Once again it’s Friday, and yes, guest author time. I bring you another classic today. I was debating bringing you another Romantic writer, when I suddenly thought of Kipling and I had to bring him here. Like with many of these classics his reputation has seen up and downs, both because of his style, his opinions and subject matter. As usual I’ll offer you a brief biography, one of his best known poems, ‘If’ and links to information and his works.
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (Mumbai today) on 30th December 1865. His father was an artist and teacher (taught sculpture) and he has talked about his memories of visiting the local markets with his sister Alice. Both he and Alice were sent to the UK in 1871, to live with a foster family, the Holloways, in Southsea. It seems the mother of the family was harsh and would beat him up regularly. He took refuge in reading, and particularly enjoyed Defoe, Wilkie Collins, Emerson and Bret Harte. During the winter he would spend a month at his aunt’s, Georgie, who was married to pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne Jones and their children. Luckily in 1877 his mother came to England and he was sent to boarding school in Devon, where he enjoyed school and showed promise for writing. (He also got some glasses as his eye-sight was very poor).
In 1882 he went back to India and worked as a journalist, also writing poetry and fiction in his spare time. He worked in the Civil and Military Gazette and later in The Pioneer. He wrote stories like ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ and ‘Gunga Din’ some of them collected in Plain Tales from the Hills that made him popular. In 1889 he went to live to London.
In 1892 he got married to Caroline Balestier, the sister of an American friend (and publisher. Henry James was a guest at their wedding). They travelled and settled in the US where they lived in Vermont. Their two daughters (Josephine and Elsie) were born there and he wrote The Jungle Book (1894) there too. Due to disagreements with his wife’s family (it seems a legal battle with his brother-in-law) they returned to England and settled in Sussex (initially Rottingdean). His son John was born in 1897.
In 1898 the family went on their first holiday to South Africa. A year later Josephine died of pneumonia (all the family suffered from it) and her death seriously affected Kipling. He became very involved in the Boer War efforts, visiting wounded soldiers and writing about the campaigns.
Other works of the period include Stalky and Co. (1899), Kim (1901) and Puck of the Pook’s Hill (1906). He wrote The Just So Stories for his daughter Josephine (she was 6 when she died).
Due to his popularity and the proximity of Rottingdean to Brighton he was constantly disturbed and sought a quieter place, purchasing Bateman’s, a XVIIc. house in Burwash, East Sussex, where he lived the rest of his life. I have visited and I must say it’s a wonderful place, with a water mill and beautiful surroundings. I thoroughly recommend it.
He travelled widely, including trips to South Africa in winter.
During the First World War he visited the Western Front and wrote about it in France at War. His own son John was killed in 1915 when he was only 18 and serving with the Irish Guards. He found it very difficult to accept (it seems he had pulled some strings to get him accepted for military service as he was also short-sighted) and he wrote ‘The Irish Guards in the Great War’. He joined the Imperial War Graves Commission and it seems he chose a biblical phrase inscribed on many British war memorials: ‘Their Name Liveth For Evermore’. (From his poem ‘Recessional’: ‘Lest we forget’ is often used in the same context.)
In 1922 he was named Lord Rector of the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland. He was sounded for both the Knighthood and to be Poet Laureate but turned both of them down, although he accepted the Nobel Prize in 1907. He was the first author in English to obtain the prize and the youngest.
He was concerned about the dangers Nazi Germany posed to England and gave an address on the subject ‘An undefended island’ to the Royal Society of St George in 1935.
He died of a brain haemorrhage on 18th January 1936 and is buried in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey (near T.S. Elliot). His study at the Elms, one of his houses in Rottingdean has been preserved, and as I mentioned Bateman’s is also open for visits (it is now a National Trust property).
I like this quote that I’ve borrowed from the Poetry Foundation page on Kipling (link below):
Writing in the Observer, Amit Chaudhuri remarks that the third volume of letters reveals “the contractions of a unique writer; a loving father and husband who was also deeply interested in the asocial, predominantly male pursuit of Empire; a conservative who succumbed to the romance of the new technology [the automobile]; an apologist for England for whom England was, in a fundamental and positive way, a ‘foreign country.'”
George Orwell called him: “the prophet of British Imperialism in its expansionist phase.”
I had to share If with you, and particularly liked the note about it published on the Kipling’s organisation website:
‘This is probably the best known and loved poem by Kipling. He commented on the response to it in his autobiography:
Among the verses in Rewards was one set called `If–‘, which escaped from the book, and for a while ran about the world. They were drawn from Jameson’s character, and contained counsels of perfection most easy to give. Once started, the mechanization of the age made them snowball themselves in a way that startled me. Schools, and places where they teach, took them for the suffering Young – which did me no good with the Young when I met them later. (`Why did you write that stuff? I’ve had to write it out twice as an impot.’).They were printed as cards to hang up in offices and bedrooms; illuminated text-wise and anthologized to weariness. Twenty-seven of the Nations of the Earth translated them into their seven-and-twenty tongues, and printed them on every sort of fabric.’ (Something of Myself page 146)
Dr L. S. Jameson (1853-1917), friend and colleague of Cecil Rhodes, led the disastrous Jameson Raid of 1895 against the BoerRepublic of the Transvaal, after which he was tried and imprisoned but shortly afterwards released. He was later Prime Minister (1904-8) of the CapeColony. His friendship with the Kiplings figures in chapter 6 of Something of Myself.’
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling organisation (You can find information about him and his work and links to his work online. Great website):
BBC historical figures site:
The Poetry Foundation:
The Literature Network:
IMDB link for information on movies and TV series adaptations:
Links to works:
Complete poems on line (Interestingly enough in this site he’s number 2 poet after Poe, who has been a guest, followed in third place by our friend and previous guest Robert Louis Stevenson):
Another site with links to his poems:
A few in Amazon (there are tonnes):
The Jungle Book:
The Man Who Would Be King:
The Second Jungle Book:
The Works of Ruyard Kipling One Volume Edition:
Barrack Room Ballads:
Letters of Travel (1892-1913):
As I said there are many more.
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