Rudyard Kipling

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Writers and critics

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling
Born: December 30, 1865
Bombay, India
Died: January 18, 1936
Middlesex Hospital, London
Occupation: Short Story Writer, Novelist, Poet, Journalist
Nationality: Flag of United Kingdom British
Genres: Short Story, Novel, Children's literature, Poetry, Travel literature

Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( December 3, 1865 – January 18, 1936) was a British author and poet, born in India, and best known today for his children's books, including The Jungle Book (1894), The Second Jungle Book (1895), Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pook's Hill (1906); his novel, Kim (1901); his poems, including Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), and " If—" (1910); and his many short stories, including " The Man Who Would Be King" (1888) and the collections Life's Handicap (1891), The Day's Work (1898), and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888). He is regarded as a major "innovator in the art of the short story"; his children's books are enduring classics of children's literature; and his best work speaks to a versatile and luminous narrative gift.

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author Henry James famously said of him: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and he remains today its youngest-ever recipient. Among other honours, he was sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, all of which he rejected.

However, later in life Kipling also came to be seen (in George Orwell's words) as a "prophet of British imperialism." Many saw prejudice and militarism in his works, and the resulting controversy about him continued for much of the 20th century. According to critic Douglas Kerr: "He 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 recognized 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."

Kipling's childhood

Malabar Point, Bombay, 1860s. Oriental and India Office Collection. British Library.
Malabar Point, Bombay, 1860s. Oriental and India Office Collection. British Library.

Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in Bombay, British India, to Alice Kipling (née MacDonald) and (John) Lockwood Kipling. Alice Kipling (one of four remarkable Victorian sisters) was a vivacious woman about whom a future Viceroy of India would say, "Dullness and Mrs. Kipling cannot exist in the same room." Lockwood Kipling, a sculptor and pottery designer, was the principal and professor of architectural sculpture at the newly founded Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay. The couple, who had moved to India earlier that year, had met in courtship two years before at Rudyard Lake in rural Staffordshire, England, and had been so taken by its beauty that they now named their firstborn after it. Kipling's birthplace home still stands on the campus of the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai and is now the Dean's residence.

A steamer, Bombay docks, 1870s, with bigger ships farther out in the sea. Oriental and India Office Collection. British Library.
A steamer, Bombay docks, 1870s, with bigger ships farther out in the sea. Oriental and India Office Collection. British Library.

Of Bombay, Kipling was to write:

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

According to Bernice M. Murphy:

"Kipling’s parents considered themselves `Anglo-Indians’ (a term used in the 19th century for British citizens living in India) and so too would their son, though he in fact spent the bulk of his life elsewhere. Complex issues of identity and national allegiance would become prominent features in his fiction." Kipling himself was to write about these conflicts as a man of seventy:

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.

Kipling's India: map of British India with locations and years of Kipling's stays.  Click to enlarge.
Kipling's India: map of British India with locations and years of Kipling's stays. Click to enlarge.

Kipling's days of "strong light and darkness" in Bombay were to end when he was 6 years old. As was the custom in British India, he and his 3-year-old sister, Alice ("Trix"), were taken to England—in their case to Southsea (Portsmouth), to be cared for by a couple that took in children of British nationals living in India. The two children would live with the couple, Captain and Mrs. Holloway, at their house, Lorne Lodge, for the next 6 years. In his autobiography, written some 65 years later, Kipling would recall this time with horror, and wonder ironically if the combination of cruelty and neglect 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.

James Jacques Tissot.  The Gallery of H.M.S. 'Calcutta' (Portsmouth), 1876.  Kipling, who had sailed with his family from Bombay to Portsmouth on a P&O paddlewheeler four years earlier, however, only remembered "time in a ship with an immense semi-circle blocking all vision on each side of her."
James Jacques Tissot. The Gallery of H.M.S. 'Calcutta' (Portsmouth), 1876. Kipling, who had sailed with his family from Bombay to Portsmouth on a P&O paddlewheeler four years earlier, however, only remembered "time in a ship with an immense semi-circle blocking all vision on each side of her."

Kipling's sister Trix fared better at Lorne Lodge, Mrs. Holloway apparently hoping that Trix would eventually marry the Holloway son. The two children, however, did have relatives in England they could visit. They spent a month each Christmas with their maternal aunt Georgiana ("Georgy"), and her husband, the artist Edward Burne-Jones, at their house, "The Grange" in Fulham, London, which Kipling was to call "a paradise which I verily believe saved me." In the spring of 1877, Alice Kipling returned from India and removed the children from Lorne Lodge.

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.

Frederick Gilbert.  1873.  'The Westward Ho! Ladies Golf Club at Bideford, Devon'. Five years later (1878), Kipling was to arrive in Westward Ho! to attend United Services College.
Frederick Gilbert. 1873. 'The Westward Ho! Ladies Golf Club at Bideford, Devon'. Five years later ( 1878), Kipling was to arrive in Westward Ho! to attend United Services College.

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 armed forces. 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. published many years later. During his time there, Kipling also met and fell in love with Florence Garrard, a fellow boarder of Trix at Southsea (to which Trix had returned). Florence was to become the model for Maisie in Kipling's first novel, The Light that Failed (1891). Towards the end of his stay at the school, it was decided that he lacked the academic ability to get into Oxford on a scholarship and his parents lacked the wherewithal to finance him; consequently, Lockwood Kipling obtained a job for his son in Lahore (now in Pakistan), where Lockwood was now 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 in Lahore. He sailed for India on 20 September, 1882 and arrived in Bombay on 18 October 1882.

Kipling's England: map of England with locations and years of Kipling's stays.  Click to enlarge.
Kipling's England: map of England with locations and years of Kipling's stays. Click to enlarge.

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.
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.

Early travels

George Craddock.  1880s.  Railway Station at Lahore, India.  Kipling arrived at the train station after a four day train journey from Bombay in late October 1882.
George Craddock. 1880s. Railway Station at Lahore, India. Kipling arrived at the train station after a four day train journey from Bombay in late October 1882.

The Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, which Kipling was to call, "my first mistress and most true love," appeared six days a week throughout the year except for a one-day break each for Christmas and Easter. Kipling was worked hard by the editor, Stephen Wheeler, but his 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.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1883, Kipling had for the first time visited Simla (now Shimla), well-known hill station and 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." Kipling's family became yearly visitors to Simla and Lockwood Kipling was asked to design a fresco in the Christ Church there. Kipling returned to Simla for his annual leave each year from 1885 to 1888, and the town figured prominently in many of the stories Kipling was writing for the Gazette.

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.

Simla (now Shimla), India, in 1865.  Simla was a  well-known hill station which Kipling visited every summer from 1885 to 1888.  Christ Church is on the right.
Simla (now Shimla), India, in 1865. Simla was a well-known hill station which Kipling visited every summer from 1885 to 1888. Christ Church is on the right.

Back in Lahore, some thirty nine stories appeared in the Gazette between November 1886 and June 1887. A major portion of these stories were included in Plain Tales from the Hills, Kipling's 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 had been transferred to the Gazette's much larger sister newspaper, The Pioneer, in Allahabad in the United Provinces. His writing, however, continued at a frenetic pace and during the next year, 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 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.

Samuel Bourne.  1870.  Railway Bridge across the Jumna at Allahabad. Kipling lived in Allahabad from 1887 to 1889 and likely crossed this bridge numerous times.
Samuel Bourne. 1870. Railway Bridge across the Jumna at Allahabad. Kipling lived in Allahabad from 1887 to 1889 and likely crossed this bridge numerous times.

In early 1889, The Pioneer relieved Kipling of his charge over a dispute. For his part, Kipling 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.He decided to use this money to make his way to London, the centre of the literary universe in the British Empire.

On 9 March 1889, Kipling left India, traveling first to San Francisco via Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. He then traveled through the United States writing articles for The Pioneer that too were collected in From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel. Starting his American travels in San Francisco, Kipling journeyed north to Portland, Oregon; on to Seattle, Washington; up into Canada, to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia; back into the U.S. 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 Prof Hill, and later to Niagara, Toronto, Washington, New York and Boston. In the course of this journey he met with Mark Twain in Elmira, New York, and felt much awed in his presence. Kipling then crossed the Atlantic, and reached Liverpool in October 1889. Soon thereafter, he made his début in the London literary world to great acclaim.

Career as a writer

In London Kipling had a number of stories accepted by various magazine editors. He also found a place to live for the next two years:

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.

In the next two years, and in short order, 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 he uncharacteristically misspelt; see below).In 1891, on the advice of his doctors, Kipling embarked on another sea voyage visiting South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India. However, he cut short his plans for spending Christmas with his family in India when he heard of Wolcott 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 (Carrie) Balestier, whom he had met a year earlier, and with whom he had apparently been having an intermittent romance.Meanwhile, late in 1891, his collection of short stories of the British in India, Life's Handicap, was also published in London.

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." The wedding was held at All Souls Church, Langham Place and Henry James gave the bride away.

The newlyweds 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 onto Japan.However, when the couple arrived in Yokohama, Japan, they discovered that their bank, The New Oriental Banking Corporation, had failed. Taking their loss in their strides, they returned to the U.S., 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.

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 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.

It was in this cottage, Bliss Cottage, that their first child and daughter Josephine was born "in three foot of snow on the night of December 29, 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 ..."It was also in this cottage that the first dawnings of the Jungle Books came to Kipling:

My 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’s Nada 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 Jungle Books.

Cover of the 1894 first edition of The Jungle Book illustrated by Lockwood Kipling.
Cover of the 1894 first edition of The Jungle Book illustrated by Lockwood Kipling.

With Josephine's arrival, Bliss Cottage was felt to be congested, so eventually the couple bought land—ten acres 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.(Naulakha which means literally "nine lakh (or, nine hundred thousand) rupees," in Hindi, was a name applied to the fabled necklaces worn by queens in North Indian folk-tales;Kipling translated it as a "jewel beyond price"). The house still stands on Kipling Road, three miles north of Brattleboro: 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."

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, first published individually for the most part in 1890, which contains his poems Mandalay and Gunga Din was issued in March 1892. 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.

Rudyard Kipling's America 1892-1896, 1899. Click to enlarge..
Rudyard Kipling's America 1892-1896, 1899. Click to enlarge..

The writing life in Naulakha was occasionally interrupted by visitors, including Lockwood Kipling, who visited soon after his retirement in 1893,and Arthur Conan Doyle, who brought his golf-clubs, stayed for two days, and gave Kipling an extended golf lesson.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.However, the latter game was "not altogether a success because there were no limits to a drive; the ball might skid two miles down the long slope to Connecticut river."From all accounts, Kipling loved the outdoors,not least of whose marvels in Vermont was the turning of the leaves each fall:

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.

Kipling in his study in Naulakha ca. 1895
Kipling in his study in Naulakha ca. 1895

In February 1896, the couple's second daughter, Elsie, was born. By this time, according to several biographers, their marital relationship was no longer light-hearted and spontaneous.Although they would always remain loyal to each other, they seemed now to have fallen into set roles.In a letter to a friend who had become engaged around this time, the 29 year old Kipling offered this somber counsel: marriage principally taught "the tougher virtues—such has humility, restraint, order, and forethought."

The Kiplings might have lived out their lives in Vermont, 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, Great Britain and Venezuela had long been locking horns over a border dispute involving British Guiana. Several times, the U.S. had offered to arbitrate, but in 1895 the new American secretary of state upped the ante by arguing for the American right to arbitrate on grounds of sovereignty on the continent. This raised hackles in Britain and before long the incident had snowballed into a major Anglo-American crisis, with talk of war on both sides. Although, eventually, the crisis would lead to greater U.S.-British cooperation, at the time, Kipling was bewildered by what he felt was persistent anti-British sentiment in the U.S., especially in the press.He wrote in a letter that it felt like being "aimed at with a decanter across a friendly dinner table."By January 1896, he had decided, according to his official biographer,to end his family's "good wholesome life" in the U.S. and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Josephine in the loggia, Naulakha, ca. 1895
Josephine in the loggia, Naulakha, ca. 1895

But the final straw, it seems, was a family dispute. For some time, the relations between Carrie and her brother Beatty Balestier had been strained on account of his drinking and insolvency. In May 1896, an inebriated Beatty ran into Kipling on the street and threatened him with physical harm.The incident led to Beatty's eventual arrest, but in the subsequent hearing, and the resulting publicity, Kipling's privacy was completely destroyed, and left him feeling both miserable and exhausted. In July 1896, a week before the hearing was to resume, the Kiplings hurriedly packed their belongings and left Naulakha, Vermont, and the U.S. for good.

Back in England, in September 1896, the Kiplings found themselves in Torquay on the coast of Devon, in a hillside home overlooking the sea. Although Kipling didn't much care for his new house, whose feng shui, he claimed, left its occupants feeling dispirited and gloomy, he nevertheless managed to remain productive and socially active.Kipling was now a famous man, and in the previous two or three years, had increasingly been making political pronouncements in his writings. He had also 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.

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.

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

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!

A prolific writer—nothing about his work was easily labeled—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.

Phillip Burne-Jones.  1891.  The Village Church, Rottingdean.  Kipling and his family lived in Rottingdean, Sussex from 1897 to 1901.
Phillip Burne-Jones. 1891. The Village Church, Rottingdean. Kipling and his family lived in Rottingdean, Sussex from 1897 to 1901.

In early 1898 Kipling and his family traveled to South Africa for their winter vacation, thus beginning an annual tradition which (excepting the following year) was to last until 1908. With his newly minted reputation as the poet of the empire, Kipling was warmly received by some of the most powerful politicians of the Cape Colony, including Cecil Rhodes, Sir Alfred Milner, and Leander Starr Jameson. In turn, Kipling cultivated their friendship and came to greatly admire all three men and their politics. The period 1898-1910 was a crucial one in the history of South Africa and included the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the ensuing peace treaty, and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. 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 helped start a newspaper, The Friend, for the British troops in Bloemfontein, the newly captured capital of the Orange Free State. Although his journalistic stint was to last only two weeks, it was the first time Kipling would work on a newspaper staff since he left The Pioneer in Allahabad more than ten years earlier.

Kipling began collecting material for another of his children's classics, Just So Stories for Little Children. That work was published in 1902, and another of his enduring works, Kim, first saw the light of day the previous year.

On a visit to America in 1899, Kipling and his eldest daughter Josephine developed pneumonia, from which Josephine eventually died.

In the non-fiction realm he also became involved in the debate over the British response to the rise in German naval power, publishing a series of articles in 1898 which were collected as A Fleet in Being.

The first decade of the 20th century saw Kipling at the height of his popularity. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. 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 December 10, 1907, the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, C.D. af Wirsén, paid rich tributes to 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.

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

Kipling sympathised with the anti- Home Rule stance of Irish Unionists. He was friends with Edward Carson, the Dublin-born leader of Ulster Unionism, who raised the Ulster Volunteers to oppose "Rome Rule" in Ireland. Kipling wrote the poem "Ulster" in 1912(?) reflecting this. The poem reflects on Ulster Day ( 28 September 1912) when half a million people signed the Ulster Covenant.

Death and legacy

Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace and with much less success than before. He died of a haemorrhage from a perforated duodenal ulcer on 18 January 1936 at the age of 70. (His death had in fact previously been incorrectly announced in a magazine, to which he wrote, "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers.")

Rudyard Kipling's ashes were buried in Poets' Corner, part of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey where many literary people are buried or commemorated.

Following his death, Kipling's work continued to fall into critical eclipse. Fashions in poetry moved away from his exact metres and rhymes. Also, as the European colonial empires collapsed in the mid-20th century, Kipling's works fell far out of step with the times. Many who condemn him feel that Kipling's writing was inseparable from his social and political views, despite Kipling's considerable artistry. They point to his portrayals of Indian characters, which often supported the colonialist view that the Indians and other colonised peoples were incapable of surviving without the help of Europeans, claiming that these portrayals are racist. An example supporting this argument can be seen in the mention of "lesser breeds without the Law" in Recessional and the reference to colonised people in general, as "half-devil and half-child" in the poem " The White Man's Burden". Ironically, the poem is read by some as a sarcastic satire, warning of the dangers of colonialism and the oppression of native nations; it was, however, also used by colonialism supporters and taken literally, as a serious justification of American and British imperialism. What's more, "Lesser breeds without the law" in 1897's Recessional seems to have been intended to refer to either Germans (for their pride in colonialism) or Italians (for their continued failure in colonisation opposed to the so-called [German] "Gentiles"), not Indians . Both readings may be wrong, Abrams of the Norton Anthology suggests it refers to the Bible, Romans 2.14: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves, ie. are not as loving to the colonized, love being God's Law.

Kipling's links with the Scouting movements were strong. Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting used many themes from The Jungle Book stories and Kim in setting up his junior movement, the Wolf Cubs. These connections still exist today. Not only is the movement named after Mowgli's adopted wolf family, the adult helpers of Wolf Cub Packs adopt names taken from The Jungle Book, especially the adult leader who is called Akela after the leader of the Seeonee wolf pack .

In modern-day India, from where he drew much of material, his reputation remains decidedly negative, given the unabashedly imperialist tone of his writings, especially in the years before World War I. His books are conspicuously absent from the English Literature curricula of schools and universities in India, except his children's stories. Very few universities include Kipling on their reading lists, and deliberately so, though many other British writers remain very much on the menu. However, Kipling's writings are considered essential reading in Indian universities (as anywhere else) for the purpose of studying imperialism itself, and inevitably "caused", in part, the emergence of post-colonial literature.

Those who defend Kipling from accusations of racism point out that much of the apparent racism in his writing is spoken by fictional characters, not by him, and thus accurately depicts the characters. An example is that the soldier who (in "Gunga Din") calls the title character "a squidgy-nosed old idol." However, in the same poem, Gunga Din is seen as a heroic figure; "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din". They see irony or alternative meanings in poems written in the author's own voice, including "The White Man's Burden" and "Recessional."

Despite changes in racial attitudes and literary standards for poetry, Kipling's poetry continues to be popular with those who see it as "vigorous and adept" rather than "jingling." Even T. S. Eliot, a very different poet, edited A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943), although in doing so he commented that "[Kipling] could write poetry on occasions — even if only by accident!" Kipling's stories for adults also remain in print and have garnered high praise from writers as different as Poul Anderson and Jorge Luis Borges. Nonetheless, Kipling is most highly regarded for his children's books. His Just-So Stories have been illustrated and made into successful children's books, and his Jungle Books have been made into several movies; the first was made by producer Alexander Korda, and others by the Walt Disney Company.

After the death of Kipling's wife in 1939, his house, " Bateman's" in Burwash, East Sussex was bequeathed to the National Trust and is now a public museum dedicated to the author. Elsie, the only of his three children to live past the age of eighteen, died childless in 1976, and bequeathed his copyrights to the National Trust. There is a thriving Kipling Society in the United Kingdom.

Academic Offices
Preceded by
Sir James Matthew Barrie
Rector of the University of St Andrews
1922 - 1925
Succeeded by
Fridtjof Nansen

Kipling and the re-invention of science fiction

Kipling has remained influential in popular culture even during those periods in which his critical reputation was in deepest eclipse. An important specific case of his influence is on the development of science fiction during and after its Campbellian reinvention in the late 1930s.

Kipling exerted this influence through John W. Campbell and Robert A. Heinlein. Campbell described Kipling as "the first modern science fiction writer", and Heinlein appears to have learned from Kipling the technique of indirect exposition — showing the imagined world through the eyes and the language of the characters, rather than through expository lumps — which was to become the most important structural device of Campbellian science fiction.

This technique is fully on display in With the Night Mail (1905) and As Easy As A. B. C (1912), both set in the 21st century in Kipling's Aerial Board of Control universe. These read like modern hard science fiction (there are reasons to believe this story was a formative influence on Heinlein, who was five when it was written and probably first read it as a boy). Kipling seems to have developed indirect exposition as a solution to some technical problems of writing about the unfamiliar milieu of India for British and American audiences. The technique reaches full development in Kim (1901), which influenced Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy.

Tributes and references to Kipling are common in science fiction, especially in Golden Age writers such as Heinlein and Poul Anderson but continuing into the present day. The science fiction field continues to reflect many of Kipling's values and preoccupations, including nurturing a tradition of high-quality children's fiction in a moral-didactic vein, a fondness for military adventure with elements of bildungsroman set in exotic environments, and a combination of technophilic optimism with classical-liberal individualism and suspicion of government.

Swastika in old editions

Many older editions of Rudyard Kipling's books have a swastika printed on their covers associated with a picture of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, which since the 1930s has raised the possibility of Kipling being mistaken for a Nazi-sympathiser, though the Nazi party did not adopt the swastika until 1920. Kipling's use of the swastika, however, was based on the sign's ancient Indian meaning of good luck and well-being. He used the swastika symbol in both right and left facing orientations, and it was generally very popular at the time as well. Even before the Nazis came to power, Kipling ordered the engraver to remove it from the printing block so that he should not be thought of as supporting them. Less than one year before his death Kipling gave a speech (titled "An Undefended Island") to The Royal Society of St George on 6 May 1935 warning of the danger Nazi Germany posed to Britain.

Works of Rudyard Kipling

  • The Story of the Gadsbys (1888)
  • Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
  • The Light That Failed (1890)
  • Mandalay (1890) (poetry)
  • Gunga Din (1890) (poetry)
  • The Jungle Book (1894) (short stories)
  • The Second Jungle Book (1895) (short stories)
  • If— (1895) (poetry)
  • Captains Courageous (1897)
  • The Day's Work (1898)
  • Stalky & Co. (1899)
  • Kim (1901)
  • Just So Stories (1902)
  • Puck of Pook's Hill (1906)
  • Life's Handicap (1915) (short stories)

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