Kipling Essays

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Rudyard Kipling

Kipling in London in 1895

BornJoseph Rudyard Kipling
(1865-12-30)30 December 1865
Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died18 January 1936(1936-01-18) (aged 70)
London, England
Resting placePoets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London
OccupationShort-story writer, novelist, poet, journalist
NationalityBritish
GenreShort story, novel, children's literature, poetry, travel literature, science fiction
Notable worksThe Jungle Book
Just So Stories
Kim
Captains Courageous
"If—"
"Gunga Din"
"The White Man's Burden"
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Literature
1907
SpouseCaroline Starr Balestier (m. 1892) (1862–1939)
Children3, including Elsie Bambridge and John Kipling

Signature

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)[1] was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.

Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888).[2] His poems include "Mandalay" (1890), "Gunga Din" (1890), "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" (1919), "The White Man's Burden" (1899), and "If—" (1910). He is regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story;[3] his children's books are classics of children's literature, and one critic described his work as exhibiting "a versatile and luminous narrative gift".[4][5]

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[3]Henry James said: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius, as distinct from fine intelligence, that I have ever known."[3] In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient to date.[6] He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.[7]

Kipling's subsequent reputation has changed according to the political and social climate of the age[8][9] and the resulting contrasting views about him continued for much of the 20th century.[10][11]George Orwell saw Kipling as "a jingo imperialist", explaining that he was "morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting".[12] Literary critic Douglas Kerr wrote: "[Kipling] is still an author who can inspire passionate disagreement and his place in literary and cultural history is far from settled. But as the age of the European empires recedes, he is recognised as an incomparable, if controversial, interpreter of how empire was experienced. That, and an increasing recognition of his extraordinary narrative gifts, make him a force to be reckoned with."[13]

Childhood (1865–1882)[edit]

Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay, in the Bombay Presidency of British India, to Alice Kipling (née MacDonald) and John Lockwood Kipling.[14] Alice (one of the four noted MacDonald sisters)[15] was a vivacious woman,[16] about whom Lord Dufferin would say, "Dullness and Mrs. Kipling cannot exist in the same room."[3][17][18] Lockwood Kipling, a sculptor and pottery designer, was the Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the newly founded Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay.[16]

John Lockwood and Alice had met in 1863 and courted at Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire, England. They married and moved to India in 1865. They had been so moved by the beauty of the Rudyard Lake area that when their first child was born they named him after it. Two of Alice's sisters married artists: Georgiana was married to the painter Edward Burne-Jones, and her sister Agnes to Edward Poynter. Kipling's most famous relative was his first cousin, Stanley Baldwin, who was ConservativePrime Minister three times in the 1920s and '30s.[19]

Kipling's birth home on the campus of the J J School of Art in Bombay was for many years used as the Dean's residence.[20] Although the cottage bears a plaque noting it as the site where Kipling was born, the original cottage may have been torn down decades ago and a new one built in its place.[21] Some historians and conservationists are also of the view that the bungalow marks a site that is merely close to the home of Kipling's birth, as the bungalow was built in 1882—about 15 years after Kipling was born. In fact, Kipling seems to have said as much to the Dean when he visited J J School in the 1930s.[22]

Kipling wrote of Bombay:

Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.[23]

According to Bernice M. Murphy, "Kipling’s parents considered themselves 'Anglo-Indians' [a term used in the 19th century for people of British origin living in India] and so too would their son, though he spent the bulk of his life elsewhere. Complex issues of identity and national allegiance would become prominent in his fiction."[24]

Kipling referred to such conflicts, for example: "In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she (the Portuguese ayah, or nanny) or Meeta (the Hindu bearer, or male attendant) would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we had been dressed, with the caution 'Speak English now to Papa and Mamma.' So one spoke 'English', haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in".[25]

Education in Britain[edit]

Kipling's days of "strong light and darkness" in Bombay ended when he was five years old.[25] As was the custom in British India, he and his three-year-old sister Alice ("Trix") were taken to the United Kingdom—in their case to Southsea, Portsmouth—to live with a couple who boarded children of British nationals who were serving in India.[26] For the next six years (from October 1871 to April 1877), the children lived with the couple, Captain Pryse Agar Holloway, once an officer in the merchant navy, and Sarah Holloway, at their house, Lorne Lodge, at 4 Campbell Road, Southsea.[27]

In his autobiography, published some 65 years later, Kipling recalled the stay with horror, and wondered ironically if the combination of cruelty and neglect which he experienced there at the hands of Mrs. Holloway might not have hastened the onset of his literary life: "If you cross-examine a child of seven or eight on his day’s doings (specially when he wants to go to sleep) he will contradict himself very satisfactorily. If each contradiction be set down as a lie and retailed at breakfast, life is not easy. I have known a certain amount of bullying, but this was calculated torture—religious as well as scientific. Yet it made me give attention to the lies I soon found it necessary to tell: and this, I presume, is the foundation of literary effort".[25]

Trix fared better at Lorne Lodge; Mrs. Holloway apparently hoped that Trix would eventually marry the Holloways' son.[28] The two Kipling children, however, did have relatives in England whom they could visit. They spent a month each Christmas with their maternal aunt Georgiana ("Georgy") and her husband, Edward Burne-Jones, at their house, The Grange, in Fulham, London, which Kipling called "a paradise which I verily believe saved me."[25]

In the spring of 1877, Alice returned from India and removed the children from Lorne Lodge. Kipling remembers, "Often and often afterwards, the beloved Aunt would ask me why I had never told any one how I was being treated. Children tell little more than animals, for what comes to them they accept as eternally established. Also, badly-treated children have a clear notion of what they are likely to get if they betray the secrets of a prison-house before they are clear of it".[25]

In January 1878, Kipling was admitted to the United Services College at Westward Ho!, Devon, a school founded a few years earlier to prepare boys for the army. The school proved rough going for him at first, but later led to firm friendships and provided the setting for his schoolboy stories Stalky & Co. (1899).[28] During his time there, Kipling also met and fell in love with Florence Garrard, who was boarding with Trix at Southsea (to which Trix had returned). Florence became the model for Maisie in Kipling's first novel The Light that Failed (1891).[28]

Return to India[edit]

Near the end of his time at the school, it was decided that Kipling lacked the academic ability to get into Oxford University on a scholarship.[28] His parents lacked the wherewithal to finance him,[16] so Kipling's father obtained a job for him in Lahore, where he was Principal of the Mayo College of Art and Curator of the Lahore Museum. Kipling was to be the assistant editor of a small local newspaper, the Civil & Military Gazette.

He sailed for India on 20 September 1882, and arrived in Bombay on 18 October. He described this moment years later: "So, at sixteen years and nine months, but looking four or five years older, and adorned with real whiskers which the scandalised Mother abolished within one hour of beholding, I found myself at Bombay where I was born, moving among sights and smells that made me deliver in the vernacular sentences whose meaning I knew not. Other Indian-born boys have told me how the same thing happened to them."[25] This arrival changed Kipling, as he explains: "There were yet three or four days’ rail to Lahore, where my people lived. After these, my English years fell away, nor ever, I think, came back in full strength".[25]

Early adult life (1882–1914)[edit]

From 1883 to 1889, Kipling worked in British India for local newspapers such as the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore and The Pioneer in Allahabad.[25]

The Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, the newspaper which Kipling was to call "mistress and most true love",[25] appeared six days a week throughout the year except for one-day breaks for Christmas and Easter. Stephen Wheeler, the editor, worked Kipling hard, but Kipling's need to write was unstoppable. In 1886, he published his first collection of verse, Departmental Ditties. That year also brought a change of editors at the newspaper; Kay Robinson, the new editor, allowed more creative freedom and Kipling was asked to contribute short stories to the newspaper.[4]

In an article printed in the Chums boys' annual, an ex-colleague of Kipling's stated that ..."he never knew such a fellow for ink—he simply revelled in it, filling up his pen viciously, and then throwing the contents all over the office, so that it was almost dangerous to approach him".[29] The anecdote continues: "In the hot weather when he (Kipling) wore only white trousers and a thin vest, he is said to have resembled a Dalmatian dog more than a human being, for he was spotted all over with ink in every direction."

In the summer of 1883, Kipling visited Shimla (then known as Simla), a well-known hill station and the summer capital of British India. By then, it was established practice for the Viceroy of India and the government to move to Simla for six months, and the town became a "centre of power as well as pleasure".[4] Kipling's family became yearly visitors to Simla, and Lockwood Kipling was asked to serve in Christ Church there. Rudyard Kipling returned to Simla for his annual leave each year from 1885 to 1888, and the town featured prominently in many of the stories that he wrote for the Gazette.[4]

He describes this time: "My month’s leave at Simla, or whatever Hill Station my people went to, was pure joy—every golden hour counted. It began in heat and discomfort, by rail and road. It ended in the cool evening, with a wood fire in one’s bedroom, and next morn—thirty more of them ahead!—the early cup of tea, the Mother who brought it in, and the long talks of us all together again. One had leisure to work, too, at whatever play-work was in one’s head, and that was usually full."[25]

Back in Lahore, some thirty-nine stories appeared in the Gazette between November 1886 and June 1887. Kipling included most of these stories in Plain Tales from the Hills, his first prose collection, which was published in Calcutta in January 1888, a month after his 22nd birthday. Kipling's time in Lahore, however, had come to an end. In November 1887, he was transferred to the Gazette's much larger sister newspaper, The Pioneer, in Allahabad in the United Provinces. In Allahabad, he worked as the Assistant editor of The Pioneer and lived in Belvedere house, Allahabad from 1888–89.[30][31]

Kipling's writing continued at a frenetic pace; in 1888, he published six collections of short stories: Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, In Black and White, Under the Deodars, The Phantom Rickshaw, and Wee Willie Winkie, containing a total of 41 stories, some quite long. In addition, as The Pioneer's special correspondent in the western region of Rajputana, he wrote many sketches that were later collected in Letters of Marque and published in From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel.[4]

Kipling was discharged from The Pioneer in early 1889, after a dispute. By this time, he had been increasingly thinking about the future. He sold the rights to his six volumes of stories for £200 and a small royalty, and the Plain Tales for £50; in addition, from The Pioneer, he received six-months' salary in lieu of notice.[25]

Return to London[edit]

He decided to use this money to make his way to London, the literary centre of the British Empire. On 9 March 1889, Kipling left India, travelling first to San Francisco via Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Kipling was favourably impressed by Japan, writing that the Japanese were "gracious folk and fair manners".[32]

Kipling later wrote that he "had lost his heart" to a geisha whom he called O-Toyo, writing while in the United States during the same trip across the Pacific that: "I had left the innocent East far behind...Weeping softly for O-Toyo...O-Toyo was a darling".[32] Kipling then travelled through the United States, writing articles for The Pioneer that were later published in From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel.[33]

Starting his American travels in San Francisco, Kipling journeyed north to Portland, Oregon; to Seattle, Washington; up into Canada, to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, through Medicine Hat, Alberta; back into the US to Yellowstone National Park; down to Salt Lake City; then east to Omaha, Nebraska, and on to Chicago, Illinois; then to Beaver, Pennsylvania, on the Ohio River to visit the Hill family; from there, he went to Chautauqua with Professor Hill, and later to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston.[33]

In the course of this journey, he met Mark Twain in Elmira, New York, and was deeply impressed. Kipling arrived unannounced at Twain's home, and later wrote that as he rang the doorbell, "It occurred to me for the first time that Mark Twain might possibly have other engagements other than the entertainment of escaped lunatics from India, be they ever so full of admiration."[34]

As it was, Twain was glad to welcome Kipling and had a two-hour conversation with him on trends in Anglo-American literature and about what Twain was going to write in a sequel to Tom Sawyer, with Twain assuring Kipling that a sequel was coming; but he had not decided upon the ending: either Sawyer would be elected to Congress or would be hanged.[34] Twain also passed along the literary advice that an author should: "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please."[34] Twain, who rather liked Kipling, later wrote about their meeting: "Between us, we cover all knowledge; he covers all that can be known and I cover the rest".[34] Kipling then crossed the Atlantic and reached Liverpool in October 1889. He soon made his début in the London literary world—to great acclaim.[3]

London[edit]

In London, Kipling had several stories accepted by magazines. He also found a place to live for the next two years at Villiers Street, near Charing Cross (the building was subsequently named Kipling House):

Meantime, I had found me quarters in Villiers Street, Strand, which forty-six years ago was primitive and passionate in its habits and population. My rooms were small, not over-clean or well-kept, but from my desk I could look out of my window through the fanlight of Gatti's Music-Hall entrance, across the street, almost on to its stage. The Charing Cross trains rumbled through my dreams on one side, the boom of the Strand on the other, while, before my windows, Father Thames under the Shot tower walked up and down with his traffic.[35]

In the next two years, he published a novel, The Light that Failed, had a nervous breakdown, and met an American writer and publishing agent, Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on a novel, The Naulahka (a title which he uncharacteristically misspelt; see below).[16] In 1891, on the advice of his doctors, Kipling embarked on another sea voyage visiting South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and once again India.[16]

He cut short his plans for spending Christmas with his family in India when he heard of Balestier's sudden death from typhoid fever and immediately decided to return to London. Before his return, he had used the telegram to propose to and be accepted by Wolcott's sister Caroline Starr Balestier (1862–1939), called "Carrie", whom he had met a year earlier, and with whom he had apparently been having an intermittent romance.[16] Meanwhile, late in 1891, his collection of short stories about the British in India, Life's Handicap, was published in London.[36]

On 18 January 1892, Carrie Balestier (aged 29) and Rudyard Kipling (aged 26) were married in London, in the "thick of an influenza epidemic, when the undertakers had run out of black horses and the dead had to be content with brown ones."[25] The wedding was held at All Souls Church, Langham Place. Henry James gave the bride away.

United States[edit]

Kipling and his wife settled upon a honeymoon that would take them first to the United States (including a stop at the Balestier family estate near Brattleboro, Vermont) and then on to Japan.[16] When they arrived in Yokohama, Japan, they discovered that their bank, The New Oriental Banking Corporation, had failed. Taking this loss in their stride, they returned to the US, back to Vermont — Carrie by this time was pregnant with their first child —and rented a small cottage on a farm near Brattleboro for ten dollars a month.[25]

According to Kipling, "We furnished it with a simplicity that fore-ran the hire-purchase system. We bought, second or third hand, a huge, hot-air stove which we installed in the cellar. We cut generous holes in our thin floors for its eight-inch [20 cm] tin pipes (why we were not burned in our beds each week of the winter I never can understand) and we were extraordinarily and self-centredly content."[25]

In this house, which they called Bliss Cottage, their first child, Josephine, was born "in three-foot of snow on the night of 29 December 1892. Her Mother's birthday being the 31st and mine the 30th of the same month, we congratulated her on her sense of the fitness of things ..."[25]

It was also in this cottage that the first dawnings of the Jungle Books came to Kipling: " . . workroom in the Bliss Cottage was seven feet by eight, and from December to April, the snow lay level with its window-sill. It chanced that I had written a tale about Indian Forestry work which included a boy who had been brought up by wolves. In the stillness, and suspense, of the winter of ’92 some memory of the Masonic Lions of my childhood's magazine, and a phrase in Haggard'sNada the Lily, combined with the echo of this tale. After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals, which later grew into the two Jungle Books ".[25] With Josephine's arrival, Bliss Cottage was felt to be congested, so eventually the couple bought land — 10 acres (4.0 ha) on a rocky hillside overlooking the Connecticut River — from Carrie's brother Beatty Balestier and built their own house.

Kipling named the house Naulakha, in honour of Wolcott and of their collaboration, and this time the name was spelled correctly.[16] From his early years in Lahore (1882–87), Kipling had become enamoured with the Mughal architecture,[37] especially the Naulakha pavilion situated in Lahore Fort, which eventually became an inspiration for the title of his novel as well as the house.[38] The house still stands on Kipling Road, three miles (5 km) north of Brattleboro in Dummerston, Vermont: a big, secluded, dark-green house, with shingled roof and sides, which Kipling called his "ship", and which brought him "sunshine and a mind at ease."[16] His seclusion in Vermont, combined with his healthy "sane clean life", made Kipling both inventive and prolific.

In the short span of four years, he produced, in addition to the Jungle Books, a collection of short stories (The Day's Work), a novel (Captains Courageous), and a profusion of poetry, including the volume The Seven Seas. The collection of Barrack-Room Ballads was issued in March 1892, first published individually for the most part in 1890, and containing his poems "Mandalay" and "Gunga Din". He especially enjoyed writing the Jungle Books — both masterpieces of imaginative writing — and enjoyed, too, corresponding with the many children who wrote to him about them.[16]

Life in New England[edit]

The writing life in Naulakha was occasionally interrupted by visitors, including his father, who visited soon after his retirement in 1893,[16] and British writer Arthur Conan Doyle, who brought his golf-clubs, stayed for two days, and gave Kipling an extended golf lesson.[39][40] Kipling seemed to take to golf, occasionally practising with the local Congregational minister, and even playing with red-painted balls when the ground was covered in snow.[14][40] However, wintertime golf was "not altogether a success because there were no limits to a drive; the ball might skid two miles (3 km) down the long slope to Connecticut river."[14]

From all accounts, Kipling loved the outdoors,[16] not least of whose marvels in Vermont was the turning of the leaves each fall. He described this moment in a letter: "A little maple began it, flaming blood-red of a sudden where he stood against the dark green of a pine-belt. Next morning there was an answering signal from the swamp where the sumacs grow. Three days later, the hill-sides as fast as the eye could range were afire, and the roads paved, with crimson and gold. Then a wet wind blew, and ruined all the uniforms of that gorgeous army; and the oaks, who had held themselves in reserve, buckled on their dull and bronzed cuirasses and stood it out stiffly to the last blown leaf, till nothing remained but pencil-shadings of bare boughs, and one could see into the most private heart of the woods."[41]

In February 1896, Elsie Kipling was born, the couple's second daughter. By this time, according to several biographers, their marital relationship was no longer light-hearted and spontaneous.[42] Although they would always remain loyal to each other, they seemed now to have fallen into set roles.[16] In a letter to a friend who had become engaged around this time, the 30‑year‑old Kipling offered this sombre counsel: marriage principally taught "the tougher virtues—such as humility, restraint, order, and forethought."[43]

The Kiplings loved life in Vermont and might have lived out their lives there, were it not for two incidents—one of global politics, the other of family discord—that hastily ended their time there. By the early 1890s, the United Kingdom and Venezuela were in a border dispute involving British Guiana. The US had made several offers to arbitrate, but in 1895, the new American Secretary of State Richard Olney upped the ante by arguing for the American "right" to arbitrate on grounds of sovereignty on the continent (see the Olney interpretation as an extension of the Monroe Doctrine).[16] This raised hackles in the UK, and the situation grew into a major Anglo-American crisis, with talk of war on both sides.

Although the crisis led to greater US-British co-operation, at the time Kipling was bewildered by what he felt was persistent anti-British sentiment in the US, especially in the press.[16] He wrote in a letter that it felt like being "aimed at with a decanter across a friendly dinner table."[43] By January 1896, he had decided[14] to end his family's "good wholesome life" in the US and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

A family dispute became the final straw. For some time, relations between Carrie and her brother Beatty Balestier had been strained, owing to his drinking and insolvency. In May 1896, an inebriated Beatty encountered Kipling on the street and threatened him with physical harm.[16] The incident led to Beatty's eventual arrest, but in the subsequent hearing, and the resulting publicity, Kipling's privacy was destroyed, and he was left feeling miserable and exhausted. In July 1896, a week before the hearing was to resume, the Kiplings packed their belongings, left the United States, and returned to England.[14]

Devon[edit]

By September 1896, the Kiplings were in Torquay, Devon, on the southwestern coast of England, in a hillside home overlooking the English Channel. Although Kipling did not much care for his new house, whose design, he claimed, left its occupants feeling dispirited and gloomy, he managed to remain productive and socially active.[16]

Kipling was now a famous man, and in the previous two or three years had increasingly been making political pronouncements in his writings. The Kiplings had welcomed their first son, John, in August 1897. Kipling had begun work on two poems, "Recessional" (1897) and "The White Man's Burden" (1899) which were to create controversy when published. Regarded by some as anthems for enlightened and duty-bound empire-building (that captured the mood of the Victorian age), the poems equally were regarded by others as propaganda for brazenfaced imperialism and its attendant racial attitudes; still others saw irony in the poems and warnings of the perils of empire.[16]

Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
The White Man's Burden[44]

There was also foreboding in the poems, a sense that all could yet come to naught.[45]

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Recessional[46]

A prolific writer during his time in Torquay, he also wrote Stalky & Co., a collection of school stories (born of his experience at the United Services College in Westward Ho!) whose juvenile protagonists displayed a know-it-all, cynical outlook on patriotism and authority. According to his family, Kipling enjoyed reading aloud stories from Stalky & Co. to them and often went into spasms of laughter over his own jokes.[16]

Visits to South Africa[edit]

In early 1898, the Kiplings travelled to South Africa for their winter holiday, thus beginning an annual tradition which (excepting the following year) was to last until 1908. They always stayed in "The Woolsack", a house on Cecil Rhodes' estate at Groote Schuur (and now a student residence for the University of Cape Town); it was within walking distance of Rhodes' mansion.[47]

With his new reputation as Poet of the Empire, Kipling was warmly received by some of the most influential politicians of the Cape Colony, including Rhodes, Sir Alfred Milner, and Leander Starr Jameson. Kipling cultivated their friendship and came to admire the men and their politics. The period 1898–1910 was crucial in the history of South Africa and included the Second Boer War (1899–1902), the ensuing peace treaty, and the 1910 formation of the Union of South Africa. Back in England, Kipling wrote poetry in support of the British cause in the Boer War and on his next visit to South Africa in early 1900, he became a correspondent for The Friend newspaper in Bloemfontein, which had been commandeered by Lord Roberts for British troops.[48]

Although his journalistic stint was to last only two weeks, it was Kipling's first work on a newspaper staff since he left The Pioneer in Allahabad more than ten years earlier.[16] At The Friend, he made lifelong friendships with Perceval Landon, H. A. Gwynne, and others.[49] He also wrote articles published more widely expressing his views on the conflict.[50] Kipling penned an inscription for the Honoured Dead Memorial (Siege memorial) in Kimberley.

Sussex[edit]

In 1897, Kipling moved from Torquay to Rottingdean, East Sussex; first to North End House and later to The Elms.[51] In 1902, Kipling bought Bateman's, a house built in 1634 and located in rural Burwash, East Sussex, England. Bateman's was Kipling's home from 1902 until his death in 1936.[52]

The house, along with the surrounding buildings, the mill and 33 acres (13 ha) was purchased for £9,300. It had no bathroom, no running water upstairs, and no electricity, but Kipling loved it: "Behold us, lawful owners of a grey stone lichened house—A.D. 1634 over the door—beamed, panelled, with old oak staircase, and all untouched and unfaked. It is a good and peaceable place. We have loved it ever since our first sight of it." (from a November 1902 letter).[53][54]

In the non-fiction realm he became involved in the debate over the British response to the rise in German naval power known as the Tirpitz Plan to build a fleet to challenge the Royal Navy, publishing a series of articles in 1898 which were collected as A Fleet in Being. On a visit to the United States in 1899, Kipling and Josephine developed pneumonia, from which she eventually died.

'Peak of career'[edit]

In the wake of his daughter's death, Kipling concentrated on collecting material for what would become Just So Stories for Little Children. That work was published in 1902, the year after Kim was first issued.[55] The American literary scholar David Scott has argued that Kim disproves the claim made by Edward Said about Kipling as a promoter of Orientalism as Kipling — who was deeply interested in Buddhism —presented Tibetan Buddhism in a fairly sympathetic light and aspects on the novel appeared to reflect the Buddhist understanding of the universe.[56] Kipling was offended by the German Emperor Wilhelm II's Hun speech (Hunnenrede) in 1900 urging German troops being sent to China to crush the Boxer Rebellion to behave like "Huns" and to take no prisoners.[57]

In his 1902 poem The Rowers, Kipling attacked the Kaiser as a threat to Britain and made the first use of the term "Hun" as an anti-German insult, using Wilhelm's own words and the actions of German troops in China to portray Germans as essentially barbarians.[57] In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, the Francophile Kipling called Germany a menace and called for an Anglo-French alliance to stop it.[57] In another letter at the same time, Kipling described the "unfrei peoples of Central Europe" as living in "the Middle Ages with machine guns".[57]

The first decade of the 20th century saw Kipling at the height of his popularity. In 1906, he wrote the song "Land of our Birth, We Pledge to Thee".

Speculative fiction[edit]

Kipling wrote a number of speculative fiction short stories, including The Army of a Dream in which he attempted to show a more efficient and responsible army than the hereditary bureaucracy of England at that time, and two science fiction stories, With the Night Mail (1905) and As Easy As A. B. C (1912). Both of those were set in the 21st century in Kipling's Aerial Board of Control universe. They read like modern hard science fiction,[58] and introduced the literary technique known as indirect exposition, which would later become one of Science Fiction writer Robert Heinlein's hallmarks.[55] This technique is one that Kipling picked up in India, and used to solve the problem of his English readers not understanding much about Indian society, when writing The Jungle Book. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers built on the citizen soldiers of The Army of a Dream.[citation needed]

Nobel laureate and beyond[edit]

In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature after having been nominated in that year by Charles Oman, professor at the University of Oxford.[59] The prize citation said: "In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author." Nobel prizes had been established in 1901 and Kipling was the first English-language recipient. At the award ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December 1907, the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Carl David af Wirsén, praised both Kipling and three centuries of English literature:

The Swedish Academy, in awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature this year to Rudyard Kipling, desires to pay a tribute of homage to the literature of England, so rich in manifold glories, and to the greatest genius in the realm of narrative that that country has produced in our times.[60]

"Book-ending" this achievement was the publication of two connected poetry and story collections: Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), and Rewards and Fairies (1910). The latter contained the poem "If—". In a 1995 BBC opinion poll, it was voted the UK's favourite poem.[61] This exhortation to self-control and stoicism is arguably Kipling's most famous poem.[61]

Such was Kipling's popularity that he was asked by his friend Max Aitken to intervene in the 1911 Canadian election on behalf of the Conservatives.[62] In 1911, the major issue in Canada was the reciprocity treaty with the United States signed by the Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier and vigorously opposed by the Conservatives under Sir Robert Borden. On 7 September 1911, the Montreal Daily Star newspaper published a front-page appeal to all Canadians against the reciprocity agreement with the United States by Kipling who wrote: "It is her own soul that Canada risks today. Once that soul is pawned for any consideration, Canada must inevitably conform to the commercial, legal, financial, social, and ethical standards which will be imposed on her by the sheer admitted weight of the United States."[62] At the time, the Montreal Daily Star was Canada's most read newspaper. Over the next week, Kipling's appeal was reprinted in every English newspaper in Canada and is credited with helping to turn Canadian public opinion against the Liberal government that signed the reciprocity agreement.[62]

Kipling sympathised with the anti-Home Rule stance of Irish Unionists, who opposed Irish autonomy. He was friends with Edward Carson, the Dublin-born leader of Ulster Unionism, who raised the Ulster Volunteers to prevent Home Rule in Ireland. Kipling wrote in a letter to a friend that Ireland was not a nation, and that before the English arrived in 1169, the Irish were a gang of cattle thieves living in savagery and killing each other while "writing dreary poems" about it all. In his viewpoint, it was only British rule that allowed Ireland to advance.[63] A visit to Ireland in 1911 confirmed Kipling's prejudices as he wrote the Irish countryside was beautiful but was spoiled by what he called the ugly homes of the Irish farmers, with Kipling adding that God had made the Irish into poets because he had "deprived them of love of line or knowledge of colour".[64] In contrast, Kipling had nothing but praise for the "decent folk" of Protestant majority and Unionist Ulster.[64]

Kipling wrote the poem "Ulster" in 1912 reflecting his Unionist politics. Kipling often referred to the Irish Unionists as "our party".[65] Kipling had no sympathy with or understanding of Irish nationalism, and for him, Home Rule was an act of treason by the government of the Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith that would plunge Ireland into the Dark Ages and allow the Irish Catholic majority to oppress the Protestant minority.[66] The British scholar David Gilmour wrote that Kipling's lack of understanding about Ireland could be seen in that he attacked John Redmond — the Anglophile leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party who wanted Home Rule because he believed it was the best way of keeping the United Kingdom together — as a traitor working to break up the United Kingdom.[67]Ulster was first publicly read at an Unionist rally in Belfast, where the largest Union Jack ever was also unfolded.[67] In his poem Ulster, which Kipling admitted was meant to strike a "hard blow" against the Asquith government's Home Rule bill, he wrote: "Rebellion, rapine, hate, Oppression, wrong and greed, Are loosed to rule our fate, By England's act and deed".[64]Ulster generated much controversy with the Conservative MP Sir Mark Sykes — who as a Unionist was opposed to the Home Rule bill — condemning Ulster in an article in the Morning Post as a "direct appeal to ignorance and a deliberate attempt to foster religious hate".[67]

Kipling was a staunch opponent of Bolshevism, a position which he shared with his friend Henry Rider Haggard. The two had bonded upon Kipling's arrival in London in 1889 largely on the strength of their shared opinions, and they remained lifelong friends.

Many have wondered why Kipling was never made Poet Laureate. Some claim that he was offered the post during the interregnum of 1892–96 and turned it down.

Freemasonry[edit]

According to the English magazine Masonic Illustrated, Kipling became a Freemason in about 1885, before the usual minimum age of 21.[68] He was initiated into Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782 in Lahore. He later wrote to The Times, "I was Secretary for some years of the Lodge . . . , which included Brethren of at least four creeds. I was entered [as an Apprentice] by a member from Brahmo Somaj, a Hindu, passed [to the degree of Fellow Craft] by a Mohammedan, and raised [to the degree of Master Mason] by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew." Kipling received not only the three degrees of Craft Masonry but also the side degrees of Mark Master Mason and Royal Ark Mariner.[69]

Kipling so loved his masonic experience that he memorialised its ideals in his famous poem, "The Mother Lodge",[68] and used the fraternity and its symbols as vital plot devices in his novella, The Man Who Would Be King.[70]

First World War (1914–18)[edit]

At the beginning of the First World War, like many other writers, Kipling wrote pamphlets and poems which enthusiastically supported the UK's war aims of restoring Belgium after that kingdom had been occupied by Germany, together with more generalised statements that Britain was standing up for the cause of good. In September 1914, Kipling was asked by the British government to write propaganda, an offer that he immediately accepted.[71] Kipling's pamphlets and stories were very popular with the British people during the war, with his major themes being glorifying the British military as the place for heroic men to be, German atrocities against Belgian civilians and the stories of women being brutalised by a horrific war unleashed by Germany, yet surviving and triumphing in spite of their suffering.[71]

Kipling was enraged by reports of the Rape of Belgium

Kipling's England: A map of England showing Kipling's homes
Rudyard Kipling (right) with his father John Lockwood Kipling (left), circa 1890
Kipling in his study at Naulakha, Vermont, US, 1895.
Rudyard Kipling's America 1892–1896, 1899
Gilt title of the 1890 first American edition of Departmental Ditties and Barrack Room Ballads, which contained "Mandalay" and "Gunga Din".
The Kiplings' first daughter Josephine, 1895. She died of pneumonia in 1899 aged 6.
Kipling's Torquay house, with an English heritage blue plaque on the wall.
H.A. Gwynne, Julian Ralph, Perceval Landon, and Rudyard Kipling in South Africa, 1900–1901.
"He sat in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammeh, on her old platform, opposite the old Ajaibgher, the Wonder House, as the natives called the Lahore Museum."
-Kim

Rudyard Kipling [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Rudyard Kipling was born in India, 'the jewel in the Crown of the British Empire', in 1865. His life straddles the turn of the twentieth-century almost exactly (he died in 1936), a period that also saw the British Empire reach its height and begin its decline -- Indian independence came little more than a decade after Kipling's death in 1947. The contrasting locations of his birth (the first six years of his life were spent in the multicultural and vibrantly bustling city of Bombay) and death (the rolling green, and quintessentially 'British', countryside of Sussex) epitomize the paradoxical nature of Kipling, the literary man. Where so many of his writings set in India exhibit a zest and enthusiasm for Eastern culture, landscape, and peoples, an equally large number of his poems are filled with racism, pro-imperial jingoism, and an undying belief in the white man's right to global rule. Just as his life-span straddled the century, Kipling straddled geographical boundaries and ideological positions, and these inconsistencies come through most prominently, and productively, in his literature.

Kipling alluded directly to this paradoxical duality when he prefaced a chapter in his most famous, provocative and successful novel, Kim (1901), with two short excerpts from a poem entitled 'The Two-Sided Man', in which he thanks "Allah" for "giving me two/Separate sides to my head." Though we should be careful when reading Kipling's literature through a biographical lens, certain decisions Kipling made during his lifetime suggest an ambivalence that gestures towards the schizophrenic nature of his colonial identity. Despite his adamant patriotism and obvious talent for popular poetic composition, Kipling declined an unofficial offer to become, after the death of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's Poet Laureate in 1892. Despite the jingoistic nationalism that emerged in his poetry towards the end of the nineteenth century, and despite writing poems to mark large public occasions (he wrote his now famous poem 'Recessional' for Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897), Kipling's refusal of the Laureateship suggests a reluctance to fully assume the role of British poet.

What is fascinating about Kipling is that the man who could write The White Man's Burden in 1899, with its blatant and ugly racism ("new-caught sullen peoples,/Half devil and half child") and unquestioned faith in the imperial project, could just two years later write Kim (1901), that intimate exploration of the Indian subcontinent through the eyes of a young Irish orphan, Kimball O'Hara. Befriended and co-opted by the arch-imperial figure of Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), an English-born South African capitalist who imagined a world annexed from corner to corner by white imperial powers, some of Kipling's writing demonstrates a similar ideologically fueled and unquestioning enthusiasm for imperial expansion, and the subsequent economic exploitation of African peoples and the extraction of resources from the continent that went hand in hand with it. But his short stories written a decade earlier are brilliant in their wit and satire as they mock Anglo-Indian society, point out the hypocrisies of the Raj's rule, and cross the boundaries, both geographical and cultural, that separated colonizer and colonized.

In 1907 Rudyard Kipling became the first English writer to receive the Nobel prize for literature. But, in fact, Kipling was not an 'English' writer as such -- indeed, like the Laureateship, he refused the prize so as not to be associated with any national government. Kipling was instead a global writer. His extensive travels, his time spent in different geographical and colonial settings, his constant feeling of being an outsider (one side of his head was always "out of place"), make him arguably one of the first, and richest, post/colonial writers. We should not disregard Kipling for his racism and jingoism, but instead interrogate his literature with the critical lens that postcolonialism offers us. Rather than producing English writing, Kipling authored world writing in English. We might want to think about the implications of this when we also recall that Kipling's poem 'If' (1895) has been consistently voted Britain's favourite poem throughout the twentieth century: Kipling introduces the post/colonial into the very heart of British culture itself.

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