BORN: 1865, Bombay (now Mumbai), India
DIED: 1936, London, England
GENRE: Fiction, short stories, poetry
“Gunga Din” (1892)
The Jungle Book (1894)
Captains Courageous (1897)
Just So Stories for Little Children (1902)
It is easy to underestimate the variety, complexity, and subtlety of British author Rudyard Kipling's writing. He became an extraordinarily popular writer in the 1890s with short stories and poems enlivened by strange and interesting settings, a brisk narrative, and the fresh energy of the voices that told his tales. Credited with popularizing the short-fiction genre in England, Kipling is perhaps most famous for his insightful stories of Indian culture and Anglo-Indian society and for his masterly, widely read stories for children.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Born in British Colony Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India, where his father was professor of architectural sculpture in the School of Art. At the time, India was a colony of Great Britain, as at least parts of it had been since the early seventeenth century when the British East India Company gained control of some of its territory. Resentment of British authority and British disregard for Indian religious law led to the first open demonstration for independence in 1857. Though the rebellion was suppressed, the Government of India Act of 1858 gave India some rights, improved the country's administration, and gave Indians the right to serve as counselors to the viceroy (the person appointed by the British monarch to govern India). Despite these small measures, India remained firmly in
British control and economic exploitation had only increased by the time Kipling was born.
Educated in England In 1871, Kipling was sent to England for his education. He entered the United Services College at Westward Ho!—a boarding school in Devon—in 1878. There, young “Gigger” endured bullying and harsh discipline but also enjoyed the close friendships, practical jokes, and merry pranks he later recorded in Stalky & Co. (1899). Headmaster Price encouraged Kipling's literary ambitions by having him edit the school paper and praising the poems Kipling 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.
In 1882, Kipling rejoined his parents in Lahore, a Muslim city in what would later become Pakistan, and became a subeditor for the Civil and Military Gazette. In 1887, he moved to the Allahabad Pioneer, a better paper that gave him greater liberty in his writing. The result was a flood of satiric verses, published as Departmental Ditties in 1886, and over seventy short stories published in 1888 in seven paperback volumes. In style, the stories showed the influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Bret Harte, and Guy de Maupassant, but the subjects were Kipling's own. His stories focused on 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.
In the 1880s, there was an increased call for Indian independence. Because the colonial overlords turned over large areas of India from rice cultivation to cotton farming in this period, the Indian food supply was endangered, but British factories had more raw materials for their textile factories. The British further impoverished India by destroying its native textile industry by flooding the market with cheaper, tariff-free British products. Because of such situations, Indians founded the Indian National Congress in 1885 to express their desires and to make plans for achieving independence.
Fame in England and America 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, including William Ernest Henley, Thomas Hardy, George Saintsbury, and Andrew Lang. For Henley's Scots Observer, 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” 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 Lord Tennyson as the most popular English author.
In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier, an American. They settled on the Balestier estate near Brattleboro, Vermont, and began four of the happiest years of Kipling's life, during which he wrote some of his best work, including Many Inventions (1893), perhaps his best volume of short stories; The Jungle Book (1894), and The Second Jungle Book (1895). 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 English coast near Brighton. The outbreak of the Spanish-American War (fought to free Cuba from Spanish colonial rule as well as to assert the growing power of the United States) in 1898 and the Boer War (a conflict in South Africa between British colonial rule and Dutch settlers for control of the country) in 1899 turned Kipling's attention to colonial affairs. He began to publish a number of solemn poems in the London Times. The most famous of these, “Recessional” (1897), issued a warning to Englishmen to consider their accomplishments in the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Victoria's reign with humility and awe rather than pride and arrogance.
The equally well-known “White Man's Burden” (1899) clearly expressed the attitudes toward empire implicit in the stories in The Day's Work (1898) and A Fleet in Being (1898). He 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, elitist, and jingoistic. For Kipling, the term “white man” indicated citizens of the more highly developed nations, whose duty it was to spread law, literacy, and morality throughout the world.
Commented on Spanish-American War The Spanish-American War provoked Kipling to write for vice president Theodore Roosevelt a poem with the now offensive title “The White Man's Burden.” Its message was typical for Kipling. Seeing that America suddenly had acquired vast new colonial possessions from its defeat of Spain, thus joining the European powers in their race to colonize the rest of the world, Kipling argued that it was the responsibility of the United States to care for its new subjects liberally and humanely, if also as effective owners or wardens. Roosevelt reportedly responded, though not to Kipling, “Rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansionist viewpoint.”
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 he published The Five Nations, a book of South African verse, in 1903, he was attacked in parodies, caricatures, and serious protests as the opponent of a growing spirit of peace and democratic equality. Kipling then retired to “Bateman's,” a house near Burwash, a secluded village in Essex, England.
Later Works Kipling now turned from the wide empire as subject to England itself. In 1902, he published Just So Stories for Little Children. He also issued two books of stories of England's past, intended, like the Jungle Books, for young readers but suitable for adults as well: Puck of Pook's Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910).
His most significant work was a number of volumes of short stories written in a new style: Traffics and Discoveries (1904), Actions and Reactions (1904), A Diversity of Creatures (1917), Debits and Credits (1926), and Limits and Renewals (1932). These later stories treat more complex, subtle, and somber subjects in a style more compressed, allusive, and elliptical. Consequently, these stories have never been as popular as his earlier work. But modern critics, in reevaluating Kipling, have found a greater power and depth that make them his best work.
In 1907, Kipling became the first English writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died on January 18, 1936, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His autobiography, Something of Myself, was published post-humously in 1937.
Works in Literary Context
Primarily influenced by his life experiences in India and England, Kipling also wrote about what he observed about conflicts such as the Boer War and the Spanish-American War. His experiences as a newspaperman greatly affected his style and interests. Spending many years in the British colony of India, Kipling experienced and expressed firsthand knowledge of the Indian people, Anglo-Indian culture, and the effects of colonial rule. His belief in the superiority of white people and colonial overlords is generally not embraced by early twenty-first century readers, but is reflective of attitudes of the time.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Kipling's famous contemporaries include:
Edward VII (1841–1910): The British monarch who gave his name to the brief Edwardian period, at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lillie Langtry (1853–1929): A successful British actress (a sometime mistress to the future King Edward VII), Langtry made a wildly successful dramatic tour of America in 1882.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919): Naturalist, explorer, hunter, governor of New York, and twenty-sixth president of the United States, Roosevelt was a firm believer in “gunboat diplomacy” and overseas adventures. He and Kipling met at the White House on several occasions.
W. E. B. DuBois (1868–1963): An African-American civil rights activist, author of The Souls of Black Folk (1903) and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Modernism The years 1890–1932, during which Kipling's books were published in London and New York, coincided with the development of modernism and its establishment as the dominant literary style of the twentieth century. Modernism was a movement in twentieth-century literature that represented a self-conscious break with traditional forms and subject matter while searching for a distinctly contemporary mode of expression. Kipling's immense body of writing—five novels, approximately 250 short stories, more than eight hundred pages of verse, and a number of books of nonfiction prose—seems to have little obvious relationship to modernism. Yet his books were extremely popular; 15 million volumes of his collected stories alone were sold.
Kipling's work, particularly his poetry, has received far less scholarly and critical attention than the efforts of major modernist writers, and he has not had as great an influence as such writers as William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, or Wallace Stevens on generations of successive writers. Both Kipling's inability to inspire the most intense kinds of critical interest and literary imitation seem due equally to his literary style and his subject matter.
Nevertheless, such a characterization of Kipling's poetry, although justified and clearly recognized by most of its admirers, is superficial. In his verse one can also find many of the great qualities of the best modernist poetry: plainness, conciseness, passionate utterance instead of worn-out poetic diction, conviction, sharp images, a revitalized sense of history, great artistic craft, and originality.
Imperialist Poetry Upon returning to England in 1896, Kipling became an “unofficial laureate” of the British Empire and its people. From a not-at-all high-minded viewpoint, he wrote in verse of imperialist triumphs and defeats, illusions of peace, realities of war (particularly the conflict with the Boers of South Africa), local yet ancient history, and finally of World War I and its legacy.
Also contrary to most twentieth-century taste—which has been primarily formed by modernism—are Kipling's characteristically rhyming, rhythmically regular, formal stanzas. He was also intent on writing clear, matter-of-fact statements expressed by a voice certain about a particular point of view: again, rather the antithesis of a modernist persona.
Use of Rhythm One of the key elements of Kipling's poetry is its sound. He wrote many of his poems to be read aloud. For Kipling, this criterion required consistent use of regular rhythm, rhymes of all kinds, formal stanzas, the ballad, and forms of popular song. By the same measure, Kipling would avoid using free verse, which he likened to “fishing with barbless hooks.” In his autobiography, Kipling remembers how, when writing his poems in India, “I made my own experiments in the weights, colours, perfumes, and attributes of words in relation to other words, either as read aloud so that they may hold the ear or, scattered over the page, draw the eye. There is no line of my verse or prose which has not been mouthed till the tongue has made all smooth, and memory, after many recitals, has mechanically skipped the grosser superfluities.”
Works in Critical Context
From the 1890s to the 1920s, the most popular writer in the English-speaking world was Rudyard Kipling. He won at the outset of his career the favorable attention of writers and critics, and in 1907, he received the first Nobel Prize for Literature given to an author writing in the English language. He published hundreds of short stories and poems, four novels, and volumes of pamphlets, speeches, and journalistic pieces. Yet, of his vast body of work, only his novel Kim and his other writing for children have kept Kipling popular. His children's books have remained in print while his tales for adults of ethics, aesthetics, and empire have gone out of fashion—though they are receiving renewed attention in the wake of recent critical interest in imperialism.
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Kipling wrote during a time when the powers of Europe were establishing vast colonial possessions in Africa and Asia, and he often wrote about colonialism. Other writers touched on this theme as well, especially once those colonies began moving toward independence in the twentieth century. Here are some books that deal with this topic:
Heart of Darkness (1902), a novel by Joseph Conrad. This tale of an ivory dealer in the Congo and his pursuit of the madman Kurtz paints a dark picture of European colonialism and would inspire the movie Apocalypse Now (1979).
A Passage to India (1924), a novel by E. M. Forster. Like several of Kipling's works, this book deals with the British presence in India, albeit at a later date: the 1920s, when the Indian independence movement was heating up.
Midnight's Children (1981), a novel by Salman Rushdie. An Indian Muslim, Rushdie secured his literary reputation with this tale of postcolonial India. The main character, born at the moment of India's partition (midnight on August 15, 1947), serves as an embodiment of Indian history since independence.
Orientalism (1978), a nonfiction work by Edward Said. This book is a milestone in postcolonial studies, the discipline of examining the impact of European colonialism on those regions that suffered under it, and how they are moving into their own identities, as well as the lingering prejudices that persist both in the former colonies and in Europe and America.
The Novels Of Kipling's four novel-length works, only Kim was critically well-received. Critics attributed the poor plotting and weak characterization of his first novel, The Light That Failed, to his youth and inexperience. His second novel, The Naulahka, exhibits the same shortcomings. In his last two novels, Captains Courageous (1897) and Kim, these weaknesses were turned to Kipling's advantage, for both share an essentially plotless, wandering structure that contributed to their effect. While some critics contend that a lack of introspection on the part of the protagonist of Kim forms the primary fault in a potentially great work, others hold that Kipling's penetrating scrutiny of his dual attachments, as well as his sympathetic depiction of the Indian people, place this novel among the masterpieces of English literature.
Poetry Ann Parry writes in The Poetry of Rudyard Kipling that the question of whether Kipling was truly a poet has been “perpetually debated.” She quotes writer T. R. Henn's answer to this question: “When his technical mastery, variety and craftsmanship have all been recognized, it has to be said that ‘Kipling, nearly, but never wholly achieved greatness … the ultimate depth was lacking.”’; An increasing number of readers since World War I have neither enjoyed nor felt instructed by poetry which often is, quite blatantly, politically imperialist and socially reactionary—sounding like and appealing to, in George Orwell's words, a “gutter patriot.”
Responses to Literature
- Look at several of Kipling's poems of your choosing, and discuss the following in an essay: Do you agree that Kipling's work shows “technical mastery”? Why or why not? Do you agree with the assessment that Kipling's work lacks “ultimate depth”? Why or why not? Use examples to support your opinions.
- The poem “If—” was originally published in Kipling's collection of children's stories, Rewards and Fairies, as a companion piece to the story “Brother Square-Toes,” which features George Washington as a character. Read “Brother Square-Toes.” Write a brief essay showing how “If—” serves to complement the short story.
- In the late nineteenth century, Britain was a major empire, with colonies all over the world. Research the Boer War (1899–1902) using history textbooks or historical accounts in your library. In what ways did that war affect the British Empire? Create a presentation with your findings.
- The characters of Nag and Nagaina are portrayed as villains in the story “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.” The use of snakes as a symbol of evil is common in Western civilization. Can you think of other stories, myths, or folktales that use this motif? Research the folktales and mythologies of another, non-Western culture, such as the Chinese culture or the Hindu culture. Are snakes used as symbols in these cultures and, if so, what do they represent? Write a paper that outlines your conclusions.
- Much of Kim is set along the Grand Trunk Road, which was a main highway that crossed the Indian subcontinent. This highway has played a major role in the history of India. Research the history of the Grand Trunk Road. Where did it come from? What importance has it played over the centuries? Create a presentation for the class that displays your findings and conclusions.
Bauer, Helen Pike. Rudyard Kipling: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Maxwell Macmillan, 1994.
Coates, John. The Day's Work: Kipling and the Idea of Sacrifice. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997.
Greene, Carol. Rudyard Kipling: Author of the JungleBooks. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1994.
Gross, John, ed. The Age of Kipling. New York: Simon &Schuster, 1972.
Murray, Stuart. Rudyard Kipling in Vermont: Birthplace of the Jungle Books. Bennington, Vt.: Images of the Past, 1997.
Wilson, Angus. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works. New York: Viking, 1978.
Kipling, (Joseph) Rudyard
KIPLING, (Joseph) Rudyard
Nationality: English. Born: Bombay, India, 30 December 1865, of English parents; moved to England, 1872. Education: The United Services College, Westward Ho!, Devon, 1878-82. Family: Married Caroline Starr Balestier in 1892; two daughters and one son. Career: Assistant editor, Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, 1882-87; assistant editor and overseas correspondent, Pioneer, Allahabad, 1887-89; full-time writer from 1889; lived in London, 1889-92, and Brattleboro, Vermont, 1892-96, then returned to England; settled in Burwash, Sussex, 1902; Rector, University of St. Andrews, Fife, 1922-25. Awards: Nobel prize for literature, 1907; Royal Society of Literature gold medal, 1926. LL.D.: McGill University, Montreal, 1907; D.Litt.: University of Durham, 1907; Oxford University, 1907; Cambridge University, 1907; University of Edinburgh, 1920; the Sorbonne, Paris, 1921; University of Strasbourg, 1921. D.Phil.: University of Athens, 1924. Honorary fellow, Magdalene College, Cambridge, 1932. Member: Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques (associate member), 1933. Died: 18 January 1936.
Complete Works (Sussex Edition). 35 vols., 1937-39; as Collected Works (Burwash Edition), 28 vols., 1941.
Verse: Definitive Edition. 1940.
The Best Short Stories, edited by Randall Jarrell. 1961; as In the Vernacular: The English in India and The English in England, 2 vols., 1963.
Stories and Poems, edited by Roger Lancelyn Green. 1970.
Short Stories, edited by Andrew Rutherford. 1971.
Selected Verse, edited by James Cochrane. 1977.
The Portable Kipling, edited by Irving Howe. 1982.
Selected Stories, edited by Sandra Kemp. 1987.
A Choice of Kipling's Prose, edited by Craig Raine. 1987.
Plain Tales from the Hills. 1888.
Soldiers Three: A Collection of Stories. 1888.
The Phantom "Rickshaw and Other Tales. 1888; revised edition, 1890.
Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories. 1888; revised edition, 1890.
The Courting of Dinah Shadd and Other Stories. 1890.
Indian Tales. 1890.
Life's Handicap, Being Stories from Mine Own People. 1891.
Soldier Tales. 1896; as Soldier Stories, 1896.
The Kipling Reader. 1900; revised edition, 1901; as Selected Stories, 1925.
Traffics and Discoveries. 1904.
Actions and Reactions. 1909.
A Diversity of Creatures. 1917.
Selected Stories, edited by William Lyon Phelps. 1921.
Land and Sea Tales. 1923.
Debits and Credits. 1926.
Selected Stories. 1929.
Thy Servant a Dog, Told by Boots. 1930; revised edition, as Thy Servant a Dog and Other Dog Stories, 1938.
Humorous Tales. 1931.
Limits and Renewals. 1932; edited by Phillip Mallett, 1989.
Animal Stories. 1932.
All the Mowgli Stories. 1933.
Collected Dog Stories. 1934.
More Selected Stories. 1940.
Twenty-One Tales. 1946.
Ten Stories. 1947.
A Choice of Kipling's Prose, edited by W. Somerset Maugham.1952; as Maugham's Choice of Kipling's Best: Sixteen Stories, 1953.
A Treasury of Short Stories. 1957.
(Short Stories), edited by Edward Parone. 1960.
Kipling Stories: Twenty-Eight Exciting Tales. 1960.
Famous Tales of India, edited by B.W. Shir-Cliff. 1962.
Phantoms and Fantasies: 20 Tales. 1965.
Twenty-One Tales, edited by Tim Wilkinson. 1972.
Tales of East and West, edited by Bernard Bergonzi. 1973.
Kipling's Kingdom: Twenty-Five of Rudyard Kipling's Best Indian Stories, Known and Unknown, edited by Charles Allen. 1987.
The Story of the Gadsbys: A Tale Without a Plot. 1888.
In Black and White. 1888.
Under the Deodars. 1888; revised edition, 1890.
The Light That Failed. 1890.
Mine Own People. 1891.
The Naulahka: A Story of West and East, with Wolcott Balestier. 1892.
Many Inventions. 1893.
The Day's Work. 1898.
Abaft the Funnel. 1909.
Fiction (for children)
The Jungle Book. 1894.
The Second Jungle Book. 1895; revised edition, 1895.
Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks. 1897.
Stalky & Co. 1899; revised edition, as The Complete Stalky & Co., 1929.
Just So Stories for Little Children, illustrated by Kipling. 1902.
Puck of Pook's Hill. 1906.
Kipling Stories and Poems Every Child Should Know, edited by Mary E. Burt and W. T. Chapin. 1909.
Rewards and Fairies. 1910.
Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides. 1923.
Ham and the Porcupine. 1935.
The Complete Just So Stories. 1995.
The Harbour Watch (produced 1913; revised version, as Gow's Watch, produced 1924).
Schoolboy Lyrics. 1881.
Echoes (published anonymously), with Alice Kipling. 1884.
Departmental Ditties and Other Verses. 1886; revised edition, 1890.
Departmental Ditties, Barrack-Room Ballads, and Other Verse. 1890.
Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses. 1892; as Ballads and Barrack-Room Ballads, 1892.
The Seven Seas. 1896.
An Almanac of Twelve Sports. 1898.
Poems, edited by Wallace Rice. 1899.
Recessional and Other Poems. 1899.
The Absent-Minded Beggar. 1899.
With Number Three, Surgical and Medical, and New Poems. 1900.
Occasional Poems. 1900.
The Five Nations. 1903.
The Muse among the Motors. 1904.
Collected Verse. 1907.
A History of England (verse only), with C.R.L. Fletcher. 1911; revised edition, 1930.
Songs from Books. 1912.
Twenty Poems. 1918.
The Years Between. 1919.
Verse: Inclusive Edition 1885-1918. 3 vols., 1919; revised edition, 1921, 1927, 1933.
A Kipling Anthology: Verse. 1922.
Songs for Youth, from Collected Verse. 1924.
A Choice of Songs. 1925.
Sea and Sussex. 1926.
St. Andrew's, with Walter de la Mare. 1926.
Songs of the Sea. 1927.
Poems 1886-1929. 3 vols., 1929.
Selected Poems. 1931.
East of Suez, Being a Selection of Eastern Verses. 1931.
Sixty Poems. 1939.
So Shall Ye Reap: Poems for These Days. 1941.
A Choice of Kipling's Verse, edited by T.S. Eliot. 1941.
Sixty Poems. 1957.
A Kipling Anthology, edited by W.G. Bebbington. 1964.
The Complete Barrack-Room Ballads, edited by CharlesCarrington. 1973.
Kipling's English History: Poems, edited by Marghanita Laski. 1974.
Early Verse 1879-1889: Unpublished, Uncollected, and Rarely Collected Poems, edited by Andrew Rutherford. 1986.
Quartette, with others. 1885.
The City of Dreadful Night and Other Sketches. 1890.
The City of Dreadful Night and Other Places. 1891.
The Smith Administration. 1891.
Letters of Marque. 1891; selections published 1891.
American Notes, with The Bottle Imp, by Robert Louis Stevenson. 1891.
Out of India: Things I Saw, and Failed to See, in Certain Days and Nights at Jeypore and Elsewhere. 1895.
The Kipling Birthday Book, edited by Joseph Finn. 1896.
A Fleet in Being: Notes of Two Trips with the Channel Squadron. 1898.
From to Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel. 2 vols., 1899; as From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, 2 vols., 1900.
Works. 15 vols., 1899.
Letters to the Family (Notes on a Recent Trip to Canada). 1908.
The Kipling Reader (not same as 1900 collection of stories). 1912.
The New Army (6 pamphlets). 1914; as The New Army in Training, 1 vol., 1915.
France at War. 1915.
The Fringes of the Fleet. 1915.
Tales of The Trade. 1916.
Sea Warfare. 1916.
The War in the Mountains. 1917.
To Fighting Americans (speeches). 1918.
The Eyes of Asia. 1918.
The Graves of the Fallen. 1919.
Letters of Travel (1892-1913). 1920.
A Kipling Anthology: Prose. 1922.
Works. 26 vols., 1925-26.
A Book of Words: Selections from Speeches and Addresses Delivered Between 1906 and 1927. 1928.
The One Volume Kipling. 1928.
Souvenirs of France. 1933.
A Kipling Pageant. 1935.
Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown. 1937.
A Kipling Treasury: Stories and Poems. 1940.
Kipling: A Selection of His Stories and Poems, edited by JohnBeecroft. 2 vols., 1956.
The Kipling Sampler, edited by Alexander Greendale. 1962.
Letters from Japan, edited by Donald Richie and YoshimoriHarashima. 1962.
Pearls from Kipling, edited by C. Donald Plomer. 1963.
Kipling to Rider Haggard: The Record of a Friendship, edited by Morton Cohen. 1965.
The Best of Kipling. 1968.
Kipling's Horace, edited by Charles Carrington. 1978.
American Notes: Kipling's West, edited by Arrell M. Gibson. 1981.
O Beloved Kids: Kipling's Letters to His Children, edited by ElliotL. Gilbert. 1983.
Kipling's India: Uncollected Sketches 1884-1888, edited by Thomas Pinney. 1986.
The Illustrated Kipling, edited by Neil Philip. 1987.
Kipling's Japan, edited by Hugh Cortazzi and George Webb. 1988.
Something of Myself and Other Autobiographical Writings, edited by Thomas Pinney. 1990.
Letters, edited by Thomas Pinney. 1990—.
Editor, The Irish Guards in the Great War. 2 vols., 1923.*
Kipling: A Bibliographical Catalogue by James McG. Stewart, edited by A. W. Keats, 1959; "Kipling: An Annotated Bibliography of Writings about Him" by H. E. Gerber and E. Lauterbach, in English Fiction in Transition 3, 1960, and 8, 1965.
Kipling: His Life and Work by Charles Carrington, 1955, revised edition, 1978, as The Life of Rudyard Kipling, 1955; Kipling by Rosemary Sutcliff, 1960; The Readers' Guide to Kipling's Work, 1961, and Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 1971, both edited by Roger Lancelyn Green, and Kipling and the Children by Green, 1965; Kipling's Mind and Art edited by Andrew Rutherford, 1964; Kipling and the Critics edited by E. L. Gilbert, 1965; Kipling by J. I. M. Stewart, 1966; Kipling: Realist and Fabulist by Bonamy Dobrée, 1967; Kipling and His World by Kingsley Amis, 1975; Kipling: The Glass, The Shadow, and the Fire by Philip Mason, 1975; The Strange Ride of Kipling: His Life and Works by Angus Wilson, 1977; Kipling by Lord Birkenhead, 1978; Kipling and Conrad: The Colonial Fiction by John A. McClure, 1981; Kipling by James Harrison, 1982; Kipling and the Fiction of Adolescence by Robert F. Moss, 1982; The Imperial Imagination: Magic and Myth in Kipling's India by Lewis D. Wurgaft, 1983; Kipling: Interviews and Recollections edited by Harold Orel, 2 vols., 1983, and A Kipling Chronology by Orel, 1990; A Kipling Companion by Norman Page, 1984; Kipling and Orientalism by B. J. Moore-Gilbert, 1986; From Palm to Pine: Kipling Abroad and at Home by Marghanita Laski, 1987; Kipling's Hidden Narratives by Sandra Kemp, 1988; Kipling by Martin Seymour-Smith, 1989; Kipling's Myths of Love and Death by Nora Crook, 1989; Kipling Considered by Phillip Mallett, 1989; Kipling's Indian Fiction by Mark Paffard, 1989; A New Pattern in a Shift of Light: A Study of Rudyard Kipling as a 20th-Century Writer by Philip R. Snider, 1993; Narratives of Empire: The Fictions of Rudyard Kipling by Zohreh T. Sullivan, 1993; Read First, Criticize Afterwards: Reading and Its Pedagogic Value with Rudyard Kipling's Anglo-Indians as Subjects by Sudhakar Marathe, 1995; Kipling in Gloucester: The Writings of Captains Courageous by David C. McAveeney, 1996; Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling's Great Game by Peter Hopkirk, 1997; The Day's Work: Kipling and the Idea of Sacrifice by John Coates, 1997.* * *
In October 1889, after seven years as a journalist in India, Rudyard Kipling returned to England determined to take the literary world by storm, and he did just that. Six months later, in March 1890, he was the subject of a leading article in The Times: "The infant monster of a Kipling," Henry James called him. To his contemporaries, astonished at his precocity and his copiousness, the earlier stories seemed to derive from the journalism: smart, knowing, apparently realistic accounts of Anglo-Indian intrigues and flirtations, the many hardships and few pleasures of life in the barracks, and the exotic but threatening world of native Indians. What strikes the modern reader, however, is rather the instability of these stories, the way so many of them turn on disguise or on lost or mistaken identities. "The Story of Morrowbie Jukes," in which an English civil engineer describes his entrapment in a sand-dune village of the living dead, is only the extreme instance of a recurrent sense of anxiety, the shifting narrative modes of the story—part nightmare Gothic, part documentary—miming the fear of dissolution that is also its subject. The epigraph to "Beyond the Pale" begins, "Love heeds not caste nor sleep a broken bed." The first sentence of the story proper reads: "A man should, whatever happens, keep to his own caste, race, and breed." This disjunction prepares for the way the story itself points to the gulf between what is so confidently known and the impossibility of complete knowledge. The tension here between the apparent security of the narrative voice and the sense of an India said and felt to be unknowable in Anglo-Indian terms is one of the young Kipling's most powerful and unsettling effects. Where it is absent and other voices are drowned out by the narrator's confidence, the stories shrink into yarns or anecdotes, their function merely to confirm author and reader as part of the same social and political enclave.
But Kipling's contemporaries were right to value the more overtly realist elements in these earlier stories, especially in those dealing with life in the barracks. Eighteen of these involve Kipling's "Soldiers Three," Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd: respectively Irish (sometimes stage-Irish), Cockney, and Yorkshireman. However right-wing his politics, Kipling as an artist was not afraid of the working class. He wrote of working-class life as directly as Gissing (in "Love-o'-Women" the eponymous hero dies of syphilis) but without Gissing's evident aversion. His use of the demotic, like Hardy's of the Wessex dialect, marks his sympathy with his characters, but Kipling felt less need than Hardy to remind his readers of the literary tradition (Shakespeare, Wordsworth) that sanctioned its use. "On Greenhow Hill" plays Learoyd's story of the thwarted love that drove him into the army against Ortheris's determination to shoot a native deserter. The violence, the poignancy, and the sense of waste are all implicit in the end: Learoyd tossing aside the "scentless white violets" he had rooted up while recalling times past, and Ortheris staring across the valley at his victim, shot dead from seven hundred yards, "with the smile of the artist who looks on the completed work." That last sentence wonderfully keeps the story free from condescension and sentimentality. If the brash imperialist voice that so outraged Max Beerbohm is sometimes evident in these stories, so too is a pre-Raphaelite—or Joycean—meticulousness of detail and economy of means.
The Indian stories, diverse as they are, have a number of recurring themes: the importance of work to one's sense of identity, the need to understand the codes that regulate one's society, and the necessity for the young to undergo some kind of rites of passage. These are also the themes of Kipling's school stories, in Stalky & Co., and of "The Jungle Book" and "The Second Jungle Book." The former sets out to subvert those works descending from Tom Brown's Schooldays and its successors, written to celebrate the public-school ethos of cricket and the honor of the house. The members of Kipling's "stalky" trio mock every aspect of this ethos, break all its rules, but do so, we realize, in order to find the bedrock of an authority to which they can pay more than lip service. At the heart of the book lies a clever if ultimately unpalatable redefinition of the ideas of service and Empire. The Jungle Books explore the paradox of the human need to obey some law (but Kipling writes of "the Law," the upper case willing it into existence) and the pain such obedience inevitably exacts. These are partly fables of adolescence, partly allegories of the "white man's burden," but both fable and allegory, even to the adult reader, are subordinate to the extraordinary richness with which Kipling imagines the Seonee jungle.
"Puck of Pook's Hill" and "Rewards and Fairies," also written for children, similarly review the themes of the Imperialist fiction—particularly the relation between heroism and sacrifice, leadership and martyrdom; but the stories also celebrate the land of England—the healing power of a "clutch" of English earth—as Kipling began to root himself in Sussex. The best of these stories, such as "Cold Iron" and "Dymchurch Flit," shift disturbingly between the children's never-never land of old rural England, full of the smell of freshly baked bread, and the agonized obedience to the demands of personal integrity in the tales recounted to them by the various figures called up from the past.
The Sussex setting, even in the stories addressed to adults, occasionally tempts Kipling to nostalgia. The all too charming "An Habitation Enforced" shows Kipling intent on becoming, as he put it, "one of the gentry," an insider in Sussex. The South African stories of the same period are generally harsher in tone and in subject. In "A Sahibs' War," for example, the story of a Sikh who defers reluctantly to the Sahibs' code prohibiting acts of personal vengeance, Kipling's sympathies are clearly with the outsider. Notoriously, when he came to treat this theme again in the World War I story "Mary Postgate," he allowed Mary, unlike Umr Singh, to take her revenge and indeed to delight in it ("she closed her eyes and drank it in"). Yet both characters are moved to hatred by a vision of love—Umr Singh's for his Sahib, Mary's for her employer's nephew—and the power of the stories comes from the tension between the two kinds of impulse. One sees why T.S. Eliot wrote in the Athenaeum in 1919 that "the mind is not sufficiently curious, sufficiently brave to examine Mr. Kipling."
World War I (in which Kipling's son was killed in 1915) seems to have released a new creative energy in Kipling. He had often written of the supernatural—sorcery ("The Mark of the Beast"), metempsychosis ("The Finest Story in the World"), and spiritual possession ("The House Surgeon")—and in the later stories this is often associated with healing, both physical and emotional. The title character of "The Gardener," who appears to Helen Turrell as she searches for the grave of her son, is perhaps Christ; the farcical episode that restores Martin Ballart from shell shock is ascribed to Saint Jubanus; the doctors who save Mrs. Berners from death in the moving story "Unprofessional" have to rely on forces, or "tides," beyond the reach of scientific understanding. Edmund Wilson's view of the later Kipling as a man losing his hatred is overstated—the late revenge-farce "Beauty Spots" is an entirely unpleasant tale—but it is true that in the postwar stories Kipling's imaginative generosity appears in more startling forms. In "The Wish House," recounting the fiercely possessive yet utterly self-sacrificing love of Grace Ashcroft, her hope ("it do count, don't it—de pain?") demands our assent, as it does that of the author. In "Dayspring Mishandled" the apparent simplicities of revenge yield to a sense of the baffling complexity of human motivation, a compassionate awareness of character and destiny as "one long innuendo," endlessly defeating our attempts to explain and understand.
Kipling's more than 300 stories exhibit a remarkable diversity of themes and interests. They also show an extraordinary technical versatility. Constrained at the beginning of his writing career by a limit of 2, 000 words, he quickly developed the resources to extend his stories beyond their immediate meanings. In particular, he learned to use a prefatory epigraph (often, later, a poem of his own composition) or the frame surrounding the main body of the story to hint at other possible perspectives, imaginative routes not taken. In the later stories these devices serve to suggest that narrative can only partly order and control its material. The frame in "Mrs. Bathurst," by setting the narrators of a fragmented tale in a world of missed meetings and broken machinery, calls into question the reader's expectation of a single determinate explanation of events; similarly, the epigraph from Nodier used for "Dayspring Mishandled" hints at the destructive power of an obsessive love but leaves it to the reader to decide with which of the characters in the story Nodier's verse is to be associated.
Kipling has always made the literary establishment uneasy. "The most complete man of genius … I have known," wrote Henry James to his brother, adding, "As distinct from fine intelligence." The nature of the genius and the quality of the intelligence are, perhaps, questions with which criticism has not yet come to terms. It will have to do so: Kipling is our greatest storyteller.
See the essays on "The Man Who Would Be King," "Mrs. Bathurst," and "They."
Born: December 30, 1865
Died: January 18, 1936
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.
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.
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 (1809–1849), Bret Harte (1836–1902), and Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893). 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 (1809–1892) 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 work—Many 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.
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 (1899–1902; 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 (1819–1901) 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.
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 past—Puck 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.
KIPLING, RUDYARDearly years
south africa and england
KIPLING, RUDYARD (1865–1936), English writer.
Arguably the dominant figure in English literature of the 1890s, when he published more than two hundred works of poetry and prose to almost unbroken acclaim, Rudyard Kipling's unswerving imperialism, and apparent indifference to literary modernism, caused a downturn in his reputation in the years following World War I; Kipling is one of the few English writers to have aligned himself with the politico-military establishment rather than against it. Yet Kipling has always attracted admirers—among them T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), W. H. Auden (1907–1973), Randall Jarrell (1914–1965), and Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986)—and his status as one of the greatest English writers of the short story is by now widely acknowledged.
Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865, the son of Lockwood Kipling, who was in India to teach architectural sculpture, and Alice Macdonald, through whose sisters he was connected by marriage to the worlds of art and politics; the painter Edward Burne-Jones was his uncle, and Stanley Baldwin, the future prime minister, a cousin. His childhood was idyllic until in 1871 he and his younger sister Trix were taken "home" to England and left as the boarders of a Mrs. Holloway. Here, withdrawn and unhappy, he learned to observe moods and tempers, and consoled himself by reading; his story "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" (1888) is a fictional record of his experiences. In January 1878 he was sent to the United Services College, an impoverished public school for the sons of army officers, and the setting for the stories in Stalky & Co. (1899). Excused from games because of his poor eyesight, he was given the run of the library and encouraged to write. In 1882 he left school to work as a journalist in India, at first in Lahore, and later in Allahabad, where his duties shifted gradually from journalism proper to the supply of poems and stories. In 1889 he returned to England, to take literary London by storm.
To his contemporaries, the early stories, beginning with the collections Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) and Soldiers Three (1890), seemed to derive from journalism: smart, knowing accounts of Anglo-Indian intrigues, the pleasures and hardships of barracks life, the exotic but threatening world of the native population. That much of this material was new to a London audience no doubt contributed to its popularity. What strikes the twenty-first-century reader is rather the instability of the stories, figured in the way so many of them turn on lost or mistaken identities. "India" in Kipling's work is both a land to be governed for the sake of the empire and a testing ground in which white men can discover what strength, or weakness, is in them.
Kipling continued to produce stories and poems at an astonishing rate, including his first (not very successful) novel, The Light that Failed (1890), and the highly successful collection Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). In 1892, following what seems to have been a breakdown, he married an American, Caroline Balestier, and moved with her to Vermont. Here they had two children, Josephine (b. 1893), and Elsie (b. 1896). Kipling made a number of American friends, among them Theodore Roosevelt, and as well as the two Jungle Books (1894) wrote a novel with an American subject, Captains Courageous (1897), but in 1896 a quarrel with his brother-in-law persuaded him to return to England. In 1899, on a visit to New York with his family, now including a third child, John (b. 1897), Kipling fell seriously ill and his daughter Josephine died. He never visited the United States again.
south africa and england
Kipling's interests turned to South Africa, prompted partly by the need to winter abroad, partly by his commitment to the British cause during and after the Boer War (1899–1902). Despite the success of the novel Kim (1901), the most generous of his books, and of the Just So Stories (begun as stories for Josephine), his reputation was on the wane. To many of his contemporaries, his imperialism seemed unduly harsh, and his anxiety over Britain's military unpreparedness seemed overstated. Increasingly, and with increasing bitterness, as in the poems in The Five Nations (1903), Kipling found himself writing in opposition to the dominant mood of the times.
The purchase in 1902 of Bateman's, a house in the Sussex countryside, helped to soften his temper. His political conservatism and his new status as one of the gentry were brought together in the stories and poems of Puck of Pook's Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910), a series of fictional excavations into the history of the English countryside reading back through the sweetness of the landscape to the bitter and violent deeds by which it had been won and by which it must now be defended: henceforth a constant theme in his life and writing. At the same time, Traffics and Discoveries (1904) included two stories, "They" and "Mrs Bathurst," that exhibit a delicacy, a compassion, and an interest in the supernatural, which were to mark the more tolerant stories of his last decade. That Kipling's politics were frequently strident—anti-Irish, anti-German, anti-Jewish—has too often, wrongly, been taken to suggest that his stories must be similarly limited.
In 1907 Kipling was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, the first Englishman to receive the award. But the chief event of the second half of his life was the death in battle of his son, John, at Loos in 1915. Nothing could compensate him for the loss, nor could he ever forgive Germany. Yet while his war stories include the ferocious "Swept and Garnished" and "Mary Postgate" (1915), he wrote others that deal sympathetically with war neurosis ("shell-shock"), healing, and forgiveness, including "The Gardener" and "The Wish House" (Debits and Credits, 1926), and "Day-spring Mishandled," in Limits and Renewals (1932). Many of these later stories are allusive, elliptical, and self-reflexive, crosscutting between high and popular culture: not modernist, but with affinities to modernism, as Edmund Wilson (1895–1972) recognized in a review of Debits and Credits. But Kipling had no interest in literary movements and cliques; in any case, his health was poor, as was that of his wife, and he divided his time between writing, traveling, often for the sake of his health or hers, and campaigning for such causes as compulsory national service and rearmament, in the face of what he saw as the imminent threat from German militarism. In 1935 he began work on an autobiography, Something of Myself, a text as cunning and elliptical as any of the stories. In January 1936 he was taken into the hospital with a burst ulcer; he died there on 18 January and was buried five days later in Westminster Abbey.
See alsoGreat Britain; Imperialism; India.
Carrington, Charles. Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work. Harmondsworth, U.K., 1955; 1970.
Gilbert, Elliot, ed. Kipling and the Critics. New York, 1965.
Lycett, Andrew. Rudyard Kipling. London, 1999.
Mallett, Phillip. Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Life. London, 2004.
Mallett, Phillip, ed. Kipling Considered. London, 1989.
Ricketts, Harry. The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling. London, 1999.
Rutherford, Andrew, ed. Kipling's Mind and Art. Edinburgh and London, 1964.
Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)
Kipling, Rudyard (1865–1936)
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: 111–131.
KIPLING, RUDYARD (1865–1936), British poet and novelist Joseph Rudyard Kipling was Britain's greatest poet of the Raj. His works, including his "White Man's Burden" (1899) and Kim (1901), sought to extol the "virtues" of racial prejudice and imperial power. Born in India, where his father, John, worked as an architectural sculptor in the Bombay School of Art, Rudyard's first five years were carefree; but when shipped "home" to live with a mean-spirited "pious" family in Southsea, he suffered wretched "beatings and humiliations." His mother, Alice, returned from India in 1877 to rescue him from the tyranny of pious discipline, entering her brilliant son in the United Service College, Westwood Ho. Five years later, Kipling returned to India as a reporter, hired by Lahore's Civil and Military Gazette, for which he wrote Departmental Ditties (1886) and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888), as well as Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), which soon made his name and poetry more famous than any viceroy of India.
Nor was his fame limited to India, for in 1889, Kipling traveled to Japan and to the United States, living four years in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he wrote The Light That Failed (1891) and started his two Jungle Books (1894–1895), anticipating his later Just So Stories for Little Children (1902). Kipling believed so deeply in the virtues of British imperialism that he wrote his "White Man's Burden" to help Theodore Roosevelt persuade many doubting Americans to seize the Philippines in 1899.
Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need.
When World War I started, Kipling pushed his own sixteen-year-old son to a tragically early grave on the Western Front, pulling strings with friends at the War Office, to hustle underage John off to Loos, where he was killed after less than a month of bloody combat.
Take up the White Man's burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
and bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hope to nought.
For Kipling believed that it was, indeed, to "civilize" India's darkly "benighted natives," not to exploit and bully them, that thousands of "selfless servants" of the British Raj hefted their daily "burdens."
"And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, with the name of the late deceased," another of Kipling's popular poems reminded his comrades in the Great Game of shaking South India's "Trees" bare of their golden pagodas, and milking North India's sacred cows dry. "And the epitaph drear:/'A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'" Born to India though he was, Kipling's contempt for its "natives" was imbibed with his ayah's milk, even as Jallianwala Bagh Brigadier Dyer's was. As Kipling put it: "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet!" That was the theme as well of his novel The Man Who Would Be King (1899).
In 1907 Kipling won the Nobel Prize for literature. He started to write his autobiography, Something of Myself, but died in London, on 18 January 1936, before it was finished.
See alsoBritish Impact
Kipling, Rudyard. The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling. 12 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898.
Maugham, W. Somerset. Maugham's Choice of Kipling's Best. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1953.
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