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||Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)|
English short-story writer, novelist and poet, who celebrated the heroism of British colonial soldiers in India and Burma. "It is true that Mr Kipling shouts, 'Hurrah for the Empire!' and puts out his tongue at her enemies," Virginia Woof wrote in 1920. Rudyard Kipling was the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1907). His most popular works include The Jungle Book (1894) with such unforgettable characters as Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera. The book was adapted into screen by Zoltan Korda and André de Toth in 1942. Walt Disney's cartoon version was produced in the 1960s.
"O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, where his father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an arts and crafts teacher at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art. His mother, the former Alice Macdonald, was a sister-in-law of the painter Edward Burne-Jones. India was at that time ruled by the British. Ruddy, as Kipling was affectionally called, was brought up by an ayah, who taught him Hidustani as his first language.
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Kipling's writings at the age of thirteen were influenced by the pre-Raphaelites – and he also had family connections to them: two of his mother's sisters were married into the pre-Raphaelite community. At the age of six he was taken to England by his parents and left for five years at a foster home at Southsea. Kipling, who was not accustomed to traditional English beatings, expressed later his feeling of the treatment in the short story 'Baa Baa, Black Sheep', in the novel The Light That Failed (1890), and in his autobiography (1937).
In 1878 Kipling entered United Services College, a boarding school
in North Devon. It was an expensive institution that specialized in
training for entry into military academies. His poor eyesight and
mediocre results as a student ended hopes about military career. These years Kipling recalled in lighter tone in one of his
most popular books, Stalky & Co
(1899). Kipling's bookishness separated him from the other students; he
had to wear glasses and was nicknamed "Giggers", or "Giglamps"; the
name originated from Robert Browning's poem 'Bishop Blougram's Apology'
in Men and Women (1855). Kipling
wrote about the non-conformist Headmaster,
Cormell Price, an old friend of the family: "Many of us loved the Head
for what he had done for us,
but I owed him more than all of them put together and I think I loved
him even more than they did." Price was not a clergyman, not very usual
for a headmaster of those days, but it was convenient for Lockwood
Kipling, a disbeliever in religion.
Kipling returned to India in 1882, where he worked as a journalist in Lahore for Civil and Military Gazette (1882-87) and an assistant editor and overseas correspondent in Allahabad for Pioneer (1887-89). The stories written during his last two years in India were collected in The Phantom Rickshaw. It that included the famous story 'The Man Who Would Be a King.' In the story a white trader, Daniel Dravot sets himself up as a god and king in Kafristan, but a woman discovers that he is a human and betrays him. His companion, Peachey Carnehan, manages to escape to tell the tale, but Dravot is killed.
Kilping's short stories and verses gained success in the late 1880s in England, to which he returned in 1889, and was hailed as a literary heir to Charles Dickens. When he toured Japan he criticized the Japanese middle-class for its eagerness to adopt western fashions and values. "... I was a barbarian, and no true Sahib," he wrote. Between the years 1889 and 1892, Kipling lived in London and published Life's Handicap (1891), a collection of Indian stories that included 'The Man Who Was,' and Barrack-Room Ballads, a collection of poems that included 'Gunga Din,' a praise of a Hindu water carrier for a British Indian regiment. Wellington had viewed the private soldier as "the very scum of the earth," but Kipling portrayed him as the embodiment of British virtue.
In 1892 Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier, the sister of an
American publisher and writer, with whom he collaborated a novel, The Naulahka
(1892). The young couple moved to the United States. They spent
four years in Brattleboro, Vermont, where Kipling built their house,
Naulakha, a long wooden dwelling. From its window he could see Mount
Monadnock, "like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward." However,
this idyllic, creative period in Kipling's career came to an end, when
he quarreled with his brother-in-law, Beatty Balestier, and had him
arrested and charged with assault. "There are only two places in the
world where I want to live – Bombay and Brattleboro," he told to his friends. "And I can't live in either." (Vermont Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff by Robert Wilson, 2009, p. 25) After the death of his
daughter, Josephine, Kipling took his family back to England and
settled in Burwash, Sussex.
According to the author's sister, Kipling
became a "harder man" – but also his political beliefs started to
stiffen. Max Beerbohm laughed at his code of honour in A Christmas Garland (1912): "We
makes our mistakes. An' when we makes 'em we sticks to 'em. For the
honour o' the Force. Which same is the jool Britannia wears on 'er
bosom as a charm against hanarchy."
Kipling's marriage was not in all respects happy. The author
was dominated by his wife who had troubles to accept all aspects of her
husband's character. During these restless years Kipling produced Many Inventions (1893), Jungle Book (1894), a collection of animal stories for children, The Secons Jungle Book (1895), and The Seven Seas (1896). Just So Stories (1902) were illustrated by Kipling himself.
"England is a most marvellous country, but one is not, till one knows the eccentricities of large land-owners, trained to accept kangaroos, zebras, or beavers as part of its landscape." (from 'Steam Tactics' in Traffics and Discoveries, 1904)
Widely regarded as unofficial poet laureate, Kipling refused this
and many honors, among them the Order of Merit. During the Boer War in
1899 Kipling spent several months in South Africa. Kipling and Arthur
Conan Doyle, who served on a hospital, were driven around various
battlefield sites in a cart. After having witnessed the determination
of the Boer fighters, he wrote in 'The Lesson': "Let us admit it
fairly, as a business people should, We have had no end of lesson; it
will do us no end of good." In 1902 he moved to Sussex, also spending
time in South Africa, where he was given a house by Cecil Rhodes, the
influential British colonial statesman.
Kim (1901), on which Kipling worked intermittently for at least eight years, is widely considered his best novel. Set in India, it depicted adventures of an orphaned son of a sergeant in an Irish regiment. His own children appeared in the stories as Dan and Una – the death of "Dan" (John) in the WW I darkened author's later life. John Kipling was a brave young officer, but like his father he was short-sighted and had first failed his army medical examination because of poor eye sight. He died at the age of 18 in the Battle of Loos.
Edmund Wilson labelled Kim in his essay 'The Kipling that Nobody Read' (1941) as "almost a first-rate book". Its origins can be traced to Kipling's earlier, unrealized novel entitled Mother Maturin. Kipling destroyed this work but presented the manuscript of Kim under its original title "Kim O' the Rishti" to the British Museum. The protagonist, Kimball O'Hara, is the orphan son of an Irish colour-sergeant and a nursemaid in a colonel's family. Kim meets a Tibetian Lama and attaches himself to the old man as a discipline. Working for the British Secret Service, Kim carries a vital message to Colonel Creighton in Umballa and is helped by the Lame on his journey. The chaplain of his father's old regiment recognizes Kim and he is dispatched to the scool of Anglo-Indian children at Lucknow. Kim rejoins the Lama in an expedition to the hill country of the North and his destiny is left undecided – the life of an adventurer and the values of contemplation both attract him. Behind the story of Kim is perhaps true characters – Peter Hopkirk mentions in his book Quest for Kim (1997) a certain Tim Doolan, the son of an Irish sergeant.
Soon after Kipling had received the Nobel Prize, his output of
fiction and poems began to decline. All of his teeth were taken out and
for a long time he suffered from an undiagnosed pain, which was not
correctly dignosed as duodenal ulcers until 1933 in Paris. In 1923
Kipling published The Irish Guards in the Great War,
a history of his son's regiment. Between the years 1922 and 1925 he was
a rector at the University of St. Andrews.
A large part of the best
work of Kipling's last period was melancholic or sombre, "no less tormented
and mazelike than the stories of Kafka or Henry James," as Jorge Luís
Borges says in El informe de Brodie
(1970), with the exception of the laboured Wodehouse-like farce 'Aunt
Ellen' (1932). On occasion, Kipling enjoyed films – Fred Niblo's Ben Hur (1925) was one of his favorites. (Race, Modernism and the Question of Late Style in Kipling's Racial Narratives' by David Glover, in Modernism and Race, edited by Len Platt, 2011, p. 97-115)
Kipling died on January 18,
1936 in a London nursing-home, and was buried in Poet's Corner at
Westminster Abbey. The death of King George V on 20 January 1936 robbed
Kipling much of the public tributes he would have otherwise received.
In his will Kipling bequeathed a large sum of money to the Prince of
Wales Fairbridge Farm School for British orphans, which had opened in
1935. The community, built as a result of a campaing started by Kingsley Fairbridge (1885-1924),
was located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Another like it had
been established in Australia. No doubt, when Kipling included the
school in his last will, his thoughts went to the grim experience at
Southsea that made him the man he became.
Kipling's autobiography, Something of Myself, came out posthumously in 1937. Kipling did his best to obtain and destroy letters he had sent – to protect his private life. His widow continued the practice but a number of his letters survived and have been published. In 1884 he wrote to Edith Macdonald about his visit to an Afghan Khan, Kizil Bas, who had to stay in Lahore as a prisoner – the Afghan Sirdars had fought against the British. The Khan asks Kipling to write to his "Khubber-Ke-Kargus" (newspaper) and help him to gain again his freedom. He throws a bundle of money to Kipling who refuses to take them. Then the Khan offers a Cashmiri girl, and Kipling loses his temper. Finally he promises three beautiful horse. Kipling resists the temptation, they smoke, drink coffee, and Kipling rides of the city. "I haven't told anyone here of the bribery business because, if I did, some unscrupulous beggar might tell the Khan that he would help him and so lay hold of the money, the lady or, worse still, the horses. Besides I may able to help the old boy respectably and without any considerations."
Kipling's glorification of the "Empire and extension" gained its peak in the poem 'The White Man's Burden' (1899), subtitled 'The United States and and the Philippine Islands'. Written in the aftermath of The Spanish-American War and published originally in the American illustrated monthly McClure's Magazine, it reminded that Britain was not the only expanding expanding imperial power. The poem was a plea to the United States to join Britain in her global mission: "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." George Orwell, who also spent his early childhood in India, rejected in an essay in New English Weekly (1936) Kipling's view of the world, which he associated with the ignorant and sentimental side of imperialism, but admired the author as a storyteller. However, readers loved Kipling's romantic tales about the adventures of Englishmen in strange and distant parts of the world. Characteristic for Kipling is sympathy for the world of children, satirical attitude toward pompous patriotism, and belief in the blessings and superiority of the British rule, without questioning its basic nature.
For further reading: Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliographical Catalogue by James McG. Stewart (1959); Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work by Charles Carrington (1955, rev. 1970); The Readers' Guide to Rudyard Kipling's Work, ed. by Roger Lancelyn Green (1961); Kipling and His World by Kingsley Amis (1975); The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling by Angus Wilson (1977); Kipling: Interviews and Recollections, ed. by Harold Orel (1983); A Kipling Companion by Norman Page (1984); Rudyard Kipling by Martin Seymour-Smith (1989); Kipling's Vision by Sukeshi Kamara (1989); East and West: A Biography of Rudyard Kipling by Thomas N. Cross (1991); The Culture Shocks of Rudyard Kipling by W.J. Lohman (1990); The Poetry of Kipling by Ann Parry (1992); Narratives of Empire by Zohreh T. Sullivan (1993); Rudyard Kipling; A Study of the Short Fiction by Helen P. Bauer (1994); Ruduard Kipling; Author of the Jungle Books by Carol Greene et al (1995); Rudyard Kipling in Vermont by Stuart Murray (1997); Quest for Kim by Peter Hopkirk (1997); Rudyard Kipling: A Life by Richard Eder (2000); The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling by David Gilmour (2002); Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling by Charles Allen (2007); Kipling's Children's Literature: Language, Identity, and Constructions of Childhood by Sue Walsh (2010); If: the Untold Story of Kipling's American Years by Christopher Benfey (2019); Kipling the Trickster: Knowingness, Practical Jokes and the Use of Superior Knowledge in Kipling's Short Stories by John Coates (2021); Eurocentrism: History, Identity, White Man's Burden by Michael Wintle (2021) - Museum: Bateman's, Burwash, East Sussex, home of Kipling for over thirty years from 1902 until his death. Open from April to the end of October.
Yes, Din! Din! Din!