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Joseph Rudyard Kipling
1865-1936
 


The British poet and story writer Joseph Rudyard Kipling was one of the first masters of the short story in English and the first to use Cockney dialect in serious poetry.
 

 

Rudyard Kipling's early stories and poems about life in colonial India made him a great favourite with English readers. His support of English imperialism at first contributed to this popularity but caused a reaction against him in the 20th century. Today he is best known for his Jungle Books and Kim, a story of India.

Kipling was born on Dec. 30, 1865, in Bombay, India, where his father was professor of architectural sculpture in the School of Art. In 1871 he 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" endured bullying and harsh discipline but 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, "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 and became a subeditor 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. The result was a flood of satiric verses, published as Departmental Ditties in 1886, and over 70 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: 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 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 Tennyson as the most popular English author.

In 1892 Kipling married Caroline Balestier. They settled on the Balestier estate near Brattleboro, Vt., and began 4 of the happiest years of Kipling's life, during which 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 which attract readers of all ages by illustrating the larger truths of life; The Seven Seas (1896), a new collection of poems in experimental rhythms; and Captains Courageous (1897), a novel-length sea story. These works not only assured Kipling's lasting fame as a serious writer but also made him a rich man.


His Imperialism

In 1897 the Kiplings settled in Rottingdean, a village on the British coast near Brighton. The outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Boer War in 1899 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 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" (Feb. 4, 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. But 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.

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 retired to "Bateman's," a house near Burwash, a secluded village in Essex.


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). But 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 Jan. 18, 1936, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His autobiography, Something of Myself, was published posthumously in 1937.
 


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Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), prolific English poet and author wrote The Jungle Book (1894);

“The bushes rustled a little in the thicket, and Father Wolf dropped with his haunches under him, ready for his leap. Then, if you had been watching, you would have seen the most wonderful thing in the world—the wolf checked in mid-spring. He made his bound before he saw what it was he was jumping at, and then he tried to stop himself. The result was that he shot up straight into the air for four or five feet, landing almost where he left ground.

“Man!” he snapped. “A man’s cub. Look!”

Kipling enjoyed early success with his poems but soon became known as a masterful short story writer for his portrayals of the people, history, and culture of his times. In his essay titled “Rudyard Kipling” George Orwell called him “the prophet of British Imperialism in its expansionist phase.” Through his works Kipling often focused on the British Empire and her soldiers though today that perspective of imperialism and ‘taming the natives’ has limited his popularity. Now he is best known for The Jungle Book which has inspired numerous other literary works and adaptations to television and film.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay (now Mumbai) India, son of Alice née MacDonald (1837-1910) and John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911) Head of the Department of Architectural Sculpture at the Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay. Some of Kipling’s earliest and fondest memories are of his and sister Alice’s trips to the bustling fruit market with their ayah or nanny, or her telling them Indian nursery rhymes and stories before their nap in the tropical afternoon heat. His father’s art studio provided many creative outlets with clay and paints. Often the family took evening walks along the Bombay Esplanade beside the Arabian Sea, the dhows bobbing on the glittering waters.

“I have always felt the menacing darkness of tropical eventides, as I have loved the voices of night-winds through palm or banana leaves, and the song of the tree-frogs”—from his autobiography Something of Myself (1937)

The newly opened Suez Canal created a bustling port city which captivated young Rudyard, an intersection to the ancient cultures and mystical rites of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Anglo-Indians and their then colonial rulers.

The idyllic days were to end when in 1871 Rudyard and Alice were sent to school in Southsea, England, to live with Captain Holloway and his wife. She ruled the boarding house with fire and brimstone and Kipling was often beaten by her and her son. “Then the old Captain died, and I was sorry, for he was the only person in that house as far as I can remember who ever threw me a kind word.”—ibid. Kipling soon learned to read and found solace in literature and poetry, voraciously turning to the magazines and books his parents sent him including Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and works by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bret Harte also left an indelible impression on Kipling.

Respite from the Holloway household was gained when he spent one month a year in London with his mother’s kindly sister Aunt Georgie and her husband, pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne Jones and their children. Those months of December were a veritable paradise to Kipling; North End House was constantly brimming with visiting friends and relatives, and the homey and artistic effects of the affectionate couple were everywhere. Their home echoed with laughter and the patter of little feet or was eerily hushed as the children raptly listened to fantastic stories told by Edward. They also played the organ, sang songs, dressed up in costumes and acted out plays.

In 1877 Kipling’s mother returned to England and collected him from ‘The House of Desolation’ as he grimly refers to the Holloway’s over sixty years later in his autobiography, so that he could attend the United Services College in Westward Ho!, Devon. He was now armed with spectacles, for Kipling was nearly blind without them and his undiagnosed vision problems were the source of much grief from Mrs. Holloway and his schoolteachers. He learned to defend himself from bullies and settled into the life of a student, became the editor of the school paper, and in his second year started writing his own Schoolboy Lyrics (1881) printed by his parents. In 1878 his father took him to the Paris Exhibition where he was allowed to wander freely and gained much appreciation for French culture which he wrote about in Souvenirs of France (1933).

In 1881 Kipling traveled back to Lahore, India to live with his parents. It was a happy homecoming and his ayah was overjoyed to see him too. Ensconced in his own office he became the assistant editor for the Anglo-Indian Civil and Military Gazette and later The Pioneer. He had suffered frail health as a child and his penchant for working ten or more hours a day may have led to a later nervous breakdown.

Thus began Kipling’s career as roving reporter, traveling to various parts of India and the United States. He wrote dozens of essays, reviews and short stories like “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888) and “Gunga Din” (1890) which would later be collected in such volumes as Departmental Ditties (1886, poetry), Plain Tales From the Hills (1888, short stories), Wee Willie Winkie (1888, short stories), American Notes (1891, non-fiction), and his first major success Barrack-Room Ballads (1892, poetry). In 1887, he met professor Alec Hill who would become a great friend and travel companion.

Now living just off the Strand in London, England on Villiers Street, Kipling enjoyed the success of many of his publications and continued his prodigious output. During the influenza epidemic, on 18 January 1892 Kipling married Caroline ‘Carrie’ Balestier, the sister of his American publisher. American author Henry James attended. The Kiplings started their ‘magic carpet’ honeymoon in a wintry Canada (they bought twenty acres of land in North Vancouver only to learn several years later that it was owned by someone else) then went on to Yokohama, Japan, but the same day an earthquake struck he was informed by the bank that all his funds with the New Oriental Banking Corporation were lost when it failed. Left with the clothes on their backs and what they owned in their trunks, they made their way back to the United States, first living in ‘Bliss Cottage’ in the New England town of Brattleboro, Vermont before moving into ‘The Naulakha’. Their first daughter Josephine was born in 1892, Elsie in 1896, and son John “on a warm August night of ‘97’”. After a legal falling out with his publisher and brother-in-law Beatty Balestier, Kipling decided to move to England in 1896 and settled at ‘The Elms’ in Rottingdean, Sussex. He was now a success in India and America and The Jungle Book (1894) established his fame in England. Many other titles were published around this time including The Naulahka: A story of West and East (1892), The Second Jungle Book (1895) and Captains Courageous (1896).

In the winter of 1898, the Kiplings went on their first of many holidays in South Africa. “the children throve, and the colour, light, and half-oriental manners of the land bound chains round our hearts for years to come.” While in the United States a year later, Josephine died of pneumonia. Kipling had been gravely ill from it too and her death was a terrible blow to him. When the Boer War broke out Kipling joined in campaign efforts to raise money for the troops and reported for army publications. During a harrowing two-week stay in Bloemfontein he came face to face with the tragedies of war; the deaths by typhoid and dysentery and appalling conditions in the barracks. “They were wonderful even in the hour of death—these men and boys—lodge-keepers and ex-butlers of the Reserve and raw town-lads of twenty.”—Something of Myself

Embittered by the Great War Kipling sought solitude in the Sussex downs and in 1902 he and Carrie found the house ‘Bateman’s’ in Burwash, which he purchased and lived in for the rest of his life. First serialised in McClure’s Magazine, Kim was published in 1901. It follows the adventures of Kimball O’Hara in the Himalayas and reflects the conflicts between Britain, Russia, and central Asia. Kipling had thus far refused many awards and honours including that of England’s Poet Laureate but in 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature “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.”

In 1915 during World War I Kipling visited the Western Front as reporter and wrote “France at War”. The Fringes of the Fleet (1915) was followed by Sea Warfare (1916). His son John died at the age of eighteen while fighting with the Irish Guards in the Battle of Loos which he wrote about in The Irish Guards in the Great War (1923). In 1922 he was named Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The same year he produced “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer” or “The Iron Ring Ceremony” and Obligation at the request of the University of Toronto Engineering department. In 1926 he was featured on the cover of Time magazine. In 1935 Kipling gave an address to the Royal Society of St. George, “An Undefended Island”, outlining the dangers Nazi Germany posed to Britain.

Rudyard Kipling died of a hemorrhage on 18 January 1936 in London, and his ashes are interred in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, London, England near to T. S. Eliot. Today his study and the gardens at ‘The Elm’ are preserved by the Rottingdean Preservation Society, and Bateman’s is held by the National Trust. The Kipling Society was founded in 1927. From his poem “Recessional”—Lest we forget is now a popular epitaph used by many including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (est.1917) which Kipling worked as literary adviser for during World War I.


God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!


Other works by Kipling include;

Poems and Poetry Books

“The Absent-Minded Beggar” (1899)
“If” (1910)
The Seven Seas (1896)
The Five Nations (1903)
The Years Between (1919)

Short Stories and Collections

“The Man Who Would Be King” (1888)
“Mary Postgate” (1915)
Many Inventions (1893)
A Fleet in Being (1898)
Just So Stories for Little Children (1902)
Traffics and Discoveries (1904)
Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906)
Actions and Reactions (1909)
Rewards and Fairies (1910)
Songs from Books (1912)
A Diversity of Creatures (1917)
Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides (1923)
Debits and Credits (1926)
Thy Servant a Dog (1930)
Limits and Renewals (1932)

Novels

The Story of the Gadsbys (1888)
The Light that Failed (1891)
Stalky & Co. (1899) based on his early school days
From Sea to Sea - Letters of Travel (1899, non-fiction)
A History of England (1911, non-fiction) with Charles Robert Leslie Fletcher
A Book of Words (1928, non-fiction)

 

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 11 December, 2008