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Sunday, 8 November 2015

Rudyard Kipling


Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in Bombay (now Mumbai), in the Bombay Presidency of British India, to Alice Kipling (née MacDonald) and John Lockwood Kipling.

He was named after Rudyard Lake, a reservoir in Staffordshire in the English Midlands, which was the place where his parents first met.

John Lockwood Kipling was an artist and architect who on his marriage went to Bombay to take up a post of a professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay. He later became its principal and had a great influence on Indian Modern Art.

Rudyard Kipling with his father John Lockwood Kipling, circa 1890

Rudyard's mother Alice Macdonald arranged songs and published poetry.

The pre-Raphelite painter Edward Burne-Jones was an uncle.

Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister of Britain in the 1920s, was a cousin of Kipling's.

Rudyard and his younger sister Alice ("Trix") had an Indian nurse who told them wonderful stories about the jungle animals.

Rudyard spoke Hindi as his first language as a child.

Young Rudyard played games in imaginary worlds built out of a packing case and a tin trunk.

As an infant, Rudyard was sent to England with Trix to live with a couple who boarded children of British nationals who were serving in India. From October 1871 to April 1877, the brother and sister lived with the couple, a retired Naval Officer Captain Pryse Agar Holloway and Mrs Sarah Holloway (Auntie Rosa), at their house, Lorne Lodge at 4 Campbell Road, Southsea.

His only enjoyment there was reading (he almost ruined his eyes by reading every book he could lay his hands on) and later visits to museums.

Rudyard was sent to a day school by Mrs Holloway where he was bullied. One day he threw away a bad school report pretending he’d not been given it. When Rudyard's deceit was exposed, he was beaten by Mrs Holloway and sent through the streets of Southsea wearing a placard proclaiming “liar”.

The poor-treatment and neglect he experienced with the Hollways may have influenced Rudyard's writing, in particular his sympathy with children.

In January 1878, Rudyard was admitted to the United Services College at Westward Ho!, Bideford Bay, Devon, a school founded a few years earlier to prepare boys for the British Army. The school proved rough going for him at first, boys were encouraged to inflict savage discipline on one another.

Later, Rudyard edited the school magazine College Chronicle and wrote several poems. It provided the setting for his schoolboy stories Stalky & Co.

Rudyard had a pet toad called Pluto as a child.


Kipling generally worked at a huge untidy desk with a variety of books, ornaments, papers, momentoes etc sprawled all over.

The "daemon" which according to Kipling guided his pen, insisted on the blackest possible India inks and specially made writing blocks of blue paper.

Kipling's first poetry collection Schoolboy Lyrics was printed by his parents for private circulation of Lahore in 1881.

Kipling's father obtained a job for his son in Lahore, Punjab (now in Pakistan), where he'd become Principal of the Mayo College of Art and Curator of the Lahore Museum. Kipling was to be assistant editor of a small local newspaper, the Civil & Military Gazette. He first achieved local fame with his articles and poems for the newspaper.

By the mid-1880s he was travelling around the subcontinent as a correspondent for the Allahabad Pioneer. Kipling's fiction sales also began to bloom, and his 1888 collection of short stories Plain Tales from the Hills bought him fame all over India.

Portrait of Rudyard Kipling from the biography Rudyard Kipling by John Palmer

A great one for inventing catchphrases, Kipling got all the British empire saying "But that's another story" after it appeared in Plain Tales from the Hills.

His 1889 poem, The Ballad of East & West (“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”), and an article in The Times about his work in Indian journalism brought Kipling overnight fame in England.

Kipling decided to leave India for London, the literary center of the British Empire.arriving in October 1889.  He soon had several stories accepted by magazines.

In 1892 Rudyard Kipling published his collection Barrack Room Ballads, which included the five-stanza poem Gunga Din. A rhyming narrative from the point of view of an English soldier in India, the work tells the story of a badly-treated but loyal Indian water-bearer who saves the soldier's life.

Barrack Room Ballads were written in the ordinary soldier's language and slang using music hall rhythms. They featured deliberate spelling and grammar mistakes - "adn't none." and"wot makes im to perspire." It was a shot by Kipling at the convention that the standard poetic language should always be used.

At the time of writing Barrack Room Barracks, Kipling had never seen troops under fire.

The controversial The Widow at Windsor, part of the first set of the Barrack-Room Ballads, did not amuse Queen Victoria.

The Jungle Book was written when Kipling moved to Brattleboro, Vermont in the US in 1892.
All of The Jungle Book stories were published in magazines over the following couple of years, before being published by Macmillan & Co. in 1894.

Recessional was Kipling's most famous poem in his hey day. It was published for Queen Victoria’s Diamond jubilee in 1897.

The Kipling’s family physician had once served with the Gloucester fishing fleet and he persuaded Rudyard to to go to Gloucester for the annual memorial service for the men who had been lost or drowned that year. The event inspired his 1897 novel Captain Courageous, which was later made into a successful Hollywood movie starring Spencer Tracy.
In his 1899 novel Stalky & co, Kipling described the brutal, unhappy life he spent at the United Services College. The bespectacled ink stained “beetle” is himself.

Written by Kipling in 1895 his poem If— first appeared in print in his 1910 collection of short stories and poems, Rewards and Fairies.

Very popular and famous in his heyday, Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography of Kipling that he was "the only living person, not head of a nation, whose voice is heard around the world the moment it drops a remark, the only such voice in existence that does not go by slow ship and rail but always travels first class by cable." (pg 313).

Oscar Wilde was not so enthusiastic. He claimed Kipling was "our first authority on the second rate."

By the dawn of the 20th century Kipling commanded £50 ($480) for a 1000 word magazine article.

Kipling won the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first British writer to be so honored.

Asked by the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1919 to suggest an inscription to be placed on the great war stone in cemeteries of fallen soldiers Kipling recommended "their name liveth for ever more."

In 1926 Kipling was awarded the Gold Medal of Royal Society of Literature. He was only the fourth man to be awarded the honor.

In 1932 Kipling wrote the first ever King's message for George V on Christmas Day in 1932, an epic of 251 words.

By the time of death in 1936, Kipling's English publishers had sold seven million copies of his verses and stories and approximately another eight million had been sold in the States.


Kipling had a dark face with a dark brown mustache, not very thick brown hair, determined mouth and heavy eyebrows. Short, stocky and short-sighted, Kipling started wearing glasses at the age of 12 and he was normally seen in double lens round specs.

A portrait of Kipling by John Collier, ca. 1891. Wikipedia Commons
Kipling was nicknamed "Gig lamps" or "Gigger" due to his round glasses and penetrating eyes. No, not me either.

The caricaturists never failed to emphasise his bushy black eyebrows.

Kipling had a light clear voice speaking rapidly.


Kipling's first love was Florrie Garrard, a flamboyant artist who preferred her own gender. (She was boarding with Trix at Southsea.) Florrie was to become the model for Maisie in Kipling's first novel, The Light that Failed (1891).

Kipling fell in love with an American, Caroline "Carrie" Balestier, the sister of an American writer and publishing agent, Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on a novel

On January 18 1892, he married Carrie Balestier at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. His best man was the novelist Henry James.

While the couple were on their honeymoon, Kipling's bank failed, and cashing in their travel tickets only let the couple return as far as Vermont (where most of the Balestier family lived). Rudyard and his new bride lived in the United States for the next four years.

His matronly, frumpy, bullying wife didn’t like his friends and hampered his writing, but Kipling remained faithful to her.

They lost their much-loved daughter, Josephine, to pneumonia in 1899 aged six. Kipling cruelly blamed his wife for her death and never got over the loss of his daughter.

They lost their only son, John, at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Kipling refused to accept notification of his death and spent four years searching for his boy.

Their other daughter Elsie (1896 – 1976) was the only one of the Kipling's three children to survive into adulthood.


When Kipling first moved to London, he found a place to live for the next two years at Villiers Street, near Charing Cross (the building was subsequently named Kipling House).

In 1892 Kipling upped sticks to Battlebro, Vermont, USA in a summer home, near where Caroline's father had maintained a summer home.

Kipling fell in love with the New England landscape and brought 11 acres of land on a hill overlooking the Connecticut river valley. There he supervised the building of a house, which he and Carrienamed "Nauhlahka", the Hindu word for "the jewel beyond price". The house can be rented now. He enjoyed his richest creative period there.

Whilst in the States, Kipling and his brother in law, Beatty, feuded over a land dispute. Kipling sued Beatty for threatening him with deadly assault and in order to embarrass him, Beatty refused to seek bail thus obliging Kipling to bail him and making a spectacle of himself. The resulting embarrassment as well as his anger at American foreign policy, forced Kipling to return to England.

In 1897 Rudyard Kipling returned to England. After a brief time in Torquay, Devom he moved to Rottingdean, East Sussex; first to North End House and later to The Elms (a house over-looking the village green). At Rottingdean Kipling's fans tended to roll up to his garden gate and peer at him in his garden or through one of his windows which became a real headache for him.

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.

Bateman's, Kipling's home in Burwash, East Sussex.

Kipling loved the Sussex countryside. At Batemans he lived the life of a farmer owning rich pastures and a fine herd of Sussex cattle.

His library at Batemans had 16 books on Bee Keeping.

Batemans is now a public museum dedicated to Kipling.


Despite both his grandfathers having been Methodist preachers, Kipling had a scornful attitude to the Christian faith and instead used the running cross as his personal emblem. (The running cross is a sacred symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism, used as a charm to ward off evil and bring good luck.)

An anti-Semitist, Kipling blamed the Jews for Britain's post First World War problems.

Kipling regarded it as the White Man's burden to bring "British civilization" to other societies. These views didn't impress George Orwell who referred to the writer as "aesthetically disgusting."

However, contrary to his jingoist imperialist reputation, Kipling was a liberal in his attitude to the Indians for which he was criticized by his white peers.


Kipling always wore a huge, light, grey slouch hat which looked top heavy and always carried a tall staff.

Kipling was taught golf by Arthur Conan Doyle. The English novelist became a keen golfer, and while living in the States, he painted his golf balls red so he could locate them in the snow.

Kipling referred to the musical craze of ragtime, which was sweeping the nation in the early 20th century as "this imported heathendom. One doesn’t feel very national when one is hummed at nasally by an alien."

Kipling had a lifelong love for France prompted by a boyhood visit to the great Paris Exhibition.

He began travelling to southern Africa for winter vacations almost every year from 1898. There Kipling met and befriended Cecil Rhodes.

A pioneer of the motor car, Kipling couldn't drive himself but was regularly chauffeured in early 1900s vehicles. It was a familiar sight to see him bowling along the lanes of Sussex in a shiny new Rolls Royce.


Kipling had health problems from the age of 11 when his eyesight began to fail and he suffered a breakdown. Fourteen years later, at the age of 25 he suffered another breakdown, in which he couldn't write or think straight.

While on a visit to New York Kipling fell ill with pneumonia and an inflamed lung, and nearly died.

An insomniac, when unable to sleep, Kipling wandered through his house and garden.

Kipling was stronger than he looked. He made himself tough and strong to compensate for his slight build.

Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace. On the night of January 12, 1936, He suffered a hemorrhage in his small intestine. Kipling underwent surgery, but died less than a week later on January 18, 1936 at the age of 70 of a perforated duodenal ulcer.

The pallbearers at the funeral included Kipling's cousin, the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, northwest London, and his ashes were buried in Poets' Corner, part of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.

An inscription from "If" adorns the doorway through which the players walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon. It reads "If you can meet with Triumph & Disaster; And treat those two impostors just the same."

Sources Novels & Novelists by Martin Seymour Smith, The Penguin Book of Interviews by Christopher Silvester 

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