’s representation of himself as a schoolboy–are being educated to become officers and colleagues. In “Slaves of the Lamp. Part II,” the final story of the collection, M’Turk, Beetle, and others, now graduates of the school, meet at a dinner and hear how the ingenious Stalky, in command of a body of Sikh troops, broke a siege by tricking the besiegers into fighting with one another. “Adequate chap,” one of them says, rising to the top of his vocabulary of praise, “Infernally adequate.”
But whatever lies ahead, the boyhoods of Stalky and company are safe because the school is commanded by a nearly omniscient and wholly competent Head. The school holds bullies and weak masters who are anxious and arbitrary in their exercise of authority. But Stalky, M’Turk, and Beetle defeat and reform the bullies, consistently frustrate the witless designs of the masters, and turn accusations into triumphs over their adversaries. The Head cannot purge the school of meanness and injustice, nor can he protect the boys from the chances of their futures. But he can create a protected space in which boys like Stalky execute elaborate pranks that teach them later to lead men and save lives, and in which observant boys like Beetle get ready to tell stories about men like Stalky and the Head.
“It will always be one of the darkest mysteries to me,” Kipling wrote in a 27 September 1896 letter to the novelist Mary Augusta (Mrs. Humphrey) Ward, “that any human being can make a beginning, end and middle to a really long story.” Kipling never solved the mystery. The Jungle Books and Stalky & Co. are made of short narratives connected not by a continuous plot but by the recurring presence of their central characters. That is also how Kipling constructed his novels. The story of Harvey Cheyne, a spoiled rich boy who falls off an ocean liner and is pulled from the sea and put to work on a fishing boat, provides the spine of “Captains Courageous,” a simple parable about the redemptive power of learning to do a job in the company of men who know their work. Loaded onto this spine are detailed descriptions of the gear and methods of fishing on the Grand Banks that Kipling gathered from a friend in Vermont, and often engaging appreciations of the variety and color of the dialects, songs, stories, customs, and origins of the people of North America. The Light That Failed moves through episodes in the life of Dick Heldar, which for a while is much like that of Kipling: the stringencies of his childhood, his work as a journalist (Dick is a war correspondent who draws rather than writes), and his scramble in the business of journalism and art in London (he does not succeed). When Dick loses his sight as a result of a wound he received in Africa, he schemes and bullies his way back to a battle in the Sudan–at one point he effectively hijacks a camel at gunpoint–where he is killed by “the crowning mercy of a kindly bullet through his head.” The principal interests of the book lie in sketches of the bohemian lives of journalists in London and abroad, and in Kipling’s judgments of the cold business practices of London agents and editors and the effete work of London artists. Kipling also adds an uncomfortable note of misogyny to his now familiar celebration of the “austere love that springs up between men who have tugged at the same oar together.” Maisie, Dick’s boyhood love and a technically correct but feeble painter, fails the test of caring for him when he goes blind. Bessie, a waif Dick once used as a model, destroys his masterpiece when he interferes with her hope of being taken care of by one of his friends (“Only a woman would have done that”). One woman does love and would care for him, but she lacks the force to do anything about her feelings except express them in a letter that comes too late.
Kim, Kipling’s most popular and best-managed novel, strings its episodes along a story of two connected journeys. Kim–Kimball O’Hara–is the orphaned son of a British nursemaid and a sergeant in an Irish regiment. He has been brought up by a half-caste woman, and he seeks his identity and role in the enormously enjoyable swirl and pageant of Indian life, “wild as that of the Arabian Nights.” Early in the book Kim meets a Tibetan lama, who seeks a sacred river that will enable him to get off the wheel of life and its relentless turns from “despair to despair.” Kim becomes the lama’s chela, the boy who begs for him and arranges his travels. Buried beneath anecdotes and descriptions of Indian life is a plot in which Kim and his Indian mentors and allies manage to thwart a couple of threats against British rule in India mounted by treacherous native kings and Russian agents. But the excitement of the story lies in the episodic events, characters, and landscapes of Kim’s travels through the streets and roads and wilderness of the India lived in by Indians.
Kim is entirely at home in India. He not only speaks the vernacular but thinks and dreams in Hindi (although when he is in trouble he sometimes thinks in English). After he meets some officers in his father’s regiment and is sent by them to an English school in India (the lama pays his tuition), he becomes “blanched like an almond.” But he easily passes again as a Hindu boy, even once as a Muslim, when he is artificially darkened and reenters “the roaring whirl of India.” None of his important teachers and guides are British Sahibs. Except for the mysterious Lurgan Sahib, a white man adept in the illusions of Indian fakirs, the British officers and clergymen who manipulate Kim stand above and apart from the life in which he grew up. They take him out of that life and then send him back into it as an agent in the Great Game they play to maintain their rule.
“Who is Kim?,” the British boy who thinks in Hindi asks himself several times during the novel. “At the Gates of Learning we were taught that to abstain from action was unbefitting a Sahib,” he finally answers, “And I am a Sahib.” The identity that Kim arrives at and the work that lies before him embody a possibility of union quite different from the idea of the British in India dramatized in many of Kipling’s early short stories. Like Trejago in Plain Tales from the Hills, and like Mowgli, Kim can live in two cultures. Unlike them, he can make his knowledge of one culture work for the good, as Kipling imagines, of the other. When early in the novel Kim helps the lama onto a railway train to continue his pilgrimage, Kipling remarks on the juncture of “old-world piety and modern progress that is the note of India today.” At the end of the novel, Kim peers at the lama, “outlined jet-black against the lemon-colored drift of light,” and thinks that he resembles “the stone Bodhisat who looks down on the patent self-registering turnstiles of the Lahore museum.” Kim sees, and could be, the future of a British India, a harmony of old gods and modern machines, a hybrid culture more vibrant and exciting than that of England, more coherent and progressive than the ancient and disordered civilization into which the British came.
After Kipling’s return to England in 1896 he became an important public figure as well as an extraordinarily popular writer. He corresponded with Theodore Roosevelt, whom he met in America. When Kipling visited Scotland, Andrew Carnegie offered him the use of his house; the writer also spent winters in South Africa in a house provided by Cecil Rhodes. He witnessed some of the South African War (1899–1902), during which he contributed to and helped to edit a newspaper for the troops, established by their commanders. He received honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford but refused a knighthood in 1899 and declined to stand as a Conservative for Parliament because he thought that he could better serve his profession and his politics if he worked independently of government and party honors and responsibilities. He bought Bateman’s, a seventeenth-century house in Sussex, and knit himself into the life of a member of a high professional caste, exploring the countryside in one or another of the automobiles he enthusiastically acquired and going up to London to associate with other leading men in their professions at clubs and public dinners.
The editorial pages of the London Times were open to Kipling whenever he chose to write on current political and social matters. During his lifetime he gave (he took no payment) about twenty poems to the Times. In the verse collected in The Seven Seas and The Five Nations, Kipling used the colloquial diction and thumping beats and rhymes of his early poems to continue to make a poetry that professed to be, and sometimes became, popular song. In “The Song of the Banjo” (1894) he compares his sound to that of a banjo, and “With my ‘Pilly-willy-winky-winky poppi’” and “my ‘Tinka-tinka-tinka-tinka-tink!’” he claims to “draw the world together link by link: / Yea, from Delos up to Limerick and back!” When he wrote in the Times on matters of large political moment, however, in poems such as “Recessional” (1897) and “The White Man’s Burden” (1899), Kipling chose the vocabulary and cadences of hymn. He warns the Anglo-Saxon people (including Americans) of the transience and the truly sacred responsibilities of empire. This people, he writes in “Recessional,” must not forget that they hold “Dominion over palm and pine” by the dispensation of the “God of our fathers, known of old.” He angered Americans when he lectured them in “The White Man’s Burden” on the proper conduct of the empire they acquired with the Philippines: “Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captive’s needs.” In “The Islanders” (1902), another poem published in the Times, he came down as hard on the English for grudging their sons to service and depending “on the Younger Nations for the men who could shoot and ride!”
In the stories of Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910), written to educate young people in English history, Kipling again imagined, as he had in Kim, a whole nation made by the confluence of several cultures. “In God’s good time,” one of the heroes of “Young Men at the Manor” (from Puck of Pook’s Hill) predicts, “there will be neither Saxon nor Norman in England”–nor, Kipling suggests, Roman, Pict, Dane, or any of the other peoples who have left their marks on the countryside and in the narratives of what became England. At the same time, the stories recognize that the making of England required the defeat or sublimation of the nations and tribes who fought for dominion.
In some of the short stories written for adults and collected in the four volumes published in the 1890s and the first decade of the new century, Kipling attacked, as he does in his poems, the complacency and enervation that betray empire. “One View of the Question”
(1890), a story in Many Inventions, reverses Kipling’s usual perspective and puts an Indian visitor in London so that he could observe, with a smugness that Kipling surely intended as cautionary, that “the fountain-head of power is putrid with long standing still” and predict that “the Sahibs die out at the third generation in our land.”
But more usually in the stories of these collections Kipling tends to display not weaknesses at home but the benefits that imperial whites bring to natives. A third-generation Anglo-Indian in “A Tomb of His Ancestors” (1897), published in The Day’s Work, uses the natives’ belief that he is the reincarnation of his grandfather, an administrator of fabled effectiveness, to complete a successful vaccination campaign. In “William the Conqueror” (1895), another story in the same collection, a civil servant alleviates a famine with the help of a British woman, oddly but revealingly named William. Kipling was more than a chauvinist imperialist, but at times he could be just that. By and large in these stories, white people do good for natives, and the British do more good than anyone–certainly more than the engaging American who thinks of war as a game and tries to sell the gun he has invented to the Boers in “A Captive” (1902), or the Boers with their dishonorable guerilla tactics in “A Sahib’s War” (1901), both stories collected in Traffics and Discoveries (1904).
As he became more explicit than he had previously been about the good that empire can do for lesser breeds, Kipling became more gloomy and conservative about politics at home. He opposed suffrage for women, home rule for Ireland, and the liberal British governments that edged toward these changes. He thought that the United States would be ruined by immigration, and he was deeply hostile to political innovation. In “A Walking Delegate” (1894), collected in The Day’s Work, a Kansas horse brings the unsettling views of socialism to a Vermont stable: “‘As usual,’ he said, with an underhung sneer–‘bowin’ your heads before the Oppressor, that comes to spend his leisure gloatin’ over you.’” He is argued down and beaten by the other horses. ‘“There’s jest two kind o’ horse in the United States–them ez can an’ will do their work after bein’ properly broke an’ handled, an’ them ez won’t.’” The lesson of such fables is expressed by the plates and rivets of a ship during its first Atlantic run in “The Ship That Found Herself” (1895, included in The Day’s Work). Each part must learn its place in the hierarchy of the Design, “how to lock down and lock up on one another,” and then “the talking of the separate pieces ceases and melts into one voice, which is the soul of the ship.”
Kipling loved the machinery of the modern, the railways and steamships of the old century, the motorcars and wireless and airplanes of the new. When he installed a turbine in an old mill on his property in Sussex, he wrote “Below the Mill Dam” (1902, included in Traffics and Discoveries), a fable in which the Waters and the Spirit of the Mill discuss the innovation. All approve, except an old English rat, who is discovered by the electric lights turned on by the turbine and is killed. The speaker of “McAndrew’s Hymn” (1893, included in The Seven Seas), a dramatic monologue in Scots dialect, finds God and duty in the machinery he tends in the engine room of a ship: “Interdependence, absolute, foreseen, ordained, decreed, / To work, Ye’ll note, at ony tilt an’ every rate of speed.” Design and grandeur in these poems and stories reside in human constructions. But the order of these political and mechanical systems is no less compelling than that of the old gods and heroes. To resist or subvert them is to disintegrate in waste and ruin, like the Bandar-log of the Jungle Books and the white men who step into India without the knowledge, discipline, and purpose of Kim.
As his political convictions settled, Kipling’s narrative practices became expansive and adventurous. No longer constrained by the limitations of space imposed on his early stories, he constructed elaborate plots, sometimes around nothing more than a practical joke. He often prefaced and concluded his short stories with verses that sometimes enforced, and sometimes complicated, their themes. He occasionally told a story in several voices, giving it the feel, obliqueness, and surprise of conversation. When the stories of the Jungle Books and the Just So Stories are counted in, he wrote as many fables as realistic short stories in the two decades before World War I.
“The Bridge Builders” (1893, in The Day’s Work) joins realism and fable to express again Kipling’s idea of a British India that harmonizes East and West. It begins as a typical Kipling story about competent men doing good work in India despite the heat, disease, and interference of remote and ignorant superiors. Trying to protect their uncompleted bridge from a flood, the British engineer Findlayson and his Lascar overseer Peroo are swept in their boat into the river, and then into fable. In a trance of weariness smoothed with opium, they witness the gods debate the plea of the river to destroy the bridge that obstructs her. “Be certain that is only for a little,” Krishna says, and then tells the gods that except for Brahm, the principle of life, they themselves are only for a time: “The fire-carriages shout the names of new Gods that are not the old under new names.” When morning comes, the bridge still stands. Findlayson and Peroo are rescued by a Westernized Indian in his steam-launch on his way to the temple “to sanctify some new idol.” The realistic part of the story honors Findlayson’s work in careful descriptions of it. The fable both subverts and sanctifies it. Although it too will ultimately be washed away, Findlayson’s work, like the fire-carriages of the railway, speaks the name of gods. The bridge is an idol rightly to be worshiped, an authentic contemporary expression of reverence for Brahm.
‘“They”’ (1904, included in Traffics and Discoveries) mixes realism and the fantasy of a ghost story to come to a complicated idea about the value and reach of pragmatic knowledge. The narrator clatters in his motorcar through a southern English landscape to find by accident a lovely Elizabethan house behind a lawn full of topiary yew cut as knights and ladies. Gradually, it comes to him that the children he entertains with his motorcar are ghosts summoned by the need of the gracious blind woman who lives alone in the house. Kipling’s daughter Josephine had died during his visit to the United States in 1899, and the author’s loss underwrites the plangency of the narrator’s decision not to return to the house. Kipling prefaced ‘“They”’ with a poem in which the Virgin Mother releases children from heaven so that their spirits will comfort people on earth. The ghostly in this story is not a realist’s playful reminder that he does not know everything. It is a possibility of belief, an earthly paradise, from which the narrator is shut out because of his commitment to the valuable, practical work that makes and purchases motorcars.
“Mrs. Bathhurst” (1904, included in Traffics and Discoveries), one of Kipling’s best stories, starts out with its tellers reminiscing about a farcical episode of their youths, turns into something like a ghost story, and ends as a commentary about the difficulty of catching reality in the frame of narrative. Vickers, a naval warrant officer, is haunted by a sequence he sees in a “cinematograph” shown in a carnival at Cape Town. Night after night he takes Pyecroft, the principal teller of the story, to watch this movie clip of a woman stepping out of a train in Paddington Station and walking toward the camera, “lookin’ straight at us... till she melted out of the picture–like–like a shadow jumpin’ over a candle, and as she went I ‘eard Dawson in the tickey seats be’ind sing, “Christ! there’s Mrs. B!’” Two other people help Pyecroft tell the story. One, like Pyecroft, has known Ada Bathhurst as the generous proprietor of a small hotel in Auckland. The other knows what happened to Vickers. None of them know what Mrs. Bathhurst was doing in London (“She’s lookin’ for me,” Vickers says), or what Vickers has done to be haunted by her, or what he tells his captain before he is sent upcountry alone on a detail, or why he deserts, or the identity of the other person found with him on a railway track in a teak forest, both “burned to charcoal” by lightning. The artful ramble of the story as its several tellers exchange information and opinions that finally complete without resolving its plot, testify both to the desire of realistic narrative to take in everything, and to the futility of that ambition.
During the last two decades of his life Kipling wrote less prolifically than he had in the years before. The awarding in 1907 of the Nobel Prize–which was “in all ways unexpected,” he wrote in his autobiography–certified his eminence. The award surprised and upset some of his contemporaries, who thought his writing vulgar and rowdy and his politics narrow and shrill. Kipling himself was pleased, but characteristically deprecated the grandeur of the ceremony. “It means a gold medal and a parchment certificate and tomorrow they give me a lot of money,” he wrote to his children John and Elsie in letters dated 10 December 1907. When he rose to receive the award, he added, “I felt rather like a bad boy up to be caned.” But by this time he was accustomed to his role as one of the grand personages of his time and culture, and he continued to address important matters of the moment in his usual venues and styles, from poems in the Times to fables in prose and verse. He spent some of the prize money on improvements to the garden at Bateman’s, including the purchase of a sundial that bore the injunction, “It is later than you think.”
Kipling’s publishers in England and America kept his name before readers with collected editions of his work that periodically added new titles (the first collection was published in 1897), a series of one-volume “Inclusive” editions of his verse (1919, 1927, 1933), reprints of his most popular books, and repackaging of poems and stories into Kipling readers, Kipling pageants, Kipling calendars, and volumes given to stories about animals, dogs, stories for children, and humorous tales. He remained an important public figure. During his cousin Stanley Baldwin’s terms as prime minister in the 1920s, Kipling’s advice to the Conservative party acquired a quasi-official status, and when he visited Scotland again, he stayed at Balmoral with the king. He suffered a stomach disease that he feared (incorrectly) was cancer, and his wife carefully guarded his privacy at Bateman’s. But when (in his opinion) he saw the world going wrong, he used his public presence to try to set it right. With his friend Rider Haggard he founded a short-lived Liberty League to oppose socialism. He bitterly regretted the treaty in 1924 that set Ireland on its way toward independence, and he resigned from the Rhodes Trust in 1925 because he thought its policies encouraged the growth of a commonwealth of autonomous nations to replace an empire ruled by white men from home.
Kipling’s most significant publications in the last stage of his career were three collections of short stories: A Diversity of Creatures (1917), Debits and Credits (1926), and Limits and Renewals (1932). In these stories Kipling’s conviction that right-minded people knew exactly what to do at least some of the time runs alongside his persistent sense of the uncertainties of knowing and doing. A set of stories about the consequences of World War I shows this mix of skepticism and sometimes belligerent certainty. Like many of his contemporaries, Kipling at first welcomed the war as a bracing occasion to renew and test courage and honor. He enlisted his talent in a series of pamphlets and newspaper articles about the army in France and the work of the navy. When his only son, John, was reported missing in action in France in 1915 (his body was never found), Kipling responded in the manly code in which he had been schooled: in a 12 November 1915 letter he wrote, “it’s something to have bred a man.” He soon undertook to edit a history of his son’s regiment from their letters and journals, The Irish Guards in the Great War (1923), and he served on the Imperial War Graves Commission, which established military cemeteries on the Continent and elsewhere.
Some of Kipling’s short stories written during the war express a simple patriotic morality. In “Sea Constables” (1915, included in Debits and Credits), one of Kipling’s competent professional men, serving as a volunteer, forces a neutral vessel trying to run a block into port and lets its captain die unattended of pneumonia. In another, “Mary Postgate,” written in the same year and also published in Debits and Credits, a child is killed by a bomb dropped from a German airplane. A middleaged spinster finds the injured German pilot in her garden, and, already grieving over the death of a young friend killed while training to be a pilot, she lets the German die, takes a hot bath, and comes down looking “quite handsome.” On the other hand, in some of the poems he wrote during the war Kipling uses quiet ballad measures to express themes of waste and horror common in the poetry of World War I. The speaker of “My Boy Jack” (1918, included in The Years Between), Kipling’s poem for his son, asks, ‘“Have you news of my boy Jack?’” When the answer is, “Not this tide. / For what is sunk will hardly swim, / Not with this wind blowing, and this tide,”he continues,
“Oh dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except that he did not shame his kind–
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
After the war Kipling wrote some stories in which he considers its psychic damage and the efforts of friends and small communities to protect or cure its victims. In a story written during the war, “In the Interests of the Brethren” (1918, included in Debits and Credits), Kipling invented Masonic Lodge Faith and Works 5837 E. C, a creation of merchants and professional men to provide food, lodging, and the comforts of ritual to young men on leave from the war. In two later stories, “The Janeites” (1924) and “A Madonna of the Trenches” (1924), both also collected in Debits and Credits, the members of the lodge are still in business doing what they can to hold together men who may never recover from the war. Brother Strangeways of the latter story saw an apparition of his recently deceased aunt in the trenches. Literally shocked out of his certainties about life and death, he now refuses to get married and get on with life. Brother Humberstall of “The Janeites,” back at the front after the explosion of an ammunition dump ‘“knocked all ’is Gunnery instruction clean out of ‘im’,” was sustained by officers who inducted him in a select society who kept the war at bay by testing themselves on the details of Jane Austen’s fiction. None of the officers survived the collapse of the front at the Somme, and back home after the war Humberstall gets through his days by trying to play his Janeite game with his sister. Strangeways and Humberstall tell their stories at the lodge, presumably not for the first time, to sympathetic men who hear them through and send them home, only temporarily relieved of the burden of their trouble.
“The Gardener” (1925, in Debits and Credits) depicts another kind of war casualty. An unmarried, middle-aged woman goes to a military cemetery in France to visit the grave of a man she has always called her nephew. She is guided by a gardener who may be Christ and who in any event knows her secret and pleases her by referring to the dead man as her son. But the story qualifies this resolution by leaving unexplained a curious episode in which the woman fails to comfort, and even inadvertently insults, another woman who must invent subterfuges to visit the grave of a man who never acknowledged her as his lover when he was living.
“Dayspring Mishandled” (1924, included in Limits and Renewals), perhaps the most interesting of Kipling’s late short stories, demonstrates how in some of his stories at the end of his career he aimed for clear resolutions that nonetheless drifted toward what he had always known as “the hopelessness and tangle of it.” The story is founded on an elaborate hoax, a device of which Kipling was always fond. Castorley, who has risen from writing for a fiction syndicate in the 1890s to become an expert on Geoffrey Chaucer, says something insensitive (readers are never told what) about a paralyzed woman whom Manallace loves and cares for. Manallace, who writes historical novels “in a style that exactly met, but never exceeded, every expectation,” spends years fabricating and arranging for the discovery of the manuscript of a supposedly lost tale by Chaucer. Castorley falls into the trap and writes a book on the tale, for which Manallance lies in wait to ambush in a review. But before the book can be published, Castorley dies, perhaps of kidney disease, perhaps at the hands of the physician to whom Lady Castorley turns her eyes as her husband’s coffin is moved into the crematorium. Kipling’s knowledge of the business of literature, his ingenious plotting, and his parody of Chaucer move this story smartly and lightly through its neat plot. But like Manallace’s clever machine of vengeance, the plot pulls up short before, and then tumbles into, troubling matter that readers see at the end was there all along: not just the mystery of Lady Castorley and the possible malignity of her lover but also the unspecified cruelty of her husband, the unexamined affection of Manallace for the sad woman who may never have loved him, and the lost promise of youth and talent–dayspring mishandled–given to hack writing and futile scholarship.
Kipling died on 18 January 1936 of a stroke after he suffered ruptured ulcers. The writer of Kipling’s obituary in the 25 January 1936 Times Literary Supplement, trying to figure out “Rudyard Kipling’s Place in English Literature,” acknowledged that by the time of his death “many had lost interest in him and many others had been repelled.” What repels readers still is most often the racism and misogyny of Kipling’s endorsement of an empire founded on the good work of white men. George Orwell, writing a few years after Kipling’s death, judged his politics not only repellant but ignorant in his neglect of the economic basis of empire. But Orwell also thought that because of what Kipling left out as well as what he included, he accurately described the life and attitudes of British colonial administrators and soldiers. Lionel Trilling, who found Kipling unreadable as he grew up into his own liberal politics, nonetheless remained interested in the “anthropological views” that Kipling learned in India: “the perception that another man’s idea of virtue and honor may be different from one’s own but quite to be respected.” Noel Annan has argued that this awareness of the relativity and individual integrity of cultural institutions assures Kipling’s place in the history of ideas. This view has also made Kipling interesting to an increasing number of literary and cultural critics and historians who find in his writing not only just a picture of the lives of colonialists but also a sensitive register of the tensions in ideas and attitudes that Kipling only some of the time thought of as valid and valuable.
Other commentators who have sustained or revived interest in Kipling’s writing since his death have not troubled so much with his politics but instead honored his craft. Edmund Wilson presented to formalist literary critics in the 1940s a Kipling attractive because of his themes of loneliness and isolation and his accounts of an imperiled fortitude in these conditions. J. M. S. Tompkins has written of the sophisticated use of irony by which Kipling maintained his equilibrium on the edge, and Elliot Gilbert of the tactics that mediate between Kipling’s notion of “the irrationality of the universe and man’s need to find some order in it.” Sandra Kemp has argued that Kipling’s recognition of identity as constructed and contingent enabled him to write fictions in which he tries out a repertory of identities to explore the exhilarating possibilities of otherness.
Such attention makes clear the continuity and development of his talent during the half century of his career. He never really learned how to write a novel. As a poet he always had a journalist’s, or an adman’s, gift for catchy phrases, such as “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” (“The Ballad of East and West,” 1889, included in Barrack-Room Ballads), and “a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a smoke” (“The Betrothed,” 1888, included in Departmental Ditties). “If–,” his best-known poem (1910, included in Rewards and Fairies), is a string of aphorisms suitable for framing: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, / Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!” Like Ernest Hemingway, another master of short narrative with whom he has much in common, Kipling began his trade by writing to specifications in a newspaper office. Revision to him meant taking out, and he edited with a pot of India ink and a brush so that he would not be tempted to restore the words, sentences, and paragraphs he had excised.
If in general Rudyard Kipling traded the colorful stories and tumbling long lines of his early poems for the cocky certainty of editorials and aphorisms, on balance a loss, he did gain a succinctness that gave a quiet power to some of his poems (such as “My Boy Jack”). But the most marked development of his craft shows in his short stories. In them he continually experimented with voices, points of view, and registers that move from realism to fable. He always knew how to suggest that he could not tell the entire story, and by the time he got to his late stories he had learned how to make a controlled, uninflected circumstantial narrative invoke a realm of miracle. He became masterful in his reproduction of a reality in which things would not settle and stay fixed, and in which what was out there beyond what humans usually know was sometimes better, sometimes worse, and always larger than the ordinary conventions of knowing and telling would lead one to expect.
Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard: The Record of a Friendship, edited by Morton Cohen (London: Hutchinson, 1965; Rutherford, NJ.: Fairleigh Dickinson United Press, 1965);
‘O Beloved Kids’: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to His Children, edited by Elliot L. Gilbert (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1983; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984);
The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, 6 volumes, edited by Thomas Pinney (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990-2004; Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990-2004);
Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895, edited by D. H. Stewart (Greensboro: ELT Press, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2003).
Kipling: Interviews and Recollections, 2 volumes, edited by Harold Orel (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1983; London: Macmillan, 1983).
Flora V. Livingstone, Bibliography of the Works of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Wells, 1927); Supplement (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938; London: Oxford University Press, 1938);
Lloyd H. Chandler, A Summary of the Work of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Grolier Club, 1930);
James McG. Stewart, Kipling: A Bibliographic Catalogue, edited by A. W. Yeats (Toronto: Dalhousie University Press/University of Toronto Press, 1959);
Helmut E. Gerber and Edward Lauterbach, “Rudyard Kipling: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings About Him,” English Literature in Transition, 3, nos. 3–5 (1960): 1–235; 8, nos. 3–4 (1965): 136–241;
P. Coustillas, “Bibliographie Selective: Rudyard Kipling: Kim,” Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, 40 (1994): 163-168.
C. E. Carrington, The Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Macmillan, 1955; Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1955; revised, 1978);
John Gross, Rudyard Kipling: The Man, His Work, and His World (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972);
Martin Fido, Rudyard Kipling (London & New York: Hamlyn, 1974);
Philip Mason, Kipling: The Glass, the Shadow and the Fire (London: Cape, 1975; New York: Harper & Row, 1975);
Kingsley Amis, Rudyard Kipling and His World (London: Thames & Hudson, 1975; New York: Scribners, 1975);
Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work (London: Secker & Warburg, 1977; New York: Viking, 1978);
Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1978; New York: Random House, 1978);
Martin Seymour-Smith, Rudyard Kipling (London: Macdonald, 1989; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989);
Harold Orel, A Kipling Chronology (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990; London: Macmillan, 1990);
Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999; expanded edition, London: Phoenix, 2000);
Harry Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Chatto & Windus, 1999); republished as Rudyard Kipling: A Life (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000);
David Gilmour, The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Murray, 2002; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002);
Phillip Mallett, Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Life (Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
Noel Annan, “Kipling’s Place in the History of Ideas,” Victorian Studies, 3 (1960): 323-348;
Stephen Arata, “A Universal Forgiveness: Kipling in the Fin-de-Siècle,” English Literature in Transition, 36 (1993): 7-38;
Helen Pike Bauer, Rudyard Kipling: A Study of the Short Fiction (New York: Twayne, 1994; Oxford & Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan, 1994);
Harold Bloom, ed., Rudyard Kipling, second edition (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004; Northam: Roundhouse, 2004);
Bloom, ed., Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (New York: Chelsea House, 1987);
Christine Bucher, “Envisioning the Imperial Nation in Kipling’s Kim,” Journal of Commonwealth and Post-Colonial Studies, 5 (1998): 7-17;
Terry Caesar, “Suppression, Textuality, Entanglement, and Revenge in Kipling’s ‘Dayspring Mishandled,’” English Literature in Transition, 29 (1986): 54-63;
Children’s Literature, special Kipling issue, edited by Judith Plotz, 20 (1992);
Nora Crook, Kipling’s Myths of Love and Death (London: Macmillan, 1989; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989);
John deLancey Ferguson, “Kipling’s Revision of His Published Works,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 22 (1923): 114-124;
John Derbyshire, “Rudyard Kipling and the God of Things As They Are,” New Criterion, 18 (2000): 5-13;
Elliot L. Gilbert, The Good Kipling: Studies in the Short Story (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1971; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971);
Gilbert, “Silence and Survival in Rudyard Kipling’s Art and Life,” English Literature in Transition, 29 (1986): 115-126;
Gilbert, ed., Kipling and the Critics (New York: New York University Press, 1965; London: Owen, 1966);
Roger Lancelyn Green, ed., Kipling: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971);
Ambreen Hai, “On Truth and Lie in a Colonial Sense: Kipling’s Tales of Tale-Telling,” ELH, 64 (1997): 599-625;
James Harrison, Rudyard Kipling (Boston: Twayne, 1982);
Christopher Hichens, “Burdens and Songs: The Anglo-American Rudyard Kipling,” Grand Street, 9 (1990): 203-234;
Peter Hopkirk, Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling’s Great Game (London: Murray, 1996; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996);
Jane Hotchkiss, “The Jungle of Eden: Kipling, Wolf-Boys, and the Colonial Imagination,” Victorian Literature and Culture, 29 (2001): 435-449;
Teresa Hubel, “In Search of the British Indian in British India: White Orphans, Kipling’s Kim, and Class in Colonial India,” Modern Asian Studies, 38 (2004): 227-252;
P. J. Keating, Kipling the Poet (London: Secker & Warburg, 1994);
Sandra Kemp, Kipling’s Hidden Narratives (Oxford & New York: Blackwell, 1988);
U. C. Knoepflmacher, “The Chameleon Kipling: His Rise and Fall and Rehabilitation,” Review, 23 (2001): 1-35;
John Kucich, “Sadomasochism and the Magical Group: Kipling’s Middle-Class Imperialism,” Victorian Studies, 46 (2003): 33-68;
Phillip Mallett, ed., Kipling Considered (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989);
John McBratney, Imperial Subjects, Imperial Space: Rudyard Kipling’s Fictions of the Native-Born (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002);
John A. McClure, Kipling and Conrad: The Colonial Fiction (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981);
Louis Menand, “Kipling in the History of Forms,” in High and Low Moderns: Literature And Culture, 1889-1939, edited by Maria DiBattista and Lucy M. Diarmid (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 148-165;
Jeffrey Meyers, “Kipling and Hemingway: The Lesson of the Master,” American Literature, 56 (1984): 87-99;
Harold Orel, ed., Critical Essays on Rudyard Kipling (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989);
George Orwell, “Rudyard Kipling,” in his Dickens, Dali and Others (London: Secker & Warburg, 1946; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1946), pp. 140-160;
Mark Paffard, Kipling’s Indian Fiction (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989);
Norman Page, A Kipling Companion (London: Macmillan, 1984);
Clara Claiborne Park, “Artist of Empire: Kipling and Kim,” Hudson Review, 55 (2003): 537-561;
Ann Parry, The Poetry of Rudyard Kipling: Rousing the Nation (Buckingham & Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1992);
Parry, “Reading Formations in the Victorian Press: The Reception of Kipling 1888-1891,” Literature and History, 11 (1985): 254-263;
Don Randall, Kipling’s Imperial Boy: Adolescence and Cultural Hybridity (Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000);
Randall, “Post-Mutiny Allegories of Empire in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books,” Texas Studies in Language and Literature, 41 (1997): 97-120;
Harry Ricketts, “Kipling and the War: A Reading of Debits and Credits,” English Literature in Transition, 29 (1986): 26-39;
Andrew Rutherford, ed., Kipling’s Mind and Art: Selected Critical Essays (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964; Edinburgh & London: Oliver & Boyd, 1964);
David Stewart, “Kipling’s Portraits of the Artists,” English Literature in Transitional (1988): 265-283;
Lionel Trilling, “Kipling,” in his The Liberal Imagination (New York: Viking, 1950; London: Secker & Warburg, 1951), pp. 118-128;
Edmund Wilson, “The Kipling That Nobody Read,” in his The Wound and the Bow (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941; London: Secker & Warburg, 1942), pp. 105-181;
Lewis D. Wurgaft, The Imperial Imagination: Magic and Myth in Kipling’s India (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1983);
W. Arthur Young and John H. McGivering, A Kipling Dictionary (London: Macmillan, 1967; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1967).
The most extensive archive of Rudyard Kipling’s letters, manuscripts, and family papers is housed at the University of Sussex Library in Brighton. Other significant collections of letters and manuscripts are in the British Library, the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, the Doubleday Collection of the Princeton University Library, the Bodleian Library, and the university libraries of Syracuse, Harvard, Cornell, and Dalhousie.