RUDYARD KIPLING

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Rudyard Kipling
Hell and Heroism
William B. Dillingham

RUDYARD KIPLING

© William B. Dillingham, 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. First published in 2005 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN™ 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England RG21 6XS Companies and representatives throughout the world. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martin’s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN 1–4039–6997–3 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dillingham, William B. Rudyard Kipling : hell and heroism / William B. Dillingham. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1–4039–6997–3 (alk. paper) 1. Kipling, Rudyard, 1865–1936—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Pessimism in literature. 3. Courage in literature. I. Title. PR4857.D55 2005 828 .809—dc22 Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: October 2005 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America. 2004063843

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Lorne Lodge (April 3, 2003) Old beyond reason and not to be awakened by the call of reason, She sits sleeping in the big worn chair, covered to her very chin. Freed she is, freed at long last from this place, this house of treason Over which hovers the spirit of abandon like a menacing djinn. “She’s to be 106 in September, this September,” Norma explains, “And most of the time she’s like this—sleeping, sleeping.” An ancient virgin who—unknowing—took upon herself the pains That once had been visited upon a little boy imprisoned in this house— weeping, weeping. But it cannot touch either of them now, this feng shui of desolation, Which had so infected and transformed an early resident (a disciple of Truth) That she became—vampire-like—its trusted helper in desecration, Quoting the Book of Common Prayer but biting deep into the joy of youth. Sleep, assuring blessed immunity, protects her now—she of the big chair— But the boy, overlooked by angels, was buoyed up beyond despair by a Daemon from imagination’s lair.

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Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments Part I Hell ix 1 3 45 101 159 161 205 257 309 363

1. Within the City of Dreadful Night 2. The City of Dreadful Night Within 3. The Immortal Woe of Life: Bereavement

Part II Heroism 4. Children of the Zodiac: The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous 5. 6. Children of the Zodiac: Stalky & Co. and Kim “This Secret Society Business”

Notes Index

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Preface and Acknowledgments
n April 18, 1934, the French novelist and biographer André Maurois spoke before a large gathering of the Kipling Society. He began by admitting that he could bring no new facts about Kipling’s life to the group but indicated that he wished to try to explain why this particular British author had such a wide appeal to people in other countries, notably his own. In essence his theory was that readers in all nations “find in his books an heroic idea of life.”1 No doubt Maurois was aware that hundreds of writers, many of them second-rate, have presented (sometimes preached) “an heroic idea of life” in their works with varying degrees of fervor and effectiveness. So the next year when he followed up his lecture at the Kipling Society with an essay in his volume Prophets and Poets, he made a conscious effort to make Kipling stand out from these other admirers of heroism: “A heroic conception of life—this was our first discovery in Rudyard Kipling. But a heroic pessimism, if had been exhibited in an abstract philosophical form, would never have touched men in their hearts. The real secret of Kipling’s hold is an instinctive and enduring contact with the oldest and deepest layers of the human consciousness.”2 The three points that Maurois made in this brief statement—that the bedrock subject of Kipling’s work is not his politics and prejudices but the heroic life, that pessimism is a fundamental aspect of his vision, and that this vision emerges not from some superficial and corny masculine mystique but from his being blessed (and, one might add, cursed) with an extraordinary access to certain powerful but semi-hidden forces in the human spirit—these observations, made almost in passing, are actually among the most important ever made about Rudyard Kipling and his work. While Maurois’s ability to strike deep into the heart of the matter has been widely appreciated, these particular remarks about “the poet of the British Empire” have not proved to be—until now—the starting point of an extended study of Kipling’s pessimism, its nature and its place in his life and works, and his concept of the heroic life, from which emerged a complex and carefully crafted creed that was essentially his response to the truth, as he saw it, that life is one of the hells.3

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To write such a book exploring Kipling’s pessimism and its relationship to his creed of heroism has been my aim, but of equal importance and motivation has been my wish to reexamine a number of his major writings within the context of his vital concerns with life as hell and with what one can do about it in terms of personal attitude and conduct. These works, I believe, deserve a fresh and close look, for in Kipling criticism—as, indeed, in that of a good many major writers—a tendency has manifested itself over the years to accept without question readings of long standing as if longevity of interpretation necessarily makes for the most accurate and convincing insight. My own way of looking at these works will not, of course, find acceptance with all readers, some of whom will no doubt feel that I have listened too much to what I thought was a Daemon but was in actuality a demon. Whether Daemon or demon, it has served me well if it brings about a rethinking of some of Kipling’s writings on the part of his readers even if that thinking does not turn out to parallel my own. During the “seven years hard” that I engaged in the reading, thinking, rereading, research, writing, and rewriting of this book, much help has come my way without which difficulty would have turned into impossibility. To Joan Gotwals, former Director of Libraries, Emory University, and to the present Director, Linda Matthews, and to their splendid staff, certainly the friendliest, best prepared, and most eager to lend assistance in America—to these splendid people who have not only furnished me with a velvet cave, a hermitage to appeal to any scholarly recluse but also with a model to follow of professional courtesy, I simply owe too much to express adequately. A number of other libraries, such as the Marlboro College Library and the Syracuse University Library allowed me access to their Kipling collections upon my visits or when I could not come in person, honored my requests for materials with dispatch and efficiency. I am especially in the debt of the members of the Special Collections Department of the University of Sussex, who welcomed me there to work in their vast holdings of Kipling material and who helped to make my visit there profitable and pleasant. Numerous members of the Kipling Society, including Lisa Lewis and Roger Ayers, have generously and unfailingly offered support, information, and inspiration. Thomas Pinney, whose commanding achievement in the field of Kipling studies serves as the standard of good judgment and sound scholarship for all who would follow him, has shown me what it means to be genuinely interested not only in the author that one has devoted much of his career to but also in those laboring in the same field. For his kindness and encouragement I shall always be grateful. In the final stages of the project a Heilbrun Fellowship from Emory University made it possible for me to tie up some loose ends of research abroad and to complete the manuscript. For permission to

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include in this book versions of articles previously published I wish to thank the following journals: The Kipling Journal (“That Shocking Young Kipling,” “Kipling’s Children of Death,” and “Grief, Anger, and Identity: Kipling’s ‘Mary Postgate’ ”); Essays in Arts and Sciences (“Young Kipling: Early Loss and ‘Without Benefit of Clergy’ ”); English Literature in Transition 1880–1920 (“Kipling: Spiritualism, Bereavement, Self-Revelation, and ‘They’ ”); Papers on Language and Literature (“Sorrow and the Redemptive Role of Fate: Kipling’s ‘On Greenhow Hill’ ”); and English Language Notes (“Rudyard Kipling and Bereavement: ‘The Gardener’ ”). Herman Melville, when advanced in years and having become recently an avid grower of roses, said through one of his characters, “I came to my roses late.” By that he meant a good deal more than he actually said, for example that interest in roses had reinvigorated him. I came to Kipling late, but he has made me, like countless others, feel young again. To his memory I dedicate this book about him.

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Part 1

Hell

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1

Within the City of Dreadful Night
rom a fairly early age the Rudyard Kipling that many people knew was sociable (some might say gregarious), disarmingly engaging, avidly interested in other people, and marvelously witty and lighthearted. He genuinely loved children and dogs and wrote about them both with rare understanding. Nearly everyone said that it was a pleasure to be around him. Kay Robinson, editor of the Civil and Military Gazette when Kipling wrote for it as a young man in India, remembered him for his eye glasses and his laughter: “That trick of wiping his spectacles is one which Kipling indulges more frequently than any man I have ever met, for the simple reason that he is always laughing; and when you laugh till you nearly cry your glasses get misty. Kipling, shaking all over with laughter and wiping his spectacles at the same time with his handkerchief, is the picture which always comes to mind as most characteristic of him in the old days.”1 But in “the old days” the riant Rudyard conveyed a somewhat misleading impression; what was “most characteristic of him” even then was not gleeful high spirits and enjoyment of the wonders of life around him—though he certainly did manifest those qualities—but an underlying dark vision of existence. One side of “The TwoSided Man,” as he called himself in a poem of his middle years, was more pervasive in his nature than the other. It was distressingly persistent. Despite all attempts to be and to seem otherwise, Rudyard Kipling was a pessimist.2 Even his earliest writings reveal his natural proclivity toward the unsmiling aspects of life. Several of the poems that he wrote while a teenager attending the United Services College at Westward Ho!, poems that he sent along to his parents in India, seem to come from the pen of a budding young pessimist. Scattered amid brighter subjects throughout School-Boy Lyrics, as the collection was called when Kipling’s mother had it published without his knowledge in 1881, are poems about failure and poverty, the thorns of life, prostitution, and hell. He depicts the deterioration of an ambitious and idealistic young man in “Two Sides of the Medal,” a man who

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struggled for fame and fought for truth but who ended up a “trembling, faltering,” debased street beggar.3 “Roses” begins as if it is to be a sentimental tribute to beauty but ends with the sober recognition that “the world at large is dowered with their thorns!” Kipling added to the title of “Overheard” the explanation, “(Supposed to be After Browning),” and the poem is a kind of parody of Browning in meter and rhyme.4 However, the work suggests more of a kinship with Thomas Hardy than with Robert Browning, for it deals with a subject and situation similar to that of “The Ruined Maid” (written earlier but published after Kipling’s poem): a young woman who has taken to the streets for her livelihood is having a conversation with a former friend about her present occupation. As Louis L. Cornell has astutely observed, the poem “reminds us less of Browning than of naturalistic fiction.”5 Scarcely more than a child himself, the young Kipling succeeded with amazing precocity in depicting effectively the coldness, despair, emptiness, and hopelessness of the girl prostitute. In “This Side of the Styx,” the schoolboy Kipling pictures himself within the environs of the underworld surrounded by sights of pronounced ugliness: “Huge, deformèd toads,/ Yellow and dripping monsters, loathsome plants/ Dropping their blotched leaves in the reeking slime.” The woe-stricken narrator adds that “this is the land of Death in very truth.” This side of the Styx is Kipling’s metaphor for the land of the living, not the dead. Its description in this early poem constitutes a sort of keynote image, a picture that evokes certain basic thoughts and emotions that become associated with the author, in this instance, his vision of the hell of the living. Hell appears to have been on Kipling’s mind a good deal, occasionally the Hades of classical myth, now and then the Inferno of Dante or the perdition of the Bible, but mostly hell on earth. References to the earthly environment as hell recur throughout all of his writings—his poems, his fiction, his speeches and essays, and his letters spanning many years of his career. In “Himalayan” (1884), an early poem that Kipling wrote to “echo” Joaquin Miller, “the bare, brown fields” of India in summer “hold the heat of Hell.” When that time of year comes, “the winds of Hell are loosened and driven,/ And the gates of Hell are opened and riven.” He urges any who can to escape this hellish world of heat and disease. During his early travels in America, he compared the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park to “the uplands of Hell” and to “Tophet.”6 In conversations and letters, especially with his friend H. Rider Haggard, he frequently made reference to hell. For example, in a letter to Haggard of February 21, 1925, he described what he saw in pictures of Russian political prisoners in Siberia as “one of the most appalling glimpses into Hell that ever you did see.”7 He wrote Haggard the next month from Biarritz, “This place is more hellish than ever.”8 A reviewer of his two-volume From Sea to Sea (1899)

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strongly objected to the author’s repeated references to hell: “we have never before come upon it so often except in a tract.”9 Such allusions, remarkable for their frequency, come from a writer motivated to create them not merely by a desire to be forceful and emphatic but also by a need to reflect a conviction, namely that although hell may or may not await many in the hereafter, it certainly is the dwelling place for many here on earth. Kipling was what one historian of philosophical pessimism called an “instinctive pessimist.”10 So it is not surprising that from his student days at the United Services College, he was drawn to those who exhibited this way of thinking. Charles Carrington mentions briefly that at Westward Ho! “the writers he most admired were the fashionable pessimists,”11 but in biographical and critical writings on Kipling, all too little has been made of his affinity for philosophical pessimism, which was early exhibited and long lasting (though manifested somewhat differently as he grew older). Chief among those whom he admired was the Scottish poet James Thomson (1834–82), who was known as the “Laureate of Pessimism.” In his autobiography, Something of Myself (1937), Kipling recounts his first experience with Thomson’s long poem, “The City of Dreadful Night” (1874), which he discovered at the South Kensington home of three literary inclined sisters who were old friends of the Kipling family. There he was spending his holidays away from Westward Ho! Allowed to read anything in their varied personal library, he was overwhelmed by Thomson’s powerful symphony of pessimism: “After my second year at school, the tide of writing set in. In my holidays the three ladies listened—it was all I wanted—to anything I had to say. I . . . [read] The City of Dreadful Night which shook me to my unformed core.”12 The poem shook him to his core because its relentless images of desolation and its bold and melancholy message of darkness opened his eyes with a shock to what he had intuited as the brutal truth of existence. It shook him because he had found one who was brave enough and defiant enough actually to print this truth. When his cousin Margaret Burne-Jones wrote him in 1885 to inquire if he knew Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night, he seemed put out that she could even ask such a question. “Do I know it?” he responded. “Oh Wop! Wop! [his nickname for ‘Margot,’ who called him likewise] What a question. Here’s one portion of your answer and to my mind one of the sweetest and truest quotes going abroad.”13 The sweet and true lines that he proceeded to quote to her were apparently his favorite ones from Thomson’s poem:
And since he cannot spend and use aright The little time here given him in trust But wasteth it in weary undelight

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Of foolish toil and trouble, strife and lust, He naturally claimeth to inherit The everlasting future that his merit May have full scope—as surely is most just.

Except for added emphasis and minor changes in punctuation and indention, the quotation is accurate. When he quoted this same stanza, however, in two of his early works, on the title page of Under the Deodars (1888) when it appeared in the Indian Railway Library (no. 4) and the same year as an epigraph for “The City of Dreadful Night,” an article in a series about Calcutta published in the Pioneer, inaccuracies in wording occurred. In one, he changed the singular pronoun “he” to “they,” thus broadening the context, and he arguably improved upon Thomson’s wording by substituting “lavish” for “wasteth” and “clamour” for “claimeth.” The stanza probably appealed to Kipling not only because of its unusual and compelling explanation of why a typical member of the masses insists upon believing in an afterlife but also because of its biting sarcasm.14 Kipling quoted Thomson in several other places as well. He used Thomson’s lines as epigraphs to set the mood for sketches like “With the Calcutta Police” (Pioneer, 1888): “The City was of Night perchance of Death,/ But certainly of Night.” (Thomson actually wrote: “The City is of Night; perchance of Death,/ But certainly of Night.”) As his epigraph for “My Own True Ghost Story” (Week’s News, 1888), he quoted (with slight alterations in capitalization and punctuation) Thomson’s haunting refrain from section 4 of “The City of Dreadful Night”: “As I came through the desert thus it was,/ As I came through the desert.” Three lines from “The City of Dreadful Night” preface “A Conference of the Powers” (Pioneer, 1890), and several quotations from Thomson’s poem occur in chapters 9 and 10 of The Light that Failed (1890). So much was James Thomson on Kipling’s mind during these early years of his writing career that on one occasion he thought that he was quoting him but was in actuality quoting another author. The second section of “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” (Week’s News, 1888) begins with the following quotation attributed to “The City of Dreadful Night”:
Ah, well-a-day, for we are souls bereaved! Of all the creatures under Heaven’s wide scope We are most hopeless, who had once most hope, And most beliefless, who had most believed.

These lines are not from Thomson’s “The City of Dreadful Night” but from an equally dark and despairing poem, “Easter Day, Naples, 1849,” by

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Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–65), another pessimist poet that Kipling had read.15 Carelessness with quotations, however, is not so much the point here as is Kipling’s leanings toward the pessimistic worldview.16 A measure of just how taken Kipling was with Thomson’s poem is the use he made of its title in his early writings. After spending a sleepless and rambling night amid the intense heat and overpopulated squalor of Lahore, he published in the Civil and Military Gazette an account of his experience, which he entitled “The City of Dreadful Night” (1885). Later he used the same title for a series of eight articles dealing with Calcutta, which he published in the Pioneer in 1888. To add to the confusion of titles resulting from his admiration of Thomson, he called one of his sketches within the series “The City of Dreadful Night.” In 1890 a separate volume appeared with these sketches and with additional ones under the title The City of Dreadful Night and Other Sketches. The following year saw the appearance of still another version, The City of Dreadful Night and Other Places, which was published both in India and in England.17 In the early part of his career, a time when he repeatedly sought out the seamy side of life in India and sometimes elsewhere, he described what he saw much in the vein of those notorious pessimists, the literary naturalists. As a young writer, he found something deeply compelling about hellish environments. Stark and disturbing as they were, they were nevertheless real, a part of life generally avoided and ignored as too unpleasant for consideration. Only the literary naturalists had the defiant courage and the inclination to reveal them in their naked ugliness. He had read Zola and was taken with his frank depiction of these harsh and often hopeless realities of life.18 He evoked Zola’s name in one of his early sketches written in 1885 for the Civil and Military Gazette, a description of Lahore during a hot summer night when the lower castes slept like corpses in the open air: “Doré might have drawn it! Zola could describe it—this spectacle of sleeping thousands in the moonlight and in the shadow of the Moon.”19 In 1887, he published in the Pioneer an essay in which he suggests that one way of understanding or “seeing” India “is buying English translations of the more Zolaistic of Zola’s novels and reading them from breakfast to dinner-time.”20 He made an impassioned defense of Zola in a brief unsigned story first published in the Civil and Military Gazette (1888). “The Burden of Nineveh” depicts the mysterious East as a beautiful but patient woman, trying to tolerate a representative of the British government who wishes to reform and Anglicize her. He demands that she change in many ways, and she tries to comply until he pulls from a bag copies of books by Zola and asks: “Why do you let these things lie about the bookstalls? They—they corrupt the morals of youth, y’know—not fit to be read.”21 To his exclamation of “Shocking depravity!,” she responds with anger, identifying Zola with the ancient truth-tellers of

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her land: “Before your ancestors knew what woad [a blue dye] was, my Zolas,” she begins but is interrupted with another outburst from her visitor: “Oh! this is positively awful! What shall I tell them at home?”22 When in 1889 he was at a loss to depict effectively for readers of the Pioneer “the genius of the place” he was visiting near Penang, a setting of intense heat and almost unbearable humidity, he indicated that though he could not himself describe it, he knew someone who could, referring to Émile Zola: “Some people said he was not a nice man, and I might run the risk of contaminating morals, but nothing mattered in such a climate.” So he identified this unnice man who could write with such precision and effective imagery: “See now, go to the very worst of Zola’s novels and read there his description of a conservatory. That was it.”23 Kipling cannot accurately be categorized broadly as naturalist, realist, romanticist, or anything else because such terms oversimplify the complex and magisterial achievement of his extensive body of work with its wide range of subject matter and its almost infinite variety of themes.24 Still, it is undeniable that some of his early writing in particular possesses a Zolaesque quality and reveals through that quality an essential aspect of his Weltanschauung. Though, as Cornell has indicated, “Kipling was more than usually reticent in his published works about his knowledge of Zola and his followers,”25 his admiration for the French naturalist is evident in several of his writings, which also resemble in subject and method those of naturalistic authors in America like Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser, who followed Kipling and were in some ways his literary heirs.26 The naturalistic segment of his work is characterized mainly by glimpses of hell, descriptions of ghastly places with their suffering inhabitants. In these particular writings, his subject is the hell around us and his method is often that of a camera moving through a city of dreadful night, showing all of its dark horrors. That he seemed eager to do so was not a sign of perversity or coldheartedness but a manifestation of several related and overlapping motivations that link him in a broad sense to the literary naturalists. He exhibited, for example, a persistent desire—a drive, really—to shock and arouse, a sheer delight in iconoclasm. An additional motivation for writing about the city of dreadful night was his deep-rooted sense of responsibility to face facts. Though they may be dark and unpromising, facts are facts, and his allegiance to them and belief in the necessity of getting them right resound as a theme throughout his work. He also wrote as he did because of an early acquired short fuse where effeteness was concerned. He seems to have written a good deal of his early work to protest against overly refined “young gentlemen” in velvet jackets who knew nothing of and cared to know nothing of what might be termed the “vulgar” aspects of life (to

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which he was himself drawn). Finally, he was eager to break away from customary subjects, to be different, to do something that had not been done, to be original, to find new and fresh material to write about. The search for that material carried him to places where many others would not go. Kipling’s desire to shock, a characteristic he shared with the literary naturalists, is especially evident in his early work. This urge to shake up the complacent moved him, inspired him, and kept him going while he was working for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, turning out articles, stories, and poems of an astonishing range at a furious rate. He wanted to entertain and to be accepted, but he also wished to open eyes and to chastise. Norman Page has written that in his early poems, Kipling’s “purpose seems to be to bring to the bosoms of his readers the truth about Anglo-Indian life in all its harshness. . . . [He] is intent upon truth-telling; and his aim, while partly to amuse, is also, importantly, to instruct and even to rebuke.”27 His vehicle for truth-telling and rebuke was often shock. Charles Carrington has commented that “the first effect of Kipling’s work, here and in general, was shocking; he was regarded as a cynical young man who laid bare the seamy side of Indian life.”28 The results were not always positive, however. Some people do not like to be shocked. Upon the publication of Echoes in 1884, Kipling wrote to his aunt Edith Macdonald that the poems had been favorably received generally there in India but that the Indian Review had “cut ’em up savagely.”29 He found the reviewer’s treatment “vicious,” but surprisingly he was not much upset. His response was similar to that of a literary naturalist like Stephen Crane several years later in America, who felt that his purpose had been served if his sometimes stark and offensive imagery and his cutting irony exposed established untruths for what they were. Kipling reacted like an iconoclast who has successfully provoked. In fact, he used some of the reviewer’s negative comments in advertisements for the book. It is not clear why the critic for the Indian Review was so offended, but among the thirty-two poems that Kipling wrote for the little volume (his sister Trix composed the rest), some no doubt struck genteel audiences as shockingly distasteful, a reaction that Kipling actually cultivated. Parody was the ostensible purpose of Echoes.30 Kipling excelled at it, and he generously believed that his sister did likewise. After the titles of his poems in Echoes, he identified in parentheses most of the authors parodied: Cowper, Burns, Wordsworth, Keats, Browning, Arnold, Emerson, Tennyson, Longfellow, Christina Rossetti, Wilfred Blunt, Heine, Swinburne, Joaquin Miller, and William Morris. Several of the poems, however, carried no such identifying labels, among them “Way Down the Ravi River,” in some respects the most gruesome poem in the collection, cunningly calculated to disturb the peace. Its central image is that of

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a cadaver in the Ravi River about to be devoured by an alligator (as crocodiles were popularly called in India). The poem’s beginning promises a picturesque description of the beauties of nature echoing Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”31 Both are written in the first person, both contain four sestet stanzas, both emphasize the act of gazing at the view (Wordsworth writes that “I gazed—and gazed”; Kipling mentions gazing three times), and both end with the narrator’s indicating that the scene has had a great impact on his life, for he has frequently come back to it in memory. What Kipling sees in remembrance, however, is not golden daffodils by the water, dancing in the breeze, but a decaying body in the water soon to be the meal of an alligator. Abruptly the first stanza shifts from romantic reminiscence to the sight and smell of death:
I wandered by the riverside, To gaze upon the view, And watched the Alligator glide After the dead Hindoo, Who stank and sank beneath the tide, Then rose and stank anew.

In this first stanza, the playful end-rhyming of view and Hindoo and the internal rhyming of stank and sank, together with the jaunty meter of the lines, inject into an otherwise gruesome description a strangely incongruous lightheartedness. It is the frolicking lightheartedness of Wordsworth’s poem about daffodils applied to a memento mori with shocking results. The shock is heightened by an undercurrent of religious cynicism so often found in the work of literary naturalists. Kipling reveals that the body is that of a Hindoo, a person of religious conviction, but then plays upon the word rose to imply the futility of such conviction. The Hindoo died and then rose, not from death into afterlife but simply “rose and stank anew.” In the third stanza, Kipling describes the dead Hindoo as “the flying dead,” flying, that is, not to God but from the “scaly-thighed” alligator. The eyes of the corpse look heavenward but see nothing, express nothing. The Hindoo “gazed, with eyeballs opened wide,/ Upward, but nothing said.” For poetry of the time, the sprightly depiction of a stinking cadaver being pursued by a hungry alligator was a stroke brazen almost beyond belief. Why would young Kipling center upon such a disagreeable image? Why would he bring the very smell of death into the nostrils of readers and choose language that would deprive an anonymous corpse of any degree of dignity? The answer, I believe, is that he was indulging his impulse to shock readers into acknowledging reality as dark as it might be. Such a scene as he describes in the poem was not uncommon in India. The Hindoo probably

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had been cremated in a religious ceremony on the edge of the Ravi River, the body placed upon a pyre. After the corpse was only partially burned, it was carried downriver by the current. The reality that Kipling wished to open up eyes to was that there is a side of nature other than the one that Wordsworth immortalized in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” He had a compelling urge to depict a far different aspect of nature. By playing off his grisly scene against Wordsworth’s upliftingly idealized one, he could create the shock of recognition that nature can be totally indifferent to humankind, a theme dear to the literary naturalists. Wordsworth’s is a nature poem; Kipling’s a naturalistic poem. A hungry alligator about to devour a dead Hindoo floating down a river is as much a part of nature in India as daffodils are in England, but Kipling’s is a radically different nature in this poem, where the dew is “unwholesome,” where waves on the water do not “dance” in the wind but ominously respond to the “blast,” where the eye meets not golden daffodils but “the black crow,” and where “jocund company” consists of a gliding predator and its already expired human meal to be. The alligator is not malicious; it is not Satan in Eden. It is simply indifferent nature following its course. It is the sun blazing down on the plains in summer; it is the cholera that strikes randomly and often; it is the flooding river; it is, in a word, India. Kipling ends his poem with a jarring contrast to the final stanza of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Wordsworth’s reminiscence of nature frees him from dark moods, cheers him, fills him with hope:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

When Kipling, on the other hand, finds himself in despair— “when night comes on anew,” as he puts it—his reminiscence of the nature he has witnessed in India does not relieve him of darkness but if anything heightens it:
And many a time at eventide, As night comes on anew, I think upon the riverside Where gazing on the view, I watched the Alligator glide After the dead Hindoo.

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By using the word gazing in this final stanza, Kipling establishes a connection between himself and the dead Hindoo, who in the previous stanza “gazed with eyeballs opened wide.” Thus he implies that someday he, too, may be devoured by the Alligator, which in the poem is the emblem of India.32 This is the India represented in “New Brooms,” a sketch that Kipling published in The Civil and Military Gazette (1888), a place of death where the inhabitants are not only subject to the ravages of nature’s severe moods but also to rampant disease and where the people inexplicably resist having it any other way:
The wonder was not that men died like sheep, but that they did not die like flies; for their lives and their surroundings, their deaths, were part of a huge conspiracy against cleanliness. And the people loved to have it so. They huddled together in frowsy clusters, while Death mowed his way through them till the scythe blunted against the unresisting flesh, and he had to get a new one. They died by fever, tens of thousands in a month; they died by cholera, a thousand in a week; they died of smallpox, scores in the mohulla, and by dysentery by tens in a house; and when all other deaths failed they laid them down and died because their hands were too weak to hold on to life.33

The title of Kipling’s poem (he placed it in quotation marks), “Way Down the Ravi River,” hints that he was parodying still another work, which he undoubtedly chose for the same reason: to shock. “Way Down the Ravi River” is an echo of a song of the time well known in the English speaking world, Stephen Foster’s popular “Old Folks at Home” (1851), which was better recognized by its first line, “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.” In fact, in a story about California miners, “The Bow Flume CableCar,” which Kipling published in the Civil and Military Gazette in 1889, he refers to Foster’s song as “Way Down the Swanee River.”34 Kipling could be relatively confident that when he called his poem “Way Down the Ravi [Ravee] River,” as least some of his Anglo-Indian readers would recognize it as an echo of “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.”35 Then if they were inclined to do so, they could without excessive distortion sing Kipling’s “song” to the tune of “Old Folks at Home,” as the first four lines indicate:
Foster Way down upon the Swanee River Far, far, away, There’s where my heart is turning ever, There’s where the old folks stay. Kipling I wandered by the riverside, To gaze upon the view, And watched the Alligator glide After the dead Hindoo.

With what must have been mischievous delight, Kipling mocked the nostalgia and sentimentality of one of the best loved American songs of

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the time and substituted for its mournful romantic worldweariness and idealization his own pessimistic view of reality. Kipling’s desire to shock and to revise widespread assumptions, especially about life in India, is obvious in another of his poems included in Echoes, “A Murder in the Compound.” Though the fifteen lines of the poem are not formally divided into stanzas, the division of thought and the rhyme scheme make clear that Kipling was following the formal models of two romantic poems that he knew well, Shelley’s “To A Skylark” and Poe’s “To Helen,” both written in quintains. “A Murder in the Compound,” however, is anything but romantic. In fact, it is a kind of companion piece to “Way Down the Ravi River.” Both poems derive their effects of horror from the depiction of nature’s appalling lack of respect for humankind in life and death. In the final quintain of “A Murder in the Compound,” carrion crows about to feed on the body of a dead woman replace the alligator as violators of what the living often call the temple of God.
The crows are gathered now, and peer and glance Athwart the branches, and no passer sees, When Life’s last flicker leaves her countenance, How, merrily, they drop down, one by one, To that gay-tinted bundle in the sun.

The words merrily and gay-tinted create a sense of the wide gulf that separates human beings from nature, for the last two lines of the poem take the point of view of the crows, whose anticipation of a meal creates in them a sensation of pleasure and causes them to see the corpse not as horribly blood-besmeared but as brightly and attractively colored.36 The sight of human blood violently shed may be abhorrent to us, but it is a vision of loveliness to carrion crows. Thus the message about nature in “A Murder in the Compound” is the same as that of “Way Down the Ravi River”: this is not the nature of dreamy romanticism but an alien realm that communicates only its enormous difference from and indifference to humanity.37 “A Murder in the Compound,” however, contains an ingredient that Kipling omitted in “Way Down the Ravi River,” namely, human brutality. On April 2, 1883, an Indian woman, probably a servant, was murdered on the grounds of the newspaper that Kipling worked for, the Civil and Military Gazette. Her throat was cut, and she was left near the wall of the compound to die, her life’s blood spilling out of her and streaming across the garden. The crime was reported in the paper the next day.38 This was precisely the kind of event that would stimulate the imagination of a Zola

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or Frank Norris, a happening full of the dark meaning and stark reality that were the stuff of naturalistic fiction. The lofty realm of poetry, however, as many still believed, demanded lofty and inspiring subjects, not repugnant accounts of women with their throats cut. It is thus startling to find a poem written probably in 1883 and published in 1884 that depicts a murder victim with flies “round her livid lips” and with her blood, which is smeared on the wall and discolors the grass, oozing from her body and becoming black from the sun’s intense heat as it slowly makes its way across the pathway of the garden into the flowers. One can imagine what reputation “A Murder in the Compound” might have earned if Kipling’s audience had been as large and as discriminating as Ezra Pound’s when he offended numerous readers with his description of modern civilization as “an old bitch gone in the teeth” or when T. S. Eliot did likewise with his trope of “a patient etherized upon a table.” Much more blatantly shocking, Kipling’s poem was published over thirty years earlier. The tendency to dismiss poems like “A Murder in the Compound” as juvenilia—after all, the author was only eighteen—a trend that has led to almost universal neglect of Echoes, serves to obscure an important historical fact about Kipling: some of his early verse was nothing short of revolutionary. Unquestionably, young Kipling saw one of his roles, in common with the philosophical pessimists and literary naturalists, as that of debunker, and he played the part with a high degree of enthusiasm and satisfaction. To be sure, he was not a full-time soldier in the service of iconoclasm—he had several other roles to play—but he was a bold and effective minuteman, here and there making his combative incursions into gentility. If word were passed that beneath his personal exuberance he was a cynic, he did not object but fueled the rumor with, for example, his death-filled parodies of popular children’s poems, which he published in Echoes as “Nursery Rhymes for Little Anglo-Indians.” Without pretension as poetry, they seem to have been written for the sole purpose of awakening through shock. In the first poem of the series, the playful use of the form and phrase of a traditional nursery rhyme to treat the death of Anglo-Indian infants results not merely in shock but revulsion.
Hush-a-by, Baby, In the verandah! When the sun drops Baby may wander. When the hot weather comes Baby will die— With a fine pucca tomb In the ce-me-te-ry.

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The full effect of this stark ditty depends not only upon the realization that India was, indeed, an extremely unhealthy place for British babies, that they did die there in great numbers, but also upon the recognition when we recall the actual words of the particular nursery rhyme in question, “Hush-a-bye, Baby,” that it is just about as brutal and fatalistic as Kipling’s parody of it, a double shock.39 Kipling’s versions of “Jack and Jill” and “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” are scarcely less pessimistic than his “Hush-A-By, Baby,” but his “Sing a Song of Sixpence” expresses most poignantly of the rhymes the plight of AngloIndians in the grip of an uncaring and unrelenting natural environment.
Sing a Song of Sixpence, Purchased by our lives— Decent English gentlemen Roasting with their wives In the plains of India, Where like flies they die. Isn’t that a wholesome risk To get our living by? The fever’s in the Jungle, The typhoid’s in the tank, And men may catch the cholera Apart from social rank; And Death is in the Garden, A-waiting till we pass, For the Krait is in the drain-pipe, The Cobra in the grass!

Whereas the krait in the pipe and the cobra in the grass manifest nature’s indifferent victimization of humankind, the Chicago stockyards, as Kipling depicted them, project the opposite, humankind’s indifferent victimization of nature. Together, the two visions create a shocking depiction of hell-on-earth. Kipling visited Chicago during his trip to America in 1889, and from that trip came his unflattering portrait of the city and its inhabitants, “How I Struck Chicago, and How Chicago Struck Me” (Pioneer, 1890). So saturated with vivid bloodletting is this account that it shocked one of Kipling’s most ardent admirers into repugnance and moved him to write that “At times Kipling seems to take a fiendish delight in morbid, bizarre and repulsive detail.”40 What R. Thurston Hopkins perceived as “fiendish delight” in Kipling was really a recurring mood of ill temper rising on occasion into brooding resentment. Exposure through shock was one way of venting impatience, if not wrath. Hopkins, however,

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found this tendency in the young Kipling morbid: “What shall be said of Kipling’s sketch of how he struck Chicago, and the description of how the cattle are killed in that city? It is alarming, indeed, suddenly to chance upon such a plutonian nightmare, and I defy the lord of dreams to send any more ghastly death-dance to haunt our mortal sleep.” Kipling presents “every noisome detail,” observes Hopkins, in a cooly objective manner, increasing the shock because there is “no feeling of pity.”41 The mixture of ingredients that horrified Hopkins was authorial neutrality of narration combined with stark and gory details that appear to erupt from a mind oblivious to any restraints demanded by civilized tradition and genteel sensibilities. In describing the slaughter of hogs in the stockyard, Kipling writes that the animals were lifted into the air as their hind legs were tied to a moving overhead pulley mechanism that carried them into what appeared to be “a big kitchen sink” red throughout from blood:
There awaited them a red man with a knife which he passed jauntily through their throats, and the full-voiced shriek became a sputter, and then a fall as of heavy tropical rain. The red man who was backed against the passage wall stood clear of the wildly kicking hoofs and passed his hand over his eyes, not from any feeling of compassion, but because the spurted blood was in his eyes, and he had barely time to stick the next arrival. Then that first stuck swine dropped, still kicking, into a great vat of boiling water, and spoke no more words, but wallowed in obedience to some unseen machinery, and presently came forth at the lower end of the vat and was heaved on the blades of a blunt paddle-wheel-thing which said, “Hough! Hough! Hough!” and skelped all the hair off him except what little a couple of men with knives could remove.42

As Kipling moves on to depict the slaughter of cattle, he maintains a chilling objectivity of tone while presenting details calculated to shock. He writes of two steers that were first stunned with heavy blows: “These two they pole-axed, and half raising them by tackle they cut their throats. Two men skinned each carcass, somebody cut off the head, and in half a minute more the overhead rail carried two sides of beef to their appointed place” (247). As if linking the steers to human beings, he calls this place of the knife, “the operating-room,” and he associates those who kill hogs with their victims by referring to them as “pig men.” Blood, common to both animals and humankind, is the extended metaphor of this account; it is everywhere in abundance. From the animals it flows freely, and their slaughterers are bathed in it: “If the pig men were spattered with blood, the cow butchers were bathed in it. The blood ran in muttering gutters. There was no place for hand or foot that was not coated with thicknesses of dried blood, and the stench of it in the

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nostrils bred fear” (247). The concluding two paragraphs of “How I Struck Chicago, and How Chicago Struck Me” reveal what might be termed Kipling’s epiphany of the blood. Throughout his description of the stockyards, he indirectly associates the creatures being killed with those killing them, but at the end of the sketch, he brings humans and animals together in the image of a woman. “Women,” writes Kipling, “come sometimes to see the slaughter, as they would come to see the slaughter of men” (247). This particular woman, a kind of vampire figure (though she stands in the sunlight), is dressed in the color of blood and watches the letting of blood with a steely fascination:
There entered that vermilion hall a young woman of large mould, with brilliantly scarlet lips, and heavy eyebrows, and dark hair that came in a “widow’s peak” on the forehead. She was well and healthy and alive, and she was dressed in flaming red and black, and her feet . . . were cased in red leather shoes. She stood in a patch of sunlight, the red blood under her shoes, the vivid carcasses tacked round her. . . . She looked curiously, with hard, bold eyes, and was not ashamed. (247–48)

As Kipling watches her, he experiences a “special Sending” (248). In that moment she becomes for him the personification of something terrible, something hellish. He explains this epiphany as his having seen in her “an embodiment of the City of Chicago,” and given his attitude toward that city, the association makes sense. If she is the embodiment of Chicago, however, what is Chicago the embodiment of? The answer can only be the city of dreadful night. Kipling’s fondness for shocking was nurtured in India by his disgust with tourists, commentators, inept governmental administrators, politicians, and others who arrogantly assumed that they knew what nature and life in that country were all about but who were actually abysmally ignorant on the subject. He resented the fact that “the visitor tells the Anglo-Indian what to think of India.” With sarcasm he added: “Our neighbour over the way always knows so much more about us than we ourselves.” The work in which he made these statements, “The Bride’s Progress” (Pioneer Mail, 1888), is a tour de force of shock.43 Presumptuous and shallow, an affluent young English bride from whose eyes “the untamable arrogance of wealth looked out” (520) is the object of Kipling’s scorn in the story. To her, Benares, the Holy City, is merely an “incident,” as she puts it, in the extensive honeymoon trip she and her husband are taking to India, Australia, China, and the United States before returning home. Though she walks within a city of dreadful night, observing sordid and gruesome sights, she seems almost impervious to the unspeakable horrors

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“gathered round her”: “Neglected, rainbow-hued sewage sprawled across the path, and a bull, rotten with some hideous disease that distorted his head out of all bestial likeness, pushed through the filth.” She merely steps aside allowing the bull the wall. When she sees “a lean dog, dying of mange,” that “growled and yelped among her starveling puppies on a threshold that led into the darkness of some unclean temple” (521), she blithely remarks that it reminds her of “Bessie,” her dog back home. A moment later she is laughing “merrily” and commenting that it is “funny” that some of the “half-naked men with evil eyes [who] rushed out of dark places and besought her for money” speak English (521, 522). The greatest challenge to her equanimity comes in the form of the cremation pyres of Benares, the “burning-ghats.” She and her husband make their way forward “through deep grey dust—white sand of the river and black dust of man blended” (522). Then they witness a body in the process of being burned. In the intense heat, “the dead man grinned up to the sun and the fair face of The Bride,” and “lifted one knee through the light logs” (523). Probably nothing in Kipling’s writing is more shocking than his description of a dog that eats parts of a partially burned cadaver:
Slowly, very slowly, a white dog crept on his belly down the bank, towards a heap of ashes among which the water was hissing. A plunge, followed by a yelp of pain, told that he had reached food, and that the food was too hot for him. With a deftness that marked long training, he raked the capture from the ashes on to the dust and slobbered, nosing it tentatively. As it cooled, he settled, with noises of animal delight, to his meal and worried and growled and tore. (522)

At these grisly sights, the bride blanches, calls to her husband, “Will!,” and insists upon leaving, but these dark experiences leave no lasting impression on her. She recovers quickly, and by the time the happy couple leave Benares the next morning, she is again gleeful and optimistic in the sunshine of a new day. Thus the title of the story, which attributes “progress” to the bride, crackles with irony as does much else in the story. That the protagonist is so lightly and so temporarily affected by images that appall and sicken readers creates an irony that results in a shock that is as great as that created by the images themselves. From an early age, Kipling had a low tolerance for people who did not know what they were talking about. Ample evidence exists that people of inviolable innocence and unassailable optimism, like the young woman in “The Bride’s Progress,” actually made Kipling angry. He indicated in an article he sent to the Pioneer (1889) that blatant innocence was the major cause of his ire toward a reporter in San Francisco who rudely questioned

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him about India. So angry, in fact, was he at the reporter that he shocked him with lies about India: “The reporter overwhelmed me not so much by his poignant audacity as his beautiful ignorance. I am sorry now that I did not tell him more lies.”44 Among Kipling’s early writings are those that target such people, an audience that he was eager to stun and assault with the harsh reality of the malaria, the typhoid, the cholera, the krait in the pipe, and the cobra in the grass. According to his own account, the person who most raised his ire was the loudmouth know-it-all whom he repeatedly referred to as a “Globe-trotter.” In the very first of his Letters of Marque, the series of reports that he sent back to the Pioneer during his travels of 1889, he identifies this type:
Then came by the person that I most hate—a Globe-trotter. He, sitting in my chair, discussed India with the unbridled arrogance of five weeks on a Cook’s ticket. He was from England and had dropped his manners in the Suez Canal. “I assure you,” said he, “that you who live so close to the actual facts of things cannot form dispassionate judgments of their merits. You are too near. Now I—” he waved his hand modestly and left me to fill the gaps.45

Globetrotters did not merely annoy Kipling; they generated abhorrence in him and furnished justification for what might be considered extremes in his mission to counter ignorance, misconceptions, and distortions. Second place in his hierarchy of hatred probably went to those liberal politicians back in England who looked down on his countrymen serving in India and elsewhere and who presumed to tell them how to do their jobs. He manifested his bitterness toward them in an early poem, “Pagett, M. P.” (Pioneer, 1886). Visiting India to “study the East,” Pagett, a member of Parliament, is imbued with misconceptions, which he tenaciously and arrogantly holds on to until he is forced to relinquish them because of what he painfully experiences. Simply telling him that he is wrong is to no avail. Kipling encapsulated the character type and the situation in his epigraph for the poem:
The toad beneath the harrow knows Exactly where each tooth-point goes; The butterfly upon the road Preaches contentment to that toad.

Butterfly Pagett comes from London to preach to the toads of India that they should be content with their cushy positions in a pleasant climate. He tells his host, the narrator of the poem, that the heat of India is actually but a “Solar Myth,” and calls him a “bloated Brahman” with “princely pay.” As

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time goes on, however, fragile Pagett falls prey to the nature that Kipling depicted in “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” and he is considerably humbled. Sick and terrified, he crumbles and flees India for England. The hatred that Kipling held for the Pagetts of the world is evident in the final stanza:
And I laughed as I drove him to the station, but the mirth died out on my lips As I thought of the fools like Padgett who write of their “Eastern trips,” And the sneers of the travelled idiots who duly misgovern the land, And I prayed to the Lord to deliver another one into my hand.

Members of Parliament do not fare well in Kipling’s works, for most of them are clones of Padgett, uneducable fools who blunder their way into responsible and influential positions where they can do a great deal of harm if their actions are not checked. The British M.P. of “The Burden of Nineveh” (1888) is good example. He has taken it into his head, empty of necessary facts, to “reform” the British territories of the East, changing centuries of culture and belief. Deeply frustrated by the failure of the East (that beautiful but exotic woman) to respond but adamant in his shallow and unreasonable views, he “took up his carpet-bag and fled over the seas to his wife. The Patient East dropped her head on her hand and laughed” in ridicule.46 From London in 1890, Kipling wrote to a friend in the military service back in India about a type of young man he had encountered who was Pagett in embryo:
He knows everything about everything on this earth, and above all he knows all about men under any and every condition of life. He knows all about the aggressive militarism of you and your friends; he isn’t quite sure of the necessity of an army; he is certain that colonial expansion is nonsense. . . . What can you do with a man like that? He has never seen an unmade road in his life; I think he believes that wheat grows on a tree and that beef is dug from a mine. He has never been forty miles from a railway, and he has never been called upon to issue an order to anybody except his well-fed servants.47

Pagett turns up four years after his initial appearance in Kipling’s works as a character in a long didactic story, “The Enlightenments of Pagett, M. P.” (Pioneer, 1890), which consists of conversations between the visiting Pagett and his host in India, the Deputy-Commissioner of Amara, Yardley-Orde, and of interviews that Orde arranges for Pagett to have with other AngloIndians and with various representative natives of the region. The story is a study in contrast. Orde is one of Kipling’s true heroes, the same character idealized for his knowledge of India and his efficiency in “The Head of the District” (Pioneer, 1890), which deals with his death and his thoroughly

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incompetent replacement appointed by administrators who are fools. Pagett, on the other hand, is still the object of Kipling’s scorn, though his characterization in the story is less vitriolic than in the earlier poem. The later Pagett is less offensive but nonetheless wrongheaded and thus dangerous.48 He has come to India without facts and with the presumption that its people are totally in favor of the establishment of a congress and a national elective system, a goal dear to the liberal establishment that Pagett represents. Slowly and patiently, Orde tries to enlighten him about the current indifference (and in some cases, defiant opposition) of the people to this new central form of government. As Orde sees the issue, the proposal that Lord Ripon (whom Kipling detested) and his admirer Pagett are pushing is “based on false analogy and ignorance of the facts.”49 Here Kipling reveals the rock foundation of his personal and literary philosophy: the importance of knowing the facts. “Believe me, Pagett,” Orde remarks, “to deal with India you want first-hand knowledge and experience.”50 Although Kipling did not acquire this arch respect for facts, that is, for “first-hand knowledge and experience,” from Mark Twain, whom he sought out and visited in Elmira, New York, in 1889, the year before he published “The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P,” he was so struck with what his literary idol (“this man I had learned to love and admire fourteen thousand miles away”) told him on the subject that he recorded the remarks in an article, “An Interview with Mark Twain” (Pioneer, 1890). “What I care to read about,” Mark Twain confessed to Kipling, “are facts and statistics of any kind. If they are only facts about the raising of radishes, they interest me.”51 Mark Twain went on to praise the author of an article he had just read on mathematics: “That mathematical fellow believed in his facts. So do I.” Then he offered the young Kipling some succinct advice that he never forgot because it under girded his own already formed literary philosophy: “Get your facts first.”52 Five years later, Mark Twain published an essay in which his side-splitting humor masks a profoundly serious resentment of James Fenimore Cooper because he did not get his facts first, because his works were based on what Orde called “ignorance of the facts.” Cooper had had no experience with the American Indians about whom he wrote, Mark Twain claimed, and did not know a real Indian from the artificial one placed outside cigar stores.53 When The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales appeared in the Indian Railway Library series (1888), Kipling made sure in his preface that he would not be mistaken as a writer of ordinary ghost stories, someone divorced from facts. “This is not exactly a book of real ghost stories, as the cover makes believe,” he writes, “but rather a collection of facts that never quite explained themselves.”54 Even when indulging in flights of somewhat macabre fancy, he did not want to dissociate himself from facts.

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Mark Twain’s insistence upon accurate observation and upon facts was not only the bedrock idea of the emerging school of realism but also of literary naturalism. Kipling’s early allegiance to it is revealed in his preface to In Black and White (1888), in which he tells of his conversations with Gobind, an old man with one eye living out his last days in a Hindu monastery in northern India: “When we grew to know each other well, Gobind would tell me tales in a voice most like the rumbling of heavy guns over a wooden bridge.”55 The ancient narrator not only told tales but offered advice to the young writer: “Tell them first of those things that thou hast seen and they have seen together. . . . All the earth is full of tales to him who listens and does not drive away the poor from his door. The poor are the best of tale-tellers; for they must lay their ear to the ground every night.” The stories that follow, Kipling indicates in his preface, resulted from this “idea [that] grew in my head,”56 observing accurately, getting the facts right, listening to the poor, the outcasts, the driftwood and pariahs of civilization. So well did he learn this lesson and so attracted was he to its premises that he amazed those around him with his knowledge of India at all levels. Charles Carrington has remarked that “he knew more about the low life of Lahore than the police, more about the tone of the regiments at Mian Mir than the chaplain. . . . The cavalry subalterns were astonished at Kipling’s knowledge of horses and steeple-chasing. ‘Where does the youngster pick it all up?’ asked the Veterinary Officer.”57 Kay Robinson states that Lord Dufferin, then Viceroy of India, expressed his amazement that Kipling seemed to have gathered facts on the workings of “the inmost councils of the State.” Kipling also found out more than anyone else about the “railroad folk of India,” whom Robinson calls “that queer colony of white, half white and three-quarters black, which remains an uncared-for and discreditable excrescence upon British rule in India.”58 He befriended all sorts of colorful and sometimes disreputable characters who had facts to give him, and he thirstily absorbed all the information they could give him.59 An affinity, a natural proclivity, almost always leaves the impression of effortlessness, but Kipling worked hard at getting the facts right, at knowing what he was talking about, at tasting not only the sweet wine of existence but the dregs as well. It did not seem so much like hard work, however, because he had found something to believe in, the hard, cold facts, and he pursued them eagerly. In Something of Myself, he recounts a visit that he made in 1891 to New Zealand, where he was received with kindness and respect. Looking back upon his career, he attributes such treatment not to any attributes of personality but to his efforts to get his facts right: “Everyone generally put aside everything for my behoof, instruction, amusement, and comfort. So, indeed, it has always been. For

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which reason I deserve no credit when my work happens to be accurate in detail” (95–96). Earlier in his autobiography, Kipling suggests the primacy of facts in his philosophy of writing, crediting his early training in the acquisition of “accuracy” to his first editor at the Civil and Military Gazette, Stephen Wheeler (40). Then later, he significantly connects his allegiance to facts with creative inspiration, which he terms his “Daemon.” Getting the facts straight, “verifying one’s references,” he writes, “can help one’s Daemon.” He goes on to give the example of his physician and friend, Sir John Bland-Sutton, who insisted that they seek out a chicken and listen to it to be sure that a certain authority had his facts straight when he explained that one could actually “hear the click in its gizzard of the little pebbles that help its digestion” (208). He insists that Dr. Bland-Sutton, who was about to give a lecture on “gizzards,” was right to check his facts: “Take nothing for granted if you can check it. Even though that seem waste-work, and has nothing to do with the essentials of things, it encourages the Daemon. There are always men who by trade or calling know the fact or the inference that you put forth. If you are wrong by a hair in this, they argue: ‘False in one thing, false in all’ ” (209).60 Kipling’s belief in facts and his desire to shock were influential in his selection of naturalistic subjects in the early part of his career. He seems to have been drawn to such subjects because he knew that hellish environments exist as a fact of life and therefore should not be ignored and because he knew that sometimes shock is the most effective vehicle for revelation. A deep-seated and lingering intuition that all was not right with the world around him haunted him from his childhood. Seeking out the hellholes of life and writing about them furnished proof that his intuition was correct. Naturalistic material became congenial to him also because he so intensely disliked those who strenuously objected to its use in literature. That is, in his mind such places as opium dens, filthy slums, and houses of prostitution became associated not only with degeneration, darkness, and suffering but also with bedrock reality, with the truth. He reacted strongly against anything that smacked of artificiality. He sped so disgustedly and so rapidly in the other direction that he sometimes did not apply the brakes until he had reached the far place at the other end, the city of dreadful night. His admiration for Zola possibly reached back as far as his school days at Westward Ho!, but it was intensified when he heard young literateurs in London condemn the great French naturalist. In “A Really Good Time” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1890), he writes of his encounter with a “young gentleman” of literary ambitions who visited him after his arrival in London in 1889 and declared that the two of them were artistic soul brothers. This man was convinced that Kipling had simply invented “the curious brutality of the British soldier,” created it “from the

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pure realm of fancy.” Playing along with him in a tone that his guest does not recognize as sarcasm, Kipling says that he had, indeed, just been fanciful and adds a barbed remark: “If you went into a barrack-room you would see at once.” But this man, as Kipling knows, is not likely to go into such a place, is not likely to experience that level of life, and is therefore not likely to see. The very personification of artificiality replies: “What have we to do with barrack-rooms? The pure air of fancy feeds us both; keep to that. If you are trammelled by the bitter, bornée truth, you are lost. You die the death of Zola. Invention is the only test of creation.” Keeping his temper but secretly feeling nothing but contempt, Kipling replies: “Of course . . . Zola’s a bold, bad man. Not a patch on you.”61 Though the visitor takes this remark as a compliment, what Kipling obviously means is that Zola cannot be compared with this shallow dilettante any more than a hard, brilliant diamond can be compared with paste jewelry. The brief exchange between the two speakers is telling, for it clearly and succinctly establishes the difference between Kipling’s philosophy of composition and that of a school of writers in prominence at the time, the art-for-art’s sake, velvet-jacketed aesthetes, the writers and artists of The Yellow Book fame. Led by Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, and dozens of others who proclaimed wit and “style” the substance of art, they gloried in worldweary sophistication and in an imagination not polluted by vulgar experience.62 The young gentleman in Kipling’s room speaks for them when he pontificates about the destructiveness to art of bitter truth. Kipling, on the other hand, was determined to deal in the darker aspect of truth at least partly because such people as his affected visitor considered it their enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my ally. His negative reaction to admirers of the Aesthetic Movement resulted not only from his difference with their philosophy but also from his personal abhorrence of what he came to associate with them, effeteness. In “The Three Young Men” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1890), for example, he describes with obvious distaste “as pernicious a prig as I ever dreamed about,” a “young gentleman” of refined literary tastes who brags about his acquaintance with one Mr. Haward of Oxford University, a rising star of the literati. Kipling’s description of this effeminate acquaintance smacks of repulsion. The “young gentleman” was “attired after the fashion of the Neo-Alexandrines, who appear to be a sub-caste of social priests. His hand was a limp hand, his face was very smooth because he had not yet had time to grow any hair, and he wore a cloak like a policeman’s cloak, but much more so. On his finger was a cameo-ring about three inches wide, and round his neck, the weather being warm, was a fawn, olive and dead-leaf comforter of soft silk—the sort of thing any right-minded man would give to his mother or his sister without being

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asked.”63 When this cocksure aesthete launches “without warning upon the boundless seas of literature” and refers to certain French writers, Kipling dissociates himself from him to as great a degree as he can by his answer; figuratively, he again speeds away in the opposite direction until he arrives at the brutally real—Zola. He replies that “all my French was confined to the Vie Parisienne and translations of Zola’s novels with illustrations” (258). Upon hearing that, the admirer of Haward of Oxford wishes to end the conversation, and Kipling adds: “I do not think we shall meet any more” (258). His next encounter is with a young man not less effete, and Kipling is equally put off. This man of extreme sensibilities “suffered from nerves, and ‘an uncontrollable desire to walk up and down the room and sob’ ” (258). After hearing him explain his views on the British army (“a brutalising profession” consisting only of persons of “mediocre calibre”), Kipling leaves him: “Him I left quickly, but sorry that he could not do a six weeks’ training with a Middlesex militia regiment, where he would really get something to sob for” (258–59). By the end of 1889 and numerous brushes with men so artificial that he yearned to be back in India, he sent to the Civil and Military Gazette lines that excoriate their kind and deplores his current life, which has thrown him into association with them:
But I consort with long-haired things In velvet collar-rolls, Who talk about the Aims of Art, And “theories” and “goals,” And moo and coo with women-folk About their blessed souls.64

If Kipling recoiled from “long-haired things in velvet collar-rolls,” they did not seem much more kindly disposed toward him. They found him “too savagely farouche,” as “a weedy young gentleman with tow hair” charges in his presence at a social gathering. In “On Exhibition” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1890), he writes of his being dissected at this particular tea, accused to his face of the “fatal mistake” of farouche, by which the speaker indirectly associates Kipling with Zola, whom a fellow velvet jacket accuses of following the bitter truth to his destruction. Another guest at the tea, however, a “tiny-tiny woman with beady-black eyes,” adds a slightly different but related criticism of Kipling: “He is too much bound by the tradition of the commonplace.”65 By “the commonplace,” she unquestionably means the vulgar. It was a charge Kipling was to hear again and again. Perhaps the most vitriolic of all reviews of his work, that by Robert Buchanan, repeatedly accuses him of barbarism and vulgarity, which are

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summarized in the word hooliganism. Buchanan offers a broad and sweeping condemnation of Kipling (who is on the “side of all that is ignorant, selfish, base, and brutal in the instinct of humanity”), but the refrain of the essay is that Kipling’s writings are “vulgar.”66 Four times in the essay Buchanan likens Kipling’s poetry to what he considers the ultimate in vulgarity, the songs of contemporary London music halls. He cries out in righteous anger: “These noisy strains and coarse importations from the music-hall should not be heard where the fountains of intellectual light and beauty once played.”67 Attempting to punish Kipling by linking his verse with music-hall songs was like trying to destroy Brer Rabbit by throwing him in the briar patch. Vulgarity was Kipling’s briar patch; he was at home there and moved in and out of it with ease and pleasure. Oscar Wilde seems to have recognized that fact. In a not-so-complimentary statement, Wilde wrote that “Mr. Kipling is a genius who drops his aspirates. From the point of view of life, he is a reporter who knows vulgarity better than anyone has ever known it. . . . Mr. Kipling knows its essence.”68 If Buchanan had read Kipling’s “My Great and Only” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1890), he might have realized that his object of scorn would not be deeply injured by a comparison of his poems to music-hall songs. Indeed, Kipling’s sketch is a stirring tribute to vulgarity and the London music halls.69 He writes it as if he is choosing sides between the effete elite and the brawny populace. Actually he is reacting against artificiality. Those who preferred artificiality to the real thing could attend the contemporary London theater. In “My Great and Only,” Kipling draws a sharp contrast between the theaters and the music halls. The music halls were being threatened with closings because of their vulgarity. An authoritative figure in London “by virtue of his position preached or ordained that music-halls were vulgar, if not improper. Subsequently, I gathered that the gentleman was inciting his associates to shut up certain music-halls on the ground of the vulgarity aforesaid.”70 On the other hand, theaters suffered no interference; their licenses were not in danger. When Kipling attended dramatic performances in these palaces of “Art,” he “discovered men and women who lived and moved and behaved according to rules which in no sort regulate human life. . . . At one place the lodging-house servant was an angel, and her mother a Madonna; at a second they sounded the loud timbrel o’er a whirl of bloody axes, mobs, and brown-paper castles, and said it was not a pantomime, but Art; at a third everybody grew fabulously rich and fabulously poor every twenty minutes” (263). Kipling’s disgust with the artificiality of these plays was intensified when he read laudatory reviews of them the next day in newspapers, which “would write about the progress of the modern drama

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(that was the silver paper pantomime), and ‘graphic presentment of the realities of our highly complex civilisation.’ That was the angel housemaid” (263–64). At certain London music halls, on the other hand, he found not artificiality but “several elementary truths” clothed in the garments of vulgarity: “Now these things are basic and basaltic truths. Anybody can understand them. They are as old as Time. Perhaps the expression was occasionally what might be called coarse, but beer is beer, and best in a pewter, though you can, if you please, drink it from Venetian glass and call it something else. The halls give wisdom” (265). With this coarse wisdom the young Kipling, escaping from the effete world of artificiality, from “long-haired things in velvet collar-rolls,” cast his lot. In “My Great and Only,” he tells of his making “many visits” to one music hall in particular and then to miles and miles of “pitiless pavement” in London to make sure of his facts before acting upon what he terms his “Great Idea,” which was to compose a song vulgar in nature perhaps but close to the heart of the common people and reflective of things as they are. Consequently, he teams up with a musichall singer, who composes the music for his song and then sings it to the thundering applause of audiences. It concerns a girl’s telling a soldier who is interested in her not to “try for things that are out of your reach” (270). His success makes him feel temporarily that he has found his destiny as the voice of the common people, but he soon reconsiders because he does not want to feel artificial since he is not really of the lower classes and thus should leave the job of spokesperson to one who is. The story ends upon his prophesy about the one to come:
But it needs a more mighty intellect to write the Songs of the People. Some day a man will rise up from Bermondsey, Battersea or Bow, and he will be coarse, but clear-sighted, hard but infinitely and tenderly humorous, speaking the people’s tongue, steeped in their lives and telling them in swinging, urging, dinging verse what it is that their inarticulate lips would express. He will make them songs. Such songs! And all the little poets who pretend to sing to the people will scuttle away like rabbits, for the girl (which, as you have seen, of course, is wisdom) will tell that soldier (which is Hercules bowed under his labours) all that she knows of Life and Death and Love. And the same, they say, is a Vulgarity! (273)

The final line of the story launches a sharp and deadly attack on the vulgarity police of the time. The role that Kipling is strongly drawn to but reluctantly rejects in “My Great and Only” is much like the self-conceived identity of one of his favorite poets, Walt Whitman. He is voicing sentiments strikingly parallel

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to Whitman’s when he writes: “I clung to the Great Heart of the People— my people” (268). He boasts in typical Whitmanesque fashion: “I believed in the redcoat; in the great heart of the people: above all in myself ” (268). His attraction to subjects that were then thought of as vulgar—common and relatively uneducated people such as soldiers, stevedores, prostitutes, and the general lower classes with their particular language, their thoughts, their struggles, their entertainments—was stimulated greatly by the great American poet of the vulgar. At an early age Kipling discovered Whitman and was, in Carrington’s words, “swept away with enthusiasm” for him.71 At the United Services College, Kipling read Whitman aloud, and on at least one occasion made bold to defend the good gray poet against a virulent attack on the part of William Crofts (the “Mr. King” of Stalky and Co.), instructor in Latin and in English literature at the school. Though Crofts did not seem to be a fastidious pedant, much less a prude, he nevertheless considered the growing interest in Whitman an unhealthy fad and argued with heat that this poet was no poet at all but an imposter with little talent and a disgustingly ignoble mind, perhaps something of the same attitude that caused John Greenleaf Whittier to toss his copy of Leaves of Grass into the fire. Whitman was shocking a great number of readers in those days, a fact that attracted rather than repelled the young Kipling, who was to become something of a shocker himself. Whitman’s impact on Kipling was considerable though the subject has remained relatively unexplored. Biographers and critics have documented Kipling’s student-days discovery and love of Whitman’s verse, but they have all but ignored the question of lasting influence. Since Kipling himself chose to be silent on the matter, commentators have done likewise. One critic who has addressed the question, however, concludes that “it is obvious that Walt Whitman had no share in forming the typical Kipling style— or styles.” She goes on to add: “What influence he may have had on Kipling’s attitude toward life, on his choice of subject, is another matter,” a matter about which she finds it “extremely difficult to speak.”72 Yet, it is not so difficult to see some of the fundamental attitudes that Kipling shared with Whitman, for example, their determined originality, their concept of poetry as music (Whitman frequented the opera, Kipling for a time the music halls), their unorthodoxy in religious matters, their proclivity toward shocking, their fascination with machines (especially trains) and with modern technology and its part in the future, their love of the open road, and perhaps above all, their respect for the commonplace, for what others might call the “vulgar.” The proposition that Whitman had no part in forming at least an aspect of Kipling’s poetic style appears mistaken when a poem like his “Song of the Banjo” (1895) is examined with a knowledge of Whitman in mind (poems as “songs” were favorites with

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both authors). In the following stanza of Kipling’s poem, Whitmanesque characteristics abound:
Through the gorge that gives the stars at noon-day clear— Up the pass that packs the scud beneath our wheel— Round the bluff that sinks her thousand fathom sheer— Down the valley with our guttering brakes asqueal: Where the trestle groans and quivers in the snow, Where the many-shedded levels loop and twine, So I lead my reckless children from below Till we sing the Song of Roland to the pine. With my “Tinka-tinka-tinka-tinka-tink!” [And the axe has cleared the mountain, croup and crest!] So we ride the iron stallions down to drink, Through the cañons to the waters of the West!

Using words and phrases of movement (“Through the gorge,” “Up the pass,” “Round the bluff,” “Down the valley”) at the beginning of lines and repeating initial words (“Where,” “Where”) were favorite techniques of Whitman as was the use of seldom encountered or harsh-sounding words like scud. These and several other aspects of the poem closely resemble characteristics of Whitman’s verse. When Kipling writes in another stanza that the banjo represents “the joy of life unquestioned,” he is taking a Whitmanesque position, but when later in the poem he directly addresses the reader in brackets, he appears almost to be Whitman: “[Is it naught to you that hear and pass me by?]” “Song of the Banjo” is a long, lusty poem about past and present in which the banjo, in the tradition of Walt Whitman, plays all sorts of songs, including “Vulgar tunes.” In Whitman, Kipling saw a poet who did not eschew the vulgar but who embraced it. At the risk of shocking to alienation, he would do likewise—and did. If he gravitated toward what was widely considered vulgar subjects, it was for the same basic reason that he embraced aspects of pessimism and wrote of the city of dreadful night: the vulgar, like the naturalistic, was not artificial. Seeing things as they really are and representing them accordingly became his highest mission. His imaginary heaven as depicted in “L’Envoi” to The Seven Seas (1896) is a place where the artist “shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!” Equally as strong in Kipling as his abhorrence of artificiality, which aimed him in the direction of both “vulgarity” and naturalism, was his rage for originality. During a period of several hours before the superintendent of police was to escort him on a tour through the squalor of Calcutta in 1888, he intended to visit the “Old Park Street Cemetery,” but instead he was stranded in Dhurrumtollah, an area populated largely by Eurasians.

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He refers to this happy accident as a “Great Discovery now published for the first time.” He is convinced that he has found new material, something not written about before, something that can make for originality: “Dhurrumtollah is full of the People of India, walking in family parties and groups and confidential couples. And the people of India are neither Hindu nor Mussulman—Jew, Ethiop, Gueber, or expatriated British. They are the Eurasians, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them in Dhurrumtollah now.”73 Few passages in Kipling’s writing tell more about his insatiable thirst for the untapped subject than the following comments on Eurasians in Dhurrumtollah, comments that clearly convey his excitement following the “Great Discovery”:
Beyond what little they please to reveal now and again in the newspapers, we know nothing about their [Eurasian] life which touches so intimately the White on the one hand and the Black on the other. It must be interesting— more interesting than the colourless Anglo-Indian article; but who has treated of it? There was one novel once in which the second heroine was an Eurasienne. She was a strictly subordinate character, and came to a sad end. The poet of the race, Henry Derozio—he of whom Mr. Thomas Edwards wrote a history—was bitten with Keats and Scott and Shelley, and overlooked in his search for material things that lay nearest to him. All this mass of humanity in Dhurrumtollah is unexploited and almost unknown.74

Kipling’s pleasure at finding so many Eurasians in one place and his enthusiastic call for an author who could write knowledgeably about them may appear somewhat excessive, if not puzzling, unless considered in the context of his preoccupation with potent originality that would interest and move a wide audience, not just the literati. If a passion for originality exists within a writer inclined toward pessimism, then that person will not shy away from the darkness that is, as he sees it, reality. He will, indeed, seek it out for the very reason that most others turn away from it. Such was precisely the case with Kipling. He wrote about the city of dreadful night both because he knew that it was not some exotic or mysterious place but the hell on earth that is raw reality and also because he realized that he could achieve a measure of originality in doing so, that is, because it was still fairly unchartered territory. In Something of Myself, he recalls his night prowls in India, his insomniac seekings after material in the dregs of the city: “I would wander till dawn in all manner of odd places—liquor-shops, gambling- and opium-dens, which are not a bit mysterious, wayside entertainments such as puppet-shows, native dances; or in and about the narrow gullies under the Mosque of

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Wazir Khan for the sheer sake of looking. Sometimes, the Police would challenge, but I knew most of their officers” (52–53). What he witnessed he did not consider merely an anomaly but “the real Indian life,” and it was relatively untapped and promising for a one who could write about it. The sights that Kipling observed on his many night wanderings in India did not all find their way into his writing, however. In fact, in Something of Myself he admits: “I did not supply my paper with many accounts of these prowls” (53). But they did have a profound influence on him. After his extended visit “among the slums” of Calcutta in which he was guided by police, he confesses that he felt tempted to climb to the top of a building and to shout, “O true believers! Decency is a fraud and a sham. There is nothing clean or pure or wholesome under the stars, and we are all going to perdition together.”75 And yet he was not seduced nor forced into making these forays through the city of dreadful night. He went there willingly, eagerly, his marvelous memory recording each despairing sight and affirming his darkest conviction that we live within a hellish world. When on one occasion he asked his guide, “How can you Police have faith in humanity?” the policeman took the question to be a complaint and shot back, “You’ve asked for the worst places, and you can’t complain,” to which Kipling responded, “Who’s complaining? Bring on your atrocities.”76 There were plenty of atrocities for him to see, widespread drunkenness and violence, prostitutes of various sorts down to the lowest order, opium houses, Chinese gambling dens, the grossest form of entertainments, and living quarters hardly fit for animals. He experienced “muck” and “filth,” places where “the thick, greasy night shuts in everything” and where “the air is heavy with a faint, sour stench—the essence of long-neglected abominations.”77 The title of one of his sketches, “Deeper and Deeper Still,” suggests that as he gets further into the heart of the Calcutta slums, he is moving toward a kind of heart of darkness, where the night is ever blacker on a road “to the lowest sink of all,” a “long, quiet, winding road” to “the last circle of the Inferno.”78 Kipling’s reactions to the dismal sights of the night were ambiguous. He was on the one hand appalled not only by the individual signs of human degradation that he witnessed but also by the meaning that these sights took on in regard to the human condition. On the other hand, he was excited by the experience. He was ever aware that he was uniquely privileged, that he was seeing what other writers had not seen. In three sketches dealing with his night journey into the dark holes of Calcutta, “With the Calcutta Police,” “The City of Dreadful Night,” and “Deeper and Deeper Still” (all published in the Pioneer in 1888), he repeatedly mentions that “this part of the world is shut to Europeans—absolutely.”79 When he asks his guide why they saw no Europeans, the policeman replies: “Because if an Englishman messed about here, he’d get into trouble.” Such men “don’t

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come here unless they’re drunk or have lost their way.”80 Kipling was neither drunk nor lost; he was there to find his way, not lose it. His imagination was never more active, for it measured each new observation for its value as a subject for his writing. When he encountered in the most squalid section of Calcutta an Eurasian woman who had become a prostitute, a woman called “Mrs. D—,” he thought immediately of the possibility of making a story of her sordid life, a story that someone like Zola could best tell: “Worthy Mrs. D—! It would pay a novelist—a French one, let us say— to pick you out of the stews and make you talk.”81 He himself made several such residents of hell’s inner chambers talk, and from their talk he created tales of dark originality. In fact, his very first short story, published before his nineteenth birthday, is a splendid experiment in the fictive use of monologue in which the story consists almost entirely of the words of a single character (with a frame narrator). Kipling seemed to master this technique, which he later exhibited many times, without apprenticeship, a remarkably precocious achievement. When “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1884) was republished in Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) and thus reached a wider audience, reviewers found its originality so stunning that they could think of nothing else to associate it with except De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, which is so mild and genteel as effectively to make the comparison in actuality a dramatic contrast.82 In a sense, the difference between the two works is the difference between romanticism and naturalism. “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” is squarely in the mode of literary naturalism not only in respect to its seamy subject matter—a halfcaste destroying himself with opium in a squalid Chinese den of India— but also, and perhaps more significantly, because of the aesthetic distance that the author creates between himself and his character. Louis L. Cornell has commented that in works like “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” Kipling “seeks objectivity by choosing speakers whose circumstances are nothing like his own.”83 He distances himself from such speakers not only by differences in status and lifestyle but also by what Cornell aptly calls “the author’s neutrality towards his material.”84 In this particular story, for example, Kipling avoids making any direct moral judgments about the use of opium or about the monopoly on its distribution that the British government held at that time. There is no moralizing of any kind, no hint of sentimentalism, no empathy, just the stark depiction of a man in the act of losing his humanity and his life amid sordid surroundings and debased companionship. Not much of this kind of literature dealing with human deterioration in a manner understated and almost coldly impersonal was at that period making the rounds in the British Empire. It was bold and brutal and new. And it was true. Kipling had struck the mother lode.

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Realizing that, he began work on a novel just six months after the publication of “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” a novel with characters, settings, and perhaps point of view similar to those of the story but with the added ingredient of a plot of intrigue. It was to remain, however, a novel unpublished. How much of The Book of Mother Maturin Kipling actually completed and what happened to the manuscript remain a mystery. All that we know of this intended novel of the “half-life and low-life of Lahore,” as one critic has called it, is what Kipling himself and one or two other people remarked about it.85 Kipling made the following entry in his diary for Saturday, March 7, 1885: “The idea of ‘Mother Maturin’ dawned on me today. Did not however work on it but contented myself with other things.”86 He did begin to work on it shortly after and did so continually and with enthusiasm for some years to come. It was, as Carrington has put it, “meant to be his masterpiece.”87 Kipling’s pessimistic and naturalistic leanings take on prominence when two facts are conjoined: that he planned The Book of Mother Maturin to be his masterpiece and that the novel was about the low-life of Lahore. A masterpiece about low-life sounds much like something Zola would contemplate. Kipling wrote to his aunt Edith Macdonald on July 30, 1885, that the manuscript of “my novel—Mother Maturin” had already grown “to the tune of 237 foolscap pages” and that he foresaw “a two volume business at least.” This letter reflects clearly his double motive for writing about the city of dreadful night: his conviction that truth lies there, as brutal and unattractive as it may seem, and that it offered the opportunity for originality. To tell the truth and to tell it from a fresh angle—the prospect filled him with excitement. The sordidness of his subject is evident from his description to his aunt: “It’s not one bit nice or proper but it carries a grim sort of a moral with it and tries to deal with the unutterable horrors of lower class Eurasian and native life as they exist outside reports and reports and reports.” His sister read what he had written so far and declared it “awfully horrid.” His mother found it “nasty but powerful.” He himself found it “an unfailing delight” because he was writing about that which others would not write about, that which existed outside the “reports,” and because, as he put it to his aunt, “I know it to be in large measure true.”88 He indicates that his father had not yet read the manuscript and that he was awaiting his arrival and his sitting “in judgement.” Lockwood Kipling did, indeed, sit in judgment of Mother Maturin and by doing so probably doomed it to oblivion, for Kipling valued no one’s judgment more than his father’s. Doubtlessly seeing the manuscript at several stages as Kipling continued to work on it, Lockwood never seemed to be pleased with it, and Kipling finally gave up on the project.89 Kipling’s friend Mrs. Edmonia Hill claimed to have read the manuscript,

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which she said, “was never published because John Lockwood Kipling was not satisfied with it.”90 If Mrs. Hill was correct that Lockwood Kipling “was not satisfied” with Mother Maturin, if his judgment was “condemning,” to use Carrington’s word,91 it was probably because of the concentration of material in it that Trix found “horrid” and Alice Kipling found “nasty,” the “grim” moral growing out of the “unutterable horrors” of Lahore squalor. It was probably just too Zolaesque for the gentle and humane Lockwood to bear.92 Before Lockwood Kipling’s judgment prevailed, however, Rudyard had high hopes for Mother Maturin. As if to pave the way for this masterpiece to come, Kipling published in Plain Tales from the Hills three years after he began Mother Maturin a story that serves as a fictive explanation of how the novel came into existence.93 As in “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” the narrator of “To Be Filed for Reference” claims not to be the author of the story he is about to relate. Not he but a sahib-turned-native, a man named McIntosh, is the true author of Mother Maturin. He inherited the manuscript from McIntosh and prepared it for publication. “To Be Filed for Reference” is a relentless account of the degeneration of this Oxford man of brilliance now reduced to living with a native woman in direst poverty and hopelessly addicted to drink. As in “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” Kipling strives for neutrality—the neutrality of naturalism—in his treatment of his materials, not preaching about the evils of alcohol or the dangers of race mixing even when one race in his mind is superior to the other. He ingeniously avoids exhibiting or creating empathy for McIntosh by making him intolerably rude, ungrateful, and arrogant. The squalor and debasement in which The Book of Mother Maturin is supposedly conceived and executed, as depicted in “To Be Filed for Reference,” prepares the way for like qualities in the novel itself. It was to be daring and offensive but, as Kipling stated to his aunt, powerful because true. He is probably speaking for himself when he has McIntosh, dying of pneumonia, say to the narrator: “ ‘This,’ he said, ‘is my work—the Book of MacIntosh Jellaludin, showing what he saw and how he lived, and what befell him and others; being also an account of the life and sins and death of Mother Maturin. What Mirza Murad Ali Beg’s book is to all other books on native life, will my work be to Mirza Murad Ali Beg’s.’ ”94 In the Sussex and Burwash editions of his works, Kipling identified in a footnote the book to which he refers, Lalun, the Baragun, an historical novel set in eighteenth-century India that displays an intimate and detailed knowledge of the country and its people.95 If The Book of Mother Maturin was to outdo Lalun, the Baragun, a work that Kipling obviously held in high esteem, if it was to outshine Mirza Murad Ali Beg’s novel in terms of authenticity, originality, and truthfulness, it would, indeed, be his masterpiece though he

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realized that such a claim “as will be conceded by any one who knows Mirza Murad Ali Beg’s book, was a sweeping statement.”96 Implicit in both “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” and “To Be Filed for Reference” is that the motive for Kipling’s getting to know the opiumruined half-caste and the gutter-dweller McIntosh and for his excursions into their world of “unutterable horrors,” as he himself put it, was not sympathy for them and their plight nor a desire to bring about certain social reforms. He sought them out in all their squalor because he was after original material, something new to write about that would supply a jolt of reality to the genteel. Their stories, like that of the infamous Mrs. D—, would be invaluable material for a French literary naturalist lately scandalizing the literary world with his choice of subjects or for a young AngloIndian writer with like vision and proclivities. Kipling possessed an extraordinary ear for the nuances of dialect and a startling sense of smell, but perhaps his greatest gift was an eye for the original. It could even see in the darkness. In Kipling’s mind, “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” Mother Maturin, and “To Be Filed for Reference” were closely associated with “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House” (Week’s News, 1888). Many years later, in 1923, he reportedly became interested in combining the characters and settings of these four particular works into a single work, a scenario for a film to be called “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” which was never made.97 Just as he claimed that he was repeating what someone else had told him in “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” and publishing what someone else had written in Mother Maturin, so in “The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House,” he begins by indicating that the gruesome details that he is about to relate in his poem, which begins with a rotting “wide-eyed corpse” in the Hugli River of India, were “whispered” to him:
That night when through the mooring-chains The wide-eyed corpse rolled free, To blunder down by Garden Reach And rot at Kedgeree, The tale the Hugli told the shoal The lean shoal whispered me.

The rotting corpse sets the tone for a depiction of the lower depths. At Fultah Fisher’s flophouse gathers the dregs of the maritime world, Jake-Without-the Ears, Pamba the Malay, Carboy Gin the Guinea, Luz from Figo Bay, and other diverse aliens from respectable society who are characterized by continual lying, the consumption of large quantities of black rum, and hair-trigger anger leading to lethal violence. They are not

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suitable heroes for the vast body of romantic literature about the seagoing life but inhabitants of a less depicted world, a hellish neighborhood of the city of dreadful night. The central episode, murder of the one admirable person among reprobate humanity, is brought on by Anne of Austria, a jaded woman of lustful loose virtue, a deep thirst for booze, and a vengeful, mean-spirited nature. She lies about the advances of Hans the Dane, who had actually rejected her, so that her current bed companion, an American, will become jealous and attack him. The American stabs the Dane whose silver crucifix Anne takes from his neck in death and makes her own. Perhaps because the work is a ballad, however, a note of sentimental pity for the Dane and condemnation of the villainous harpy invade the poem as it comes to a close, but Fisher’s boardinghouse remains one of the memorable places of Kipling’s dark imagination. For the depiction in naturalistic terms of dreary environments and degraded humanity, however, nothing else that Kipling wrote quite approaches Gunnison Street, the London slum that serves as the setting for his decidedly unpleasant but extraordinarily powerful short story, “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot” (Harper’s Weekly, 1890).98 R. Ellis Roberts, one of only a few critics who have commented on this aspect of “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot,” wrote in 1928: “It is the best story of slum-life in English, and it set a fashion both in England and America.”99 It does, indeed, stand at the head of a “fashion,” especially in America, for its publication in the United States, where it first appeared, predated by several years both Stephen Cranes’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893) and Frank Norris’s McTeague (1899), which are considered pioneering works of American literary naturalism and which resemble Kipling’s story in several respects. Crane’s Rum Alley in the Bowery slums is if anything less brutal and bestial than Kipling’s Gunnison Street, and Norris’s description of McTeague’s murder of his wife, Trina, whom he beats to death in an alcoholic rage because she will not give him money (a description that caused consternation among gentle readers), is actually less detailed and vivid than Kipling’s depiction of a drunken Tom Herodsfoot’s murder of his wife, Badalia, whom he fatally beats with his fists and kicks for the same reason. Gunnison Street is another version of Kipling’s city of dreadful night, which he created in various forms in his early writings. It is, in a sense, the culmination of those several works that he wrote about slums and low life in India. It comes as something of a surprise, then, to read critical appraisals of the story that depict it as somehow unique, as if Kipling never wrote those jolting descriptions of the city of dreadful night in India, as if he suddenly discovered after he arrived in London how the great unwashed live and then, as an aberration, wrote just this one story about it.100 The environment of Gunnison Street is that of a kind of hell, and most of the

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inhabitants are corrupt and animalistically primitive. Kipling’s authorial stance, however, is not strictly that of a naturalist, for the neutrality of, say, “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” is not sustained in “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot.” Indeed, Kipling has two voices in this work, one that of a naturalist in the tradition of Zola and the other that of a realist in the sense of one who believes in the inherent morality of facing facts and of keeping the record straight and in the nobility of doing both. Thus Badalia is not merely a helpless victim of the city of dreadful night in which she is forced to live and die but a heroine of the first order because of her refusal in several ways to think and live like those around her. This is not to say, however, that she does not accept some of the values and ways of Gunnison Street. The environment has had its deep and lasting influence on her. She is not a flower that blossomed in a mud puddle; to be sure, some of the dirt of Gunnison Street is in her veins. At the time of her marriage, “she had been unregenerate; had worn the heavy fluffy fringe which is the ornament of the costermonger’s girl, and there is a legend in Gunnison Street that on her wedding-day she, a flare-lamp in either hand, danced dances on a discarded lover’s winkle-barrow, till a policeman interfered, and then Badalia danced with the Law amid shoutings.”101 She confesses to thinking often of the husband who deserted her and of the other woman, and she has to keep a tight grip on herself to keep from going to see them, for she realizes that, as she puts it, “I’d cut ’er liver out— couldn’t ’elp myself ” (199). She fights as effectively and as readily as any of the women of her acquaintance. She deplores the life led by the women of Gunnison Street, who have offspring like animals, “the scrofulous babes that multiplied like the green scum on the untopped water-cisterns” (199). She admits, however, that had her husband come back to her, she would have been just like them: “I’d ha’ been like the rest—sixpense for beef-tea for the baby, an’ a shilling for layin’ out the baby” (220). Not converted to the religion of those with whom she works for the alleviation of the suffering around her, she follows the unwritten law of Gunnison Street that she will not follow the written law of the land when it would send her mate to jail as abusive as he may be. Indeed, she adheres to the same code as Tom’s woman Jenny, who refuses to press charges against him for beating her. Brother Victor, the priest who is present when she dies, realizes that her husband has come back and murdered her. He mentions her husband and comments: “There’s a domesticity about these injuries that shows their origin” (217). Nevertheless, he recognizes that she will never give Tom away and consequently the murderer will not be brought to justice. It is the terrible truth of her misplaced loyalty that produces frustration and anger in the priest: “Brother Victor stood without the door, and the breath came harshly between his clinched teeth, for he was in pain” (219).102

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Because Kipling’s superb portrayal of Badalia prominently displays her numerous blemishes, he is able to create a three-dimensional characterization, a complex woman who has been in large measure molded by the adverse effects of her environment but in whom a sense of decency, order, and duty prevail. Though the story has been generally underrated and has received little attention, Badalia is one of Kipling’s finest characterizations. She must have been close to his heart, for she embodies several of his most cherished beliefs. These values are projected in a metaphor that extends throughout the story, the accounting book referred to in the title. In this “large copy-book,” which like her life soon becomes battered and stained, Badalia painstakingly records how she spends every penny of the money that the Reverend Eustace Hanna gives her in trust each week to aid the poor. The book is her record; the story itself is Kipling’s record of her life and her character. The word record echoes throughout the story. It connotes authenticity, factuality, permanence. In her book of life Badalia writes only facts:
Mrs. Hikkey, very ill brandy 3d. Cab for hospital, she had to go, 1s. Mrs. Poone confined. In money for tea (she took it I know, sir) 6d. Met her husband out looking for work. . . . Mrs. Vincent. Confid. No linning for baby. Most untidy. In money 2s.6d. Some clothes from Miss Evva. . . . Mrs. Junnet to keep good fire coals is up. 7d. Mrs. Lockhart took a baby to nurse to earn a triffle but mother can’d pay husband summons over and over. He won’t help. Cash 2s. 2d. Worked in ketchin but had to leave. Fire, tea, and shin of beef 1s. 7 1/2 d. (192–93)

The nature of her entries characterize her. She is not concerned with rumor, sentiment, fantasy, or fable. She is not interested in speculating on the root causes of suffering in the slums or in social and political measures that may someday lead to reforms. She is a realist who thoroughly understands the people she is trying to help—a rare person, indeed—and the Reverend Eustace Hanna to his credit immediately recognizes her value. Kipling’s respect for her and for all those like her is summed up in his admiring phrase “those who know” (189). The idea of knowing, of possessing “special knowledge” (as does Badalia), a “knowledge hidden from very many well-meaning people,” intones through the story like a leitmotif. From the moment when Badalia, bold, brash, and unschooled, rises at a gathering and tells Hanna that, in effect, he is a well-meaning fool for the way he distributes alms to the poor, he is convinced that she “knew Gunnison Street and its needs, as none other knew it” (190). The special knowledge that Badalia possesses is not simply a street-smart understanding of the motives

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and actions of slum dwellers acquired through hard knocks. Like Brother Victor (who “was a priest trained to know, and knew how the hearts of men and women beat”), she knows “something of the human heart,” and she integrates her tough realism with that rare intuitive insight to become “an institution” (216). Her facing of facts as she sees them sometimes results in offense. If she sees little evidence of the working of a benevolent God in the lives of those in Gunnison Street, she will not pretend to know otherwise. She tells the pious Mrs. Jessel, “I know what’s what, I do, an’ they don’t want your religion, Mum, not a single—. Excuse me. It’s all right when they comes to die, Mum, but till they die what they wants is things to eat” (189). She gives them things to eat and skips the religion. On one occasion she astonishes Mrs. Probyn, the suffering recipient of her beneficence, by announcing: “There ain’t no God like as not, an’ if there is it don’t matter to you or me, an’ any’ow you take this jelly” (195). Badalia’s statement to Mrs. Probyn about God belies the quotation from Browning’s “Pippa Passes,” with which Kipling sardonically begins the story:
The year’s at the spring And day’s at the dawn; Morning’s at seven; The hillside’s dew-pearled; The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn: God’s in his heaven— All’s right with the world!103

In Badalia’s world, God may or may not be in his heaven, but one thing is certain: all is not right. Her strongest innermost urge is to try to set it right. Her rage against the unbalanced books of fate makes of her a kind of metaphorical accountant doing what she can against great odds to balance them. The record that she keeps is the symbol of that noble attempt. This quality combined with her insistence upon facts, her courage, her devotion to what she conceives as her duty, her dismissal of fantasies and fable, and her untiring effort in the service of others—these qualities tie her directly to a class of professionals that Kipling admired throughout his life, doctors. Though not literally a physician, Badalia embodies many of the attributes of members of that profession whom Kipling idealized. That he was consciously linking Badalia with doctors is evident from the language that he uses to describe her and her activities. She is a “dispenser” of both advice and badly needed items for the health of her fellows,“for the benefit of Gunnison Street” (191). Without fearing for her own health, she exposes herself to those who have diphtheria and tries to alleviate their

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suffering, and she acts to quarantine them so that others will not take the disease. Kipling indicates that Badalia once took in the malicious mother of Lascar Loo, brought the drunken hag to her own bed to try to help her but finally and realistically, gave up “any hope of curing her” (207). The word curing applies more appropriately to a doctor than a social worker, and it is as a kind of physician, not a social worker, that Badalia “won a recognised place among such as labour in Gunnison Street” (188). The most telling metaphor that Kipling creates to characterize Badalia, however, is that of a warrior engaged in mortal combat with a strong and unflinching enemy. In her record book, “she wrote the story of her war; boldly, as befits a general” (192). In another place, “Badalia, snorting, went out to war, and since the hosts of the enemy were many, found enough work to keep her busy till the dawn” (195). Kipling often used the same metaphor to describe physicians from their often ineffective attempts to save lives from the early ages of their profession down to the present. In “Our Fathers of Old,” a poem in Rewards and Fairies (1910) that follows his story, “A Doctor of Medicine,” ancient doctors, forefathers of modern-day physicians, are described as noble participants in a war:
Yet when the sickness was sore in the land, And neither planet nor herb assuaged, They took their lives in their lancet-hand And, oh, what a wonderful war they waged! Yes, when the crosses were chalked on the door— Yes, when the terrible dead-cart rolled, Excellent courage our fathers bore— Excellent heart had our fathers of old! None too learned, but nobly bold Into the fight went our fathers of old.

Kipling declared in a speech to a group of physicians at Middlesex Hospital in 1908 that “there are only two classes of mankind in the world—doctors and patients.” He seems to have thought of Badalia Herodsfoot as one of the former, for he uses the same metaphor to describe her endeavors as he used in “A Doctor’s Work” to describe theirs, namely, combat: “The average patient looks upon the average doctor very much as the noncombatant looks upon the troops fighting on his behalf. The more trained men there are between his body and the enemy the better.” He speaks of physicians as a “permanently mobilised Army which is always in action, always under fire against death.”104 It is little wonder, then, that although “The Record Badalia Herodsfoot” is a shockingly brutal story and in some ways a sordid one, with its horrible murder scene, with a character of the lowest order who bares her breasts to a policeman, with much talk

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of having babies out of wedlock and of sexual promiscuity (one critic has commented that the work represents “Kipling’s first real awakening to the fact that women are not sexless”),105 and with all of its originality deriving from subject matter and treatment, it is not a work of unrelieved naturalism, for Kipling could never maintain the neutrality necessary for naturalism where doctors were concerned. In the early days of his writing career, Kipling made forays into the nether world of various cities—Lahore, Calcutta, London, and even Hong Kong. His motive in all such visits was to prepare himself to write with authenticity and originality. Such preparation included an understanding of what constituted reality for the inhabitants of these environments, and he could acquire that only through firsthand experience. He felt the need to go to unpleasant places, obtain the trust of their residents so that they would open up to him, and then in a sense make case studies. He conceived of his role as being similar to that of a physician. During all his house calls into the dens of infection, he must make no attempt to be accepted as one of the afflicted but retain his own identity and maintain dignity and objectivity. Taking on such a role positioned him ideally to observe, listen, and analyze. So much like a doctor was he in his bearing that he elicited confessional conversations even from debased inhabitants of the city of dreadful night. In fact, during a tour of houses of prostitution in Hong Kong in 1889, he was actually mistaken for a physician and played the role effectively. In “Of Jenny and Her Friends” (Pioneer, 1889), Kipling recounts how in a Hong Kong bar he met a young man from San Francisco, an American all too familiar with the world’s oldest profession and with its representation in that particular city. When Kipling expressed to him his desire to see something of how such people live, a night filled with the sights of sordidness and degeneration followed. Kipling expresses his motive for getting a first-hand impression of “the ancient profession” as follows: “From a genuine desire to see what they call Life, with a capital Hell, I went through Hong-Kong for the space of a night.”106 What he saw was more terrible than he had imagined. Throughout this sketch, the word Life forms a refrain in its constant repetition and is always capitalized and linked either with Hell (also capitalized) or death, thus creating a strong ironic undertone. The most prevalent theme, however, is that of disease. Sickness is mentioned in the first sentence, and hints of disease abound. At the first house they visit, prostitutes “shovelled down the sickly liquor that made the rooms reek” (310). At the second “establishment,” the madam “lacked the half of her left lung, as a cough betrayed” (310). When Kipling and his companion are ready to move on, she “coughed us into the passage” and into the street. “She was very ill indeed, and announced that she had but four months more to live” (311). In another house, they find

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a prostitute “recovering from a debauch of three days” while others are “just entering upon the same course” (311). The noisiest of these ladies of the evening is one Corinthian Kate, who at three o’clock in the morning begins “to bellow for more drinks” and dances for the customers (312). Later she suffers from “a complaint called the ‘jumps’ ” as does one of the customers, whom Kipling, in the language of a physician, refers to as “a patient” (313). Throughout this night of concentrated wretchedness, Kipling is understood to be a doctor because of his appearance and manner. He therefore escapes advances and insult and “could sit and contemplate the Life” that he calls with supreme sarcasm “sweet” (312). “A night’s reflection has convinced me,” he writes, “that there is no hell for these women in another world. They have their own in this Life, and I have been through it a little way” (313). He is speaking of their personal hells of disease, addiction, and mental torment, their own individual city of dreadful night. He adds, “still carrying the brevet rank of doctor, it was my duty to watch through the night to the dawn” his “patients” (313). Toward the end of the sketch, Kipling writes with the sentiment of a doctor that he was concerned for the young man who acted as his guide and suggests that he cannot believe that such a lifestyle is “altogether good for him.” His most memorable encounter is with a prostitute named Jenny, who is plagued by “the fear of death” (313). Her brief relationship with Kipling is that of patient with doctor, for she is terrified of contracting cholera (a woman she knows has recently died of it) and comes to him asking, “I say, Doctor, what are the symptoms of cholera” (313). She suspects that she has already had the disease and wishes assurances that she cannot catch it again, assurances that Dr. Kipling willingly gives. She repeatedly refers to him as “Doctor” as she exhibits a preoccupation with disease and death. Finally she rails about a man who recently brutalized her with a cane, moans, and falls into a drunken stupor. Her “mouth twitched and the body was shaken with shiverings, and there was no peace in her at all. Daylight showed her purple-eyed, slack-cheeked, and staring, racked with a headache and the nervous twitches. Indeed I was seeing Life” (315). Meanwhile, Corinthian Kate “rose up reeling drunk” and swears “in a thick, sodden voice as I have never yet heard a man swear.” Dogs and humans get well out of her way as “Kate swayed to and fro and cursed God and man and earth and heaven with puffed lips” (317). At ten o’clock in the morning, she and Jenny have breakfast together, a breakfast consisting solely of the foul liquor “then poisoning the air of the whole house” (317). These are such details as are found in the work of literary naturalists. Prostitutes and their drunken revels followed by puffed-lip profanity, twitching stupors, and purple-eyed awakenings—this is not the stuff of polite writing of the late nineteenth century. The sordid particulars about debased life were unquestionably

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offensive to many and therefore risky for a young author to write about, but the risk was worth taking, for he was determined to break new ground while at the same time telling the truth. Young Dr. Kipling seems to suffer, however, from some moral internal bleeding in “Of Jenny and Her Friends.” His reactions to what he has witnessed in this particular city of dreadful night have all but disqualified him from playing any longer the role of doctor. At certain points, he is not able to keep up the front. He finds himself in an emotional state (“genuine pity”), and by the end of his visit to this place of degradation, he seems ashamed of himself for having pretended to be something he was not. In his poem “Doctors” (1923) he portrays physicians as “bold” and as “passionless.” They are “the unshakeable of soul.” He, however, became shaken and emotional in witnessing the life of Jenny and her friends. His reaction was not unlike that of several years before, a time when he was still a student at Westward Ho! and so fascinated with medicine that he told Trix that he wished to be a doctor. When he was allowed to witness some real bloodletting in a hospital, however, he decided that he did not have the stomach to pursue the profession of medicine.107 He was forced to make that decision all over again in Hong Kong. He ends “Of Jenny and Her Friends” on a note of conscience-ridden regret:
And mine was the greater sin. I was driven by no gust of passion, but went in cold blood to make my account of this Inferno, and to measure the measureless miseries of life. For the wholly insignificant sum of thirty dollars I had purchased information and disgust more than I required, and the right to look after a woman half crazed with drink and fear the third part of a terrible night. Mine was the greater sin. (318)

He had purchased the right to look after a woman, to be a physician, but he could not do so. He painfully realizes, as he had recognized years before in the hospital he was drawn to, that he is not doctor material. Not only did his objectivity fail him as pity and sorrow engulf him, but he is powerless to effect healing and wholeness for others, the physician’s commitment. Kipling’s confession thus turns what is otherwise a work of stark literary naturalism into an intriguing expression of authorial self-doubt. His search for originality, for fresh material, on the mean streets of a Hong Kong red-light district, brought him face to face with a personal inadequacy of old. Kipling’s various depictions of the hell on earth that is around us, that is, slums and other unsavory environments, were confined mostly to his early work composed during a period when he was impressed by writers like James Thomson and Émile Zola. At that time his eagerness for shocking

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constituted a kind of iconoclasm and his search for originality almost a fever. These proclivities, together with his abhorrence of artificiality and his passion for hard facts, combined with his tendency toward pessimism to produce a portion of his early writings that resembles literary naturalism in several respects. His interest in the hell of internality also began early, but it lasted his entire lifetime. As his fascination with the city of dreadful night that is without waned, his attention turned more and more to the city of dreadful night that is within. “Naturally as one grows older,” he wrote in a letter of 1919, “the pen moves from the external world towards the internal. You’ll find that, in ‘Simple Simon’ in Rewards and Fairies. Drake in the midst of the Armada fighting argues that the outside life is not much as compared with the things that happen to a man—meaning inside him.”108

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The City of Dreadful Night Within
uman life as hell, the city of dreadful night within, was a stark reality to Kipling, who began thinking about it probably as a child, who began writing about it early in his career, and who became more concerned with it as time went on. References to it abound in his works. He was thrown into despair by the inner hell of the prostitutes in Hong Kong. He perceived that a derelict he met in San Francisco, once a promising young Englishman trained at Harrow, was trapped in “the Inferno of his own wretchedness.”1 His short story “At the End of the Passage” (1890) deals with a character’s recurrent nightmare about hell, “a place—a place down there,” which is actually a place within himself.2 In another story, “The House Surgeon” (1909), the soul of the narrator seems to descend during a moment of utter despair into a living hell, dropping “into the bottom of unclimbable pits.”3 An inner hell is frequently on the mind of the main characters of “In the Same Boat” (1911), who say of their mental torment, “It’s Hell.” The protagonist explains, “I’ve been in Hell for years,” and his companion-in-suffering tells her nurse, who has been scolding her, “Ay, but you’ve never been in Hell.”4 In his lecture on “Values in Life” (1907), Kipling called despair “one of the most real of the hells in which we are compelled to walk.”5 He seemed to feel that simply to be alive was to know hell. His friend H. Rider Haggard recorded in his diary for May 22, 1918, a conversation they had about hell. “I happened to remark,” writes Haggard, “that I thought that this world was one of the hells. He replied that he did not think, he was certain of it. He went on to show that it had every attribute of a hell, doubt, fear, pain, struggle, bereavement, almost irresistible temptations springing from the nature with which we are clothed, physical and mental suffering, etc., etc., ending in the worst fate that man can devise for man, Execution!”6 If Haggard wished to start his friend talking about some of his strongest convictions, he pushed the right button when he posited the theory of life as hell, a pessimistic view, to be sure, but one that Kipling consistently held.

H

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In some respects, Kipling was at his lowest when the conversation took place in 1918: he was grieving for his son lost in the war, he was suffering from physical pain, and he was trying to cope with bouts of depression. Yet what he said to Haggard in 1918, he might well have said at almost any other time of his life, for his remarks reflect a fairly constant belief. It was, however, a belief expressed with more intensity and frequency as he grew older. Despite his good-humored high spirits, his enthusiastic patriotism, his delightful and articulate wit, and his joy in children, he was recurrently pessimistic, despairing, and even cynical. The extent to which he was revealing his own state of mind in “Hymn to Physical Pain” is not entirely clear since he paired the poem with “The Tender Achilles,” a story about a doctor whose painful condition helps pull him out of depression. Nevertheless, the poem manifests a striking familiarity with the phenomenon he is dealing with: the ability of physical pain to wipe away mental torment, which he terms “the Worm and Fire.” The speaker dreads the moment when the “tender mercies” of bodily pangs cease because he knows that a greater torture will then follow, a dark night of the soul. A more hopeless situation cannot be imagined. If he is not in physical pain, he is in the “completer woe” of despair. In the final stanza, he prays only for the return of physical pain that it “may’st keep/ The Pains of Hell at bay.” C. A. Bodelsen has remarked that “no-one but a profoundly unhappy man could have written the Hymn to Physical Pain.”7 Melancholy, as Angus Wilson has suggested, was very much in Kipling’s nature.8 J. M. S. Tompkins observes that “it is perfectly clear that through all his writing life the darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade.”9 Kipling’s frequently recurring bouts of despair, “one of the most real of the hells,” unquestionably nurtured what appears to have been an inherent tendency toward pessimism. The exact causes of these dreadful visitations, however, are not so clear. In retrospect it is difficult to distinguish between clinical depression brought on by some kind of chemical imbalance or deficiency in the system and a debilitating melancholy that is the result of bereavement, pronounced discouragement, self-disappointment and guilt, or anxiety about poor physical health. It is also difficult to distinguish between either one of the above and a temperament that simply by nature dwells more on desolation than on hope. One thing is certain: whatever the causes of Kipling’s melancholy pessimism—whether clinical, experiential, innate, or all three (operating sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in combination)—it plagued him not just in his middle and later years, when he endured the loss of loved ones and the failure of his health, but also in early life as well. As Bonamy Dobrée points out, a theme central to Kipling’s work is that of emotional darkness, “which he had himself encountered” even as a young person.10

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He was remembering his early life when in 1907 he spoke to the students and faculty members of McGill University in Montreal and warned them that they would experience, if they had not already done so, epiphanies of blackness. “Some of you here know—and I remember,” he stated, emphasizing his first-hand knowledge of that which he spoke, “that youth can be a season of great depression, despondencies, doubts, waverings, and worse because they seem to be peculiar to ourselves and incommunicable to our fellows. There is a certain darkness into which the soul of the young man sometimes descends.”11 He goes on to tell them that “if the dark hour does not vanish, as sometimes it doesn’t; if the black cloud will not lift, as sometimes it will not,” then they should try to cultivate the realization of self-insignificance so that they will understand that none of us is “sufficiently important to be taken too seriously by the Powers above us or beneath us.”12 The “most-learned fellow-Doctors” and students alike must have thought it extremely odd that this noted writer should even bring up such a subject in his brief address to them, much less offer such a solution. They had no way of knowing that this earnest man was opening his heart to them—something he rarely did—and offering not facile advice on mental health but a method of coping, a way that he had developed through his own painful experience, with what he called the “Great Darkness.” During his lifetime, Kipling had to make his way through numerous times of despair. When such experiences began in earnest is an open question. Carrington sees the early years of the twentieth century as “a turning-point in Kipling’s life,” a time “when his youthful exuberance was put behind him, with much of his youthful gaiety, when certain dreams had faded with the loss of a beloved child, when he felt himself to be launched into the bleak, unpromising sea of middle age.”13 Lord Birkenhead, however, makes much of Kipling’s bleak state of mind a good deal earlier than the turn of the century, for example, while he was living in London’s Villiers Street in 1890. Whether overwork, disappointment in love, or other factors at this time were instrumental in triggering his despair is uncertain because of Kipling’s consistent reticence. Then several years later, his recurrent attacks of darkness were intensified as he began to experience “the first stirrings of the internal illness that was to be the bane of his life.”14 In a letter of 1897, he confessed to being “hipped and depressed from day to day” and “sorrowful.” A visit to a physician, however, seemed to help: “He pulled me out of the darkness and the gloom that had been enveloping me.” In a strikingly frank confession, he described himself in this letter as having a “dark temperament.”15 Such admissions, rare as they are in Kipling’s writings about himself, suggest that characters in his works who are “hipped,” that is, depressed, have a sound biographical source. For example, it seems likely that he was

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recalling an experience with depression and a helpful visit to a physician when he composed the poem “Rahere” (1926), which deals overtly with an historical figure—the influential and feared jester of King Henry I—but which is very much about himself. In describing Rahere, he is also depicting his own status in later life. The stark contrast between Rahere’s public role as jester and his private gloom reflects something of Kipling’s situation. He, too, was “feared” in high places “for his eye that pierced their bosoms, for his tongue that shamed their swords.” He, too, was “fed and flattered.” And he, too, was subject to the “evil mood.”
Suddenly, his days before him and behind him seemed to stand Stripped and barren, fixed and fruitless, as those leagues of naked sand When St. Michael’s ebb slinks outward to the bleak horizon-bound, And the trampling wide-mouthed waters are withdrawn from sight and sound. Then a Horror of Great Darkness sunk his spirit. . . .

The Great Darkness recurs with regularity in Kipling’s works as it did in his life, its onset sudden, its effect devastating. In “Rahere” a physician helps the jester through this episode of “man’s most immanent distress” just as a doctor had helped Kipling in 1897 and probably at later times.16 Primary in Kipling’s nature was a strong drive for independence (and its derivative, originality), the quality that he seems to have liked most in other people. Had he not been so fanatically admiring of this characteristic, he might have avoided some of the episodes of “man’s most imminent distress,” at least insofar as women played a part in such experiences. He was dazzled by what he perceived as independence in the opposite sex. When he detected it in a woman, he was almost certain to become fascinated and infatuated with her, and the more independent she was, the more she served as a magnet to pull him toward her. He was drawn to Florence Garrard precisely for this reason. One of the great ironies of his life is that in her rejection of him, which sent him into a tailspin of despair, she was motivated by the very quality—her determination to be independent—that he admired most in her. A series of American women came into his life and captivated him principally because they appeared to him unusually independent, women like Edmonia Hill and to some extent her sister, Caroline Taylor, to whom he became for a time engaged to be married. Of such women, he wrote: “They are original. . . . They are self-possessed. . . . They understand; they can take care of themselves; they are superbly independent.”17 Independence was his litmus test for women. If they failed it, he was not seriously interested in them; if they passed it, he was likely to become enthralled—often to his eventual regret and disappointment.

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Kipling’s attempt to maintain his own independence created the central struggle of his life, and he projected it into the lives of many of his characters, whose desperation carries them deep into a hell within where they sometimes perish but from which they often emerge stronger for having gone through the fire. The darkness in which Kipling all too frequently found himself was thus in some instances, though certainly not all, the result of his agonizing over his identity, which was frequently challenged and in some respects tenuous. In the year before his death, he graciously received a young visitor from America, Arthur Gordon, who had come to see Kipling not only with admiration in his heart but also with a hope that the great writer could help him decide on a career. “Looking back,” Gordon wrote, “I think he knew that in my innocence I was eager to love everything and please everybody, and he was trying to warn me not to lose my own identity in the process. Time after time he came back to this theme.”18 Kipling considered any form of control over him a threat to his hard-won identity. He therefore became obsessed with maintaining his independence, and he was deeply distressed when he sensed that for one reason or the other he could not do so. In Something of Myself (1937), he gives the philosophy he tried to live by and commends it to the young. It is summarized in “a text in the thirty-third chapter of Ecclesiasticus which runs: ‘So long as thou livest and hast breath in thee, give not thyself over to any.’ ”19 This was the philosophy that drew Kipling so admiringly to Emerson’s poem “Give All to Love,” which he quoted in part at the beginning of “The Children of the Zodiac” (1891). Soon after Kipling became a member of the Savile Club in London, Walter Besant, whom he greatly respected, advised him to steer clear of coteries of writers and to remain independent. He states in Something of Myself that he saw immediately the wisdom of doing so: “It seemed best to stand clear of it all. For that reason, I have never directly or indirectly criticised any fellow-craftsman’s output, or encouraged any man or woman to do so; nor have I approached any persons that they might be led to comment on my output. My acquaintance with my contemporaries has from first to last been very limited” (82). He expresses his early acquired attitude toward literary critics, who appeared to have lost their independence: “The generality of them seemed to have followed other trades—in banks or offices—before coming to the Ink; whereas I was free born. It was pure snobism on my part, but it served to keep me inside myself, which is what snobbery is for” (202–03). No struggle of his life was more constant, intense, and sometimes debilitating than his effort to remain free, to keep himself inside himself, to be his own man. It must have been during his stay in Southsea, those six years of his childhood spent in terrible exile, that he felt the first strong

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stirrings of his will to be his own person. He stubbornly determined that he would not capitulate to the brainwashing of the woman in charge of him, Mrs. Holloway, but would own himself. Sticking to that decision no doubt brought on much of the abuse he suffered. He seemed to be reflecting back on that time when he wrote “Independence,” his rectorial address delivered at St. Andrews University on October 23, 1923: “Should any of you care to own yourselves on these lines [,] your insurances ought to be effected in those first ten years of a young man’s life, when he is neither seen nor heard. This is the period—one mostly spends it in lodgings alone—which corresponds to the time when man in the making began to realise that he was himself and not another.”20 “Independence” is an inspiring address, worthy of that high priest of self-reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Running through the speech, repeated over and over, is the importance of “owning” oneself. He defines independence as “the blessed state of hanging on to as few persons and things as possible, and it leads up to the singular privilege of a man owning himself ” (246). He might have added that the “blessed state” carries a high price, which he himself had to pay. For if “hanging on to as few persons” as possible brought self-ownership more within his reach, it dramatically intensified his loneliness, which he felt ever more keenly as the years went on. Arthur Gordon reports that Kipling said to him in 1935 that “to be your own man is a hard business. If you try it, you’ll be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”21 Despite all of the prominent people he knew well, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (his cousin), King George V, Theodore Roosevelt, Cecil Rhodes, Dr. L. S. Jameson, numerous other high officials in various governments, and scores of generals and admirals of signal importance—the list is truly impressive—none was really close to him, none was allowed entrance into the sanctum of a great heart that was determined to remain unfettered even if loneliness resulted. On the surface he seemed part of a web of high prominence, interacting with and greatly respected by those in whose hands Britain and its empire (as well as other lands) rested. In reality, his insistence upon self-ownership prevented any of those relationships from flourishing into deep and true (and thus intrusive) friendships. Rider Haggard indicated in his diary for November 15, 1918, that Kipling confided in almost no one but him and that “as he remarked, has no friends, except I think myself.”22 At one time he was strongly drawn to W. E. Henley, who early recognized his genius and published some of his poems in the Scots Observer. He remained grateful to Henley for what he had done for him but pulled away when, as Hilton Brown puts it, “Henley began to refer to his new genius as ‘one of my boys.’ ”23 Kipling was too jealous of his independence to allow himself to become a part of the “Henley Regatta.”

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In his rectorial address at St. Andrews, he argued that modern subtle forms of captivity have greatly increased the threat to self-ownership: “Nowadays, to own oneself in any decent measure, one has to run counter to a gospel, and to fight against its atmosphere; and an atmosphere, so long as it can be kept up, is rather cloying” (255). He clearly identified one danger as his fame grew, the lure of state honors, and he stubbornly protected his independence by rejecting them. Twice, in 1899 and in 1903, he refused knighthood. His wife noted that he felt he could “do his work better without it.”24 He was urged to run for Parliament in 1904 but answered his supporters by saying, in Carrington’s words, “that he could serve them better outside Parliament as an independent writer.”25 In these and in many other refusals like them, his motivation was not modesty but a dogged determination to own himself. According to Rider Haggard, Kipling was “approached during the war and asked to give his active support to and identify himself with the interests of certain political persons . . . and to write them up; in short to give them the weight of his name which is, of course, considerable. In return, he was informed, he would get ‘anything he wanted.’ His answer, practically was— ‘Go to Hell!’ ”26 What he wanted, above all else, was his independence. Apparently he did not consider literary and academic honors a threat to his independence and consequently allowed them to be heaped upon him (including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907), but he staunchly refused any high recognition or involvement that would officially commit him to a position or group. He urged the young men of St. Andrews, at least those of them “who care to own themselves,” to take heart and example from their ancestors, those “men of your own blood . . . who did their work on the traditional sack of peasmeal or oatmeal behind the door—weighed out and measured with their own hands against the cravings of their natural appetites. These were men who intended to own themselves. . . . [They were] a narrow and an anfractuous breed to handle; but, by their God, in Whose Word they walked, they owned themselves!” (258–59). The formula for self-ownership involves a large measure of self-discipline and self-denial together with devoted hard work. But whatever it requires, it is worth the effort. At the climactic moment in his speech, he echoes the cry of all those throughout the ages who have abhorred the idea of a mortgaged self: “At any price that I can pay, let me own myself ” (263). As he did on many occasions, he speculates on the thoughts and motivations of our primitive ancestors, here for the purpose of showing that the urge toward independence is in the blood of noble souls. People of independence, he suggests, inevitably feel the need to run away temporarily, to escape their surroundings. “At many different times in different places and ages,” he states, “it came over some one Primitive Man that he desired above everything to escape for a

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while from the sight and sound and the smell of his Tribe” (251). What motivated this action, “the power that possessed him,” was “a desire to own himself,” to experience keenly his independence (252). In this address Kipling thus linked together two of his own strongest proclivities: his drive for independence and his urge to escape. Escaping was for Kipling an essential aspect of the struggle for selfownership. He was aware, however, that if the motivation were anything else, escape could lead to the opposite state of dependence. His moods of despondency and desolation were bad enough in themselves, but even worse was a perceived horror—that they might take him over and control him. At some point, he discovered that physically removing himself from one place to another could release him from the bondage of darkness. In a speech of 1912 at Wellington College on “The Uses of Reading,” he explained that “there are some things that a man can’t discuss with anyone, and it isn’t right that he should.” He was referring to “times . . . of black depression and despair.” On this occasion, however, he advised a different way out of the dark places. Strangely (as it must have seemed), he recommended a certain kind of book, not a recognized masterpiece but a soothing work, something that is not “mind-taxing and soul-stirring.”27 Years later, in Something of Myself, he revealed what that particular experience was that he had referred to in his speech at Wellington College and identified the book that helped him: “It happened one hot-weather evening, in ’86 or thereabouts, when I felt that I had come to the edge of all endurance.” He describes how he came into his empty house just at dusk and felt there “a great darkness, that I must have been fighting for some days. I came through that darkness alive, but how I do not know. Late at night I picked up a book by Walter Besant which was called All in a Garden Fair. . . . That book was my salvation in sore personal need, and with the reading and rereading it became to me a revelation, a hope and strength” (63–64). No doubt Kipling would have made it through this episode of “great blackness” without the aid of Besant’s All in a Garden Fair. More than likely he was ascending from the pit by the time he picked up the novel and started reading it. In Besant’s book, Kipling found not so much a life preserver for that particular descent into the maelstrom of darkness but “a hope and strength” for the future, when his vision of desolation would again threaten to sink him in despair. That is, All in a Garden Fair was a “revelation” to him because it furnished him with hope based on a course of action he could take. Much in Besant’s story appealed to him—the value of hard and dedicated work, the importance of strong character, and the nobility of true friendship—but the revelation of which he writes did not derive from Besant’s treatment of these ideals, all of which Kipling had

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already espoused. Nor did he have to read All in a Garden Fair to realize that he could have a career in writing as does one of the heroes of the novel, the struggling young writer Allen Engledew.28 All in a Garden Fair is a novel about escape, escape from dull, grueling routine and poverty, escape from bleakness, escape from the village of failure. Kipling’s revelation was that he, too, was free to escape, not just once or twice but over and over, whenever the darkness threatened to engulf him. He found respite from hopelessness in this thought, and he clung to it for the rest of his days. Traveling thus came to be Kipling’s most often employed strategy against encroachments of the Great Darkness. In his early days, however, he experienced more bondage than freedom. As a child, he had been more or less a prisoner at Southsea, and even with the pleasure and high jinx of the United Services College at Westward Ho!, he was still confined. At his new job in India, full of excitement but also of frantic hard work and physical hardship, he felt trapped as did most of his Anglo-Indian acquaintances. In the same year that he read Besant’s All in a Garden Fair, 1886, he expressed in an unsigned article in the Civil and Military Gazette his sense of being trapped. The refrain of this telling essay, “Prisoners and Captives (By One of Them),” is “can’t get out.” A persistent hopelessness hangs over his existence in India and that of all those around him, who speak of “going home” but who never do. “It may be,” he writes, “that you or I are tied and bound by the chain of our own sins to these shores in an hundred thousand different ways. What is the good of curiosity? It is enough that we came here many many years since; that we are always ‘going home’ and we never go.”29 This brief but powerful essay, which Kipling chose not to include in his collected works (perhaps because it was so intimately personal), depicts with intense poignancy the nadir of despair. He refers to himself and to his “fellow prisoners” as “we of the Lost Estate” and describes their plight: “The hopeless longing; the bitter remorse of opportunities missed, and silver squandered; the unavailing repentance and the sickness of soul; all these we have.” In despair, he feels “overweighted with invisible burdens; pressed back, crippled, restrained, hampered, shackled, bound and caged.”30 But Kipling did escape from India. His poet-hero of school days, Walt Whitman, proved to be right about the therapeutic value of the open road, “the fascination of the Road,” as Kipling called it.31 When he was traveling and writing for the Pioneer in the years that followed his crisis of 1886, he gloried in the sense of being alive and free. In an article published in the Pioneer on February 10, 1888, he indicates what his new freedom means to him: “It is good, good beyond expression, to see the sun rise upon a strange land and to know that you have only to go forward and possess that land— that it will dower you before the day is ended with a hundred new

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impressions and, perhaps, one idea.”32 He contrasts his current ability to escape with the necessity of confinement that others face, for example, the “Subaltern who has Orderly Room, the ’Stunt who has Office, or the Judge who has the Court to attend.” He, on the other hand, is no longer a prisoner but “only a loafer in a flannel shirt bound, if God pleases, to ‘little Boondi’, somewhere beyond the faint hills beyond the plain.”33 While traveling in Japan in 1889, he sent an article to the Pioneer in which he portrays with obvious admiration “a fascinating man, with heaps of money, who had collected Indian and Japanese curios all his life, and was now come to this country to get some old books which his collection lacked.” To have plenty of money and to travel widely—that was a life to be greatly desired. “Can you imagine,” he continues, “a more pleasant life than his wanderings over the earth, with untold special knowledge to back each signature of his cheque-book?” 34 Though running away is commonly viewed negatively, it proved to be Kipling’s salvation—escape from India, escape from Vermont, escape from England during its desolate winters, and so on. Escape became his dominant pattern of behavior. His wide and frequent travels during his adult life suggest not only a love of fresh scenery and a pronounced curiosity about cultural differences but a deep-seated need to get away. Even before she married him, Caroline Balestier remarked on this characteristic in a letter to her sister Josephine: “He is always game to go anywhere. It is staying that bothers him.”35 Near the writing table in his study at Bateman’s, he kept not one but two large globes. None of his possessions of later life is more telling, more revealing of his impulses, than these globes, the most prominent objects in the room. They were there at his fingertips not merely for geographical reference but to serve as comforting reminders that the world was readily accessible to him, that he could set out at almost any time on “The Long Trail,” as he called it in one of his most vigorous poems of escape: “And it’s time to turn on the old trail, our own trail, the out trail,/ Pull out, pull out, on the Long Trail— the trail that is always new!”36 He remarked with delighted approval that “It is Stevenson who says that the ‘invitation to the road’, nature’s great morning song, has not yet been properly understood or put to music.”37 But the open road was not just an invitation to him; it was a compulsion. He became one of England’s most traveled authors not merely because he found the role invigorating— though he certainly did—but also because he was afraid of what would overtake him if he did not travel. If he could not remove the dark and threatening cloud from his sky, he could remove himself by speeding from under it to brighter spots ahead. At times, he seemed almost desperate to travel, so he sped away, trying to outrun the cloud. In fact, he undertook

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extensive trips late in life when his physical condition would probably have made them prohibitive to other men. Occasionally, however, running away did not work for him. In 1891, the year before his marriage, he made two rather abrupt journeys that failed to free him from the captivity that so distressed him. Some of Kipling’s biographers have found odd his sudden decision to travel to New York City to visit an uncle he hardly knew and then, on the heels of his return to England, his determination to embark on a journey round the world. His friend Wolcott Balestier was gravely ill, and he apparently had an “understanding” with Wolcott’s sister Carrie. Yet he suddenly decided to leave by himself on a lengthy adventure. Though he gave as his reason for the extended voyage his desire to visit Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa and though his physicians did recommend a restful time at sea for “overwork,” the circumstances of his departure lead to the suspicion that he had a deeper motive. Relying on “personal Information” as his source, Carrington mysteriously but intriguingly states that Kipling’s courtship of Carrie “did not run smoothly.”38 At least one biographer flatly states that Kipling “bolted,” that “he ran away” from an involvement that was moving too rapidly for him.39 So deep was his revulsion at the thought of being trapped that he was driven to run away even if he cared for a friend and loved that man’s sister, even if he wanted to be married. In other words, he left at this time probably in an effort to maintain his independence. He must have been in a terrible quandary—repulsed and allured at the same time. His fear of losing his own independence was accompanied by an equally strong attraction to Carrie mainly because of what he perceived her to be. She was one of those American women who seemed to him “original,”“self-possessed,” and “superbly independent.” Such a view goes a long way toward explaining why he was drawn to the rather plain Caroline Balestier in the first place. So taken was he with her display of independence and with her take-charge organizational talents that reservations about her on the part of his mother and others, including his friend Lucy Clifford, failed to deter him.40 Therefore, upon the sad news of Wolcott’s death, he aborted his escape, returned to London, and quickly married Carrie. Love and honor demanded that he do so even if it meant sacrificing his own independence. In years to come he found himself in a kind of captivity from which duty prevented escape. To be sure, he had tried to run away from commitment, but he painfully discovered that there could be a drawback to fleeing. Where it conflicted with honor, escape for a man like him was impossible. During the long span of his married life, he fled often from one place to another but never from Carrie, never in violation of honor or duty. Unquestionably, his awareness of their incompatibility and of her

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dominance added greatly to his distress, but he simply had to make the best of a situation in which fate had enveloped him. In describing the nature of her father’s married life, Elsie Kipling Bambridge chose the word bondage: “My mother introduced into everything she did, and even permeated the life of her family with, a sense of strain and worry amounting sometimes to hysteria. Her possessive and rather jealous nature, both with regard to my father and to us children, made our lives very difficult, while her uncertain moods kept us apprehensively on the alert for possible storms. There is no doubt that her difficult temperament sometimes reacted adversely on my father and exhausted him, but his kindly nature, patience, and utter loyalty to her prevented his ever questioning this bondage, and they were seldom apart.” Elsie goes on to praise her mother for her business ability and courage but then adds: “My father’s much exaggerated reputation as a recluse sprang, to a certain extent, from her domination of his life. . . .”41 Fame did not decrease the frequency of Kipling’s periods of darkness but if anything increased them. Gradually he came to recognize that acclaim was a pernicious trap. He was lured into it by the bait of acceptance, which he always craved. He then found that increased responsibilities closed the avenues of escape. In a mood of despondency, he mused on this subject, the failure of success, in “The Song of Diego Valdez.” The monologue of Diego Valdez, high admiral of Spain, is Kipling’s thinly veiled personal lament of regret, which echoes the Biblical admonition “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 17.26). In 1902 Kipling, like Valdez, had reached a high level of success and popularity. He had greatly “prospered” and was in a sense an admiral of the literary world. When he has Valdez speak of his rise to great heights, Kipling is unquestionably describing his own newly acquired fame:
To me my King’s much honour, To me my people’s love— To me the pride of Princes And power all pride above; To me the shouting cities, To me the mob’s refrain:— “Who knows not noble Valdez, Hath never heard of Spain.”

What Kipling has lost, however, is the real subject of the poem, not what he has gained. Concurrent with a rise in reputation is a diminishment of independence. He has become a man shackled to prominence. Valdez

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recounts his step-by-step progress made through the accomplishment of great deeds (in Kipling’s case, works), but these deeds “wrought a deeper treason,” for ironically “they sold Diego Valdez/ To bondage.” Now, “bewildered, dispossessed,” he has become a captive to the position he sought for himself:
But, crowned by Fleet and People, And bound by King and Pope— Stands here Diego Valdez To rob me of my hope.

He hoped for independence, but fame produces bondage, and now there is no escape back to what he was, for he is bound to the image of himself that he has created, and his sense of duty is a cage. He wields great influence, and his word is important, but sometimes in despair he feels that he is no longer his own man. While his fame was in the making, Kipling discovered that he could flee when he felt despondent over being caught and controlled; when fame arrived, he found that he could still run away, but he had to take his prison house with him: “To me the straiter prison,/ To me the heavier chain.” The victory of duty over freedom, manifested with painful but unavoidable consequences in Kipling’s life, is a major theme in his works. It is brilliantly developed, for example, in “At the End of the Passage” (1890), a story about being caught. All four characters in the work seem to echo the mantra of “Prisoners and Captives”: “can’t get out.” Kipling begins the story on a note of confinement: “Four men, each entitled to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ sat at a table playing whist” (328). They deserve freedom, but they do not have it. Mottram of the Indian Survey rides each Sunday from his isolated desert station just to spend a little time with three of his own kind (329). Lowndes of the Civil Service likewise steals time from his post as adviser to a poor and badly managed native state, and Dr. Spurstow takes forty-eight hours away from his duties as physician to a camp of coolies where cholera is rampant to join his fellow Englishmen (330). Loss of liberty echoes as a theme through this dark story as these three hardworking men, like those Kipling described in “Prisoners and Captives,” find themselves caught in “the Great Indian Empire when she turns herself for six months into a house of torment” (345). Not one of them seems to consider escape an option. Only death brings release. When Hummil, the fourth character of the story, dies, his friend Mottram looks upon him as fortunate to escape even if it is into death. He “bent over the dead and touched the forehead lightly with his lips. ‘Oh, you lucky, lucky

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devil!’ he whispered” (356). Mottram, Lowndes, and Spurstow have made their way each Sunday to the squat, tiny dwelling occupied by Hummil, who is an assistant engineer supervising the construction of a railway line in a remote region of India. Exhausted from overwork, Hummil returns from his job each day “to face the echoing desolation of his bungalow” (354). Kipling is masterful in his depiction of this house, the setting for the entire story.42 It is a bungalow from hell—the Indian heat permeates every corner; dust from without invades from every crack; the pitiful furniture and fixtures evoke inexplicable sadness. An atmosphere of loneliness, isolation, and weariness prevails in this place of banal ugliness. It is a “house of torment” within a house of torment, India. Similarly, Hummil is a prisoner within a prisoner, a captive of himself as well as of the desolation around him. As his three friends arrive for their customary Sunday get-together, he is on the verge of collapse, exhausted by his efforts to elude capture while he is being chased in a recurrent nightmarish vision. Like the others, Hummil is a captive of India, and like his friends, his sense of duty holds him there even at the expense of his very life. Dr. Spurstow offers to write him a medical certificate that will get him leave to return home, but Hummil refuses because he knows that the man who would replace him is married and that his wife would perish in the surroundings where Hummil is forced to serve. Already trapped as he is in this barren sandy hell, he has visions of getting trapped in a hellish place. It is “a place—a place down there,” he tells Spurstow, who, worried about his behavior, spends the night with him. The situation has gone on for months, he claims, “and yet I’m not conscious of having done anything wrong” (350). This “place” of his visions is not a supernatural hell awaiting him after life as punishment for his sins but in reality is an intensified objectification of his present situation, of his being caught in the dead-end desolation of India, where he will die. What threatens to happen to him in this psychological parable that is his nightmare is already happening to him in real life. The face of the horrible figure who chases him down the corridors of his mind, “a blind face that cries and can’t wipe its eyes,” is really his own (352). Terror-stricken in his nightmare, he tries to avoid capture. “If I’m caught,” he tells Dr. Spurstow, “I die,—I die!” (351). The blind, staring eyes that Dr. Spurstow and his friends encounter in Hummil’s dead face when they return to his dwelling the following Sunday replicate the image that he is fleeing in his nightmare. He desperately wishes to get away from himself, to stop being what he is in order to survive, but the effort is useless. Ultimately and tragically, Hummil is the victim of himself, and to make this point, Kipling recurrently brings up the subject of suicide in the story. Hummil’s assistant, Bevins, commits suicide several days before the friends

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get together, and they discuss it at some length. Hummil tells them that Bevins came to him—out of his head—believing that he was back in England. Bevins lay down for a while until the “fit,” or more likely, hallucination, passed, “rubbed his eyes” and claimed to be better (336). He then went to his bungalow and shot himself. Bevins’s behavior is later reflected in that of Hummil upon his also seeing a hallucination (an image of himself). “This is bad,—already,” he says, “rubbing his eyes” (354). Although Hummil does not shoot himself, Dr. Spurstow is afraid that he will do so, for earlier he had revealed that he was thinking of suicide. In explaining why he indicated in his official report that Bevins’s death was an accident, Hummil says: “Some day I may need a man to smother up an accident to myself. Live and let live. Die and let die” (337). Such talk of doing himself in troubles Dr. Spurstow, who tries to turn Hummil’s mind from thoughts of suicide by appealing to his sense of duty. “Suicide,” he declares, “is shirking your work” (338). Later he slips away and puts Hummil’s firearms out of commission. References to suicide connect Hummil with Bevins as do their experiencing hallucinations and their performing the same act of rubbing their eyes. Kipling’s purpose is probably to suggest that they suffer kindred fates: in a way they are both suicides. Hummil could have saved himself—by escaping from India—but he refused to do so because of his devotion to duty, a fact that makes Dr. Spurstow’s lecture on suicide as the shirking of work highly ironic.43 Kipling depicts in his works another hellish psychological disturbance with which he himself appears intimately familiar, an episode of horror (perhaps akin to what is now called a panic attack) in which control over oneself seems completely lost. That particular aspect of the phenomenon— loss of what Kipling called self-ownership—was in itself enough to fill him with dread and darkest despair. Philip Mason points out that Kipling was “haunted by pain and terror” and argues that episodes in the author’s life furnish the basis for the mental torment that some of his characters go through: “That he had experienced something of what he tried to describe seems to me an inescapable conclusion.”44 Mason is referring in particular to the short story “In the Same Boat” (1911). In that work, Conroy, a young man of twenty-five, tells his physician, Dr. Gilbert, that attacks of fear have victimized him since he was a boy and are now driving him mad. These “visitations,” as Dr. Gilbert calls them, threaten to make Conroy into another kind of person, to unman him, and to destroy his independence. Each experience seems to be accompanied by “a spasm,” which Conroy describes as follows: “Suppose you were a violin-string—vibrating—and some one put his finger on you? As if a finger were put on the naked soul! Awful!” (81). Then a “horror” follows, he explains, and “knocks me out for days” (81–82). Perhaps the strangest aspect of these strange episodes is the

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warning, the “sentence,” that Conroy always experiences. He knows when “the Thing,” which he also refers to as “the horror” “the visitation,” and “the Lier-in-Wait,” is coming, and he realizes the futility of evasion: “Oh, I’ve tried exercise and everything. But—if one sits down for a minute when it’s due—even at four in the morning—it runs up behind one” (82). When “the mysterious and painful manifestations,” as J. M. S. Tompkins calls them,45 finally materialize, they take the form of what Dr. Gilbert terms “delusions,” namely a disconnected series of images involving a shipwreck and death. Conroy has come to Dr. Gilbert as his last resort. He, like Hummil in “At the End of the Passage,” has seriously considered suicide: “When at last Conroy faced a real doctor, it was, he hoped, to be saved from suicide by strait-waistcoat” (86–87). Significantly, the breaking of this cycle of panic and despair can be accomplished only by escaping, by running away, the remedy Kipling had himself adopted. Dr. Gilbert recommends that Conroy take a railway journey, it matters not where, and pairs him with a young woman, Miss Henschil, who is suffering from like visitations. She also receives warning (she calls it “notice”) and agonizingly awaits the return of her terrible “delusions,” faces that seem to be eaten away by mildew amid a desolate place: “Ah! But the place itself—the bareness—and the glitter and salt smells, and the wind blowing the sand!” (93). Fear dominates their lives. They have fallen into the pit of despair in which life no longer seems worth living. By realizing that another is afflicted in the same way, however, by encouraging and supporting each other, and by running away several times on the train together when a visitation is due, they manage to leave the terrible darkness behind.46 As it turns out, they find it easier to stop the visions than to free themselves from a form of captivity that they brought upon themselves through an effort to ward off their visitations—drug addiction. For an author of his particular time, long before drug addiction became the familiar and rampant evil that it is today, Kipling was unusual in being so keenly interested in—almost eerily fascinated with—the power of addictive drugs to entrap and enslave. He seems uncannily modern in this area of his concern (as he does in several others). He delineates with rare authority the psychology of addiction and details with knowledgeable empathy the torture that it produces. In one of his visits to a den of the Black Smoke in India, he encountered an addict who was willing to show him in detail how to prepare an opium pipe and smoke it. The symbolism of what he witnessed in this den struck him with great poignancy. The user had “coiled round his neck” a pet mongoose, which in Kipling’s eyes was a tangible representation of the “devil” that possessed and controlled him. It was his evil “familiar spirit,” the addiction that would not let go. As Kipling leaves the den, he saw

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“the man with the mongoose sinking, sinking on his knees, his head bowed forward, and the little hairy devil chattering on the nape of his neck.”47 Addiction is, in fact, another strand in the theme of captivity in “At the End of the Passage,” for if Hummil had lived, as Kipling makes clear in the story, he would have turned to drugs for relief, just as Conroy and Miss Henschil do, thus trying to free himself from one form of captivity by moving to another, a further irony in a work where irony abounds. He is already familiar with the sedative “bromide of potassium,” probably through the apothecary to whom he has ready access, and he mentions this particular drug to Dr. Spurstow. Another character, Shend of “The Dog Hervey,” seems addicted to “bromide” in the form of a “tooth-wash.” He says that “the tooth-wash does the trick” for him.48 Consequently, he cleans his teeth a “half a dozen times a day.” When he comes to the narrator for help during a night of unsettling visions, Shend has him send out for more of the drug.49 In “At the End of the Passage,” Hummil finds the morphine that Dr. Spurstow gives him “positively heavenly,” and he pleads, “you must give me that case [of morphine] to keep” (348).50 He responds to the drug with “unalloyed and idiotic delight” and looks forward to more of it (348). Dr. Spurstow, on the other hand, calls morphine “the last appeal of civilization,” and admits that he hates to use it because he knows its power to entrap (348). Kipling knew from experience just how “heavenly” opium could make one feel. When he suffered the agony of stomach pains and sleeplessness during the summer of 1884 in Lahore, he took the opium that his bearer offered him. Relief from both pain and insomnia followed but so did some bad dreams and an understanding of the pernicious temptation that opium creates in those who use it. The drug that has taken over the lives of Conroy and Miss Henschil in “In the Same Boat” is less potent than the “morphia” that Dr. Spurstow gives Hummil, but it is nonetheless addictive and equally debilitating. In fact, it is more pernicious because more readily accessible. It inevitably sinks the user in dark despair. Conroy can purchase the drug, “Najdolene,” without seeing a physician and does so. The “tabloids” come packaged appealingly in a small tube, which Conroy hides in his glove so that it will be handy when he is away from home. Dr. Gilbert admonishes him that he should have “consulted a doctor before using—palliatives” (81). Conroy answers that the visitations were driving him crazy and that he had to take the little pills of Najdolene to dull the terror. “And now,” he admits, “I can’t give them up” (81). Freeing themselves from this drug, which controls them and prevents them from owning themselves, is the major challenge Conroy and Miss Henschil face on their train-ride escapes. Kipling depicts with startling empathy the almost unendurable suffering their craving for the drug

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produces and delineates convincingly their painful step-by-step battle with it and their final withdrawal and release from it. He reveals the intensity of their suffering not only directly but also indirectly through the highly original and thoroughly unexpected outcome of their relationship. Though preparation seems to be underway in several places for Conroy and Miss Henschil to be romantically linked in the end, Kipling disappoints that expectation in order to express obliquely but forcefully the lasting effects of the horrors they have experienced. They have been through hell together, and their tie to each other has been forged with such strength that their relationship actually transcends physical attraction and marriage. They are too close, their love is too deep, for marriage. They are in a sense related; they are like twins. In addition, if they remained together, one would remind the other of experiences that are best put behind them. “Helen All Alone,” the poem that accompanies “In the Same Boat” in A Diversity of Creatures (1917) makes this point clear. The poem is the story in brief. The speaker depicts his despair before he met “Helen”; he dwelt in darkness and abandonment: “Sun and moon and stars were hid,/ God had left His Throne.” Then Helen came to him, and “Side by side . . . / We stole out of Limbo Gate/ Looking for the Earth.” Together, “hand in pulling hand,” they faced a “fear no dreams have known.” He fled, and “Helen ran with me.” The “Horror” that “hunted us along” was inexpressible, “passing speech,” and created a fear that caused “Reason” to be “overthrown.” Still, she, only she, “stood by me, she did,/ Helen all alone,” and at last they finally were rid “of what the Night had shown.” Then they parted, as they both knew they must do:
Let her go and find a mate, As I will find a bride, Knowing naught of Limbo Gate Or Who are penned inside. There is knowledge God forbid More than one should own. So Helen went from me, she did, Oh my soul, be glad she did! Helen all alone!

A preoccupation with independence lay at the heart of Kipling’s horror of drug addiction.51 Those addicted to drugs are escaping, to be sure, but not for the purpose of independence. Self-ownership is not the goal of drug addicts but self-abdication, and no condition of human degradation was more terrible to Kipling than that, as he made clear in “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” (1884), his early short story that grew out of observations

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of opium dens in India. Though this story has a frame narrator, it is essentially the monologue of an addict whose use of opium has brought him to that peculiar form of contentment, detached and cold non-caring. The half-caste Gabral Misquitta is Kipling’s striking and terrifying representation of what it means to be totally controlled, of having no claim of ownership at all over oneself. The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows is an opium den operated first by old Fung-Tching, a Chinaman clean in his ways and careful about both the opium he purchases and his clientele, and then by his nephew, Tsin-ling, who is careful about neither. Although Misquitta seems puzzled as to why the den is called The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows, it is clear that old Fung-Tching was not thinking of the sorrows produced by opium when he named his place but the sorrows from which his clients wished to escape, taking to the drug for release. By entering the gate of opium, they can flee their painful sorrows. Indeed, Misquitta has been on opium so long that he has a difficult time even remembering the woe that drove him to it. He has lost his sense of self, his identity. He recalls only that he “had a wife of sorts” and that he may have had indirectly a part in her death, but he feels no guilt or sense of loss.“It’s been so long,” he says,“that it doesn’t matter. Sometimes when I first came to the Gate, I used to feel sorry for it; but that’s all over and done with long ago, and I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month [from an inheritance], and am quite happy. Not drunk happy, you know, but always quiet and soothed and contented.”52 The most terrifying aspect of Misquitta’s condition is his contentment, for it is truly death in life. The shadow of death hangs over the den, where the fancy coffin of Fung-Tching, which he brought out from China, occupies a central position awaiting the old man’s death. Misquitta likes to take his place near it while he smokes and hallucinates, the dragon figures on the coffin moving about and fighting. Completely numbed to life, his mind enthralled, he thinks only of the kind of death he wants: “One of these days, I hope, I shall die in the Gate. . . . I should like to die like the bazar-woman [a former fellow client at the Gate]—on a clean, cool mat with a pipe of good stuff between by lips. . . . Then I shall lie back, quiet and comfortable, and watch the black and red dragons have their last big fight together. . . . Well, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters much to me— only I wish Tsin-ling wouldn’t put bran into the Black Smoke.”53 Nowhere in Kipling’s early writings is his genius more clearly in evidence, his talent for—as he put it—getting into another man’s skin, his sure touch with understatement and irony. That irony is even more poignant when “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” is placed in juxtaposition to “In an Opium Factory,” an essay that Kipling published in the Pioneer about four-and-a-half years later (1889). Considered together, one intensifies the irony of the other. Whereas the

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short story reveals in stark, powerful imagery created with masterful understatement the “quartz contentment” (as Emily Dickinson might say) of opium addiction, the essay describes the process by which the deadly enslaving substance is produced for the sole purpose of enriching the government. As if to link the two works, Kipling begins both in the same manner, by describing the locations of the two places. Gabral Misquitta begins his monologue: “It lies between the Coppersmith’s Gully and the pipe-stem sellers’ quarter, within a hundred yards, too, as the crow flies, of the Mosque of Wazir Khan.”54 Using some of the same words, Kipling begins the essay: “On the banks of the Ganges, forty miles below Benares as the crow flies, stands the Ghazipur Factory, an opium mint as it were, whence issue the precious cakes that are to replenish the coffers of the Indian Government” (italics mine).55 “In an Opium Factory” is an exercise in ingenious tedium, which is the result of numerous details associated with the weighing of opium, testing, and record keeping at the factory. Casually considered, it is a typical (and a typically dull) “process” essay. This language of mundane facts, however, which is focused narrowly on how the opium cakes are made, clashes dramatically and ingeniously with hints of why they are made, and underlying it all is the unspoken message of what they do to human beings like Gabral Misquitta. The final words of the narrator, seemingly happy and optimistic, are dreadful in their implication: “And this is the way the drug, which yields such a splendid income to the Indian Government, is prepared.”56 Two metaphorical patterns create much of the essay’s irony. What should be an abhorred substance is described in terms of gold. The cakes are like gold coins from a mint. Words like pure (and numerous references to purification and refinement) and phrases that suggest great value intensify the irony that results from the comparison of opium with gold. The narrator’s guide through the factory explains about the opium: “All the time it is in our hands we have to look after it and check it, and treat it as though it were gold.”57 Another ironic undertone is created from the comparison of the drug with food. The opium arrives in “jars,” is placed into “pots,” and is “prepared” (as is food) into “cakes” by carefully following an exact recipe. One of the cakes is cut open for the narrator so that he can see the layers. By associating nourishment with opium, Kipling reaps the reward he desired, an effect of stark and terrible irony. If Kipling were convinced that to live is to know hell, his dreadful experiences with sleeplessness were at least partially responsible. Insomnia plagued him from an early age and was probably the root of much in his vision and writings that is dark and despairing. In Something of Myself, he recounts his first experience with insomnia, which occurred after his mother had taken him from Lorne Lodge to a quiet semirural lodging

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house on Brompton Road. “Here, for the first time,” he writes, “it happened that the night got into my head” (19). He means, I take it, that the darkness did not comfortably surround him from without and distantly and pleasantly relax him as was usual but broke through its bounds, invaded his inner self, and affronted him, thus keeping him tensely awake. Consequently, he “wandered about that still house till daybreak” (19). Wandering in the darkness when others were asleep became an all-toofrequent occurrence in his life thereafter.“I did not know then.” he continues, “that such night-wakings would be laid upon me through my life” (20). Angus Wilson has suggested that insomnia was his “misery,” his “torture”: “Loss of sleep lies behind so much of the pure torment in his work.”58 It did not create his vision of darkness, but it unquestionably intensified it. It was not always the cause of his descent into the dark places, but it made his stays there more prolonged than they otherwise might have been. The suffering caused by insomnia is the subject of an essay that he wrote (but did not sign) for the Civil and Military Gazette (1886), “From Dusk to the Dawn,” which like “Prisoners and Captives” he omitted from his collected works. In it he establishes “death through want of sleep” as the greatest torture that one person can inflict upon another, a punishment at which, he claims, the Chinese are adept. He describes the step-by-step increments of torment experienced by those convicted of treason in China and forced to remain awake. But a torture even “superior in degree” to the Chinese punishment is insomnia. He does not know the source of it; perhaps it is nature’s punishment “for some law disregarded, for some ordinance neglected—a treason against herself.” Whatever the cause, with insomnia “sleep [is taken] out of your possession . . . and, with a refinement of cruelty which even the Chinese would abandon, . . . you become your own guard” who keeps you awake. During this period, “you groan in bitterness of spirit at the elusive thoughts that will not let you rest. Like the Chinese Guards they drag you forward whether you will or no; your body crying out against the tyranny.” If you happen to be in India’s severe heat, as he is, the torment is greatly intensified: “It is like being buried in a vault.” In this hopeless and seemingly endless plight, there is “nothing to do but to listen to the myriads of disconnected thoughts . . . and to see the shapes of them. . . . Your body would sell its pestilent restless soul to eternal perdition for one six hour spell of solid, clean, wholesome, refreshful sleep,” but it does not come.59 Kipling convincingly described the results of prolonged sleeplessness in his portrayal of Hummil in “At the End of the Passage,” so convincingly, in fact, that most critics and biographers who have dealt with “At the End of the Passage” feel that the work is in some measure autobiographical.60 Hummil’s insomnia results in a change of personality as evidenced by

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erratic and uncharacteristic behavior. During a meal thrown together from scant provisions, Hummil becomes oddly aggressive and sarcastic, which causes Mottram and Lowndes to conclude their visit hurriedly. When Hummil and the doctor, who has decided to spend the night, retire for the evening, Spurstow notices that “there was no movement on Hummil’s part. The man had composed himself as rigidly as a corpse, his hands clinched at his sides. The respiration was too hurried for any suspicion of sleep. Spurstow looked at the set face. The jaws were clinched, and there was a pucker round the quivering eyelids” (346). Alarmed, the doctor asks what is wrong: “He sprang up, trembling from head to foot. ‘I haven’t been able to sleep naturally for days, and I can’t stand it!—I can’t stand it!’ ” (347). Clearly, the vision that haunts Hummil, of “a place—a place down there” and of being pursued by “a blind face that cries and can’t wipe its eyes,” is not an ordinary dream or nightmare. It does not occur in sleep but while Hummil is lying in bed before sleep in that state between wakefulness and sleep known as hypnagogia.61 Indeed, it is this hypnagogic nightmare that brings on Hummil’s inability to sleep. He explains to Dr. Spurstow: “Before this awful sleeplessness came to me I’ve tried to rest on my elbow, and put a spur in the bed to sting me when I fell back” (351). His motive for placing a spur in his bed is ambiguous. In his state of extreme fear, he may believe that it will spur him on, that is, make him run faster in his hypnagogic nightmare by pricking him, as a horse is rowelled by its rider. More than likely, however, the spur’s function is to keep him awake so that he will not have to experience the nightmare. He desperately wishes to rest, but he knows that on the way to sound sleep, he must go through that “place,” which awaits him. The “place” thus interposes itself between him and sleep, and the only way to avoid its terrors is to remain awake. By doing so, he loses the ability to sleep at all, and insomnia takes its deadly toll. When Dr. Spurstow—Kipling’s choice of his name is intriguing—asks Hummil’s personal servant his opinion of what killed him, he replies: “Heaven-born, in my poor opinion, this that was my master has descended into the Dark Places, and there has been caught because he was not able to escape with sufficient speed. We have the spur for evidence that he fought with Fear. Thus have I seen men of my race do with thorns when a spell was laid upon them to overtake them in their sleeping hours and they dared not sleep” (357). To need sleep but dare not sleep and then to be incapable of sleep makes for a living hell.62 Among the possible consequences of exhaustion and insomnia are various kinds of visual and other sensory distortions. Andreas Mavromatis describes the “motor behavior” of those deprived of sleep as “erratic.” They find it difficult to select the right words to speak and experience both “tactile hallucinations” and “visual hallucinations such as seeing . . . people standing in the room.”63 Such are the very symptoms Hummil complains of

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as he pleads with Dr. Spurstow to help him to get beyond his hypnogogic nightmare: “Give me something to make me sleep. I tell you I’m nearly mad. I don’t know what I say half my time. For three weeks I’ve had to think and spell out every word that has come through my lips before I dared say it. Isn’t that enough to drive a man mad? I can’t see things correctly now, and I’ve lost my sense of touch. My skin aches—my skin aches! Make me sleep. Oh, Spurstow, for the love of God make me sleep sound” (347, italics mine). Some of Kipling’s characters hallucinate because of prolonged insomnia, but others are afflicted because of high fever, exhaustion, drug use, or a psychological crisis. Whatever their cause, hallucinations prepare the ground for a special hell because they destroy a sense of the reality of self. They take control over the mind and bring about confusion, hopelessness, and crippling fear. In Kipling’s hands, hallucinations become an effective means of depicting human beings in the grip of a dark force that deprives them of their sense of self-ownership and identity. His interest in hallucinations and his keen understanding of their pernicious effects on the mind were derived at least in part from his own experiences with them. One disturbing episode occurred when as a child he visited “The Grange,” home of his aunt and uncle on North End Road, Fulham. Lord Birkenhead recounts the incident as follows: “On one of his holidays at ‘The Grange’ he had suddenly begun to lash with his stick at an apple tree in the garden. When asked why he had done this he announced: ‘I thought it was Grandmama, and I had to beat it to see.’ ”64 His peculiar behavior led to an eye-examination from which his deficient vision was discovered for the first time and glasses prescribed. Though one with poor eyesight may mistake a tree for a person, the use of a stick suggests that Kipling did not just see indistinctly but saw something distinctly that was not there, realized that it was not real, and tried to destroy the hallucination. Andrew Lycett goes so far as to state that “Rudyard’s hallucinations were linked to a form of mental instability.”65 Lord Birkenhead comments that Kipling “was to suffer from them [hallucinations] in later life when overworked, and to describe one with terrifying effect in At the End of the Passage.”66 In his letters and his autobiography, Kipling refers occasionally to his eyes. He did suffer from bad eyesight, but when he speaks of his eyes playing tricks on him, he is not alluding to his inability to see clearly but to hallucinations. Sometimes he could get rid of the “blue devils” caused by insomnia and hallucinations only by working hard. In other words, hard work on these particular occasions did not cause the hallucinations but cured them. He makes that point in a letter of July 11, 1884, to his aunt Edith Macdonald:
As soon as I was alone in the big dark house my eyes began their old tricks again, and I was so utterly unstrung . . . that they bothered me a good deal.

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I could only avoid the shadows by working every minute that I could see, and I can say with my hand on my heart—I mean my head—that I cured myself by going sixteen hours grind a day at office. . . . It cured the blue devils but it about used me up.67

A few months earlier he had written to his Aunt Edith that he was suffering from “all sorts of disturbances in my eyes.”68 In Something of Myself, he tells of experiencing hallucinations while he was a child at Lorne Lodge, and he associates them with a psychological crisis, what he calls a nervous breakdown: “Some sort of nervous break-down followed, for I imagined I saw shadows and things that were not there, and they worried me more than the Woman” (18). If they were more of a problem to him than was Mrs. Holloway, they must have made his life miserable indeed. The hell on earth that hallucinations can bring about is Kipling’s focus in “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” (1885), a complex and subtle character portrayal in the guise of a ghost story. Its reputation as a Poe-inspired tale of ghostly horror and the evaluation of slightness thereby implied miss the mark, for it is not a ghost story at all but a psychological study dealing with the nature and infernal effects of hallucinations.69 It is a work of pronounced originality and ingenuity, an undervalued gem cut and polished by a master craftsman. When reminiscing about “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” in Something of Myself, Kipling implied that his main interest in the story was Jack Pansay’s inner life. After expressing his mild displeasure with some aspects of the work, he comments that “it was my first serious attempt to think in another man’s skin” (200). By that he meant not only walking in Jack Pansay’s shoes, that is, describing the intensity of his suffering as he goes through a living hell, but also getting inside his head to explore the causes of his problem. The subtle revelation of what is inside Pansay’s head creates a striking irony because Pansay himself does not know what is there, and it is he who tells his own story.70 “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” is made up of a brief frame introduction and then Jack Pansay’s account of his troubles.71 Having Pansay tell his own story is a masterstroke, but not so much for the reason sometimes given, namely that Kipling could thereby use language that would intensify the horror without taking responsibility for such an overblown style.72 What Kipling achieved through his method of narration was far more significant, for he discovered a way for a character to reveal indirectly through his own choice of words his innermost nature without recognizing that he was doing so. Pansay goes to considerable lengths to portray himself as a blackguard. He admits that he did not care as much for Mrs. Wessington as she cared for him, confesses to rejecting her abruptly and cruelly, and claims that such actions bothered him not at all.

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Looking back on his behavior, he states: “I attempt no excuse. I make no apology” (6). Though she never lost her temper with him, never accused him of using her, never professed anything but love for him, he admits that he came to loathe her. He destroys her, he states, with “the same instinct, I suppose, which prompts a man to savagely stamp on the spider he has but half killed” (7). When she dies, he is relieved of an “inexpressible burden” (10). After he hears Pansay tell of what he has done to Mrs. Wessington, Dr. Heatherlegh remarks: “I gather that you’ve behaved like a blackguard all through” (24). Three years after Jack’s death, however, Dr. Heatherlegh is not so sure that Pansay was as bad a character as he first thought. The doctor comments to the frame narrator: “He may or he may not have behaved like a blackguard” (3). Dr. Heatherlegh’s growing doubts that Pansay was really rakish and dishonorable are well founded. When not viewed through his own eyes, Pansay appears somewhat more decent. There is no indication in the story, for example, that he has a reputation among his fellow Anglo-Indians as a ruthless womanizer. What he does have a reputation for, as Dr. Heatherlegh makes clear, is a willingness to overwork himself. “The work of the Katabundi Settlement,” states the doctor, “ran him off his legs” (3). Even after his relationship with Mrs. Wessington is known to acquaintances at his club, they seem to pity him because of his mental condition rather than to despise him as a scoundrel. He is readily accepted as husband material by the highly proper Kitty Mannering and her morally alert parents until he makes known his illicit affair, which seems to surprise and shock everyone. As far as we know, it is the only one that he has ever had, and perhaps Mrs. Wessington is far from blameless. The wife of a military officer stationed near Bombay, she appears to have no qualms about initiating a relationship with Pansay and then chasing after him. In fact, she becomes obsessed with him and simply will not let him go. In his narrative, Pansay refuses to besmirch her reputation, but the form of his refusal is telling: “It does not in the least concern you to know what manner of woman she was” (5). Though he will not tell what sort of woman she was, he does describe her actions, which are those of an emotionally disturbed woman. The word used at one point to describe her, “sickly,” applies to more than her physical health (12). That she is an unfaithful wife who aggressively pursues and becomes obsessed with another man and who seems divorced from reality does not excuse Pansay for his treatment of her, but Kipling does not include these negative details and hints about her character without purpose. Their function is to ameliorate Pansay’s seeming callousness. Though Pansay comes across generally as something of a libertine, his narrative is curiously punctuated with signs of self-accusation. He regrets that he did not adequately thank the kind Dr. Heatherlegh for his

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concern and treatment (“Simla’s best and kindest doctor”). He calls his affair a “shameful story” (17). He refers to Mrs. Wessington as “the woman I had killed by my own neglect and cruelty” (35), and he ends his narrative with a stark confession: “In justice, too, pity her. For as surely as ever woman was killed by man, I killed Mrs. Wessington. And the last portion of my punishment is even now upon me” (38).73 If Pansay is not so bad after all, why then is he plagued with hallucinations that cause him to explore “thoroughly the lowest circles of the Inferno which it is permitted man to tread on earth”? Why is he haunted with delusions that make him falter “through the dark labyrinths of doubt, misery, and utter despair”? (29). The answer involves a phrase that he uses in the final paragraph of his narrative: “in justice.” The words are richly ambiguous: Pansay has committed an “injustice” not only toward Mrs. Wessington but even more significantly toward his own sense of decency, and “in justice” he will have to pay dearly. The phrase, which Pansay uses elsewhere as well, is part of a fairly extensive but unobtrusive pattern of references in the story all of which have to do with the exercise of justice, that is, with accusation of wrongdoing, trial by jury, pronouncement of guilt, and sentence carried out. Pansay twice says that he is (or is like) a “criminal,” and he calls himself an “offender.” On two occasions he says, as if speaking to a jury, “you judge for yourselves.” He uses the word punishment to describe his torment, and his entire narrative reads much like a statement by an accused, a written testimony or deposition. The idea of retributive justice, in fact, is an essential ingredient of “The Phantom ’Rickshaw.”74 It is in operation just when Pansay thinks that he has found his one true love and is about to become engaged to Kitty Mannering, just when he tells himself that he has forgotten all about Mrs. Wessington, just when he is the “happiest man in India” (10). It is an unusual form of retributive justice, however, for it is justice exacted upon oneself. Some of Mrs. Wessington’s letters to him turn up and remind him “unpleasantly” of his “bygone relationship.” Shortly after the letters appear, he begins experiencing the hallucinations that also remind him, with distinct unpleasantness, of his relationship with Mrs. Wessington. The letters and the hallucinations are thus linked; the hallucinations are psychological manifestations or projections of the letters, which in turn represent the record of his disgrace written on his mind like a letter in indelible ink and filed away, a record that cannot be erased despite his efforts.75 In his hallucinations, Mrs. Wessington repeatedly makes the same speech to him. Her remarks are eerily strange because she seems not to be speaking normally, that is, extemporaneously, but to be reading aloud. On each occasion, she appears to be reading words—the same ones over and over—that she might have used in a letter, perhaps one written

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to Pansay upon his breaking off with her, a letter that pleads for reconciliation: “Jack, darling! . . . I’m sure it’s all a mistake—a hideous mistake; and we’ll be good friends again some day. Please forgive me, Jack, dear” (7). Mrs. Wessington appears to Pansay in the form of hallucinations because she has never left his subconscious mind, buried away but still a threat to reappear at the right moment. In Pansay, Kipling has created a complex character who cannot rid himself of an act of dishonor as easily as he would like. It is true that he acted like a scoundrel. If he had been less of a blackguard, he would not have behaved toward Mrs. Wessington as he did. He believed that he could have an affair with a married woman and then when tired of her, indifferently toss her aside with impunity. When he attempts to do this, however, he finds himself haunted by her memory and tormented. The guilt that he consciously will not accept nevertheless indicts him, tries him, finds him culpable, and exerts punishment in the form of hallucinations and their hellish aftermath.76 Ironically, had he been more of a blackguard, he would have had no problems with guilt. As strange as it may seem, his destruction is a tribute to his decency. It is the result of his judgment upon himself. Consequently, he is in a way another one of Kipling’s suicides. Kitty Mannering’s father says more than he knows when he writes to Pansay that “a man who would have behaved to a woman as you did to Mrs. Wessington ought to kill himself ” (29). The frame narrator of the story states unequivocally that Pansay did just that: he “preferred to die” (4). Pansay himself reveals that his mental agony was so great that he hopes and prays each day for death. When Dr. Heatherlegh does all he can to cure him, Pansay indicates that he “declined firmly to be cured” (31). Although he believes that if he could get away from Simla, he would survive, he refuses to leave. He feels that it is his “destiny” to die there (36).77 Kipling seems to have been familiar with hallucinations of several varieties—those brought on by fever, those caused by exhaustion, those produced by drug use (including alcohol), and those occurring as part of a nervous breakdown or mental crisis. He found them all pernicious because they work deceptively through the senses, which are notoriously unreliable anyway, to unseat reason and self-control. That is why characters in Kipling’s work who are afflicted with them try counting or—in the instance of Jack Pansay—reciting the multiplication table. They are making a desperate attempt to prevent unreality from becoming for them reality.78 In his speech at McGill University in 1907, Kipling advised his youthful audience not to trust their senses, even their sense of sight: “Let me tell you again for your comfort that there are many liars in the world, but there are no liars like our own sensations.”79 A moment of sharp irony occurs in “The

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Phantom ’Rickshaw” when Pansay thinks that he is rid of hallucinations and that his sensations convey only reality to him. He is elated and remembers four lines of joy from Tennyson’s “The Palace of Art”:
Singing and murmuring in your feastful mirth, Joying to feel yourself alive; Lord over Nature, Lord of the visible Earth, Lord of the senses five.

Immediately after he recites this boast of being lord over the senses, one of them again betrays him. His sense of sight lies to him as Mrs. Wessington in the phantom rickshaw appears to him, and he rubs his eyes, a recurrent act of characters in Kipling’s work who hallucinate. Then Kitty Mannering speaks of a “hideous mistake.” Hallucinations themselves are horrible enough, but in their wake follows the mental torment that makes for a living hell, the city of dreadful night within. Hallucinations cause a breach in the psyche through which enter the dark demons of despair. The frame narrator of “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” is articulating this theory when he argues that “there was a crack in Pansay’s head and a little bit of the Dark World came through and pressed him to death” (3). The crack that he speaks of is devastation wreaked by hallucinations. The “Dark World” is the hell of self-doubt and hopelessness that invades through the breach to engulf the mind in utter darkness. Kipling reflects the desperate (if futile) prayer of everyone who has experienced the effects of unsettling hallucinations when he quotes at the beginning of “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” words from “Glory to Thee, My God, This Night,” a hymn composed by Bishop Thomas Ken (1637–1711): “May no ill dreams disturb my rest,/ Nor Powers of Darkness me molest.” A fairly long period of time separates the first publication of “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” in 1885 from that of two later stories, “The Dog Hervey” (1914) and “The Woman in His Life” (1928). That Kipling never stopped fearing the dark power of hallucinations and never lost interest in presenting them as a major cause of the hell that some people have to endure on earth is revealed in the fact that in all three of these stories they play an important role. In “The Dog Hervey,” a “youngish-looking middleaged man of the name of Shend,” the wealthy yacht-owning “son of some merchant prince in the oil and colour line,” is kind and helpful to the story’s narrator in his time of need when he is trying to care for some ill friends (172). Shend desperately needs a friend himself because he has for some time been tormented by hallucinations that have driven him to drug addiction and all but unhinged him. He admits that if the narrator had not

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sympathetically listened to his descriptions of the terror that he has been experiencing, he would have committed suicide: “If—if you’d chucked me—I should have gone down to my cabin after breakfast and cut my throat” (181). While they converse, Shend wanders in and out of rationality and finally confides in the narrator that he has “been seeing things for the last half-hour” that they have been talking (178). He hallucinates a weird squinting dog. Almost in “the full tide of delirium” he explains that “he— he’s been turning up lately a—a damn sight more often than I cared for. And a squinting dog—a dog that squints! I mean that’s a bit too much!” (179). If he is not helped, he confesses, “I shall go to pieces like the Drummond Castle” (178). Again in “The Woman in His Life,” a psychological crisis brings on a character’s collapse and resultant hallucinations. Without warning, John Marden one evening is cast into a deep hole of despair, full of “the horror, the blackness, the loss of the meaning of things” that makes for “that night’s Inferno.”80 A doctor prescribes a drug, a sedative, but it helps only a little. Depression overcomes him, and he, like Jack Pansay, seems a divided self as he hears “himself speaking as from the bottom of a black, cold crater” (47). Later he experiences even more of a separation into two selves: “Then there were two John Mardens—one dissolved by terror; the other, a long way off, detached, but as much in charge of him as he used to be of his underground shift at Messines” (52). After some weeks in the hell of despondency and unreasoned terror, he begins to hallucinate. Recurrently, he is haunted by a phantom dog, “pressed against the skirtingboard of his room—an inky, fat horror with a pink tongue” (49). The image “began as a spreading blur, which morning after morning became more definite. . . . It was borne in on John Marden one dawn that, if It crawled out into the centre of the room, the Universe would crash down on him” (49–50). At this point and later, he considers suicide. Seeing the seriousness of the situation, his faithful valet, Vincent Shingle, pawns Marden’s pistol so that it will not be within his reach. Terrified of the hallucinations, Marden walks long distances and in an effort to ward off madness counts his paces to prevent his envelopment in unreality.81 “The Dog Hervey” and “The Woman in His Life” differ from “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” in that hallucinations do not occupy center stage for as long, and both Shend and John Marden are able to survive them through the help of good friends and real dogs, in the one instance an actual squinting dog named Hervey, and in the other a jet black Aberdeen terrier named Dinah, the woman in Marden’s life. Nevertheless, the hallucinations that come close to driving Shend and Marden both to insanity and suicide are just as horrifying to them as those that bring on Pansay’s destruction, but by the time Kipling wrote the later stories he had become less intent upon

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depicting psychological destruction and more fascinated with the possibilities of psychological healing. His tragic vision of life remained intact, however, despite shifts in focus and indulgences in sentimental attitudes toward pets. After forty odd years, he described hallucinations and their effects on the mind in much the same way as he had earlier—with the same conviction that to experience them is to spend time in hell. If it is possible to experience nonvisual hallucinations, some of Kipling’s characters certainly do so, as, indeed, he himself did. Henry Wollin, the war-scarred veteran of “Fairy-Kist” (1927), hears “voices” demanding that he plant flowers wherever gardens do not exist. Another kind of eerie communication, that arising from physical settings in Kipling’s writings, often threatens the delicate emotional balance in his characters and can trigger a sudden drop in mood, which results in states of mind ranging from inexplicable dejection to panic. The house in which Hummil is forced to live in “At the End of the Passage,” for example, echoes “desolation” to him and contributes to his deplorable mental condition. From first-hand experience, Kipling knew all too well the results of this peculiar vulnerability, for it caused him much unhappiness and at times took such control of him that he feared both for his sanity and his identity. In Something of Myself, he writes of how in 1886 he came into his house in India and suddenly encountered there “a great darkness,” a strong negative influence that he could not explain (63). His susceptibility to what he conceived to be a kind of aura or influence that seemed to permeate certain locations is one of the more intriguing aspects of his life. This strange presence, distinctly felt if not seen, he called the “Genius of the Place,” the “Spirit of the Place,” or “feng-shui.” His journalistic assignment to visit the native states of Rajputana late in 1887 for material to send back to the Pioneer took him to the new and old cities of Chitor. Almost from the moment he made his way from the modern city up a hill to the ruins of what was once a great settlement, he sensed a weird and threatening presence. It was “the Genius of the Place,” he writes, speaking of it as a person “who sits at the gate nearest the new city and is with the sight-seer throughout.”82 Largely because of this vague but powerful influence, Kipling’s initial impressions of the ruined buildings were “repulsion and awe,” which were followed by even darker and more frightening emotions. Referring to himself in the third person, he states that “the Englishman” made his way so deeply into one of the ruined palaces of the abandoned city that “he came to an almost black-dark room,” where dread suddenly descended upon him with such intensity that he found it necessary to run away (110). Something about slickly worn steps and the general atmosphere of the place projected a message of unspeakable horror to him that unnerved and deeply depressed him.

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The evil Genius of the Place was not through with him yet, however. It was to confront him with much more intensity and to fill his mind and heart with utter darkness when he descended into the Gau-Makh. In James Tod’s Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (1829–32), Kipling had read of this place, which is described in objective guide-book fashion: “Through these abodes of silence, a rugged path leads to a sequestered spot in a deep cleft of the rock, where there is a living fountain, called the Gao-mukh, or ‘cow’s mouth,’ under the shade of an umbrageous bar tree.” Tod adds that from the fountain a subterranean passage leads to caves, “suites of chambers in the rock. This was the scene of the awful Johar, on the occasion of Ala sacking Chitor, when the queens perished in the flames; on which the cavern’s mouth was closed.”83 Elsewhere Tod recounts the legend that after “the ladies of Chitor had burnt themselves to ashes,” the cavern was considered sacred. “No eye has penetrated its gloom, and superstition has placed as its guardian a huge serpent whose ‘venomous breath’ extinguishes the light which might guide intruders to ‘the place of sacrifice.’ ”84 That Kipling was familiar with this story is clear from his statement that he “was conscious of remembering, with peculiar and unnecessary distinctness, that, from the Gau-Mukh, a passage led to the subterranean chambers in which the fair Pudmini and her handmaids had slain themselves. And, that Tod had written and the Station-master at Chitor had said that some sort of devil, or ghoul, or Something, stood at the entrance of that approach” (114–15). He admits that his recalling of this scary legend had its effect on his state of mind. To add to his apprehension, he was all alone in this solitary and silent place. He makes the point, however, that these factors were not responsible for the terror and dejection that came over him at the Gau-Mukh. He writes that the Gau-Mukh is “nothing more terrible than a little spring, falling into a reservoir, in the side of the hill” (113). The site “in itself was not specially alarming; but the Genius of the Place must be responsible for making it so” (114). On the next page, he repeats that “it was the fault of the Genius of the Place,” not its solitude or the legend of a ghoul lurking nearby or even “the loathsome Emblem of Creation” sculptured under the trickle of water, that made him react with revulsion and panic (115). He felt that he had been led into a kind of psychic “trap.” He imagined that “the Gau-Mukh gurgled and choked like a man in his death-throe.” He “endured as long as he could—about two minutes. Then it came upon him that he must go quickly out of this place of years and blood—must get back to the afternoon sunshine, and Gerowlia [his elephant being used for transportation], and the dak-bungalow with the French bedstead. He desired no archaeological information, he wished to take no notes, and, above all, he did not care to look behind him” (115). Covered with the cold sweat of fear, he escapes.

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He could not sleep during the night following his afternoon at the spring, and “then the sense of desolation, which had been strong enough in all conscience in the sunshine, began to grow and grow” (117). He rises from his bed and decides to see the ruins of Chitor by moonlight. As if by some secret force, he finds himself back at the same place from which he had run for his life earlier in the day:
It was as idiotic journey, and it ended—oh, horror!—in that unspeakable Gau-Mukh—this time entered from the opposite or brushwooded side, as far as could be made out in the dusk and from the chuckle of the water, which, by night, was peculiarly malevolent. Escaping from this place, crab-fashion, the Englishman crawled into Chitor and sat upon a flat tomb. (118–19)

In retrospect Kipling realizes that his behavior at the Gau-Mukh may appear ridiculous. He acted like a child who thinks that he has seen the bogey man. In part, the title of this letter of travel seems playful, as if in looking back he is laughing at himself for running away liked a scared juvenile: “Proves Conclusively the Existence of . . . ‘Bogey’ who Frightens Children.” There is no self-mockery, though, in his actual account. He is deadly serious in his depiction of a psychic phenomenon that repeatedly troubled him. In fact, he defends his actions as justified under the circumstances. He is certain that he did not imagine that malicious presence at the spring. He simply discovered it, felt it distinctly, and though he escaped from it, an awareness of its poison remained with him and haunted him. Some settings, he urges, are permeated with a stifling atmosphere, and if one finds himself in such a place, survival demands immediate escape, though such fleeing may seem to others foolish or childish:
Perhaps it was absurd. It undoubtedly appeared so, later. Yet there was something uncanny about it all. It was not exactly a feeling of danger or pain, but an apprehension of great evil. In defence, it may be urged that there is moral, just as there is mine, choke-damp. If you get into a place laden with the latter you die, and if into the home of the former you . . . behave unwisely, as constitution and temperament prompt. (116)

The ellipsis in the quotation above is Kipling’s, intended no doubt to indicate a pause as he thoughtfully and tactfully tries to suggest how one loses self-control and acts “unwisely,” if understandably, when entering the home of “moral choke-damp,” a brilliantly inventive and richly telling phrase. Choke-damp, often called blackdamp, is a mine gas that will not support life or a flame. So it is with that morally asphyxiating presence he encountered on many occasions. It created in him an epiphany of

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blackness, that is, a sudden sense of concentrated desolation, an absolute conviction of hopelessness, and a premonition of annihilation. Though the Chinese even today practice their ancient art of feng-shui to seek out sites that emit positive and happy vibrations, Kipling uses the term in a consistently negative sense to connote something deeply disturbing in the atmosphere of a particular place. When he and his wife Carrie moved from Vermont to England in 1897, they settled in a large home called Rock House on the southern coast of Devon near Torquay. Occupying a quiet setting on the side of a hill in the village community of Maidencombe, the house would have seemed perfect for the Kiplings, for it was not only fine and imposing, but it offered a breathtaking view of the sea from a steep cliff just a stone’s throw away, and it was situated amid comfortable grounds. At first it reminded Kipling of Naulakha, the house he had built in Brattleboro, Vermont, but shortly after taking possession of Rock House, he was threatened with another epiphany of blackness. The problem, as he recalled it in Something of Myself, was the “Feng-sui—the Spirit of the house itself.” That spirit created in him a “gathering blackness” (129). His wife either felt the same dark power or reacted to his sensing of it in such a way that made it seem that she felt it. In any case, they fled Rock House after only several weeks even though they had to forfeit the rent. This strange revulsion to a house remained vividly in Kipling’s memory for the rest of his life. Through some sort of compulsion, he returned with Carrie to Rock House over thirty years after they had escaped it only to reexperience “the same brooding Spirit of deep, deep Despondency within the open, lit rooms” (Something of Myself, 130). Appearing today much as it did in Kipling’s time, Rock House is not a dark and gloomy residence. Indeed, it would seem less likely to evoke a mood of despair than would Bateman’s, Kipling’s home in Sussex for the last thirty-four years of his life. Yet something about the “Spirit of the house itself ” made Rock House intolerable to him despite the fact that its rooms were “open,” as he wrote, and well lit. Inexplicably, darkness threatened to overwhelm him at times even in light and airy surroundings. As he said about his reaction to the Gau-Mukh, he was “one who has been frightened of the dark in broad daylight” (“Proves Conclusively,” 117). It may be that Kipling’s first pronounced experience with “desolation,” a word he liked to use to describe his bouts with darkness, was at the house of Captain and Mrs. Holloway, Lorne Lodge, in Southsea near Portsmouth. Like many other English parents in India, John Lockwood and Alice Kipling felt that they owed it to their children, Rudyard and his little sister “Trix,” to provide them with an English environment during their formative years.85 Therefore, they identified what they thought was a proper household for their children, made all arrangements, and left them

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at Lorne Lodge to return to India before Rudyard was six years old. There Rudyard remained for some six years under the care of a woman he long remembered for her cruelty. Deep and prolonged was Kipling’s suffering at the hands of Mrs. Holloway and her son, Harry. He depicted his agony poignantly in the short story “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” (1888), a slightly veiled account of his stay at Lorne Lodge as he remembered it. He looked back again upon the painful time to incorporate it in the first chapter of his novel The Light That Failed (1890), and he recounted it with powerful understatement in Something of Myself. As Randall Jarrell has aptly expressed it, Kipling’s experience at Lorne Lodge was much like that of being in a concentration camp. Later, he “was obsessed by—wrote about, dreamed about, and stayed awake so as not to dream about—many concentration camps, of the soul as well as of the body; many tortures, hauntings, hallucinations, deliria, diseases, nightmares, practical jokes, revenges, monsters, insanities, neuroses, abysses, forlorn hopes, last chances, extremities of every kind, these and their sweet opposites.”86 Kipling’s mistreatment at Lorne Lodge was real, not imagined, and his sense of abandonment and of betrayal intense. His memorable conclusion to “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” argues with touching effectiveness that the scars from his Southsea experiences could never be obliterated from his psyche: “When young lips have drunk deep of the bitter waters of Hate, Suspicion, and Despair, all the Love in the world will not wholly take away that knowledge; though it may turn darkened eyes for a while to the light, and teach Faith where no Faith was.”87 Why, then, do some critics and biographers suggest (though with evident reluctance) that as bad as was Kipling’s abuse at Lorne Lodge, he may have exaggerated it somewhat in retrospect? Charles Carrington indicates that Kipling’s account of his days at Lorne Lodge in Something of Myself may contain multiple errors of fact, some of which surely would have been corrected had he lived to revise the manuscript.88 The most puzzling aspect of this entire episode is Alice Kipling’s decision to allow her young daughter to remain with Mrs. Holloway for an additional three years after Rudyard was taken away. “Would Alice have left the little girl alone in the House of Desolation for another three years,” asks Carrington, “if Mrs Holloway had been the cruel stepmother depicted in these imaginative children’s tales?”89 Philip Mason finds “mysteries about this stay in Southsea. The children went once a year to stay with their Burne-Jones aunt. . . . How is it that she had no inkling of what was going on?”90 Lord Birkenhead points out that Kipling wrote “Baa Baa, Blacksheep” while living in the Hill household, “and it is probable that he deepened the shadows to enlist Mrs. Hill’s sympathy.”91 Phillip Mallett suggests that the extent to which Kipling may have exaggerated the cruelty

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of Mrs. Holloway toward him “is difficult to determine” but that his attitude never softened toward her in later years.92 When Alice and Lockwood Kipling read “Baa Baa, Blacksheep” in print (Rudyard had uncharacteristically failed to let them see the story in manuscript), they were astonished and tended to believe that many of the details were fictionalized. But the question here is not whether Kipling was actually as unhappy at Lorne Lodge as he later indicated. He was. The issue is the cause of his misery. Were Mrs. Holloway and her bully of a son, Harry, solely responsible for his anguish? Certainly, his traumatic sense of abandonment greatly intensified his resentment of “Aunty Rosa” and young Harry. Mason argues that “whatever may actually have happened” at Lorne Lodge, it was colored by Kipling’s feelings of betrayal and loneliness combined with his dislike of Mrs. Holloway and her son.93 Still, over a period of years, children generally adjust in some measure to the absence of parents (especially if in touch with them by mail) and even to being unloved and sometimes humiliated as long as extreme deprivations or pronounced harm are not involved. Kipling did not adjust. His dark moods continued and if anything intensified, a situation that Carrington attributes principally to Kipling’s increasingly bad eyesight.94 Whatever the case, he did have some happy times during those years, but they were almost always while he was away from Lorne Lodge. Except when he could escape into the world of imagination through reading, he consistently experienced emotional downs in this house, and that, perhaps, is why in “Baa Baa, Blacksheep” he chose to call it “Downe Lodge.” Thus another ingredient besides the behavior of the Holloways, separation from his parents, and defective eyesight may have been brewing in his pot of despair, namely something about the setting that he had to endure. He sensed desolation there from the moment when he arrived, and in later years, Lorne Lodge was in his memory “the House of Desolation.” In “Baa Baa, Blacksheep,” he describes the house as “an austere little villa.”95 Viewing it for the first time, Punch “eyed the house with disfavour. It stood on a sandy road, and a cold wind tickled his knickerbockered legs.” He is immediately revulsed and pleads: “Let us go away. . . . This is not a pretty place.”96 In Something of Myself, Kipling remembers that he was appalled at “a small house smelling of aridity and emptiness” (6). Among the surroundings, he continues, “lay the desolation of Hayling Island, Lumps Fort, and the isolated hamlet of Milton” (7). He depicts this area in both “Baa Baa, Blacksheep” and The Light That Failed as oppressively ugly, both descriptions stressing sand and mud. Though merely a child when he came to Lorne Lodge (a name that in itself must have carried melancholy suggestiveness to the precocious young Kipling), he was nonetheless vulnerable to what he later called “Feng-shui, the Spirit of the house itself,” and it may be that this unusual

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sensitivity played a part in his overall unhappiness while there, for he was imprisoned in this place that evoked “aridity and emptiness,” this House of Desolation, and could not flee it as he later escaped Rock House. It was not until he was twenty and in India that he fully realized that he did not have to be a prisoner any longer, that it was possible for him to run away, and that is why he considered the inspiration he received from Besant’s All in a Garden Fair to be a revelation and a hope, indeed, his salvation. Just as to him there was something about the spirit of the place that compelled him to revisit Rock House many years after he and Carrie escaped its poisonous aura, so the House of Desolation pulled him back in later life. As Lord Birkenhead puts it: “In February 1920 Kipling was driven by some obscure impulse to take Caroline on a sentimental journey to the ‘House of Desolation’ at Southsea. . . . On the pillars in front were still engraved the ominous words ‘Lorne Lodge.’ Neither the passage of years nor world fame sufficed to efface the revulsion with which this detested place had inspired him. . . . Indeed it seems that while the details of his mishandling had grown dim and blurred, the general recollection of his sufferings had been nourished and sustained.”97 It would be perhaps too speculative to conclude that had Kipling received kind motherly treatment from Mrs. Holloway at Lorne Lodge and brotherly affection from Harry, he would still have remembered his time there with the same revulsion that he felt when thinking of Rock House in later life. Nevertheless, it does appear that what he sensed as the feng-shui of the place he came to call the House of Desolation strongly worked on his young mind and imagination and intensified the pain of the collective experience as he looked back on it. Houses exercised an extraordinary power over Kipling. He records in one of his Brazilian Sketches (1927) how a certain ancient house on a coffee plantation was so fascinating to him, beckoning and speaking to him, as it were, that he could not concentrate on or even find interest in such topics as coffee-bean farming on which his hosts wished to enlighten him. All he could think about was that house with the “deep breathing spirit.”98 Surrounded by talk of how the coffee is shipped north, how the government is attempting to regulate its price, how it is kept stored in large warehouses, and so forth, Kipling wished only to learn more about the house: “One wanted to know about this house. Who had lived here in the old days? And particularly, who lived here now of nights?”99 Houses could cast a deep shadow over him if they emitted moral choke-damp. If they were free of such an atmosphere, on the other hand, they could lift him emotionally. Much of his life he searched for the house that spoke to him not of despair and desolation but of hope and peace. He had a difficult time finding it. Though he was surrounded by family and friends in the appealing village of Rottingdean, he found that he could not remain there

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however pleasant the house, known as The Elms, appeared to be. The Kiplings lived at The Elms for about five years, but they were away much of that time. It was during this period, for example, that they began their long annual visits to South Africa. His excuse for moving from The Elms was that his privacy was threatened—tourists were increasingly seeking out his residence. No doubt that was a major factor, but given Kipling’s unusual vulnerability, one suspects that he found the house uncongenial. Consequently, he initiated a search that ended with his enthusiastic purchase of Bateman’s in rural Sussex, a house that appealed to him and Carrie immediately, though it was marked by neglect and in need of fairly extensive repairs. There he remained from 1902 until his death in 1936. To be sure, Bateman’s in itself did not make him a happy man, but neither did it telegraph messages of despair as did some of the houses in which he had lived. In a letter of November 30, 1902, to his friend Charles Eliot Norton announcing his purchase of Bateman’s, he called it “a good and peaceable place.”100 The “spirit” of Bateman’s welcomed him and enfolded him, though it did not have that effect on everyone. In a memoir, his daughter Elsie remembered the house as being cold and uninviting: “Inside the house is darkly panelled and with small latticed windows, the effect (except on a bright day) being of a certain sadness.” She goes on to speak of a general “lack of comfort which my parents never seemed to notice.” Though some of the furnishings were attractive, “the whole effect was rather sparse and, in the winter, chilly.”101 What Kipling felt when he entered a house was often not the common response but frequently one peculiar to himself (and, at times, to his wife). Kipling depicted the contrasting effects that houses had on himself— the one uplifting, the other oppressive, the one like Bateman’s, the other like Rock House—in the two stories that frame his collection Actions and Reactions (1909): “An Habitation Enforced” (1905), which opens the volume, and “The House Surgeon” (1909), which closes it. The thematic center of “An Habitation Enforced” is Friar’s Pardon, a large dilapidated house on a sizable tract of land in rural Sussex. The quiet life and the simple but genuine people of this part of England gradually seduce George and Sophie Chapin so that in the end they become very much a part of it, but it is the house above all else that draws them in, especially Sophie, whose response appears to parallel Kipling’s when he found Bateman’s. It is she who first spots Friar’s Pardon while they are out walking: “ ‘A house!’ said Sophie, in a whisper. ‘A Colonial house!’ ”102 Her delight in discovering this “dark-bluish brick Georgian pile” with a caved-in roof would be puzzling were it not for the fact that to her mind “it looked out of its long windows most friendlily” (9, 10). As they investigate the house, its every aspect appeals to them: “They entered the hall—just such a high light hall

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as such a house should own. . . . They explored the first or ground floor, delighted as children playing burglars” (10–11). Sophie finds the house “like all England. . . . Wonderful, but no explanation” (11). The explanation is in the feeling that the house somehow conveys to her. She confesses later to George that she fell in love with Friar’s Pardon the first day she entered it. The friendliness that she senses early in the house becomes something much deeper after they purchase and repair it, after they live in it for awhile, and after she learns that she is pregnant: “Of a sudden the house they had bought for a whim stood up as she had never seen it before, low-fronted, broad-winged, ample, prepared by course of generations for all such things. As it had steadied her when it lay desolate, so now that it had meaning from their few months of life within, it soothed and promised good. She went alone and quickly into the hall, and kissed either doorpost, whispering: ‘Be good to me. You know! You’ve never failed in your duty yet’ ” (45). All that Kipling hoped for in a house, that it soothe and promise good, he portrayed in Friar’s Pardon as it speaks intuitively to Sophie. Kipling’s other kind of experience with houses is clinically and poignantly described in “The House Surgeon.” Spending the night at Holmescroft, the resident of a newly acquired friend, the narrator of the story tells how the spirit of the house oppresses him:
And it was just then that I was aware of a little grey shadow, as it might have been a snowflake seen against the light, floating at an immense distance in the background of my brain. It annoyed me, and I shook my head to get rid of it. Then my brain telegraphed that it was the forerunner of a swiftstriding gloom which there was yet time to escape if I would force my thoughts away from it, as a man leaping for life forces his body forward and away from the fall of a wall. But the gloom overtook me before I could take in the meaning of the message. I moved toward the bed, every nerve already aching with the foreknowledge of the pain that was to be dealt it, and sat down, while my amazed and angry soul dropped, gulf by gulf, into . . . the bottom of unclimbable pits.103

When Kipling expressed to Rider Haggard his conviction that life “had every attribute of a hell,” he saved to the end in his listing of those attributes the one he considered the most unfair of all, one’s own death. If we are to believe Haggard, Kipling did not call the cessation of life “death,” however, but “execution,” on the face of it an odd if not truly peculiar choice of words because the term is principally reserved for the act of putting one to death as a penalty and in accordance with a legally imposed sentence. The view that every person’s demise is an “execution” reveals not only certain underlying pessimistic assumptions about the nature of being

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but also a great deal of personal indignation. Except for suicides, whose pain is too much to bear, no one, Kipling felt, dies willingly. He preferred to think of dying not as something we do but as something that is done to us, a dirty trick. We are in one way or the other and at one age or the other “executed,” put to death as a sentence often of inexpressible unfairness imposed by an inexplicable fate that is coldly impersonal. He found it intolerably obtuse not to recognize and not to be ever conscious that as human beings we are under such a sentence.104 Yet to whine about it he considered dishonorable, to rage and rail against it, unseemly, and to try desperately to become exempt from it, ignobly foolish. Nevertheless, his concern with dying is everywhere evident as is his quiet but seething resentment. A constant awareness of death as the inescapable transmogrification into nothingness, a dark concept that later informed Ernest Hemingway’s “nada,” was the ever-present context from which emerged Kipling’s Weltanschauung. Suffer through he did from this hell of the mind, this torturing belief that we all end with “the worst fate” of which man can possibly conceive—“Execution!”—he did not allow it to drive him into paralytic fear or into an all-consuming bitterness, a tribute not only to his courage but also to his “Daemon,” his spirit of creativity. Several types of human beings, including politicians who are shamefully ignorant of what they speak and “globetrotters,” were targets of Kipling’s scorn, but he reserved a special place in his gallery of the contemptible for those head-in-the-sand avoiders of the unpleasant who seemed ignorant of what he called “the knowledge of death.” In India he saw death everywhere. In Something of Myself, he states that in those days, “death was always our near companion” (41).105 When he returned to England from his “seven years’ hard,” he was stunned to find a people seemingly oblivious to the inevitability of their own demise. It is not surprising that he experienced cultural shock of such magnitude that for a time he abhorred his new surroundings. He soon discovered with disgust that realization of the inevitability of “execution” was not as formative an influence in the lives of these people as it was in his. In one of his contributions sent to the Pioneer, “Letters on Leave, I” (1890), he writes that he has received sad news of the numerous deaths of friends and acquaintances back in India and then caustically remarks that “we don’t die in London. We go out of town.”106 He is dismayed that “the white man at home,” that is, England, seems to be “most curiously and beyond the right of ordinary people, divorced from the knowledge or fear of death,” and because of this, “an air of unreality” pervades the atmosphere.107 Kipling observed with a measure of contempt that when such sheltered people who are habitually “divorced from the knowledge or fear of death” are forced to confront it because of the demise of an acquaintance, they

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appear shocked beyond measure, surprised that it could actually invade their guarded citadels of sham. Anger and disgust pervade a sketch that he sent back from England to the Civil and Military Gazette early in 1890, “A Death in the Camp,” which deals with the reactions of neighbors and friends to the death of an elderly man. The word shocking resounds throughout the narrative like a refrain as people who knew Mr. Strangeways comment on his demise: “Isn’t it shocking?” “Aw’fly shocking.” “It was such a shockingly short illness.” “Most shocking.” “Wasn’t it shocking?” To these expressions of surprised disturbance that an old man should die, one who left an aged wife well provided for after an illness that furnished time for him and his family to be prepared, the narrator replies:
“Shocking?” I said. “Get out of this place. Go forth, run about and see what death really means. . . . Wait till you have seen men—strong men of thirtyfive, with little children, die at two days’ notice, penniless and alone, and seen it not once, but twenty times; wait till you have seen the young girl die within a fortnight of the wedding; or the lover within three days of his marriage; or the mother—sixty little minutes—before her son can come to her side; wait till you hesitate before handling your daily newspaper for fear of reading of the death of some young man that you have dined with, drank with, shot with, lent money to and borrowed money from, and tested to the uttermost—till you dare not hope for the death of an old man, but, when you are strongest, count up the tale of your acquaintances and friends, wondering how many will be alive six months hence. Wait till you have heard men calling in the death hour on kin that cannot come; till you have dined with a man one night and seen him buried on the next. Then you can begin to whimper about loneliness and change and desolation.”108

Kipling’s resentment is evident in the above passage—resentment not only of those who are ignorant of death’s starring role in the tragedy of life but also resentment of death itself. His tirade brings forth the question of a “young gentleman,” who drawls in amazement: “And do you mean to say . . . that there is any society in which that sort of holocaust goes on?” In answer, the narrator replies: “It’s not society; it’s life,” to which his audience responds with the laughter of disbelief.109 Kipling himself faced the prospect of death several times. As illness plagued him, he consulted regularly some of England’s most prominent physicians and thereby became a victim, if anyone ever was, of medicine as it was practiced in his time. He was attended by the best doctors, who took a personal as well as a professional interest in him, and in general he dutifully allowed them to do with him whatever they thought best. Consequently, they put him though the hell of numerous trying tests; they operated on him; they even caused him to have his teeth removed, all

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without finding the cause of his terrible stomach pains. His ailment was not accurately diagnosed as a duodenal ulcer until years after his agony began (and then by French, not English, physicians). Little wonder that periodically he increased his life insurance.110 Why, then, did he express such adulation for physicians? Most likely his high regard for them derived not from what they did for him, which was little despite their good intentions, but from what he saw as their unrelieved exposure to death and their noble struggle with the enemy. They were like his other heroes, combat-tested soldiers, with whom he often compared them. It was not just their everyday experience with death that elicited his admiration, however, but also their apparent lack of concern for themselves. It seemed to him wonderful that they could see death all around them and yet master their fear of it. For Kipling, that was the rub. Constant awareness of death and its finality is essential if one is to reach any depth of understanding at all of the tragedy of life, but the problem is that to have death always before one is to have to cope in one way or the other with the fear of it. To do so with fortitude and dignity is no easy matter. Even those who seldom have to face death, like the superficial friends and neighbors of Mr. Strangeways, are occasionally terrified, but they attempt to disguise their fear as compassion for the deceased and his family, a common practice of self-deception, Kipling thought, among the shallow Bandar-logs of humanity. In “A Death in the Camp,” one of the “shocked” commentators on the passing of Mr. Strangeways exclaims, “But just think—it was only in the next street it happened!”111 The narrator recognizes that the object of the speaker’s concern is not Mr. Strangeways but himself; death is getting too close. Similarly, when a neighbor bemoans the shortness of the deceased’s final illness, the narrator knows that she is thinking fearfully of her own death. “Most hideous thing,” a coworker on designs for the Burgoyne Cathedral calls Mr. Strangeways’s demise, but “I saw,” writes the narrator, “that this man’s fear was not on account of Mr. Strangeways.”112 Dealing with the fear of death became one of Kipling’s greatest challenges. He turned over in his mind and imagination the several ways to respond to it. One was to camouflage it as something else and to try to hide it in the catacombs of his psyche as did the acquaintances of Mr. Strangeways, whom Kipling considered foolish, dishonest, and cowardly. Another alternative was give in to panic and to lose all dignity and control—like a doomed man who in taking that long walk to the gallows struggles, cries, and desperately tries to break away. Such was the choice of John Hay, the protagonist of Kipling’s “The Wandering Jew” (1889).113 In a period of three years, John Hay makes twenty trips around the world, imagining that by crossing time zones he is hoarding up days to

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extend his life. Kipling effectively depicts him in terms of a crazed miser storing up gold not for what it can buy but for the sake of having more and more of it. Hay does not enjoy the time that he thinks he has added to his life any more than the obsessed miser enjoys his gold. The fear of losing his days motivates Hay to try to collect more of them just as anxiety about losing his gold spurs the miser ever onward in the feverish effort to gain more. Neither can have too much: the miser is after all the gold; John Hay is after endless days. In his ridiculous effort to live forever, Hay forfeits any chance of nobility and dignity as fear takes over his whole being. A doctor hired by another relative of his benefactor overtakes him in India and convinces him that all he need do in order to acquire more time is “to hang by ropes from the roof of the room and let the round earth swing free beneath him. This was better than steamer or train, for he gained a day in a day, and was thus the equal of the undying sun.”114 Like a person obsessed with the hoarding of gold who is anxious to follow any lead—no matter how unreasonable—in the obtaining of more, John Hay follows the instructions of the doctor, who sets him up in a bungalow in Madras near the sea and assures that all of his necessities of life are taken care of, courtesy of the next-in-line relative soon to take over from Hay (now legally declared incompetent) what is left of the fortune of the rich uncle. “If you wander along the southern coast of India,” writes Kipling, “you shall find in a neatly whitewashed little bungalow, sitting in a chair swung from the roof, over a sheet of thin steel which he knows so well destroys the attraction of the earth, an old and worn man who for ever faces the rising sun, a stop-watch in his hand, racing against eternity. He cannot drink, he does not smoke, and his living expenses amount to perhaps twenty-five rupees a month, but he is John Hay, the Immortal” (327). Kipling performs one more turn of the screw of irony in the final line of the story as Hay, now less pierced by terror as he is completely lost in his insanity, starts to doubt that the doctor told him the truth: “ ‘Why does not the sun always remain over my head?’ asks John Hay” (327). Too late, much too late, he begins to suspect that he cannot, after all, make his sun stand still. His struggle for eternal life has been a waste—a foolish, horrible waste—of the only time he will ever have. The concept of time is central in “The Wandering Jew,” which owes much to Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). A “schoolboy aficionado of Jules Verne,” as Andrew Lycett puts it, Kipling derived the central idea about time in the story from Around the World in Eighty Days, namely that by traveling eastward around the world, one picks up a day. The protagonist of the novel, Phileas Fogg, “gained one day on this journey, and this merely because he had travelled constantly eastward;

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he would, on the contrary, have lost a day, had he gone in the opposite direction, that is, westward. In journeying eastward he had gone towards the sun, and the days therefore diminished for him as many times four minutes as he crossed degrees in this direction.”115 With Kipling’s love of the long trail, this novel must have greatly appealed to him, for it is a prose ode to the journey, saturated with the excitement and the danger of new places. One can even imagine that his intention to travel around the world on his honeymoon derived at least in part from his familiarity with Verne’s book. At any rate, Kipling is clearly thinking of Around the World in Eighty Days when in “The Wandering Jew” he writes of John Hay: “If he could get round the world in two months—some one of whom he had read, he could not remember the name, had covered the passage in eighty days—he would gain a clear day” (324). The protagonist of Verne’s novel goes around the world only once, and the climactic event of the novel arises from the one day that he gains thereby. Had he not gained time by going eastward, he would have lost a bet that would have left him financially ruined. Everywhere in the novel, Verne emphasizes the cruciality of time. The clock ticks constantly as Phileas Fogg races eastward, always recording in his notebook times of arrivals and departures. Fogg’s servant, Passepartout, complains that his master is constantly “jumping from a steamer upon a railway train, and from a railway train upon a steamer again” as he tries to “make the tour of the world in eighty days!” (29). Though Around the World in Eighty Days is rich with descriptions of the various settings and sights of the journey, Phileas Fogg himself is interested in none of them. He pays no attention to the scenery. Indeed, he was not touring in the usual sense, “but only describing a circumference, [and] took no pains to inquire into these subjects; he was a solid body, traversing an orbit around the terrestrial globe, according to the laws of rational mechanics” (35). With a mind of mathematical precision, he is a man “of the exact sciences” (36), as a companion calls him, and as such he is representative of “the men of science” mentioned in “The Wandering Jew” who tell John Hay: “If you go once round the world in a easterly direction, you gain one day” (322). In a sense, it is Fogg’s message that haunts John Hay, reminding him, “Who goes around the world once easterly, gains one day” (324). In some ways, Hay is modeled on Fogg, for Kipling’s character also carries a “pocket-book” in which he meticulously records his times of arrivals and departures and in which he notes “every minute that he had railed or screwed out of remorseless eternity” (325). Hay like Fogg hurries from train to steamer to train, paying no attention to the sights. There the similarity ends, however. Hay notices nothing around him because Kipling wished to stress his blindness. He can hear—he hears

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voices (which he consistently misunderstands), and he “hears the thunder of the wheeling world” (327), but his failure to see suggests his inability to perceive the truth. For all his fussy precision and his obsessive determination to go around the world in eighty days, Fogg is motivated by his fondness for a challenge, by courage and fidelity, and finally by love. John Hay, on the other hand, is motivated solely by his fear of death. Fogg is interested in speed, that is, in using time as effectively as possible; Hay is interested in accumulating time. Whereas Fogg is a man of honor, Hay has followed a career “which had been a chequered and evil one” (322). Having received from Verne the basic idea of a race against time and the concept of gaining clock time by going easterly around the world, Kipling turned these notions to his own use and created an entirely different kind of work in which the psychology of fear, not adventure, suspense, or nobility of character, is paramount. Even before he inherits the riches that enable him to make his many trips around the world, Hay begins to experience the fear that finally unhinges him: “Indeed, long before the legacy came to him, there existed in the brain of John Hay a little cloud—a momentary obscuration of thought that came and went almost before he could realise that there was any solution of continuity. So do the bats flit round the eaves of a house to show that the darkness is falling” (322). After he inherits a fortune, he is increasingly “haunted by the instant fear of Death” until finally “his fear of death was driving John Hay mad” (323). In his movement toward fear-engendered madness, he hears two voices, one of them echoing Jules Verne, the other Andrew Marvell, the latter seemingly from the ghost of his departed relative. The ghost functions as a memento mori to torture him with the message that “life was short, that there was no hope of increase of days, and that the undertakers were already roughing out his nephew’s coffin” (323). The competing voice informs him of the prospect of gaining time by way of the “Easterly journey.” Hay is a shallow and selfish man who is by nature a sybarite. His love of pleasure causes him to turn all his inherited investments into cash: “A sovereign will always be a sovereign—that is to say, a king of pleasures.” Now that he has so many ready sovereigns, “John Hay would fain have spent them one by one on such coarse amusements as his soul loved.” In other words, having heard the voice of his departed uncle telling him that he could not make his sun stand still, he would like to make it run. He would fain be a disciple of Andrew Marvell’s speaker in “To His Coy Mistress” and to “make haste and live,” as the voice admonishes him (324). In fact, the name that Kipling gives him suggests the carpe diem advice to make hay while the sun shines.116 Fear and the smallness of his nature, however, prevent him from even attempting to assume the somewhat

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heroic stance of Marvell’s speaker in the poem. He is as unlike the person who speaks in “To His Coy Mistress” as he is Phileas Fogg. He is not capable of rebelliously spitting in the face of death, of making the sun run. Lost in his craven desperation, therefore, he succumbs to the lure of an idea he misunderstands and tries first to slow the sun down and then to make it stand still. The shadows of Marvell’s philosophical speaker of urgency and of Verne’s urgent but noble traveler flit through “The Wandering Jew,” creating a contrast greatly unflattering to John Hay. The association of Hay with still another figure, however, results in an irony even more biting. In his characterization of John Hay, Kipling subtly hints at similarities with Jesus Christ. Hay makes his momentous decision to begin his pursuit of immortality when he is thirty-four, which was the age of Jesus, in the estimate of many Biblical scholars, when he began his ministry. Kipling is strangely precise in noting that “John Hay, in the thirty-fifth year of his age, set forth on his travels” (324–25). Before the doctor encounters him, Hay has been on his mission for three years—again Kipling is precise—the likely span of Jesus’ ministry in the view of a large number of commentators. Like many who encountered Jesus, people who observe John Hay “asked him what he was and what he did” (325). He answers that he is the one who seeks life; he does not say “abundant” or “eternal,” but that is implied. Kipling pictures him in the last scene as suspended, not on a cross, to be sure, but suspended nevertheless—from ropes attached to the roof of his house. The story ends as he, vaguely reminiscent of Jesus on the cross, has a terrible moment of doubt and a thought of betrayal and abandonment. The purpose of these references and allusive associations is neither to elevate John Hay to the status of a Christ figure nor to denigrate Jesus by comparing him with a pathetic and misguided fool but to create a sense of irony that effectively serves not to link but to separate the two. Kipling drapes John Hay in Jesus’ robe not as an effort to make him look like Jesus but as a dramatic demonstration of how unlike Christ he is. In fact, if in the configuration of his pursuit of eternal life Hay broadly resembles Jesus, he is considerably more like certain fervid and cocksure religious converts whom Kipling considered un-Christlike in their shallowness and blindness. During his journey across the United States in 1889, he encountered several such people and delineated them with humor, contempt, and sometimes a dash of pathos because they appeared to him so narrow and unreasonable in their stubbornly held beliefs that they came across as absurdly pitiful. He referred to such people as “the Precious Ridiculouses” in “Chatauquaed” (1890), a sketch that he sent back to the Pioneer Mail in India for publication. Convinced by his traveling companion, the “Professor,” to visit the Chautauqua Institution in

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New York State, he is appalled at what he finds there, “a sort of open-air college” where students, chiefly young ladies, attempt to further their education by means of a series of lectures. “People don’t get educated that way,” exclaims Kipling. “They must dig for it, and cry for it, and sit up o’ nights for it; and when they have got it they must call it by another name or their struggle is of no avail.”117 What he objects to most, however, is the religious orientation—which he considers a kind of arrogant intolerance— of those who attend and who lead the institution. They teach, he writes, that theirs are “the only true creeds in all the world, and to err from their tenets, as laid down by the bishops and the elders, is damnation.” On others they attempt to work a “mental inquisition” not vastly different from the Torquemada. “I have watched the expression on the men’s faces when they told me that they would rather see their son or daughter dead at their feet than doing such and such things—trampling on the grass on a Sunday, or something equally heinous.”118 In his misguided conviction that he is purchasing eternal life for himself by accepting and practicing a doctrine that does not stand much looking into, Hay is strikingly similar to such religious fanatics as described in “Chatauquaed.” He was “sure it was true, but it would pain him acutely were rough hands to examine it too closely” (324). The pattern of Hay’s life is broadly that of the fanatical religious convert. As a youth he is worldly, even somewhat evil, taking his selfish pleasures when and where he can and eventually finding himself in possession of the means to further his pleasure. He is not happy, however, because he begins to fall under “conviction.” He becomes alarmingly aware of his mortality, and in a moment of revelation, he gives up all his earthly amusements to make “the Easterly journey,” traditionally, the pursuit of ultimate wisdom and immortality.119 Kipling uses the word religiously to describe how Hay pursues his mission, which he thinks of as “better than praying” and in line with “the designs of the Creator” (325, 324). From the revelation he has received, “this precious message of hope” (324), he reaps the reward of blessed assurance, as the old Christian hymn phrases it, or as Kipling puts it, “the assurance of a blessed immortality” (326). He becomes an ascetic, living on the bare necessities and eschewing the pleasures of the world, “with which he is careful to explain he has no connection whatever” (327). In his “assurance of blessed immortality,” John Hay recalls another fanatic, a man Kipling met and conversed with while traversing America in 1889. He was a biscuit salesman, a fervid Baptist, whom Kipling describes in “How I Met Certain People of Importance Between Salt Lake and Omaha” (1889). A comic-pathetic figure like Hay, this man discusses with Kipling what it means to be under conviction and holds forth on the miracle of revelation and conversion, all of which lead to the assurance of

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immortality. He journeyed, writes Kipling, “as one dazed.” Like John Hay, “his eyes took no pleasure in anything he saw.”120 The traveling Baptist, who “had withdrawn himself to his religion” drones on, and Kipling suddenly becomes aware of the land through which the train is passing because that setting seems to match the life of this fanatical man. It is a desert, “barren as Mian Mir in May.” As “the sun baked the car-roof, and the dust caked the windows . . . the man with the biscuits bore witness to his creed” (213). After patiently listening and then asking some questions, Kipling silently marvels at this phenomenon of irony, a man who is living in hell but pretending satisfaction: “I learned a good deal about that creed as the train fled on; and I wondered as I learned. It was a strange thing to watch that poor human soul, broken and bowed by its loss, nerving itself against each new pang of pain with the iterated assurance that it was safe against the pains of Hell” (214). To suggest that the biscuit salesman is living is his own private hell, Kipling begins the next sentence, which is the first of a new paragraph describing the setting through which the train is passing, with “The heat was stifling” (214). Such a person as this grim “Man with the Sorrow,” who preached what he considered the dread truth of “the certain end of each” if “the miracle of the Baptist creed” were not accepted, who depended upon others’ fear of death to empower his message, had nothing to offer Kipling. At the end of the sketch, Kipling indirectly suggests his rejection of all that the religious fanatic represents by indicating in humor and ridicule that he took from him only biscuits— none of his creed: “When a breakdown [of the train] occurred, and we were delayed for twelve hours, I ate all the Baptist’s sample biscuits. They were various in composition, but nourishing. Always travel with a drummer” (218). The crowning irony of “The Wandering Jew,” Kipling’s little masterpiece of irony, is its title, which invites a comparison of John Hay with a legendary figure. Before he accepts the doctor’s formula for immortality, Hay is a driven man constantly on the move, like the Wandering Jew, and like the character in the legend, he finds no peace, but as in the case of his being linked with Phileas Fogg, the speaker in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” and Jesus, differences far outweigh similarities, and a telling irony arises from the recognition of these differences. As the legend of the Wandering Jew gradually evolved from the thirteenth century, Ahasuerus (his name from the seventeenth century forward) became a figure of great dignity despite his guilt. In such Romantic renditions of his character as that found in Shelley, he is even heroic. Burdened with the curse of wandering the earth until Judgment Day because of his cruel insult to Jesus on his way to the Crucifixion, Ahasuerus recognizes his sin and atones for it by becoming a pious and self-effacing Christian. Thus he is in stark

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contrast to the self-absorbed John Hay, whose fear causes him to lose any trace of dignity or nobility.121 Still, there is some of John Hay in all of us. It is how he responds to the fear of death that Kipling condemns, not his being afraid. Hay’s craziness does not make death any less terrible. Kipling found himself repeatedly having to deal with the fear of disease and death, especially from cancer. Though he referred to it as the “family complaint,” his first exposure to the horrors of the disease occurred outside the family when Captain Holloway died of liver cancer while Kipling was staying at Lorne Lodge. The experience left its ineradicable mark upon him. At various times, he suspected, not without some justification, that he had cancer of the digestive system or throat. He was not given to hypochondria, as was to some extent his wife Carrie. He did not imagine that he had every disease that he heard about, nor did he spend countless hours reading medical books and reports to check his symptoms. Cancer occupied a unique place in his consciousness because it was not just a disease to him but a powerful symbol. Cancer came to represent to him humankind’s executioner, a malignantly devouring crab that pitilessly tortures with pain and fear before it finally executes its victims. Though not as horrendous as the shadow of death that was Kipling’s companion, another attribute of life, what he called “doubt” in his comment to Haggard in 1918, certainly helped to turn it into a kind of hell for him. Eleven years earlier, in his speech at McGill University, he included “doubts” in a group of mental torments to which young people are especially susceptible and which are particularly difficult to deal with because they constitute feelings that are so personal they are “incommunicable to our fellows.”122 What Kipling meant by doubt is open to question, but the context of his remarks to the university audience suggests that he was referring to self-doubt, which unlike questionings more philosophical or religious in nature is difficult to speak about to other people. Chronic self-doubt, that which goes far beyond what is usual and expected in youths who are in the process of forming their personal identities, is a deeply hidden cancer of the psyche, destroying peace of mind, creating secret insecurities, and fostering a vague but enervating sense of guilt. This form of self-doubt is especially debilitating when it is associated with one’s conception of his life’s work. From the time when young Kipling’s identity gelled into that of creative artist, he was committed, indeed, devoted, to that role above and beyond all others. It is one thing to question one’s worthiness as a child of God, as a husband or father, or as a workman when he thinks that he is not really earning his pay, but it is something else to experience a haunting and tormenting suspicion that one is inadequate to perform what he has chosen as his role in life, work

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with which his sense of personal identity is fused. When Kipling quoted Ecclesiastes 3:22 as his epigraph for “The Last of the Stories” (1888), he was unquestionably echoing his own view: “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion.” This part of the verse, that which Kipling quoted, expresses both the primary importance of work, not just any kind of work but “his own works,” and the right and healthy attitude toward achievements—“a man should rejoice,” not become mired in self-questionings and doubts. Kipling did not quote all of the verse, however. He omitted “for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” For Kipling, that was the rub. If somehow he were brought to see what shall be after him, he might not be able to rejoice. How can one have confidence in one’s creative endeavors without knowing how they will appear “after him”? How can he know that what he has actually created is the same as what he thought that he was creating? What if someone or something could “bring him to see” his creations as they really are and they turned out to be hideous distortions? Out of these disturbing doubts he composed “The Last of the Stories,” an early work extraordinary for its degree of self-revelation and for its depiction of a special kind of perdition, a writer’s hell. Its title is fascinatingly suggestive. It was, indeed, the last story that Kipling published in The Week’s News, but the curious final paragraph of the work raises possibilities that by “last” he might have meant something more: “Now the proof that this story is absolutely true lies in the fact that there will be no other to follow it.”123 The running together of true and lies, which at least momentarily makes the latter word appear to be a noun rather than a verb, is probably not accidental. Kipling had the highest regard for a particular form of lying. He began to develop his talent for it while at the House of Desolation, where he was constantly accused of lying even when he told the truth. In fact, “liar” became the tag of his identity. Facing the Holloways’ ever-present tauntings and punishments, he came to feel that he might as well become the liar that he was falsely accused of being. He consequently developed a ready knack for the lie. He regarded his lies not as sins but as acts of self-preservation and as products of the imagination. Looking back upon this painful period, he found that his assuming the identity that had been wrongly forced on him, but in a way entirely different from that intended by Mrs. Holloway and her son Harry, was one of the most fortunate occurrences of his life. He came to feel that his early discovered ability to lie at the House of Desolation, a talent derived from quick thinking and fertile fancy, was the basis for his artistic creativity. As he went through life, he repeatedly exhibited this proclivity to tell certain kinds of lies. He would lie for the purpose of learning the truth or in order to force others to reveal themselves for what they were. He sometimes

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made intentional mistakes in quoting authors just to see if his listener would catch the error. He pretended ignorance on occasion to see what the response would be. In conversations from time to time he devilishly played along with and even gave the impression of agreeing with a person whose opinions he found abhorrent. He lied outright to reporters whom he did not respect because he thought that in their arrogance they rightly deserved to be even more deeply mired in their abysmal ignorance than they already were. His love of the truth was the basis for his lies, both those perpetrated on the objects of his scorn and those “true lies” that are his literary works. When in the concluding paragraph of “The Last of the Stories,” he uses the ambiguous words “absolutely true lies” and flatly states that “there will be no other to follow,” he may possibly have meant that in a moment of profound discouragement and self-doubt, he had decided to write no more stories—this was the last of his true lies—and that he was signing off. The story is cast in the form of a dream or vision, another of Kipling’s hypnagogic nightmares, but this one imagined by—or actually experienced by—the author himself and narrated in a deceptive tone of selfdeprecation that constitutes an oxymoron: lighthearted torment. Kipling admits that he is often visited by the “Devil of Discontent,” who is an “old friend” and who is wont to raise in him doubts about his works after they have been published and thus cannot be improved. This visitation, however, is different, for the Devil of Discontent offers to give him a tour of his particular realm, “one of the largest Hells in existence—the Limbo of Lost Endeavor” (299). For his own purposes, the devil furnishes Kipling with that which the writer of Ecclesiastes implies is not available, a true and objective look at the results of his endeavors. What Kipling sees is enough to cause the darkest despair. To the Limbo of Lost Endeavor go the souls of all characters created in literature and their authors, who have to confront them. The Devil of Discontent explains to Kipling that he is offering him a unique opportunity, namely, a visit to this hell while he is still alive and a chance to see the souls of all his own characters as well as those of other authors. As he views these characters, they all appear in some way lame, unable to stand solidly in their own feet. Kipling’s characters, however, are so deformed and unlifelike that he hardly recognizes them. Mrs. Hauksbee is a hideous shrieking marionette. Kipling cries in horror, “I never made that!” (311). But he comes to realize that he did, that what he actually created was far different from what he intended. Upon him is forced the dark reality of authorship that there is a stark difference between what his characters had been in his imagination and what they turned out to be on the page. He believed that he had created a gallery of real people, but he discovers that he is merely “the master of this idiotic puppet-show” in

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which the figures “limped and stuttered and staggered and mouthed and staggered” until he could endure the sight no longer (319–20). In order to calm his guest and to make it possible for him to communicate with his creations, the devil recreates all of Kipling’s characters in the forms they were intended by the author. If his first devastating revelation is that there is a wide gap between imagination and manifestation, the second, which is more personal and which totally overwhelms him, is that he lacks an understanding of the people he created. When he is able to speak to his characters, all of them tell him that he did not understand them. Even Kipling’s favorite creations, Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd, confront him with the same accusation. Mulvaney sums up the feeling of all three: “Savin’ your presence, sorr, an’ it’s more than onwillin’ I am to be hurtin’ you; you did not ondersthand. On my sowl an’ honour, sorr, you did not ondersthand” (318). Character after character comes before him: “Each one in passing told me the same tale, and the burden thereof was: ‘You did not understand.’ My heart turned sick within me” (317). After such a vision, which makes him sick at heart, it would not be surprising that he would want to give up, for he seems to have been indulging only in lost endeavors. Seeking advice from an accomplished occupant of the Limbo of Lost Endeavor, François Rabelais, Kipling hears from him the three laws of character portrayal:“The First Law is to make them stand upon their feet, and the Second is to make them stand upon their feet, and the Third is to make them stand upon their feet” (321). Since he has failed so far, however, he has no idea how to put the master’s admonition to use and thus emerges from his vision a victim of the Devil of Discontent, held in the hell of his self-doubts. Elsewhere Kipling manifested various other personal insecurities, but “The Last of the Stories” occupies a special place among his imaginative works because despite its facade of self-mockery, it embodies deeply felt questions about his abilities as a writer. That he did not make these particular self-doubts the subjects of other works is not proof that he did not struggle with them. Indeed, here and there in his correspondence and in his autobiography, he indirectly reveals that they greatly affected him throughout his career. For instance, his failure as a novelist appears to some extent to be an example of self-fulfilling prophecy. His beloved father encouraged him to find has own way as a creative writer, to make his own experiments, but when he produced a long work of fiction, Mother Maturin, his father’s opinion, respected and cherished by the son, was not positive. From those early days onward, both his father and his mother told him frankly that he had no ability to write sustained fiction, and he came to believe them. In Something of Myself, he writes: “In the come-and-go of family talk there was often discussion as to whether I could write a ‘real novel.’ The Father thought that the setting of my work and life would be

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against it, and Time justified him” (218). In order not to contradict his father’s judgment, he regarded his masterpiece, Kim, not as a novel at all but as “nakedly picaresque and plotless—a thing imposed from without” (219). Commenting retrospectively on Kim, he implies that it would have been impossible for him to write long fiction in any other form except that which is picaresque and plotless: “As to its form there was but one possible to the author, who said that what was good enough for Cervantes was good enough to him.” When he made this statement to his mother, she shot back: “Don’t you stand in your wool-boots hiding behind Cervantes with me! You know you couldn’t make a plot to save your soul’ ” (134–35). One wonders how she would have responded if she had known that later in life her son would in long sessions with Rider Haggard contribute substantially to the plots of his novels. He seemed so adept at plotting that his novelist friend was amazed. Haggard wrote in his diary for January 30, 1922, that he had spent the day at Bateman’s where he and Kipling “hammered out the skeleton plot for a romance I propose to write under some such title as ‘Allan and the Ice Gods.’ . . . He has a marvellously fertile mind and I never knew anyone quite so quick at seizing and developing an idea. We spent a most amusing two hours over this plot and I have brought home the results in several sheets of manuscript written by him and myself.”124 Kipling was thus mentally preconditioned to believe that he was not a novelist by talent. In 1923 he wrote to Rider Haggard, who had sent him the manuscript of Wisdom’s Daughter for his comments. Kipling praised the novel, but suggested that Haggard “frame it in a wider setting.” Then he added in parentheses: “This comes well from a chap who could not write a novel to save himself,” echoing his mother’s words of long ago.125 Nevertheless, there remained within him a deep yearning to write a “real novel,” an ache that he expresses eloquently in Something of Myself with the metaphor of artful ship building:
Yet I dreamed for many years of building a veritable three-decker out of chosen and long-stored timber—teak, green-heart, and ten-year-old oak knees—each curve melting deliciously into the next that the sea might nowhere meet resistance or weakness; the whole suggesting motion even when, her great sails for the moment furled, she lay in some needed haven— a vessel ballasted on ingots of pure research and knowledge, roomy, fitted with delicate cabinet-work below-decks, painted, carved, gilt and wreathed the length of her, from her blazing stern-galleries outlined by bronzy palmtrunks, to her rampant figure-head—an East Indiaman worthy to lie alongside The Cloister and the Hearth. (219)

He follows this wistful expression of a longtime dream with what came to be for him a typical act, a dash of cold water in the face intended to wake

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him up to the reality that he did not have what was needed to fulfill that particular dream: “Not being able to do this, I dismissed the ambition as ‘beneath the thinking mind.’ So does a half-blind man dismiss shooting and golf.” Kipling was a writer of such fertile imagination, unbounded creative energy, stylistic richness, and bold and original experimentation that one suspects that he almost certainly could have succeeded in any genre of writing given adequate self-confidence and inspiration. He certainly did not lack the ability to create a coherent and intricate plot—as his mother thought—nor was he incapable of sustained and three-dimensional character development—as he feared when he wrote “The Last of the Stories.” When The Light That Failed and The Naulahka fell short of critical approval, he became more convinced than ever that his trying to write a good novel was like a blind man trying to play golf.126 Just how wide ranging were the effects of Kipling’s self-doubts is a matter of speculation, but it is clear that they were manifested not only in his general state of mind but also in his methods of creating and in his personality as it appeared to others. For example, in Something of Myself he confesses that the act of writing had always been easy and pleasurable for him. Because of that happy fact, he was able to “throw away anything that did not turn out well” (198). He then indulges in a summary of what he calls the “Higher Editing,” a process that is marked not so much by changing what is there as by shortening, by throwing away. Cutting one’s own work is notoriously difficult for most writers. This is especially true of amateurs like Charlie Mears in Kipling’s “The Finest Story in the World,” who complains: “I hate cutting my things down. I don’t think you could alter a word here without spoiling the sense.”127 Even accomplished writers, however, often have to leave the task of “compression,” as Kipling called it, to editors and who then argue vehemently for retaining as much as possible. Other authors, like Henry James, are inveterate revisers but not cutters; they change but generally do not shorten. Most often, they tend to lengthen. Kipling threw away. He shortened so many of his later stories that some critics have attributed to that process the loss of information and details necessary for meaning, obscurity resulting from throwing away too much. His claim that he found it painless to destroy his own work because writing was a “physical pleasure” for him has the ring of a rationalization. It may be that what lay at the heart of the matter was self-doubt. A writer possessed by the Devil of Discontent is much more likely to judge his work harshly and not hesitate to indulge in wholesale deletions than is one stubbornly devoted to his immortal words. Rider Haggard was struck with what he took to be humility in Kipling, who “was a severe critic” of his own work.128 What appears as humility, however, is

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sometimes self-discontent, the cause of much agony. Haggard records in his diary a conversation in which Kipling revealed the depths of his discontent, which is again taken for humility:
His humility is very striking. We were talking of our failings. I said that what grew on me from day to day was a sense of my own utter insufficiency, of complete humiliation both in the case of those things that I had done and left undone and of the knowledge of sin ingrained in my nature which became more and more apparent to me as I approached the end of my days. He answered that it was absolutely the same with himself in every sense and detail, and proceeded to speak very strongly on the matter, pointing out how we were subject to different weaknesses and temptations at the various periods of life. I commented on the fact that he had wide fame and was known as “the great Mr. Kipling,” which should be a consolation to him. He thrust the idea aside with a gesture of disgust. “What is it worth—what is it all worth?” he answered.129

When he discovered that Haggard was ten years older than himself, Kipling responded with words to the effect that “then you have the less time left in which to suffer.”130 Suffering is not always or in all ways destructive, however. Indeed, had Kipling been less acquainted with the city of dreadful night within, had his personal vision been less pessimistic, he might well have been a lesser writer (though undoubtedly a happier one). He was aware even early in his career that suffering is often a prerequisite for the insight that is necessary for a kind of triumph possible even in the face of eventual destruction, a view that he held throughout his life. At the end of World War I, he applied this philosophy to his own country, which had suffered greatly. It was torn asunder, a generation of its young men all but obliterated, its collective state of mind one of uncertainty and confusion. In a letter to his longtime acquaintance Professor Brander Matthews of Columbia University, he wrote: “It’s a queer sensation to be in and of a people who’ve been put through the whole mill of all available motion and have come out the other side—dazed, dumb, bewildered but still alive. It’s rather like a nation returning to life after a long operation—things aren’t adjusted on the eye-balls yet and the sides of the room look strange.” Yet he quickly adds: “I’m sorry for people who haven’t had the experience—Hell though it is and has been.”131 Only by going through hell does one obtain what he called “power,” which he pursued through his writing. He expressed this idea forcefully in a section of Letter XI of Letters of Marque, first published in the Pioneer in January of 1888, which is entitled in part “Proves Conclusively the Existence of the Dark Tower Visited by Child Rowland.” The reference is to Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to

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the Dark Tower Came,” a dark and enigmatic poem is which the landscape is that of stark desolation and in which the hero, fully aware of his own imminent destruction and disillusioned about both his life and the lives of those close to him, nevertheless exerts his sense of defiance and independence by one last act of courageous willfulness: “Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,/ And blew ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’ ” Representing the “night-side” of Browning’s nature, as Ian Jack has remarked, the poem “has for its central theme the problem of . . . creating something significant out of one’s existence on earth.”132 Kipling recalled “Chide Roland to the Dark Tower Came” during his visit to Kumbha Rana’s Tower of Victory in Chitor because that structure immediately became for him a concrete manifestation of Browning’s theme, which in turn expressed his own conviction.133 Though the builder of this impressive edifice remains anonymous, Kipling states, he must have been a person who knew much suffering from which he gained both the insight and the ability to seek a kind of victory over the dark chaos of life and the sure prospect of death, not religious certitude but a personal triumph achieved through the exercise of courage, independence, and creativity, all of which go toward the formation of a sense of what Kipling calls “power.” He makes it clear that this particular tower, the second built on the same site, was not designed from religious fervor, as was the first: “The second tower is more worldly in intent.” He finds the “effect upon the mind” of the edifice to be “intense.” Its every aspect seems to him profoundly symbolic. He is convinced that the architect must have wanted to instill in visitors to the tower “fear and aversion” by arranging the stairways so that they are “like the interior of a Chinese carved ivory puzzle-ball. The idea given is that, even while you are ascending, you are wrapping yourself deeper and deeper in the tangle of a mighty maze.” So is the effect of the setting similar to that of the landscape in Browning’s poem; both represent in large measure the fearsome confusion of one journeying through life. This sense is heightened by “the half-light, the thronging armies of sculptured figures, the mad profusion of design splashed as impartially upon the undersides of the stone window-slabs as upon the door-beam of the threshold.” Then in a moment of revelation, Kipling realized that he had grasped the architect’s message conveyed in this magnificent but frightening tower: “To attain power, wrote the builder of old, in sentences of fine stone, it is necessary to pass through all sorts of close-packed horrors, treacheries, battles, and insults, in darkness and without knowledge whether the road leads upward or into a hopeless cul-de-sac” (111–12). Those words express forcefully and succinctly Kipling’s view of the role of suffering in his life as he pursued power through the use of words, as he sculptured his own sentences of fine stone despite (and at least partially because of) the city of dreadful night within.

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The Immortal Woe of Life: Bereavement
or Kipling bereavement was the woe that never seemed to end, “the immortal woe.”1 Unquestionably one of the major causes of the Great Darkness in his life was the painful sense of loss that repeatedly afflicted him with rare intensity even from an early age. Angus Wilson argues that Kipling’s experience with the devastating impact of grief can be traced as far back as the death of a younger brother at birth in 1870 and to that of Captain Holloway in 1874. Of the former, Wilson comments: “It is hard to think that this unmentioned event and his parents’ grief would not have been a mysterious introduction to a terrible time. It was the first death of his life.”2 Captain Holloway, or “Uncle Harry,” had been the young Kipling’s only source of humane treatment while at Lorne Lodge; his death ushered in the boy’s bleakest period at Southsea. As time went on, the deaths of loved ones cast an ineradicable shadow over his life. Death was not the only cause of his painful sense of loss, however. Other forms of loss so worked on his emotions as to mimic closely the effects of bereavement. He must have felt something closely akin to bereavement, for example, when his parents left him at Lorne Lodge and for a time disappeared from his life. His sufferings from bereavement—in this broader sense—began early and left him deeply scarred. As a youth he fell in love with a person never much interested in him romantically, though she did on occasion encourage his courtship, which was on and off for some years. During this period, Flo Garrard did not die, but Kipling’s sense of loss upon her rejection of him probably could not have been keener if she had. From India he wrote to his cousin Margaret Burne-Jones (“Wop”) that he felt “that the bottom had tumbled out of the Great Universe,” and he attempted to describe his ongoing sense of loss: “But take my word for it Wop it hurts while it lasts and at no time more deeply than in the hot weather when you’ve done all the work you can, can’t go out, can’t read,

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can’t do anything but sit in the big dark rooms and think. . . . I shouldn’t care to have my worst enemy go through some of the evenings I’ve gone through.”3 Lord Birkenhead has written that this was “a love affair about which we cannot read without impatience and disbelief ” since young Kipling was obviously deluded about Flo and since his letters about her from India are “spurious and cloying.”4 Be that as it may, there is no denying that to him the agony was real, especially after Flo’s final rejection of him in 1890. In a startling admission that explains much about the torment he went through in times of loss, he commented to Edmonia Hill: “My own nature is a miserably self-torturing one.”5 Self-torture is still torture. That he associated the pain resulting from the end of a love relationship with the terrible feeling that someone dear has died is evident in “Discovery.”An allegory of the death of love, the sonnet was composed while Kipling was still a student at the United Services College at Westward Ho!
We found him in the woodlands—she and I— Dead was our Teacher of the silver tongue, Dead, whom we thought so strong he could not die, Dead, with no arrow loosed, with bow unstrung. And round the great, grey blade that all men dread There crept the waxen white convolvulus, And the keen edge, that once fell hard on us, Was blunt and notched and rusted yellow red. And he, our Master, the unconquered one, Lay in the nettles of the forest place, With dreadful open eyes and changeless face Turned upward—gazing at the noonday sun. Then we two bent over our old, dead King, Loosed hands and gave back heart and troth and ring.

In regard to Flo Garrard, he wrote to Edmonia Hill that he could not conceive of keeping her letters, for “if it all died,” again referring to the end of a relationship in terms of death, “they would hurt more than any woe.”6 When W. Somerset Maugham commented that Kipling was “immensely precocious,” he was referring to artistic talent as displayed generally in Plain Tales from the Hills (1886) and more specifically in a work of a bit later, “Without Benefit of Clergy” (1890), which he felt was “the best story Kipling ever wrote.”7 Kipling himself, however, recognized that he was “immensely precocious” in another way, his early experience of loss. By the time he had written “Without Benefit of Clergy,” he felt that though young, he had already known enough of the woe that comes from loss to be able to delineate with authority the characteristics of grief and the nature of the

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dark worldview that they nurture. In fact, his precocity in grief is the subject of his poem “Bitter Waters,” which prefaces “Without Benefit of Clergy.” Its purpose seems to be to establish the credentials of one still young in years but experienced in loss for delving with authority into the subjects of the story—love, bereavement, and pessimistic determinism:
Before my Spring I garnered Autumn’s gain, Out of her time my field was white with grain, The year gave up her secrets to my woe. Forced and deflowered each sick season lay, In mystery of increase and decay; I saw the sunset ere men saw the day, Who am too wise in that I should not know.8

“Without Benefit of Clergy” is the first in a series of stories that Kipling wrote over a period of years that deal with, among other things, the subject of bereavement. It was possibly composed shortly after his disappointing visit with Flo Garrard in Paris, a visit that brought home to him once and for all the painful truth that she did not love him and that he had lost her forever. It is one of his darkest works, born of a mood of disillusionment. A pessimistic note sounds even in descriptions of the temporary joy of the chief characters, Holden and Ameera. Kipling’s depiction of their happiness is like Charles Allan Gilbert’s once popular illustration, “All is Vanity” (1892). It is the double image of a pleased young woman admiring herself in a mirror and a human skull, the deeper reality that lurks beneath all else. In “Without Benefit of Clergy,” Kipling returned to the Weltanschauung of “Way Down the Ravi River,” “A Murder in the Compound,” and “Nursery Rhymes for Little Indians,” a worldview that envisions human beings struggling for love, meaning, and survival in a godless world where they are doomed to unhappiness, grief, defeat, and extermination amid a totally indifferent nature that periodically audits “her accounts with a big red pencil.”9 This bookkeeping metaphor is extended to include repayment of a debt. That is, the “Powers,” whether they be nature’s forces, the gods, or some inexplicable and cold fate, require payment in pain and death for each moment of pleasure. Therefore, Holden and Ameera pretend not to enjoy themselves, saying “ ‘It is naught, it is naught’; and hoping that all the Powers heard” (126). Meanwhile, the Powers “had allowed thirty million people four years of plenty wherein men fed well and the crops were certain, and the birth-rate rose year by year” (126) and then, by way of collecting for a debt, wiped out a substantial part of the population and filled the survivors with grief. In such a world, Kipling suggests, often in a

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tone of bitterness, everything good has to be paid for. Old Pir Khan, the watchman, tells Holden: “Never life came into the world but life was paid for it” (110). Holden pays for Ameera, buying her from her mother, and then he pays for his happiness by suffering in the hell of bereavement when she dies. The world that exists outside Holden and Ameera’s love nest is that of harsh reality, represented by India itself, where delight cannot endure, where nature audits “her accounts with a red pencil,” where loss is commonplace. “Many things are taken away in India,” writes Kipling, “suddenly and without warning” (121). His descriptions of this world are pervaded with effective horror:
Then came the cholera from all four quarters of the compass. It struck a pilgrim-gathering of half a million at a sacred shrine. Many died at the feet of their god; the others broke and ran over the face of the land, carrying the pestilence with them. It smote a walled city and killed two hundred a day. The people crowded the trains, hanging on to the footboards and squatting on the roofs of the carriages, and the cholera followed them, for at each station they dragged out the dead and the dying. They died by the roadside, and the horses of the Englishmen shied at the corpses in the grass. The rains did not come, and the earth turned to iron lest man should escape death by hiding in her. (129)

Some of the English do escape death by going to the hill stations, but the victory is temporary, for what is happening to the masses is merely an exaggeration of what happens in general in the real world. No one can escape for long the capricious destructiveness of the Powers. “Without Benefit of Clergy” is the story of two worlds. More often than not, critics have identified them as that of the English as opposed to that of the Indian. Although Kipling superficially dwells on the differences that divide the two cultures, his emphasis is upon two other, more fundamental, worlds, that of the starkly real as opposed to that of the romantic, that of the brutal fact as opposed to that of the dream, that of the distressingly authentic as opposed to the artificial. The word romantic appropriately suggests Holden and Ameera’s situation not only because it connotes love but also that which is fanciful, impractical, and visionary. Theirs is a fantasy kingdom where he is king, she is queen, Tota the heir apparent prince (“the little lord of the house”), and old Pir Khan the palace guard. This metaphor of the kingdom runs through much of the first section of the story: “He was king in his own territory, with Ameera for queen. And there was going to be added to his kingdom a third person” (103), Ameera refers to Holden as “my king” and as “my lord.” In this realm of fancy, no death is permitted, “unless,” as Ameera puts it, “I die

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of pure joy” (104). When Holden leaves her to go on his temporary assignment, she tells him to “think no troublesome thoughts,” as if he could shield himself against tribulations. In their kingdom of romance, Ameera says, “thou wilt love me for ever” (105). At the height of his rule, having fathered an heir, King Holden “remained awake for the greater part of the night, and his dreams were pleasant ones” (112). Indeed, a waking dream is what he has been experiencing in his relationship with Ameera. The symbol of Holden’s attempt to lead a double life, to live, that is, in two worlds, one different and apart from the other and not subject to its dread laws, is the gate that protects his kingdom from any intrusion. He tells himself that “when the big wooden gate was bolted behind him” (103), he is removed from the suffering and anxiety so prevalent in the real world. For a time after Tota’s birth, tranquility and satisfaction prevail in his self-contained realm of romance:
Tota cuddled himself down to sleep. The two sleek, white well-bullocks in the courtyard were steadily chewing the cud of their evening meal; old Pir Khan squatted at the head of Holden’s horse, his police sabre across his knees, pulling drowsily at the big water-pipe that croaked like a bull-frog in a pond. Ameera’s mother sat spinning in the lower verandah, and the wooden gate was shut and barred. (115–16, italics mine)

Kipling accounts for this momentary idyll of domesticity by the fact that Holden and Ameera are “withdrawn from the world, shut in behind the wooden gate that Pir Khan guarded” (119).10 At the end of “Without Benefit of Clergy,” the destruction of the gate marks the end of Holden’s dream, for the “heavy wooden gate that had guarded his life hung lazily from one hinge” (137). Hell will not allow a paradise to be erected in its midst. The effect of the numerous references in the story to a kind of paradisiacal kingdom is to make clear that the little realm of Holden and Ameera is an artifice, a kind of wonderful trickery but trickery nevertheless. Therefore, a sense of artificiality often surfaces whenever they speak of the eternality of their love and the permanence of their happiness. The language with which Kipling provides them, peculiarly saturated with “thee’s” and “thou’s” and with somewhat strange because formal and pseudo-poetic expressions, has been cited as the reason for some readers’ seeing the story as, in the words of Elliot L. Gilbert (who does not see the story that way) “a quaint, rather sentimental love idyll.”11 Gilbert believes that “this technique, not the same at all as dialect, of course, does, on occasion, help the author to create a heightened and poetic effect, but not

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one of unreality” because Kipling is translating into English “expressions which, in the original, are completely idiomatic and unselfconscious.”12 A sense of unreality, however, and not a “heightened and poetic effect” is precisely what Kipling seems to be after. No matter how logical the explanation—that Kipling is translating—the fact is that he uses language that comes across as artificial, not a flaw in the work, to be sure, but an intentional effect that underscores the artificiality of the world Holden and Ameera are trying to maintain. If their speech to each other seems artificial, so does their bliss. From the story emerges a dark and inescapable principle—there is no such thing as a world in which happiness reigns; it is an artifice. Holden appears to know that this is true, even as he pretends that it is not, and that is why toward the end when he receives a telegram calling him home and sees Pir Khan standing in the doorway ready to escort him, he laughs aloud, a cynical, sardonic laugh signifying that what deep down he has known all along has now proven to be correct, what Hemingway’s Frederic Henry of A Farewell to Arms (1929) learns, namely, that one cannot declare a separate peace, cannot create for himself a little world walled off from the capriciousness and destruction of the Powers and immune to grief.13 Holden’s “a dread of loss,” as Kipling terms it, is actually a manifestation of his awareness that happiness is a kind of artificial state. When Ameera is about to deliver their child and he is called away on an assignment, he prepares a telegram for the old watchman of the house to send him in case of trouble: “It was all that could be done, and with the sensations of a man who has attended his own funeral Holden went away by the night mail to his exile. Every hour of the day he dreaded the arrival of the telegram, and every hour of the night he pictured to himself the death of Ameera.” Instead of being filled with excitement about the imminent arrival of his child, he is “torn to pieces by his anxieties” (105). His assignment ended, he arrives at his house “with his heart in his mouth” (105–06). His imagination of disaster is active even when he finds that Ameera is all right and that he has a healthy son, for when he thinks of the child, “a dread of loss filled him” (109). Later, when a cholera epidemic breaks out, Holden is “sick with fear of losing his chiefest treasure on earth,” and upon failing to convince Ameera to escape to the northern hill country, “he was absolutely certain that her death would be demanded” (129, 132). Although Kipling calls their happiness snatched under a shadow “complete” (and in another place, “perfect”), he constantly undercuts that idea by noting Holden’s sense of impending doom. Holden and Ameera watch the dead being borne through the city, kiss, and then shiver (132). Now Kipling’s view is not that Holden and Ameera should have been more realistic, should never have been so foolish as to think that they could

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be happy together in a little artificial world of their own. The story does not indict them, for they want only to love each other and their son and to be left alone to be safe and free. That is not asking much, and the fact that it is more than the “Powers” will grant is Kipling’s condemnation not of Holden’s romantic world but of the real world, the real nature of life, which by all laws of decency and fairness and kindness should not be as it is.14 Yet as poignant and biting as is Kipling’s philosophy of life in “Without Benefit of Clergy,” it is not the focus of the story but the context. His central concern is essentially emotional in appeal rather than philosophical, namely, the impact of loss on Holden. At the very center of the story are the two blows that Holden must sustain, the death of his child and the death of Ameera. The nature and intensity of the pain that the two losses inflict on Holden and his reaction to them—these matters constitute the heart of the work. All that comes before (and between) the deaths of Tota and Ameera is preparation—necessary and effective preparation. Before he can transmit convincingly that which he most wants us to feel, the excruciation of the protogonist’s grief, Kipling must first show what Ameera and Tota mean to Holden. What Holden experiences most keenly in his bereavement is a sudden and all consuming loneliness. It is of the intensity that Kipling himself was to endure over and over again during his numerous periods of grief. His father’s death in January of 1911, he stated in a letter to Edmonia Hill, left him “desolate.”15 At the funeral, he confessed to a close friend of the family: “I feel the loneliest creature on God’s earth to-day.”16 No story of Kipling’s is more successful in projecting this soul-crushing loneliness of grief than “Without Benefit of Clergy.” After Tota’s death, Holden is thrown into a state of “more than mere pain,” but he still has Ameera, who has come “to fill the greater portion” of his life, and he still has “the house [that] was to him his home” (103); therefore, he is able to immerse himself in his work and to find some temporary relief from the agony of loss. With Ameera’s death, however, that “greater portion” of his life is gone as is his home—everything he holds dear is lost to him. That fact is powerfully brought home in the final lines of the story in which Holden’s landlord tells him that the house “shall be pulled down, and the Municipality shall make a road across, as they desire, from the burning-ghaut to the city wall, so that no man may say where this house stood” (138). Ameera’s mother, a selfish, scheming, despicable woman, plays no part in Holden’s affections and thus is no comfort to him in his grief. Since his life in the little house has been kept a secret from those with whom he works, he has no friend to turn to even if he were inclined to do so. Kipling depicts him as alone, totally alone, with his “dead,” as he puts it. But even if he had numerous sympathetic friends and many close family members gathered around

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him, his loneliness would still be unrelieved and profound because, as Kipling repeatedly suggested in his stories of bereavement, such is the nature of the immortal woe of life: nothing, no one, can help. And that includes God as well as God’s representatives. Numerous commentators have pointed out that the title of “Without Benefit of Clergy” not only suggests that the main characters have never been officially married, but also that they are not exempt, as was the clergy in early times, from the laws that govern secularity. As one editor has annotated the title: “ ‘Benefit of clergy’ refers to the trial of clergy in separate courts in medieval Europe. Kipling adapts the phrase to mean ‘not married in church.’ Here it therefore means both that the two were not married and that fate did not give them any exemption from the consequences of their action.”17 Still another implication of the title, and perhaps of even more significance, is that Ameera and Holden find no solace in religion. In their grief they receive no “benefit,” no consolation, from the clergy, and that is not only because they are not married (and therefore according to church doctrine living in sin) but also and mainly because, bluntly put, religion—whether it be Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or otherwise—cannot ease the agony of their bereavement. It is a point that Kipling made repeatedly. The extensive pattern of references in “Without Benefit of Clergy” to various forms of religion and to what might be termed religious superstition has the effect of underscoring what Kipling accepted as a brutal fact: all efforts to relieve the loneliness of bereavement are futile. At such times, religion is not the opiate of the people. Elliot L. Gilbert accurately and thoroughly articulates Kipling’s pessimistic view of “the universe” in “Without Benefit of Clergy,” but he errs just a bit when he attributes the various allusions to religion in the story to Kipling’s distrust of conventions and ritual.18 It is not ritual that is Kipling’s target in the story but religion itself. Insofar as religion was concerned, he was definitely “The Two-Sided Man,” as he called himself in a poem of 1901 with that title—not so much a person who was tolerant enough to accept the tenets of other religions as well as those of Christianity (as the poem seems to imply), not a man broad-minded enough to see “both sides of every question,” as one commentator interprets the poem,19 but a man who both accepted and rejected religion. He held in high esteem certain beliefs and practices in various religions as constituting the very fabric of tradition and thus of lasting value. His admiration for religion as culture is apparent in many of his writings. In fact, his creed, his view of the heroic life, included an enduring recognition of and respect for the faith of the fathers, the role of religion in one’s cultural heritage. He despised loud-mouth atheists who smug in their arrogance of unbelief rejected not only God but also those

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traditions established over centuries that had become an inseparable part of a people’s collective identity. His knowledge of the Bible was extraordinary and his profound respect for it unquestionable. Yet there is no denying that he was often at war with the practitioners of religion, sometimes at odds with certain tenets of religion, and often—perhaps always—unable to convince himself even of the reality of God. It was in times of loss that he felt most keenly the inability of religion to relieve loneliness, and that conviction he manifested with substantial power in “Without Benefit of Clergy.” With pathos rather than with disgust, Kipling portrays Ameera as representative of a type—those people who profess a belief in God in order to get what they want. For such a person, religion is a sort of insurance policy against disaster. Wanting a son, Ameera tells Holden: “I have prayed for so many nights, and sent gifts to Sheikh Badl’s shrine so often, that I know God will give us a son” (101). She appears to make no distinction between faith in God and superstition. She places a dagger on the floor near her newborn child “to avert ill-luck,” and when Holden accidentally steps on it and breaks the hilt, she coos, “God is great! . . . Thou hast taken his [their child’s] misfortunes on thy head” (106). As her son grows, she begins to instill her religion into him. “He is of the faith,” she tells Holden, “for lying here in the night-watches I whispered the call to prayer and the profession of faith into his ears.” In the very next breath, she mingles religion and astrology: “And it is most marvellous that he was born upon a Friday, as I was born” (108). Later she comments: “And he was born on a Friday under the sign of the Sun, and it has been told to me that he will outlive us both and get wealth” (112). In her mind cultural superstitions, astrology, and religion are all one, useful means of serving her and protecting her loved ones. With no favorites, she prays both to the “the Prophet” and to the Virgin Mary, then practices charms (like that involving almonds) to make her son as “wise” as Solomon and Plato (120), but all her efforts turn out to be futile. By having Ameera commingle superstition with various forms of religion, Kipling suggests that one is as good (or more accurately, as meaningless) as the other, that is, none of them is capable of turning aside the fickle hand of fate or of providing succor in times of grief. After Tota’s death, Ameera first rebelliously abandons her faith and then reestablishes it—again speaking of God and charms in the same breath. “The jealousy of God was upon us,” she remarks to Holden about Tota’s death. “I have hung up a large black jar before our window to turn the evil eye from us, and we must make no protestations of delight, but go softly underneath the stars, lest God find us out” (126). By the time of her own death, however, she has come to believe that “there is no God,” that Holden is her only god (134).

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More reserved and tentative in his remarks about religion than is Ameera, Holden nevertheless expresses certain platitudes such as “God is very good” (116), and he becomes caught up in Pir Khan’s belief of the “birth-sacrifice,” in which two goats must be killed in order to insure the well-being of his newborn child. Deviating from his Christian upbringing, he repeats a Mohammedan prayer before cutting the throats of the two goats. His boots soaked with blood from the sacrificial animals, he rides off in a state of “riotous exultation” brought on by a conviction that he has done all that he can do to bring his cherished private life under the protective hand of divine will. At least for a moment, he, a believer in what will be will be, merges in his mind fate with Providence.20 It is a temporary and understandable mistake but an enormous one nevertheless, for as Holden in his profound loneliness comes to realize as never before, an inexplicable and indifferent fate controls life, not the “will of God.”21 Kipling suggests in his characterization of Ameera and Holden that the inevitable consequence of bereavement, unrelieved loneliness, is often exacerbated by piercing self-accusation. Guilt plagues Ameera after Tota’s death. “At the end of each weary day,” she leads Holden “through the hell of self-questioning reproach” (123), accusing herself of not adequately watching over the child. Even while still young, Kipling knew from experience the role that guilt plays in bereavement. He wrote to Edmonia Hill in 1888: “Some time ago I lost a very dear friend in England and, above all the personal sense of loss was the bitter regret for every unkind or unsympathetic thing that I had ever said—for brutal sentences launched with intention to hurt (which is the most despicable form of cruelty) and for a host of other things.”22 The climactic scene in “Without Benefit of Clergy” is Holden’s dramatic self-condemnation, his taking on of blame for all that has happened, for his responsibility in setting up this separate little pleasure world that has ended in tragedy. In a moment of sheer agony, his loneliness and guilt come crushingly upon him, and Kipling allows us a glimpse into this private hell of his bereavement. As he rides off from the bedside of the dead Ameera, he “could not see for the rain in his face. He put his hands before his eyes and muttered—‘Oh, you brute! You utter brute!’ ” (136). The power of this brief scene derives principally from Kipling’s portrayal of Holden throughout the story as a man who does not make a show of his emotions, whether joy or sorrow. When his son is born and he goes to his club, he fears that he will reveal his “riotous exultation” and therefore pulls himself together (110). He disciplines himself as sternly in sorrow as in joy, for when Tota dies, “Holden realised his pain slowly, exactly as he had realised his happiness, and with the same imperious necessity for hiding all

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trace of it” (122). Whereas Ameera can openly weep, proclaim loudly her guilt, and spew forth her bitterness, Holden “could not declare his pain. He had neither help, comfort, nor sympathy” (123). Yet Kipling makes it clear that Holden’s emotional reticence is not the result of a shallow capacity for suffering but of his fidelity to a code of behavior. There is no question about what is happening to him on the inside. After Ameera dies, he “could not think connectedly . . . though he made many attempts to do so” (135), and he “could neither eat nor sleep” (137). The constant rain becomes, as it does in a later story, “Mary Postgate,” the atmospheric metaphor of an internal condition: profound sorrow. Just once does he manifest his woe in words, and then he merely “muttered” them. He feels much but says little and is therefore like an iceberg, which Kipling described: we “only see an eighth of it above water. The rest is out of sight and . . . one guesses its extent by great blocks that break off and shoot up to the surface from some underlying out-running spur a quarter of a mile away.”23 Ernest Hemingway has often been quoted for his similar comment on the iceberg, but where he received such teaching—from the English master of understatement—has remained little known.24 The sensed difference between what Holden in his bereavement feels and what he expresses creates the effect that has moved some readers so greatly as to cause them to value this story of grief above all others that Kipling wrote. Whereas depiction of the immediate impact of loss, that is, loss as the character first experiences it, accounts for much of the compelling pathos of “Without Benefit of Clergy,” another story of bereavement published only a couple of months later in 1890 delineates the complex effects of what might be termed retrospective mourning. “On Greenhow Hill” is Kipling’s brilliant refutation of the widely accepted saw that time heals all wounds. Two time schemes interweave in the story as three soldiers, Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd, recurrent characters in several of Kipling’s military tales, sit on a hill in northwestern India, waiting to shoot the deserter from a native regiment when he eventually appears below. During these moments, Learoyd recounts events from his past, the story of how he met Liza Roantree, fell in love with her, vied with a young minister for her affection, attended the church where she and her family were active, failed to win the approval of her father, eventually learned of her fatal illness, and joined the British army in despair as she was close to death. Occasionally Learoyd’s two companions interrupt his narrative of the past with remarks, juxtaposing the two time periods, and Learoyd himself sometimes comments on the difference between what he was then and is now. The story ends with the same setting in which it began, with the three friends in India. Ortheris shoots the deserter and shows the selfsatisfaction of an accomplished craftsman at his work.

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Such a frame structure allows Kipling to reveal that a substantial amount of time has passed since the events occurred that Learoyd narrates. Looking back upon his experiences involving Liza, he says: “Yo’ see, I was a young chap i’ them days, and had seen naught o’ life, let alone death, as is allus a-waitin.’ ”25 Mulvaney adds to this impression that a good deal of time has lapsed by pointing out that Learoyd was but “a young man” in those days, inexperienced and foolish (213). Learoyd has become older and wiser, a seasoned veteran of combat, a trained killer. His own comments interspersed in his narrative, however, reveal that his present pain over losing Liza is no less than it was years ago. Indeed, Kipling makes it clear that Learoyd’s bereavement has not diminished with time but has become if anything more intense through memory. It is Kipling’s convincing delineation of this phenomenon—cumulative grief—that is largely responsible for making “On Greenhow Hill,” in Charles Carrington’s words, “a work of great emotional power”26 and “a very impressive and fundamentally true story” as Arnold Bennett (who did not at all like Stalky and Kim) called it.27 The climax of the story is Learoyd’s poignant expression of his continuing grief. He relates that after having joined the army and seeing the dying Liza for the last time, he meets at a pub the sergeant who recruited him and has some beer: “Th’ recruiting sergeant were waitin’ for me at th’ corner public-house. ‘Yo’ve seen your sweetheart?’ says he. ‘Yes, I’ve seen her,’ says I. ‘Well, we’ll have a quart now, and you’ll do your best to forget her,’ says he, bein’ one o’ them smart, bustlin’ chaps. ‘Ay, sergeant,’ says I. ‘Forget her.’ And I’ve been forgettin’ her ever since” (230). Thus the emotional impact of “On Greenhow Hill” derives not only from the touching story itself that Learoyd tells—the account of how when he was quite young he lost the person that he loved most dearly in the world—but also from the dramatic depiction of how intensely he has continued to suffer from that loss even up to the moment that he talks of it. The symbol of his loss is Greenhow Hill itself. When he hears certain tunes that Liza Roantree used to sing,“that fetches Greenhow Hill,” he says, “before my eyes” (213), and when Greenhow Hill is before his eyes, his grief returns. Anything he sees that reminds him of Greenhow Hill triggers anew his bereavement. He finds a “bare sub-Himalayan spur” near where he and his companions are waiting for the appearance of the deserter to be “strangely like” Greenhow Hill (209–10). The power of that image of the hill to move both Learoyd’s heart and his usually reticent tongue is suggested by Mulvaney’s statement just before his friend begins to tell his story that “it takes an earthquake or a bullet graze to fetch aught out av you” (209). Once he is embarked upon his painful journey into the past, Learoyd appears at times almost unaware of his audience. Indeed, he seems

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“speaking more to himself than his fellows” (209). The intensity of his sorrow is indicated by his tendency to shut out all else as he is “thinkin’ o’ what had happened” (209). Even when Mulvaney or Ortheris interrupt with comments, “Learoyd went calmly on, with a steady eye like an ox chewing the cud” (213). He is on Greenhow Hill, that is, reliving that painful time, and his narrative is marked by a melancholy tone that serves to underscore his present sadness. When the common people of Sussex in “They” (1904), another of Kipling’s stories of bereavement, “walk in the wood,” they are mourning; when Learoyd is “on Greenhow Hill,” he is doing likewise. Thus the title itself of this extraordinary story points to its primary subject of recurrent bereavement, for being on Greenhow Hill means being in a state of grief. “On Greenhow Hill” is not only an analysis of a specific aspect of grief—its torturing persistence over time—but is also, like Kipling’s other stories of bereavement, a psychological study of the bereaved in which Kipling shows how personal characteristics of the bereaved intensify the sorrow. In his mourning, Learoyd is troubled not by guilt, as is John Holden, who blames himself for Ameera’s death, but by shame. Learoyd does not cry out in agonized self-condemnation for what he has wrought (he does not feel responsible for Liza’s death), but he does nevertheless suffer from the pangs of shame, from the gnawing sense that he has not acted altogether honorably. Some people appear not to have much of a capacity for shame, but Kipling takes some pains to make it clear that Learoyd is not of this sort. That he is given to shame is first indicated when he joins Mulvaney and Ortheris in their watch for the deserter. Having allowed himself to be grazed accidentally by a bullet fired by a fellow British soldier, he shows up “looking ashamed of himself ” (207). Then when he begins to recount how Liza told him about her father’s finding him in a ditch, drunken and unconscious, he admits: “ ‘Oa!’ sez I; an’ I shet my eyes, for I felt ashamed o’ mysen” (212). Later he is shamed when he comes back after borrowing money from Liza and using it for drink. Just looking at Liza and hearing her speak convince him that he needs to change. “I was fair ‘shamed o’ mysen,” he says, “an’ so I became what they call a changed character” (215). The purpose of these episodes is obviously to give evidence that Learoyd is not and has never been without an abhorrence of disgrace. They furnish a valuable clue as to why this brute of a man seems somehow to be concerned about the deserter whom Ortheris is soon to kill. Both Mulvaney and Ortheris are struck with what appears to be Learoyd’s interest in the private life of the deserter when he says, “Seems queer— about ‘im yonder—desertin’ and all” (208). That comment is the first of several in which he assumes that he and the deserter have something

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in common. “Happen there was a lass tewed up wi’ it,” he remarks, speculating that it was either the “lass” or, more probably, her father that motivated the man, as in his own case, to enlist (208–09). Mulvaney feels that Learoyd is “suggestin’ invidious excuses for the man Stanley’s going to kill,” and so he is (209). When at the end of the story Ortheris’s bullet finds its mark and kills the deserter, Learoyd repeats his earlier statement almost word for word: “Happen there was a lass tewed up wi’ him, too” (231). The addition of the word too is significant because it reveals a direct linkage in Learoyd’s mind of himself with the deserter. There appears to be only one reason for Learoyd’s odd interest in the man that Ortheris kills: he identifies with him because he feels that he, too, is a deserter in spite of the irony that his own desertion involved joining the army instead of abandoning it as did the native deserter. And if Learoyd is accusing himself of desertion, he could be thinking only of the young woman he loved: he deserted her. Because he was in disfavor with her father and with all the other “chapel folk,” because Liza was dying and thus unobtainable, and because he was so deeply hurt and frustrated, he gave over, as it were, the control of his life by enlisting. At that moment it was almost an act of suicide in his own mind. He just did not care about what happened to him because of his acute unhappiness with the situation—a state of mind highly conducive to desertion. Whenever he looks back, he feels ever more keenly the shame of his having left Liza before she died, an act that seemed at the time the only course for him to follow. Thus the idea of desertion runs through both the frame narrative and the inner story of “On Greenhow Hill.”28 If in retrospect Learoyd does, indeed, consider himself a kind of deserter, it would follow naturally from the kind of man that he is that he would be plagued by shame, which considerably complicates and intensifies the pain of his bereavement. In his world with its particular set of values, nothing is more disgraceful than desertion. In “Madness of Private Ortheris,” a story published two years before “On Greenhow Hill,” Ortheris becomes homesick for London and decides to desert, an attitude that is considered not only aberrant (it is referred to as “madness” and as “a fit”) but shameful in the extreme. His friend Mulvaney—Learoyd is in the hospital at the time—confronts Ortheris and tells him that he is ashamed of him. Ortheris then comes to himself and realizes what he has done. Mulvaney accuses him of disgracing not only himself but also their military unit and—worst of all—Mulvaney himself, his best friend. So overcome with shame is Ortheris when he realizes what terrible thing that he was about to do—desert—that he apologizes, calls himself “too little” to associate with Mulvaney, and offers himself up for a severe whipping with a belt. According to the code of conduct by which these men live and die, desertion constitutes betrayal of the highest order.

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The apparent indifference with which Mulvaney and Ortheris discuss taking the life of another human being and the deliberate and unfeeling method with which Ortheris carries it out—these details have been cited as evidence of hardness of heart, cruelty, and inhumanity. According to Bonomy Dobrée, brutality, “primitive passion,” and “the lust to kill” are exhibited in the soldiers’ attitude toward the deserter.29 Lord Birkenhead finds the introduction of the story “bloodthirsty,” the conclusion “brutal,” and he writes that “an intellectual brutality . . . came over Kipling when he wrote On Greenhow Hill, in the scene where the friends were waiting for the kill.”30 Harry Ricketts states that “the reader was allowed, even encouraged, to feel disturbed by the soldiers’ clinical approach to the assassination.”31 Such views are understandable, but they seem to miss Kipling’s point, which is not that these military men are brutal and bloodthirsty but that they to a high degree are true to a creed of trustworthiness and fidelity. In the culture of Tommy Atkins, a deserter was beneath contempt because he was seen as failing to stand by his fellow soldiers. The poem that Kipling affixed to “Madness of Private Ortheris” explains from the soldiers’ point of view the crucial importance of “a trusty chum”:
Oh! Where would I be when my froat was dry? Oh! Where would I be when the bullets fly? Oh! Where would I be when I come to die? Why, Somewheres anigh my chum. If ’e’s liquor, ’e’ll give me some, If I’m dyin’ ’e’ll ’old my ’ead, An’ ’e’ll write ’em ’Ome when I’m dead.— Gawd send us a trusty chum!

A man who broke the sacred trust of his fellows scarcely deserved to live, for he might cause the death of others when they needed his help. Fidelity to this creed, not hardened insensitivity, explains why Mulvaney and Ortheris have no feeling for the native deserter. He has brought disgrace upon them all, even his own kin. “He’s my cousin,” explains a member of the native regiment who had taken a shot at the deserter the night before but missed, “and I ought to have cleared our dishonour” (205). It is important to understand just how low Mulvaney and his friends hold a deserter and to grasp their reasons for doing so because only then does it become clear what Kipling is getting at in regard to Learoyd: his shame must be distressingly profound if he feels himself linked to such a pariah. How much Kipling was thinking of himself when he wrote of a doomed love affair that left a young man with recurrent grief and with a deep sense

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of shame is, of course, a matter of speculation. Some critics and biographers assume that “On Greenhow Hill” is principally about the author’s relationship with Caroline Taylor, the sister of Edmonia Hill. Accompanied by Mrs. Hill and her husband, Kipling visited the Taylors in Pennsylvania during his tour of the United States in 1889 and apparently fell for Caroline. When Kipling sailed for England, he did so in the company of the Hills, Caroline, and her brother. By the time they had left him to make their way to India, Rudyard seems to have had an understanding with Caroline, not quite a formal engagement but pretty much what amounted to one. They corresponded, and in one letter, he outlines his religious beliefs of the time in answer to what appears to be a concern of her father that he might have had Catholic proclivities. Caroline’s father was a Methodist minister who headed up Beaver College for Women. He probably took no comfort from some of Kipling’s pronouncements: “I disbelieve directly in eternal punishment. . . . I disbelieve in an eternal reward. As regards the mystery of the Trinity and the Doctrine of Redemption, I regard them most reverently but I cannot give them implicit belief.”32 Soon the relationship ended, and the two went their separate ways. Critical appraisals of “On Greenhow Hill” have been greatly influenced by Charles Carrington’s statement that “the story can hardly be considered in any other light than Rudyard’s farewell to Caroline Taylor.”33 Without doubt some of the details and situations of the story echo what was going on in Kipling’s life with Caroline. For example, Learoyd’s feeling of alienation from the religiosity of Liza’s people and friends bears close similarity to Kipling’s own uneasiness with the Methodism of Caroline and her family. Carrington seems to rely heavily, however, on another parallel which in reality is not a parallel. He speaks of Liza as the “daughter of the Methodist preacher” in the story (204), thus implying a connection with Caroline, whose father was a Methodist minister. Angus Wilson makes the same point in calling Liza “the minister’s daughter”34 as does Harry Ricketts, who refers to her as the “daughter of a Methodist minister.”35 The trouble with these statements is that Jesse Roantree, with all his religious zeal and narrow views, is not a Methodist preacher but a Yorkshire miner who leads the singing in his church and plays a fiddle. The minister of the story, the Reverend Amos Barraclough, is a figure of compassion and understanding. He reacts to Learoyd’s clumsy jealousy with admirable courage and charity. His characterization is based largely on the author’s grandfather, the Reverend Joseph Kipling, a Methodist preacher whose portrait was probably filled in with the help of Rudyard’s father, who contributed details and ideas to the work. It would be easy to see how Kipling might have projected his own pain of abandonment and loss into his character Learoyd if Caroline Taylor, like Liza Roantree, had been dying

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or even if she had suddenly broken off their relationship and left him pining for her, but Caroline was not fatally ill and probably did not abandon him. The best evidence suggests that he was the one who broke off their unofficial engagement. Chances are, therefore, that at least as far as the breakup with Caroline was concerned, he did not feel the same agonizing sense of loss that he experienced when Flo Garrard made it clear that there was no future for the two of them together. The convincing depiction of Learoyd’s bereavement owes much to Kipling’s loss of Flo but probably not much to his loss of Caroline. This is not to say, however, that Kipling was left unscarred by his love affair with Caroline Taylor or that Learoyd’s emotions do not in some ways reflect those of the author shortly after he and Caroline parted company. Like the character that he created, Kipling had a low threshold of shame, and his depiction of Learoyd’s mental suffering over his behavior with regard to Liza—that is, his sense of having deserted her—may owe a great deal to Rudyard’s self-condemning suspicion that he had acted less than honorably with regard to Caroline. When his sister Trix visited him in his quarters on Villiers Street in London, he seemed to her to be greatly troubled. Lord Birkenhead reports that “he told her, ‘his face beginning to work’, that his liaison with Caroline Taylor was over.”36 What was bothering him so much, as he indicated to Trix, was that “he had broken the heart of the ‘noblest woman in the world.’ ”37 Desertion must have been much on his mind when he was composing “On Greenhow Hill.” In characterizing Learoyd, Kipling seems to have combined the shame that he himself experienced from, as he viewed it, breaking the heart of a noble woman, that is, from deserting her, with the agony of hurt that he suffered when Flo deserted him. Thus for Learoyd, desertion is a double-edged sword for producing pain. The poem that prefaces “On Greenhow Hill” bears directly on Learoyd’s anguished feeling of having been deserted. Written by Alice Macdonald Kipling, Rudyard’s mother, it depicts a woman who does not accept her suitor but rather deserts him for another, Death:
To Love’s low voice she lent a careless ear; Her hand within his rosy fingers lay, A chilling weight. She would not turn or hear; But with averted face went on her way. But when pale Death, all featureless and grim, Lifted his bony hand, and beckoning Held out his cypress-wreath, she followed him, And Love was left forlorn and wondering, That she who for his bidding would not stay, At Death’s first whisper rose and went away.

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The situation in this poem, “Rivals,” parallels that in the story, for John Learoyd finds that his real rival is not the Reverend Amos Barraclough, as he thought, but death. “ ‘Liza Roantree’s for neither on us,” the minister tells him, “nor for nobody o’ this earth” (227). She would leave them both for her new suitor, death. When Learoyd hears this, he identifies and sympathizes with the minister because both of them are hurt and feel deserted just as he later associates himself with the man Ortheris kills because both of them are deserters. About Amos, he says: “I were cut as deep for him as I were for mysen” (227). Kipling knew well what it was like to feel deserted, to experience the torment of loss that it brings on. In “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” (1888), he writes that when a man “discovers that he has been deserted,” he manifests his “despair” in several possible ways, including “evil-living” and even suicide.38 It is difficult to say which is the more painful for Learoyd, the hurt that comes from the feeling that he has been deserted by the person he loves or the shame that results from his nagging suspicion that he deserted her. Both troubling emotions haunt him in his retrospective bereavement. Kipling’s depiction of Learoyd’s tortured states of mind while he is in the act of remembering illustrates the often complicated nature of bereavement, which sometimes involves a complex of emotions. It is clear from Learoyd’s comments as he narrates his story, for example, that it is difficult if not impossible for him to separate his sorrow over the death of Liza from a sense of personal injury that he experienced while trying to court her. His broken heart and his hurt feelings seem to merge and then flow together as one river of painful bereavement. In his continuing grief, sorrow is inextricably mixed with bitterness. He has a lasting conviction, which is entirely justified, that certain people, the “chapel folk,” were far from kind to him during this trying time of his life. In portraying the chapel folk’s treatment of Learoyd, Kipling expresses in “On Greenhow Hill” much of what he objected to in those who make up organized religion—arrogance, coldness, narrowness, and hypocrisy. “They talk o’ rich folk bein’ stuck up an’ genteel,” says Learoyd, “but for cast-iron pride o’ respectability there’s naught like poor chapel folk. It’s as cold as th’ wind o’ Greenhow Hill—ay, and colder, for ’twill never change” (220). In various forms, this indictment recurs in a good many of Kipling’s works. “Watches of the Night” (1887) is a notable example. The story of how a religious fanatic, the wife of a colonel in India, destroys several relationships and ultimately her own marriage, “Watches of the Night” effectively details the mischief that such concepts as the chapel folk hold can provoke. “You may have noticed,” writes Kipling, “that many religious people are deeply suspicious. They seem—for purely religious purposes, of course—to know more about iniquity than the Unregenerate. Perhaps

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they were specially bad before they became converted! At any rate, in the imputation of things evil, and in putting the worst construction on things innocent, a certain type of good people may be trusted to surpass all others.”39 The colonel’s wife comes to suspect that her husband is having an affair, a suspicion that is the result of a “deep mistrust born of the text that says even little babies’s hearts are as bad as they make them” and of other “tenets of the creed” of her religious upbringing. Because she was “deeply impressed with the doctrine of Original Sin, she could not believe in the face of appearances. She knew too much, and jumped to the wildest conclusions,” erroneous conclusions that destroy her compassion and her understanding.40 Learoyd is the victim of such “good people” as the colonel’s wife. As he looks back, he remembers the distress and loneliness that he felt at having been severely judged and then ostracized by the Primitive Methodists, who suspect the worst of him and in their fanaticism alienate him forever from organized religion. “They was so good, th’ chapel folk,” Learoyd comments, “that they tumbled ower t’other side” (222). One of Kipling’s pet ideas was that religious zealots often produce the opposite effect from what they intend. Learoyd says that he had not even considered joining the army until he heard the Methodists condemn soldiers: “this sort o’ talk put it i’ my head” (222). Kipling found despicable the hypocritical attitude that certain religious enthusiasts took toward those who serve and protect them in the military. Among the various views that the chapel folk espouse, Learoyd finds the oddest their objections to “fighting.” If their talk “were strange to me at beginnin’, ” he says, “it got stranger still at after, when I was shut on it, and could study what it meaned” (223). Why, he wonders, do they fill their worship services with references to fighting and then object so fervently to fighting men?
And now I come to think on it, one o’ th’ strangest things I know is ’at they couldn’t abide th’ thought o’ soldiering. There’s a vast o’ fightin’ i’ th’ Bible, and there’s a deal of Methodists i’ the army; but to hear chapel folk talk yo’d think that soldierin’ were next door, an’ t’other side, to hangin’. I’ their meetin’s all their talk is o’ fightin’. When Sammy Strother were stuck for summat to say in his prayers, he’d sing out, “Th’ sword o’ th’ Lord and o’ Gideon.” They were allus at it about puttin’ on th’ whole armour o’ righteousness, an’ fightin’ the good fight o’ faith. And then, atop o’ ’t all, they held a prayer-meetin’ ower a young chap as wanted to ’list and nearly deafened him, till he picked up his hat and fair ran away. And they’d tell tales in th’ Sunday-school o’ bad lads as had been thumped and brayed for bird-nesting o’ Sundays and playin’ truant o’ week-days, and how they took to wrestlin’, dog-fightin’, rabbit-runnin’, and drinkin’, till at last, as if ’twere a hepitaph on a gravestone, they damned him across th’ moors wi’,

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“an’ then he went and ’listed for a soldier,” an’ they’d all fetch a deep breath, and throw up their eyes like a hen drinkin’. (220–21)

The ensuing comments by both Mulvaney and Ortheris echo the moral outrage that Kipling himself felt when he encountered public condemnation of members of the armed services, especially on the part of those who ostensibly espoused Christian values. “ ‘Fwhy is ut’ said Mulvaney, bringing down his hand on his thigh with a crack. ‘In the name av God, fwhy is ut? I’ve seen ut, tu. They cheat an’ they swindle, an’ they lie an’ they slander, an’ fifty things fifty times worse; but the last an’ the worst by their reckonin’ is to serve the Widdy honest’ ” (221).41 Kipling’s reason for developing at such length the characteristics of the chapel folk was probably not merely to justify Learoyd’s bitterness toward them but also to emphasize just how out of place he was in their company. Learoyd among the Primitive Methodists is an incongruity that takes its place at the head of a host of incongruities that give to “On Greenhow Hill” a distinctive and somewhat peculiar flavor.42 Contrasting sharply with Learoyd’s odd fit with the chapel folk is his natural fit with Mulvaney and Ortheris. It is a matter of his having found his proper “place.” When he joins his friends after having been with the “Mixed Pickles” group of sharpshooters, Mulvaney tells him: “You’re well out av that fancy-firin’ gang, Jock. Stay here” (208).“Here” is where he belongs, not just in the British army but specifically with Mulvaney and Ortheris.“Here” he has found his place, that which matches up with his true identity.43 Greenhow Hill was not his place. “I didn’t belong to that country-side by rights,” he says at the beginning of his narrative. “I went there because of a little difference at home” (211). Mulvaney knows that Learoyd was not “built for the Primitive Methodians” (216). He had to endure some intensely painful experiences before finding where he does belong, and that precisely is the import of Mulvaney’s comment to him that “sure, folly’s the only safe way to wisdom, for I’ve thried it” (213). For John Learoyd, Greenhow Hill brought on both grief and challenge. It was there that he sustained his most painful loss and there that he fought a crucial battle to retain his selfhood. Overtly this conflict is over a dog, Learoyd’s pet Blast, but it is much more than that: it is a struggle for identity. The chapel folk vehemently object to both the dog and its name, which suggests violence in its background and behavior. It was the only survivor of an explosion. Now its “business,” as Learoyd puts it, is “fightin’ every dog he comed across” (217). To the good Primitive Methodists of the community, “Blast” sounds too much like “blasphemy,” and most of them want Learoyd to give up the animal because it is “worldly and low.” They tell the distressed Learoyd that he will “be shut out of heaven” if he keeps

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Blast (217). A few of them would allow him to retain his pet, but they want the dog to reform, and they wish its name changed to “Bless.” For Liza’s sake, Learoyd tries hard to be one of the chapel folk and to become a changed man, but he draws the line with Blast: he will neither part with the animal nor change its name even if it means giving up paradise. “If th’ door [of heaven] isn’t wide enough for th’ pair of us,” he says, “we’ll stop outside, for we’ll none be parted” (218). Learoyd senses but does not articulate that “me and Blast” (223) and “Blast and me” (228), as he puts it, are one.44 His refusal to give up the dog is a refusal to abandon what is deepest in his own nature, and that is exactly what the chapel folk demand of him. Kipling makes Blast a fighting dog to correspond with Learoyd’s identity as a fighting man, a warrior. The frustration that he feels in trying to mold himself into a Primitive Methodist is reflected in his statement: “I were no better nor Blast chained up short and growlin’ i’ the depths of him while a strange dog went safe past” (226). One of the story’s finest touches, Blast is a manifestation of that aspect of Learoyd’s deepest self that cannot be changed or repressed without causing dire frustration and psychological fragmentation, both of which he would have experienced had he surrendered to the chapel folk’s demands. What finally delivers Learoyd from this dreadful struggle just to be himself is fate, that controller of events in Kipling’s world. On the surface, however, it seems to have conspired with whatever it is that makes people be as they are—call it human nature—to bring a great darkness into Learoyd’s life. Through the ostensibly haphazard course of events that some people call chance and others inexplicable fate, Learoyd is thrown with Liza Roantree, her father, and their acquaintances. He just happens to be in the Pately Brig area because he had left home after a quarrel. Then an accident occurs: he falls into a ditch, breaks his arm and knocks himself unconscious. By chance, Jesse Roantree happens to be coming by, sees him, and takes him to his home, where Liza, a beautiful young woman who is probably even then consumptive, tenderly nurses him. She is fated to die young, and when after some time Learoyd discovers that, he despairs and goes into town where he just happens to bump into an army recruiting sergeant, who sees his opportunity and signs up the heartbroken lover. Practically his only friend during this sad episode in his life is a dog, Blast, which is alive only through a strange twist of fate, for it unpredictably survived an accident, an explosion of gun powder stored in the storekeeper’s hut. This story of Learoyd’s, shot through as it is with chance occurrences, is told within a frame narrative, which is almost equally marked by the same quality. For example, the native deserter, whose destiny it is to die by Ortheris’s bullet, seals that fate by firing a random

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shot—into the tent of the man who will later kill him. He means to be harassing his own regiment, but in his mistake, he happens to come upon Ortheris and his friends. What stirs Learoyd into recounting his sad history is not only his seeing a landscape that reminds him of Greenhow Hill but also his near-death experience at the hand of one of his fellow soldiers, who accidentally fires upon him and grazes his tunic, a chance happening. Through his emphasis on chance and fate, if one can distinguish between those two incalculable forces that operate in the world, Kipling appears to have stacked the deck against poor Learoyd. From the moment of his accident in the ditch, numerous events that occur by chance build upon each other and destine him for grief in the same way that the native deserter is doomed to death from the moment he happens to fire on the wrong tent. Although engulfing Learoyd in a state of continuing bereavement, however, fate at the same time frees him from a continuing intolerable situation, though with sharp irony the story makes it clear that Learoyd is not aware that destiny has in any way favored him. In Kipling’s worldview, fate, while always totally indifferent to what it is doing to human beings, can be as redemptive as it is destructive. The same circumstances that bring on Learoyd’s grief keep him from a sea of troubles that await him. The supreme irony of his life is that the event that causes his deepest hurt, the death of Liza Roantree, also saves him from making what would have been—as Kipling indicates by indirection in the story—his greatest mistake. Retrospective bereavement plagues him as he goes through life, it is true, but Kipling’s depiction of the Greenhow Hill religious community invites a contrast between the life that Learoyd has led in the army and the life that he would have led had Liza lived and had she accepted him as her husband, the two of them to live with or near her people. The result of the contrast is inescapable: he would have found himself imprisoned in an environment altogether alien to his very nature and thus for him psychologically destructive. For a writer who exhibited a strong proclivity for exploring the various aspects of life that make it a kind of hell, bereavement would naturally be a compelling subject, but Kipling’s interest in grief, even from an early age, derived not only from his awareness that it is a woe of rare intensity but also from his recognition that it is a complex psychological phenomenon and that what brings it on and causes such suffering is somehow intricately connected with both personal identity and destiny. So it is that in “On Greenhow Hill,” Kipling is concerned not only with delineating Learoyd’s continuing bereavement but also with showing how it becomes tangled up with his fate and with his sense of selfhood. Grief has become a permanent part of his life. It continues to shed its dreadful darkness over his existence

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whenever he hears certain songs or sees certain images. Bereavement always enhances associational sensitivity and by doing so rubs salt into the wound. What he cannot know and cannot understand, however, is that by losing what he loved, he found who he was supposed to be—Learoyd, the soldier. It is a bitter victory, though, for a terrible world it is, indeed, in which one has to go through hell to find one’s proper place in life. In the years following the publications of “Without Benefit of Clergy” and “On Greenhow Hill,” Kipling experienced the full impact of bereavement. One of the deepest sorrows of his life was the loss in 1891 of his friend Wolcott Balestier, brother of the woman Kipling was to marry in 1892. Though the two men were close friends for only about eighteen months before Wolcott’s death from typhoid fever,“no man,” writes Charles Carrington, “ever exercised so dominating an influence over Rudyard Kipling as did Wolcott Balestier.”45 Leon Edel has remarked that many people wrote about Wolcott Balestier after his death, but Kipling, the man “who knew him best, remained silent, nursing a profound grief.”46 In a brilliant exercise of the biographical imagination, Edel posits the theory that it was the very intensity of Kipling’s bereavement that was responsible for his decision—which friends like Henry James found odd—to wed Carrie Balestier, a marriage that he hoped would be “a permanent anodyne for grief.”47 For Kipling, however, no such anodyne ever existed and as time went on, the immortal woe of life was to visit him like a recurrent plague. When blue-eyed, six-year-old Josephine Kipling died of pneumonia in 1899 during the family’s visit to New York, the grief that seized her father violently tore from him a certain zest for living. Those who knew him best claimed that he was never the same afterward, that in some basic way he appeared altered. “There is no doubt,” wrote his other daughter, Elsie, as she reminisced about her father in later life, “that little Josephine had been his greatest joy during her short life. . . . His life was never the same after her death; a light had gone out that could never be rekindled.”48 At the very moment that his precious Josephine was dying, Kipling stared into the face of death, desperately ill with pneumonia himself and out of his head with fever. His physical recovery was painful and slow, but from his agonizing bereavement he never recovered. For years he suffered on in silence, that dreadful, dark silence, his private hell with its prominent sign “Do Not Enter” posted to all, even to those who with good intentions would bring light to relieve the blackness and a draught to slake the inexplicable thirst. To be sure, he did speak of Josephine and hint at the depth of his grief but only rarely. In later life, Elsie claimed that occasionally he had mentioned Josephine to her, and his father, Lockwood Kipling, wrote to a friend that Rudyard had spoken about how difficult it was to go back

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without Josephine to their home, “The Elms,” in Rottingdean: “Rud told his mother how he saw her [Josephine] when a door opened, when a space was vacant at table, coming out of every green dark corner of the garden, radiant—and heart breaking.”49 What is so striking about Kipling’s vision of the dead Josephine is the degree to which she seemed lifelike to him. He did not merely sense the presence of his departed daughter—certainly not an uncommon experience among the bereaved—nor did he simply glimpse a vague and fuzzy ghostly image of the sort that might be created by an imagination attempting to compensate for a traumatic loss. The Josephine that he saw repeatedly was clearly defined and bright, “radiant,” and yet what he witnessed was not uplifting but “heart breaking” since he realized all the more poignantly for the vividness of her appearance that she was transient and unattainable. Had she not been so radiant, he would not have found the experience so heart breaking. Lockwood Kipling’s account of what Rudyard told his mother is frequently cited as evidence of the depth of his grief, but it suggests as well that he may have possessed certain psychic senses that he was hesitant to acknowledge. Charles Carrington has written that “the desire to penetrate the occult exercised a strong fascination over Rudyard throughout his life, an attraction which he resisted, not altogether successfully. In this respect Rudyard was a man of his day, interested in what interested his contemporaries, a reader of the numerous novels and poems that touched on these themes.”50 Carrington seems to be describing a person who, like many others of his time, was drawn to the widespread accounts of psychic phenomena as represented in fiction and the press but who tried (albeit imperfectly) to stifle his attraction for these matters. It is perhaps more accurate, however, to say that what he resisted was not a desire to penetrate the occult—he probably never truly wished to do that—but the power within himself that might have enabled him to do so. He did not want to see a spiritual manifestation, a vision of his dead child, because he knew that the experience would hurt him deeply since she could not return to him. Nevertheless he did see her, and that experience broke his heart and left him gun-shy of any further communication with the dead. In Something of Myself, he made a point of denying that he possessed any extraordinary psychic abilities. Bonamy Dobrée has shrewdly suggested that there is something suspicious about the vehemence of his denial, that he declared “perhaps too emphatically” that “I am in no way ‘psychic.’ ”51 Dobrée has a point. Immediately after dissociating himself from that “type of mind that dives after what it calls ‘psychical experiences,’ ” Kipling relates a psychical experience of his own, a dream that in every detail eerily prefigured an actual event in his life some weeks later

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(206–07). It is understandable that he did not want to jeopardize his reputation by being labeled a “clairvoyant,” since he despised labels anyway (with the inevitable oversimplifications and distortions that accompany them).52 By publicly separating himself from spiritualism, he also avoided any possible guilt by association, since much fraudulent activity had come to be connected with séances, theosophy, and the like.53 His denials and denunciations notwithstanding, the fact is that he was himself to some extent psychically gifted, and he did not consider all mediums to be charlatans and all claims about psychic phenomena to be spurious. Far from it. He knew both from his own experiences and from the testimony of those whom he respected that all reports about contact with the dead could not be dismissed as hysteria or trickery. Numerous prominent men and women of the time, several of whom he knew and had confidence in, were enthusiastic about investigations into paranormal activity. Janet Oppenheim has written that “a century ago, spiritualism and psychical research loomed as very serious business to some very serious and eminent people, such as the Fellows of the Royal Society, university professors, and Nobel prize-winning scientists who supported the Society for Psychical Research.”54 Among the early presidents of the British Society for Psychical Research, a highly respectable organization founded in 1882 to conduct investigations on scientific principles and to publish its findings, was the widely admired philosopher Henry Sidgwick; Balfour Stewart, a university professor of astronomy and physics; the eminent Balfour brothers, Arthur (who served as Britain’s Prime Minister, 1902–05) and Gerald; Henri Bergson; William James; and Andrew Lang. It was Arthur Balfour, nephew to then Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, who reportedly pushed for Kipling to become Poet Laureate and who later, when he had himself become Prime Minister, offered knighthood to Kipling (who politely refused). Kipling knew well of the deep interest that his friend William James, who visited him in Vermont, took in the work of the Society for Psychical Research and of his admiration for its founders, men like Frederick W. H. Myers, for whom, James admitted, he was “filled with an admiration which almost surprises me.” Indeed, James wrote that Myers revealed a “genius not unlike that of Charles Darwin.”55 Kipling felt a lifelong indebtedness to another one-time president of the Society, Andrew Lang, who early took the young writer under his wing, praised his work, introduced him to the Savile Club, and enthusiastically endorsed his membership. If Kipling’s respect for and in some cases friendships with influential members of the Society for Psychical Research was not enough to familiarize him with what was going on among the vast number of people interested in spiritualism—many of whom were admirably respectable—his

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awareness of his sister’s involvement with the Society certainly was. Although Trix’s display of what she believed to be psychic powers has generally been linked with—indeed, in some instances suggested as the cause of—her emotional instability, there is no hard evidence that they were connected. Trix seems to have come by her psychic gifts naturally, for her mother, Alice Macdonald Kipling, manifested from an early age an interest in the paranormal. Angus Wilson has written that Alice “claimed to be ‘psychic.’ And what his mother claimed Kipling would hardly have allowed himself openly to mock.”56 Before her marriage to Kipling’s father, she witnessed along with her sisters a dramatic “table-turning” in their home, an experience that deeply impressed them (and their father) and convinced them of the existence of spirits. Of the four Macdonald sisters, Alice, according to A. G. Baldwin, “seems to have been the one most receptive to these occult experiences.”57 To whatever extent Alice Kipling and her son Rudyard may have possessed some psychic receptiveness, it is clear that Trix was even more gifted in that regard. It is important to understand that her involvement in psychic phenomena was not a manifestation of madness or hysteria. Certainly emotional problems plagued her—she suffered repeated breakdowns during much of her life—but she seems to have been genuinely clairvoyant.58 Her psychic experiences, which she recounted under the pseudonym of “Mrs. Holland,” were examined carefully by the most reputable and objective authorities of the day. They failed to detect any self-delusion or fraudulence. For several years, she was a “mental medium” (as a non-professional), that is, one engaged in automatic writing and in the perception of visions in a crystal. Many members of the Society for Psychical Research drew a distinction between mental mediums like Trix (whom they generally found legitimate) and a physical mediums, who indulged in activities like table rappings and who often were considered to be frauds.59 In his presidential address of 1896 to the Society for Psychical Research, William James said that it was “pleasant” to go from a consideration of the claims of physical mediums—claims that he called the “phenomena of the dark-sitting and rat-hole type”—to the “calm air of delightful studies” represented by a discussion of automatic writing and related experiences of mental mediums.60 Trix was not a fake, and her brother Rudyard knew it. It is probably no coincidence that Kipling wrote “They” (1904), his account of a first-person narrator’s encounter with the spirits of dead children, during the time that Trix was engaged in her most notable psychic experiences, those involving what has come to be known as the “cross-correspondences.” During the early part of the new century, from about 1903 to 1910, Trix, then in India with her husband, John Fleming,

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engaged extensively in automatic writing, supposedly a form of contact with the dead in which mediums allow themselves to be used as stenographers, as it were, who write on paper whatever it is that spirits dictate to them, more often than not information or commentary containing references to matters about which the mediums know nothing. As Trix related her experiences to the Society for Psychical Research in London, she became widely known (as “Mrs. Holland”) among its members and was much written about in the Society’s Proceedings as one of the most gifted and important psychics of the day. The president of the Society in 1908, Eleanor Balfour Sidgwick, “singled out for comment” and praised in her presidential address the automatic writing of Trix and a few others.61 For those interested in psychic research, the cross-correspondences seemed to offer more proof of the legitimacy of spiritualism than all the table rappings and visions of arms out of the dark combined. To this day, no evidence has been provided that the cross-correspondences were fraudulent, nor have they ever been adequately accounted for as anything other than what many believed them to be—messages from the dead.62 They were called “cross-correspondences” because the various scripts needed cross-referencing before they made any sense, that is, several mediums (who sometimes did not know each other and did not live in close proximity) were involved, any one of which received just a part of the message. Only when all the separate writings were combined did the overall communication become comprehensible. Trix was one of several mental mediums who became prominent in the Society for Psychical Research through their contributions to the cross-correspondences, women like Mrs. Winifred Coombe-Tennant (“Mrs. Willett”), Mrs. A. W. Verrall, and Mrs. Leonore Piper (an American), all highly respectable and respected married ladies whose integrity could not be questioned. Alson J. Smith describes the cross-correspondences as follows:
Some of the most striking evidence bearing on the survival hypothesis comes from what are known as the cross-correspondences. These psychic jigsaw puzzles began appearing in the automatic script of certain “sensitives” as Mrs. Willett (pseudonym), Mrs. Holland (pseudonym), and Mrs. A. W. Verrall, early in the twentieth century and soon after the death of F. W. H. Myers. The cross-correspondences went like this: a cryptic message purporting to be from “Myers” might be transmitted through the automatic writing of Mrs. Verrall. By itself it would be meaningless. At about the same time another incomprehensible message, also purporting to be from Myers, might come through the automatic writing of Mrs. Willett. Neither of the automatists is aware of what the other is writing. We then have two incomprehensible messages, with no apparent connection between them. However, still

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a third “Myers” communication comes through Mrs. Holland, and this one, also meaningless by itself, is seen to be the clue to the other two, when compared with them. The three messages are then brought together and are seen to make sense. They show a single purpose and meaning, and often a single authorship. In other words, they are indicative of careful planning by the alleged “communicators” and are entirely characteristic of them.63

The scripts that Trix produced through her automatic writing during the early years of the twentieth century (until about 1910) were crucial to an understanding of what were considered messages from the departed Frederick W. H. Myers in the “Ear of Dionysius” case and from a young woman who died of typhus in 1875, Mary Catherine Lyttelton, dearly beloved of Arthur Balfour, the future Prime Minister (the “Palm Sunday” case).64 Kipling’s stance in regard to spiritualism was thus somewhat tortured, given his abhorrence of fakery on the one hand but his own sensitivity to paranormal experience and his exposure through his sister’s activities and that of friends to what seemed convincing evidence of the existence of ghostly presences on the other. He accepted the notion that psychic experience in the form of what was generally called spiritualism could be genuine, but he determined that he should himself avoid it at all cost. A. W. Baldwin recounts a conversation in which Kipling was asked “if he thought there was ‘anything in spiritualism.’ ” He answered: “There is; I know. Have nothing to do with it.”65 His refusal to try on his own or with the help of a medium to communicate with the spirits of departed loved ones had little to do with an attitude sometimes attributed to him, namely that some things we cannot understand are best left alone. Nor did he appear to believe, as did his friend H. Rider Haggard, that spiritualism could be a device of evil.66 J. M. S. Tompkins has argued that he rejected spiritualism because he felt that “the barrier between the living and the dead is not meant to be passed,” that the living must stay in the world “in which one belongs.”67 Charles Carrington suggests that Kipling could not allow himself to indulge in spiritualism because of his “vocation as craftsman not as mystic.”68 What lay behind his declining to have anything to do with spiritualism, however, was not some philosophical, theological, or vocational idea that he had coolly thought through but an emotion—his grief. Since a great many people, perhaps most, who visited mediums and who participated in psychic experiments or séances did so because of their grief, the very reason that Kipling eschewed such psychic activity, he may have felt a need to articulate to himself as well as to express through the comfortable camouflage of fiction why bereavement was for him

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personally a barrier to spiritualism rather than, as it was for others, a strong motivation for pursuing it. He did so in his short story “They,”69 a surprisingly personal work from the pen of a writer who as a rule recoiled at the very thought of publicly exposing his innermost being. His compulsion to explain himself must have been great indeed for him to have written such a story. “They” is a tender tribute to Trix through his characterization of Miss Florence, an honest, unselfish, and truly gifted non-professional “sensitive,” such as was his sister. It is, as well, an admission on Kipling’s part that there is something in spiritualism, that he believes it possible for some people, perhaps including himself, to see and feel the presence of departed loved ones. Most importantly, it is a kind of confessional. Kipling divulges significant self-revelations about his own psychic abilities, about his reason for avoiding spiritualism, and about his most prized possession, that which kept him going during illness and bereavement, a sort of by-product of his psychic nature, his creative imagination. In “They” the blind Miss Florence is the real thing just as was Trix. Kipling leaves no doubt as to the genuineness of her ability to call forth the spirits of dead children. There is no hint in the story of fakery or of mental unbalance, no suggestion whatsoever that the children might be hallucinations. Her psychic gift and her intense love for children combine to attract the spirits, who are drawn to her because of her deep affection for them and her sensitivity to their presence. Kipling’s characterization of Miss Florence is pronouncedly sympathetic, even an encomium of sorts, yet it is absent of sentimentality and pity. By portraying her as sightless, the author is able to project vulnerability and innocence, qualities that separate her from the host of fraudulent mediums with their highly inventive machinations, but by making her blind he ran the risk of her coming across as helpless and as less complex (and thus less interesting) than pathetic. He was shrewd enough to take the steps necessary to present her convincingly as a person who is as smart as she is morally stainless. If she seems, because of her blindness, to possess a nature unblemished by much that is unattractive in sighted humankind, she is at the same time a woman who in crises exhibits great strength and who oversees her estate with effective level-headedness and a forceful handing of people, especially those who would deceive or cheat her. With the exception of the physician and the nun-nurse, who make only brief appearances in the story, all the subordinate characters of “They” function primarily to throw into focus important traits in Miss Florence that lend depth and complexity to her portrayal. The high degree of devotion and respect for her exhibited by her employees, the admirable

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Mr. Madden and his good wife, and their understanding of and sympathy for her involvement with the spirits of the children make a strong case for her sanity and her unselfishness. She commands their respect and admiration, not their condescension or pity. Kipling thus reveals what she is through their reaction to her. Mrs. Madehurst, who runs for help to Miss Florence when the child of her daughter Jenny becomes seriously ill, knows that she can depend on her blind patroness even in a life-or-death situation. This episode, which occurs shortly after the narrator’s discussion with his hostess about her ability to sense colors and her awareness of the “Egg,” matters of paranormal phenomena, is no doubt included in order to show that Miss Florence is not some fragile hysteric with her head in the clouds and thus incapable of coping with serious emergencies. It functions effectively to reveal that she is not only psychically gifted but that she is also strong and cool-headed. Whereas Mrs. Madehurst and Jenny are paralyzed with fear, Miss Florence remains calm and gives orders like one practiced in dealing with crises. When the narrator asks about the nearest doctor, Miss Florence replies forcefully, “Madden will tell you. Go round to the house and take him with you. I’ll attend to this. Be quick!”70 And she does tend to it, admirably. Although the child dies, Mrs. Madehurst remains grateful to her benefactor, a woman of generosity with a keen sense of responsibility. The narrator indicates that the insurance company refused to pay for the burial of the child, since it was illegitimate, but that Miss Florence provided all that was needed: “Thanks to Miss Florence, the child had been buried with a pomp which, in Mrs. Madehurst’s opinion, more than covered the small irregularity of its birth. She described the coffin, within and without, the glass hearse, and the evergreen lining of the grave” (363). Like the scene where Miss Florence decisively takes charge of frantic Mrs. Madehurst, an episode near the end of the story is carefully positioned to offset any impression that the blind woman is emotionally crippled by her psychic indulgences. Sandwiched between the tour that the narrator takes through the ancient house, which is punctuated with an eerie sense of the children’s presence, and the climactic moment of his recognition that they are spirits rather than real children, is the episode in which Turpin, a tenant farmer, visits and tries to convince Miss Florence that she should finance a new shed for his livestock. The contrast between Turpin and Miss Florence is striking, for he represents the “savages,” as the narrator in another place calls those who appear to lack completely any sort of spiritual affinity. He is therefore sightless in a sense different from Miss Florence. It is appropriate that he is ushered into a dark room, where he has trouble seeing and is consequently overcome with superstitious terror, having heard no doubt that there are ghosts about. He pleads with

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Miss Florence to let him return when he can come and “see you man to man like, Miss, in the daylight” (371). Her handling of Turpin greatly increases the narrator’s admiration for her because it reveals a dimension of her character that he has not seen before, her ability to detect greed and dishonesty in others and her toughness in dealing with them. She summarily refuses to furnish a new shed for the shady Turpin and then tells him blisteringly what she thinks of him and his filthy scheme. A woman of demonstrable business acumen who keeps tallies for all her accounts and who can read them as another would read from a written record, she is as worldly wise as she is otherworldly. In thus characterizing her, Kipling made spiritualism more palatable and in a sense legitimized and paid tribute to his sister, who was at the time deeply involved in it. Critical opinion is almost unanimous in its conclusion that although the plot and details of “They” are purely fictional, the narrator of the story is but a thinly veiled version of the author himself, who was still grieving over the loss of Josephine. Angus Wilson, for example, argues that the story “is almost a direct fantasy of Kipling’s longing to see and touch his daughter again.”71 Charles Carrington writes that “They” provides a rare instance in which Kipling “dropped the mask,” which he usually “assumed to protect himself from publicity,” and thus revealed himself through the story’s narrator.72 In other words, Kipling projected himself into an imaginary situation. While this hypothesis appears to be sound, commentaries on “They” have not adequately built on it by exploring the full extent of self-revelation in the work. If the narrator is, indeed, essentially Kipling, as most critics and biographers believe, then he is telling us a great deal more about himself than they have acknowledged. The autobiographical element in “They” reaches beyond the narrator inasmuch as Miss Florence seems to be a kind of idealized version of Trix. If so, that would at least partly explain what may otherwise appear somewhat puzzling in the story, namely, why the narrator seems almost immediately sympathetic to her and why he returns twice to visit her after he originally chanced upon her home as he was out driving. He loves children, as she does, and he enjoys getting glimpses of them here and there on the grounds of the beautiful estate that he has discovered, but what draws him back is principally Miss Florence, not the children. She is as interested in him as he in her—she counts the days until his return. What they feel for each other, however, is not romantic love but that which exists between a brother and sister, a deep and special kinship. The narrator’s brotherly feeling toward her is disclosed in a conversation between them that Kipling placed in the center position of the story, that is, about the middle of the middle visit of the narrator. The conversation is initiated by Miss Florence’s explanation that people on occasion laugh at

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her. They probably do so because of her indulgence in spiritualist activity, though as she is about to give the reason and says “because,” the narrator interrupts her with “Because they’re savages. . . . It’s nothing to fret for. That sort laugh at everything that isn’t in their own fat lives” (353). Wishing to defend and protect her, the narrator exhibits increasingly an “us against the world” attitude reminiscent of that which defiant Rudyard must have taken on as he and Trix faced dark times together in Southsea, a brother and sister without their parents and living amid alien and unfriendly surroundings. Since so much of the coldness and cruelty he experienced at the hands of “Aunty Rosa” and her son at Lorne Lodge was perpetrated in the name of Christianity, it is no surprise that the fuming narrator of “They” would think of those who laugh at Miss Florence as self-proclaimed Christians and would think of their behavior as “the more than inherited (since it is also carefully taught) brutality of the Christian peoples” (353). Although the narrator is drawn to Miss Florence from the moment that he meets her, he does not know why until the first of two poignant recognition moments in the story, scenes in which understanding comes to him (the second being his sudden realization later that “they” are not live children). During the same conversation in which he becomes irate over the “savages” who ridicule Miss Florence, his anger is conveyed to her as unpleasant colors, which she perceives inwardly, and she begs him to terminate his resentment because the violent colors hurt her. As he questions her about her ability to “see” emotions as colors projected on some inward eye, it becomes clear that what she tells him does not at all puzzle him. On the contrary, he understands perfectly well what she is talking about because he possesses the same faculty and has had similar psychic experiences. He does receive, however, what he terms a “revelation”: this woman, he suddenly realizes, is a kind of sister.73 When he asks her how she knows about these felt colors, she responds: “You know as well as I do” (354), an answer that reveals her awareness of the basis of their feeling of kinship—they are both clairvoyant. 74 He admits that he has had similar experiences in which violent emotions have been manifested to him inwardly as certain colors. At this point, the narrator apparently wishes to make sure that Miss Florence has not simply picked up from others information about paranormal experience with colors. So he questions her closely only to discover that her psychic power is genuine and rare, for she also has access, as does he, to the “Egg,” and she traces an outline of its form for him. Nothing seems to have puzzled readers of Kipling’s works more than the Egg in “They.” Critics have offered various explanations for it, a good many of which are vague. For example, it is widely conjectured that the Egg

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has something to do with Freemasonry, but precisely what is not made clear. Angus Wilson feels that the passage in “They” where the Egg is mentioned reveals “Kipling’s increasing weakness” and is a flaw in the work, for this “Freemason’s talk of The Egg” is merely a show of “pretentious specialised knowledge.”75 Himself a Mason, Kipling included references to Freemasonry in many of his works, but it is doubtful that the Egg is one of them. According to Albert G. Mackey, the Egg is not actually a part of the elaborate symbolism peculiar to Freemasonry. In his exhaustive study of Freemasonry, Mackey writes that “As this [the egg] is the most universally diffused of all symbols, it is strange that it has found no place in the symbolism of Freemasonry.”76 Other commentaries on the Egg claim that Kipling was thinking of the belief of many people in ancient times that the world was hatched. This argument as a rule focuses on Greek philosophy and particularly on the concept of Orpheus, whose belief it was that “the whole universe has the form of an egg, and everything in it strives to attain the same form.”77 A. J. C. Tingey is certain that Kipling meant his Egg to be the Orphic one: “Surely the allusion must be to the Orphic Egg whence all creation issued.”78 Essentially the same meaning of the Egg is offered by several others. Some commentators, however, resort to this interpretation of the Egg only because no better one has emerged. For example, in an annotation to “They,” Daniel Karlin admits that “The ‘Egg’ is unexplained.” He goes on to speculate, however, that “it may refer to the ‘Mundane Egg’, the symbol of the world in Orphic religious mysticism.”79 Karlin’s tentativeness is understandable because it is not at all clear how an allusion to Orpheus’ concept of the universe fits into the particular context in which the reference occurs in “They.” It is one thing simply to identify the Egg as Orphic but quite something else to explain convincingly how it functions in that regard in the story. The frame of reference for Kipling’s Egg is probably neither Freemasonry nor Greek philosophy but something else entirely—spiritualism—as Kipling himself indicated. In answer to an inquiry from a reader about the Egg, he wrote; “The Egg is the Aura or halo around the soul of every human being and is seen only by the spiritual eye of those who follow a certain school of psychology.”80 The “spiritual eye,” as Kipling called it, is known in the parlance of spiritualism as the “third eye,” that which provides the psychic sense. Also called the “single eye” and the “crystal lamp,” it represents the optic thalamus located in the human brain but in the clairvoyant supposedly developed far beyond the ordinary. When the narrator of “They” comments that Miss Florence “looked at me, her head against the tree trunk—long and steadfastly—this woman who could see the naked soul” (356), he means that this woman who has no physical sight has the “eye of the soul,” which is “a fully developed third-eye area” that

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provides her with a form of perception far more penetrating than that of ordinary sighted persons.81 Thus she possesses, in the language of spiritualism, “eyeless sight.”82 That he, too, is similarly endowed is indicated when in relating how Miss Florence “traced the outline of the Egg” for him to see, he comments that “it is given to very few of us to see” (355, italics mine). He understands precisely what it is that she is drawing just as he understood what she told him about colors. He is one of the “very few.” Consequently, the Egg fits into the central motif of the story, that of seeing. So widespread is this pattern of references that in one way or the other almost everything is related to it, a subtle but pervasive instrument of cohesion in which the major theme of the work is manifested. To begin with, “They” is an exceptionally visual story, its descriptions of the Sussex countryside and of the home of Miss Florence and its surroundings detailed and concrete. Then in conversations between the narrator and Miss Florence and in his narrative commentary, references to seeing abound, phrases like “I saw.”83 Frequently the narrator’s use of “I saw” in descriptions seems odd, as if he wants somehow to be included in the picture he is presenting. For example, instead of stating that “sunshine appeared through the tangle ahead,” he writes, “I saw sunshine through the tangle ahead” (341). Instead of saying that “The Doctor came out of the cottage,” he prefers, “I saw the Doctor come out of the cottage” (359). He does not write that “the light died from the top of a glossy-leaved lance” in describing the fading sunlight on the yews carved as knights with lances, but relates that “I saw the light die from off the top of a glossy-leaved lance” (346). This somewhat peculiar way of expressing himself marks much of his commentary and calls attention to his act of perceiving as least as much as to what it is that he is describing. That he should do so is highly appropriate since the story is fundamentally about his coming to see, that is, his coming to understand—to understand Miss Florence, to understand the nature of the children, and to understand himself and what he should do. Miss Florence, who cannot see at all, sees all, and in speaking with the narrator likes to use the expression “you see” in the sense of “as you can understand” or “of course.” She explains about the children, “They come and stay with me because I love them, you see” (352), and about colors, “I used to ask what colours were when I was little—in table-covers and curtains and carpets, you see” (355). When she guides the narrator through the house, she shows him one of the rooms that she has prepared for the children: “This is one of their rooms—everything ready, you see” (366). She wants the narrator to see, to understand. He does see, but not until late in the story does he fully understand. That is, he is able to see the

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children through his psychic ability whereas others without such a gift (like Mr. Turpin) cannot, but he does not understand what he is seeing. “You don’t understand,” she comments to him, “and yet you understood about the Colours. Don’t you understand?” (356). At this point, he does not, and he admits it. Miss Florence finds it “curious,” as she puts it, that he does not realize that the children are from the spiritual world because she has do doubt that he has the gift of the Egg just as she does, that he knows it, and that he understands her. Since the narrator is unquestionably gifted psychically, it does indeed seem curious that he does not recognize that what he has been experiencing, his vision of the children, is a paranormal phenomenon. He resembles a man who in the middle of a séance thinks that he has come to tea and that the spirits called forth are guests. Kipling most likely placed him in this odd position of misunderstanding because he wanted to stress that love is often necessary for understanding. When love for the child that kisses his hand floods his heart, the narrator suddenly understands who she is and the nature of the children he has seen. The theme of love underlies and undergirds all else in “They.” Miss Florence has the “third eye,” but without love for the dead children, they would not gather around her. Repeatedly she tells the narrator that they are there because she loves them and that she fervently hopes that they love her. The Egg enables her to summon them, but love compels them to remain with her. Without love, spiritualist activity is often merely the empty exercise of an inexplicable talent. But on the other hand, spiritualist activity in the context of love may for some people bring on unbearable sorrow. So it is with the narrator of “They,” and so it was with Kipling himself. “My soul,” writes the narrator, “was torn open within me” (372). The reason for his torment is his bereavement, which is torturously intensified by the profound depth of love that he feels for his lost daughter. Miss Florence loves children, but she is not in a state of grief since she has never borne nor lost a child, as she repeatedly states. In one of the rare comments he made about Josephine’s death, Kipling wrote to his longtime friend Edmonia Hill: “Be thankful that you have never had a child to lose. I thought I knew something of what grief meant till that came to me.”84 In the narrator of “They,” Kipling reproduced his own particular situation in which “inordinate affection,” as his friend Rider Haggard (citing the Book of Common Prayer) called it, made spiritualism prohibitive. Haggard commented that he and Kipling both suffered to an unusual degree in their bereavement because they inordinately loved their children. Kipling agreed, according to Haggard’s entry in his diary, but commented: “I don’t care for ‘ordinate’ affection.”85 He could not and would not have loved with less intensity, but sometimes his inordinate affection made grief nearly unbearable even when the

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person lost was not a relative. He never met Robert Louis Stevenson, though they corresponded, but upon the death of that author he was paralyzed with grief for weeks. What, then, does a person do who has certain psychic gifts, who is among the few who can understand what the “Eye” is and can see by means of it, but who in a state of bereavement is deeply pained merely by thoughts of dead loved ones and torn apart emotionally by any contact with their spirit because that contact excruciatingly reminds him of what he has lost? What Kipling did was to try to avoid anything, including spiritualism, that would rub salt into the wounds of grief. In describing the intensity of Kipling’s bereavement, Lord Birkenhead writes: “The death of those he loved struck him with a shattering force. Wolcott Balestier’s name could never be mentioned; no photograph of him was allowed in the house.”86 Such was the pattern Kipling always followed—a putting aside or even destroying of anything that would remind him of the person he loved. Upon the death of his mother and father, he destroyed family papers that would have been incalculably dear to most grieving sons. He even burned letters that they had written to him when he was a child. While living in Vermont, he told a friend that if his daughter Josephine should die, “he would never be able to think or speak of her again.”87 It is not that he was just fine emotionally as long as he was not forced to remember dead loved ones by encountering some reminder. Even without reminders, his bereavement was unending and painful in the extreme. With reminders, his grief could be unspeakably painful. In order to save himself from the ravages of sorrow, therefore, he found it necessary to run away, to avoid those excruciatingly hurtful reminders, just as he literally ran away in his frequent travels to ward off dejection. That the narrator of “They” realizes that he is in this precise situation is evident when after Miss Florence comments to him at the end that whereas she is unsighted, he can see. “In truth I could see,” he says, “and my vision confirmed me in my resolve, though that was like the very parting of spirit and flesh” (374). His resolve, painful as it is, is never to return, never to communicate again with the spirit of his dead daughter. It would be “wrong” for him to do so because the very love that tempts him to return would drown him in sorrow. Miss Florence understands but no longer considers him “lucky” that he, unlike her, can actually see the children. Now she perceives him as unlucky since his emotional makeup is such that the nature and intensity of his bereavement forbid his indulgence in spiritualism.88 Like the narrator of “They,” Kipling decided that he could have nothing to do with spiritualism, that is, with communicating with the surviving personalities of the dead. Down that road, as he made clear in his poem “En-Dor” (1919), awaited only profound sorrow.89 However, he did not

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eschew another aspect of psychic phenomena, one that did not exacerbate his bereavement but brought him a sense of fulfillment. His continuing faith in what he called his personal “Daemon” suggests that despite his protestations about not being clairvoyant, he was actually engaging in a kind of paranormal activity that was related to automatic writing. When referring to his Daemon, Kipling is always vague about its origin but never about its function. It is responsible for his best work. In Something of Myself, he wrote:
My Daemon was with me in the Jungle Books, Kim, and both Puck books, and good care I took to walk delicately, lest he should withdraw. I know that he did not, because when those books were finished they said so themselves, with, almost, the water-hammer click of a tap turned off. One of the clauses in our contract was that I should never follow up “a success,” for by this sin fell Napoleon and a few others. Note here. When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait and obey. (201–02)

His comments about suspending one’s thoughts and allowing the Daemon to take charge and to dictate what is to be written down sounds remarkably like what goes on in automatic writing, his sister Trix’s psychic forte. In his entry on the subject, James R. Lewis divides automatic writing into two classifications, the usual form in which mediums “record information from sources other than their own conscious mind,” and “inspirational writing,” in which “words and ideas flow into the writer’s mind, so that she [or he] acts as a recorder (similar to a court recorder, writing down whatever is said in a courtroom).” In this second form of automatic writing, unlike the situation in the other kind, the “handwriting and . . . the writing style is the writer’s own; only the content of the writing is from ‘the other side.’ ”90 Kipling states with some frequency in Something of Myself his conviction that in his best works he was writing down what was dictated to him, but it is evident in other places in his writings as well and in incidents in his life. For example, in The Light that Failed, Dick explains to Maisie: “Good work has nothing to do with—doesn’t belong to—the person who does it. It’s put into him or her from outside. . . . All we can do is to learn how to do our work, to be masters of our materials instead of servants, and never to be afraid of anything. . . . Everything else comes from outside ourselves.”91 In a conversation with Rider Haggard, Kipling indicated that anything that he had written “well,” as he put it, was no credit to him because he did not write it. “It came from somewhere else,” he exclaimed to Haggard, and added that the two of them as writers were mere “telephone wires.”92 Charles Carrington, who had the opportunity to read

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Carrie Kipling’s diary (it was later destroyed), reports that “soon after his father’s return to England [in 1893], there came an evening when Rudyard confided to his wife that he had received an access of power, the ‘return of a feeling of great strength,’ ” a sign that his Daemon was with him.93 From early in his writing career, when he first heard his Daemon speak—he always referred to it as “he” or “him”—and followed its instructions in his writing of “The Phantom ’Rickshaw’ ” (1885), he “learned to lean upon him and recognise the sign of his approach” (Something of Myself, 201). He probably thought of this power-giver as his Daemon because that was the name commonly given to the inspirational force of prominent ancient Greeks. In Something of Myself, he calls it the “Personal Daemon of Aristotle and others,” and he describes its function among the “Makers”:
This is the doom of the Makers—their Daemon lives in their pen. If he be absent or sleeping, they are even as other men. But if he be utterly present, and they swerve not from his behest, The word that he gives shall continue, whether in earnest or jest. (200)

Kipling may have been aware that the Society for Psychical Research had taken up the debate over the “Daemon of Socrates,” a topic much discussed and written about in the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Du Demon de Socrate (1856), the French writer L. F. Lelut argued that Socrates’s “Daemon” was a mark of his insanity. In answer Frederic W. H. Myers, writing in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, disputed Lelut’s conclusion and took the position that Socrates was not mad but clairvoyant. His Daemon, which Socrates himself referred to as “that accustomed divine intimation,” was actually a “clairvoyant development,” an example, Myers suggests, “of wise automatism.”94 So it was with Kipling, as he must have recognized since he adopted the term that is applied to Socrates’s voice from another realm, Daemon, for that spirit that seemed to take him over and write through him. Thus “wise automatism,” his form of automatic writing controlled by his Daemon, could serve Kipling well even if he shunned spiritualism. Although Kipling’s Daemon was present to aid him in the writing of what he considered his best work, it was not always with him by any means. Indeed, much of the time, he had to manage with no spirit hovering over him to give him advice—“Take this [idea] and no other,” as it told him while he was puzzling over how to develop “The Phantom ’Rickshaw,” and “Treat it as an illuminated manuscript,” as it instructed him during the composition of “The Eye of Allah” (Something of Myself, 200, 201). Still, he often wrote brilliantly even without his Daemon’s overt participation because of what might be called, for want of a better term, his

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extraordinary imagination. So highly developed and active was it that if it was not the offspring of whatever psychic gift he might have been endowed with, it certainly was its sibling.95 When he did not have his Daemon, he still had his transporting imagination, which is represented in “They” as, of all things, an automobile, undoubtedly one of his most original and most striking metaphors. Kipling’s attraction to the automobile was more than an interest or a fascination, more than an enthusiasm. The motor car was the tangible representation of something he sensed and deeply prized within himself. Consequently, from the time when in 1899 he received a prominent visitor at The Elms in Rottingdean, who drove up in a Panhard and later took his host for a ride, he was drawn with a strong force to the automobile. Meryl Macdonald comments that this first spin in a car “changed the course of Kipling’s life.”96 After that, he became the owner of numerous automobiles, including several manufactured by Rolls Royce, and in them he explored the English countryside unwearingly as if he were discovering a new domain, as if he were Keats on first looking into Chapman’s Homer. His car transported him not only to places that he had never before seen but it took him, as it were, back in time while keeping him tied to the present. It is no wonder, then, that in his mind he should associate the automobile with the function of the creative imagination. To be sure, like his imagination, his motor car not always worked perfectly. In fact, at times it positively refused to work at all; patience and sweat were required to coax it back into functioning. It could break down, as the narrator of “They” explains to Miss Florence about his car, “in fifty different ways” (351). When it was working, however, it was glorious. In one passage in “They,” the narrator refers to his automobile as “she” (as Kipling referred to his Daemon as “he”), and he seems not to be sure whether he is in control of the car, his imagination, or if it is in control of him. Describing his second visit to see Miss Florence, he says: “A month or so later—I went again, or it may have been that my car took the road of her own volition. She over-ran the fruitless Downs, threaded every turn of the maze of lanes below the hills, drew through the high-walled woods, impenetrable in their full leaf, [and] came out at the cross-road where the butler had left me” (350). In 1904, the same year in which “They” appeared, Kipling contributed to a book on motoring by Filson Young and expressed something of what the automobile meant to him as he went about traveling over southern England. “To me,” he wrote, “it is a land full of stupefying marvels and mysteries; and a day in the car in an English county is a day in some fairy museum where all the exhibits are alive and real and yet none the less delightfully mixed up with books.”97 In other words a day in the car was for

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him a day spent with the creative imagination, which as Coleridge conceived of it, was the great uniter—the spiritual with the material, the real with the magical, the past with the present. His automobile took him to wonderland, but it was always a wonderland anchored in reality. He conceived of his automobile as “a time-machine on which one can slide from one century to another at no more trouble than the pushing forward of a lever.”98 A part of this sentence describing the automobile in terms of his creative imagination, as his personal time-machine, he repeated in the opening of “They”: “One view called me to another; one hill top to its fellow, half across the county, and since I could answer at no more trouble than the snapping forward of a lever, I let the county flow under my wheel” (339). The narrator’s time-machine brings him to a place that seems to belong to the far past—he thinks that “Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth at least must come out of that half-open garden door and ask me to tea” (341). Significantly, Kipling makes it clear that this particular machine is not out of place or unwanted in this particular garden, a place of spirits.“Fancy a motor car coming into the garden,” exclaims Miss Florence, not in disgust but with delight. “It will be such a treat” (342). Her acceptance of the narrator’s automobile, in fact her request that he drive it slowly back and forth before the children so that they may view it, suggests that it is not alien to the paranormal realm. Yet as a metaphor for the creative imagination it is also a part of the everyday and practical world. The down-to-earth doctor of the story is interested in it, and he claims it “under the Oath of Aesculapius” as a means of aiding Mrs. Madehurst’s ill grandchild (360). In doing so, he is proclaiming the need for the imagination in medicine, a principle that Kipling consistently espoused. One of the admirable physicians in a later story “Unprofessional” (1930) expresses Kipling’s view when he remarks: “Imagination is what we want. This rigid ‘thinking’ game is hanging up research.” Kipling’s best advice to all men of science was “imagine a bit.”99 He knew from his own experience, however, that the journeys provided by the imagination are not always uplifting and pleasant. It can and will take you to places that break your heart. Nevertheless, revelation of the truth—whatever its nature—is the highest goal of both the scientist and the artistic creator, and in this endeavor the imagination is essential. Kipling’s imagination, directing him in the writing of “They,” took him to truths deep within himself that resulted in what is perhaps the most personally revealing of his stories, for it embodies his lasting love and respect for his sister, Trix; his acknowledgment of the existence of spirits of the dead (though he did not understand this phenomenon or try to make it a part of religious belief); his admission that he was psychically gifted;

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and his understanding of why he could not use that gift to communicate with those whom death had robbed him of but could use it—or at least a faculty related to it—to create. To Kipling, death was the arch-fiend, and bereavement, hell. What better way could there be to manifest defiance of this dread thief and executioner who had placed him in a perdition of grief than to create? “Making” (as he called creating) is, after all, the best revenge on the Great Unmaker. Although Kipling considered grief to be one of life’s special agonies, he recognized that its psychological twists and turns of the screw are highly individualized and therefore at times strange and unpredictable. That is, the course that bereavement follows depends a great deal on the psychology of the bereaved. The extraordinary effect that grief has on a peculiar and unusual mind is the subject of the complex and controversial “Mary Postgate” (1915), though this central concern has been largely ignored in criticism of the story.100 The work is unusual if not unique among Kipling’s studies in bereavement because it ends in a moment of personal exhilaration for the grieving heroine, a sense of triumph that comes about not despite her grief but because of it. Her change does not suggest that bereavement is less horrible than Kipling describes it elsewhere, but it does illustrate his conviction, which he expressed with such forcefulness in his description of the Tower of Victory in Chitor many years before, that a person can be made stronger by having experienced a living hell.101 Mary Postgate as Kipling portrays her before her alteration is a woman largely without any distinctive identity. She thus stands in stark contrast to the other major character of the story, Miss Fowler, whose role is chiefly that of character foil. Miss Fowler is colorful, impatient with details, eccentric, strong-willed, highly opinionated, authoritative, decisive, and sometimes abrasive. With little regard for what other people may think, she is very much her own woman in all that she says and does. Mary, on the other hand, is just the opposite—colorless, meticulous with details, self-trained to fit in and to prevent her mind from dwelling on controversial or unpleasant matters, docile, unopinionated, obedient, and pleasantly “ladylike.” In general she is not her own woman but someone who keeps company with or fills in for another. She is essentially a substitute: a kind of surrogate wife to Miss Fowler (who is somewhat mannish, or husbandly, in her ways); a surrogate mother to Wynn filling in for Miss Fowler, who as his aunt should play that role but “who had no large sympathy with the young” (491); a surrogate aunt “to very many small children of the village street” (490); a last-minute replacement at the dinner tables of the Rector or Dr. Hennis; a substitute for Miss Fowler on the Village Nursing Committee; and Miss Fowler’s representative at various events such as funerals.

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Whereas Kipling relates details about Miss Fowler’s background, he leaves that of Mary essentially blank, a technique that further calls attention to her lack of identity. All that is revealed about her is that she was previously employed by Lady McCausland, who in a letter of recommendation describes her as “thoroughly conscientious, tidy, companionable, and ladylike” (489), and that she has been frequently grief stricken because of a large number of deaths among her family members and friends. Miss Fowler likes to talk about her father and to recall past events; Mary merely listens. When she does speak, she is apt to echo the words of someone else, especially those of Wynn. With obvious irritation, Miss Fowler complains that Mary does not seem to possess any individuality, does not appear to have any life of her own. During the eleven years of their acquaintance, Miss Fowler says to her, “you’ve never told me anything that matters. . . . Mary, aren’t you anything except a companion? Would you ever have been anything except a companion?” After due consideration, Mary answers, “No . . . I don’t imagine I ever should” (495). She has come to accept that she is only what others see her as, a “companion.” She never tries to establish any other identity, never rebels against the confinement of her assigned role, never allows herself to indulge in self-examination or questionings, “for she prided herself on a trained mind, which ‘did not dwell on these things’ ” (490). Since Mary resists any temptation to dwell on herself, to discover who she is at the core of her being, she comes across to others as admirably selfless. Everyone who knows her feels affection for her. There is nothing distinctive about her to dislike. In her letter of recommendation, Lady McCausland comments that “I am very sorry to part with her, and shall always be interested in her welfare” (489). She has no enemies and provokes no jealousies. Children take readily to her. By and large, critics commenting on Mary’s relationship with Wynn have ignored indications in the text that despite his disrespectful and bantering manner toward her, which is most often interpreted as cruelty, in his own fashion he loves her.102 He writes to her separately from Miss Fowler, and alerts her, not his aunt, when he is to land his plane nearby. When he leaves home, he takes her photograph with him, and he saves in a packet all the letters that she has written to him over the years. It is to Mary that he gives the identification chart of airplanes and to her that he explains all the details of his own plane and of air combat. He is a spoiled free soul who is as eccentric and as irreverent toward traditions and customs as is his aunt and more likely to camouflage his true feelings in protestations of impatience and pseudoangry outcries of offensive name calling than to express them tenderly and directly. Mary senses his love for her and refuses to be insulted or alienated by his outrageous behavior. Her love for him is as deep and far reaching as

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that of any mother for her son.103 Hearing the sound of his plane’s propellers at dawn, she stares at the brightening sky, catches a glimpse of his aircraft, and lifts her “lean arms towards it,” a pose of adoration suggesting a worshipper at the break of day (496). She refuses, however, even in the privacy of her own mind to assume the identity of mother. At Wynn’s funeral, Mrs. Grant, who has lost her son in the war, expresses her sympathy and comments on the pain that only a bereaved mother can understand. Mary rejects the implied identification of herself with a mother and comments: “But both his parents are dead” (498). Again, she thinks of herself as only a substitute parent while loving and grieving as a real one. Her head and her heart never quite work together. The contrast between Mary and Miss Fowler is most pronounced in their respective responses to Wynn’s death. Their outward reactions are similar—they are calm, oddly without tears, and business-like in their taking care of arrangements. Kipling makes it clear, however, that Mary’s grief, though restrained, runs deeper and causes more complex reactions. When news comes of Wynn’s death, Miss Fowler is puzzled by her disinclination to weep and is merely wearied by her grief. Mary, on the other hand, experiences an emotional earthquake in which the room whirls about her. John Bayley goes so far as to claim that she “has what amounts to a nervous breakdown, but being Mary . . . it takes a strange form.”104 After Mary steadies herself and regains control, anger begins to well up within her. She is too angry to weep. Explaining to Miss Fowler why Wynn’s death does not make her cry, she says: “It only makes me angry with the Germans.” Not sharing and not understanding Mary’s quiet rage but believing anger self-destructive, Miss Fowler replies: “That’s sheer waste of vitality. . . . We must live till the war’s finished” (499). Anger does not destroy Mary, however, but vitalizes her into an action that for the first time makes her feel that she is something besides a “companion.” Grief therapists recognize that anger is often an important component of bereavement, but in “Mary Postgate,” it is the central element.105 The aspect of anger that Kipling is most concerned with in the story is what modern psychologists of bereavement call “scapegoating,” the dogged determination to apply blame for the death of a loved one.106 Anger develops with such force in the bereaved, who feels victimized by loss, that striking back is not only appropriate but mandatory, and one thought comes to dominate all others—someone must pay. Justice must be done; things must be set right. Though the tendency toward scapegoating may be present in any person in mourning, it is prevalent where the loss has been sudden and unexpected. It can also result from “bereavement overload,” that is, cases where the bereaved has had to face the death of several loved ones at once or has experienced grief repeatedly over a period of time.107

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Accrued grief, as it were, engenders a resentment against such targets as death itself or God, which cannot be assailed with any sense of satisfaction because they are abstractions. Therefore, the angry griever finds it necessary to identify (or create) a specific, concrete enemy to blame and against whom, in some cases, to take action. Mary’s “bereavement overload” and the resentment it produces are evident in a passage late in the story, the one place where Kipling supplies information about her prior to the time that she joined Miss Fowler (other than that she worked for Lady McCausland). The details thus stand out starkly and invite careful scrutiny as essential to an understanding of her mind and actions. Waiting for the German airman to die, her thoughts turn to all the grief that she has had to endure in recent years:
Mary had seen death more than once. She came of a family that had a knack of dying under, as she told Miss Fowler, “most distressing circumstances.” She would stay where she was till she was entirely satisfied that It was dead—dead as dear papa in the late ’eighties; aunt Mary in ’eighty-nine; mamma in ’ninety-one; cousin Dick in ’ninety-five; Lady McCausland’s housemaid in ’ninety-nine; Lady McCausland’s sister in nineteen hundred and one; Wynn buried five days ago; and Edna Gerritt still waiting for decent earth to hide her. (511)108

The deaths of Wynn and Edna constitute the last straw. Accumulated grief now produces such anger that she can no longer hold it in. Exhibiting the psychological phenomenon of bereavement referred to as scapegoating, she comes to blame the Germans and then, specifically, the fatally injured airman, not only for the death of Wynn and little Edna Gerritt, but for all the agony that she has suffered through all her bereavements. It is important to emphasize that in doing so, she may be suffering from what psychologists call “pathological grief,” but she is not hopelessly insane or even delusional in the sense of imagining events or hallucinating.109 Contrary to much critical opinion, what Mary thinks she sees, she really sees. For example, Kipling supplies solid evidence to support her conviction that the child she sees lying dead was killed by a bomb rather than by the collapse of a rotted shed. That Mary did not merely imagine that she heard a plane overhead when she was going to the village is evident from Miss Fowler’s remarking to her “that a couple of aeroplanes had passed half an hour ago” (507). The telling detail, however, is the condition of Edna’s body, which is “ripped and shredded” (504). Mary is shrewd enough to realized that a falling shed, even with loose tiles, would not tear little Edna’s body into “vividly coloured strips and strings” (510) but that a bomb certainly could do just that. When she wisely proposes to

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Dr. Hennis that she refrain from telling Miss Fowler of Edna’s death, the physician, who certainly does not consider her an “hysterical and crazed female,” regards her “admiringly as he packed up his bag” (505).110 He serves the village as a constable as well as physician and understandably wishes to prevent panic: “It is no good to stir up people” (506). For the time being, therefore, he wishes Edna’s death to be thought of as an accident. As if to notify her of his intentions by “holding her with his eyes,” Dr. Hennis explains the theory he wishes publicized, that the shed was rotten and collapsed on the child. Mary’s answer, “I saw it,” meaning the little body ripped by the metal pieces of a bomb, suggests that she rejects the doctor’s accident theory. She has seen what she has seen. At that, the doctor “changed his tone completely” and tells her fairly directly to keep her mouth shut, which with her usual docility she agrees to do. Kipling thus makes Mary’s anger toward the Germans justified by actual events, but he goes on to suggest that her outrage is really accumulative and is against more than just Germans. That is, all her rebellion and resentment against death come to be directed against the particular German in the garden, but he is for her an “It,” rather than an individual human being, a kind of symbol for all Germans (whom she has heard widely and popularly condemned in news reports, in conversations, in rumors, and in British war propaganda), who in turn represent for her whatever it is that has taken from her all those she has loved over a period of years.111 Thus the dying German is both a real wartime enemy, whom she understandably and perhaps even justifiably despises, and a scapegoat, like the killer white whale on whose great hump Captain Ahab piles all the evil that has beset him in life and that has left him maimed. Mary’s German is as real as Ahab’s white whale. She does not conjure up an object of hatred; it is an objective reality. What is subjective is the meaning she applies to it. She takes pleasure in the death throes of the German airman because it is right that “It” should suffer and die, this “It” that has caused so much pain. In fact, when he expires, she uses the word right: “That’s all right” (513). She has not killed him; she probably could not have saved him.112 The point, however, is that she has made sure that he die, and she feels a sense of wholeness and power that she has never before experienced. Right has triumphed, and she has somehow been a part of that victory. Little wonder that she shivers “from head to foot” (513). For once she feels like somebody, not just a “companion,” because she has secretly and entirely on her own assumed the stance of rebellion. She has struck back. In her mind she has become an agent of retributive justice. Admittedly, Kipling invited ambiguity if not confusion by creating a situation in which no one else sees the fatally injured German airman and then by keeping Mary silent about the incident when she returns to

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Miss Fowler, leaving the body in the garden as the story ends.113 Nevertheless, Kipling’s detailed description of the scene is simply out of keeping with an intention to make it Mary’s hallucination. Specificity seems an odd bedfellow with hallucination. For example, Kipling notes that “a broken branch lay across his [the German’s] lap—one booted leg protruding from beneath it.” His “hands picked at the dead wet leaves” as he tries to speak to Mary. Detail is piled on detail: “She looked up at the oak behind the man; several of the light upper and two or three rotten lower branches had broken and scattered their rubbish on the shrubbery path. On the lowest fork a helmet with dependent strings, showed like a bird’s-nest” (508–09). Kipling knew all about hallucinations—he was prone to experience them himself—and he described them in several of his writings, but they are considerably less detailed than his description of what Mary sees. In addition, it seems odd that when Mary, having observed a pistol case in the German’s belt, goes back to the house and returns with a pistol of her own, her “hallucination”—if that is what it is—is still there precisely as before.114 Kipling arranges it so that no one else in the story sees the dying airman not because the German is an hallucination but because Mary must go through this experience alone, carrying out no one else’s instructions, influenced by no one, substituting for no one, being no one’s companion, acting for once only on what she feels in her deepest heart rather than on what her “trained mind, which ‘did not dwell on these things’ ” tells her. The story builds relentlessly to a powerful conclusion, the death of the German and Mary’s sense of triumph. The movement begins slowly and then as it steadily gains momentum, it draws in the major artistic ingredients of the work—plot, characterization, theme, and imagery, all working together to create a truly spectacular climax. The narrative becomes increasingly infused with a sense of urgency. The day is coming rapidly to a close; darkness is approaching. Will Mary have enough daylight to accomplish her task, or will the night overtake her? The rain has begun and will get heavier. The fire must be started right away and Wynn’s things burned. Will the rain stifle the blaze? Teatime is soon. Can she make it on time? The German airman must die before Mary has to return to the house. Will he linger on beyond that? A tension develops between certain patterns of atmospheric imagery, light and darkness, fire and water, which become projections of the opposing forces of Mary’s inner self. Externality becomes a manifestation of internality. Anger (fire) and sorrow (rain) struggle for dominance within her. Her sorrow threatens to overcome all else, to put out the fire of her anger, but her outrage grows steadily as she realizes that the man before her is a German: “It made her so angry that she strode back to the destructor” (508).

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As the fire of anger blazes hotter within Mary, Kipling links her with the incinerator, the “destructor.” In a sense, they become one. As she stokes the destructor, she develops what Kipling describes as a “glow,” the same word he uses for the destructor: “there was a dull red glow at the bottom of the destructor” (512). Apocalyptic terms in this brilliantly executed climactic scene suggest its cataclysmic importance to Mary. She is obviously undergoing a psychological crisis of the first order in which anger—fire—is the essential element. The reason for her “rapture,” a term that carries apocalyptic religious meanings, is not sadistic sexual pleasure as is sometimes argued but her sudden awareness that she has found “her work” (512), which is to say, an awareness of who she is.115 Before this event, she “never had a voice—to herself,” but now she hums like the fire in the destructor. Kipling identifies Mary with the destructor because at the same time that the fire within the incinerator is destroying Wynn’s belongings— representative of a precious part of Mary’s past—the fire within her, her anger, is burning through the tight bonds of her repression that have made her a colorless nonentity. What she is undergoing can perhaps best be described as a catharsis (in the sense psychologists use the term). The often crippling psychological phenomena of bereavement overload and scapegoating are ironically the means through which Mary is purged of the repressions that have smothered her identity by forcing her to commit an act in stark violation of and entirely uncharacteristic of the old Mary. The purifying effect of her catharsis is symbolized by her “luxurious hot bath before tea” (513). As Kipling wrote in one of his Letters of Marque, “To attain power . . . it is necessary to pass through all sorts of close-packed horrors.”116 The Mary Postgate who emerges at the end has not rid herself of the close-packed horrors of life, its various hells, but she is better prepared to confront them. Her release from what has been a thoroughly repressed emotional life is suggested by her final appearance “all relaxed on the other sofa” and, as Miss Fowler remarks with both surprise and admiration, “quite handsome” (513).117 Still grieving over the loss of his son in the Great War, Kipling wrote “The Gardener” (1926) shortly after visiting the war cemetery at Rouen in 1925. He was deeply stirred as he looked out over the seemingly endless rows of crosses in that place of death, one of several that he viewed as a member of the War Graves Commission. To Rider Haggard he wrote on March 14, 1925: “Went off at once to Rouen Cemetery (11,000 graves) and collogued with the Head Gardener and the contractors. One never gets over the shock of this Dead Sea of arrested lives.”118 His assignments from the Commission kept vividly before him the sheer magnitude of Britain’s loss of life in the war and fed his already obsessive concern with death and with the hell that the bereaved must endure. On his visit to

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Rouen, his eye caught sight of a mourner who placed a porcelain cross on one of the graves. He wrote to Haggard that he was moved almost to the point of tears.119 That very evening, back at his hotel and under the influence of the compassion he had earlier experienced, he began writing “The Gardener.” Significantly, the woman that he had seen at a grave was in his imagination unmarried. In his letter to Haggard, he commented: “Bet she was an old maid.”120 If this episode provided Kipling with the inspiration for “The Gardener,” as it certainly seems to have done, then his description of the grieving woman in the cemetery as an “old maid” may bear on the characterization of Helen Turrell, the heroine of the story. Did he intend her to be an “old maid,” that is, a highly respectable and respected woman (“Miss Helen”) with no experience of the opposite sex, a spinster who dutifully raises the son of her dead brother with loving care, or is she an unwed mother, a woman with a shady past and a dark secret—a sexual affair that produces a child whom she passes off as her nephew? Kipling’s designation of the woman at the grave in Rouen as an “old maid” does not, of course, prove that he thought of Helen Turrell in the same way, nor can we be certain that in his opinion, a one-time if serious indiscretion would disqualify her from being thought of as such, but it does add an extra note of ambiguity. In his review of the collection in which “The Gardener” appeared, Debits and Credits, the critic Brander Matthews wrote in 1926 that the story “leaves us wondering exactly what had happened.”121 It did no take long, however, for critics to become all too sure of what happens in the story. In his summary of the work, Lloyd H. Chandler briefly stated in 1930 the interpretation that has ever since been widely accepted as fact: “Story of an English woman who went, after the World War, to visit the grave of a much loved supposed nephew, in reality her own son . . . and who there met the Savior, taking him for nothing more than a care-taker.”122 Generally recognized as one of Kipling’s finest stories—Edmund Wilson’s convoluted compliment is memorable: “I am not sure that it is not really the best story that Kipling ever wrote”—123 “The Gardener” has been the subject of a considerable body of criticism with varied approaches, but there appears to be practically no disagreement on the matter of Helen’s true relationship with Michael. Modern Kipling specialists take for granted that Helen is Michael’s mother, not his aunt. As the narrative unfolds, Charles Carrington argues, the truth is “made plain,” that is, that this is the story of an “unmarried mother.”124 Similarly, Bonamy Dobrée finds no ambiguity insofar as Michael’s parentage is concerned: “Helen Turrell, the heroine of the story, had an illegitimate son Michael, whom she passed off as . . . her nephew.”125 Generally ignored is

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the blatant inconsistency of characterization inherent in this assumption, for it seems inconsistent that Helen Turrell, one of Kipling’s most admired heroines, would make up an elaborate and atrocious lie about a brother of whom she was admittedly fond (even if he were not much good). To have done what she must have done if she is Michael’s mother, Helen would have to be not only duplicitous but slanderous, a woman who faked lung trouble so that she could get out of town to have a bastard child and who upon her return slandered her own dead brother, her only sibling, by claiming that he had had an illicit sexual relationship in India with a woman beneath his station and that the child was the result of that sorry affair. But as Kipling portrays her, Helen Turrell is simply not the kind of woman to fabricate such an abominable lie. Open and frank, noble and honorable, she is clearly the object of the author’s admiration and compassion. Lying to protect one’s own reputation and to shelter a child is understandable, but slandering one’s deceased brother to do so is thoroughly despicable, an act that is out of keeping with the heroine that Kipling has delineated. Evidence within the story itself for the view that Helen is an unwed mother is primarily the gardener’s use of the word son: “ ‘Come with me,’ he said, ‘and I will show you where your son lies.’ ”126 According to most critics, the gardener’s remark brings to light numerous other clues supposedly hidden here and there in the story and thus likely to be missed by readers, hints that Helen is actually Michael’s mother: her trip to the South of France from where she returns with the infant, her allowing the boy to call her “Mummy” in private, and so forth. But if the body of critical commentary on the story is reviewed carefully, it becomes obvious that the most crucial piece of evidence for the view of Helen as mother comes not from within the work but from without, namely from the first three stanzas of the poem “The Burden,” which follows the story in Debits and Credits.
One grief on me is laid Each day of every year, Wherein no soul can aid, Whereof no soul can hear: Whereto no end is seen Except to grieve again— Ah, Mary Magdalene, Where is there greater pain? To dream on dear disgrace Each hour of every day— To bring no honest face To aught I do or say:

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To lie from morn till e’en— To know my lies are vain— Ah, Mary Magdalene, Where can be greater pain? To watch my steadfast fear Attend my every way Each day of every year— Each hour of every day: To burn, and chill between— To quake and rage again— Ah, Mary Magdalene, Where shall be greater pain? One grave to me was given— To guard till Judgment Day— But God looked down from Heaven And rolled the Stone away! One day of all my years— One hour of that one day— His Angel saw my tears And rolled the Stone away!127

If one assumes, as many critics do, that the speaker in the first three stanzas of “The Burden” is Helen Turrell, then there seems little doubt that she has been hiding a shameful secret that would disgrace her if exposed. Every day is a torment to her because she is living a lie, and fear of the truth’s coming out dominates her existence. What else could this secret be but that she is Michael’s mother? The problem with this assumption is that the person speaking in the poem and Helen Turrell of the story seem to be two different people. The former repeatedly evokes the name of Mary Magdalene, traditionally a woman once of loose morals who became devoted to Jesus and was the first to see him resurrected. If this speaker is Helen Turrell and the secret that she so desperately wishes to keep is that she has a son out of wedlock, then why does she compare herself with Mary Magdalene, noted not for secret parenthood but for illicit sexuality and, in the opinion of some, for being secretly in love with Jesus? The tortured person whose voice we hear in the first three stanzas of “The Burden” is in love, is possibly grieving because of the death of her lover, and is in despair because of having to hide these feelings. As far as I can determine, no evidence exists in the story that Helen suffers greatly from the death of a lover whose identity she is forbidden to reveal. In fact, there is no indication at all that she worries “each hour of every day” that “some dear disgrace” will come to light or that she suffers mightily because she can “bring no honest face” to anything she does or

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says or that her constant lies have left her is a state where she burns and chills and ranges emotionally from quaking to raging. The speaker in the poem is so characterized but not the heroine of the story. Yet the two are generally considered one and the same, and readings have been superimposed on the story that are inconsistent with what is actually there.128 Actually, the woman of “The Burden” (if, indeed, the voice of the first three stanzas is that of a woman) is more like another character in “The Gardener” than she is Helen Turrell, namely Mrs. Scarsworth, whose presence dominates the entire fourth structural unit of the story. A married woman, she carried on a secret affair for six years before her lover was killed in the war. Now she repeatedly visits his grave under the pretense of viewing and taking snapshots of the burial places of those whose relatives cannot themselves come. Her “commission” is to carry back pictures and to report on the conditions of the graves, all of which brings comfort to loved ones. Her real reason for coming, however, is that she was passionately in love and is now almost mad from the combination of grief and lying, precisely the mental state of the tormented soul of “The Burden.” Mrs. Scarsworth is desperate for some kind of redemption, some form of relief from her torment, and that is why she confesses to Helen: “I’m so tired of lying. Tired of lying—always lying— year in and year out. When I don’t tell lies I’ve got to act ’em and I’ve got to think ’em, always. . . . He was everything to me that he oughtn’t to have been—the one real thing—the only thing that ever happened to me in all my life; and I’ve had to pretend he wasn’t. I’ve had to watch every word I said, and think out what lie I’d tell next, for years and years. . . . I want to be honest with some one before I go [to the cemetery again]. . . . I can’t keep it up any longer. Oh, I can’t!” (447–48). If her outburst is compared to the words of the woman in “The Burden,” the two speakers appear to be the same person. Her confession seems to bring Mrs. Scarsworth no peace, for she rushes from Helen’s presence, and the next morning she leaves the hotel early. She had not been comforted the previous evening by Helen’s reaction to her confession, which is perhaps more like that of an “old maid,” as Kipling conceived the type, than like that of an understanding Mary Magdalene, who with a shady past could identify with her. She comes no closer to experiencing a sense of relief and redemption when she hears Helen say “Oh, my dear! My dear!” than Helen experiences when she hears the gardener call Michael her son. Yet by interpreting the story from what is in the poem, numerous commentators argue that when Helen hears the word son from the gardener, she has an immense burden lifted from her, that the stone has been rolled away, “releasing for an instant,” as one critic states, “the repressed emotions of a lifetime.”129 Actually, Helen manifests no

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emotions at all. She simply leaves the cemetery and turns for a last look, assuming that the man who has spoken to her is the gardener. Kipling does not even hint that what the gardener says affects her in any way whatsoever. Surely this is not the first time during all the years that she has raised Michael that someone has referred to him as her son. It would be an understandable mistake that she would be well used to. That is why the man in the cemetery (she does not consider him anything more) does not stun her with some eye-opening epiphany—she is used to strangers calling Michael her son. Reading between the lines is one thing, but supplying lines is another. Although there is no indication that Helen emerges from the cemetery a burden-free happy woman, that precisely is the way she has been characterized. “In some deep unexplained way,” writes one commentator, “her burden was lifted, she knew herself to be close to Michael, to be able to tell all, to be understood, to be forgiven, to be free and happy.”130 When Helen hears the gardener refer to Michael as her son, states another critic, she experiences “a revelation,” which “is equivalent to rolling away the stone of the Sepulchre.”131 The ending of “The Gardener,” in the opinion of another writer, evokes “the possibility of redemption and the Resurrection.”132 One would be hard pressed to find convincing evidence in the story for such uplifting views though they are strangely widespread among those Kipling scholars who want to see a new and improved Helen Turrell emerge from that war cemetery. J. M. S. Tompkins offers the unusual theory that the story makes “clear” that “alleviation” comes to Helen when the gardener speaks to her although she does not know it: “The consolation that she could not ask came to her; and though she could not recognize it, yet it came.”133 That is, Helen manifests no change at the grave, and the narrator of the work indicates no change in her, but she is changed, nevertheless. Helen’s Hampshire village is the subject of other assumptions that seem oddly out of keeping with what Kipling actually wrote in “The Gardener.” Because the story begins with the words “Every one in the village knew that Helen Turrell,” a number of critics conclude that what Kipling meant to say was that everyone in the village knew that Helen was Michael’s mother rather than his aunt as she claimed. Apparently overlooked in this argument is the fact that another of Kipling’s stories, “His Gift” (1923), opens in much the same way. About an awkward and overweight Boy Scout who lives with his uncle, the story begins: “His Scoutmaster and his comrades, who disagreed on several points, were united in one conviction—that William Glasse Sawyer was . . .” Are we to assume from these words, therefore, that the uncle whom William lives with is really his father and that everyone around him knows it?134 The full opening sentence of “The Gardener” reads: “Everyone in the village knew

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that Helen Turrell did her duty by all her world, and by none more honourably than by her only brother’s unfortunate child” (433). Now this sentence may suggest to some readers that Helen was fooling no one in her attempt to hide that she was an unwed mother, but what it literally says is that people of her village respected her as an honorable woman who took her responsibilities seriously. To make anything more of the story’s initial words, one already has to be convinced that Helen is really Michael’s mother. Once that idea is firmly implanted in the brain, a conspiracy of silence seems exposed and evidence of its existence seems to pop up everywhere, and almost everything somehow seems connected to it. Even if “The Burden” is excluded from an analysis of “The Gardener” because it is external to the story, or if the poem is considered relevant to it but essentially about Mrs. Scarsworth rather than about Helen Turrell, then the words of the man in the cemetery still have to be dealt with (as does the figure himself) in offering an alternative interpretation to the usual one, that is, that the story is about a tormented unwed mother’s eventually finding redemption through Jesus Christ, who supernaturally appears in the form of a gardener and speaks to her with infinite compassion. If the figure in the cemetery is not Jesus, then why does Kipling recreate the scene from the fourth gospel where at the empty tomb Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, asks her whom she seeks, and is at first mistaken by Mary as the gardener? To anyone familiar with the Bible, the parallels are unmistakable, but so are the differences. Mary has come to the tomb in sorrow, but she recognizes Jesus when he calls her name, and she leaves in joy. The only way one can say the same for Helen is to conclude with majestic illogicality that she recognizes Jesus without realizing it and that she is happy without knowing it. What is more likely, however, is that Kipling alluded to Jesus’ appearance to Mary at the empty tomb for the purpose of creating a terrible irony. As in all of Kipling’s stories of bereavement, in “The Gardener” religion is of no help in time of grief. Incapable of instilling in Helen the peace that passes understanding, the Rector, who is the representative of religion in the story, is reduced merely to reciting platitudes mechanically. He, “of course, preached hope” that Michael, listed as missing in action, was still alive, and he “prophesied,” Kipling writes with unmistakable sarcasm, using a familiar term of the Bible, “word, very soon, from a prison camp” (440). Helen realizes, however, that Michael is dead and that her suffering will not end. Religion offers no hope or relief from the piercing loneliness and sense of emptiness that make bereavement a living hell. In fact, nothing helps. In a scene that is contrived to recall one of the truly triumphant moments in the New Testament, a moment when expectations of the Christian faith are joyously fulfilled, the tomb is not empty—death is final—and the sympathetic gardener is perhaps just a

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gardener (with an actual plant in his hand) who is used to seeing grieving mothers and who either having not paid much attention when Helen calls Michael her nephew, refers to him as her son or actually believes that she is an unwed mother. In any case, unlike Mary Magdalene, whom Kipling probably meant to be the speaker in the final stanza of “The Burden” (with which he prefaced the story when it appeared in Debits and Credits), Helen Turrell departs thinking that she has encountered not the risen Christ but simply one of the cemetery’s gardeners (he is, after all, a “man bending over his young plants”) (450). An aura of the supernatural permeates this scene, replete with an image of Jesus and words from the Bible suggesting redemption and resurrection, all of which contrasts sharply with the world in which Helen actually exists, a world of pain and emptiness and hopelessness endured in silence. No story of Kipling’s ends on a note of more poignant irony. From this perspective, “The Gardener” is primarily a story not about the hidden suffering and guilt of an unwed mother before her son’s death and her sudden revelation, consolation, and redemption after it but is a study of the excruciating and prolonged pain of bereavement. Kipling systematically but with “infinite compassion” (as he calls the gardener’s attitude toward Helen) charts its agonizing phases. In the first two sections of the story, he establishes the absolute prerequisite for bereavement— love.135 His concern in these early pages is to show the depth of Helen’s love for this child whom she raises as her own. She makes it clear to him “that nothing on earth or beyond could make any difference between them” (437). Witnessing his growth and change, she is constantly delighted and ever more devoted to him:
The terms at his public school and the wonderful Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays followed each other, variegated and glorious as jewels on a string; and as jewels Helen treasured them. In due time Michael developed his own interests, which ran their courses and gave way to others; but his interest in Helen was constant and increasing throughout. She repaid it with all that she had of affection. (437–38)

In order to depict later in the story the depth of her grief, Kipling had first to show convincingly the depth of her love, for the one spawns the other. In every sense but the biological, as these first two sections make clear, Michael is Helen’s son. Thus the gardener’s calling him that rings true in one sense if not in another. Michael’s death could not have hurt her more had she been his actual mother.136 The final three sections of “The Gardener” follow Helen Turrell through the several stages of her bereavement: her initial reaction of withdrawal

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when she receives the news that Michael is missing (pulling down all the house-blinds), her attempt to face reality as difficult as it is (“Missing always means dead), her “dreary progression” through “an inevitable series of unprofitable emotions,” her sense of being acted upon rather than being in control, her feeling that she is standing still while the world moves around her (a “blessed passivity”), her resumption of activities but with no interest at all in them (“moving at a great distance”), and finally, after she had thought she had been through the entire process of “being manufactured into a bereaved next-of-kin” (441), the “agony” of her “being waked up to some sort of second life,” a whole new phase of bereavement, when she learns of Michael’s burial place and goes to visit it. Through it all, she does not make a show of her grief, as does the confused woman who collapses in the office of the cemetery official, nor does she feel a compulsion to talk about it, as does Mrs. Scarsworth. She handles her bereavement much as Kipling handled his—with dignity and stoic discipline. The pain was kept inside, “where the meanings are,” to use Emily Dickinson’s phrase. Through Helen Turrell, Kipling illustrates the heroic response to bereavement, one of the torments that make life a hell. When she leaves the cemetery at the end of the story, however, no burden is lifted from her. She does not find at the grave redemption and joy. What Kipling knew from experience about bereavement he made central to this story, namely that it never really ends for many people. The “Gardener” of the title refers not only to the grave tender of the cemetery who speaks to her but to Helen as well. That is precisely the role that Helen is destined to play, tending Michael’s grave in her heart. But in a sense, it is also her own grave, for when Michael died, something essential died in her as it did in Kipling when he lost his young daughter Josephine and later his son, John. So it is that he refers to Michael’s burial place as Helen’s grave. Near the cemetery at Hagenzeele, Kipling writes, there was a little hotel “where one could spend quite a comfortable night and see one’s grave next morning” (443). When she visits the cemetery office, the official says to her, “You know your grave, of course?” To which she replies, “Yes, thank you” (443). Tending a grave is never-ending. Helen will always be a gardener—as was Kipling himself. For a concluding summary of Kipling’s thoughts about the nature of bereavement and the enduring pain that it produces, there is probably no better place to turn than to his poem “London Stone” (1923), which is a more direct articulation of the same theme that he expressed through his characters in the stories of bereavement—that grief is the woe that never ends, a living hell from which not even heaven can rescue the sufferer. Written as a commemoration of Armistice Day, the poem is, as Peter Keating has described it, “a painfully moving lament.”137

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When you come to London Town, (Grieving—grieving!) Bring your flowers and lay them down At the place of grieving. When you come to London Town, (Grieving—grieving!) Bow your head and mourn your own, With the others grieving. For those minutes, let it wake (Grieving—grieving!) All the empty-heart and ache That is not cured by grieving. For those minutes, tell no lie: (Grieving—grieving!) “Grave, this is thy victory; And the sting of death is grieving.” Where’s our help, from Earth or Heaven, (Grieving—grieving!) To comfort us for what we’ve given, And only gained the grieving? Heaven’s too far and Earth too near, (Grieving—grieving!) But our neighbour’s standing here, Grieving as we’re grieving. What’s his burden, every day? (Grieving—grieving!) Nothing man can count or weigh, But loss and love’s own grieving. What is the tie betwixt us two (Grieving—grieving!) That must last our whole lives through? “As I suffer, so do you.” That may ease the grieving.

Kipling apparently wanted to emphasize that for a special kind of pain, nothing else in life is like bereavement. Daniel Karlin makes the perceptive comment that “London Stone” is “dominated by a word which refuses to rhyme with any other word [in the poem] but itself. Nothing answers to grieving—not man believing in God receiving, or tears relieving the bosom heaving—nothing except grieving, which alone bears the burden both literally and in the literary sense of being the poem’s refrain.”138 It is a refrain of great power not only because in allowing no other word to

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rhyme with grieving Kipling suggested its hellish uniqueness but also because he consistently placed the refrain in parentheses, a strategy that works effectively to signify the subterranean but omnipresent nature of grief. It is always there, just under the surface, a kind of mantra of pain, insistent—as the recurring exclamation point makes clear. In “London Stone,” Kipling insists, as he repeatedly does in his stories of bereavement, that religion is of no help. He must have shocked many in his audience when in the fourth stanza he pretty much calls the Apostle Paul a liar in his optimistic proclamation that the sting has been taken from death. In our grief, he argues, let us for once face the blunt truth of the hell that we are going through, that the grave has its grim victory, and that death produces a “sting,” grief, which does not die. Furthermore, let us realize that there will be no “help, from Earth or Heaven,” for “Heaven’s too far and Earth too near.” No hope of resurrection—for the dead or the living—invades this expression of poignant pessimism. Instead, the imagery of the first two stanzas cause the eye to move not upward (as in the hope of resurrection) but downward (“lay them down” and “Bow your head”) toward the grave with its mournful finality. As Kipling wrote in “Soldier, Soldier” (1890), “the dead they cannot rise,” and as he argued in “The Bees and the Flies” (1909) with some of the most repelling imagery to be found in any of his works, only decay, the Apostle Paul notwithstanding, follows death.139 “London Stone,” it should be remembered, was composed for a public occasion, and yet it deals with an emotional subject that for Kipling could not have been more personal. He had tried to confine his grieving for his son John, killed but officially listed as missing since the battle of Loos in 1915, within his own agonized heart. How could he now reveal these feelings but at the same time submerge them in a generalized expression of national bereavement? For a man of Kipling’s temperament, the challenge to restraint and dignity must have been all but daunting. Consequently, one of the most intriguing aspects of “London Stone” is the tension it manifests between Kipling the public poet and Kipling the private poet. His instructions to others on how to grieve and how to think about grief increasingly embody his own response to bereavement. A note of personal bitterness begins to sound as he contradicts the hopeful words of the Bible; signs of resentment against things as they are begin to appear.140 Then suddenly he seems to realize that the private poet is holding sway in a public poem, and with an abrupt “But” he swings back in the other direction by recognizing that “our neighbour’s standing here.” It is a sharp turn outward but a necessary one. After all, a public poem that does not exhibit an awareness of the great commonality of feeling in the

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group for which it is speaking but instead becomes mired in the exclusivity of strictly personal sorrow is not really a public poem. His shift to a more public stance, however, cannot hide his despair, for the most that can be hoped for, he admits, is that recognizing the profound grief of others may offer some relief. It is a faint hope, and for him personally, perhaps no hope at all.141

Part 1I

Heroism

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4

Children of the Zodiac: The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous
rom the seedbed of Kipling’s pessimism, from his despairing sense of life as a place of suffering, emerged in him a powerful conviction: it was possible through understanding and sheer willfulness to avoid the degradation of self-pity and the disgrace of frantic self-protection even when pain, defeat, and annihilation are inevitable. Even in hell it is possible to find something to believe in that exalts the human spirit for its nobility amid forces that would debase it. The creed that became Kipling’s religion and occupied the center stage of his writing involved certain specific ways of thinking and acting among which was a realistic awareness of the hellish nature of existence and of the terrible inevitability of extermination, a keen sensitivity to the overwhelming unfairness that characterizes the human condition, and a rare ability born of courage and resentment to withstand certain ignoble temptations with which we are cursed from birth—the temptation cravenly to whine or panic when the certainty of our mutual destiny is made clear; the temptation to forgo discipline, dignity, and order when meaninglessness and chaos emerge as the prevalent aspects of existence; the temptation to forget duty, self-sacrifice, and service amid universal selfishness, and the temptation to abandon the ideals of fidelity to self and to truth in the face of almost universal dishonesty, deception, and blindness. The most advantageous starting position in an exploration of Kipling’s concept of the heroic life as manifested in his work is his story “The Children of the Zodiac” (1891). Astonishingly original in both concept and execution and fundamental to an understanding of its author’s most cherished ideas, this work has nevertheless found few to admire it though a fair number have been puzzled by it.1 Not the least puzzling aspect of the work is it genre. Some commentators refer to it broadly as a “prose allegory.” Several consider it a “fable,” while others describe it as a “parable.”2 Although the terms allegory, fable, and parable all designate

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works that have in common the principal ingredient of symbolism, these genres, strictly speaking, are somewhat different from each other in scope, authorial intent, and method of execution. Furthermore, “The Children of the Zodiac” is not a comfortable fit with any one of them although it possesses attributes characteristic of each of them. From the very first sentence of the story onward, the narrative voice does not seem engaged in creating an allegory, a fable, or a parable but in the telling of a myth: “Thousands of years ago, when men were greater than they are to-day, the Children of the Zodiac lived in the world.”3 This initial sentence embodies several of the familiar characteristics of myth, notably the specifying of a period in the remote past, a time far different from the present; the presentation of extraordinary beings, in this instance of supernatural origin; and the suggestion of an extraordinary event, their coming to dwell among humankind and their subsequent transformation. The story upon which Kipling’s quasi-myth, as it probably should be called, is based is that of the fall of Adam and Eve, who were created deathless but who by sinning (and thus by exhibiting a characteristic of humanity) fell from immortality into mortality. At one point in “The Children of the Zodiac,” Kipling writes that “Leo had known all the sorrow that a man could know, including the full knowledge of his own fall who had once been a God” (382). Versions of the fall greatly fascinated Kipling as evidenced not only by this work but by later stories like “How Fear Came” (1894) and “The Enemies to Each Other” (1924). The latter appeared in its initial magazine publications under the title of “A New Version of What Happened in the Garden of Eden.” Kipling’s “new version” of the myth was that of the felix culpa, the fortunate fall, which is also the thematic framework for “The Children of the Zodiac.” If like “The Enemies to Each Other,”“The Children of the Zodiac” is a new version of the fall, it also presents a new version of the zodiac. Kipling divides the figures between “Children,” who cease to be immortal, and the unchanging cosmic hit men of Fate, the “Houses.” The Children are designated as “the Ram, the Bull, the Lion, the Twins, and the Girl,” and the Houses as “the Scorpion, the Balance, the Crab, the Fishes, the Goat, and the Waterman” (362). For reasons not clear, some critics have claimed that Kipling “omits the Goat” in his listing, but that obviously is not the case.4 He does omit the Archer (Sagittarius) from the initially enumerated Houses but thereafter refers to him repeatedly as one of the executioners. In Kipling’s rendition of the felix culpa, no blame is attached to the Children for their having to face death. They do not become mortal because of some momentous and irreparable misstep (Kipling could not work up much enthusiasm for the doctrine of original sin). What happens to them is decreed not by God, who is conspicuously absent from the story,

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but by a totally unknowable and indifferent fate. And what does happen to them is starkly terrible: after believing themselves deathless for thousands of years and seeing countless generations of human beings pass away, they realize that they, too, must die. That one’s death is a certainty is painful enough a realization to ordinary beings, but to those who have lived for thousands of years, it is unspeakably repugnant. “The Children of the Zodiac,” however, is not just about the awful fear that death spawns but also about the paradoxical role of death as the mother of all we consider best and most noble in our humanity. In the agonizing discovery of their mortality, the Children acquire knowledge and experience that actually makes them superior to their former selves, larger in stature as mortals than they were as immortals. In this sense the fall of Leo and his companions is fortunate because they come to know that life is precious not in spite of the everpresent shadow of death but because of it. With mortality they acquire not only the fear of death but also knowledge about death’s role in life. “The Children of the Zodiac” is a product of the same period and frame of mind as “Letters on Leave, I,” where Kipling is appalled that many of the people he observed in London seemed “divorced from the knowledge or fear of death.” This distinction between the fear of death and the knowledge of death Kipling may well have derived from Walt Whitman, whose work he read with great enthusiasm. In writing “The Children of the Zodiac” Kipling attempted to reconcile himself to the reality of death just as Whitman did in composing his most famous poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” The speaker in Whitman’s work, deeply disturbed over the assassination of his hero, Abraham Lincoln, walks into the dark recesses of a swamp accompanied on the one side by the terrible “thought of death” and on the other by “the knowledge of death.” A central purpose of “The Children of the Zodiac” is to identify, as did Whitman, two responses to death, to explore through the methods of myth both the fear of death, which is the ingredient of humankind’s worst nightmare, and the knowledge that without death, life would scarcely be worth living. The two strands intertwine and run with coequal strength through the story until the end, when the somewhat brighter color of the latter momentarily prevails. It is a dark victory, however, for though the acquisition of what Kipling calls “the knowledge of death” provides the opportunity for enlightenment and ennoblement, it offers no hope of peace, happiness, or eternal reward. At best it can serve as an antidote to the poison of fear by making the reality of mortality tolerable through comparing it to its alternative, which is made to appear somewhat empty if not ignoble. What Leo and Virgo learn sustains them, to be sure, but a tone of unrelenting melancholy pervades the story. Kipling was unable to get

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around the fact that even when considered in the best possible light, death is still terrible. Fear of death is not treated in “The Children of the Zodiac” as craven, hysterical, or even unreasonable. Indeed, only a fool or a child does not recognize the dread inevitability of death. In “Letters on Leave, I,” Kipling commented that those who do not think about death “appear to be like children in that respect.”5 Unquestionably, one of the reasons he used “Children” in his title is that maturation is an essential element in his quasi-myth of former immortals who never thought about death until forced to by the realization of their own fall into mortality, at which time they mature into the adulthood of fear and knowledge. Before their fall, they are juvenile swingers on the stars, enjoying the kind of carefree existence that Emerson described in “The Adirondacs,” a poem from which Kipling probably derived the title for his story. “We seemed,” writes Emerson, “the dwellers of the Zodiac.” Children fit Kipling’s purpose better than dwellers, but otherwise he must have liked Emerson’s phrasing (as he often did) and the idea behind it. The Children begin to be afraid even before they know why. That is, they are afraid of the Houses without realizing the reason, and “even when they first stepped down upon the earth and knew that they were immortal Gods, they carried this fear with them” (362). As they observe men and women in the grip of the fear of death, they are at first puzzled because they understand no concept except that of infinity. An elderly man comes to them with the body of his wife, who has been “killed,” as he puts it, by one of the Houses, and he declares himself ready “for the end of things.” When that end is about to come, however, when the arrow of the Archer whistles through the air, he runs and cries in anguish: “Let me live a little longer—only a little longer” (365). Nevertheless, the arrow strikes him and he dies. Leo is bewildered, but Virgo says: “I think I feel what he felt” (366). This episode marks the beginning of the Children’s initiation into the dread of extinction. As Leo visits the Bull, the Ram, and the Twins, he finds that they have already learned of their loss of immortality and that their fear of death has become the context for their decisions and their behavior. Not until Leo confronts the House responsible for executing his own doom, however, does he experience the full impact of his new status. Kipling’s horror of the disease that he considered his “family’s complaint” is reflected in his depiction of the Crab, which “lies so still that you might think he was asleep if you did not see the ceaseless play and winnowing motion of the feathery branches round his mouth. That movement never ceases. It is like the eating of a smothered fire into rotten timber in that it is noiseless and without haste” (370). The half-darkness of Cancer’s lair is eerie, lit just enough to allow Leo “a glimpse of that vast blue-black back

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and the motionless eyes. Now and again he thought that he heard some one sobbing, but the noise was very faint” (370). Leo’s interview with the Crab results in his awakening to the certainty of his death and that of Virgo; he to be taken by cancer of the throat (a recurrent fear of Kipling’s) and she by cancer of the breast. He therefore now knows the torment of death’s hovering shadow because he is cursed with not only the certainty of his own demise but also that of the one he loves. “The Children of the Zodiac” repeatedly raises by implication and then addresses two key questions, the first of which is “What does the realization that one’s death is a certainty have to do with how one behaves?” At first Leo cannot understand the connection. He observes the Bull engaged in behavior that for a god is shocking, that is, allowing himself to be used by a farmer to plow furrows. Astounded and outraged, Leo instructs his brother to “gore that insolent [farmer] to death . . . and for the sake of our family honour come out of the mire” (367). The Bull replies that he cannot, for his House, the Scorpion, has revealed to him that he must someday die. Leo’s puzzlement at this response is evident as he asks, “What has that to do with this disgraceful exhibition?” The Bull’s answer is “Everything.” Consciousness of death has become the determiner of his behavior. Subsequently Leo encounters the Ram, who is also acting in an ungodlike manner, submitting himself to human beings who pet, feed, and familiarly admire him. “Break up that crowd and come away, my brother,” demands Leo, but the Ram refuses: “The Archer told me that on some day of which I had no knowledge he would send a dart through me, and that I should die in very great pain.” Baffled as he was before by such an explanation, Leo asks the same question that he put to the Bull: “What has that to do with this?” He receives the same answer: “Everything in the world” (368). Then he finds that the realization of death has likewise altered the behavior of the Twins, who no longer “play on the banks of the Milky Way” but now unselfishly play the role of foundlings to a woman yearning for children. Leo’s questions and the answers he receives relate to the issue of how best to deal with the fear of death. The Bull, the Ram, and the Twins react to the realization of their mortality by doing something that they do not want to do. About their strange new behavior, Leo asks each of them, “Do you like [doing] this?” They all answer with an emphatic “No.” The Bull does not like plowing the field; the Ram does not like subjecting his fine fleece to the hands of yokels; the Twins do not like acting like foundlings. They do what they do because it is their way of defying the fear of death, which demands total self-concern and the indignity of cringing and whining. Rebelling against those demands, they devote themselves to a form of work not that they like best but that they feel they can do best, and

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they perform it not with slipshod indifference but with all the discipline and skill that they can command. They become useful, and they do their work well no matter how trivial or unworthy it may seem in the eyes of the world. They do not thereby defeat death, which ultimately defeats them, but through an act of will they refuse to allow the fear of death to have its way with them by turning them into a “breed of little mean men, whimpering and flinching and howling because the Houses killed them and theirs, who wished to live forever without any pain” (386–87). Thus even in the valley of the shadow of death, a minor personal triumph is possible as evidenced by the words of the Bull after the Scorpion has put its fatal poison in him. “Go and look at the fields I ploughed,” he says to Leo. “The furrows are straight. I forgot that I was a God, but I drew the plough perfectly straight, for all that” (383). Such is the creed that Leo gradually comes to understand and embrace after he observes the reactions of the Bull, the Ram, and the Twins to the fear of death and then learns of his and Virgo’s own doom. Through his characterization of Leo, Kipling insists that death is the mother of art, for it is not until Leo knows that he will surely die that he is capable of assuming his life’s work, that of poet-singer. As he begins to make up songs, he realizes that “this was a thing he could never have done had he not met the Crab face to face” (376–77). And it is not until the fear of dying threatens to consume him that he realizes that the creative act can serve as a counterpoise to it, for art is humanity’s rebel outcry against mortality. When at the request of the Bull, Leo initially begins to sing, he does so only halfheartedly: “At first he dragged the song along unwillingly, and then the song dragged him, and his voice rolled across the fields” (375). In Leo’s developing artistry, Kipling projects the discovery of his own “Daemon,” a mysterious creative force that sometimes took over while he was composing and supplied his work with a power that even he did not understand. Significantly, Kipling links the appearance of Leo’s Daemon to his newly acquired preoccupation with mortality and suggests that without this intense new dread (deriving from his having “met the Crab face to face”), the Daemon of creativity would not have emerged. As Leo grows in his art and learns to use the details of his observations, he increasingly seems a Kipling self-portrait: “He remembered facts concerning cultivators and bullocks and rice-fields that he had not particularly noticed before . . . and he strung them all together, growing more interested as he sang, and he told the cultivator much more about himself and his work than the cultivator knew” (377). Like Kipling, Leo travels often, and like his creator, he learns that although he will receive much praise, he cannot expect much understanding. One member of his audience says to him: “Now yours must be a very pleasant life . . . sitting as you do on a dyke all day and

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singing just what comes into your head.” Overhearing this comment, the Bull says to Leo: “That’s all the thanks you will ever get from men, brother” (377). Also like Kipling, Leo first yearns for approval, enjoys it, experiences despair and forgets from time to time what he is singing for as contemplates giving up his work, finds new energy and purpose, feels quarrelsome toward certain competitors but ends by thinking of them as “brothers” and by realizing that the world cannot have too many singers. Although some of Leo’s songs evoke laughter and others bring tears, his consistent purpose is to combat in his listeners the fear of death. Above all, “he taught, that what comes or does not come, we must not be afraid” (387). He does not mean that they must not be afraid because there is nothing to be afraid of—undoubtedly there is—but because fear will cripple them and prevent their behaving as they should. Leo does not take pleasure in his work any more than did the Bull, the Ram, and the Twins. In fact, at times he detests it, but he persists because his is a mission undertaken for the purpose of bringing an important truth to the attention of others rather than a program of joyful self-fulfillment. The necessity and the nobility of self-sacrifice, one of the major themes of Kipling’s work, reverberates throughout “The Children of the Zodiac.” In fact, here as elsewhere Kipling’s concepts of work and of sacrifice are practically synonymous. So Leo sings on through discouragement, adverse criticism as well as praise, and personal tragedy—the death of his beloved Virgo. Now and then he witnesses the result of his influence, seeing a man defeat the fear of death by not allowing it to control him. As one of his longtime listeners faces death quietly, Leo asks him if he is afraid: “ ‘I am a man, not a God,’ said the man. ‘I should have run away but for your songs. My work is done, and I die without making a show of my fear’ ” (385). Leo’s strongest motivation is Kipling’s, namely, to sing of the importance of work, sacrifice, and courage so as to establish a creed by which they and those like them could live and die, at which time they would not lose control and in abject indignity try to escape death but “die without making a show” of their fear. A second question posed by “The Children of the Zodiac” is “What is a ‘god’?” The issue is forced to the surface by Kipling’s seemingly inconsistent use of the term as applied to the Children. Indeed, he seems to stack the deck so that his readers will puzzle over what he means by god. The overall situation seems clear enough: the Children have lost their godhood by having to die. Yet what the narrator and the characters actually say challenges that assumption. When at the time of his death the Bull exclaims that “I forgot that I was a God,” does he mean that he forgot that he once was a god or that he forgot that he still is a god? Ambiguity likewise marks the narrator’s description of a song of Leo’s, the “Song of

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the Bull who had been a God and forgotten the fact” (383). Several such passages comment on the Children’s “forgetting” their godhood. Late in the story, Leo sets out “to look for his brothers, to remind them that they too were Gods” (382). One could assume that the author means that the Children tend to forget what they were before their fall as they devote themselves to their new work, and Leo wishes to remind them. But why would he want to do that at this point in the narrative since he no longer expects them to behave as they did when they were gods? Reminding them of what they have lost would serve no good purpose. A more likely motive would be his wish to remind them of what they are now. Does this mean that they are still gods? The confusion spreads as Leo speaks to Virgo upon learning that she has cancer and will die: “ ‘Surely we were Gods once,’ he cried. ‘Surely we are Gods still,’ said the Girl” (380). Leo promises her that after she is dead he will continue to “remember that we are Gods” (381), but in the very next paragraph the narrator comments: “It is very hard, even for a child of the Zodiac who has forgotten his Godhead, to see his wife dying slowly, and to know that he cannot help her” (381). When his time comes, Leo wishes to live longer but seeing that it is impossible, he speaks his last words: “But I am a God too, and I am not afraid” (386). His final claim is not that he was a god but that he is a god, as Virgo had earlier stated. Kipling’s wavering between the idea that the Children have lost their godhood and the notion that they have not lost it after all is neither careless and inept plotting nor the manifestation of a perverse desire to cause hairpulling confusion. Rather, it is designed to force a reconsideration of the term god so as to include not one but two types. In other words, by ceasing to be one kind of god, the Children have become another kind. A primary aim of Kipling’s in the story is to define sharply the profound differences between the two. By virtue of the blessing of immortality, the traditional sort of god cannot possibly understand human beings. An immeasurable gulf separates them. Yet humankind pitifully insists upon imagining a rapport that does not exist. The Children were formerly gods of this sort. When they came to dwell on earth, people “came to them with prayers and long stories of wrong, while the Children of the Zodiac listened and could not understand” (362–63). Totally incapable at this point of understanding the plight of humanity, the Children are coolly indifferent. In response to human cries for help, the Bull “would lower his huge head and answer: ‘What is that to me?’ ” The Twins “could not understand why the water ran out of people’s eyes,” and Leo, together with the Girl,“wondered even more than the Twins why people shouted ‘Ha! ha! ha!’ for no cause” (363). Occasionally, the men and women who pray to them become disenchanted when their supplications continue to be ignored but generally they persist

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in their fantasy, as Kipling would have it, of a benevolent and loving God interceding on behalf of his children. If there were gods who never had to face death, Kipling appears to suggest, they would find nothing in humanity to evoke their understanding and compassion, for “the Immortals know nothing worth laughter or tears” (374). The profound difference between gods of this variety and human beings is the subject of a poem that Kipling furnished as introductory to “The Children of the Zodiac” when it was first published in Harper’s Weekly. “The Gods in London” depicts the coming of “High Gods” to earth for a day and then their return to Olympus, themselves no wiser for their visit and human beings no better off.
In the hush of an April dawning, when the streets were velvety still, The High Gods quitted Olympus, and relighted on Ludgate Hill; The asphodel sprang from the asphalt, the amaranth opened her eyes, And the smoke of the City of London went up to the stainless skies. “Now whom shall I kiss?” said Venus, and “What can I kill?” said Jove, And “Look at the Bridge,” said Vulcan, and “Smut’s on my wings!” said Love. Then The High Gods veiled their glories to walk with the children of men. x x x x x x x x In the hush of an April twilight, to the roar of the Holborn train, The High Gods sprang from the pavement and went to their place again; And I heard, tho’ none had tolled it, as a great portcullis falls, In the rear of their wheeling legions, the boom of the bell of St. Paul’s.

Upon the visit of Olympian gods to grimy London, flowers bloom and the smoke disappears, but as the immortals in disguise walk the streets of mortality, they remain casual, aloof, and indifferent to the human condition because they cannot possibly understand it as long as they are gods. Their questions reflect their self-absorption and their ennui. They remain on earth for a single day, and upon their departure, the speaker hears the sounds again of the human multitudes—the roar of their activity and the tolling of the bell for those who have died. He realizes in a moment of revelation that what separates the gods from mortals is like an impenetrable iron-grated barrier, a “great portcullis” that falls between them, a central idea in “The Children of the Zodiac.” With the inclusion of “The Children of the Zodiac” in Many Inventions and in later publications, Kipling discarded “The Gods in London” and prefaced his work with a stanza from Emerson’s poem “Give All to Love,”

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which he had originally quoted in the final paragraph of his story and which suggested to him gods of another sort, mortal gods so to speak.
Though thou love her as thyself, As a self of purer clay, Though her parting dim the day, Stealing grace from all alive, Heartily know When half Gods go The Gods arrive.

The narrator of “The Children of the Zodiac” indicates that these words of Emerson’s were actually written by Leo as a tribute to Virgo: “He had carved on the Girl’s tombstone the last verse of the Song of the Girl, which stands at the head of this story. One of the children of men, coming thousands of years later, rubbed away the lichen, read the lines, and applied them to a trouble other than the one Leo meant” (387). The “trouble” that Emerson directed himself to was desertion by a lover, which is not the concern of Leo, as the narrator of the story makes clear. However, Emerson’s distinction between gods, that is, between “half Gods” and “Gods,” captured Kipling’s attention. Emerson meant that even romantic love, as fine as it is, is a “half God” compared to self-trust, that most reliable of passions buttressed by the recognition that the divine dwells within each person. Kipling meant something entirely different, that if people could live forever, which they clearly cannot, they could not know what it is that makes life worth living. This deprivation would result in their being, in his opinion, merely half-gods. Only by the loss of immortality (their half-god state) could they become true gods, mortal gods, so to speak. The Children of the Zodiac become more admirable or “godly” after they know that they must die. They manifest a paradox that Kipling derived from Emerson’s lines that it is more godly to be a mortal hero than to be an immortal god. The role of death in this transformation is suggested by a conversation that Virgo has with Leo: “ ‘We must try to be cheerful, I think,’ said the Girl. ‘We know the very worst that can happen to us, but we do not know the best that love can bring us. We have a great deal to be glad of.’ ‘The certainty of death?’ said Leo. ‘All the children of men have that certainty also; yet they laughed long before we ever knew how to laugh. We must learn to laugh, Leo’ ” (373). The “certainty of death” is the mother not only of love, art, and laughter but also of sorrow, compassion, sacrifice, work, and courage—all foreign to the concept of immortality. The Children of the Zodiac are the children of death because “Zodiac” and “death” become synonymous. After the fall of the Children, the Zodiac

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consists only of those agents of death, the Houses. More significantly, however, they are the children of death because death is in a sense responsible for their new life as heroic guides and examples for humankind, gods of the Kipling creed. Projected through Leo’s heroic mission in life to create and sing his moving songs for the sake of others is a theme that reverberates through much of Kipling’s work: the power of words to touch the heart and ennoble the human spirit, to ameliorate the dreadful suffering in the city of dreadful night, to act as “a bulkhead ’twix Despair and the Edge of Nothing.”6 His fascination with the word was deep-seated and of long standing. It is what Sandra Kemp and Lisa Lewis refer to as his “almost spiritual sense of the power of words.”7 It would probably not result in an exaggeration to delete the “almost” from their perceptive observation, for words, true words, were for Kipling spiritual manifestations in the sense that he believed in spirit. Sometimes he substituted magic for spirit when he talked about such words, but he meant pretty much the same thing. In his address “Literature” to the Royal Academy in May 1906, he recounted a legend about an ancient Master (in Kipling’s terminology, another word for the epitomical hero), who “was afflicted—that is the phrase—with the magic of the necessary word.”8 He was a teller of stories, a shaman-singer of sorts, like Leo of “The Children of the Zodiac,” and his words “became alive and walked up and down in the hearts of all his hearers” (3–4).9 When Kipling included “Literature” in his collection tellingly entitled A Book of Words (1928), he prefaced it with an epigram:
I am Earth overtaking all things except words. They alone escape me. Therefore, I lie heavy on their makers.

Even the vengeful and jealous Earth, which like the Houses in “The Children of the Zodiac” overtakes and eventually extinguishes all that lives, cannot kill words, though it would like to. They alone are immortal, as Kipling said in an address to the Canadian Authors’ Association: “It is only words—nothing but words—that live” to tell of the past (italics mine).10 He knew first-hand of the heavy responsibility laid upon the heroic conveyer of the true word, for first and foremost that was what he aspired to be. “I am, by calling,” he said in a speech to surgeons in 1923, emphasizing his role by using a term—calling—generally reserved for those directed by divine influence, “a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. Not only do words infect, ergotise, narcotise, and paralyse, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain, very much as madder mixed with a stag’s food at the Zoo colours

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the growth of the animal’s antlers. Moreover, in the case of the human animal, that acquired tint, or taint, is transmissible”11 Kipling was not in some amateurish and superficial sense “in love” with words. He abhorred verbosity, and he sometimes went to excessive lengths to avoid indulging in that arch sin. Stylistically he starved some of his works, especially a good many of his late stories, almost to the point of aesthetic anorexia. His theory was that deleted words would not maim a work of literature but on the contrary would by their very absence add force to the ones that remained, the best ones, those that survived the cutting. In numerous instances, he proved to be correct, though the rich ambiguity that marks a good bit of his later writing as a result of his strenuous economy has led to some reader frustration. He did not aspire to write like his acquaintance Edmund Gosse (1849–1928), a prolific essayist and biographer who had the reputation of being a graceful stylist. To discover the “necessary” word, the best word, the most powerful word— that was Kipling’s aim. He was not out to find the prettiest or the cleverest words and then to use them prolifically. Consequently, he was no admirer of the way Gosse wrote, and he became obviously miffed when the “elegant” Gosse persistently sought to learn Kipling’s opinion of his style. In a letter of July 30, 1908, Kipling wrote to Gosse:
If you will insist on turning me up on my head and shaking me until my teeth drop out, you might as well have the truth and know that I do put you down with those infected with the vice of verbosity. Wordiness is all seven of literature’s cardinal sins. Wordiness is effeminacy and unforgivable in a male writer. I quite agree that a man must follow his own mind in the subject he chooses to write about, confining himself to familiar ground, but superfluous words are the enemy of vigour and weaken the instrument of language for those writers who would be more than mere wielders of words. It is no credit to a workman to use two spades for doing less work than his neighbour does with one, is it? You are getting too flowery in your adjectives, cut them out. The best training you can get is in writing telegrams. Here a man realises more how far a word can go than in reading any of the famous authors. I am not in debt for style to anything or anybody but the telegraph system.12

Kipling’s frank and poignant response to Gosse tells a great deal about his attitude toward words, but it does not tell all, for it does not reveal that the “telegraph system” to which he says that he owes his realization of “how far a word can go” is not Western Union (or the English equivalent) but largely his private Daemon. In Something of Myself, he wrote that the Daemon lives in the pen of “Makers,” those who create with words. If the Daemon “be utterly present, and they [the ‘Makers’] swerve not from his

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behest,/ The word that he gives shall continue, whether in earnest or jest.”13 The true word, therefore, does not originate with the writer but comes to him, its source mysterious and spiritual in nature. In Kipling’s thinking “Daemon” and “the word” are as closely related as are God and the Logos in Christianity. He did not consider words to be merely components of “style” but something much more important: getting the true word was for him like getting in touch with God. He seems to make the connection between transcendence and the word in a late story, “Proofs of Holy Writ” (1934), which consists of an imaginary conversation between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson as they act as creative consultants to one of the numerous scholars commissioned to prepare the King James Bible, the so-called Authorized Version. As Philip Mason has aptly put it: “The nub of this ‘little piece of work’ lies in one phrase: ‘That so much should lie on a word!”14 Kipling took a sizeable chance in writing “Proofs of Holy Writ” because he risked the possibility of seeming both arrogant and blasphemous. His characterization of Shakespeare is but a thinly veiled version of himself, which includes his rare sensitivity to the power of the right words, his dependence upon a personal Daemon to supply them, and his astonishing success in moving the world with them.15 In the story, Shakespeare sounds unmistakably like Kipling when at one point he states: “My Daemon never betrayed me yet, while I trusted him.”16 Shakespeare later confesses to Ben Jonson that he has a deep need of words, a statement that echoes Kipling’s own peculiar craving. He felt the need for what he termed “the necessary word” like some people seem to need God. Find the right words, something within him seemed to urge, for they are spirit. Kipling not only dared to make the world’s greatest writer into his own image in “Proofs of Holy Writ”; he also dared to suggest that at least some of the language of that profoundly beautiful and rare book of words, the King James Bible, may not have come from theologically learned men inspired by God but from not-so-Godly men of the pen. Most readers of “Proofs of Holy Writ,” however, will likely find the work neither authorially self-serving nor theologically offensive, and that is probably because Kipling obviously had no egotistical or iconoclastic agenda in writing it. His aim was not to puff up himself or even, as it may first seem, to pose serious questions as to the authorship of the King James Bible but to reveal that his faith in the enormous power of the right word was to him a kind of religion by juxtaposing it to and thus associating it with another religion—Christianity. Even that intention involved a certain risk, however, for he implies that Shakespeare—and therefore he himself—was spiritually instructed (by his Daemon) to write certain words just as the authors of the various books of the Bible were inspired by God to write what they did. Thus by indirection he equates his Daemon with God.

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The connection between “magic” words and heroism as well as between “jabber” and ignobility is a central concern of the nine stories (which I shall refer to as The Jungle Book) about Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves.17 The heroic characters speak words charged with power whereas those outside this circle of heroism do not have access to the eloquence of truth and directness. The distinction is everywhere apparent. Mowgli realizes early in life that the base tiger, Shere Khan, is “all long tail and loud talk, like Mao, the Peacock.”18 He comes to realize as well that the Bandar-log, the Monkey People, have nothing but “foolish words” (59). Their endlessly boasting chatter serves as an effective foil for the language of heroism. “The Jungle,” writes Kipling, “is full of words that sound like one thing, but mean another” (263). The human characters of the tales are also distinguished by what they speak. A great many closely resemble the Bandar-log. Gray Brother warns Mowgli about them: “Their talk is like the talk of frogs in a pond” (114). Mowgli discovers the truth of Gray Brother’s statement when he overhears that fraud of a hunter, old Buldeo, bragging about and falsifying his experiences: “ ‘Bah!’ said Mowgli, ‘Chatter—chatter! Talk, talk! Men are blood-brothers of the Bandar-log’ ” (159). When he is older, he contemptuously remarks to the loquacious butler of Gisborne, the Englishman who befriends him: “In my country when goats bleat very loud we cut their throats” (309). Yet he realizes early in his contact with human beings that he must learn their words whether they be as noble as those from Messua, the woman who comes to love him as a son, and those from Gisborne or as empty as those from Buldeo and the butler Abdul Gafur. “ ‘What is the good of a man,’ he said to himself at last, ‘if he does not understand man’s talk? Now I am as silly and dumb as a man would be with us in the jungle. I must learn their talk’ ”(112). A good deal of intense and memorable action takes place in these tales— the buffalo herd’s killing of Shere Khan, the dramatic battle at the Cold Lairs, the wolf pack’s prolonged and hard-won victory over the red dogs— but The Jungle Book is principally a book of and about words and their intimate connection with what Kipling thought of as a hero. Much of the time, talk is center stage. Kipling’s comment that “There was little talking” at the Council Rock (the wolves’ meeting place), probably refers specifically to the occasion of the “look-over,” where newborns are introduced to the pack. At all other times, there is much talk and frequent debate at the Rock. In an early scene at the Rock, words become essential in saving Mowgli’s life and in having him accepted into the wolf pack. “Who speaks for this cub?” asks Akela, the pack leader. “Among the Free People, who speaks?” (11). Baloo the bear, teacher of the law to wolf cubs, answers,“I speak for the man’s cub” (12). Bagheera, the black panther, then asks permission to speak. “Speak then,” the pack responds, and Bagheera makes his case for Mowgli. The

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determination of Raksha or “Mother Wolf ” to keep the toddler who wanders into her cave, Mowgli, and to raise him as one of her cubs greatly concerns Father Wolf at first. He worries not what the other wolves will do, however, but “What will our Pack say?” (9, italics mine). All of nature seems to talk. When Kipling wishes to describe changes that take place both in the jungle environment during the spring and within the animals themselves as the mating season arrives, he uses talk as a metaphor. Because the vegetation appears to be speaking through its flourishings and because the arousal that the animals feel seems to be an inner voice, they call this period “the Time of New Talk.” Bagheera tells Mowgli: “The year turns. . . . The Jungle goes forward. The Time of New Talk is near. That leaf knows. It is very good” (262). This is a distinctive period in the jungle marked by a certain sound or language, which is “neither bees, nor falling water, nor the wind in tree-tops, but the purring of the warm, happy world” (266–67). The voices of the “Jungle People” are “different from their voices at other times of the year, and that is one of the reasons why spring in the Jungle is called the Time of New Talk” (267). Even the moon seems to express itself in a sort of talk: “All the voices of the Jungle boomed like one deep harpstring touched by the moon—the Moon of New Talk, who splashed her light full on rock and pool, slipped it between trunk and creeper, and sifted it through a million leaves” (272). Kipling’s jungle is thus a place of talk both literally and figuratively. In fact, so much actual conversation is there in The Jungle Book—both in the jungle and in the human settlements—that it seems naturally to lend itself to the theater. Kipling’s decision to turn it into a four-act play, which he wrote and revised, is therefore not surprising. “Just now,” he wrote to Dr. James Conland toward the end of 1900, “l’ve been putting the Jungle Book into the form of a play, which may or may not be acted next year.”19 For whatever reason, The Jungle Play was never staged, but it did survive in typescript and has been published in recent years. Its editor, Thomas Pinney, points out that the play includes some new material but that much of its language “is taken directly from the text to the Jungle Books.”20 The power and influence of the right word, as opposed to meaningless verbosity, is everywhere present in the nine stories about Mowgli. The “Law,” a central concern in several of them, is established in true words and passed down through oral teachings. The Law consists of words that outline not only proper behavior but also proper talk. It dictates that certain words should be spoken on certain occasions, for example, “Good hunting!” as a greeting or “Give me leave to hunt here because I am hungry” (36) when in the territory of another pack. Again and again, the essentiality of the right word comes up as an issue, “how to speak politely to the wild bees, . . . what to say to Mang, the Bat” (36), and so on. A precept that

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Mowgli learns early in life is that one’s words are as important as one’s actions. Kaa, the Rock Python, proclaims this memorable truth to him when he sets up the ideal of “a brave heart and a courteous tongue” (69). The creative process through which Kipling arrived at the decision to have his animal characters speak is, of course, forever hidden from the eyes of prying critics, but the idea could well have resulted from his preoccupation with what might be termed the phenomenon of words, for the effect produced by “translating” animal communication into human speech is that of shining an intense spotlight on the words.21 If one wished to call attention in a forceful manner to the difference between words from the mouth of the heroic as opposed to words from the mouth of the base, or even the ordinary, then what better way to do it than to have them emerge not from our fellow human beings from whose tongues we expect to hear language but unexpectedly from animals? Early in his training of Mowgli, which largely involves the use of the right words, Baloo senses that this strange and unusual boy suckled by wolves will someday be the lord of the jungle and perhaps more than that. One significant way in which The Jungle Book differs from many other fictional accounts of boyhood, such as, for example, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is in its abundance of comments about the future. Mark Twain was interested in what Huck is as a boy, not what he will be as a man. Kipling, on the other hand, is interested in Mowgli as a boy-version of a certain kind of man, a special kind of man. Consequently, references to the future—what is to happen, what Mowgli will do and develop into—recur regularly. Predictions abound. Mother Wolf angrily tells Shere Khan that Mowgli “shall not be killed. He shall live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the end, look you, hunter of little naked cubs—frogeater—fish killer, he shall hunt thee!” (8). Close to death, the heroic old Akela indicates that Mowgli’s future lies with his own kind, not with the pack. “Mowgli will drive Mowgli,” he predicts (255). All the jungle seems aware that Mowgli is a kind of child of destiny; the future periodically intrudes upon the present like the loud and stern voice of a prophet interrupting and speaking over (and for a moment drowning out) the sounds of light, lilting, spirited music. What Mowgli’s destiny is, however, his jungle family and friends only partly understand. They puzzle over his identity. He is like a wolf but not one of them. “Thou are of the Jungle,” Bagheera tells him, “and not of the Jungle” (165). He is a man, but he is not like other men. He is more than a wolf, but he also seems more than an ordinary man. The puzzlement of Gisborne, the admirable forest officer of “In the Rukh,” expresses the central question of The Jungle Book: “I wonder what in the world he is” (309). Reverberating throughout the stories is that question: what is

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Mowgli? As he grows older, Mowgli himself raises the question. Among both the creatures of the jungle and the human beings of the villages, his identity is almost always an issue. When he appears to a small group of spectators viewing the footprints of a man-killing tiger, one of the men cries out: “Wallah! who is this?” (304). Kipling seems to have had the answer to this pervasive question in mind from the time he began the stories about Mowgli, but he answered it—as any shrewd and gifted writer would—with artistic obliqueness. The most obvious aspect of Mowgli’s identity is his rarity. Whatever else he may be, he is certainly a phenomenon. From her first glimpse of him, Mother Wolf realizes that Mowgli is special. Even as a toddler, he is bold, without fear. Baloo says that “he is such a man-cub as never was” (52). Messua exclaims, “Never have I looked upon such a man” (283). The question of Mowgli’s identity lies at the very heart of the first of the stories to be published about him (and probably the first to be written though placed last in The Jungle Book).22 “In the Rukh” is mainly about who or what, in the most profound sense, Mowgli represents. Muller, head of the Woods and Forests Department of India, recognizes right away that Mowgli is a phenomenon. “Now I tell you dot only once in my service, and dot is thirty years,” Muller tells Gisborne, “haf I met a boy dot began as this man began. Und he died. Sometimes you hear of dem in der census reports, but dey all die. Dis man haf lived . . .” (331). Possibly the best explanation of what Mowgli is supposed to be comes from Muller and Gisborne, who use the same term to describe him—a “miracle.” If Mowgli is, indeed, a miracle, it is not just because he has survived into young manhood among wild creatures where all other human children could not but also because of what he has become as a result of this environment acting on his own extraordinary nature. An infant with heroic potentiality is abandoned in the jungle, which surprisingly does not destroy him but nurtures and develops the best that is in him. That in itself is a miracle, but the force that he gradually comes to manifest is still another aspect of the miracle that is Mowgli. His power—its nature and range—is so similar to the power of the true word as Kipling eloquently describes it that Mowgli and the true word appear to be synonymous, for Kipling calls them both “miracles.”
Witness, a thousand excellent, strenuous words can leave us quite cold or put us to sleep, whereas a bare half-hundred words breathed upon by some man in his agony, or in his exultation, or in his idleness, ten generations ago, can still lead whole nations into and out of captivity, can open to us the doors of the three worlds, or stir us so intolerably that we can scarcely abide to look at our own souls. It is a miracle. . . .23

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Like all of Kipling’s Master Heroes, Mowgli is a manifestation (perhaps in his case incarnation would not be too strong a term) of the true word, which is in turn synonymous with the truest attributes, that is, Kipling’s opinion of what constitutes heroic virtues. He goes to lengths approaching didacticism to delineate these commendable traits in The Jungle Book, especially in the noble animals who love and teach the boy. The choice of genre for these stories served Kipling well in this regard, for the instructional, even moralistic, nature of the writing appears but normal and expected for children’s literature. In addition, those qualities that he himself worshipped and wished his audience (both children and adults) to do likewise, such as courage, loyalty, obedience, and self-sacrifice, all come across to us in a nobler and purer form when we observe them (or think that we do) in animals. It is for this reason that Mother Wolf, Akela, Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa, and others strike readers as exemplars of the heroic virtues, splendid teachers for the human hero in the making. As a man, he will be wiser and deeper and in many ways stronger and more creative than his animal teachers, but because he is human, his heroism can never seem to be quite as pristine and pure as theirs—not because that is a fact but because that is the way human beings perceive noble attributes in animals.24 The striking originality of The Jungle Book consists at least partially in Kipling’s depiction of the jungle with its connotations of lawlessness, impenetrableness, and unspeakable cruelty as furnishing, astonishingly, the best possible education for an incipient Master Hero, a concept Edgar Rice Burroughs appropriated from the Mowgli stories for his novels about Tarzan.25 Unlike Burroughs, however, Kipling detailed this educational process. In fact, he made it the heart of The Jungle Book by creating an extended and elaborate metaphor of a student in school with a group of conscientious tutors, loving parents at home, numerous distractions and temptations, frequent trials and tests, rewards and punishment, a bully and his cohorts who have to be confronted and defeated, and so on.26 The discipline and principles instilled in Mowgli as he undergoes his education are chiefly those of Freemasonry, which is the model that Kipling uses for the animal society in which the boy grows, learns, and develops. Kipling’s background in Freemasonry is well known. He writes in Something of Myself :
In ’85 I was made a Freemason by dispensation (Lodge Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C.), being under age, because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got the Father to advise, in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of Solomon’s Temple. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jew tyler, who was priest

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and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world opened to me which I needed. (51–52)27

After leaving India, he continued to be interested in Masonry, though his attendance at various lodges in England and elsewhere was at best infrequent. Apparently he attained the third degree, that of Master Mason, but did not go beyond.28 Allusions to Freemasonry have been traced in numerous of Kipling’s writings, but critics seem to have underestimated their substantial presence in the Mowgli tales. That Kipling had Freemasonry in mind in his composition of the stories about Mowgli is clear from his comments in Something of Myself. As a child he “came across a tale about a lion-hunter in South Africa who fell among lions who were all Freemasons, and with them entered into a confederacy against some wicked baboons.” That strange story “lay dormant” in his mind “until the Jungle Books began to be born” (9), at which time “some memory of the Masonic Lions” about whom he had read in a child’s magazine enabled him to formulate the “main idea” for a group of tales (110). When Kipling has Muller describe a certain ancient quality about Mowgli, that he is “before the Iron Age, und der Stone Age,” that “he is at der beginnings of der history of man” (331–32), he may well have been remembering one of the first rituals of the first degree of Masonry, that involving the gift of the apron to an Entered Apprentice. The ritual begins: “More ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star and Garter.” In an earlier story “To Be Filed for Reference” (1888), Kipling fleetingly echoes the words of the ritual when he has McIntosh Jellaludin describe the book he has written as “a gift more honourable than . . . ,” at which point he breaks off with “Bah! where is my brain rambling to?”29 One of Mowgli’s early lessons deals with a concept that is the key to his survival in the jungle, the importance of certain words. Contributing significantly to the magic and strangeness of The Jungle Book, which J. M. S. Tompkins has so eloquently praised, 30 is Kipling’s invention of the “Master Words.” These are words so powerful that they place those who speak them and those who fully understand them within a special circle of kinship. Baloo drills a sentence of eight words, the “Master Words,” into the child Mowgli: “We be of one blood, ye and I.” Baloo comments to Bagheera: “I am now teaching him the Master Words of the Jungle that shall protect him with the Birds and the Snake People and all that hunt on four feet, except his own pack. He can now claim protection, if he will only remember the Words, from all in the jungle” (37). Echoing through The Jungle Book is the idea embodied in the phrase “remember the words,” the

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right words, for they have in them untold power. Mowgli remembers them and they save him from cobras after the Bandar-log imprison him in the ruin of a summerhouse in the Cold Lairs. Bagheera remembers them as he seeks Kaa’s assistance against the Monkey People. Earlier, Mowgli remembers them even as he is being spirited away by the Bandar-log. He shouts them to Rann, the kite, who then marks the trail and therefore enables Baloo, Bagheera, and Kaa to rescue the boy. Bagheera thanks Rann, but the kite makes it clear that he was compelled to help because of the power inherent in the words Mowgli spoke: “It is nothing. It is nothing. The boy held the Master Word. I could have done no less” (54). What Kipling is saying through Rann is that Master Words have the effect almost of a divine imperative, the effect of spirit operating on matter: “Let there be light,” and light there was.31 Kipling’s use of the Master Word as a code of recognition and as a guarantee of safe passage amid strangers owes much to his acquaintance with Freemasonry, in which the “word” or “true word” is of mystical significance and in which the exchange of secret signs or a certain phrase insures not only mutual acknowledgment of kinship and respect but also help in time of trouble. Broadly, Kipling’s “Master Word” is Freemasonry’s “Mason Word” or, as Albert Pike calls it, “the Master Mason’s Word.”32 David Stevenson argues that “the secret procedures for recognition known as the Mason Word” became one of the foundations for “modern freemasonry.”33 The Mason Word provided “the ability to identify fellow masons secretly.”34 A Presbyterian minister of the late seventeenth century compared the Mason Word to “what passeth betwixt Christ and his people . . . some signe th[a]t he giveth them th[a]t will everymore know him, be in what dress he will.”35 What was originally perhaps merely a method of identification and of assuring fraternity evolved into what one writer on Freemasonry has called “the symbol of Divine Truth.”36 Not only does Kipling’s Master Word have a strong link to Freemasonry but the wolves of the Seonee pack together with Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa, Hathi, and various other friends seem to be members of a Masonic Lodge, in some ways one resembling a Lodge of Instruction.37 They frequently use the word “Brother,” the “term which Freemasons apply to each other.”38 When Mowgli gives the Master Words to Rann, the kite, and asks him to follow and tell Baloo and Bagheera where the Bandar-log are taking him, Rann wants to know who he is and asks, in Mason fashion, “In whose name, Brother?” (46). Others call him “Little Brother.” The word Kipling uses repeatedly for the meeting of the pack,“Council” (see, for e.g., 12), is also related to Freemasonry, for some of its meetings are called Councils.39 The Master Words that protect and aid Mowgli, “We be of one blood, ye and I,” express what many have felt to be the heart of Freemasonry—kinship or

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fraternity. In his impassioned defense of Freemasonry, Joseph Fort Newton declares this virtue to be its very spirit. “Fraternity,” he writes, “is the basis of the plea of Masonry.”40 In this particular Lodge, the moral and practical principles of Freemasonry (the “law”) and the art of memory are of primary importance as they are in every lodge. Most of what Mowgli learns from his fraternal brothers, which they call the “Law of the Jungle,” is based on what Vaughan Bateson refers to as “Masonic virtues”: “Law, Order, Duty, and Restraint, Obedience, Discipline.”41 Instructing his apprentice brothers in Masonry, Albert Pike could be a more eloquent Baloo teaching his young charge:
In this Degree, my brother, you are especially to learn the duty of obedience to that law. There is one true and original law, conformable to reason and to nature, diffused over all, invariable, eternal, which calls to the fulfillment of duty, and to abstinence from injustice, and calls with that irresistible voice which is felt in all its authority wherever it is heard.42

Part of this law that is “conformable to reason and to nature” parallels the stern lesson Mowgli learns about courtesy and restraint with words: “Be not rash with thy mouth,” instructs Pike, and “let thy words be few.”43 The role of memory in Mowgli’s instruction goes beyond his having to cultivate its art in reciting over and over the Master Words in several languages of the jungle people though that is an essential part of his training for the role he will someday take on. He is also instructed in the necessity of a kind of racial memory, an awareness of the richness of the tradition in which he is reared. Much is made of this but mostly through Kipling’s depiction of the results of its deprivation. Without developing the art of memory, a people are but aimless, shallow and rootless—as the Bandar-log of The Jungle Book splendidly illustrate. They are the antitheses of Kipling’s loyal Freemasons of the jungle. A mark of their baseness is their use of empty words. Contrary to the Masonic ideal, they are rash with their mouths, and their words are not few but many. They obey no law outside their own whims, and “they have no speech of their own, but use the stolen words which they overhear . . .” (41). At the core of their defective and inferior nature is their lack of an historical consciousness, a fatal flaw in Kipling’s estimation. The confusion of their daily activities derives from the fact that “their memories would not hold over from day to day” (43), and the ignobility and shallowness of the group as a whole result from their possessing no traditions, no sense of their ancestral past, no racial memories—all in contradistinction to fundamental Masonic principles.44 Perceiving Kipling through Masonic eyes, Vaughan Bateson finds one of the author’s greatest strengths to be his sense of the past, his awareness that

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the strength of his people, the English, “lies in the fact that they have behind them the continuity of immense varied race experience and race memory.”45 No group ever believed more strongly in the necessity of memory—long and short term—than the Masons, and there is not a more vivid illustration anywhere of their opposites in this regard than the Bandar-log. The Monkey People are, in Masonic terms, “impostors,” with whom there should be no communication whatsoever. Dealing with an impostor requires “the utmost caution” so that the true Mason “may not be imposed on by an ignorant, false, pretender, whom you are to reject with contempt and derision and beware of giving him any hints of knowledge.”46 Nothing “darkens the way” so much, advises Albert Pike, as selfishness, that is, “the inordinate devotion to self, and consideration of self.”47 Preaching one of the great ideals of Freemasonry, Pike expounds eloquently on the virtue of self-sacrifice. He cautions that those who say that selfsacrifice is never necessary are indulging in a fallacy. “It is a comfortable fallacy to the selfish,” for they find themselves incapable of such nobility. Yet, “the physician must expose himself to pestilence for the sake of others; the sailor, in the frail boat upon the wide ocean, escaped from the foundering or burning ship, must step calmly into the hungry waters, if the lives of the passengers can be saved only by the sacrifice of his own; the pilot must stand firm at the wheel, and let the flames scorch away his own life to insure the common safety of those whom the doomed vessel bears.”48 That the virtue of self-sacrifice was an important aspect of Mowgli’s character as Kipling originally conceived him is evident from “In the Rukh,” that first of the stories and the one that gives the final glimpse of him. The happiest time in Mowgli’s life, Kipling reveals in “Red Dog,” was that period immediately following the letting in of the jungle upon the settlement of human beings who had been cruel to the boy. Mowgli is pleased that he was instrumental in setting things right—that is, in the application of justice—and he subsequently has numerous adventures in the jungle, which “was his friend, and just a little afraid of him” (219). As he grows older, however, and as he comes ever closer to taking on the role for which he has been prepared, his joy in life diminishes considerably. Though he knows that he is destined to leave his jungle life, he finds the prospect of separation heartbreaking, and he undergoes periods of despair and anger. The happy Mowgli of the early part of “Red Dog” is thus in contrast to the somewhat tortured Mowgli of “The Spring Running” and the serious and circumspect Mowgli of “In the Rukh,” where he is depicted as a comely and winning young man but certainly not a joyous one. He discovers, as do the Children of the Zodiac, that doing what you are best at and should do is not necessarily pleasant or wonderfully fulfilling. In fact, you may not want to do it at all and may even hate it, but because of what

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you are, you must do it. The Bull does not like plowing furrows and Leo does not like composing songs and singing them, but they do these things anyway, self-sacrificially, in order to serve others and to defy the offsprings of death—fear, cowardice, and selfishness—which threaten to dominate the lives of men. Greatly impressed with Mowgli’s manner and with his intimate knowledge of the creatures of the “rukh,” or Indian forest, Gisborne and Muller offer him the opportunity to devote his life to serving as a government forest guard. Service and serving are key words in Mowgli’s understanding of the position. In his mind this is not just a job. Although in performing certain duties he will earn a salary (and thus will be able to support a wife and family) and in time will receive a modest pension, he is mostly interested because he sees a chance to serve an important cause with a man he recognizes as being a kindred spirit. Mowgli’s reply to Muller’s proposition mentions the act of serving three times: “My Sahib [Gisborne] spoke this morning of such a service. I walked all day alone considering the matter, and my answer is already here. I serve, if I serve in this rukh and no other: with Gisborne Sahib and with no other” (331, italics mine). This is a telling passage because it suggests that Mowgli has not reached his decision easily. He is conflicted because this new responsibility will entail his giving up the frolicking freedom that has characterized his life. After a painful period of deliberation, he chooses the path that calls for a degree of self-sacrifice. He will serve because that is what he is meant to do. It will not make him happy, but he will do it anyway and do it well. He will do it on his own terms, however, and only in the company of one he can respect and admire. This is the way of the hero, and it was a hero that Kipling had in mind from the start as he worked away during that snow-filled winter in Vermont, in that confining room of tiny Bliss Cottage, his Daemon taking over to tell him what to say about this strange boy of the jungle, who in the very first of the stories makes his initial appearance “crowned with a wreath” (304), a traditional symbol of the victor or hero.49 A cautionary note is in order at this point because Kipling’s modeling of the Free People on Freemasonry could well lead to erroneous conclusions both about Mowgli’s characterization and the focus of authorial ideas. The Jungle Book uses Freemasonry, but it is not about Freemasonry. While still a youth himself, Kipling had been exposed to the principles, traditions, and symbols of Freemasonry, and he found them in general—though certainly not in toto—congenial to his own views. He selected what he liked best about Freemasonry—ideas that paralleled his own idealism—to include in The Jungle Book and elsewhere. The rest he left out. For a number of reasons fundamental to his character and worldview, he could never have become a devoted Mason, could never have worked diligently to

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achieve one of the higher degrees. Yet he discovered in this fraternal organization so much to admire that he could think of no better teachers for a true hero than those who espoused and practiced the Masonic ideals. The Seonee wolf pack and its friends make up a group that resembles a Masonic Lodge, but Mowgli clearly is not training to be a Mason though his exposure to the laws, discipline, and wisdom of that ancient institution serve him well in the formation of his character. What Kipling probably envisioned when he created Mowgli was that he would be another version of Leo, both characters based broadly—if somewhat differently—on the myth of the fortunate fall and both manifesting the tenets of the author’s creed of heroism. To be sure, Mowgli is never actually a god as Leo once was, and the effect of the realization of death on the hero is not central in The Jungle Book as it is in “The Children of the Zodiac.”50 Still, the issue of what makes a “god” is of cardinal importance in both works. Kipling repeatedly implies that Mowgli is some kind of god (or god-like) even though he is clearly mortal. Messua calls him “a Godling” (280, 281, 282). He is obviously not meant to be an allegorical representation of Christ, but Jesus is evoked by some of Kipling’s descriptions of him. For example, the poem about Mowgli that precedes “In the Rukh” is called “The Only Son,” a term that recalls the phrase used to designate Jesus, “the only begotten son” of God. Mowgli’s explanation to Gisborne that he has no earthly father (305) is also suggestive along the same lines. When he repeats the sentence that Muller has spoken, “It is enough” (330), the words seem to echo the final words of Jesus on the cross. On the other hand, Mowgli appears to Gisborne to have the face not of Jesus but of “an angel strayed among the woods” (304), and later Muller compares him to the god Faunus (327). At one point Kipling describes him as “fronting the blaze of the fire—in the very form and likeness of that Greek god who is so lavishly described in the novels” (329). Toward the end of the story he is depicted as similar to “some wandering wood-god” (333). Stories about Mowgli composed after “In the Rukh” fill out the portrait of a youth who is decidedly mortal, a “man.” Toward the end of “Tiger! Tiger!” Kipling writes that years later Mowgli “became a man and married” (135, italics mine), recalling what happened to Leo. At the same time, however, Mowgli is so extraordinary as to warrant comparison with God or gods. Early in his life, Mowgli discovers “that if he stared hard at any wolf, the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes” (15). This power, which Bagheera calls “the eyes that make the Jungle People afraid” (48), is attributed to his being a human being, but by implication Mowgli possesses it not merely because he is a man but because he is something more than an ordinary man. Kipling is calling up the myth that animals cannot look a human being straight in the eyes for longer than a moment, but he

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suggests as well the theological concept that no one can look upon God. God is the “Master,” a term applied to Mowgli on several occasions. In time, Kaa “accepted him, as the other Jungle People did, for the Master of the Jungle” (187). Even the indomitable black panther cannot look into the eyes of the strangely powerful and the precociously wise Mowgli, for “Bagheera knew his master” (262). This situation naturally leads Mowgli to think that he must be some sort of god, the “Master of the Jungle,” and it sets the stage for an emotional trauma that is roughly equivalent to that experienced by the Children of the Zodiac when they discover that they are mortal. His fated separation from his beloved jungle, where he has romped like the unfallen Leo and his companions swinging on the stars, is therefore much like a fall. What he falls into, however, that is, what he becomes, is as in the case of Leo greater than what he left behind though far less pleasant. By necessity giving up his being a master in one sense, the Master of the Jungle, he becomes another kind of master, god-like in Kipling’s creed of the hero, if not Godly.51 That Kipling made his “wood-god” a “singer” is further evidence that Mowgli and Leo are variations on the same type although singing is not Mowgli’s destined “work” among humanity as it is Leo’s. Mowgli sings just as does Leo, the words coming to him without effort and lifting him: “It was then that Mowgli made up a song without any rhymes, a song that came up into his throat all by itself, and he shouted it aloud” (134). He even sings when he is running: “Forgetting his unhappiness, Mowgli sang aloud with pure delight as he settled into his stride” (272). A bit later he begins a “full-throat song” (274). Perhaps influenced to some extent by Walt Whitman, Kipling early became enamored of the song as a poetic genre and during his career composed such works prolifically. It was in The Jungle Book, however, that he first combined the song with fiction.52 Every story in The Jungle Book but the final one, “In the Rukh,” is followed by a song, most of them bearing in some way on Mowgli and two of them ostensibly composed by him. They function in a number of ways, perhaps the most important of which is as palatable distillates of the principle ideas running through the stories. Kipling was drawn to the song because he believed at its best it combined the products of heart (music) with head (words) in such concentration as to move hearers with extraordinary power. When “in the interest of the brethren” (i.e., the genuine heroes of life), he created songs, the results were generally memorable. Probably the most impressive of the songs in The Jungle Book is “The Outsong,” which is in content a tour de force because of its distillation of Kipling’s beliefs about the heroic life and in technique nothing less than a virtuoso performance. It follows “The Spring Running” and is therefore

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conceivably the last part of The Jungle Book that Kipling wrote. A forceful and appropriate conclusion to Mowgli’s apprenticeship in the jungle, it sums up what he has been taught, the ideal education of a hero. It is, therefore, a song of the Kipling Creed, an expression of his own worldview. Baloo, Kaa, and Bagheera summarize in turn the very essence of their individual instructions to Mowgli, to whom the song is addressed, and in the final stanza the three of them combine their voices to condense their advice further and to assure him of their love as he leaves them to become a “man” and to take up his work. The title suggests a song that is sung as one is leaving a place, that is, as Mowgli is leaving the jungle, but “out” also connotes that which goes beyond, that which is greater. This is no mere song but an extraordinary one. Indeed, it encapsulates one of the strongest strains of thought that runs through the Mowgli stories, that dealing with the characteristics of heroism (the heroic virtues), and it is so stirringly forceful in its effect that it serves to bear witness to and to prove another of Kipling’s major ideas in The Jungle Book, that words possess a kind of magic, the power to move as nothing else can. “The Outsong” has never caught the imagination of the public as did “If,” which was published some nine years later in 1904, but it is just as much a statement of Kipling’s creed of the hero. Though written in a grammatically conditional form, “If ” is actually instructional in nature, just as is “The Outsong.” In “If ” an older man is teaching a younger person, possibly his son, some of the essential aspects of the heroic life. “The Outsong” is similarly constructed: three father figures remind Mowgli of what they have taught him, teachings that involve much of the same code as that reflected in “If.” For example, in “The Outsong” Mowgli as instructed to “Hold as it were the Trail,/ Through the day and through the night,/ Questing neither left nor right” and to “Let nor call nor song nor sign/ Turn thee from thy hunting-line.” The speaker in “If ” advises: “fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” Using the jackal, Tabaqui, as a prime example of scheming falsity that can shake self-confidence and evoke confusion, Baloo tells Mowgli that when he lives among men some of whom “would make thee pain,/ Say: ‘Tabaqui sings again.’ ” Similar advice, “trust yourself ” is offered in “If.” Baloo reminds Mowgli that “When the knife is drawn to slay,/ Keep the Law and go thy way,” whereas the precept in “If ” is “being hated don’t give way to hating.” Both young men are cautioned to be aware of false and poisonous words and to avoid lies.“Cobra-poison none may leech;/ Even so with Cobraspeech,” Kaa sings to Mowgli. “Open talk shall call to thee/ Strength, whose mate is Courtesy.” “Being lied about,” instructs the speaker of “If,” “don’t deal in lies.” Of similar importance in the Kipling Creed is the avoidance of

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mere chatter. Kaa reiterates a principle upon which Mowgli has been reared: “wash thy hide and close thy mouth,” advice that was later echoed in “If ”: “don’t . . . talk too wise.” If anything is more disgusting than prattle, it is boasting. “Make no bandar’s boast of skill,” the noble Bagheera sings, “Hold thy peace above the kill.” Bragging and whining are both considered base. If you would be a man, “Never breathe a word about your loss,” indicates the teacher of “If.” What is couched in the language and imagery of the jungle in “The Outsong” is expressed more traditionally and directly in “If,” but many of the precepts are essentially the same. “Choose no tangled tree-cat trail,” Bagheera admonishes Mowgli. “Pack or council, hunt, or den,/ Cry no truce with Jackal-Men./ Feed them silence when they say:/ ‘Come with us an easy way.’/ Feed them silence when they seek/ Help of thine to hunt the weak.” Paralleling Bagheera’s warning about taking up with the wrong sort and doing wrong is the speaker’s advice in “If ”: “keep your virtue.” At the heart of both poems are the heroic attributes of “Wisdom, Strength, and Courtesy,” mentioned by name in the penultimate line of “The Outsong.” The power of “The Outsong”—and that is considerable—derives in large measure from Kipling’s technical genius. The poem is a masterpiece of order, a stunning metaphor for that aspect of Kipling’s worldview emphasizing the role of the hero as one who by an exercise of the will and through self-discipline and inspiration defies the meaninglessness of the universe and the chaos of life by superimposing order—in the form of one’s “work” or “craft”—upon disorder. It is a song of seventy-two lines consisting of three twenty-line stanzas (each devoted to a different speaker or “singer”), sixteen lines of which are devoted to advice, followed by a four-line chant. The song concludes with a stanza of twelve lines in which the three voices combine. This fourth stanza is a sort of mirror of the whole song, for it is also divided into four parts (each of three lines). Though the voices are combined, the point of view of the first part seems primarily to be that of Baloo because of the mention of “the trail”; the second part that of Kaa because of the reference to the time of sleep; the third part that of Bagheera because of the allusion to “the toil thou canst not break,” recalling his time of imprisonment among men. Each of these three sections begins with a prepositional phrase: “On the trail,” “Through the nights,” and “In the dawns.” The resulting effect is similar to that recurrently created by one of Kipling’s favorite poets, Walt Whitman, whose prepositional phrases at the beginnings of lines give a sense of movement through space and time. Like the three stanzas that precede it, the forth stanza of “The Outsong” concludes with a magic chant. So strong and regular is the meter and so persistent the rhymes of the couplets in “The Outsong” that Kipling came dangerously close to making

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the song’s music so “loud” that it would drown out the meaning of the words. As it turned out, however, the two are in perfect conjunction much as they are in William Blake’s “The Tiger,” a classic example of the effectiveness of the eight-beat, trochaic metered couplet. Put to work in “The Outsong,” the meter and rhyme of “The Tiger” lend a sense of ineffable force to the precepts expressed by Baloo, Kaa, and Bagheera. Obedience to the laws of prosody in “The Outsong,” that is, the unswerving regularity of the meter and rhyme, parallel the philosophical underpinning of the song, the necessity of unswerving obedience to the “law,” which is another word for that which is right, proper, and noble. As if the hypnotic drumbeat of “The Outsong,” which suggests the powerful pulse of the jungle, were not enough, as if the entire song—as in the case of “The Tiger”—were not in itself enough of an incantation, Kipling went even further in that direction. Each of the three singers ends his stanza with a four-line chant for the purpose of using words with magic properties to create protection and good fortune for Mowgli. “(Root and honey, palm and spathe,” chants Baloo, “Guard a cub from harm and scathe!)/ Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,/ Jungle-Favor go with thee!” The first two lines of the incantations of Kaa and Bagheera are similar, the last two lines identical. The song ends with the three of them joining their voices in a final chant: “Wood and Water, Wind and Tree,/ Wisdom, Strength, and Courtesy,/ Jungle-Favor go with thee!” The four incantations of “The Outsong” contribute substantially to the motif of the Master Word that runs through the Mowgli stories: life’s greatest horror is to “be alone in the jungle without the Master Words!” (48). They suggest with primitive profundity that true words, right words, are “magic.” They have a power that is most often attributed only to God—the power of spirit over matter. If “The Outsong” is indeed Kipling’s final word on the subject of the boy raised by wolves, he produced a grand finale extraordinaire, for it is The Jungle Book in miniature, singing beautifully and forcefully its strange and powerful song about the possibility of heroism even in a city of dreadful night. Kipling’s motivation for writing Captains Courageous (1897), composed during his final year in the United States and published two years after the last of the Mowgli stories appeared in magazine form, greatly puzzled Oscar Wilde, who remarked: “It seems very odd to me that a man should write a whole novel about cod-fishing, but then I suppose that is because I do not like cod.”53 An admirer of Kipling even less than of cod, Wilde was simply exhibiting his famous wit with a barb, but his observation nevertheless embodies a fundamental and intriguing question: what was Kipling trying to do in his writing of Captains Courageous? Since the protagonist is a fifteen-year-old youth, many readers through the years have felt that Kipling intended Captains Courageous to be

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a simple adventure story with a strong moral for an audience of boys.54 Fitting Captains Courageous neatly into the genre of juvenile literature explains away and in a sense excuses it of a good many of the shortcomings with which it has been charged, among them a lack of depth and complexity and heavy moralizing, but at the same time places it in a pigeon hole that severely limits and substantially undervalues it.55 Relying on the author’s own statement in Something of Myself, some biographers posit that he set out to write a book capturing and preserving an American phenomenon that even then was passing from the scene— cod fishing as it was practiced at a specific period and its culture. “I wanted to see if I could catch and hold something of a rather beautiful localised American atmosphere,” he reminisced, “that was already beginning to fade” (126). He has been widely hailed for accomplishing this goal of creating a certain “atmosphere” in Captains Courageous, but that is about all for which some critics will give him credit, thereby relegating the novel primarily to the status of the literature of local color and, consequently by implication, the second-rate. Several commentators suggest that Kipling did not really have a clear conception of his proposed novel beyond his notion of capturing an “American atmosphere.” That is, he did not know for sure what he wanted to do except to write about the cod-fishing industry, so new and interesting to him as he visited Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Boston harbor with his friend, Dr. Conland, an ex-cod fisherman, who explained numerous details to him. Once he began to accumulate information—his cousin Florence Macdonald claimed that he showed her “a pile of Blue Books” crammed full of notes—he became preoccupied with technicalities and self-indulgently saturated the novel with them, considerably marring it.56 Kipling seemed inadvertently to be supporting this theory when he made his retrospective comment in Something of Myself about his writing of Captains Courageous: “I revelled in profligate abundance of detail—not necessarily for publication but for the joy of it” (125). Damning with faint praise, critics often laud Kipling for his accuracy in relating the technicalities of sailing, cod fishing, and train routes but by implication blame him for getting swept away and not realizing that he was showing off.57 The superabundance of special information, they argue, takes the place of what should be more essential fictive ingredients. The explanation most frequently offered as to why he allowed this to happen is that he was having so much family difficulty at the time, what with his wife’s brother causing chaos in his life, that getting involved in the details of a fascinating occupation of which he had previously known little was a way of forgetting his troubles. Charles Carrington says that what he was doing “took his mind off threatening politics and family quarrels.”58

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Differing in opinions as to what Kipling had in mind when he wrote Captains Courageous, critics and biographers by and large agree that despite the popularity of the novel in some circles, the work is seriously flawed artistically and that it is thematically superficial, although they often find some aspect here and there to praise. Two examples may suffice to illustrate the views of many. Carrington deplores the book’s lack of character development and proclaims that the work is not a novel at all but merely “an enlarged short story.” What few “merits” it does possess, writes Carrington, “are due largely to the easy comradeship with Conland which he [Kipling] found so stimulating and satisfying.”59 Philip Mason argues that except for the successful “atmosphere,” that is, “the creation of the selfcontained world of life on the We’re Here,” there is “little merit in the story.” The characters are “flat,” Mason complains, and the plot is completely lacking in “suspense.” Captains Courageous, he concludes, is essentially “escapist” in nature, “written from the top layer of consciousness.”60 So it may seem, but essential to an understanding of what Kipling was up to in this book is a willingness to entertain the possibility that Captains Courageous may not be what it seems. The truth is that it was not composed from Kipling’s “top layer of consciousness” (he did not use that layer) but from the depth of belief. The discrepancy between the general reputation of Captains Courageous and Kipling’s own initial opinion of it is immense. Although his enthusiasm for it cooled over the years, he apparently believed when he finished it and for a while afterward that he had written a masterpiece of sorts. How could he have been so mistaken in his judgment? Or is it possible that his initial appraisal was more accurate than his later estimate of the novel as he expressed in Something of Myself, where he did not claim very much for it?61 Usually modest in his comments on his own work, in his early statements about Captains Courageous, he seems to have been uncharacteristically blind to what are now widely considered its failings. To Robert Barr, editor of The Idler, he called his new novel “a beauty,” and he admitted: “I’m sinfully proud of it.”62 In August of 1896 he wrote to William James that he had just finished “a long tale” in which he had “taken the detail of a laborious and dangerous trade (fishing on the Grand Banks)” and “used it,” as he put it, in a way that James would greatly approve (“on the lines you suggest”).63 From England a few months later, he wrote to Dr. Conland: “I tell you that tale will be a snorter,” and he added later in the letter that when he read the “first two dollops” of Captains Courageous in McClure’s Magazine, he “crowed over it like a hen with one chick.”64 This from a man whom Rider Haggard considered among the humblest he had ever known. His crowing seems odd, indeed, especially when the work he is so proud of is often regarded as among his

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poorest. Obviously, he was a bit carried away. Either he rated much too highly what might be considered the easily accessible levels of the novel, or—what is more likely—in his enthusiasm he misjudged the accessibility of other, more profound, levels wherein lay the real essence of a work of artistic skill in which he had “used” details of plot, culture, romance, and adventure as covering for something much deeper and more important to him, a significant achievement rife with allegory and metaphor. That at one time he considered Captains Courageous as such an achievement is evident from a letter that he wrote in December 1897 to Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard University, a longtime family friend, in which he gives his opinion of an anonymous review published in the Atlantic Monthly. As have many other readers, the reviewer saw the novel as “simple” in conception. Praising it for its “atmosphere,” he nevertheless complained that “after the first twenty pages, there is no plot, no development, no surprise,” and while the language may be “serene” and the theme “healthy and satisfying,” these qualities were “paid for with a great price,” namely, a sense of “power” and “life.” The characters, wrote the reviewer, are “hardly less disappointing,” some of them mere “dummy figures,” and the style of the novel is without “the bloom” of many of Kipling’s other works. Furthermore,
there is an almost incredible lack of significance in parts of it, as if it were a steamer under-engined for its length. Some chapters are floated by mere description, and go crippled like an ocean-liner relying on its sails. It is a matter of doubt whether in all Mr. Kipling’s other books together one could find so many barren pages as are here. Page after page drags on after the story is told, like the latter joints of a scotched snake.65

Summing up, the writer accuses Kipling of having published a “badly wrought” novel, one that gives the impression of being totally uninspired. The scathing review in the Atlantic Monthly was enough to make any accomplished literary artist furious, but Kipling was not given to venting his ire in response to such criticisms. His longtime feeling was essentially that which he expressed in Something of Myself: “I would not to-day recommend any writer to concern himself overly with reviews” (203). For some reason, however, he could not seem to tolerate an attack on Captains Courageous. His customary reserve gave way to an astonishing outburst of hurt and anger. He complained to Norton that his “spirit is brought very low”; this particular review (sent to him by his publisher Macmillan) has “made me lie down and cry salt tears.”66 Thirsting for justice and vengeance, he makes a request unusual for him because it comes across as unworthy and unbecoming: he asks Norton to identify the person who wrote the review. The

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form that his irate response took to what the writer said is nothing less than extraordinary. He quotes the words that had been used to condemn his novel and uses them to condemn the reviewer’s country: “ ‘There is an almost incredible insignificance in parts of it, as if it were a steamer underengined for its length.’ Why, hang it! that’s his own very country.” Everything that the reviewer said was wrong with Captains Courageous, Kipling heatedly urges, is actually wrong with America. Furthermore, he bitterly resents, he says, “a chap [the reviewer] coming out of that milieu (He must because he accepts the note of the book as ‘healthy’ ‘simple’ and ‘vigorous’ . . .) belonging to that life and serenely accepting its grubby ideals talking to me as though he didn’t so accept ’em.”67 No doubt certain aspects of the American Protestant Ethic, as it is often referred to, take something of a battering in parts of Captains Courageous, but in his anger Kipling neglected to point out to Norton that if the novel portrays much that is wrong with America (which, he claimed in his letter, constituted his “concept of America”), it also reflects much that he liked and respected in the country that had been his home for four years. Outrage at an American reviewer for what Kipling considered an insensitive if not stupid estimate of one of his most cherished works may well have resulted in remarks that distort his overall views of America and how he presented facets of that country’s culture in his novel, but the letter to Norton is invaluable, nevertheless, for the insights it offers into Kipling’s conviction that he had poured far more into Captains Courageous than he was being given credit for. In fact, it furnishes a clue that in Kipling’s opinion what he had written was not simple but complex, exhibiting a technique of layering similar to that which he described in Something of Myself as he had practiced it in Rewards and Fairies (1910): “I worked the material in three or four overlaid tints and textures, which might or might not reveal themselves according to the shifting light of sex, youth, and experience. It was like working lacquer and mother o’ pearl, a natural combination, into the same scheme as niello and grisaille, and trying not to let the joins show. So I loaded the book up with allegories and allusions and verified references” (182–83). In composing Captains Courageous, Kipling indicated to Norton (complaining that the reviewer was blind to what was there), “did I change my style; and allegorize and parable and metaphor; subduing my hand to the stuff I wrought in! I tried to get it thin, and tinny, and without passion and I’ve done it only too well.”68 One of the levels of “allegory and parable and metaphor” doubtlessly embodies Kipling’s rather ambiguous attitude toward America, but it is not the deepest level. What lies at the heart of Captains Courageous is Kipling’s profoundly felt conviction about the heroic life, a conviction of such inestimable importance to him that it amounted to a religious belief and is, in fact,

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cloaked in the garments of religion in the novel. When he wrote to Norton that in Captains Courageous he “did . . . allegorize and parable,” he may have been referring to his having made the life of Harvey Cheyne into a kind of religious allegory or parable. The young protagonist undergoes a sequence of psychological and spiritual events that in their nature closely resemble and are thus presented in terms of religious experience. Harvey’s change is represented in stages that closely follow the pattern of the redemptive process as conceived in Christian theology (and especially in the faith of the founders of New England, Calvinism)—an unregenerate life, conviction, repentance, conversion, and sanctification. Echoing throughout the novel are the three strong principles of Calvinism: election, providence (or predestination), and justice. Although only a few pages are given to the delineation of Harvey the unregenerate, that is, as he was before his nearly disastrous fall into the sea from an ocean liner, the portrait is deftly if economically drawn. Actually Kipling depicts him as far worse but at the same time far better than he is usually described in critiques of novel, where the most common adjectives applied to him are “spoiled” and “brattish.” Such terms give an inadequate sense of the depth of Harvey’s attitude problem. His words and actions evoke such hatred as adults seldom feel toward a child, even one “spoiled” into being a “brat.” Arrogant, disrespectful, and undisciplined in the extreme, he is truly a rara avis among boys. It might be difficult to find in any literature a more offensive and disgusting youth than Harvey Cheyne. Yet, while Harvey goes about flashing his money, bragging about his toughness, and generally assuming an air of know-it-all cool superiority, Kipling furnishes a glimmer of something in his character, deep within him, that belies his atrocious behavior. Reeling from the strong cigar that a resentful and ill-wishing German passenger gives him and suffering from sea sickness, he does not whimper or complain. Rather, he crawls to the most remote part of the ship, out of sight of everyone, to vomit. Even before that, however, Kipling gives a hint that Harvey is better than he seems. The German and an American from Philadelphia view him as deserving of only a “rope’s end,” but a passenger from New York prepares for what is eventually to become clear: “Pshaw!,” he exclaims, “There isn’t any real harm in him,” and a bit later, “There’ a heap of good in the boy if you could get at it.”69 The nature of what it is in Harvey that is “good” and how he managed to “get at it”—these are the primary concerns of Captains Courageous. The “new” Harvey, the reborn Harvey, as it were, is contrasted throughout the novel with the old, unregenerate youth. Yet his change is not really a transformation so much as it is an emerging of what was in him all the time. That is, he was even before his brush with death like those who in

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Calvinism are called the “elect,” those favored by God and predestined to salvation, but he is not yet aware of the grace that will waken him to his true identity. It seems to me a serious misreading to designate him as a typical or ordinary boy whose forced experience among simple but honest, hardworking people “makes a man of him,” as it would any number of other youths. Obviously, this is precisely how the reviewer for the Atlantic Monthly regarded Harvey’s characterization and the theme of the novel, for he writes: “He is just an ordinary boy at the hobbledehoy stage.”70 Kipling goes to considerable lengths to make it clear that Harvey is not an ordinary boy, but a very special one. Certain qualities in him are apparent to those aboard the We’re Here almost from the first. Disko Troop, for example, recognizes that Harvey possesses a natural mathematical ability, which in the novel serves as a representation of his innate specialness in general. As is often the case in stories where sinners fall low before seeing the light, Harvey’s unregenerate stage is ended abruptly—by his perilous plunge into the sea. In this religious allegory of sorts, the sickness that precipitates his fall suggests the condition of his soul, and the new surroundings to which he awakes contrast sharply with his previous environment, which was but enabling to his unregeneracy. He now finds himself in a situation demanding rigor and among those who insist upon discipline and obedience but who offer in return instruction and nurturance in a religious context. Significantly, he is not saved by just any ship but one devoted to fishing, an occupation with clear Christian connotations. Furthermore, these particular fishermen (in this instance, fishers of men) are mainly Christian in their belief. The captain, Disko Troop, is a true scion of early New England religiosity. An inveterate foe of demon rum, he lectures Harvey on the evils of alcohol and allows no drinking on board the schooner. He neither swears nor tolerates what he calls “vain oaths” in his presence (24). He permits no work on the sabbath. In fact, on Sundays the members of crew wash and shave themselves and reverently gather for a service in which one of them, Penn, a Moravian ex-minister who lost his family and his memory in the Johnstown flood, sings hymns and reads from “a book called ‘Josephus’ ” (109). Since Kipling mentions Josephus three different times, he obviously meant some significance to be attached to the references. It lies principally in the immense popularity of the writings of Flavius Josephus (ad 37?–100) among American Christians beginning with the Calvinistic Puritans and continuing on until the early years of the twentieth century. As Ben Zion Wacholder puts it: “If Puritan arrivals to New England possessed a book in addition to their Bibles, it was usually Josephus.”71 Though Josephus was a Jew, he became highly favored of the Romans and profited greatly thereby. His adoption by Christians

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and especially the Puritans was due to his having mentioned Jesus with respect and admiration in his Antiquities of the Jews; to his concept of God’s hand in all human events (Providence); to his belief that history is a revelation of God’s will and nature; and to his splendid ability to recount events, some of which fill in gaps in the Biblical narrative.72 When Kipling has Harvey tell Mr. Cheyne near the end of the novel that “I’m great on old Josephus,” the implication is that he has in a way become part of the Christian fellowship aboard the We’re Here. That Kipling meant to give a Calvinistic tinge to this Christian fellowship is suggested by his characterization of Disko, the dominant member of it, as a man preoccupied with two fundamental tenets of Calvinism, God’s Providence and God’s Justice. Disko believes that Harvey’s rescue was “providential, first an’ last, fer all concerned,” and in the same conversation, he accuses Harvey of being “irreligious” for not seeing that his being picked up was “under Providence” (12, 13). Convinced that he sees the will of God operating in the events of humankind, he is greatly disturbed whenever he realizes that he has misjudged some person or event. Thus it is not so much injured pride (as his son Dan seems to think) that he suffers from when he becomes aware that he has been “mistook” in his “jedgments”—an admission that he painfully makes when necessary—but a sense of his not having been up to the job of reading God’s providential will. He feels that in a sense he has let God down by not seeing and understanding properly. What to others may be a simple misunderstanding or misreading of a person or a situation to be brushed off casually, to him is a dead serious mistake for which he personally holds himself responsible as if he has somehow failed God by not accurately interpreting Providence, in which he believes with all his heart. According to Calvin, “There is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.”73 Disko is thus strictly aligned with his Calvinistic forebears, who believed that God “steers and guides all things to the desired end to which they were appointed from eternity.”74 Reflecting this principle, steering becomes an important metaphor in Captains Courageous, where the good, hardworking, honest man of God, Captain Disko Troop, steers his ship with the purpose, care, and precision of the Almighty who steers his universe. His teaching Harvey to steer is more than a nautical lesson. If to Disko Troop providence is God’s plan, justice is God’s method. Disko’s devotion to the principle of justice is a reflection of his reverence for God and is evidenced in all his decisions and actions. Dan is sometimes a bit harsh in his statements about his father and often amused at Disko’s seriousness, but he is nevertheless insistent that “Dad’s a jest man” (70). In

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fact, he acknowledges that “all the [fishing] fleet says so” (23). Kipling’s account of Disko’s almost fanatical objection to John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Skipper Ireson’s Ride” (1857) may appear at first either a merely fortuitous detailing of an inexplicable quirk or an attempt to portray eccentricity in order to make the character more colorful. Given Disko’s allegiance to the divine principle of justice, however, it is altogether fitting that he should take a strong stand against Whittier’s poem, which is historically inaccurate and grossly unfair to the memory of Captain Benjamin Ireson, a cod fisherman from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who is depicted as an unfeeling coward refusing to help the crew of sinking ship. This dastardly deed becoming known to the people of Marblehead, according to Whittier’s famous and often recited ballad, the women of the town tarred and feathered Ireson and rode him out of town in a cart. Disko objects to “Skipper Ireson’s Ride” because, as he puts it, “jestice is jestice at all times” (83) even though the events depicted in the poem took place a long time ago, that is, “before the war of 1812” (83). He makes it clear that his defense of Ireson is not motivated by friendships or a “special call to right any Marblehead man” in particular. Actually he does not especially care for Marblehead fishermen, but justice is justice, and he must see that it is done. Harvey had picked up some stanzas from Whittier’s poem at a camp school in the Adirondacks, and as his contribution to the ships’s entertainment on one occasion, he begins to quote them. Disko violently brings down his foot; stops the recitation; points out that the poem is a form of “mistaken jedgement” that is of the “worst kind” because it is perniciously “catchin’ to the ear”; and proceeds to explain to the startled “young feller” what the true facts are concerning Captain Ireson.
Ben Ireson he was skipper o’ the Betty . . . comin’ home frum the Banks. . . . They f’und the Active o’ Portland . . . leakin’ off Cape Cod Light. There was a terr’ble gale on, an’ they was gettin’ the Betty home’s fast as they could craowd her. Well, Ireson . . . laid it before them [his crew] to stay by the Active till the sea run daown a piece [and then pick up the stranded crew]. They wouldn’t her that. . . . They jest up stays’l an’quit, nat’rally takin’ Ireson with ’em. . . . Nex’ day, when the sea was ca’am . . . some of the Active’s folk was took off by a Truro man. They come into Marblehead with their own tale to tell, sayin’ how Ireson had shamed his town . . . an’ Ireson’s men they was scared . . . an’ they went back on Ireson, an’ swore he was respons’ble for the hull act. ’Tweren’t the women neither that tarred and feathered him— Marblehead women don’t act that way—’twas a passel o’ men an’ boys, an’ they carted him araound town in an old dory till the bottom fell aout. . . . Well, the facts came aout later . . . too late to be any ways useful to an honest man; an’ Whittier he come along an’ picked up the slack eend of a lyin’ tale, an’ tarred and feathered Ben Ireson all over onct more after he was dead. (83–84)

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Disko’s account of what really happened follows closely the facts presented in Samuel Roads, Jr., The History and Traditions of Marblehead (1879), with which Kipling was no doubt familiar. So concerned was Roads that Whittier should know the truth about the man that he had slandered in his ballad, Benjamin Ireson (whom the poet insists upon calling Floyd Ireson), that he sent him a copy of his book. Whittier acknowledged with thanks Road’s setting the record straight, but continued, nevertheless, to reprint “Skipper Ireson’s Ride.”75 Disko does not care much for poetry, and he knows little about Whittier, though in his generosity he claims that “Skipper Ireson’s Ride” was “the only time Whittier ever slipped up” (it was not).76 But what he does know is that Whittier’s poem “ ’tweren’t fair” (84), and that which is not fair offends the very essence of this man who believes so strongly in providence and justice. Having learned through bitter experience how Disko reacts to the recitation of “Skipper Ireson’s Ride,” Harvey goes to the actress who is planning to quote it at the Gloucester memorial service toward the end of the novel, and talks her into using something else. Kipling must have been drawn to the curious history of “Skipper Ireson’s Ride” and the events behind it not only because he was a fervid believer in the necessity of writers getting their facts right but also because he recognized that having Disko react to the poem as he does would serve to characterize him as a man who placed the highest value on justice. Not only had Ireson’s crew “perpetrated an act of the greatest injustice upon an innocent man,” as Roads indicates, but Whittier had compounded and intensified the injustice.77 Such is the man who becomes Harvey’s teacher, his guiding light, his spiritual father, as he progresses through the several stages of the redemptive process in the religious allegory. Having been fished from the sea and taken aboard the We’re Here and into its environment of the Puritan work ethic, the unregenerate Harvey first experiences “conviction,” that is, the painful awareness of one’s errors, the guilt and sorrow that “gives rise to repentance,” what Calvin called the “ ‘signs and accompaniments’ of repentance.”78 Kipling describes Harvey’s fall into the sea as a going to sleep.79 After his waking comes not only the shock of Disko’s blow to his nose, a reward for his insolence and outrageous false charges, but also his awareness that, as he puts it, “for a fellow just saved from drowning I haven’t been over and above grateful” (24). “Convicted” of his previous mistakes in perception, he confesses with “meekness” to Disko that he has not “acted quite right,” and he indicates that he is sorry for his behavior (25). Conviction, repentance, and conversion take place in rapid succession as often happens in religious experiences. One frequently expressed charge directed against Captains Courageous, and in some ways the most serious, is that it is irredeemably flawed by the

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suddenness of Harvey’s transformation from a brat, hopelessly spoiled to moral and social rottenness by a mother’s foolish and doting indulgence, to an all-American boy (exhibiting all the wonderful qualities which that term encompasses). In various forms, Carrington’s thoughts on this subject have been expressed repeatedly: “The conversion of Harvey Cheyne from a spoilt boy into a serviceable young man is achieved too suddenly to be convincing, and too early in the book to provide a lasting theme.”80 The word that Carrington uses to describe Harvey’s change, conversion, in appropriate, for its standard dictionary definition is “an experience associated with a definite and decisive adoption of a religion.” As Kipling depicts it, Harvey’s experience is quite similar in nature to a religious conversion. Therefore, its suddenness is not unrealistic, for a conversion experience most of the time takes place quickly rather than gradually.81 The reason that Harvey’s change is sudden is that Kipling meant it to be taken as a conversion, thus making it an essential element in the narrative as religious allegory. Harvey Cheyne, one of the elect, has been suddenly awakened from his sleep, the sleep of the unregenerate. As he puts it in describing the experience to his father: “I saw a light” (193), and he follows that light. Whereas conversion is usually instantaneous, what comes after it, sanctification, is a “gradual process.”82 It is “a progressive work, and not perfected at once. An internal work, not consisting in external profession or bare morality.” As an exercise of God’s power (the Holy Spirit) working within a person—in Calvinism, the elect—“sanctification evidences itself by a holy reverence, earnest regard, patient submission . . . humility, confidence, and uniform obedience.”83 It is “a process by which the soul is cleansed from [its previous] pollution.”84 In essence, sanctification means “to prepare.”85 To sanctify “is to prepare” for holiness.86 It is characterized by a strong personal effort to know—that is, to know God, to know God’s law, to know one’s self—and to be obedient. It assumes close fellowship with others of the elect and dedicated service to them. If Kipling’s reason for depicting Harvey’s change as sudden was that he wished to compare what was happening to him to a religious conversion, his reason for having it come so early in the story was that he wished to suggest by all that follows in the rest of the novel the gradual process of sanctification. Having awakened Harvey to his true identity, Kipling then depicts him in a state of preparation for a highly special role in life, which is far more than merely that of “a serviceable young man.” The process of learning that takes place within Harvey—Kipling calls it his “new training” (100)—is like sanctification because it is preparation (or “training”) for an exalted state. As in sanctification, it is not merely the acquisition of new information and physical experience but also the awakening of a spiritual self, which perceives through intuition. Much of

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what Harvey learns about the importance of intuition comes from his observation of Disko, who unlike the other cod fishermen seems to act as much from intuition as experience. He appears to sense where the fish are. Dan claims that his father can “find fish in a graveyard” (59). Disko reads “signs” and believes in the secret language of the deep. Others marvel at the accuracy of his intuitions (though restricted to fishing). He tells the senior Cheyne: “I hevn’t done anything to your boy or fer your boy excep’ make him work a piece an’ learn him how to handle the hog-yoke. He has twice my boy’s head for figgers” (204). Disko is in a sense correct, for most of Harvey’s preparation for what he is to become has come from the functioning of an awakened intuition, an instinctive quality suggested by Disko’s comment about the boy’s ability with figures. Once Harvey becomes open to learning, he takes in a great deal more than his tutors realize that they are teaching. Though coming to the role late, his father also becomes his teacher in the wonder and essentiality of intuition, picking up where Disko leaves off. During the time that they are together in Gloucester, Harvey realizes that his father has a kind of instinctive ability to make people tell him what he wants to know. When Harvey asks him how he does it, he responds that men who have “handled things” for themselves have an intuitive understanding of each other and will open up to one perceived to be like them (214). When Kipling comments that Harvey is “taking in knowledge of new things at every pore” (115), he is referring not only to his learning facts but also to what he is intuiting. He is developing “a keen eye and ear for every face and tone about him” (102). From “a mere tone” (66), he is understanding far more than he could have before. It is as if he has acquired an extra pair of ears and eyes through which is made known to him the existence of mysteries and secrets that he had never even dreamed of previously. He has become aware of another form of communication, that of suggestiveness, of signs and of symbols. In a highly suggestive episode, Kipling indicates how such a mode of communication is used even by those who do not speak each other’s language. Wishing to trade with a French ship for some tobacco, Tom Platt tells Harvey that he does not know French but that he can make himself understood through what he calls “another lingo” (119), by which he means the “sign-talk” of Freemasonry, Kipling’s recurrent metaphor for the sharers of the heroic creed. Harvey questions Tom Platt about this ancient mode of communication,“a heap older’n your French,” as Tom tells him, and consequently he “had another mystery of the deep sea to brood upon” (120). In religious terms, this other “lingo” or “sign-talk” is a manifestation of the phenomenon that enables one who is in the process of sanctification to comprehend the truth of the Bible hidden to the lost or that which

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makes spirit recognizable to spirit. In Kipling’s belief, it is the intuitive way through which those who live the heroic life communicate with each other, reading signs and symbols lost on others, and the means by which they recognize immediately one of their own kind. Perhaps Kipling’s most dramatic representation of this phenomenon is in his poem “The Ballad of East and West” (1889), in which two mortal enemies from two radically different cultures and religions meet in a situation of mortal combat, size up each other, immediately recognize a deep kinship, and end by swearing in a religious-like ritual that each is “Brother-in-Blood” to the other. “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” is undoubtedly true in most cases, Kipling grants, “But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,/ When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!” Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit within a person recognizes itself in another; in Kipling’s substitute for religion, the Holy Spirit of Heroism performs the same function. Ignoring the final two lines of “The Ballad of East and West,” many commentators have used the poem as an illustration of Kipling’s conviction that races can never live together in harmony because of deeply ingrained differences, a view that is often interpreted as racist. This charge has been answered effectively by those who point out that the last two lines contradict the argument, that the ending of the poem suggests that where strength, courage, and nobility are present, there are no racial or national boundaries. The truth is, however, that the Colonel’s son and the Indian outlaw Kamal in “The Ballad of East and West” are such rare men that their coming together is more an indication of how powerful Kipling considered the Holy Spirit of Heroism than how liberal he was in his racial views. Through comparison comes contrast. By suggestion, Kipling links Harvey’s changes in attitude and behavior to the stages of redemption in Christianity. But Captains Courageous is no Pilgrim’s Progress. What Harvey awakens to and then proceeds to grow in is not the religious life. Nor is he made into a disciple of the American Protestant Ethic, which so pervades the atmosphere of the We’re Here, the culture of Gloucester, and even the thinking and actions of his father, a personification of the capitalism that many thinkers, like Max Weber, maintained was an outgrowth of the work ethic of Calvinism. Though his name indicates otherwise, at the end of the novel Harvey is not a “Jr.” Respectful and loving toward his father, Harvey is not like him, for the senior Cheyne clearly reflects Kipling’s ambivalence toward American business tycoons. He portrays Harvey’s father as in some ways admirable—his basic honesty, his love of family, his shrewdness in dealing with people, his devotion to hard work, his rise through hardship to become a self-made man—but here and there,

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Kipling reveals with scarcely concealed disgust how the life of Harvey Cheyne, Sr., revolves around the acquisition of money. Education he considers as merely a step toward wealth, a way of being able to deal effective with others who have learning. When he says that education “pays,” he means “in business and in politics” (222). Kipling was probably thinking of this particular conversation that Cheyne has with his son, which subtly but effectively contrasts the two, when he commented in his letter to Charles Eliot Norton that he had represented in Captains Courageous certain “grubby ideals” in the American milieu. Kipling considered calling his novel “Harvey Cheyne—Banker.” In a way it is an appropriate title, for Harvey does become for a time one of the New England cod fishermen who generally fished off the Grand Banks and who referred to themselves as “bankers.” The word banker, however, also has a strong capitalistic meaning, one that in the context of the novel crackles with irony, for Harvey is not destined to become a business tycoon. The title settled on suggests that Harvey’s true role is not that of a banker in either sense of the term, a cod fisherman or a man whose primary goal is the acquisition of large sums of money, but rather that of a Kipling hero. “Captains Courageous” is a quotation from a poem whose subject is heroism and is thus a valuable clue as to Kipling’s primary concern in the novel. The old English ballad, “Mary Ambree,” which begins “When Captains courageous, whom death could not daunt,” deals with a woman whose heroism almost equaled that of Joan of Arc.87 What Harvey goes through in Captains Courageous is therefore not training for moneyed power—though Kipling tempts such a reading by indicating that when he finishes college the young man takes over his father’s line of ships—but for the heroic life of a high order. He will be a special kind of hero, a “master.” His preparation is three layered as Kipling presents it in the novel. His increasing ability as a cod fisherman is a metaphor for his spiritual growth—or sanctification—which is in turn a metaphor for his development toward being a “master.” MacDonald, the mysterious and clairvoyant cook, sees clearly that Harvey’s destiny leads to this role.88 When MacDonald predicts that Harvey will be “master” and Dan “man,” no one understands or believes the pronouncement. Later Dan has to accept the situation implied by the prediction, for Harvey becomes his employer. But the cook sees far more than Dan understands. MacDonald does not insist upon leaving the We’re Here, following Harvey wherever he goes, and devoting his life to him just because the young man is to be wealthy. His “second sight” enables him to perceive that Harvey is imbued to an unusually high degree with the Holy Spirit of Heroism. That is what will make Harvey a “master” and what makes the cook a disciple who wishes to serve him unwaveringly.

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The substance of Captains Courageous is Harvey’s preparation for becoming a modern version of a child of the zodiac. From his aloof position above ordinary mortals, removed from them by his wealth and privilege, he falls into the commonplace world where he is forced to understand what it means to work hard, to sacrifice, to perceive duty, to overcome fear, and to serve others. The degree to which he is successful in these areas reflects not only his innate specialness but also his attainment of a kind of holiness in Kipling’s creed of the hero. That is the reason why the process of his coming to know and his acting upon that new knowledge is compared in Kipling’s religious allegory to sanctification. Although Kipling may not have believed in the Holy Spirit, he believed in the human spirit, which is to say, a spirit present in the world of human beings and exhibited in the thoughts and actions of those Herman Melville called “the choice hidden handful of the divine inert.” That spirit of heroism, Kipling felt, made these, the elite, divine in a sense, gods imbued with the creed he cherished. On many occasions, he linked this spirit of heroism with the Holy Spirit. In The Fringes of the Fleet (1915), he wrote: “However often one meets it, as in this war one meets it at every turn, one never gets used to the Holy Spirit of Man at his job,” which, he adds, is “incomprehensible, I should imagine, to the enemy.”89 A lecture that Kipling delivered to a group of officer cadets at Bushey in 1917, “The Magic Square,” makes the spirit of heroism into a religion by referring to soldering as “the brotherhood of the sacrifice” and by comparing it with the priesthood: “One is struck by the curious likeness between them, even at the present time.”90 The “gesture of the Salute,” he argues, “is no more than the armed man indicating himself as one of the brotherhood of the sacrifice, and curiously enough, the higher-spirited the regiment,” by which he means the greater the degree of presence of the spirit of heroism, “the more tense and emphatic is the motion of the indicating right hand.” It is this spirit that is behind the “indomitable soul, the spirit of man that knows what it ought to do, even though it loathes doing it.”91 Accounting for the source of this particular “Holy Spirit,” Kipling could do no better than to recall an ancient Brahmin legend, which is both instructive and deceptive:
Once upon a time, or rather, at the very birth of Time, when the Gods were so new that they had no names, and Man was still damp from the clay of the pit whence he had been digged, Man claimed that he, too, was in some sort a deity. The Gods were as just in those days as they are now. They weighed his evidence and decided that Man’s claim was good—that he was, in effect, a divinity, and, as such, entitled to be freed from the trammels of mere brute instinct, and to enjoy the consequence of his own acts. But the Gods sell

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everything at a price. Having conceded Man’s claim, the legend goes that they came by stealth and stole away this godhead, with intent to hide it where Man should never find it again. But that was none so easy. If they hid it anywhere on Earth, the Gods foresaw that Man, the inveterate hunter— the father, you might say, of all hunters—would leave no stone unturned nor wave unplumbed till he had recovered it. If they concealed it among themselves, they feared that Man might in the end batter his way up even to the skies. And, while they were all thus at a stand, the wisest of the Gods, who afterwards became the God Brahm, said, “I know. Give it to me!” And he closed his hand upon the tiny unstable light of Man’s stolen godhead, and when that great Hand opened again, the light was gone. “All is well,” said Brahm. “I have hidden it where Man will never dream of looking for it. I have hidden it inside Man himself.”“Yes, but whereabouts inside Man have you hidden it?” all the other Gods asked. “Ah,” said Brahm, “that is my secret, and always will be; unless and until Man discovers it for himself.”92

This passage is instructive because it states as directly as anything Kipling ever wrote his belief that the source of a person’s power resides within, that there is a kind of indwelling divine spirit. It may suggest, however, that which is misleading, namely that he was referring to the Holy Spirit of God and that he believed this spark of divinity to be within all human beings. Clearly, his concept of what he calls “Man’s divinity” is not that of any established religion but his own distinctive idea, and he did not believe that all human beings are endowed with it. Rather, as in the Calvinistic tenet of the elect, he considered it reserved for the favored few. In this regard, he told Rider Haggard that he believed there was some kind of noble spirit that did not die when the individual expired but somehow was passed along and kept vital. He made it clear, however, that this indwelling spirit was not in all persons.93 So Kipling, the man who considered living an experience in hell, found something to believe in—the Holy Spirit of Heroism. It was mysterious and wonderful to him, and he never wavered as its disciple. In fact, he considered himself a kind of missionary on whom had been placed the terrific burden of helping to awaken those blessed with this spirit so that they might fulfill their destinies as heroes. He was Leo singing to stir and inspire them so that they would not be afraid but realize that they possessed a spark of the sacred fire and act accordingly. And that, precisely, is what he thought he was doing when he wrote Captains Courageous.

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5

Children of the Zodiac: Stalky & Co. and Kim
oon after completing Captains Courageous, having moved with his young family from their home in Vermont to England, Kipling turned to another project, this time something that started out to be quite different from Captains Courageous but ended up thematically as a piece of the same fabric. In Something of Myself, he recounts that while he was living in the Rock House near Torquay in 1896, the thought came to him to write “some tracts or parables on the education of the young.”1 As he began to compose (probably in December), the “tracts or parables” took on a life of their own, and “for reasons honestly beyond my control,” he remembers, “turned themselves into a series of tales called Stalky & Co.” Three years before he began this undertaking and six years before the appearance of Stalky & Co. in 1899, he published what passes for an autobiographical account of his five years at the United Services College at Westward Ho! “An English School” is largely a tribute to this quite unusual educational institution then fairly recently established “for the sons of officers in the Army and Navy, and filled with boys who meant to follow their father’s calling.”2 His idea to write “on the education of the young” probably grew out of this essay, which he may have wished to expand considerably. A puzzling change, however, came over his writing once he began. The notion of a treatment of Britain’s public schools with strong opinions about the most effective means to educate boys—that is, a work or works (probably not stories) using the facts of his own experience—soon was abandoned for a series of tales not truly autobiographical at all but seeming to be because the characters resemble the people Kipling knew at the United Services College, which is obviously the model for the school in the stories. The driving force behind Stalky & Co., therefore, turned out to be not an urge to tell what public school life of the time was really like nor to present a full and faithful account of the author’s own experiences in

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a particular public school. Kipling was driven by another compulsion—to express forcefully what he most deeply believed in but to give his creative imagination free rein in doing so. One of the great ironies emerging from his composition of the Stalky stories, however, is that although what he started out to write, “tracts,” did, indeed, turn themselves into “tales”—and highly artistic tales at that—they are strangely like tracts after all, that is, writings of a didactic nature such as are often associated with a religion (as is the other genre he originally had in mind—parables). Kipling was a man of such unshakable beliefs about what constitutes the heroic life that these convictions pulled the strings of his extraordinary imagination. Stalky & Co. is thus the product of what might be called a convictive imagination, that is, an imagination that springs from strong convictions (rather than from deep-seated fears or from the desire for money, fame and prestige, power, adventure and excitement, pleasure, the satisfaction of various appetites, etc.), convictions that activate and largely direct the process of creativity. Markedly pious thinkers of stature through the ages have exhibited such an imagination. It is not odd or surprising that Kipling shared with them the religious imagination. He was by nature a seeker after that which is beyond the material. His creed of heroism is a notable example of just that.3 Stalky & Co. is a detailed delineation of the Kipling creed wrapped in the rollicking and irreverent activities (largely invented) of a threesome of boys who have delighted generations of old and young readers while at the same time profoundly offending countless others. “Perhaps no other Kipling book,” comments Charles Carrington, “has been more variously estimated.”4 That Stalky & Co. has not been universally loved and praised can, of course, be attributed to a number of different factors, but one in particular, namely, the code of values defined in the book, has unquestionably played a major part in alienating a great many readers who do not believe in or respect such a creed. Steven Marcus makes the point succinctly when he writes that Stalky & Co. “has been hated precisely for its values, or what its values have been taken to be.” Marcus goes on to argue that “these values are described by old, obsolete words like honor, truthfulness, loyalty, manliness, pride, straightforwardness, courage, self-sacrifice, and heroism.” That such ideals direct the lives of the three boys in Stalky & Co. but seem largely irrelevant to ours, Marcus writes, “must give us pause,” and Kipling’s book, he suggests, furnishes that pause as few others ever have.5 These particular values, “honor, truthfulness, loyalty, manliness, pride, straightforwardness, courage, self-sacrifice, and heroism,” however, may not have put readers off as much as have certain other characteristics that Marcus does not mention but which are nevertheless extolled in Stalky & Co. Indeed, the attributes that Marcus sees as constituting the core values of

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Stalky & Co. do not at all set that book apart from such works as Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days (1857) and Frederic W. Farrar’s Eric Or, Little By Little (1858), the widely read novels of public school life that, as Marcus points out, Kipling repudiates in Stalky & Co. Actually, the books of Hughes and Farrar highly tout “honor, truthfulness, loyalty, manliness, pride, straightforwardness, courage, self-sacrifice, and heroism.” Marcus is undoubtedly correct that Kipling believed in and projected in his book the “masculine virtues” that he enumerates, but it is what Kipling added to the list which Marcus gives that makes his creed distinctive, that makes it a radically different code in essential ways from the traditional romantic concept of the hero with which it admittedly shares characteristics. Stalky & Co. is different from Farrar’s Eric and St. Winifred’s (1862) and from Hughes’s Tom Brown’s School Days not because these latter books fail to exemplify the values Marcus mentions—they certainly do—but because it projects a dark vision of the nature of life and a ready resentment of things as they are, characteristics foreign to Farrar and Hughes but the very bedrock of the Kipling creed. What Stalky & Co. is really about, then, is what Kipling’s life was really about—a stark awareness that what is called “life” is a dirty trick and a formulation for responding to that dark truth that ennobles the human spirit and raises it above that which seeks to debase and destroy it. Without this underlying worldview and the willful and disciplined set of attitudes and actions that it spawns, Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle would perhaps not be so different in character from the heroes of numerous school-life novels of the nineteenth century, but they are different—radically different—principally because of what they already know or intuit about life.6 What brings them together and makes them act in accord appears largely to derive not so much from what they have gone through together in their earlier days at the school (which are merely alluded to here and there in the tales) as from what they are innately as individuals—a rare breed thrown together through an inexplicable quirk of fate. They are collectively a phenomenon, and they sense it. They recognize in each other a spirit that they share, but they repress the wonderment which that recognition produces for fear that expression of it will attract the attention of that indifferent and unfathomable fate that brought them together. It does not pay to seem happy, for fate will inevitably take notice and bring misery. Metaphorically speaking, Stalky & Co. deals with odors, that which in Kipling’s opinion “stinks” and that which does not. Although this theme runs through all the stories, the centerpiece for it is “An Unsavoury Interlude.” So offensive has been this tale to sensitive and high-minded critics that it is probably the least analyzed of all the Stalky stories. It has been avoided like a bad odor, which is its rich and expansive metaphor,

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indeed, almost a metaphysical conceit. Commentaries on the story are generally brief, and they often express a fairly high degree of displeasure with the subject matter. An anonymous reviewer of Stalky & Co. probably reflected the views of a great many readers with the opinion that the story is not “worth the amount of spirit and literary power” that Kipling expended on it. “ ‘An Unsavoury Interlude,’ ” continues the review, “is quite unworthy—a story which relates how the three heroes, having been accused of neglecting to wash themselves, retaliate by hiding a putrid cat in their traducers’ house. Boys doubtless do such things, and for an oral yarn the incident would serve; but when a man of genius sits down to elaborate the affair we feel that he is expending himself wantonly. The thing does not matter, is not worth the doing.”7 When Ezra Pound uses “an old bitch gone in the teeth” as a metaphor for modern civilization, he is understood and widely applauded for having produced a brilliant trope. When Rudyard Kipling expresses his pessimistic worldview through a metaphor of malodorousness, his figure of speech is not recognized as such, and his effort is called “unworthy.” Although the only literal stench in “An Unsavoury Interlude” is that of a rotting cat that the boys tuck into a spot in the dormitory close to the quarters of King and his student charges, it is clear from the very opening of the story that Kipling wishes to enumerate other “stinks,” figuratively speaking, in life, the first of which is that arising from two sermons of Frederic W. Farrar camouflaged as novels, Eric and St. Winifred’s. An aunt has sent copies of both to Stalky, who turns them over to Beetle to sell at a bookstore in Bideford. The bookseller, however, will offer little for them, suggesting symbolically that the books are practically worthless. Such was indeed Kipling’s opinion of them. His objection was not just to the syrupy moralizing present on nearly every page, the obvious and almost constant effort to bring boy readers into the fold of mainstream Protestant Christianity and to keep them there, but to the everpresent premise that life is good and fair and can be grand if you just do the right thing. The man who told Rider Haggard that he was convinced that existence is a living hell could never buy such a premise. He was a pessimist, Farrar an optimist, “and never the twain shall meet.” Kipling included Eric and St. Winifred’s among the numerous foul odors of life, but he was equally offended by certain deeply entrenched attitudes and sacred cows, one of which was England’s love of cricket. Early in “An Unsavoury Interlude,” Mr. Prout comes by to excoriate the occupants of Study Five for not attending a match involving their house, and in the process he is made to look ridiculous. Kipling’s objection to cricket, embodied in his famous lines in “The Islanders” (1902) about “the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals,” was

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primarily that it was a “trinket” mistaken for a gem and thus one source of the “strong delusion” that he warned about in his controversial poem. In Prout’s mind, however, cricket is conjoined with what he calls “the honour of your house.”“Why can’t you three,” he asks, “take any interest in the honour of your house?”8 Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle “had heard that phrase till they were wearied” (81). They appear to know instinctively that words like “honor” and “patriotism” are abstractions that smell of hypocrisy and shallowness when emitted from the mouths of pontificating anosmics. Though they never talk about it, Stalky and company know what real honor is, and they know that it has little to do with cricket—or, indeed, with school sports in general—contrary to what is preached in such works as Tom Brown’s School Days. School masters King and Macrea in particular espouse the philosophy that runs through Hughes’s novel and many others of the genre, namely “that by games, and games alone, was salvation wrought” (81). King and Macrea are convinced that if boys are not forced to play games, if they do not like games, then they are “lost” (81). After taking up popular novels of school life, cricket, “the honour of the house,” and then school sports in general, Kipling calls attention to what is perhaps the worst abomination of all, the unfairness of the human situation. Though the noble headmaster periodically comments on life’s basic unfairness in an effort to prepare his boys for the future, Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle sometimes lapse momentarily into a fresh resentment as if they expect fair play and do not get it. King’s remark that Beetle was a “waterfunk” when he first came to the school elicits hurt and anger. When Beetle complains that it was not fair to single him out as not being able to swim when many other could not as well, Stalky reminds him that there is no such thing as fairness. Unfairness stinks but it is a reality. “My Hat!” exclaims Stalky. “You’ve been here six years, and you expect fairness. Well, you are a dithering idiot” (84). The artistic axis of “An Unsavory Interlude” is the irony of an accusation: the young heroes of the story are saddled with a knowingly false charge of being the source of foulness when in truth the accusers cannot detect under their very noses the bad odors arising from phoniness and rotten concepts. Always looking for the sharpest barb and the wittiest insult to inflict, King hits upon the notion of hinting in front of several students that Beetle’s early fear of water is keeping him from bathing. The charge spreads, and Stalky, McTurk, and members of their house are all harassed with cries of “stinkers.” Stalky and company respond to the taunts with characteristic resentment and effective retaliation. The course of action that they take in their resentment, however, is even more telling than they realize. The scenario is symbolic—those who have no true insight into the human plight briefly have their noses rubbed in the

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unspeakably horrible reek of the hell that is existence, but they take away no lasting meaning or understanding from the experience. This metaphoric meaning emerges from Beetle’s proposal that they “shove somethin’ under—sulphur, or something that stunk pretty bad” (93). The implication is that it is the stink of hell (traditionally associated with that of burning sulphur, or brimstone) which is to be shoved under the noses of the taunters so that they will experience the intensity of a real stench, namely that of human existence, the hell that Kipling declared life to be in his comment to Rider Haggard. Stalky alters the plan slightly so that a dead cat is substituted for sulphur, but it is Beetle to whom the original idea belongs, and that is unusual, for Stalky is generally the archconceiver of such deviltry. In this instance, however, Kipling probably wished to connect Beetle’s “notion,” as he calls it, with his role as a budding writer who is beginning to find his way. In other words, what he comes up with is part of what he is coming to learn as a writer of substance. The underlying meaning of his comment “I’ve found out how houses are built” (92) is that he has found out something fundamental about how a poem or a story is “built.” The inspiration for how he can “shove something under” in order to “stink ’em out” (93) comes from his reading of a work by the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814–79), probably the novelette How to Build a House, which was translated into English in 1874 and intended to reach an audience of young people and to teach them the author’s particular theories of architecture. 9 Kipling apparently read Viollet-le-Duc and was impressed with his principles, for he mentions him, a generally recognized giant of modern architectural theory, in one of his Letters of Marque.10 At the time Beetle is reading Viollet-le-Duc, McTurk believes and tells Stalky that he is working on a poem, a suggestive linkage. Knowing how a work of art should be conceived and then at the right place, “shoving something under” so as to make the reader realize that life is essentially an unsavory interlude—this is what Beetle is learning. Life is “unsavory”; therefore, it is best to think of it as an “interlude,” that is, as a farce or comedy. Kipling’s title “An Unsavoury Interlude” thus embodies the first two distinctive principles of his creed as delineated in Stalky & Co.: (l) the necessity for seeing life for what it is, “one of the hells” and (2) the importance of conducting oneself as if performing in a particular sort of farce. This second principle has received but scant attention, but it is central in Kipling’s vision of the heroic life, and it helps to account both for his sustained interest in laughing and for that somewhat peculiar quality in much of his humor. It has a direct bearing on the kind of book that Stalky & Co. is, for in the writing of these stories, Kipling was actually practicing what he preached—showing the creed in action by making his

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own past into something that resembles one of the pantomimes so popular at the time. That is why he seems to have enjoyed himself to such an extraordinary degree during the composition of Stalky & Co. He fully realized what he was doing—shaping his past into a distinctive brand of pantomime. Lord Birkenhead reports that “he was fond of reading it [Stalky & Co.] aloud to his friends as it progressed, with terrific gusto, laughing, as his cousin Mrs Mackail remembered, so loudly at his own jokes that she could not hear what he said.”11 Florence Macdonald, also a cousin, recalls that while she was present during his writing of one of the Stalky tales, Kipling would pause and exclaim: “Come on, Florence, what shall we make them do now?”12 He seemed equally pleased with himself and the comedy he was creating when he read parts of Stalky & Co. to his old headmaster, Cormell Price, together with three other visitors at Rottingdean in October 1897. If Kipling composed Stalky & Co. with a high degree of enjoyment and self-approval, his two boyhood friends at the United Services College, C. G. Beresford (“McTurk”) and Lionel C. Dunsterville (“Stalky”), were taken aback probably because they expected to find there reasonably accurate accounts of their common experiences but instead encountered in the book made-up episodes about made-up people all of which resembled the past just enough to make the book appear—falsely, they thought—as a colorful reminiscence. Commenting (with what seems a note of disapproval) on the sometimes violent antics of the three friends in the stories, Beresford said, “the quiet denizens of No. 5 study never raised a hand or foot against anyone” in the school.13 Though in some ways a tribute to his famous boyhood friend, Beresford’s book, School Days with Kipling (1936), seems driven largely by the author’s desire to set the record straight about what life was really like at the United Services College. Dunsterville was similarly “offended” at one time, as he indicated to Lord Birkenhead, by Kipling’s treatment of their school days, but he apparently came to terms with and admired what he perceived the author had actually produced, a notable work of imaginative literature rather than a reminiscence.14 In Stalky’s Reminiscences (1928), he wrote: “Stalky & Co. is a work of fiction, and not a historical record.”15 Although Beresford in particular was unquestionably displeased with what he considered a lack of fidelity to the facts of the past in Stalky & Co., he was probably bothered equally by a certain farcical quality in some of the stories. No doubt he meant to aim his harshest criticism at the book when he commented to another old schoolmate that Stalky & Co. was “farce,” but he unwittingly gave Kipling credit for achieving the very effect for which he was striving.16 For numerous readers of Stalky & Co. who were put off by the boys’ mischievous machinations and the vein of

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irreverent comedy, human existence was not to be viewed as a pantomime, a sustained joke, but as a deadly serious test of morality, which when passed admits one to eternal reward—the philosophy espoused by Thomas Hughes, Frederic W. Farrar, and their countless admirers. If in Stalky & Co. (as, indeed, in several other works), Kipling’s comedy does not always appear “wholesome,” it is probably because his interest in laughter and his conviction that it is an indispensable attribute of the heroic life derive not from a jolly nature and a rosy outlook but in some measure from his fundamental pessimism. Although the creation of laughter was for Kipling sometimes a sign that he was able to take delight in life, it was at other times a way of signaling his recognition that life is an unsavory interlude. On these occasions, laughter was a way of affronting and of coping with that perceived reality rather an evasive tactic in an effort to avoid it. In “An Unsavoury Interlude,” Kipling writes, “The situation was beyond speech, but not laughter” (98). He was referring to a particular episode, but the words describe his general attitude toward life. A willful, disciplined “cheerfulness” (artificial as it may be), not whining and complaining, not self-abdication to the fear that is paralytic, but self-imposed “cheerfulness”—that is the proper heroic stance for one who truly understands that life is a kind of hell.17 The difficulty involved in the effort but increases the nobility of the achievement. It is for this reason that Kipling’s heroes often behave as if they consider themselves taking part in a sort of play, acting out some spirited role. For example, Stalky and some of the other students in “The Flag of their Country” seem to consider military drill a form of drama. An onlooker exclaims: “Lord, Lord! It’s as good as a play” (248). In that same story, McTurk indicates to Beetle that they must take on the roles of those much in favor of a cadet corps at the school simply because King holds the opposite position. “We must be pro-cadet-corps like anything,” he tells Beetle (243). Taking on with a quick willingness names not their own is characteristic of those being trained in and those maturely manifesting the creed. The nicknames they assume, often humorous, and those that they give to others of their circle signal a form of lighthearted role playing. They are not lighthearted, however, but deadly serious about the necessity for participating in the drama, though a farcical one. The paradox inherent in this peculiar situation is projected in Stalky’s reaction to McTurk’s lapse in acting out his comedic role in the pantomime Aladdin, or the Wonderful Scamp, which several of the boys are rehearsing in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part I.”18 “Play up, Turkey,” admonishes Stalky, “this is serious” (50). Those five words, “Play up; this is serious,” encapsulate a distinguishing aspect of the Kipling creed, the serious determination to act as if one is in a pantomime.

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In “Stalky” (1898), the earliest of the stories about the three boys (though not included in Stalky & Co.), Kipling has his chief role player, who is known in this tale as “Corkran” or simply “Corky” before he acquires his later nickname, use the same expression that he uses in “The Slaves of the Lamp, Part I,” suggesting that he is not only acting in a comedic drama himself but helping to compose it as he goes along and directing the scene: “ ‘Now play up,’ said Corkran. ‘Turkey, you keep the cows busy. Member that we’ve just discovered ’em. We don’t know anything. Be polite, Beetle.’ ”19 Stalky assumes the same stance in “In Ambush,” where he admonishes his two cohorts to get serious about the act they are about to put on before King and Prout: “ ‘Now, we must pull up,’ said Stalky, rising from the bed on which he had thrown himself. ‘We’re injured innocence—as usual. We don’t know what we’ve been sent up here for, do we?’ ” McTurk immediately summarizes the part he is to play: “No explanation. Deprived of tea. Public disgrace before the house. . . . It’s dam’ serious” (31). Stalky’s taking on the combined roles of writer of the script, director, and actor in these situations is his way of getting himself and his allies out of “a tight place,” as Kipling refers to a dangerous position in his prefatory comments to “Stalky.”20 Life in general is a “tight place,” and performing as Stalky does is the most admirable way to get through it.21 It seems highly significant, then, that in several different places Kipling uses the word performances to describe the antics of his three heroes. In his prefatory remarks to “Stalky” as it appeared in Land and Sea Tales (1923) he writes: “This happens to be the first story that was written concerning the adventures and performances of three schoolboys—‘Stalky, McTurk and Beetle.’ ”22 King refers to “their little performances” (“In Ambush,” 19), and their “performances” cause repeated frustrations to their housemaster Prout throughout Stalky & Co. He is simply incapable of understanding the unspoken agreement among the residents of Number Five study that they will as much as possible (and whenever they can) superimpose upon life a pantomimic form. He speaks a great more than he realizes when he calls their antics “performances.” “ ‘They are unboylike, abnormal, and, in my opinion, unsound,’ Prout insisted. ‘The moral effect of their performances must pave the way for greater harm. It makes me doubtful how to deal with them’ ” (124). Indeed, only the Reverend John Gillett and Headmaster Bates seem to know how to deal with them, and that is because only these two among the teaching staff understand the game that the boys are playing— pantomimism, the art of making up episodes of cleverness and imagination as you go along, superimposing such “performances” on the hell that is life, and laughing in the face of pervasive unfairness. Their strategy is what “the Prooshan Bates” calls “constructive deviltry” (60), an apt phrase, for if

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“deviltry” suggests mischief directed by a degree of cunning and humor, “constructive” implies that which is thoughtful, imaginative, and formative leading to a positive outcome—exactly the formula for most of Stalky’s schemes. As McTurk makes clear in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part I,” Stalky is the high priest of “constructive deviltry,” for “Stalky invented it all” (60). Thus “Stalkyism” is simply another word for “constructive deviltry.” The underlying attitude for these synonymous concepts is that the best retaliation against the unreasonableness and the unfairness into which mortals are born and forced to live out their existence until their extinction is to consider oneself involved in a “great game,” as Kipling sometimes calls it, which is a combination of gaming with play acting. In playing the great game, the participant can create strategies, think ahead for advantages, use personal skills, exercise imagination while at the same time playing a part in a elaborate comedic construct. The paradigm for this concept is the pantomime that the boys are rehearsing early in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part I,” the farcical production that is a point of reference throughout that story as well as throughout its companion piece, “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II.” It is actually both a play and a sort of creative game. The boys do not just act out roles; they make up their own material: “The ‘book’ had been rewritten and filled with local allusions” (47). They compose their own music, and they create new lines and situations. A pantomime of this sort allows for individual creativity and is, consequently, the perfect representation of that hybridization, “the great game” or “constructive deviltry” or “Stalkyism,” which is part play and part game, Kipling’s idea of the most heroic way to view (and deal with) life. To some extent, this second facet of the Kipling creed, Stalkyism, serves to ameliorate the despair inherent in the first principle, pessimism. The boys are enlivened beyond measure by the results of Stalky’s strategy in getting “Rabbit Eggs” to turn on King in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part I.” The combination of courage, imagination, tactical brilliance, and boldness exhibited in Stalky’s heroic actions at Fort Everitt as related in “Slaves of Lamp, Part II,” is simply his constructive deviltry of the Rabbit Eggs episode carried to another level. As Dick Four comments to McTurk: “Practically he duplicated that trick over again” (330). Both incidents manifest one of the primary aspects of Stalkyism—the sheer joy of pursuing the great game, of acting pantomimically as the boys do in “Aladdin,” which allows them to formulate imaginatively as they go along. Simply following a script will not do. As Dick Four indicates, “Stalky’s a great man for orders—when they suit his book” (322). Stalky is the gamer-actor par excellence. When he faces disciplinary action from his colonel for overstepping his authority in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II,” he writes not an apology but, taking on the role of an officer superior to his colonel, a letter of complaint charging

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the colonel with not offering adequate support for his operations. Consequently, the colonel is simply paralyzed by frustration. Later, Stalky, still playing a part, begins “corresponding direct with the Government,” assuming “the manner of a king,” as Dick Four puts it (326). In the central episode of “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II,” Stalky, surrounded by the enemy and in dire straits, greets the arrival of two fellow officers, old schoolmates who had taken part in “Aladdin,” with words clearly indicating that although he is now an officer in the army with heavy responsibilities and no longer a mischievous schoolboy, he continues pantomiming as a way of coping with life, “a hellish country” (309). “ ‘Hullo, Aladdin! Hullo, Emperor!’ he said. ‘You’re just in time for the performance.’ ” Other echoes of the pantomime that the boys act in as well as partly invent in the first of these two stories, such as the song, “Arrah, Patsy, mind the baby,” pervade the second work tying the two parts together and bringing into clear focus the central theme of pantomiming as an aspect of the heroic life. Stalky and Beetle represent two sides of the same coin, the heroic man of action, and the heroic writer. Stalky asks, “What shall we make them do next?” and he makes them do it in life’s arena. Beetle-Kipling asks, “What shall we make them do next?” and he makes them do it on paper. Their reward is essentially the same, the exhilaration of creativity. That the writer as well as the hero in war can indulge in “constructive deviltry” is suggested by the ending of “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II.” Although this final story in Stalky & Co. is, as its title indicates, thematically linked with “Slaves of the Lamp, Part I,” which appears much earlier in the volume, it is substantially different from any of the other tales because its setting is fifteen years later and because it is written in the first person. The mask has now dropped, and Beetle is openly Kipling, the mature writer. Recent and distant retrospection merge as a group of former students discuss the activities of Stalky, who is not present but who is nevertheless the focal character. After Beetle, the narrator, declares, in a sense, that Stalkyism will prevail in any future national crisis, he is taken to task for being a bit too confident of that view. Beetle replies,
“Well, I’ve a right to be. Ain’t I responsible for the whole thing? You needn’t laugh. Who wrote ‘Aladdin now has got his wife’—eh?” “What’s that got to do with it?” said Tertius. “Everything,” said I. “Prove it,” said the Infant. And I have. (330)

The final three words, “And I have,” introduce a third time frame to end the volume. With those words, the author is no longer describing what

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went on among the residents of Study Five or the conversation fifteen years later among old school chums, but what he has done since then, namely his writing of the book that the reader has just finished. He is “responsible for the whole thing.” It is his pantomime, his own brand of constructive deviltry, and the exhilaration that he has received from it is as great as that which he attributes to his characters in their exercise of Stalkyism in another form. It is Stalky who plays the part of Alhira, the genie, in “Aladdin,” but Kipling called his two-part story “Slaves of Lamp.” BeetleKipling is also a slave of the lamp, as are all those who are capable of the impressive imaginative feats of Stalkyism. Those who exemplify the heroic life in Kipling’s writings are not ordinary persons who simply become converted to certain beliefs. As delineated in Stalky & Co., the creed demands not only specific attitudes and convictions but a core of innate abilities or gifts in combination with them. One of these required natural talents is center stage in the first of the stories of the volume, “In Ambush.” What it takes to make one a superior strategist in time of “war” is the thrust of this tale of how the residents of Number Five transform a potential enemy, Colonel Dabney, into an ally and then “ambush” the highly embarrassed housemasters Prout and King and the “Sergeant,” Foxy. The gift that enables them to do all this is not mere cunning or even superior intellect but a natural talent for reading character, a trait always evident in Kipling’s depiction of the heroic type. One of the best illustrations of how it functions occurs in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II,” where Stalky intuitively discerns that a prisoner he captures,“an old pensioned Sepoy of twenty-five years’ service” (320), is a man of substantial and noble character even if he is an enemy. Stalky therefore prevents his Sikh follower, Rutton Singh, from bayoneting the Sepoy, who becomes totally devoted to the man who saved him. Stalky’s reputation among his native troops as “an invulnerable Guru of sorts” (312) derives in large measure from his striking gift for reading character. Kipling’s admirer and literary descendant, Ernest Hemingway, referred to this ability as being like “radar,” meaning that it picks up what is not ordinarily apparent; as being “built-in,” meaning that it is not acquired but innate; and as being “shock-proof,” meaning that it is consistently reliable even under pressure. Though Kipling would never have called it, as did Hemingway, a “shit detector,” he would readily have recognized that his American admirer was echoing one of his ideas.23 This faculty that is “built-in” and “shock-proof ” and that operates like “radar” enables Stalky and company to perceive the distinguishing traits of those with whom they have to deal on a daily basis and especially to detect insincerity and sham. “In Ambush” is a gallery of brief but masterfully decisive portraits of Housemasters Prout, King, and Hartopp, of Foxy, and

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of Headmaster Bates—all revealing the brushstrokes of Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, the artists of character. That is, most of what Kipling writes about these various adult characters in “In Ambush” is from the perspective of the boys. Kipling gives no indication that these characters possess traits hidden from their young tormentors. For example, when he writes that “there was nothing in their [the three boys’] characters as known to Mr. Prout, their house-master, at all commanding respect” (3), he is not only stating a fact but revealing what the boys detect in Prout. They know what he thinks of them because they know what kind of man he is. Consequently, they have a decided edge over him because they can read him, but he finds them frustratingly enigmatic. They realize that Prout’s suspicious nature makes him look upon them “most sourly” because “boys that he understood attended house-matches and could be accounted for at any moment” (17). They see Prout correctly as a man who has good intentions, who “means well” (he is frequently conscience-ridden), but who is something of a blunderer (this “lumbering” trait is symbolized by the size of his feet) marked by inconsistency, at times given to unwise decisions and at other times, as Beetle puts it, “too beastly cautious” (31). Their radar reveals to them that they cannot deal with Mr. King in the same way as they do Prout, for the two men are entirely different. Whereas Prout’s natural character weakness is indecisiveness combined with haunting suspiciousness derived from his tendency to form spurious impressions, King’s is a bloated ego combined with pronounced self-deception. King is better educated but, more importantly, a good deal shrewder and less well meaning than is Prout. He is volatile and annoyingly self-assertive. He fools himself about his insight into the ways and the motivations of boys. “I think I know boys” (19), as he brags in “In Ambush,” but it is clear that he does not understand Stalky and company any better than does Prout, whom he looks down upon with arrogant disdain for his weakness. All of this and more Stalky and McTurk discover with their built-in detectors. They are thus capable of inventing strategies that take advantage of their knowledge of the inner man and thus enable them to outflank the cocky King. Despite his protestations to the contrary, he does not understand them, but they understand him. “What a consistent pig he is,” exclaims McTurk in “The Flag of Their Country.” “One always knows where to have him” (242). Like his two companions, Beetle sees the sham, self-deception, and arrogance in King, but he, unlike they, conceals a reluctant admiration for him. Though his educational methods are little short of cruel, King has taught Beetle more than has any of his other teachers with the exception of the Headmaster. Beetle seems to sense that he shares certain intellectual interests with this abusive man King, who, Beetle’s radar determines, takes a begrudging interest in his budding poet of

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a student, an interest that he fiercely hides even to himself. Beetle’s reading of King’s character is therefore slightly different from those perceptions of Stalky and McTurk in this one respect but identical in all others.24 “In Ambush” reveals that in Mr. Hartopp, the three masters of what King calls “calculated insolence” (19) detect a group of character traits distinctly different from those of Prout and King. They find Hartopp, a science and nature enthusiast, a more likable person than these two fellow housemasters, “for Hartopp believed in boys, and knew something about them” (18). However, the gentleness and naiveté in Hartopp, which the boys readily perceive, make him but the more vulnerable to their machinations. When Stalky, again pursuing an elaborate strategy, goes to him and begs on behalf of himself and his two companions to be allowed to join the school’s Natural History Society, headed by Hartopp, the kindly housemaster graciously consents and enrolls them despite his suspicions that he is being duped. The good-natured and gullible Hartopp provokes more pity than derision on the part of Stalky and company. Detecting his true character, therefore, they make no effort of bring ridicule upon his head but merely use him. Kipling’s proclivity for indulging in deft ironic touches is everywhere evident in Stalky & Co. They flavor the stories like lemon juice lightly sprinkled on fresh tuna. More frequently than not, this delight provoking but barely perceptible irony emerges from comments or situations that have to do with one person’s failure to read another’s character, a failure resulting from the absence of that built-in, shock-proof detector utilized with such effectiveness by Stalky and his two companions. “In Ambush” provides several examples, one of which is Foxy’s comment directed mainly to Stalky although he includes McTurk and Beetle as well: “ ‘I wish I’d ha’ had you in my company, young gentlemen,’ said the Sergeant from the depths of his heart; ‘I’d ha’ given you something’ ” (38). Foxy has no idea that the youngster he is addressing with a wish that he had more power of punishment over him has within him the potential for becoming a combat hero of the first order, nor does Foxy see in any of the boys much more than mischievousness and rebellion against adult authority. He, on the other hand, stands fully revealed before them. They see him as generally more than adequate for the job he is assigned to do. “His business,” writes Kipling, giving the point of view of the residents of Number Five study, “was to wear tennis-shoes, carry binoculars, and swoop hawk-like upon evil boys” (3). He is much better at this than is, for example, the awkward Prout, but he is no match for those who so clearly see his character that they can predict his next move, those with the radar he does not have. As a consequence, they maneuver him into a position of being a witness for rather than, as he had intended, against them in their central escapade of “In Ambush.”

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Throughout Stalky & Co., McTurk, or “Turkey,” is a somewhat shadowy figure compared to Stalky and, to a lesser extent, even Beetle (which may be another reason that Beresford was not much pleased with the book). “In Ambush,” however, brings McTurk out of the shadows into the spotlight as he confronts Colonel Dabney on the issue of fox hunting and proves himself adept at reading the crusty landowner’s character. Anger motivates and emboldens McTurk at the beginning of the confrontation, but he soon calms down and perceives the kind of man he is dealing with and thus realizes what he needs to do to impress him, a strategy worthy of Stalky. Colonel Dabney, McTurk soon detects, is a quick-tempered traditionalist, severely critical of those who break through the boundaries of decorum. Class-conscious in the extreme, he tends to be contemptuous of those beneath his station in life but highly respectful of his equals, with whom he likes to deal on a “man to man” basis. When he understands that McTurk comes from a family at least the equal in landownership to his own, that the young man is direct and well-bred, he takes on an entirely different attitude, offering the boys the run of his property, a coup that Stalky and Beetle celebrate with uncommon glee as they congratulate McTurk for both his boldness and his shrewdness in being able to turn such a man from enemy to friend. The title Stalky & Co. ostensible refers to Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, but in actuality the group is much more inclusive. Stalky and company are all those who are capable of following the Kipling creed and who do so with genuine devotion to its ideals. That Kipling meant to make Stalky representative of a heroic type rather than unique is made clear on the final page of the volume where Beetle indicates in answer to Dick Four’s statement that “There’s nobody like Stalky” that there are many more Stalkies,“Cheltenham and Haileybury and Marlborough chaps—that we don’t know anything about, and the surprises will begin when there is really a big row on” (330). Even within the confines of their own school, Stalky and company includes a fourth member, a silent partner, so to speak, namely Mr. Bates, the Headmaster. In fact, he is the mature prototypical Kipling hero while the three others are budding initiates. Literally the school’s “Head,” as Kipling constantly refers to him, he is, more significantly, the spiritual head and inspiration of the tight little society of Number Five study. The Head’s most salient trait is precisely that talent Hemingway so praised. Mr. Bates’s “built-in, shock-proof shit-detector” makes him pretty nearly infallible in his judgment of boys and men, and because it enables him to perceive in others’ characters the true and the heroic as well as the counterfeit and the base, he is a kind of spiritual father to Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, who intuit their kinship with him (followers of the creed constitute a kind of family, as Stalky’s repeated reference to himself as

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“Uncle Stalky” implies) and who find in their admiration of him strong support for their own sense of personal identity. He and they “be of one blood,” as Mowgli would say in giving the Master Word. His possession of a radar-like detector of character and his position as spiritual head of Stalky and company are firmly established in the final pages of “In Ambush.” When Foxy explains the circumstances surrounding the various charges that Prout and King have brought against Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, the Head’s brief remark, “I see,” tells all. Indeed, he does “see,” as Kipling indicates: “The Head saw—saw even to the uttermost farthing—and his mouth twitched a little under his moustache” (41). What the Head in amusement and carefully concealed admiration sees is not only that these boys have made fools of Prout and King, outsmarted them and maneuvered them into a trap, but also that they have within them something fine and noble, the spirit of heroism. They are, therefore, as the Head puts it, “a variation from the normal.” As such, ironically, they must be caned. Such is always the case in life; “howling injustice,” as Bates puts it, is the nature of things, and they must learn that lesson. The “normal” thing for the Head to do, once he understood that the boys were innocent of the charges brought against them, would be simply to let them go, but these three youths are not “normal.” “When you find a variation from the normal—this will be useful to you in later life,” he advises them, “always meet him in an abnormal way” (42). To complete his abnormal handling of the situation, this “amazing man,” as Kipling—reflecting the boys’ view—calls him, offers them the use of a pile of paperback books in his library. When they tell him good night and thank him, they are not merely expressing gratitude for his loan of the books nor for his being rather light with the cane but for his being what he is, a “downy old bird,” school slang for one who has a “built-in, shock-proof shit detector.”25 If the Head is Kipling’s exemplar of the character-reader, he also exhibits forcefully another quality of heroism, a double one, as it were: self-abnegation in combination with self-effacement. Together these Siamese-twin virtues make up a single trait. As Kipling defines and develops it, self-abnegation is willful refusal to follow the dictates of fear. It is, as well, a form of rebellion against the insistent instinct of self-preservation. Its principal manifestation is what we generally call “courage” or “bravery.” Selfeffacement is the complement, the completing aspect, of self-abnegation. It deprives the ego of nourishment for its ravenous appetite. Its principal manifestation is what we term, for want of as better word, “modesty.” Apparent in many places throughout Stalky & Co., this aspect of the Kipling creed is given special prominence in “A Little Prep.,” a story of extraordinary courage and pronounced modesty. Bravery is the general context of “A Little Prep.” in which the students of the school greet with

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enthusiasm the return of the “old boys,” many of whom have recently engaged in combat, and eagerly listen to stories of valor. They are not prepared, however, for the revelation that their Head, the “downy old bird,” has performed a deed so self-denyingly heroic that it overshadows all others that they hear about. Without telling anyone where he is, the Head attends the bedside of Stettson, a day-student who is critically ill with diphtheria, and sucks through a tube the thick mucus that is about to cause the boy’s death while fully realizing that he will himself probably contract the dread and frequently fatal disease. Stalky hears of this life-saving and self-abnegating act from Stettson himself, who is recovering, and, stunned by the self-sacrifice involved in it, he seeks confirmation from Crandall, who himself a hero has just finished telling the boys of the courageous death of another former student of the school, “Fat Sow” Duncan. Without giving any names, Stalky asks Crandall: “Suppose a chap found another chap croaking with diphtheria—all bunged up with it—and they stuck a tube in his throat and the chap sucked the stuff out, what would you say?” Crandall’s answer agrees with Stalky’s estimate of the deed: “It’s about the bravest thing a man can do” (217). The bravest thing that a man can do, however, is no good if he is proud of himself for doing it, if he accepts praise, or if he talks too much about what he has done. He should keep his mouth shut and do what he can to make sure others do likewise. This provision places Kipling’s creed in direct conflict with the code of behavior manifested in the admirable deeds of characters in other books of school life such as Eric or Tom Brown’s School Days, where courageous acts are conceived of as valuable object lessons for the younger students, who unreservedly adore the ones performing them. The heroes in turn enjoy the praise, and they profit from their enhanced reputations as instruments of retributive justice. Not so in Stalky & Co. The story that precedes “A Little Prep.” depicts Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle in an unaccustomed role as “The Moral Reformers,” actually as agents of justice punishing two bullies. In contrast to the novels of Farrar and Hughes in which brave boys who thrash bullies frequently do so in public not just to shame the villains but to demonstrate that justice will prevail and to warn others who may be tempted to take advantage of the weak, “The Moral Reformers” posits a different philosophy. Stalky and company do not confront Campbell and Sefton in front of the pitiful victim of their abuse, little Clewer, or even in the presence of other students, but they choose to perform their retribution on the bullies with no one else to see what is happening. By doing so, they deny themselves the gratitude and adoration of Clewer, the general esteem of the study body, and the pleasure of witnessing the justly deserved public humiliation of the two bullies.

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Their way of dealing with the situation reflects their genuine dislike of being looked up to as icons of virtue and valor. Such a reputation would be heavy baggage for the future. They might be tempted to curb their errant ways because of it and thus miss out on opportunities for pleasurable mischief. The more important reason, however, is that they seem to sense that self-effacement is the psyche’s most potent ally of true self-respect and that any violation of the one constitutes an erosion of the other. Under Stalky’s leadership they understand as well that dealing with bullying in private is the wisest course of action because of the effect on the bullies. Teaching Campbell and Sefton a lesson in public by exposing their cruelty toward Clewer and then giving them a dose of their own medicine might serve, as such situations do in other books of public school life, to punish the unjust and make an example of them, but such action would do nothing to change the bullies. Indeed, the experience of public humiliation would follow them thereafter and embitter them. Their hatred of those responsible for their debasement might never cease. By promising Campbell and Sefton that they will tell no one of how the two were brought to their knees (crying, begging for mercy, and pledging pitifully to leave Clewer alone), Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle insure that their own part in the matter will not be known because they are certain that the bullies will never embarrass themselves by revealing what happened. Thus Stalky and company insure Clewer’s future safety, retain their status quo in reputation, and avoid making lifetime enemies of Campbell and Sefton, who not forced to swallow the bitter pill of public disgrace, can try to straighten out their lives. To accomplish all this they have to feel as does Crandall in “A Little Prep.” when he exclaims, “Confound the adoration” (213). The reason for this seemingly fanatical modesty has its basis in Kipling’s knowledge of psychology and in his understanding of what constitutes a threat to the heroic life. Resisting the urge to praise one’s self (even if just to one’s self) and to enjoy others’ adoration for memorable deeds is as much of a challenge as resisting the urge to give in to fear and to act only with one’s own safety in mind. If it is difficult to overcome fear, the Satan of Kipling’s theological-like system, it is almost equally hard to turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of the ego, the Beelzebub of the creed. That is why it is better in Kipling’s scheme not to think much about something courageous that you may have done and certainly not to talk about it but simply to put it out of your mind. If you do not, the ego will work its corrosive influence and negate the nobility of the deed. It is all like a psychological conspiracy to debase. Only the willfully wary can perceive the plot and foil it out of strength derived from a spirit of resentment that whatever created us made a part of our nature this obscene and foul instinct for self-aggrandizement with its insatiable appetite.

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From the outside, the self-effacing behavior demonstrated by a man like the Head in “A Little Prep.” may appear to be mere embarrassment in the face of attention, a shying away from the spotlight, but actually it is a manifestation of courage nearly as pronounced as that exhibited in his act of saving Stettson. In fact, it, too, is sacrificial in a sense, for with it he deprives himself of the approval, praise, and even adoration that something within each of us desperately craves. It is defiance of the almost irresistible call of that seductive siren, ego. Thus his attempt to keep his heroism with regard to young Stettson a secret, to forget the entire episode, comes close to being as brave as “the bravest thing a man can do.” All sharers of the creed would understand why the Head would not wish adoration, but paradoxically their code calls for them to extend it to him nevertheless. They cannot praise themselves, but they must recognize valorous self-sacrifice in others and announce it even if that means creating a problem—a real problem, not just an artificial one—for the hero. Stalky senses this, and with great admiration, he makes the self-sacrificing act of the Head known to all the students of the school as well as to their visitors, several of them young men of demonstrated bravery. The result is an experience entirely new to the Head, an outpouring of such affection for him and commendation as he has never before received or could even imagine receiving. Consequently, thanks to Stalky, the Head faces a challenge posed by his ego at least as great as the one posed by Stettson’s illness. That he meets it in the way that he does, with pronounced self-effacement, is not a surprise to Stalky or to any one else who truly knows the “Prooshan Bates,” the “downy old bird.” Nor would Stalky be surprised that the Head is not secretly delighted and fulfilled by the exposure of his heroism but is internally in hand-to-hand combat with an archenemy of the creed, egotism, whom he will defeat but only with profound difficulty. Therefore, when remembering the punishment that the Head has inflicted on him, Stalky says toward the end of “A Little Prep.,” “Didn’t I say I’d get even with him?” he reveals his awareness that he has both done his duty in praising the action of a hero and that by doing so he has placed that “amazing man” in a psychic crisis. It is the only kind of revenge that sharers of the creed perpetrate on each other. The heroic life for Kipling was impossible without what he calls “reserve,” an attribute of the creed that occupies the foreground of “The Flag of Their Country,” a story that concerns an episode in which students attempt to form themselves into a military unit, a volunteer cadet corps. In explaining how a pompous “Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper” (Stalky’s words), Raymond Martin, M. P., makes words like honor and self-sacrifice obscene and violates the private places of the boys’ hearts with his speech on patriotism, Kipling may appear to be addressing himself just to what he

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calls the “reserve of a boy,” but it is clear that he is continuing his delineation of the creed, using boys (as he does in The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and Kim) as representatives of the heroic life and positing one of its major attributes: reserve—keeping something back, not showing. It is important to point out that Kipling’s respect for reserve is not merely a glorification of the tough guy. There is much more to the attribute of reserve than macho behavior, but its complexity does not involve unhealthy mental practices. Those characters in Kipling’s works who are devoted to the ideal of reserve are not committing the high sin of modern psychiatry, repression. That is, they are not engaged in the psychologically destructive practice of avoiding self-confrontation. To be sure, Kipling did create characters who manifest these problems, for his knowledge of the mind was astonishingly wide and deep, and he was fascinated with its hidden unlit corners. A good many of his works are in essence studies in varying degrees of psychological aberrancy. Those special characters who may be termed his creedists, however, are not in this gallery of portraits of the psychologically troubled or damaged. On the contrary, they are marked by self-knowledge in combination with remarkable self-control. That is, their refusal to show certain emotions does not mean that they force impulses or feelings (especially those painful to them) out of the conscious mind into the unconscious. They remain fully conscious of what it is that moves them in one way or the other, but by an act of self-denial, that is, of resisting the temptation of human nature to reveal and expound on or to groan about everything they feel, they keep some things unexpressed, on the inside but in the conscious mind. They are, therefore, not repressed but disciplined. The difference is, of course, immense. Success in the exercise of reserve is, in a way, a victory for the children of the zodiac over “the dark House of the Crab,” the Scorpion, and the Archer. Because of his youth and inexperience, Stalky may not have fully articulated to himself an explanation for his determination, stressed in “The Flag of Their Country,” that the newly formed corp drill in private rather than in the open, but this obvious abhorrence of public demonstration— an insistent aspect of his characterization—nevertheless results from his allegiance to the attribute of reserve. Along with several other boys who plan to go into the army, Stalky decides to join the cadet corps, headed up by Foxy, but not for patriotism or for the excitement of doing what real soldiers do. Kipling makes it clear that under Stalky’s leadership, the boys’ decision to participate derives from a practical consideration: knowing the drill before they arrive at Sandhurst, Woolwich, or Dartmouth will simply make their lives there easier (Beetle and McTurk are not planning army careers, so there is no point in their becoming a part of the corps). Stalky is the “generalissimo” of the unit, pressuring Foxy to accede to his demands,

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which includes drilling only in the gym, in Kipling’s metaphorical scheme, practicing reserve. In answer to his friend, Keyte, who asks why the boys insist on privacy, Foxy says: “To learn their drill. You never saw anything like it. They begin after I’ve dismissed ’em—practisin’ tricks; but out into the open they will not come—not for ever so. The ’ole thing is preposterous. If you’re a cadet-corps, I say, be a cadet-corps, instead o’ hidin’ be’ind locked doors” (246). Only in the context of Kipling’s use of indoors and outdoors as tropes for exercising reserve as opposed to “blabbing” and “blubbing” in public does the motivation for the boys’ repeated demands for secret marching make sense, for boys are as a rule fond of showing off, especially if they have uniforms, and they no doubt realize that they will certainly be obliged to do a great deal of public drilling in the future. Kipling had nothing against literal marching in public. In fact, he probes the origins and significance of military drill in “The Magic Square,” a lecture delivered to the Household Brigade Officers’ Cadet Corps at Bushey in 1917. It was the figurative meaning of parading oneself in public that was abhorrent to him. Thus the boys’ increasing discomfort in “The Flag of Their Country” as the time draws near when they are to receive their uniforms and are exposed to the outside world is to be read in this metaphorical context because such activity is here equated with the baring of one’s innermost feelings. The plan that Stalky and the other boys have in mind when they join the cadet corps is to learn all they can about military drill while they are still training in the gym and then when Foxy forces them outdoors to refuse further participation. “They’ll learn their drill an’ then,” comments McTurk, “they’ll drop it like a shot” (241). Part of their “inside” training is to develop a higher degree of self-control, that is, to become more adept at not showing, at keeping something in reserve. With Foxy’s indulgence, therefore, they take turns assuming command of the unit. The boy in charge then attempts to break the composure of one of his fellows by resorting to personal insult. When Stalky takes over, he vehemently attacks one of the cadets, Ansell, with the skill of a veteran drill sergeant: “ ‘There’s a rear-rank man lookin’ as though his belly were in the pawn-shop. Yes, you, Private Ansell,’ and Stalky tongue-lashed the victim for three minutes, in gross and in detail” (247–48). This is a training exercise that the boys understand as such. Still, when verbally assaulted—whether the insults are really meant or not—they find it understandably difficult to retain their reserve, which is being severely tested. It is a kind of play acting, a game in which one loses if he in any way shows what he is feeling. Seeing that he has caused his victim to flush and move uncomfortably, Stalky returns to “his normal voice,” and says, “First blood to me. You flushed, Ansell, You wriggled.” Ansell admits to reddening because he had

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no control over that, but he denies that he “wriggled” (248). When Ansell assumes command, he similarly tests Stalky. His attack “descended to the abysmal depths of personality.” Still young in the practice of the creed, Stalky, like Ansell, loses his composure, his face red, his rifle shaking with his anger. Though they have not as yet become adept at what Ernest Hemingway called “grace under pressure,” that is their goal. The boys are compelled to abandon the corps sooner than they expected and sooner than they wish because of the arrival on campus of Raymond Martin, M. P. Immediately recognizable as of the same ilk as Kipling’s “globe-trotters” and Pagett, M. P., Martin represents the type of man who has no understanding of the virtue of reserve much less the ability to practice it. His speech so thoroughly disgusts his young listeners precisely because they detect that he talks too much and about matter that should be largely kept to oneself, behind a locked door, matters fine and sacred that become cheapened when blabbed about. If that is not bad enough, he has to involve the flag of their country in his shameless exhibition. They were not used to the flag’s being associated with such a blatant exhibition of emotions: “The College never displayed it. . . . The Head had never alluded to it; their fathers had not declared it unto them. It was a matter shut up, sacred and apart” (258). Martin does not allow it to remain “shut up, sacred and apart,” but unfurls it in sophomoric excitement while speaking of love of country and sacrifice and honor, thus abasing the very flag of their country by connecting it with his brand of “patriotism.” He not only makes patriotism unpalatable to the boys with his lack of reserve but he turns the symbol of their nation into a “horror before their eyes” (258). Stalky is especially sickened, for he comes from a long line of warriors who have fought willingly under that very banner, which now has been made into a “horror” because of the way that an “earnest,” well-meaning, but truly unheroic man talks about it and uses it:
With a large and healthy hand, he tore down these veils, and trampled them under the well-intentioned feet of eloquence. In a raucous voice, he cried aloud little matters, like the hope of Honour and the dream of Glory, that boys do not discuss even with their most intimate equals, cheerfully assuming that, till he spoke, they had never considered these possibilities. He pointed them to shining goals, with fingers which smudged out all radiance on all horizons. He profaned the most secret places of their souls with outcries and gesticulations. . . . They felt savagely that they were being outraged. . . . And so he worked towards his peroration—which, by the way, he used later with overwhelming success at a meeting of electors—while they sat, flushed and uneasy, in sour disgust. After many, many words, he reached for the cloth-wrapped stick and thrust one hand in his bosom. This—this was the concrete symbol of their land—worthy of all honour and

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reverence! . . . He shook it before them—a large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colours, and waited for the thunder of applause that should crown his effort. They looked in silence. (256–57)

It is no wonder, then, that the boys look on approvingly as the flag is tossed into a foil and glove locker out of sight. That is where the flag of their country belongs, out of sight, on the inside, cherished in silence and secrecy. The adverse effect that Martin has on Stalky, however, lingers into Monday after the speech on Saturday. He and the other members of the corps report for drill only to find that Martin’s words have had the opposite effect on Foxy than on them. So inspired is Foxy by Martin’s speech that he determines to place the flag at the head of the corps and to march the boys out into public view. No longer can they drill behind a locked door. They will be forced to violate their principle of reserve. Their only course is to reject the corps with its newly acquired “flag of their country.” “After a fine speech like what you ’eard night before last,” Foxy tells the boys, “I don’t see how you can avoid comin’ out an’ marchin’ in the open now” (259). But “coming out” and “marching in the open,” acts that metaphorically suggest the opposite of reserve, are abhorrent to Stalky, who makes one last attempt to retain the secrecy of the corps. “Can’t we get out of it, then, Foxy?” he asks. The answer makes plain that it is the flag that has settled the matter for Foxy. “No,” he responds to Stalky, “not with his giving the flag so generously. He told me before he left this morning that there was no objection to the corps usin’ it as their own. It’s a handsome flag” (260). The irony of the situation, which Stalky grasps with agony and frustration, is that they have been forced “out” by that which should be kept “in.” After he leads the boys from the gym as they abandon the volunteer cadet corps, he returns to his study, encounters Beetle there, and completely loses his composure in anger and tears. His lapse in reserve, for which he is so mightily ashamed that he cannot bring himself to admit it, is temporary, however. He is soon the old Stalky, but the disgust that he feels for Martin will remain with him, for this man with his total lack of understanding of how a true hero should act and talk made the cadet corps as well as the flag appear “putrid—corrupt—stinkin’ ” (261). Raymond Martin, M. P., thus stands in stark contrast in the story to those whom he is supposedly instructing, not just Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, but those heroes of the future whom Kipling so brilliantly eulogizes with reserve that moves the heart in the several flash-forwards that reveal their destiny in service to and under the flag of their country. When Prout, severely handicapped by his lack of a character detector, complains to his fellow housemasters in “The Impressionists” that Stalky,

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McTurk, and Beetle are “unboylike” and “abnormal,” he is essentially correct but not for the reason he gives—moral “unsoundness.” They stand out among their peers and for much of the time apart from them not because they are adherents of evil (though they comically call their roles “Belial,” “Lucifer,” and “Mammon” as they create pantomime-like “constructive deviltry” to befuddle Prout) but in large measure because they are disciples of “system.” Housemaster Hartopp’s comment in “The Impressionists” that “they have a system in most things” is the keynote of that story, which spotlights system as another major attribute of the Kipling creed of heroism. To Hartopp’s remark, the Reverend John Gillett replies, “They confess as much” (126). They are fully aware that they are unusual in this respect—in ordering, systematizing, methodizing. They follow a system, observes Gillett, in the way they study: “Stalky does the mathematics, McTurk the Latin, and Beetle attends to their English and French” (125). In Number Five study, adds Hartopp, all “has been reduced to a system” (126), even their tricks, one might add. They are not the only boys in the school given to mischief, but their brand of it is distinctive. It is imaginative, well thought out, methodically executed, and eminently successful in outcome thus reflecting in Kipling’s metaphorical scheme another sort of victory over zodiacal fate, which always wins in the end but over which one may experience certain triumphs on the way to that dread destiny. These often elaborate schemes of Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, undertaken not in a spirit of malice but in determination not to be trampled, are comic in nature, but they are manifestations of the serious and, in Kipling’s thinking, highly prized attribute of system. Those so gifted as to be able to practice it impose a sense of order on their lives, and in a “tight place” they keep their heads and calmly react. Unlike many, they do not become so “excited” that they cannot “stop to think.”26 In “The Impressionists” Prout becomes determined to undermine the three boys’ commitment to system, which in their case he considers to be evil. His desire to “break up the study,” as he puts it, is actually a wish to act upon his impression that he has encountered methodical evil that threatens to corrupt the entire student body: “Evil and brief had been their careers under his eye; and as one standing in loco parentis to their yet uncontaminated associates, he was bound to take his precautions” (145). John Gillett, the “Padre,” tries to correct Prout’s false assumptions and to warn him, for he fears that in trying to disrupt the systematic sharing of worldview, knowledge, talents, material goods, resentments, joys, and sorrows among the three boys, his zealously moralistic colleague will become the victim of their system of retaliation—as, indeed, others have been. “Be wise, Prout,” Gillett cautions. “Leave them alone, or calamity will overtake you” (127). His warning proves to be prophetic.

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With Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle, system manifests itself most often in strategy, the methodical way in which they plan and then carry out their maneuvers. No other boys in the school seem capable of such intricate tricks. With them, strategy is a craft, an art. When in his misguided effort to break them up as a group, Prout turns them out of their study on the charge of habitual cribbing, he falls victim to their brilliantly conceived plan to create systematically and relentlessly such chaos in the housemaster’s neatly arranged world that he will have to relent from sheer misery. Their strategy is based upon what they know to be the housemaster’s vulnerability to impressions. Realizing that Prout forms opinions without adequate information, Stalky and company not only refuse to correct Prout’s false notions, such as the one involving Beetle’s “perverting the juniors” by telling them obscene stories in a whisper, but they intentionally impart such impressions so that he will make a fool of himself. When the “Padre” asks them why they do not explain matters to Mr. Prout so that he will not remain in the dark, McTurk answers: “It isn’t the least good explainin’ to Mr. Prout. If he hasn’t one impression, he’s bound to have another” (149). Therefore, they will become the “impressionists.” With most people, impressions are tentative; with Prout, they have the force and nature of conviction. Exhibiting artful system, Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle plant in Prout’s mind the idea that Beetle is a usurer, and then Beetle skillfully feeds their impression-hungry housemaster the notion that usury may be rampant in the school and that the prefects should thoroughly investigate. The result is widespread disruption in the school (without the discovery of any wrongdoing), displeasure and confusion on the part of the investigating prefects, eventual embarrassment and profound frustration for Prout, and finally the restoration of Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle to their study. That they are consciously following a system in the “bothering” (as the Head puts it) of their housemaster is evident near the end of the story in their conversation with the Reverend John Gillett, who playing upon the word (“impression”) that they have repeatedly used in connection with Prout, remarks: “My own private impression is that all three of you will infallibly be hanged” (150). In objecting to the Padre’s comment, McTurk indicates that “it was all Mr. Prout.” In other words, the good man pretty much brought about his own downfall. McTurk then reveals the nature of their system by comparing it to that of Japanese wrestlers: “These wrestlerchaps have got some sort of trick that lets the other chap do all the work. Then they give a little wriggle, and he upsets himself. It’s called shibbuwichee or tokonoma, or somethin’ ” (151). Though he is unsure of the exact technical term, McTurk knows that the method of Japanese wrestlers is an apt metaphor for the system employed by Number Five study.

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The “book about Japanese wrestlers” that McTurk mentions probably outlined the method of wrestling or grappling and throwing known as jujitsu (or jujutsu) and called “the art of flexibility or softness,” which “by the mid-nineteenth century . . . dominated the unarmed system” in Japan.27 Its basic principle is that of JU, meaning “gentle,” that is, gentle or soft by way of ostensibly yielding while actually using an opponent’s own strength to cause his defeat, of “using the body not to collide with forces applied by the opponent but rather through clever maneuvering to combine with them to upset the opponent.”28 The book that McTurk read probably described the particular system of jujitsu widespread in Japan while Kipling was at Westward Ho!, that developed by Iso Mataemon Masatari (1787–1863), a prominent instructor who trained thousands in his techniques, one of which was a trick of catching an opponent off balance and sweeping his feet from under him. This “foot scoop,” or sukuiashi, is perhaps what McTurk is referring to as shibbuwichee, “some sort of trick that lets the other chap do all the work” and then “upsets” him. Iso’s method, however, was merely a refinement of the basic system of classic jutjitsu, which involved “the principles of flexibility and balance in close combat,” the avoidance of defeat by the opponent’s strength through “off-balancing” him, “by not resisting . . . unnecessarily, and taking advantage of momentary lapses in . . . [the] opponent’s attention and openings in his defences, then responding in an appropriate manner.”29 The description fits precisely the system of the “impressionists” in their upsetting of Mr. Prout. Those “wrestler-chaps” that McTurk read about were following a system, jujitsu, which is in turn based upon a creed, a philosophy of life, a conviction about the most noble way to live. To understand the system of Stalky and company and what lies behind it, Kipling seems to be suggesting, learn about jujitsu. The observation that house-prefect Craye makes to Prout about the “knack,” that is, the system, of Stalky and his two friends applies as well to those adept at jujitsu: “They have a knack of upsettin’ things in a quiet way that one can’t take hold of ” (142). They meet their match only when confronted by an adept who is a tactician par excellence, namely, the Headmaster,“a man more subtle than them all” (152). Bates’s remark to the boys while he is caning them that “There a certain flagrant injustice about this that ought to appeal to—your temperament” (153–54) does not offend them but authenticates his kinship with them. While Beetle is marveling out loud that the three of them are not “wrathy with the Head” since “he said it was a flagrant injustice,” McTurk simply remarks, “Dear man,” and Stalky appears both delighted and inspired. The story ends with his laughing as he thinks “of the flagrant injustice of it!” (155). The implication is that an injustice was

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perpetrated when the boys were turned out of their study, but things were, in the eyes of the Headmaster, set right when Prout was forced to reinstate them. A “flagrant injustice” occurs when they must then be punished. Yet punished they must be because of the responsibility that Bates has to maintain the system of the school. Prout has been to see him and complained. To be true to the creed is more important than to keep order in the school, but it is possible to do both, and that is what Stalky recognizes with admiration that the Head has done. Stalky’s behavior after Bates has caned him, out of the ordinary as it may appear, is understandable, for he finds great satisfaction in knowing that the headmaster truly understands what has been going on and is even better at strategy—at practicing “system”— than are he and his companions. No matter what steps he has to take, sometimes in seeming opposition to them, the Head is always one of them, the master of their system of “shibbuwichee.” In “The Children of the Zodiac,” what is most conspicuously lacking in the young and carefree gods before their fall into mortality is a commitment to any kind of constructive and meaningful endeavor, what Kipling called one’s “work.” They have none. Their horrendous fall from immortality, however, is accompanied by a new and compelling devotion to what they come to believe they are meant to do, and with their taking on and following through on that commitment, they become clearly heroic. True work—whether it be as plower of furrows, soldier, police officer, physician, mechanic, engineer, fisherman, writer, or, as Kipling’s disciple Hemingway would doubtlessly add, bullfighter—is marked by “thoroughness, efficiency, and a certain clarity of outline” (154), words Kipling uses in “The Impressionists” to describe the wales that Bates, whose expertness at his work and whose unquestionable dedication to it are everywhere apparent in his characterization, causes to appear on the backs of Stalky and company. Though not always a pleasurable activity—as the fallen children of the zodiac attest—one’s true work nevertheless satisfies deeply as nothing else can not only because it is both unselfish and constructive but also because with craft or skill it orders confusion, forces meaning upon meaninglessness, and rebels against chaos by the act of creating rather than by remaining cringingly passive in the role of victim. True work, then, is always a form of creativity, and those who give themselves to it are, in a way, artists. Accordingly, Kipling refers to the marks that the Head leaves on the three boys as stamps of “the work of the artist” (154). In terms of psychological benefit, creativity and work were for Kipling essentially the same, though engaging in the former is often presented in his writings as preparation for the latter. That is, exercising some kind of creativity when young is training for one’s lifework. For that reason he considered his ordeal in the House of Desolation to be a suitable

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preparation for his later role as writer. For one thing, it forced him to be inventive in lying, which is a form of creativity and thus valuable training, he posited, for the writing of fiction. His circumstances, he writes in Something of Myself, “made me give attention to the lies I soon found it necessary to tell: and this, I presume, is the foundation of literary effort” (8). At Lorne Lodge, he was compelled to escape into a private realm of his reading and imagination and to make a little world of his own out of a coconut shell, a red cord, a trunk of tin, and a packing crate all arranged to fence him in and to defy the oppressiveness of the hellish real world as symbolized by the mildewy basement that surrounded him. Though he did not realize it at the time, he was serving an apprenticeship at Southsea. “Nor was my life,” he says about his experiences there, “an unsuitable preparation for my future, in that it demanded constant wariness, the habit of observation, and attendance on moods and tempers; the noting of discrepancies between speech and action; a certain reserve of demeanour; and automatic suspicion of sudden favours” (16–17). His was a baptism of fire, but a baptism it certainly was—into the creative process, which in turn led to his lifework. Little wonder, then, that he became focused on childhood, for he realized that it is then that the heroic virtue of creative working begins to emerge. How the heroic life is prepared for is the underlying subject of Stalky & Co. (just as it is of The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and Kim). Kipling’s poem “The Hour of the Angel” did not appear in Stalky & Co., for its author had not yet conceived of his later notion to mix prose and poetry in one volume. He later linked it with “Stalky,” the first of the stories written about that young hero, in his collection Land and Sea Tales (1923). In miniature, it expresses what Stalky & Co. is about—how heroism (and the opposite) is the result of a long preparation:
Sooner or late—in earnest or in jest— (But the stakes are no jest) Ithuriel’s Hour Will spring on us, for the first time, the test Of our sole unbacked competence and power Up to the limit of our years and dower Of judgment—or beyond. But here we have Prepared long since our garland or our grave. For, at that hour, the sum of all our past, Act, habit, thought, and passion, shall be cast In one addition, be it more or less, And as that reading runs so shall we do; Meeting, astounded, victory at the last, Or, first and last, our own unworthiness. And none can change us though they die to save!

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In Stalky & Co., one story in particular, the final one that Kipling wrote for this volume, stands out for its emphasis upon the idea that what Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle go through at “the old Coll” is not “an unsuitable preparation for [their] future,” as Kipling said of his days at Southsea. “The Last Term” depicts the residents of Number Five as shortly to follow different paths, Beetle is to be an author, Stalky a soldier, and McTurk an engineer, but the implication is that the most important part of their preparation for all three roles, as diverse as they are, has been their mutual indulgence in mischief, which is not described as merely the usual sort of juvenile silliness but as highly imaginative strategies, in other words, as exercises in creativity. There is so much mischief in Stalky & Co.—far more than one finds in other accounts of English public school life of the time— because with characteristic originality Kipling uses it, carefully planned, ingeniously inventive mischief rather than religious training or traditional education, as the means by which “the resourceful three” cut their creative teeth in preparation for the future. It is a striking and distinctive concept though perhaps not one easily grasped, for the motive most often attributed to Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle for their tricks and pranks, that which makes them do what they do, is their eagerness to get back at those who have wronged them. Unquestionably their desire for revenge, for justice, plays a part in their mischief, but seldom is true vindictiveness involved. In most instances, what they experience is, to quote the phrase J. M. S. Tompkins uses in connection with another work (“A Friend’s Friend”), “gusto in the release of resentment.”30 The evident “gusto” that they find so satisfying even in the exercise of vengeance and the expression of resentment is the reward that comes from having created something on their own. As if to underscore toward the end of Stalky & Co. the importance that creative pranks have had in preparing the three boys for their lifework, Kipling has the trio indulge in them even during their final couple of days at school, which is the time frame for “The Last Term.” All the ingredients are at hand in “The Last Term,” including the title, for the evocation of sadness and for heavy-handed sentimentality. After all, these three close friends, together for many years, sharing everything, must now look into each others’ eyes and say their good-byes, these boys who have meant so much to each other, who have lived together, studied together, suffered together, laughed together, and triumphed together. These are their very last moments with each other. Yet not one hint of sentimentality is allowed to invade the narrative. The closest Kipling comes to gushing, and that is not very close, is his having McTurk say, “I shall be sorry to leave the old Coll; sha’nt You?” and his having Stalky “absently” (rather than “fondly” or “feelingly”) remark: “Wonder where we shall all be this time next year?” (268). In a writer of Kipling’s obvious

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talent, one would not expect to encounter the effusive sentimentality of many lesser authors of the time, but what most readers probably do expect when they have reached “The Last Term” in Stalky & Co. is at least some indication of how the three friends feel about breaking up, some understated but nevertheless telling revelation of their devotion to each other as manifested in what they say, what they do, or in what the author describes about their emotions. That this potentially most touching moment in the book is presented in terms of business as usual for the boys makes “The Last Term” perhaps the most shocking story of the collection. Yet its power is undeniable, power that is derived not from an emphasis on sadness but from an emphasis on laughter. Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle have learned well the truth of what Virgo says in “The Children of the Zodiac”: “We must learn to laugh, Leo.” Leo subsequently takes up his lifework, composing, singing, and among other things, making people laugh. Thus what we have in “The Last Term” in place of the expected wrenching that results from sad farewells is unexpected laughter. Kipling dishes out not just the usual portion of humorous mischief but three servings of it: the trick played on Tulke with its havoc-raising results among the prefects, the extinguishing of the school’s lights and the resultant turbulence caused by rowdy students, and the resetting in type of King’s end-of-term examination making it incomprehensible and him frustrated and seemingly foolish. In stressing laughter provoking mischief, “The Last Term” looks backward to what has been most instrumental to this point in the boys’ preparation, but as a threshold story it also looks forward, giving a glimpse of what they will become as a result of that training. If their indulgence in pranks at this particular time—when their separation is imminent— serves to emphasize their past, which has been filled with such inventive mischief, much in their behavior points forward. They are not quite the same Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle of the earlier stories. They now wear (without official approval) the stiff, stick-up collars of the most senior of students, position their caps rebelliously on the backs of their heads, and rejoice “in patent-leather boots on week-days, and marvellous made-up ties on Sundays—no man rebuking” (267). On the heels of this description of their going beyond the limits of the dress code, Kipling sounds the note of their futures. They are all three leaving the school: “McTurk was going up for Cooper’s Hill, and Stalky for Sandhurst, in the spring” (267). Then comes immediately the news that Beetle is to leave for India, there to join the staff of a newspaper. They are thus depicted in the processing of crossing over. Images of doors opening and closing and references to boundaries crossed and limits gone beyond form a subtle and effective motif. For example, at Mother

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Yeo’s a “door opened” (273) and the “fair-haired, blue-eyed, and applecheeked” Mary enters, suggesting another new ingredient in the boys’ future, the opposite sex. Moments later McTurk blocks a door so that Mother Yeo will not intrude and thus spoil the plot that Stalky is hatching. The adult world will soon lose the ability that it has had to control them. After Beetle has led the three in their triumph over the prefects, they leave, banging the door behind them as if to end a tumultuous but joyous phase of their lives, their time at the “old Coll.” At every turn, old doors are closing in their lives and new ones are being opened. What were once restraining boundaries and limits for them will no longer be such. The accusation of Carson, the head prefect, that they have overstepped their limits (in disrespecting the Sixth), is true in a sense he does not suspect. Kipling’s comment that Carson “crossed over” to reach them and to command their presence in his room is telling (283). When the senior prefect of King’s house, Tulke, encounters Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle on their way to Bideford and charges them with being “out of bounds” (271), he is mistaken in the sense he intended but without realizing it correct in a more fundamental way, for they have, indeed, crossed a boundary. That is, they are stepping into the future. Beetle in particular manifests this truth as he reads in type and edits his writing for the school paper at the printer’s shop. Though Kipling hints at what the future holds for Stalky and McTurk in “The Last Term” as they step over the threshold, the story belongs mainly to Beetle. It is he who takes charge of the confrontation with prefects in Carson’s study and so turns the tables on them that Stalky and McTurk cannot contain their admiration for him, and it is he who oversees King’s frustration with striking cleverness during the Latin examination. Most importantly, it is he on whom is centered the story’s theme of commitment to work. After learning from Bates that he is to leave the school to write for a newspaper in India, Beetle exclaims with pleased amazement to his two friends: “The Head says he’s been breaking me in for this for ever so long, and I never knew—I never knew” (268). What the Head has been breaking him in for, indeed, what all of his days at the school have broken him in for— especially those that involved him in Stalkyism—is that which he was meant to do and that to which he must unselfishly commit himself for life. In “The Last Term” he has clearly made that commitment, and in so doing, he manifests another of the distinctive virtues of the Kipling creed— devotion to one’s “work.” A corollary to the dictum of work is recognition of and admiration for others who are similarly dedicated. In the Head, Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle see a man who exemplifies this virtue as well as the other aspects of the creed, and he consequently commands their respect and affection. Stalky is

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drawn to the writer Robert Smith Surtees (1805–64) for the same reason. Of all Kipling’s works, “The Last Term” probably has the greatest number of allusions to Surtees’s writings. Editors and critics have duly noted that the story is saturated with such references, but they have offered little explanation for such a phenomenon other than that Kipling was himself fond of Surtees.31 Even so, why should there be such a concentration of allusions in this particular story? And why do they all come from the mouth of Stalky? In his study of Surtees, Norman Gash has written that “The very first episode” of Stalky & Co. “finds Stalky reading Handley Cross and the chapter entitled ‘The Last Term’ is so stuffed with unexplained allusions to, and quotations from, that immortal work that it must mystify the uninitiated.”32 Several scholars have identified the quotations and allusions in the story, traced them to Surtees’s work, and explained the context in which they occur.33 That process enlightens the “uninitiated” to some extent, but it does not explain why Stalky is enamored of Surtees and why Kipling makes such a point of it in “The Last Term.” Near the beginning of “The Last Term,” Kipling indicates that Stalky has read Surtees’s Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour (1853), for he “christened” the school paper of which Beetle has assumed the editorship the “ ‘Swillingford Patriot,’ in pious memory of Sponge” (265), and later in the story, he asks companions: “ ’Member what the Considerate Bloomer did to Spraggon’s account of the Puffin’ton Hounds?” He refers to an incident in Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour in which the sporting parlance of Jack Spraggon in a fox-hunt account that he submits to the Swillingford Patriot is so changed by the puritanical and delicate Lucy Grimes (“the Considerate Bloomer”), daughter of the paper’s editor, that it comes out utterly incomprehensible to the intended audience of hunters. This episode is thus Stalky’s inspiration for “editing” Mr. King’s end-of-term examination in type while the boys are in the printer’s shop. It is clear, however, that Stalky reserves his greatest admiration for the inimitable John Jorrocks, hero of the stories collected as Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities (1838), Handley Cross (1843), and Hillingdon Hall (1845). Stalky quotes Jorrocks’s colorful remarks in Handley Cross so frequently that McTurk at one point commands him with obvious irritation, “Oh, rot! Don’t Jorrock” (281). Stalky’s embracing of Surtees’s John Jorrocks has been intensified in this particular story because it is here that Kipling wishes to emphasize above all other aspects of the heroic life the virtue of devotion to one’s work and to reveal his character’s commitment to that concept through his admiration of one so dedicated. Though in many ways a comic figure, Jorrocks is dead serious about fox hunting, which is not merely a form of recreation for him but that which requires, to use Kipling’s words from “The Impressionists,” “thoroughness, efficiency, and a certain clarity of outline

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that stamps the work of the artist.” He has toiled mightily, working his way up in the wholesale grocery business from one who sweeps the floors to one who owns the company. He comes to realize, however, that commerce is not his true work. His heart lies with fox hunting, which is for him a kind combination of Freemasonry and noble combat. Late in Handley Cross, his sanity is questioned partially because he presides over secret meetings in which “speeches were delivered” and “songs were composed in honour of their doings by day, and night brought no rest.” Fox hunting, he says in one of his “lectors,” is “the image of war” but “without its guilt” and less of its danger.34 When he is appointed Master of Fox Hounds (M. F. H.) at Handley Cross, he feels that he has found his true work, more important for him than any other in life. If there is comedy in his speech about the importance of being an M. F. H., there is also the note of genuine satisfaction and wholehearted commitment:
“Of all sitivations under the sun, none is more enviable or more ’onerable than that of a master of fox’ounds! Talk of a M. P.! vot’s an M. P. compared to an M. F. H.? Your M.P. lives in a tainted hatmosphere among other M. P.’s and loses his consequence by the commonness of the office, and the scoldings he gets from those who sent him there, but an M. F. H. holds his levee in the stable, his levee in the kennel, and his levee in the ’untin’ field—is great and important every where. . . . And oh, John Jorrocks! my good frind,” continued the worthy grocer, fumbling the silver in his small clothes with upturned eyes to heaven, “to think that you, after all the hups and downs of life—the crossin’s and jostlin’s of merchandise and ungovernable trade—the sortin’ of sugars—the mexin’ of teas—the postin’ of ledgers, and handlin’ of inwoices, to think that you, my dear feller, should have arrived at this distinguished post, is most miraculously wonderful, most singularly queer. Gentlemen, this is the proudest moment of my life!”35

Stalky unquestionably loves the comedy of Jorrocks’s “lectors” and the poignancy and cleverness of his offhanded remarks, but he also finds something deeper in the man to admire. McTurk and Beetle do not share Stalky’s reading tastes. Consequently, Jorrocks has not become an important role model to them. They evidently do not discern in him, as does Stalky, a prime illustration of a crude but decent and unselfish man who is devoted heroically, albeit comically, to his true calling and who serves as a foil to the phonies and hypocrites surrounding him. McTurk is preoccupied with Ruskin and De Quincey (as well as being philosophically opposed to fox-hunting), and Beetle is busy exploring a different brand of authors such as those he discovers in the library of the Headmaster. So it is the somewhat less refined Stalky whom Kipling chooses, logically and appropriately, to bring the unrefined John Jorrocks into “The Last Term.”

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So often and so abruptly do the words of John Jorrocks burst from Stalky’s mouth and at such odd times that it is almost as if this sturdy son of a washerwoman has become the boy’s alter ego, a fourth major character in the story. Indeed, in “The Last Term,” Stalky appears possessed by the very spirit of Surtees’s hero. If this situation adds a dimension of strangeness to the work, it serves as well to bring still more clearly into focus the story’s theme—the importance of true work to the emerging hero, for Jorrocks has become for Stalky the embodiment of that commitment.36 Besides the nine stories included in Stalky & Co., Kipling published five others about the “old Coll” at Westward Ho! only one of which, “Stalky,” was composed within the same period as those in the volume. The other four were published much later: “Regulus” (1917), “The United Idolaters” (1924), “The Propagation of Knowledge” (1926), and “The Satisfaction of a Gentleman” (1929). In spirit the early “Stalky” fits nicely into the collection, but Kipling probably chose to exclude it from the volume because its plot is similar to that of “In Ambush.” The later works, however, are not really a good fit with the earlier ones that make up Stalky & Co. Not only is their style less crisp and straightforward, but Kipling focuses less sharply on “the resourceful three” as other characters are admitted to the circle of young heroes. Thus the tales of Stalky & Co. (and “Stalky”) in this sense stand in contrast to the later stories. To be sure, even within Stalky & Co. this same tension is discernible, but it is not pronounced. Through most of the tales in the volume, six or seven of them, and in the story “Stalky,” the three friends stand out among the other boys with glaring distinctiveness. Indicating their separateness from the others, Mr. Prout says that “they’ve no following in the school” (18). Mr. King calls them “self-sufficient little animals” (19). They are radically different from the other students, and they repeatedly make comments that reflect their awareness of that reality. At one point McTurk sneers, “This is much too good to tell all the other brutes in the Coll. They’d never understand” (38). Stalky, McTurk, and Beetle are considered unpredictable renegades by their fellows, and they, in turn, generally look with contempt upon almost all the other students in the school. Together they form just about as exclusive a group as one can imagine, and they have no wish to admit anyone else. In “Stalky,” the residents of Number Five are invited to take part in some mischief involving the herding of milk cows belonging to a local farmer. Stalky considers the proposition but rejects it because there are too many boys involved in it. If there are “too many,” then the game is somehow spoiled. By setting up this tight-knit little clique amidst all the boys in the school to illustrate the distinctive aspects of his creed of heroism, Kipling implies that a relatively small number of people have the right stuff. True heroism is rare, indeed. Evidently in his deepest heart, he

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felt that way—only the few are called, as witnessed by their rarity at Westward Ho! At other moments, however, he apparently wished to place nearly the entire student body under that small umbrella of the heroic. A great number of them share Stalky’s sentiment in “The Flag of Their Country,” and in “A Little Prep.,” practically the whole student population join in their admiration of the heroic Head, making them seem as one. Here and there, Kipling indicates that various graduates of the “old Coll” have gone on to distinguish themselves in acts of unselfish courage. Beetle states in “Slaves of the Lamp, Part II” that “India’s full of Stalkies” who are destined to save England and the Empire, but throughout most of the volume, Stalky is characterized as a rara avis. The tension between exclusivity and inclusivity that is noticeable within Stalky & Co. but more obvious when the stories in that volume are compared to the later ones—“Regulus,” “The United Idolaters,” “The Propagation of Knowledge,” and “The Satisfaction of a Gentleman”— appears to be the result of a conflict in Kipling’s mind with regard to the concept of heroism.37 On the one hand, he conceived of it as being manifested only in the children of the zodiac, those truly god-like few who have within them the necessary qualities and who think and act strictly according to the distinctive creed he formulated. On the other hand, he sometimes saw heroism (of a certain sort) almost everywhere he looked, particularly among fairly large numbers of people in certain walks of life, among almost entire populations of countries in wartime, especially the English and French, and so forth. He loved his country with that deeprootedness that respects, even cherishes, the long traditions of its people, takes pride in their courage and accomplishments, and readily attributes heroism to them on a large scale. This is the brand of heroism extolled by Kipling, the patriot and the spokesman for the Empire. The more private Kipling, however, who dwelled in the city of dreadful night and who found it dwelling within him, who needed gods to believe in, something to take the place of religious faith in his life, something to sustain him and to serve as a bulwark against despair—this is the Kipling who believed in the creed of the ideally heroic, the few rather than the numerous, the Kipling who in his tendency toward exclusivity felt that “too many chaps in it” would not suit him. The attributes of heroism that he delineates in Stalky & Co. are thus characteristics of the chosen and the anointed: a certain dark understanding of what life is like and the ability to deal with it as if it were a kind of farce, a built-in character detector, a bent for tactical “system,” habitual and disciplined reserve, an attitude of self-effacement as well as self-abnegation, and finally, dedication—absolute unselfish and creative dedication—to one’s true “work,” the chief component of which is service.

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These very talents and attitudes delineated in Stalky & Co., especially “Stalkyism,” are those needed for what Kipling calls in Kim (1901), the “Great Game.” Kim’s playing in the Great Game is an intensified version of the three main characters’ activities in Stalky & Co., for example, their acting in the pantomime, Aladdin. Both situations require costumes (or disguises) and role playing, which must be undertaken with inventiveness and ingenuity, and while some aspects of the play (or game) may be absurd, one’s role in it must be undertaken and acted out with seriousness and devotion. Of course, the stakes are much greater and the courage required to play of a much higher order in the case of the Great Game, which is shot through with intrigue. The Great Game resembles a play (sometimes with farcical characters as in the case of the inept Russian and French spies) being acted out on an international stage and functioning as a metaphor for life.38 Playing one’s role well in the Great Game is Kipling’s metaphor for living the heroic life, and the British Secret Service in India serves as a trope to suggest a brotherhood of those dedicated to the heroic life. Unfortunately, a good many critics fail to see Kipling’s trope-making imagination at work in metaphor-teeming Kim and consequently chastise the author for his glorification of the actual Secret Service as an arm of the immoral British Empire determined by whatever means necessary to keep the people of India conquered, controlled, and enslaved. 39 As Roger Lancelyn Green has pointed out, however, “politics have nothing whatsoever to do with Kim.”40 Through Kipling’s creative imagination, the real-life British Secret Service in India has been transformed into a sort of secret brotherhood whose mission is to protect the people it serves from the chaos and evil that threatens from without.41 Its very rubric designates an essential aspect of the Kipling creed, secret service. He was not so much interested in depicting historically the operations of the British Secret Service in India during the period of some four years covered in Kim as he was in using that organization—if, indeed, at the time it could be called that—as a metaphor for secret service in defiance of the disorder, darkness, and meaninglessness that constantly threaten to engulf humankind. Kim is not about the glory of the British Empire but about the glory of the human spirit of heroism. So when Kipling has Kim state to Mahbub Ali in the middle and thematically central chapter (chapter 8), “I see my road all clear before me to a good service,”42 probably the most telling single statement in the novel, he is saying far more than that the boy is going to be an agent for the government. He is suggesting that Kim perceives that he is being initiated into a select, elite society, a brotherhood of secret sharers of the creed for whom unselfish service to others even in the face of death is paramount. Everywhere in Kim are the boy’s mentors and colleagues in the Great Game

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represented this way rather than as mere government agents who spy because they are patriotic, because they thrive on violence, or because they like the pay. Indeed, Lurgan Sahib explains to Kim that “the pay is the least part of the work” (263). The main “part of the work” is that what they do is their “work,” in the sense that Kipling frequently used that key word, their lifework, that which they can do well and in service. The white stallion in the message that Mahbub Ali sends to Colonel Creighton, “The pedigree of the white stallion is fully established,” symbolizes Kim himself, who carries the message (he is figuratively referred to in several places in the novel as a horse or pony) and who has already established himself in the mind and heart of Mahbub Ali as a younger brother (or, indeed, son) of unique potential who is to be enrolled in the business of secretly serving, but the statement applies to all of them, Mahbub Ali, Colonel Creighton, Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, and Lurgan Sahib. They are not all white, but they are all, in a sense, stallions, and Kipling makes it clear that their pedigrees have been fully established. The first words of the novel— “He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah”— sound the keynote in Kim’s characterization, but they also express the essence of the secret society he is to join, a brotherhood in defiance of the “municipal laws” of “the nature with which we are clothed” (as Kipling expressed it to Rider Haggard), ignoble dictates of human nature that have to be defied lest selfishness and fear-induced paralysis of the will prevail. The prototypes of those secret servers in Kim are the children of the zodiac in Kipling’s quasi-myth dealing with the origins of heroism. In that story Kipling clearly and forcefully establishes the concept of service, which is brought to full fruition in Kim. One of the epiphanies that Leo experiences in “The Children of the Zodiac” is that serving others has everything to do with the dreadful realization (amounting almost to a preoccupation) of one’s mortality because such willful unselfishness and self-abnegation defy “normal” reactions to the horror accompanying a memento mori. Like the Bull and the others who are initiated into mortal godhood, Leo comes to understand that he must serve others but that in order to do so he must cultivate a side to his being that will balance his recently acquired despair, which is the result of his discovering that he is mortal. If stark pessimism completely occupied his mind, it would destroy him. Paralytic bitterness and cynicism would prevent him from any service at all to others. Consequently, the heroic life would be closed to him. Virgo understands the danger, and she is instrumental in Leo’s developing in himself what all of his descendants in heroism must also possess, the ability to experience delight. When she tells him that they must learn to laugh as well as cry, she is guiding him to the realization that if delight in life without

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a realization of its hellishness is unseeing, shallow, and absurd, then pessimism without delight, which includes love and creativity, is destructive to the psyche and constitutes a surrender to the very forces of fate that they so strongly resent. A form of mental balance is thus established as a necessity without which the virtue of service is impossible. Kim is Kipling’s ode to that component of service, two-sidedness. Obliquely and subtly developed rather than preached, this ideal emerges from a complex but interconnected web of brilliant tropes, from a setting lovingly and poignantly depicted, and from the effective delineation of a number of appealing characters. Like The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and Stalky & Co., Kim is not so much about growing up, that is, about the differences between childhood and adulthood, as it is about education, about the training of an exceptional youth in the essentials of the Kipling creed into which he is initiated by the end of the book. Especially important in Kim’s education is the realization that service (which is another word for “work,” as Kipling conceived it) requires two sides to one’s head. No idea in Kim is more insistently developed than that of two-sidedness.43 Kipling indicates that even from an early age, Kim has always been two-sided. “He had known all evil since he could speak” (6), but rather than being cowed and crushed by this burdensome knowledge, he takes delight in the life of India. The freshness and vitality of the novel derive largely from passages like the following, in which Kim’s intense pleasure with his surroundings is convincingly manifested:
The diamond-bright dawn woke men and crows and bullocks together. Kim sat up and yawned, shook himself, and thrilled with delight. This was seeing the world in real truth; this was life as he would have it—bustling and shouting,the buckling of belts, and beating of bullocks and creaking of wheels, lighting of fires and cooking of food, and new sights at every turn of the approving eye. (120)

If his keen awareness of what Kipling calls “all evil” were not accompanied by an ability to take joy in living, he would not be—as he certainly is—a perfect candidate for the heroic life, a child of the zodiac. As the story unfolds, Kipling repeatedly suggests that Kim may seem like two people but that he is not, that these are merely different sides of the same stable personality. Comments abound like that of a sweeper to the letter-writer that Kim has sent him to fetch: “There is a white boy by the barracks awaiting under a tree who is not a white boy” (165). Kipling indicates that Kim’s “limitations were as curious and sudden as his expansions” (136), and the Lama is surprised that when he first saw him, he was “a boy in the dress of white men” and then “a second time thou wast a Hindu.” The old man is

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repeatedly startled even in the early days of their acquaintance that this exceptional boy appears to him as both an “evil imp” and “a spirit” (100), and he charges Kim with being “thoughtful, wise, and courteous, but something of a small imp” (116). Earlier he comments that “from beside the cannon didst thou come—bearing two faces—and two garbs” (56). It is highly significant, however, that in response to the Lama’s implied charge that Kim is one person on certain occasions and another at other times, the youth forcefully reminds him that “there was but one of me” (56), an important hint that Kim is sure of his own identity. That Kim enjoys a strong sense of himself is perhaps the point of Kipling’s making him immune to Lurgan Sahib’s efforts to hypnotize him. To Colonel Creighton, Lurgan remarks: “You sent him to me to try. I tried him in every way: he is the only boy I could not make to see things. . . . That has never happened before. It means that he is strong enough” (282). As Colonel Creighton shrewdly observes, Kim is a “self-possessed boy” (209). Like any sensitive youth, though, he does have moments when he ponders who he is or what he is, but he waits a long time to raise these questions in his mind. It is not until chapter 7, when he is on the way to St. Xavier’s, that he muses about his destiny, his “Kismet.” At this moment, he thinks about his emergence from one world, his poor Indian background, into another, his becoming a Sahib, and then asks himself, “Who is Kim?” Kipling remarks that “He considered his own identity, a thing he had never done before, till his head swam.” What makes his head swim is not, however, confusion over who he is. He realizes, “No; I am Kim. This is the great world, and I am only Kim.” His uncertainties arise from his not knowing at this point, his “Kismet.” What causes him anxiety is that “He was one insignificant person in all this roaring whirl of India, going southward to he knew not what fate” (192–93, italics mine). That problem is settled for him in the next chapter, where in his long conversation with Mahbub Ali, he sees his “road all clear” before him “to a good service” (221). He posits the same question, however, in chapter 11, “Who is Kim— Kim—Kim?” (304) but in an entirely different context. Here he is not anxious and confused about his destiny but overcome with loneliness. He consequently puts into practice a form of meditation that he has learned, a technique that “few white people, but many Asiatics” have mastered for throwing “themselves into a mazement as it were by repeating their own names over and over again to themselves, letting the mind go free upon speculation as to what is called personal identity” (304). In the waiting room of Lucknow station, Kim thus squats in a lotus position, “pupils contracted to pin-points,” and engages in a kind of meditative chant, using his own name (304). He is close to “the solution of the tremendous puzzle,” when his trance is interrupted by an Hindu holy man, who recognizes that

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the “tremendous puzzle” Kim is seeking to solve is not who he is in some mundane sense but “what manner of thing thy soul might be” (304). What Kim is engaged in is thus not unlike some of the meditative practices of his beloved India. Late in the final chapter of the novel, Kim again asks, “What is Kim?” (462). If his initial questioning is in the context of wondering about his destiny and that in chapter 11 is in the context of a meditation on the nature of the spirit or soul, in chapter 15 it is in the context of despair, that psychological darkness that Kipling himself knew so well. “There is a certain darkness,” Kipling told his audience in “Values of Life,”“into which the soul of the young man sometimes descends—a horror of desolation, abandonment, and realised worthlessness, which is one of the most real of the hells in which we are compelled to walk.”44 It is this darkness of despair, of separation from the surrounding world, that overcomes Kim in chapter 15 after he has slept for thirty-six hours and largely recovered from his earlier collapse. Physically rejuvenated and mentally relieved that he no longer has the heavy responsibility of secreting and guarding the books and documents taken from the two foreign spies and of caring for the aged and debilitated Lama, Kim should be pleased with his splendid performance, which in his education and training is his final and most severe test of will, discipline, and endurance before entering into a life of secret service. Now Colonel Creighton could not say to him—as he did in chapter 7—“thou art not yet tried” (195), for he has been tried and he has proved himself. Nevertheless, he is strangely enclosed in a “black cloud,” as Kipling called it in “Values of Life,” an inexplicable psychological state in which he feels “abandoned,” separated from all that is going on around him and unable to articulate what is happening to him: “All that while he felt, though he could not put it into words, that his soul was out of gear with its surroundings— a cog-wheel unconnected with any machinery, just like the idle cog-wheel of a cheap Beheea sugar-crusher laid by in a corner. The breezes fanned over him, the parrots shrieked at him, the noises of the populated house behind—squabbles, orders, and reproofs—hit on dead ears” (462). At this point, Kim’s “soul repeated” the statement and question: “I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim? ” (462), and he weeps. As if in answer to his agonized query, the “great darkness” leaves Kim: “With an almost audible click he felt the wheels of his being lock up anew on the world without. Things that rode meaningless on the eyeball an instant before slid into proper proportion” (462), and he is again connected with the world from which he can derive a sense of delight. What Kim has experienced in this episode is a visitation of despair of the order that Kipling has described elsewhere and depicted in others of his heroes rather than an emotional crisis resulting from a confused self-concept.

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Yet Kim is often interpreted as a novel principally about a mixed up boy who cannot decide who or what he really is, the portrait of a youth with profound identity problems. Robert F. Moss, for example, argues that “Kim concerns itself with the search for an identity.” Kim has an unclear “sense of selfhood,” Moss claims, and “the latter portion of the book offers us a Kim who is neither mostly British nor mostly Indian but rather a disturbed and confused mixture of the two. Powerfully ambivalent, he vacillates back and forth between his two identities, or semi-identities, until at last the split results in a severe emotional crisis,” indeed, “an emotional breakdown.” This nervous breakdown, Moss concludes, is “an attempt on Kipling’s part to dramatize the psychological crisis that the boy reaches as a consequence of the split in his personality.”45 The novel’s insistence upon Kim’s two-sidedness has to a great extent contributed no doubt to this currently widespread notion that clearly goes against Kipling’s thinking (and against Kim’s own words), namely that having separate sides to one’s head is a symptom of serious identity confusion. That Kipling did not mean to depict a boy with a fragmented psyche, a split personality, seems too obvious to belabor, and that he considered twosidedness a blessing rather than a curse certainly appears to be evident in the poem that introduces chapter 8:
Something I owe to the soil that grew— More to the life that fed— But most to Allah Who gave me two Separate sides to my head. I would go without shirts or shoes, Friends, tobacco or bread Sooner than for an instant lose Either side of my head.46

Two-sidedness is not a stumbling block in Kim’s training and initiation into service, not a sign of confused allegiances and values, but a mental asset, a solid indication that his personality is balanced rather than either monomaniacal or split. In the educational and training process that makes up the novel, he is exposed to differing ideas and fields of knowledge, but there is no evidence that he is emotionally tortured because he must need choose one and exclude all else.47 On the contrary, he is educated by them all while at the same time retaining a solid grip on who he is and on what he is destined to do in life. A student who knows that he wishes to be serve humankind as a physician and in his education finds himself drawn both to science and to literature and performs splendidly in both areas is not necessarily experiencing an identity crisis but simply becoming well

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rounded so as to be better prepared for his role in life. So it is with Kipling’s student, Kim. Kipling’s portrait of him is not that of a confused boy (much less a schizophrenic, as one critic calls him)48 in whom two possible identities are at war for dominance, but that of a “lusus naturae” (a freak of nature, i.e., an original), in the words of the Catholic priest, Father Victor, a natural for the role in life that he is fated to play largely because he is blessed with two-sidedness. That Kim was destined, that is, born, to play the Great Game heroically and to balance or “juggle” his two sides rather than be frustrated by them is made clear in the poem that introduces chapter 11:
Give the man who is not made To his trade Swords to fling and catch again, Coins to ring and snatch again, Men to harm and cure again, Snakes to charm and lure again— He’ll be hurt by his own blade, By his serpents disobeyed, By his clumsiness betrayed, By the people mocked to scorn— So ’tis not with juggler born. Pinch of dust or withered flower, Chance-flung fruit or borrowed staff, Serve his need and shore his power, Bind the spell, or loose the laugh!

Earlier, a priest remarks about Kim, “He will make a clever juggler when the old man is dead” (77).49 The novel derives its dramatic intensity not from the young hero’s struggle to discover who he is but from the various episodes and testings in his education, sometimes happy and sometimes painful, that lead to his initiation into secret service, that is, the Kipling creed. From the very first rather than during the course of the novel, “the pedigree of the white stallion is established.” Even a pedigreed stallion has to be guided and trained, however, and that is what Kim is about. That which constitutes the early training and the education of one who is truly to live the heroic life was deeply fascinating and exciting to Kipling. Kim is thus of a piece with and should be read in the context of The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and Stalky & Co., for all four books deal at the most fundamental level with what goes into the making of a true hero as Kipling perceived that ideal. In Kim’s schooling for secret service, the most influential of his mentors is the old Lama. That Kipling chose him to be a Buddhist is not really

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surprising because of the remarkable similarity of the tenets of Buddhism to those of the Kipling creed.50 The philosophical basis for both is pessimism, the conviction that life, a form of hell, is chiefly made up of suffering. The standard of behavior for both is based on self-discipline and ultimate self-conquest. Kipling was interested in Buddhism and familiar with its fundamentals as early as his stay at the United Services College. His old classmate C. G. Beresford wrote in Schooldays with Kipling that “The Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold, now a little bit forgotten, was one of the books admired by Gigger, and he possessed a copy.” Beresford indicates that “The Light of Asia was consulted as a guide to Buddhistic philosophy, and had to be read and admired. . . . Gigger was the apostle of Buddha or Arnold for a space at Westward Ho!”51 The eight books in blank verse that make up The Light of Asia depict Gautama (“this illustrious prince,” as Arnold calls him) in the most sympathetic manner and cover just about all of the fundamental doctrines of Theravada, the older form of Buddhism.52 Kipling thus educated himself fairly soundly in Buddhism, an education that was furthered by what Philip Mason refers to as “his Pre-Raphaelite friends,” among whom Buddhism had become something of a fad.53 Later he was, as he claims in Something of Myself, “Deputy Curator for six weeks” of the Lahore Museum, where various Buddhist carvings and artifacts were on display (136). If by this time he still had questions about Buddhism, his father could easily have supplied him with answers, for Lockwood Kipling was almost certainly the inspiration for the knowledgeable and sympathetic “Keeper of the Images” of the Lahore “Wonder House” in Kim, who communicates tenderly and understandingly with the Lama.54 No doubt what Kipling found most attractive in Buddhism was its pessimistic vision of human existence, a view so much like his own, and its insistence upon defying the temptations of human nature that seem intended to debase. He was drawn to it because it faces squarely and without equivocation the ugliness and the deceptiveness of life. Such an attitude was in close harmony with what Daniel Karlin has identified as the “one binding impulse” in Kipling, “intellectual, emotional, and artistic— which can be discerned in these diverse forms,” namely “that of honesty, an unflinching and unsparing recognition that things are as they are, and not otherwise—not as they might have been, not as we wish them, above all not as we pretend they are.”55 This is not only the one binding impulse in Kipling but in Buddhism as well. Universally admired and acclaimed, the Lama has captured the heart of generations of readers, but his role in Kim’s education is sometimes misunderstood in two respects. First, he is frequently perceived as the antithesis of those involved in the Great Game.56 In this reading, he is seen

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as offering to Kim an alternative to joining Colonel Creighton and his agents in the dangerous business of spying for the British government. In reality he is responsible for the most valuable training Kim undergoes for the Great Game. After his time at St. Xavier’s, Kim exclaims with genuine affection to the old Lama: “I was made wise by thee. . . . My teaching I own to thee” (311), and shortly before he is to go on his mission to follow Hurree in the company of the two foreign spies, Kim muses upon his participation so far in the Great Game and upon the Lama’s contribution to what he has learned about playing it:
Well is the Game called great! I was four days a scullion at Quetta, waiting on the wife of the man whose book I stole. And that was part of the Great Game! From the South—God knows how far—came up the Mahratta playing the Great Game in fear of his life. Now I shall go far and far into the North playing the Great Game. Truly, it runs like a shuttle throughout all Hind. And my share and my joy . . . I owe to the lama here. Also to Mahbub Ali— also to Creighton Sahib, but chiefly to the Holy One. He is right—a great and a wonderful world—and I am Kim—Kim—Kim—alone—one person—in the middle of it all. (368, italics mine)

Kim’s affirmation that he is “one person” and that what he has learned about the Great Game, about life, he owes principally to the Lama serves as a strong counter to the argument that he is increasingly confused about who he is and that he is torn between two forces that are opposite in nature and thus in their influence on the boy. The Lama’s part in Kim’s education for heroism is not in opposition to that of Mahbub Ali and Colonel Creighton but complementary to it. Kim needs all of them for the role he is to play in life just as Mowgli, another lusus naturae, as Gisborne labels him, needs the varying influences of his different teachers. The character of the Lama is also misunderstood insofar as he is perceived as an example of undeviating devotion to his gentle Buddhist faith, that is, as a totally dedicated and single-minded ascetic marked by simplicity and innocence. To commentators strongly offended by British rule in India, he has furnished a convenient example of unselfishness and purity of motive in opposition to those furthering the cause of Imperialism by participating in the Great Game. In actuality, the Lama is a more complex figure than allowed by such a description. He is as far from being an ordinary Buddhist monk as Kim is from being an ordinary teenager. Both are extraordinary and complex. Belying his ostensible innocence and simplemindedness is his background as a former abbot in charge of the Such-zen monastery in Tibet and as a person of status (the equivalent of a “gentleman”) who commands both wealth and great respect among his

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own people. “In my own place,” he admits to Kim, “I have the illusion of honour,” and he can obtain whatever he requests (348). He is a man of learning and a highly talented artist. Belying his devotion to the austere commandments of his master Sakya Muni are his frequent violations of them. He both ignores the world and takes delight in it. He asks Kim no questions about his life at St. Xavier’s and shows not “the faintest curiosity as to the manners and customs of Sahibs,” but his mind pictures “every step” of his and Kim’s “wonderful first journey together,” and before he goes off to sleep, he rubs his hands together and chuckles, not the behavior of a strict Buddhist ascetic. He is both a “despiser of this world” (92) and an awe-filled observer of it. Several times in the novel, he declares, Buddhist-fashion, that the world is, alas, “great and terrible,” but after traveling, often with Kim, over a good deal of India, he exclaims in un-Buddhist fashion that it is “great and wonderful” (313, italics mine). Although his Buddhist belief prohibits pride, he cannot always resist the temptation to feel it. “There is no pride,” he admonishes Kim, “among such as follow the Middle Way” (71), but he is much like a proud parent when he later observes Kim in the role of healer.“Look! See!,” he exclaims as he “beamed.” “Was there ever such a chela?” (319).57 “Passion,” in Buddhist belief, is the chief cause of human suffering; therefore, conquering it is the principal aim of the devotee. Yet passion is one of the Lama’s dominant characteristics. While in the hill country, which the old man loves as no Buddhist should a part of this world, Kim “marvelled at his passion” (422). Trained to be tranquil and to eschew anger, the Lama has taken part in violence in his past. When the Russian spy strikes him, he rises “to the insult,” and his hand reaches for “the heavy iron pencase,” his weapon (396). Though he does not act on his anger, he momentarily wishes to harm or even kill the offender. Perhaps his greatest violation of Buddhist law, however, is his personal attachment to Kim. The “red mist of affection,” a Buddhist bête noire, so blinds him that he obtains the funds to finance three years of Kim’s education at the finest school in India, all the time watching the boy’s progress and looking forward to his return with the deep and genuine love of a parent. As he tells Kim goodbye at the gates of St. Xavier’s, he pitifully responds to the boy’s tearful farewell: “Dost thou love me? Then, go, or my heart cracks” (201). Moving as this scene is, the Lama is clearly in violation of the Buddhist principle that posits earthly love (together with marriage and children) as an illusion and as a barrier to Enlightenment. The Ressaldar comments on an aspect of this same sort of departure on the Lama’s part from what he professes to believe in. Witnessing the Lama’s pleasure in singing to and playing with a child, the Ressaldar is puzzled: “Whence had thou that song, despiser of this world? . . . As I remember,

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before the sleep came on us, thou hadst told me that marriage and bearing were darkeners of the true light, stumbling-blocks upon the way. Do children drop from heaven in thy country?” (92). The Lama’s defense in this particular instance is that “No man is all perfect” (92), but he generally reacts to his obvious violations of Buddhist law in two other ways—either with rationalizations or painful self-accusations (or occasionally with both). In the case of his love for Kim and of his finding a way to pay for his schooling, he tells the boy after waiting for him outside the Gates of Learning: “I acquire merit in that I help thee, my chela, to wisdom. . . . A day and a half have I waited—not because I was led by any affection towards thee—that is no part of the Way—but . . . money having been paid for learning, it was right that I should oversee the end of the matter. . . . I had a fear that, perhaps, I came because I wished to see thee—misguided by the red mist of affection. It is not so” (199). Most of the time, however, such denials and rationalizations do not sustain him, and he reverts to self-blame and profound guilt. Just a bit earlier, he berates himself both for his having become emotionally attached to Kim and for his having taken pleasure in the life that he and the boy have been leading together, two definite violations of his faith. The pain of his guilt is apparent in his confession to Kim:
“And I am a follower of the Way,” he said bitterly. “The sin is mine and the punishment is mine. . . . My heart went out to thee for thy charity and thy courtesy and the wisdom of thy little years. But those who follow the Way must permit not the fire of any desire or attachment, for that is all illusion. . . . I stepped aside from the Way, my chela. It was no fault of thine. I delighted in the sight of life, the new people upon the roads, and in thy joy at seeing these things. . . . It is the Law which I have broken!” (151–52)

As he looks back on his moment of rage when the Russian struck him, he is torn with regret. “I have come near to great evil, chela” (399), he tells Kim, and he admits that though old, he is “not free from passion” (401). The old warrior, the fighter, has not died in him as he had hoped it would. “The boat of my soul staggers,” he moans (413). Summarizing what he considers his most grievous departures from the Way, he places them all under two headings: “I delighted in life and the lust of life” (426). Kipling’s characterization of the Lama is ingeniously based upon irony, for not only is his heartfelt acceptance of the Buddhist view of life—a vision that Kipling shared—both noble and endearing but so is his “sin,” as he conceives it to be, of taking delight in life and loving Kim. By not being the perfect Buddhist, he is the better man because in spite of himself, he is two-sided.58 He would not have been nearly so complex, interesting, and

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endearing a character had he been portrayed as a typical itinerant monk and an undeviating follower of Buddhism in thought and behavior as admirable as that might be. Ironically, what brings him misery in his nature is what enables him to serve Kim as an invaluable role model—his two-sidedness. Kim comes to realize what the Lama himself does not— that the old man is a sterling example of the two-sidedness needed to serve in the Great Game. Kim cherishes the two sides to the Lama’s head even if his ancient friend and mentor does not. Kim is first attracted to the Lama, however, because the old man is different from anyone the boy has ever seen before. His initial appeal to Kim is that he seems to harbor secrets. The boy listens, fascinated, as the Lama speaks to the curator of the Wonder-House and indicates that he plans to go on to Benares, where he will find “one of the pure faith in a Jain temple of that city” who is “also,” that is, like himself, “a Seeker in secret” (19). From that moment on, Kim is determined to join the Lama if for no other reason than to explore his unknown world. The Little Friend of all the World has acquired that odd nickname on the streets of Lahore not because he is extraordinarily helpful to all he encounters or because he is conspicuously and consistently amiable but because he appears acquainted with (“friends” with) all sorts of people, people of all castes, all religions, all walks of life. Anyone strange or new is bound to receive his close attention because of an inborn ability on his part to detect where secrets exist and an unusual determination to ferret them out. From the early age of ten, when Mahbub Ali first employed him to follow certain men all day and then report what he witnessed, he has proven not only that he can sense when someone is carrying secrets and that he is phenomenally successful in learning what they are, but also that he can, unlike most boys, keep his mouth shut. “It was intrigue of some kind, Kim knew; but its worth lay in saying nothing whatever to any one except Mahbub” (31). He enjoyed the “beautiful meals” and the money that Mahbub gave him in payment, but his real reward—the “worth” of the activity—was in uncovering and keeping secrets. A bit later he finds himself in much demand for all kinds of errands. He “executed commissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny young men of fashion,” commissions of “intrigue” (6). During this period of his life, Kim learns that an indispensable tool of secrecy is disguisement, and he becomes so adept at costuming himself that even Mahbub Ali cannot recognize him. Throughout the novel, Kim exhibits nothing short of genius for disguise, changing from the image of a poor Hindu street urchin to a well-to-do Muslim youth and to other appearances with the ease of an experienced makeup artist and confidence man. On one occasion he saves the life of an agent in the British Secret Service by concocting on the spot an ingenious disguise for him. So

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frequent do these episodes involving disguises occur in Kim that they naturally invite the conclusion that they are meant to illustrate some significant point, some major theme, of the novel. One must be circumspect in determining what that theme is, however, for what one makes of the disguise motif affects to a great degree what one makes of the novel as a whole. Since changing disguises involves the taking on of different identities, it may be tempting to conclude that Kim’s frequent altering of his appearance, manner, and speech reveals that he is in a state of confusion about who he really is. In actuality, Kim is in all these instances merely playing a part, expertly exercising “Stalkyism” for his desired end. His use of disguise even when he is quite young—he “found it easier to slip into Hindu or Mohammedan garb when engaged on certain businesses” (7)— is not a reflection of deep-seated confusion about his identity but a manifestation of his joyous fascination with secrecy. His delight is apparent when in Lurgan Sahib’s shop he is allowed to try on various disguises: “a demon in Kim woke up and sang with joy as he put on the changing dresses, and changed speech and gesture therewith” (260). In Kipling’s thinking, a pronounced respect for secrecy was as much a prerequisite for heroic service as having two sides to one’s head.59 The new god-men in “The Children of the Zodiac” do not speak to those whom they serve about their roles; they do not explain why they serve; they do not expound on their ideals or rage publicly in resentment against the houses of death. The farmer who plows with Taurus does not know how the Bull thinks or why he allows himself to be so used. The Bull does not tell him. The same situation holds for all the other children. They have come to a realization that they must keep their new creed to themselves, remaining secretive on what matters most to them. The reason for their secrecy is not simply that they know ordinary people cannot understand them, though they certainly do understand that. They cherish secrecy because they consider that which remains unexpressed an underground stream furnishing necessary nourishment for the flourishing of their creed. It is for this reason that secrecy in one form or the other plays such an essential role in so many of Kipling’s works and is more often than not a salient trait of his heroic characters.60 Kim is secretive by nature, but his training strongly reinforces its importance. At every turn, he encounters admonitions, both spoken and unspoken, to keep some things hidden. It takes self-control, hard discipline, to do so, for human beings are sorely tempted by nature to impress others by revealing secrets. The creed, however, calls for the willful resistance of that temptation. Kim knows that he could gain great stature at St. Xavier’s by telling the boys of “some of his adventures through the last three months,” but he realizes that having taken the road “to a good

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service,” as he says in an earlier chapter, such indulgence now “was, of course, out of the question” (265). Consequently, during his entire three years as a student at St. Xavier’s, he remains secretive about his activities outside the school. Lurgan Sahib underscores to him the importance of secrecy: “You must not become proud and you must not talk” (264). The reason most often given in the novel for secrecy is that it protects. Mahbub Ali explains to Kim that Huneefa is supplying him with a disguise, concealing his real identity, because it leads “to protection” (291). Secrecy is all that stands between agents like E. 23, whom Kim encounters on the train, and sudden death. E. 23 remarks to Kim: “We of the Game are beyond protection” from any source outside themselves. They must rely solely upon secrecy. If the Babu’s role in the British government were known by those who opposed it in India, he would immediately be killed. But secrecy also protects the one who would reveal such a secret. Lurgan tells Kim that if for money he should make it known in certain quarters that “Hurree Chunder Mookerjee bore the bad news of last month,” he, Kim,“might take away a belt full of rupees,” but that he could hardly expect to live out the night (262–63). Instilled into him as an essential aspect of his education is that he protects himself by secrecy. Revealing what should be kept secret would cause Colonel Creighton to “cast him off—and he would be left to the wrath of Lurgan Sahib and Mahbub Ali—for the short space of life that would remain to him” (265). The self-protective function of secrecy extends by implication from the literal situation of those involved in spying to the metaphorical situation of those involved in the heroic life, for by not openly revealing what they most believe in and cherish, the secret sharers of the creed retain their self-respect and thus preserve the resulting sense of who they are and what they are to do. In this way they save their lives—their identities as heroes—by following the code of secrecy, but not without a cost, as Kim makes clear. A corollary to the law of secrecy is the inevitability of loneliness. Belying his nickname as Little Friend of All the World is the sober fact that Kim is an orphan, and even though he is on familiar terms with many people of diverse backgrounds and is something of a protégé of Mahbub Ali, who has come to love him, he is essentially a solitary figure even before he is recruited into the Great Game. Mahbub reminds Colonel Creighton that Kim “went alone before he came under the Colonel Sahib’s protection” and that “when he comes to the Great Game he must go alone—alone” (211). One of the most striking and memorable aspects of Kim’s touching relationship with the Lama is that even while with the old man, the boy is in a sense alone, for he can never feel free from the responsibilities placed upon him as guide, provider, and protector and can never communicate his deepest thoughts and anxieties to his aged companion, who loves him

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without ever really understanding him. Kipling’s technique of leaving blank the history of Kim’s years at St. Xavier has the effect of highlighting even more his situation of loneliness. He has nothing in common with his fellow students, and the code of secrecy forbids his getting close to anyone there through the revelation of confidences. He must remain aloof and apart. He is, indeed, as he tells himself, “alone—one person—in the middle of it all” (368). After an initial unfavorable impression of Hurree, Kim comes “to reverence” (405) the man for he, too, “walked alone” in facing peril (460). Though nothing can offset the loneliness of heroism, which is the natural child of compulsory secrecy, love does to some extent ameliorate it. Were it not for the ability to love, which is an aspect of what I have called “delight” in Kipling’s two-sided man, loneliness would be intolerable to the secret servers of the world. Besides the kind of love—personal and immediate—that Kim feels for the Lama and for Mahbub Ali (which is duly reciprocated) is a more impersonal and abstract form that he experiences as part of his training for the heroic life. He realizes that he is alone, but he comes to take some comfort in knowing that he is not the only one so destined, for a few others—not a multitude, but a select few—have the same dark vision and face with ennobling fortitude the same challenges. These secret servers, who refer to their number as “Us,” become the objects of Kim’s growing respect and affection, furnishing him with an uplifting sense of belonging.61 Describing Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, Lurgan Sahib explains to Kim: “He has no name, but only a number and a letter— that is a custom among us” (262). Later, as Kim is about to leave for Benares, Hurree says to him: “I will set thee on thy way to Benares . . . and tell thee what must be known by Us” (297–98). What Hurree teaches Kim is strikingly similar to the instructions that Baloo gives Mowgli in The Jungle Book. The “Law of the Jungle” in essence resembles the rules for playing heroically the Great Game, and the “Master Words of the Jungle,” which identify and protect the speaker, are essentially the same in nature and purpose as the words the Babu makes known to Kim. That is, “We be of one blood, ye and I” has its counterpart in the master words Hurree gives to Kim: “I am Son of the Charm” (299), a phrase that will save him if heard by one who is of the brotherhood of secret servers. Similarly, Kim is duty bound, as Hurree instructs him, to offer aid even at the risk of his own life to one who speaks the same words to him. Secret phrases and passwords are necessary for identifying any “man of us,” the Babu explains. When on the train the desperate Mahratta sees the amulet with which Hurree has furnished the boy, he works into his conversation “Son of the Charm,” at which time they exchange certain passwords, make themselves known to each other, and formulate plans.

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Kim devises a convincing disguise for his fellow agent, whom he refers to as “brother” (333). Thanks to that and the help of someone else who is “also one of Us” (341), the admirable Strickland (who shows up in some of Kipling’s other stories), E. 23 escapes to play the Great Game another day. From that point onward, Kim thinks of himself as being, on the one hand, “alone—all alone” but on the other hand as “a Son of the Charm—I Kim” (303). This psychological tension between the loneliness produced by secrecy and the sense of belonging brought on by the boy’s growing awareness of the “Us” of which he is a part is one of the most poignant aspects of Kim’s characterization. The emphasis in Kim upon secrecy and intrigue is no doubt partially responsible for the impression that many readers carry away from the novel that it possesses a “magical” quality, which is so much an integral part of the book that it is difficult to isolate critically and to analyze. Angus Wilson notes that “It is rare to find readers, Kipling fans or others, who are not captivated by Kim; it is equally rare to find many who can offer any detailed account of their enjoyment of the book. ‘Oh! Kim, of course, is a magical book,’ is the usual general account that follows a detailed discussion of his other works.”62 A book centering upon the extraordinarily odd relationship between an aged Buddhist Lama searching for a mythical river of enlightenment and an street-savvy boy of Irish parentage living off his wits in an Indian city is in itself the stuff of an idea, a concept, that is so utterly original as to produce the impression Wilson comments on. But in addition to the pervasive atmosphere of intrigue and the wonderfully unlikely situation of an other-worldly Lama coming to love as a son an “imp” of a street urchin and relying upon his worldliness, Kipling has created a pattern of references in the novel that stress the idea of magic. Kim wears his “papers” around his neck as a kind of amulet. Kipling remarks that “on no account was Kim to part with them, for they belonged to a great piece of magic—such magic as men practised over yonder behind the Museum, in the big blue and white Jadoo-Gher—the Magic House, as we name the Masonic Lodge” (4). Later he wears an actual amulet furnished by Hurree. Mahbub Ali tells Kim of Lurgan Sahib, “Men say he does magic” (241), as Kim’s experience with him bears out, and, of course, “Son of the Charm” suggests magic or enchantment. Amazed at the way in which Kim transforms the Mahratta (agent E. 23) into a Saddhu, the abashed Jat with a sick child exclaims, “We travel with warlocks” (334). Kipling himself associated the novel with magic.“It grew,” he reminisced, “like the Djinn released from the brass bottle” (Something of Myself, 134). He remembered that about the only book that he was interested in reading in connection with his writing of Kim was “a certain work on Indian magic which I always sincerely regret that I could not steal” (135).

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Kim’s changing nicknames not only chart the progress of his education and training as he is gradually initiated into secret service but also suggest his increasing association with magic or the supernatural. Once “The Little Friend of All the World,” he later takes on the secret appellation of “A Son of the Charm” and, more openly, the title of “Son of the Stars.” The designations are highly suggestive, for they imply a transition from the mundane to the extra-mundane, from that associated with the world to something magical and transcendent (or perhaps even godly). One of the most striking aspects of Kim’s characterization in the last section of the novel is his acquisition of humility (he kisses the Lama’s feet and confesses his unworthiness). All his early brashness and cockiness seem to have disappeared as he takes on the qualities usually associated with a religious conversion and as he correspondingly grows in stature. Once disguised as a chela, or disciple of a holy one, he is increasingly described in terms that imply that he is in actuality a kind of religious figure, a priest or healer or holy teacher (as, indeed, was Jesus).63 In fact, a hint of the Incarnation is embedded in the Lama’s wish that Kim will “return to the world as a teacher” (468). He is, like Mowgli, a “miracle.” Speaking to Colonel Creighton ostensibly about a horse, but really about Kim, Mahbub Ali declares that the boy “has no equal” (177). More and More, Kim appears to be a kind of spiritual figure, especially as he emerges victorious from the severe trial that exhausted him physically and from the ensuing dark night of the soul. This aura of the spiritual about Kim toward the end of the novel is so pronounced as to invite the conclusion that, as Mark Kinkead-Weekes argues, Kim could not possibly “return to the Game.”64 Kim’s transcendence to “Son of the Stars,” however, is clearly not meant to suggest that he will withdraw from the Great Game, for a Son of the Stars is equivalent to a child of the zodiac.65 That is, Kim has taken on godly qualities for the same reason as does Leo in “The Children of the Zodiac” after he becomes a god-man, namely, in order to suggest the idea that true heroism, in Kipling’s belief system, is a kind of religion and that Kim, like Leo, is one of its saints. “He looked,” writes Kipling, “rather like the young saint of a stained-glass window” (320).

6

“This Secret Society Business”
he subject of secret service, that indispensable responsibility of the creed hero and the lifework for which the young protagonist is being schooled in Kim, continues to occupy center stage in much of Kipling’s later writings, especially four stories involving a Masonic Lodge,“Faith and Works No. 5837 E. C.” In these works, “In the Interests of the Brethren” (1918), “The Janeites” (1924), “A Madonna of the Trenches” (1924), and “Fairy-Kist” (1927), the children of the zodiac have become “middle-aged people,” as one of them says, older men who are not so much involved in intricate exploits and dangerous intrigue but in a quieter, but nonetheless heroic, way of thwarting the forces of fear, confusion, and despair, which threaten to debase and destroy the human spirit. Ritual is the sword used against these pernicious, hellish forces by the older heroes. It takes the form of Masonic ceremonies and practices related to or derived from them; what a character in “The Janeites” calls “this secret society business.” From his youth, Kipling was drawn to gatherings of men for purposes of dining and socializing. His predilection for privacy and his obsession with independence notwithstanding, he was a fairly avid clubman. Early in his career, he became associated with two prestigious clubs in London, the Savile and the Athenaeum, and he later enjoyed the fellowship and good conversation at the Beefsteak Club and at several others.1 When no club was available, he created one as he did in South Africa. The “Friendlies” dining club included men Kipling worked with on The Friend, an army newspaper devoted to furthering the British cause during the South African War. He not only organized the club but created an insignia for its few members and certain ceremonies for their gatherings.2 It was all an exercise in cleverness and good humor, but his desire for companionship with those whom he truly respected was real and deep, a desire that is widely manifested in his writings. Charles Carrington has shrewdly observed that “the strongest continuing motive in his work throughout

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his whole career was the sense of comradeship among men who share a common allegiance because committed to a common duty.”3 When it came to depicting in his works such groups in which “comradeship among men” is central, however, Kipling did not use as models clubs like the Athenaeum, the Savile, or the Beefsteak. “The Club,” to which he was elected in 1914 thanks to the sponsorship of his publisher, Sir Frederick Macmillan, and “The Goat,” a naval club of which he was designated an honorary member, brought him diversion and conviviality as he found himself among the prominent and the admired, but such clubs did not make their way into his work. Instead, he focused upon secret societies. He did so because as much as he enjoyed the clubs to which he belonged, they all fell short of his ideal of heroic fraternity, which is precisely what he projects in his numerous works dealing with secret societies such as Freemasonry (the most frequently encountered in his writings), Mithraism, and a number of those of his own invention, like the Janeites and the Eclectic but Comprehensive Fraternity for the Perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights.4 These are clubs not as they actually were but as he wished they could be. It should come as no surprise that he would make secrecy a fundamental aspect of his ideal club, for it was also a basic ingredient in his creed of heroism. Given his respect for self-discipline and for the denial of certain strong human urges (such as the urge to blab), it is natural that he would hold secrets and the ability to keep them in high regard. No doubt he would have agreed with Aristotle, who when asked what he considered the most difficult task in life is reported to have answered that it was “To be secret and silent.”5 Kipling’s penchant for secrecy, however, has alienated a good many people who consider it the parent of that “knowingness” in his fiction, which has in Lord Birkenhead’s words “produced such contemptuous irritation.” Lord Birkenhead, who himself finds Kipling’s repeated accounts of secret societies an “irritant,” points out that the author’s “passion for the closed circle of intimates” has “jarringly affected” numerous readers.6 For whatever reason, valid or otherwise, some intelligent people believe to the core of their beings that anyone who respects secrecy and practices it in whatever form is either diabolical or permanently infantile. Nothing offends them like an insistence upon secrecy or confidentiality, and that is perhaps a principal reason (along with objections to elitism) that a number of critics of high stature and reputation have attacked Kipling with rare and startling invective for his frequent depictions of secret societies. C. S. Lewis, for example, finds Kipling’s secret societies to be manifestations of some half-pathetic, half-disgusting craving to experience “the intimacy within a closed circle. . . . To belong, to be inside, to be in the know, to be snugly together against the outsiders—that

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is what really matters [to Kipling].”7 Lewis has various names besides “closed circle” (and “charmed circle”) for this select group, but most often he refers to it as the “Inner Ring” to which, he says, Kipling is a slave: “If you open him at random, the chances are you will find him enslaved to some Inner Ring.” Lewis argues that Kipling was preoccupied to a maddening extent with the “Inner Ring,” and thus “it is this ubiquitous presence of the Ring, this unwearied knowingness, that renders his work in the long run suffocating and unendurable.”8 Blisteringly, Lionel Trilling calls Kipling’s “yearning to be admitted to any professional arcanum” the “emotion of a boy.” “He lusts for the exclusive circle, for the sect with the password,” writes Trilling. “To this emotion, developed not much beyond a boy’s, Kipling was addicted all of his life, and eventually it made him silly and a bore.”9 There is no question that Kipling was greatly attracted to the idea of being part of a select group of heroic men who shared his own worldview and values, but commentaries like those of Lewis and Trilling reveal little understanding of how the secret societies in his stories actually function. Lewis and Trilling, as well as many other readers, have been put off by what they consider Kipling’s bizarre attraction to in-groups, secret ceremonies, passwords, and special knowledge, and their consequent remarks thus become dismissive in effect rather than analytical. They tell us that they personally are disgusted and bored with this aspect of Kipling’s writings, which they consider the result of a kind of sickness or immaturity in him, but they do not tell us of the complex role of these secret societies, which comes to light after close and analytical consideration of them where they occur in his fiction. Kipling’s depictions of secret societies are far more than manifestations of his own personal craving to belong, to possess roots, to be in the know with knowing people, to find permanence, to feel exclusive, or—as one critic has argued—to “be safe from the women who fascinated and frightened him.”10 In essence, they are expressions of what can be done to prevent the destruction of those who have been exposed suddenly and traumatically to the darkest but most fundamental of truths—that life is one of the hells. “In the Interests of the Brethren,” “The Janeites,” “A Madonna of the Trenches,” and “Fairy-Kist” all involve the same secret society— Freemasonry—(and the same Lodge); all include recurring characters; all deal with war, which metaphorically functions as a metaphor for hell’s agent; all depict the hero as an older man (“middle-aged people”); and all exemplify richly and from different angles the central idea that someone must unselfishly and heroically come to the aid of those who have seen first-hand the reality of hell and help them to rebuild that wall which shields and protects us all from staring ourselves blind at the sight of its

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unspeakable horrors. Rather than being manifestations of their author’s immature and aberrant yearning for insider status, these four stories reflect both Kipling’s compassion for those who through the revelations of war have found themselves alone in the city of dreadful night, a situation with which they cannot cope, and his admiration for older, milder heroes than those generally found in his earlier writings, who have lived for a long time with the reality that life is hellish, have learned to deal with that reality, and are now engaged in the secret service of saving those much younger who are in danger of destruction from that to which they have suddenly been exposed.11 Published shortly after the Armistice of November 1918, “In the Interests of the Brethren” is the first of a series of stories that deal with a particular Masonic Lodge, “Faith and Works 5837,” and its interaction with the crippled bodies and disturbed minds of young men returning from the Great War. The ostensible simplicity and directness of the work perhaps account for the fact that it has attracted few admirers (except for Masons) and relatively little critical attention. Exhibiting a subtle and skilful weaving of metaphorical patterns into the narrative, “In the Interests of the Brethren” is, contrary to a good deal of critical opinion, not only fiction but fiction of a high artistic order. It is not, however, as it is frequently perceived to be, an unreserved expression of Kipling’s esteem for Freemasonry, that is, Freemasonry as it was actually practiced. It is an imaginary account, rather than a realistic one, of a London Lodge of Instruction toward the end of World War I. A person could probably have searched endlessly and futilely at that time for such a lodge as Faith and Works 5837, which is the product of Kipling’s imagination filtered through his idealism. To be sure, “In the Interest of the Brethren” does extol what Kipling found invaluable in Freemasonry, but at the same time, it protests against certain of its rigid rules and views. The title, “In the Interest of the Brethren,” raises at least three fundamental questions. First, since Kipling placed the title in quotation marks, what or whom is he quoting? Second, who are the “Brethren”? And finally, what exactly is in their “interests”? In several of his works Kipling (relying on his memory) quoted lines from the various lectures and ceremonies of Freemasonry. For example, when in “In the Interests of the Brethren” a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who has lost one of his feet in the war, says, “Yes, ‘veiled in all’gory and illustrated in symbols,’ ”12 he is giving the very definition of Freemasonry as it was offered at that period in the “First Lecture” delivered after a candidate was initiated into the degree of Entered Apprentice. The lecturer would ask, “What is Freemasonry?” to which the prescribed answer was: “A peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.”13 In selecting a title for the story,

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Kipling probably had in mind another such line from the various ceremonies of Freemasonry. For instance, the “Charge” given to a Mason after having passed into the second degree (“The Fellow-Craft”) admonishes him to do his utmost to apprise the Brethren of “approaching danger” and “to view their interest as inseparable from your own.”14 Kipling’s use of Brethren has, as in Freemasonry, both broad and narrow applications. Abstractly, all men are brothers. Like every Entered Apprentice, Kipling no doubt heard in the “First Lecture” for this initial degree something to the effect that “although distinctions among men are highly necessary to preserve due subordination, and to reward merit and ability, yet there is no eminence of station [that] ought to cause us to forget that we are all brethren.”15 Over and over this concept was drilled into a candidate for the various degrees. In a lecture for the third degree (“Master Mason”), the lecturer states that “we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high, low, rich, and poor, all created by the same Almighty parent, and sent into the world for the mutual aid, support, and protection of each other.”16 This principle is, of course, the underpinning for Freemasonry’s claim to universal benevolence and service. The “natural equality and mutual dependence” of all beings on this earth should instruct the Mason to extend “relief and consolation to your fellow creatures.”17 This broad meaning of the “Brethren” or “Brotherhood” seems intended when the one-footed man in “In the Interests of the Brethren” refers to “the Fatherhood of God, an’ the Brotherhood of Man” (75).18 When a Mason uses the word Brethren, however, he may not have in mind the concept of universal brotherhood but a selective group of men, namely, fellow members of the Craft. This is a much more restrictive society, and the term Brotherhood changes accordingly, for, as Albert Pike stresses, “there can be no genuine Brotherhood without mutual regard, good opinion and esteem, mutual charity, and mutual allowance for faults and failings.”19 The ceremony of installation for a lodge master and officers as set out in The Text Book of Freemasonry (1874) calls on those about to assume the new duties to “promise to respect genuine and true Brethren, and discountenance imposters and all dissenters from the original plan of Freemasonry.”20 Thus “genuine and true Brethren” may be different people from just “Brethren” in general, who no doubt have among them “imposters” and “dissenters.” To such undesirables, Masonry is a closed and secret society which they may not enter.21 In “In the Interests of the Brethren,” the idea of the Brethren operates not just on two but on four different levels. The first two connotations of the term are those that are expressed in Freemasonry, that is, the general application of “Brethren” to all mankind and the more specific application

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to Masonic lodge members only. Kipling, however, has refined the term still further and made it even more exclusive, for to that wide circle of humanity where all men share certain common traits and face a common fate, and to that smaller circle of secret society brothers whose values and behavior are refined and codified, Kipling has added a still smaller secret society of Brethren—the noble “middle-aged people,” Burges, Keede, Lemmings and their associates—who are more dedicated to service, more heroically self-sacrificing, than members of the other two circles, and who act upon their own incentives whether they break the rules of Masonry or not. Finally, Kipling’s smallest circle of them all consists of a secret society of one, the narrator—Kipling himself. That he thought of himself as one in heroic service to his Brethren seems clear from his poem used as the “L’Envoi” to Life’s Handicap (1891), “My New-Cut Ashlar,” which centers on the Masonic symbol of the Ashlar stones, the one rough as it comes from the quarry (standing for humankind in a state of ignorance and superstition) and the other shaped and polished (standing for enlightened humankind). By writing, Kipling thinks of himself as a mason cutting and shaping stone for a structure that will somehow inspire “mankind [to] stand with God again.” The final stanza, in the form of a prayer, asks that he be able to retain his “vision” and concludes: “Help me to need no aid from men/ That I may help such men as need!” The poem furnishes convincing evidence that he thought of himself as having a special and unique role in unselfishly serving mankind by showing that it can “stand with God again!,” a line that echoes the theme of “The Children of the Zodiac.” By writing of Burges and his group, the narrator of “In the Interests of the Brethren” is doing what is in their interests, and they in turn are doing what is in the interests of those who visit their Lodge of Instruction. By extension, that which is in the interests of these visiting Brethren is in the interests of all the Brethren, all mankind. The concept of “the Brethren” is thus like a pattern of ever-widening concentric circles with the narrator at the center. Common to all four circles, that which is in the “interests” of all the Brethren, is ritual. “All Ritual is fortifying” (68), Brother Burges says with conviction to the narrator. Fortifying is a word that suggests the building or strengthening of a wall, a bulkhead, or—as in the instance of one of Kipling’s more urgent poems, a dyke. Such images often serve as powerful suggestions of that which humankind has erected between itself and a despair producing vista of meaninglessness. As J. M. S. Tompkins has perceptively observed, from Kipling’s point of view it is not good for one’s “health that the window on the abyss should open too often or too long.”22 In two of the stories from Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906), “On the Great Wall”

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and “The Winged Hats,” the noble young Romans, Parnesius and Pertinax, have the challenging responsibility of fortifying and maintaining the great wall in Britain’s far north against invading enemies. As members of the secret society of Mithraism, they are devoted to certain values and a code of behavior not appreciably different (at least in Kipling’s view) from Freemasonry, and the wall that they are determined to preserve is symbolic of the principles and rituals of their secret society, which stands between them and the threatening horrors beyond.23 Fortifying also applies to the nourishing of the body, however, and food is one of the predominant metaphors of “In the Interests of the Brethren.” The banquet is an essential part of the activity of the Lodge of Instruction for Faith and Works 5837, and even before that event takes place in the story, the narrator engages in conversation with Dr. Keede about how often food is offered to the visiting brothers, how many meals are served, who furnishes the various dishes, how much it all costs, who pays for it, and so forth. Kipling’s depiction of the banquet itself, the eating and conversation, makes up a sizeable portion of the narration. It is included as part of the numerous steps in the overall ceremony of a Lodge of Instruction, which is “mainly a parade-ground for Ritual” (73). Step by step, the narrator describes the formalistic proceedings of the evening: all those attending are “played in” two by two by organ music, various ceremonies of Freemasonry are rehearsed, Brother Burges delivers a lecture on symbols and diagrams, fraternal greetings are offered, dismissal from “work” takes place, they are “played and sung out to the quaint tune of ‘Entered Apprentices’ Song’ ” (81), the banquet takes place, and all depart. Thus the offering of food is simply another expression of the overall furnishing of nourishment through ritual. It serves to fortify the immune system of the vulnerable against the invasion of confusion, fear, and disillusionment. Though seemingly a minor bit of information offered for the purpose of establishing the background for the narrator’s acquaintance with Lewis Burges, the first paragraph of “In the Interests of the Brethren” is actually an integral part of this metaphorical pattern of the story that stresses the importance of proper “feeding,” that is, of fortifying “the Brethren” through ritual. “The colour is in the feeding,” Burges says to the narrator about canaries. “Unless you know how to feed ’em, it goes” (63). Knowing how to feed them—not just canaries, but the emotionally and physically maimed young men who come to Faith and Works 5837—knowing what to feed them in order to get their color to return to them, that is the heroic mission, the “hobby,” as the narrator wryly puts it, of Burges and his small group. The restorative power of ritual as it is represented in the ceremony of dining is the theme of “Banquet Night,” the poem that introduces “In the

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Interests of the Brethren” in Debits and Credits. Now and then, “Once in so often,” King Solomon, the father of Freemasonry, invites all fellow craftsmen to gather about his throne and eat as Brethren, all as equals, “no more and no less.” There for a time they are happy (“merry”) as they participate in the ritual of taking a meal together. The point of the poem is that periodically “the Brethren” need this experience, for it fortifies them against what they have to endure in their everyday experiences and perceptions; it enables them to forget for a time that life is one of the hells:
The Quarries are hotter than Hiram’s forge, No one is safe from the dog-whips’ reach. It’s mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge, And it’s always blowing off Joppa beach; But once in so often, the messenger brings Solomon’s mandate: “Forget these things! Brother to beggars and Fellow to Kings, Companion of Princes—forget these things! Fellow-Craftsman, forget these things!”

The first three lines of this final stanza of the poem suggest the hellish conditions of human existence: “No one is safe from the dog-whips’ reach,” and even if we could escape that pain and humiliation, storms of all sorts would still shake us continually. King Solomon built not only the Temple in Jerusalem but also a bulkhead of ritual for the Brethren in order to fortify them against the hellishness of life. His message to fellow craftsmen is to “forget those things” at least for a time, and he furnishes them with the means to do just that. Such, precisely, is the message—“forget these things”—inherent in the activities of Lewis Burges and his companions in service to those returning from the horrors of war, horrors that have left them in despair, and the method is essentially the same as that employed by King Solomon, feeding them, not just literally but figuratively as well, feeding them, fortifying them, with ritual. Burges’s devotion to ritual is not derived merely from his training in Freemasonry. Hints about his background in the story make it clear that he has found in ritual the means to “forget these things “ if only temporarily. Just what it is that he has to forget, what has caused his life to be swept by snow and blistering wind, what has constituted the dog-whips on his back, is the death of his only son, the boy with his name, Lewis Burges of “Burges and Son.” It is ritual that has enabled Brother Burges to cope with bereavement, his own private hell that has made his hair whiter and his eyes more sunken since the narrator first met him a few years earlier in a bird shop. He speaks little of his son, who was killed in Egypt during the war, just enough to make it plain that the boy was

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everything to him: “There’s not much left for middle-aged people just at present. Even one’s hobbies—We used to fish together. And the same with canaries! We used to breed ’em for colour—deep orange was our specialty. That’s why I spoke to you, if you remember; but I’ve sold all my birds” (64). He has sold all his birds, but he still “feeds” for color, another kind of feeding, the feeding of the multitude so to speak. He has given up one kind of angling for another kind—he has become a fisher of men. In certain respects (though certainly not allegorically), the characterization of Lewis Burges is suggestive of a kind of savior, as Kipling’s heroic figures frequently are. The story depicts a situation in which Burges’s relationship with Freemasonry is not unlike Jesus’s relationship with Judaism in his time. Jesus was a Jew and to a large extent believed in and wished to operate within the precepts of that faith, but he felt that Judaistic legalism worked against the betterment of humankind and thus found himself in the position of a rebel rabbi. Jesus’s conviction that Judaism could do a great deal more for the world if it could just see its chance and take it—that idea seems echoed in Lewis Burges’s impassioned statement toward the close of “In the Interests of the Brethren”: “Think of the possibilities of it! Think what could have been done by Masonry through Masonry for all the world. I hope I’m not censorious, but it sometimes crosses my mind that Grand Lodge may have thrown away its chance in the war almost as much as the Church has” (88). Like Jesus, Lewis Burges is not hesitant to break the rules of that tradition from which he emerges. He has profound respect for ritual. In fact, he boldly proclaims himself “a Ritualist” (70), and he reminds the narrator of that fact on several occasions. He is not, however, devoted to ritual for its own sake but for what it can do for those who practice it. Burges’s position on ritual, therefore, is identical with Jesus’s stand on the subject of the sabbath. Jesus explained to those who would condemn him for not following the letter of Judaistic law with regard to the sabbath, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Ritual was made for man, and not man for ritual, fervently believes Lewis Burges, and it is that conviction that has caused him to deviate from the strict regulations of the Grand Lodge in the running of his particular Lodge of Instruction. Indeed, nothing is more glaringly apparent in the story than the extent to which in its procedures Faith and Works 5837 defies the Grand Lodge of England. Just how significant such departures are is suggested by Albert G. Mackey’s statement about the supreme authority of the Grand Lodge:
So careful has the Institution [Freemasonry] been to preserve the dogmatic and autocratic power of the Grand Lodge, that all elected Masters are required, at the time of their installation, to make the following declaration: “You agree to hold in veneration the original rulers and patrons of the Order of

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Freemasonry, and their regular successors, supreme and subordinate, according to their stations; and to submit to the awards and resolutions of your brethren in Grand Lodge convened, in every case, consistent with the Constitution of the Order. You promise to pay homage to the Grand Master for the time being, and to his officers when duly installed, and strictly to conform to every edict of the Grand Lodge.”24

Without warrant from the authoritative Grand Lodge of England, which should approve all departures from the Masonic constitution, this particular Lodge of Instruction meets much more often than is allowed by the rules. During the meeting that Kipling describes, other such violations are apparent. At one point, Dr. Keede passes out cigarettes, “a shocking innovation” (76), as he himself admits. The Text Book of Freemasonry (London, 1874), a standard handbook of instruction of the time for the first three degrees, quotes from the ceremony of installation of the officers of the lodge: “It is not in the power of any man or body of men to make innovation in the body of Freemasonry.”25 Brothers Burges, Lemmings, Keede, and the others in charge of the ceremonies seem to have knowingly neglected also one of the essentials of Masonic lodge gatherings, prayer, an omission that the Grand Lodge would certainly look upon with serious disfavor.26 The attitude of the average Mason toward deviations from clearly prescribed regulations is reflected in the comment of one of the visiting participants, a Scot from a military lodge. He responds to an officer of engineers, who tells of how in Flanders he and some of his men extemporaneously created a lodge with its necessary trappings made from whatever they could find at hand. “Ye were absolutely irregular an’ unauthorised,” exclaims the outraged Scot. “Whaur was your Warrant? . . . Grand Lodge ought to take steps against—” (82). Precisely the same charge could be made against Burges, Lemming, Keede, and their small circle—that they are irregular and unauthorized in their running of this Lodge of Instruction—and the same question could be raised—where is their warrant? In fact, the narrator of the story, recognizing just how far Faith and Works 5837 has departed from the allowed path of Freemasonry, confronts Burges toward the end of the story. “I wonder,” he says, “what would happen if Grand Lodge knew about all this? . . . A Lodge of Instruction open three nights and two afternoons a week—and running a lodging-house as well. It’s all very nice, but it doesn’t strike me somehow as regulation” (87–88). The narrator’s final words of the story, an ending that has puzzled countless readers, suggests that after all the hospitality he has been shown and in spite of his claiming to be greatly impressed by what he has witnessed, he is nevertheless going to do what the Brothers are afraid that the clergyman of their lodge will eventually do, namely, “inform on us one of these days” (88) to

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the Grand Lodge. As he leaves, the narrator “was speculating how soon I could steal a march on the Clergyman and inform against ‘Faith and Works No. 5837 E. C.’ ” (88). “In the Interests of the Brethren” is not a story, however, about how one lodge has become woefully lax in following its warrant and the organization’s constitution. It is not Faith and Works 5837 that is taken to task but the Grand Lodge. The narrator actually has no intention of running to Masonry’s higher authorities with complaints about what he has witnessed. This is presumably the same narrator as that in the other Masonic stories, and as he makes clear in “Fairy-Kist,” he is a literary man, a writer on the lookout for new material. He is using the words “inform against” with conscious irony, for his intention is certainly not to tattle to the Grand Lodge about the shortcomings of Faith and Works 5837 (he would never do such a thing) but to write something to honor it, a tribute that is this very story entitled “In the Interests of the Brethren,” which is indeed a kind of expose, to be sure, but one of high praise rather than condemnation. The narrator’s—and Kipling’s—sympathy is entirely with those, like Brother Burges, who realize that “it’s the Spirit, not the Letter, that giveth life” (68). Kipling’s own unpleasant experience with some of the higher authorities of Freemasonry—their insistence upon following “the letter” rather than the “spirit”—serves as a background for the commentary in the story relating to the failures of Freemasonry to live up to its potential. In January of 1915, W. G. Robinson, District Secretary, City of London District Lodges, wrote to Kipling a strongly worded letter of censure for his having published the poem “Hymn Before Action” (1896) in which he prays not only to “Jehovah of the Thunders,/ Lord God of Battles” to come to Britain’s help in time of crisis but also asks the Virgin Mary to intercede on the nation’s behalf. It was the latter utterance that caused the problem. In the poem, explained Robinson, is a “verse, the teaching of which is entirely opposed to the word of God. Believing that the advocacy of the intercession of the Virgin Mary is an insult to Christ himself,—who is the ONLY mediator between God and man,—we feel it our duty to discourage in every way possible, the use of the Hymn in question.” In a “unanimous resolution,” they voted to notify Kipling, a fellow Mason, of their displeasure at the “usual Meeting of the City of London District Lodges,” and they did so in a letter of January 28, 1915. Accompanying this letter in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex is another to Kipling from “Reformation” Lodge No. 779 objecting to the same poem on the same basis—namely, that it was too “Romish.” For a man initiated as an Entered Apprentice into an Indian lodge in which religious diversity and tolerance were the rule rather than the

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exception, a man whose concept of Masonry was that of a fraternity of service, not a bastion of protestant Christianity, such reprimands must have been as disappointing as they were offensive because they stunningly revealed that Masonry as it was being practiced did not live up to his idea of what it was supposed to be.27 It was this poignant difference between what Freemasonry actually was and what it could (and should) be that clearly was on Kipling’s mind when he composed “In the Interests of the Brethren.” The conversation involving the narrator, Brother Burges, a visiting sergeant-major, Dr. Keede, and the clergyman almost didactically presents Kipling’s case for making what goes on in Masonry in the interests of the Brethren rather in the interests of the Grand Lodge. The narrator is not new to Masonry, as his comments about the furnishings of the lodge early in the story indicate. He is familiar with every aspect of Masonry proceedings, at least on the level of what is called the “Blue” or first three degrees. Therefore, his being amazed at what he witnesses at this particular meeting of Faith and Works 5837 strongly suggests how far this lodge has departed from the norm. “It was like a new world,” he remarks. In response, Burges says: “That’s what it is really.” Burges, Lemming, Dr. Keede, and the rest have made it a new world, not orthodox Masonry, but “what it might be made with a little trouble” (85). Not sharing this vision, the Clergyman indicates his desire that Freemasonry be merely an “aid” to religion, to which the impatient Dr. Keede replies, “Oh, Lord! Can’t we give Religion a rest for a bit” (85). Such was probably Kipling’s own thought when he read the sharply critical letter from W. G. Robinson expressing the view of the City of London District Lodges: “Can’t we give religion a rest?” It would certainly be in the interests of the Brethren, he felt, to do so. A consideration of what Kipling means by “ritual” is central to an understanding of both the story and his formula for the heroic life. Two comments by Lewis Burges offer important clues. When he is engaging in the seemingly trivial task of cleaning the narrator’s pipe, he bends over it and deals with it “skilfully as a surgeon” (64). At that precise moment, a soldier comes into the tobacco shop, speaks to Burges softly, receives an answer, and leaves. Thus Burges’s work as a restorer of pipes, which he takes seriously and engages in with high skill, is linked with his work as a restorer of human beings. They are not separate and distinct activities but are closely related manifestations of a single attitude toward life. What that attitude consists of is made clear in Burges’s remark to the narrator: “There’s a procedure, a ritual, in all things” (64–65). He means that he is “a Ritualist” not only in his love of the more commonly recognized forms of ritual, such as the ceremonies and rites practiced in Freemasonry, but also in a less obvious sense, namely, his conviction that the superimposing

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of a ritualistic attitude upon the common, everyday activities of one’s existence, such as the repairing of pipes, can act as a hypnotic antidote to loneliness and heartbreak. When he tells the narrator that “I like the ritual of handling things” (65), he is referring to a sense of fitness that he receives from his set and precise routine as a shopkeeper among items that connect him to his cultural and ancestral past. In the view of Lewis Holroyd Burges (and the author who created him), ritual is the enemy of despair, and there is “a ritual in all things.” A second and highly revealing comment that Burges makes about ritual posits that all human beings hunger for it. It is as important to them as is, say, food. As Burges puts it: “Ritual’s a natural necessity for mankind” (68). Deprived of it, we are easy victims of the Great Darkness. We yearn for it like starving people desperately crying out for nourishment. Only in this context does the motivation of all those young men who come to Faith and Works 5837 with such rare eagerness make convincing sense. If it seems that Kipling has somewhat exaggerated the appeal of Freemasonry to members of the armed services in hospital or home after being wounded or shell shocked, it is because he has used that fraternal secret society to represent the pull of ritual. The more discouragement, pain, and despair have taken over, that is, “the more things are upset,” as Burges says, the more need there is for restoration through ritual and “the more they fly to it” (68) like malnourished people hungering for a solid meal. The episode involving a young man who lurches into the midst of the dining Brethren with mud from Flanders still on his uniform encapsulates the story’s theme of hunger. He is empty and must be fed. “What will you have to eat?” asks the clergyman. His answer is “Anything. Everything” (83). The food that the clergyman obtains for him symbolizes another kind of nourishment, that which all those who come to the Lodge of Instruction hunger for—ritual, the “necessity,” Brother Burges claims, for all humankind. What has caused their famine is war, Kipling’s metaphor for all that opens a window on hell and by doing so brings on the confusion and despair that in the absence of ritual invade the mind as disease invades the body when proper nourishment is cut off. In Rudyard Kipling: Craftsman (1937), George MacMunn described “In the Interests of the Brethren” as “an inimitable story for the Freemason, but of little interest to the lay world.”28 The relative critical neglect of “In the Interests of the Brethren” by “the lay world” can perhaps be attributed, at least in part, to what appears to be Kipling’s overblown claim for the power of Freemasonry to make miserable people happy. Feeling pride in their secret society, some Masons may accept that claim as legitimate, but for most readers, it appears unrealistic. Is not Kipling demanding too much of our sense of credibility, for example, when he has a visiting

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brother who has recently been discharged from the military service weep from sheer happiness just because he is sitting in a Masonic Lodge of Instruction? An Australian signaller admonishes those who would silence the man: “Let him leak. . . . Can’t you see how happy the beggar is?” (72). The word happy reverberates through Kipling’s description of those attending the meeting. Another visitor comments with enthusiasm that the makeshift Masonic regalia that he and his fellows put together at the front “kept us happy for weeks” (82). Brother Burges, explains Dr. Keede, pointed out when they were organizing their Lodge of Instruction that what visiting brothers needed and desired more than anything else in the world was simply a place where they could “just sit and be happy as we are now. He was right too. We’re learning things in the war” (77). When Dr. Keede asks still another visitor if he liked the proceedings, the man replies: “Do I? It’s Heaven to me, sittin’ in Lodge again” (74). Statements like these appear to offer good evidence that “In the Interests of the Brethren” is principally a glorification of the secret society to which Kipling belonged. His real subject, however, his deeper concern, is not Freemasonry at all but ritual, and that which he attributes to what he conceives of as ritual is not a romanticized tribute but arguably a perceptive observation about human nature. As applied to the visitors, “happiness” is indirectly but carefully defined in the story. From the context, it is clear that it means “relief,” “refuge,” “escape” from suffering, though that deliverance may be short lived. Kipling achieves a startling double-pronged effect from attributing “happiness” to the visiting Brethren of Faith and Works 5837. First, his use of the term conveys a sense of just how desperate these tortured souls are for some sort of familiar order in their lives. That is, the fact that they can experience this state of mind merely from the effects of Masonic ceremonies with which they are acquainted strongly suggests just how terrible has been the ordeal that they have gone through. On the other hand, that it is ritual that brings on their “happiness,” even though short lived, underscores its unique power to combat frustration and despair. When the one-footed man exclaims, “Yes, ‘veiled in all’gory and illustrated in symbols’—the Fatherhood of God, an’ the Brotherhood of Man,” he adds, “an’ what more in Hell do you want?” (75). There seems little doubt that Kipling meant “in Hell” to be read as more than the cursing expletive of a relatively simple and uneducated man. In a sense, we are all “in Hell” but not without a forceful weapon—ritual. He who would lead the heroic life must, therefore, exhibit an awareness of the nature and power of traditional rituals and the importance of observing them, for the true hero is marked by a rare perceptivity of the hellish plight of humanity and an understanding of the noblest reaction

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to it. As he looked back in Something of Myself upon his days in India, Kipling reminisced about the temptation he experienced to be one of those who eschew ritual, in this instance the formality of dressing for dinner, especially when at home. Under the circumstances, the inclination was strong, but he realized that if one “broke the ritual of dressing for the last meal one was parting with a sheet-anchor.” In dire straits, a sheet-anchor (a second, reserve anchor) can prevent a ship from being swamped in chaotic seas. He therefore observed the ritual at that time and thereafter for the rest of his life, and he viewed with contempt those shallow souls who have no use for such rituals. In an acerbic aside, he commented: “(Young gentlemen of larger views to-day consider this ‘dress-for-dinner’ business as an affectation ranking with ‘the old school tie.’ I would give some months’ pay for the privilege of enlightening them.)”29 As applied to Lewis Burges, the term “Ritualist” means a good deal more than that he may habitually dress for dinner or observe other such formalities. He has obviously thought through the function of ritual, and he is drawn to Freemasonry principally because of its ritual content. He deeply believes in its efficacy as sheet-anchor. He has seen its saving effect on those storm-tossed youths who so desperately need an anchor. His characterization cuts close to the core of Kipling’s philosophy of heroism, for Lewis Burges not only observes rituals and understands their ultimate value with rare perception. He creates them. That is the final test of what makes a Ritualist. As Kipling conceived of it, a ritual is any repeated practice or activity that is indulged in with an attitude of respect or reverence for its significance. When Burges says that there is “a ritual” in “all things” (65) and goes on to offer, in a sense, an example—the “ritual of handling things” in his shop—he is exhibiting the ability through intellect, will, and the imagination to create ritual out of the ingredients of ordinary life. It is an act of the mind whereby order is superimposed upon disorder and is thus another manifestation of artistic creativity. Kipling was himself a Ritualist, and the most cherished of his rituals was writing. A brief admission in Something of Myself has surprised a good many readers who know that writing can be (and often is) a painful experience. Talented authors often speak not of the easiness and satisfaction of trying to give birth to words of greatness but of the agony. In describing how he felt while participating in the activity of writing, however, Kipling sounds much like one of the brothers visiting Faith and Works 5837 and taking part in ritual—filled with happiness just to be a part of it. “Mercifully, the mere act of writing was, and always has been,” writes Kipling, “a physical pleasure to me” (198).30 Kipling’s pleasure in writing probably derived from his having made of it a ritualistic experience, for as “In the Interests of the Brethren” makes clear, rituals have the power to

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evoke pleasure. He created a ritual out of creating art. In the final pages of Something of Myself, where he describes in detail all the items on and around his desk, his “working-tools,” as he called them, he is another version of Lewis Burges, the “Ritualist,” going over with the narrator in loving detail the cherished items that surround him in his shop and explaining that he likes “the ritual of handling things” (65). “In the Interests of the Brethren” is Kipling’s encomium to that which brought him a degree of happiness in a hellish world—ritual—and to his fellow “Ritualists” as exemplars of the heroic life. The keynote of Kipling’s next Masonic story, “The Janeites,” is actually sounded in “In the Interests of the Brethren,” which preceded the later story in print by six years. Dr. Keede asks the narrator if he has “noticed how the Lodge is kept—brass-work, jewels, furniture, and so on.” The narrator answers, “I have indeed. . . . You could eat your dinner off the floor” (79). This exchange ties the two stories together by linking a principal motif in each, that of feeding (or eating) in the one and that of polishing in the other. As if anticipating the main activity of the frame story in “The Janeites,” Kipling has Dr. Keede say in “In the Interests of the Brethren”:
Well, come here on a bye-day and you’ll often find half-a-dozen Brethren, with eight legs between ’em, polishing and ronuking and sweeping everything they can get at. I cured a shell-shocker this spring by giving him our jewels to look after. He pretty well polished the numbers off ’em, but—it kept him from fighting Huns in his sleep. (79)

These anticipated visitors mentioned by Keede in “In the Interests of Brethren” turn up in “The Janeites” on a Saturday afternoon to be put to work by Lewis Burges doing exactly what the doctor indicates as a cure, polishing. In “The Janeites” the narrator has pretty much the same conversation with Burges that he has in the previous story with Dr. Keede. “I’ve never seen spit-and-polish to touch this,” says the narrator, to which Burges replies: “Wait till you see the organ. . . . You could shave in it when they’re done.”31 Toward the end of the story, the narrator returns to the subject of the organ, which Humberstall has been polishing with pronounced diligence. Humberstall tries to see his reflection in it as if it were a mirror: “ ‘Almost,’ he said critically, holding his head to one side.” Anthony responds, “Not with an Army [razor]. You could with a Safety, though.” The narrator then recalls the earlier discussion of the organ: “Indeed, as Brother Burges had foretold, one might have shaved in it with comfort” (180). Like every detail in this remarkable story, which Charles Carrington has described as having been written with “as many skins as an onion,” the

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comments involving the organ are not extraneous but relate to an underlying theme, in this instance the curative powers of “polishing.”32 After polishing the organ with almost abnormal conscientiousness, Humberstall, the shell-shocked veteran who tells the story of the Janeites (the narrative within the frame narrative) is able to see himself, not clearly to be sure but “almost” clearly. His polishing has resulted in his coming close to seeing who he is, that is, to reclaiming his old identity that has all but been shattered by his horrific experience in the war. Although Humberstall was physically wounded in combat, the most severe and most lasting damage is psychological. Kipling shrewdly drives home this point through an ostensible digression, which is actually a poignantly relevant comment on what has happened to Humberstall (and many like him) in the war. As Humberstall tries to remember the names of officers in his artillery unit, Brother Anthony, who drives a taxi, “launched into a sprightly tale of his taxi’s collision with a Marble Arch refuge on a greasy day after a three-yard skid.” To the narrator’s question of “Much damage?” Kipling has Anthony respond in such a way as to make it clear that his words apply not only to the taxi but to the shell-shocked man who is before them:
“Oh no! Ev’ry bolt an’ screw an’ nut on the chassis strained; but nothing carried away, you understand me, an’ not a scratch on the body. You’d never ’ave guessed a thing wrong till you took ’er in hand. It was a wop too: ’ead-on—like this!” And he slapped his tactful little forehead to show what a knock it had been. (162–63)

When Dr. Keede remarks in “In the Interests of the Brethren” that he cured a shell-shocked man, or at least helped him to block out from his mind the terrors he has witnessed in war, by putting him to work polishing objects in the Masonic lodge, and when Lewis Burges takes every opportunity in “The Janeites” to keep the Brethren visiting his Lodge of Instruction occupied with polishing the floor and every object in sight, both men realize that they are doing a great deal more than merely keeping the minds of these tortured souls off what they have been through. Polishing in “The Janeites” is not just busy work contrived to blank out troubles. It is Kipling’s metaphor for ritualized work, that activity, repetitious and sometimes even menial, but performed with respect—perhaps even reverence—for its significance. If you think what you are doing is important, Kipling seems to be saying, and you do it with diligence and skill, you are defying the Great Darkness and ennobling yourself. If the Great Darkness has already engulfed you, some other heroic soul may help rescue you by reestablishing the function of ritualized work in your life. That precisely is Lewis Burges’s heroic role in “The Janeites.”

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Polishing—constant, concentrated polishing—is the backdrop for the story that Humberstall tells. Frequent interruptions in his narrative serve the function of showing that all the time he is speaking, he, those immediately around him (including the narrator), and others in the Lodge are polishing. The contrast of this somewhat mundane activity with the extraordinary story of the Janeites and their destruction results in an almost surrealistic effect, which in turn leads to the shock of recognition that Kipling is not merely contrasting what goes on in the frame and inner stories but linking them. That is, polishing—the act of making smooth and glossy—is what the characters of both narratives are about, the Janeites as well as the visiting Brethren of Faith and Works 5837. Polishing is the common denominator for the various conflicting areas of narrative that make for the story’s unusual impact, which is the result of three dramatic contrasts, the first of which is the sensed difference between what is going on in the outside world and what is taking place in this particular Lodge of Instruction. The second is the difference between what is happening in the Lodge and in the story Humberstall tells. The third is the striking difference between the violent, death-ridden world of the inside narrative and that of Jane Austen’s novels. These dramatic juxtapositions of unlikes create an effect of pronounced disharmony (reflecting perhaps the confusion and discordance that confront human beings) until it becomes clear that the members of the secret societies of the story—the Freemasons of the frame and the Janeites of Humberstall’s narrative as well as Jane Austen herself—all find a way to deal with the jarring chaos of life, namely the art of polishing, which is Kipling’s metaphor for willfully forcing smoothness and glow upon the rough and ugly through a process of ritual. Thus Lewis Burges’s insistence that everything in the Lodge be spic-and-span, his diligence in keeping all his visitors busy polishing, is not an oddity in his character but a manifestation of his self-conceived role as Ritualist. Kipling esteemed Jane Austen for the same reason that he admired Lewis Burges. She was not, in his mind, oblivious to the darker aspects of life and to the depravity of many human beings, for she evinced in her work a “keen scalpel” in dissecting humanity with a “delicate hand.” She refused, however, to be destroyed in spirit by what she knew to be true, and she created through the art of polishing a kind of life-illusion (to borrow—and somewhat alter the meaning of—a term from Ibsen) that helped her—and no doubt others—to cope with the Great Darkness. What Frank Churchill says to Emma Woodhouse in Emma, Kipling could have said to Jane Austen: “I shall sit by you. You are my best cure.”33The healing effect of Jane Austen’s novels has become a kind of phenomenon. When the author died, her sister, Cassandra, wrote: “She was the soother of every

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sorrow.”34 “No novels can touch Miss Austen’s,” according to J. I. M. Stewart, “when it comes to straight solace and refreshment. They must have been read and read again in convalescence more than any other books in English with the exception of those bundled together as the Holy Bible.”35 The role that Jane Austen’s novels played in Kipling’s life is similar to the part Walter Besant’s All in a Garden Fair had in bringing him out of his doldrums many years earlier when he was in India.36 Both furnished him with a way to escape. He tended to evaluate other writers not on the basis of literary merit—how accomplished they were as artists—but according to the degree that they lifted him or touched him emotionally. He was not interested in literary criticism, and he urged other authors, or would-be authors, not to be much concerned with it either, especially reviews. What was best in literature, as far as he was concerned, was that which was personally therapeutic for him. He recognized that Jane Austen was, indeed, a great writer of extraordinary talent, but the primary appeal of her novels to him was that they helped him get through some tough times, first in March 1915 when his son John had become a member of the armed forces to fight in World War I and then in January 1917 when the Kiplings were still mourning the loss of John in combat. In a letter dated April 10, 1915, to C. R. L. Fletcher, with whom he collaborated on A History of England (1911), Kipling wrote: “In my spare times at Bath I’ve been reading Jane Austen and the more I read the more I admire and respect and do reverence.”37 Reverence is a strong and unusual word for an author to use in describing his or her reaction to another writer, but Kipling did not choose his words casually. He was, after all, “by calling, a dealer in words.”38 Reverence, of course, carries a religious connotation, and that is precisely what he intended to convey, for he felt that Jane Austen had been a kind of savior to him, a role in which he places her in “The Janeites.” Humberstall comes “under instruction re Jane” (169) from Macklin, wording that suggests religious indoctrination before one is taken into a church. Macklin refers to the streets where Jane once trod when she resided in Bath as having “sacred pavin’-stones” (174). As Humberstall is receiving religious-like instruction in the church of Jane Austen, Macklin tells him that he is “bringin’ forth abundant fruit,” an echo of Romans 7: 4. Jane Austen’s role as the savior figure of a religion is manifested in several ways in “The Janeites.” Because of her influence, “all on account o’ Jane” (167), as Humberstall puts it, Macklin is not punished for his intoxication and for disrespecting his officers, for when they learn that he is a member of the secret society of Janeites, the major simply has him put to bed to sleep off his drunkenness. After being wounded, Humberstall is told that there is no room for him on the casualty train, but he is saved

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by a woman he describes as a type of Lady Catherine de Burgh from Pride and Prejudice. A staunch Janeite herself, she will not stand by and allow a fellow worshipper to perish for lack of care. She consequently sees to it that Humberstall gets on the train and is comfortable and looked after. In “Jane’s Marriage,” the poem that follows “The Janeites” in Debits and Credits, Kipling depicts Jane Austen as being the cause of Captain Wentworth’s rescue from “a private limbo” and his acceptance into heaven (to join her). Jane Austen is a savior in an even more significant sense in “The Janeites,” however, for her novels act as an antidote to the fear of death, the kind of fear that produces panic and paralysis of the will, that brand of fear that defeats all that is noble in the human spirit and leaves one a whimpering and disoriented victim who has surrendered in every sense of the word to the forces of fate, those houses of the zodiac that eventually annihilate us all. The context for the story that Humberstall tells is death. He explains to his listeners that all of the men in his artillery unit knew that death “might come any minute” (166). It is everywhere, and the young lieutenant called “Gander,” who by profession calculates actuarial tables, determines that none of them could “expect to av’rage more than six weeks’ longer apiece” (169). Seeing death all around them and knowing that they are themselves doomed, how can even brave men retain their composure and their fidelity to duty? The answer, of course, is by “polishing.” Jane Austen has set the example for them. In the little time that they have allotted to them, they survive—that is, they live with dignity and fortitude—by disciplining themselves to dwell on certain ritualized aspects of life, well defined and in a way simple, what Kipling calls in his poem “The Survival,” which introduces the story, the “mere flutes that breathe at eve.” Jane Austen’s characters and plots are for them the mere flutes, the seemingly little things of life that when concentrated on and cherished can at least temporarily blot out the Great Darkness, for they remain while all else disappears. “Caesars perished soon,/ And Rome Herself,” as “The Survival” indicates, “But these/ Endure while Empires fall.” Kipling knew, of course, that everyone who reads Jane Austen does not become a convert, does not “reverence” her. Mark Twain, he must have been aware, detested her work. Charlotte Brontë had heard her praised, and after reading Pride and Prejudice, she wrote to G. H. Lewes: “I got the book. And what did I find? An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully-fenced, highly-cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers. . . . I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.”39 Those daguerreotyped portraits and highly cultivated gardens had the opposite effect on

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Kipling, for he saw in Jane Austen’s novels three dimensional “real” people playing parts in an intentionally altered world, altered by “polishing,” by ritualizing. Among the great number of readers who do like—even adore—Jane Austen, only a few can be called Janeites. Implicit in Kipling’s story is the definition of a Janeite, who is not simply one who reads enthusiastically and is devoted to the novels of Jane Austen. To be a Janeite, one must perceive her in the same way as did Kipling; her works must serve for one the same serious and therapeutic function as they served in his life, and these two requirements presuppose aspects of worldview, character, and behavior that are traits of those who lead the heroic life, the select few. It is “a very select Society,” Macklin explains to Humberstall, and “you’ve got to be a Janeite in your ’eart” (188), which is to say that you must know that life is hell, that it will exterminate you and soon. You have to have your eyes open to the horror of human existence. Then periodically you must take your eyes off the horrors of life and follow the example of one like Jane Austen, who twisted the hellish fragments of chaos into an ordered construct through the process of ritualizing. That construct is but an illusion, but it is a saving one, the life-illusion. Such is the implication of Humberstall’s remark: “You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place” (188). Kipling’s heroes are always more or less “in a tight place.” What Jane Austen did for Kipling and what he has her do for the Janeites of the story is encapsulated in the metaphor of matchmaking. When a blushing Anthony hints to the narrator at the end of the story that he is about to marry Humberstall’s sister, the implication is that they have been brought together, in a sense, by Jane Austen. The sister has been trying to read Jane Austen’s novels to please her brother, and she and Anthony have had numerous conversations about him, about his account of the Janeites, and consequently, about Jane Austen. In answer to Anthony’s question “D’you ’appen to know anything about Jane?” the narrator responds, “I believe Jane was a bit of a match-maker in a quiet way when she was alive, and I know all her books are full of match-making” (189). Unless matchmaking is taken metaphorically, this ending of a story about how nearly an entire unit of artillery is wiped out during World War I appears to descend to triviality if not silliness and to pointless exaggeration. Literally, Jane Austen was not in her personal life noted as a matchmaker in a “quiet way” or otherwise. She did, indeed, try late in her life to match up her niece, Fanny Knight, with a young doctor, an effort that failed, but she certainly was not a habitual matchmaker.40 It is true that the heroine of Emma is a matchmaker par excellence until she sees the error of her ways,

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but it does not seem accurate to say, as does Kipling, that “all her books are full of match-making.” Where it does occur in her novels, it is the object of the author’s decided disapproval. Yet Jane Austen was, as the narrator of “The Janeites” claims, a matchmaker, and all of her novels are, indeed, full of matchmaking— metaphorically. Interpreted in this way, the mention of her as a matchmaker at the end of “The Janeites” is not inappropriate and inaccurate but fitting and suggestive. For Kipling, Jane Austen brings together the despairing mind, that of one in a “tight place,” and that which can make it “happy,” to use that term so prevalent in “In the Interests of the Brethren,” namely, a ritualized version of life (which is the world of her fiction). It is in this sense that she was a matchmaker, and it is in this sense that Lewis Burges and his noble companions of Faith and Works 5837 are all matchmakers: they find lonely souls trapped in the Great Darkness and unite them with curative ritual. Major Hammick, Captain Mosse, Lieutenant “Gander,” and Macklin of “The Janeites” are not destined to live long, but in the short time that they do have, Jane Austen has matched them with the order and brightness of her fictional world. The result of her matchmaking is a brief but happy union, the extraordinarily odd (and seemingly unlikely) state of happiness in hell. Only Humberstall of all the Janeites lives to describe it: “It was a ’appy little Group. I wouldn’t ’a changed with any other” (179). A bit later he reaffirms this feeling: “I was ’appier there than ever before or since” (180). One reason for their happiness, short lived though it turns out to be, is that the Janeites learn from their revered savior figure the art of defying repulsive reality, rebelling against it and what it tries to impose upon humankind, by polishing it up into an artifice of order, a sort of comedic play. Indeed, forming a secret society of Janeites and giving it all the trappings of Freemasonry are in themselves somewhat farcical acts, though reverence for the author is genuine. An air of theatricality pervades their conversations and actions. Humberstall remarks: “Just like actin’ in a theatre, it was! But ’appy. But ’appy!” (181). They defy fear and imminent death by “actin’ in a theatre” even as they are aware that they are in the grip of a merciless fate. Especially theatrical and comedic is the trial of Macklin and Humberstall. All is pretense. Major Hammick is a pretend judge in a pretend court-martial; Captain Mosse is a pretend military attorney defending the accused; Macklin and a bit later Humberstall are pretend defendants, accused of a pretend crime, namely, writing “obese” words on the artillery pieces of the unit. The charge is farcical because Humberstall does not chalk obscenities on the breeches of the guns but, of all things, the names of various characters, spelled comically because of his lack of education, from the novels of Jane Austen. Though ostensibly following

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established procedure, the trial is all a knowing sham, for no one is convicted, and the hearing ends with a convivial round of port wine. The attitudes of Major Hammick, Captain Mosse, and Lieutenant “Gander,” are not gleeful or flippant, however, for as Stalky reminds his companions in their rehearsal of Aladdin, pantomimic acting should be performed with high seriousness. What the Janeites are involved in is a disciplined— heroically disciplined—diversion, diversion from the terrible reality of their destiny. They create the diversion, a pantomime of sorts, because they are in “a tight place,” and they act out this comedic play as if it were real life, thus forcing real life for a moment to take on another shape—just as Jane Austen did. And that is why they call themselves “The Janeites.” That which he has his characters do, Kipling himself did in composing his works, that is, force real life sometimes to take on another shape, thus intentionally provoking us to question what kind of work he is creating. Though the details of “The Janeites”—specifics that have to do with such things as the objects in a Masonic Lodge and the artillery used in a war— appear to be accurate (Kipling dreaded being charged with inaccuracy in such matters), the plot of the story is more than likely part realism and part fantasy. One wonders if certain combatants at the front line in World War I did actually form a secret society of those among them who adored Jane Austen and did give it a complex structure similar to Freemasonry complete with signs, passwords, and degrees all derived from the study of her works or if not, if it is even plausible that such a thing could have happened. That Kipling realizes that he is raising such questions about his presentation of reality is suggested from his having Anthony ask: “But people don’t get so crazy-fond o’ books as all that, do they?” (189).41 If Kipling intentionally conveys the impression that he may have been dealing in fantasy in his creation of the secret society of the Janeites, fantasy that is really truer than reality and better because it teaches how to deal heroically with that reality, he also suggests that Jane Austen did likewise. Having Anthony ask Humberstall if Jane Austen were real furnishes the opportunity for Kipling to answer in three ways, playing on the concept of reality.42 “Oh!” exclaims Anthony, “Jane was real then? . . . I couldn’t quite make that out” (169). Humberstall answers with vehemence: “Real! . . . Jane? Why, she was a little old maid ’oo’d written ’alf a dozen books about a hundred years ago” (169–70). On the other hand, her writings—with which she is inextricably identified—were not real, that is, as Kipling saw raw reality. They do not deal with the hellish nature of life but depict a world populated with “girls o’ seventeen . . . not certain ’oom they’d like to marry,” a world of “dances an’ card-parties an’ picnics, and their young blokes goin’ off to London on ’orseback for ’air-cuts an’ shaves” (170). This is not the real world but a knowing fraud.

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Kipling seems convinced, however, that Jane Austen knew what she was doing: consciously creating a beneficent artifice, beneficent because it works like the songs of Leo to uplift, encourage, and ward off that which can debase and destroy the human spirit. Humberstall himself realizes that the world of Jane Austen’s novels is but a kind of artifice. “ ’Twasn’t as if there was anythin’ to ’em either,” explains Humberstall. “I know. I had to read ’em. They weren’t adventurous, nor smutty, nor what you’d call even interestin’. . . . What beat me was there was nothin’ to ’em nor in ’em. Nothin’ at all, believe me” (170, 172). The illusion of reality in them, which sustains and delivers one from the city of dreadful night, results principally from the universality of character types, people we readily recognize from our own experience. Though not intending to pay a compliment to Jane Austen for her superb characterizations, Humberstall does just that when he remarks to Anthony:
I mean that ’er characters was no use! They was only just like people you run across any day. One of ’em was a curate—the Reverend Collins—always on the make an’ lookin’ to marry money. Well, when I was a Boy Scout, ’im or ’is twin brother was our troop-leader. An’ there was an upstandin’ ’ard-mouthed Duchess or a Baronet’s wife that didn’t give a curse for any one ’oo wouldn’t do what she told ’em to; the Lady—Lady Catherine (I’ll get it in a minute) De Bugg. Before Ma bought the ’airdressin’ business in London I used to know of an ’olesale grocer’s wife near Leicester (I’m Leicestershire myself) that might ’ave been ’er duplicate. And—oh yes—there was a Miss Bates; just an old maid runnin’ about like a hen with ’er ’ead cut off, an’ her tongue loose at both ends. I’ve got an aunt like ’er. Good as gold—but, you know. (172–73)43

Though psychologically injured by his war experiences, which force him to stare into the hell that is life, Humberstall learns from his doomed Janeite brethren that there is an alternative world, that of these recognizable and predictable people that he speaks of, people engaged in activities marked by highly ritualized manners. Contemplating them acting in their comedy of manners diverts his vision from the formless confusion that has terrorized and shattered him and sustains him in a crucial period. In some ways the most complex and puzzling of Kipling’s Masonic stories is “A Madonna of the Trenches” (1924), which was published just three months after “The Janeites.” Charles Carrington indicates that “A Madonna of the Trenches” should be included among Kipling’s “ ‘difficult’ stories.”44 In relation to this particular work, what he means by “difficult,” I suspect, is confusing. The story takes new and unexpected turns throughout, and the resultant confusion appears to be intentional rather than the product of half-thought-out intentions.45 A case in point is

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Kipling’s handling of the love between Sergeant Godsoe and Bella Armine. He conveys on the one hand an impression that their love is unselfish, pure, and eternal. Indeed, that is precisely the way a good many critics interpret it.46 That Kipling has invited such a reading is evident from the story’s epigraph, a quotation from Swinburne’s poem “Les Noyades,” which Godsoe quotes to Strangwick (who believes it to be a “hymn,” a hymn to ideal love):
Whatever a man of the sons of men Shall say to his heart of the lords above, They have shown man, verily, once and again, Marvellous mercy and infinite love. . . . . . . O sweet one love, O my life’s delight, Dear, though the days have divided us, Lost beyond hope, taken far out of sight, Not twice in the world shall the Gods do thus.47

The excerpt from what is apparently an unfinished play of Kipling’s entitled Gow’s Watch, which follows “A Madonna of the Trenches” in Debits and Credits, lends further credence to the notion that he intends to depict in the story itself a love of such purity and depth that it can survive death. Events in Gow’s Watch, Act V, Scene 3, appear to parallel closely the subplot in the story involving Godsoe and Bella. Gow, a seasoned veteran of wars, like Godsoe, learns through a message written in the hand of Frances, that she will soon be dead of an illness and that she will meet him shortly thereafter, a message delivered by a close friend. The Lady Frances and Gow have kept their longtime love for each other secret while the warrior courageously supports and protects the Princess of the Kingdom, who is next in line to the throne. After receiving the message, Gow witnesses the ghost of Frances, speaks tenderly to her of his love, and commits suicide in order to join her. The close friend explains to the Princess, who believed Gow had done so much for her because he loved her, that the noble soldier had simply been following Frances’s wishes. Disillusioned by this news, the Princess refuses to marry the young Prince of Bargi because she, like Strangwick, has witnessed true love. “God and my Misery!” she exclaims, “I have seen Love at last. What shall content me after?”48 Despite such evidence that the quotation from Swinburne and the excerpt from Gow’s Watch may seem to offer, that is, evidence that Kipling means to portray an idealized and romanticized love between Bella and Godsoe, he undercuts that assumption with definite signs that this relationship, unlike the one depicted in Gow’s Watch, has a dark side to it.49

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Not only does he make it morally questionable (certainly from Strangwick’s point of view) since both Godsoe and Bella are married, but he indicates plainly that a primary ingredient in their attraction to each other is raw lust. What they want is to “carry on,” Strangwick says. In evident distress, he tells Dr. Keede and the narrator: “An’ ’e was lookin’ at ’er as though he could ’ave et ’er, an’ she was lookin’ at ’im the same way, out of ’er eyes.”50 In fact, they seem ready to satisfy their lust even before Godsoe commits suicide. He “made a snatch to unsling ’is rifle,” Strangwick remembers, “then ’e cut ’is hand away saying: ‘No! Don’t tempt me, Bella. We’ve all Eternity ahead of us’ ” (279). What Godsoe seems to mean is that after he kills himself, they can indulge themselves sexually forever. Sandra Kemp posits that their desire to have perpetual intercourse is not a drawback in considering their relationship “a vision of perfect love” but an attribute of it.51 It seems more likely, however, that Kipling made lust a primary motive not to make their love for each other come across as more nearly perfect but to qualify what may at first appear a beautiful and pure love and thus to confuse matters considerably as to authorial intention. On the other hand, Kipling may seem to be making a case not for ideal love in any form but for free love, the kind of relationship with women that Strangwick at one point appears to have come to believe in. If one considers the poem “Gipsy-vans,” that introduces “A Madonna of the Trenches” in Debits and Credits, as thematically related to the story, as are so many of such poems in Kipling’s works where they appear, then that interpretation seems reasonable, for what else is the poem about but approval of letting oneself go expressed in sarcastic criticism of strict moralistic behavior? The poem consists of four stanzas, each with two parts, the first of eight lines and the second (which is in italics) of four. The octaves of the first three stanzas posit a code of behavior marked by tight control of one’s emotions and actions. The quatrains of these stanzas ostensibly follow the same argument, but they drip with sarcasm, offering a counterbalance to the sincerely delivered argument of the octaves. The fourth stanza appears to break the pattern, for the last two lines of the octave seem to belong with the final quatrain:
And when you have finished, your God and your wife And the Gipsies’ll laugh at you! Then you can rot in your burying-place As the gipsy-vans come through . . . For it isn’t reason the Gorgio race Should die as the Romany do.

What the poem appears to be saying is that the gipsies have it right. If you try to live an existence of self-denial, you miss what life has to offer without

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the possibility for reward hereafter. When your life is over and you are rotting in the grave, your “God and your wife/ And the Gipsies’ll laugh at you!” On the other hand, Kipling seems to undermine this reading of the poem by creating the possibility that the poem has not one but two speakers, the first possibly representing his own view and the second the Gipsy way, the one stressing the need to remain connected to your own world, your own culture, and the everyday things of that world, the other temptingly offering a corrupt alternative. In this reading, the fact that your God and your wife and the Gipsies will laugh at you does not reflect negatively upon you but upon them. Thus by affixing “Gipsy-Vans” to “A Madonna of the Trenches,” Kipling did not so much provide a clear pathway into the work that follows as offer an introduction to the confusion that marks much of the story itself. Religious allusions, beginning with the story’s title, point to the likely conclusion that Kipling means to make some kind of statement about life after death.52 Sharing center stage with the quotation from Swinburne is a Biblical passage, I Corinthians 15:32: “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?”53 Godsoe quotes this verse to Strangwick, who later recites a version of it to Dr. Keede and the narrator. Bella Armine’s appearance after her death thus seems to point to a connection with the Biblical passage as if furnishing proof of the Christian concept of bodily resurrection.54 Confusion erupts, however, when we realize that there really is no connection between the Christian concept of life after death as represented in the quotation from I Corinthians—though Kipling has made a big point of that in the story—and the ghostly appearance of Bella Armine. Her rising after death is certainly not what St. Paul was referring to in the passage Godsoe quotes. Evidently, Godsoe and Bella are believers in the Spiritualist concept of life after death on earth—as ghosts. They go so far as to make definite plans for her to let him know when she foresees her death so that he can make arrangements to take his own life and thus be with her—not in heaven but here on earth as wraiths. None of this is in accord with the Christian idea of eternal life. In fact, it is in profound opposition to it. What Strangwick witnesses may seem at first to connect with the passage from I Corinthians, but Kipling actually describes it as a paranormal phenomenon with earthy overtones rather than as a manifestation of Christian resurrection. To confuse matters even further, Kipling includes a detail that calls into question not only the relevance of the religious context that he has created for Bella’s reappearance after death but also the assumption that she actually survives death. Strangwick mentions the Angels of Mons and reminds Dr. Keede that he lectured the men at one time on that phenomenon in an effort to caution them against accepting as reality hallucinations that they

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experience in battle.55 Are we, then, to assume that Strangwick and Godsoe are hallucinating when they think they see the dead Bella Armine? J. M. S. Tompkins comments that the story loses meaning and cogency if we make that assumption: “Indeed, if it is assumed that Strangwick’s vision of the dead woman in the trenches is a hallucination, it is difficult to see what coherent story is left at all.”56 Undoubtedly, Tompkins is correct that “A Madonna of the Trenches” makes more sense if one accepts what Strangwick and Sergeant Godsoe witness as a paranormal experience rather than as a hallucination. Kipling had many years earlier made just such a supernatural event the heart of his story “By Word of Mouth” (1887) and stressed the inexplicable nature of it.57 He was probably doing the same thing in “A Madonna of the Trenches.” Harry Ricketts feels that the later story is based on “the same revenant motif he had employed nearly forty years before in ‘By Word of Mouth.’ ”58 Why, then, did Kipling make such a point of alluding to one of the best known occurrences of collective hallucination in English history and have Strangwick make it clear that Dr. Keede had previously delivered a lecture on the subject? More than likely he did not allude to the Angels of Mons and to Dr. Keede’s lecture on hallucinations to indicate that Strangwick and Godsoe were hallucinating (although several critics have made that argument59) but simply to plant the question and by doing so to create a bit more uncertainty. Attempts to determine what Kipling means to be the role of Strangwick’s fiancée and the young man’s reasons for not marrying her lead to still further confusion. Uncle Armine deems “the young lady in every way suitable,” one who would made Strangwick “a good little wife” (283). She and Strangwick have “got as far as pricin’ things in the windows together” (271). They have made plans, and she has waited for him while he was in the service. Yet this mild, loving, and faithful young woman turns out to be vengeful enough to bring a breach-of-promise suit against an obviously deeply disturbed man, maimed by his war experience in serving his country, the act not just of a brokenhearted woman but a selfish and hateful one as well. If confusion marks Kipling’s delineation of Strangwick’s fiancée, it intensifies when we try to determine what Kipling is saying about Strangwick and women in general. On the one hand, Kipling presents him as having acquired from his witnessing the scene between Godsoe and Bella’s ghost a highly idealized concept of women and marriage. He will not marry his fiancée, says Uncle Armine, because “she ain’t his ideel” (283). He will search until he finds this ideal. On the other hand, the experience seems to have inspired him to become a libertine who holds women in the lowest regard and who intends to use them in the future strictly for his sexual satisfaction and then to cast them aside. “I’ll ’ave ’em when I want ’em,” he

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declares, “an’ be done with ’em” (282). But the reason that he has decided to live such a sexually dissolute life is most confusing of all. He thinks that he has seen true and lasting love, “the reel thing” (282). The situation seems to frustrate logic: believing that what he has been witness to is a manifestation of the purest and most wonderful form of love, Strangwick then makes the decision to become a sexual predator. If the gentle reader finishes “A Madonna of the Trenches” with a degree of puzzlement in regard to these matters, that is precisely what Kipling wished. This unusual, if not unique, way of writing is not what critics usually mean by “ambiguity,” though the two are closely related. Ambiguity, when consciously and artistically employed, offers alternative explanations— any of which can fit the context of the work—with the aim of stressing the complexity of reality. Rather than contradicting each other, such alternative explanations usually dovetail and thus enrich the work of art by offering several related levels of interpretation. Kipling’s technique in “A Madonna of the Trenches,” however, does not create interrelated alternative themes but several contradictory ones without resolution. “A Madonna of the Trenches” is not like a single onion with many skins (as are numerous other works of Kipling), for here his aim is not to impart the impression of coherent complexity but of irresolvable confusion. To make sense of “A Madonna of the Trenches,” one must first ask, “Whom is the story about?” Sergeant Godsoe and Bella Armine are important characters, but clearly they are not the main ones. The story is principally about Clem Strangwick, who is going through a living hell, and Dr. Keede, who attempts to help him. The relationship between Godsoe and Bella is significant in great measure because of its effect on Strangwick. It is doubtful that Kipling meant to make a statement about the enduring quality of true love.60 What he has presented in “A Madonna of the Trenches” is the detailed and horrific anatomy of a hellish state of mind and the efforts on the part of a middle-aged and slightly pudgy hero to rescue that mind from the Great Darkness, the chaos, into which it has fallen. Strangwick’s mental plight and Dr. Keede’s cure—these are the matters on which Kipling’s spotlight focuses. His technique of confusion forces his reading audience to sense poignantly just how unhinged is his main character, whose mind has been thrown into a chaotic state by what he has gone through. Thus intentionally created confusion in the narrative is a metaphor for the hell that Clem Stangwick experiences. To be mixed up at times about what is going on in the story is to feel to some degree what Strangwick is feeling. Strangwick’s living hell is remarkable for the number and variety of its instruments of torment, all of which lead to one grand hellishness: agonizing mental confusion. He is, as he himself puts it, “mixed up.” “What a

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bloody mix-up things are, when one’s as young as me!” (269), he wails to Dr. Keede. He no longer knows what to believe. He feels victimized and totally helpless. “ ’Tisn’t fair of ’em,” he complains, “to ’ave unloaded it all on me, because—because—if the dead do rise, why, what in ’ell becomes of me an’ all I’ve believed all me life? I want to know that!” (271). His remarks could be interpreted as those of an atheist whose belief that death is final is suddenly challenged by a revelation of resurrection, but Strangwick is not an atheist. He has been reared in a Christian cultural context and has been indoctrinated with that religion. What is bringing on his debilitating confusion in seeing Bella’s ghost is his awareness that the specter does not represent a form of afterlife that he has been taught to accept—it is not Christian afterlife. Therefore, his very roots of culture and religion have been torn away, and he is in hell wondering what in hell is to become of him. Operating on Strangwick and forcing his descent into the pit of chaos, however, is far more than a serious questioning of his Christian beliefs. One can imagine that Kipling may have started work on this story by thinking up as many calamitous events as he could that would cause a simple young man to become so “mixed up” as to exemplify an extreme case of traumatic neurosis or what Dr. Keede refers to as simply “hysteria.”61 What Kipling came up with was a list of horrifying experiences, which happening at the same time would be enough to unhinge any young man. In addition to feeling his religious and cultural supports suddenly give way under him, Strangwick has to go through the hell of other horrors: (1) He witnesses not only wholesale human slaughter but also the use of corpses in ways wholly foreign to all civilized concepts of the dignity of the dead. Dr. Keede shrewdly perceives that Strangwick’s experience with death is not “his real trouble,” that is, not the primary cause of what is “really helling him” (262), but the story makes plain that such experience has nevertheless been partly responsible for his trauma. Indeed, so vivid and terrible is his account of the corpses in the trenches and the noises they make when stepped on that it is difficult to imagine that these nightmarish images have had no effect on his mental state. The mere creaking of a chair makes him recall with horror—there is no indication that he is faking— the sound of corpses being trod upon. (2) He sees a ghost, and he is aware that another person also sees it. In addition, he perceives it so vividly that nothing can explain it away. The profound effect of what he sees is suggested by his having become preoccupied with eyes, with the act of perceiving, and with the use of forms of the verb to see. “For I saw ’er,” he cries out to Dr. Keede. “I saw ’im an’ ’er— she dead since mornin’ time, an’ he killin’ ’imself before my livin’ eyes so’s to carry on with ’er for all Eternity” (281). He is haunted by “that look,” which he witnesses in the eyes of Godsoe and Bella. He constantly talks

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about his seeing this or that, and he repeatedly uses the phrase “d’you see” in his explanations to Dr. Keede.62 (3) He experiences the inexpressible shock of a loved one’s suicide. Godsoe is not Strangwick’s uncle, but he might as well be. For those left behind, the suicide of a person who is deeply cherished is both agonizing and perplexing. (4) He is carried to the depths of despair when he discovers with surprise and disgust—a totally unprepared for revelation—that a close relative—indeed, a mother figure—and a man who has been like an uncle—indeed, a father figure—have for some time been craving each other sexually. Strangwick’s moral outrage is almost as great as his sense that this relationship disorders his universe. A man of the age of Godsoe and a woman of Bella’s age should not be carrying on this way. Clem considers it not only immoral (since they are both married) and out of the ordinary if not abnormal (since they are older people) but also totally baffling. Nothing seems to him now to have order or purpose. Kipling communicates metaphorically the collective effect of these separate but simultaneously occurring traumatic experiences on Strangwick through a pattern of references to hands. As he speaks with Dr. Keede and the narrator, he is constantly “fidgeting” with his hands. In their indecisive and confused movements, they serve as an objectification of his mental state—at one point, he holds “his head between his hands” (268). His desperation is manifested in the “wringing” of his hands, which is accompanied by his “crowing hysterically” (261). His own estimate of his deplorable situation is poignantly revealed in images of hands no longer able to find anything to grasp that will save him from a precipitous fall into the pit of chaos. “I hadn’t anything to hold on to,” he complains (280), trying to make his extreme plight clear. A bit later, he uses the same imagery even more forcefully: “ ‘yes! You see’—he half lifted himself off the sofa—‘there wasn’t a single gor-dam thing left abidin’ for me to take hold of, here or hereafter’ ” (281). Such is the living hell of Clem Strangwick, who is forced by the traumatic events that overtake him to do what the speaker in “Gipsy-Vans” cautions that one (who is not a gypsy) must not do: “But never let loose your heart from your hand” (257). Accompanying the references to Strangwick’s hands is a pattern of allusions to Dr. Keede’s hands, which constitutes a highly significant metaphor for his role as a kind of savior figure, one who offers a rescuing hand to him who can find nothing else to hold on to, who in desperate unrest and confusion is about to be swallowed up by the Great Darkness. In contrast to Strangwick’s hands, those of the doctor are calm and sure, moving with warm reassurance and compassionate certainty. Heroically, he stands “ready to deal with hysteria before it got out of hand” (259). Strangwick reminds

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him, Dr. Keede tells the narrator, that “I had him under my hands at Sampoux in ’Eighteen, when he went to bits. He was a Runner” (260). Literally, Strangwick is a runner in the sense of a soldier carrying messages and orders to various parts of the front from headquarters, but he is also another sort of runner, that is, a restless soul in desperate need of rest. Everywhere in the story, his restlessness is stressed. He has the “Jumps to the limit,” Dr. Keede tells the narrator (260). Both his appearance—his eyes are “red-rimmed”—and his behavior—he retches “impotently”—suggest a state of “nerves.” He can neither sleep nor sit still. His horrible laugh, his “sobs and hiccoughs”—all depict a person in a state the very opposite of rest. Dr. Keede’s first action after Strangwick’s outburst in the Lodge is to take him to a quiet room and to hold “the patient’s hands in his own” as they sit down together (262). Dr. Keede’s taking of his hands into his own thus suggest that the boy is finding in the older man not only something to hold on to but also someone who will provide him with a degree of rest that he has not experienced since the onset of his trauma. Kipling mentions twice Keede’s taking of Strangwick’s desperate and fidgeting hands into his own, as the doctor’s first act in beginning his conversation with the young man and as he leads him toward the end of the story to a sofa to sleep and find peace (282).63 Dr. Keede’s hands represent to Strangwick communion as well as rescue. When Keede discovers that the person who has accompanied Strangwick to the Lodge is his uncle by marriage, he remarks, “That’s all that’s wanted!” (284). On realizing that his words puzzle Brother Armine, the doctor explains that what he means is that Clem wants only quiet and rest. His words actually point in another direction, however, since they are spoken in sudden and direct response to Brother Armine’s identifying himself as Clem’s uncle, Bella’s husband. “That’s all that’s wanted!” is Dr. Keede’s way of saying that he now understands Strangwick’s plight completely. The final piece of the puzzle—all that was wanted—has been put into place by his learning who this man before him is, for that revelation throws clearly into perspective the intensity of Strangwick’s terrible sense of isolation, of his being totally alone in his private hell. When Brother Armine identifies himself, Dr. Keede realizes with a rush of compassion that Clem has had no one to talk to, no place to go to unburden himself. Because of the nature of the relationship between his aunt and a best friend of the family, he could talk to no one lest gossip and scandal erupt. He could only remain silent while the smoldering fires of his terrible experiences burn within him. The hands of communion, Dr. Keede’s hands, reach out to him and softly communicate to him that he no longer has to bear the terrible load of his experiences alone. A confessorsavior has taken him in hand and will help restore order in his life.

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The contrast of the order and rest that Dr. Keede offers and the disorder and unrest that torment Strangwick constitutes the dramatic tension on which the story is constructed. Its larger frame is that of the Christian savior, calm and compassionate and understanding, who says to the weary and disconsolate: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Rest, such rest, is what Strangwick above all else needs and craves, and it is the best gift that Dr. Keede can give him at this early stage of his recovery. Perhaps because he was himself an insomniac and because he was often in pain physically or mentally or both, Kipling greatly valued rest and sleep. Indeed, they were gifts he constantly yearned for but seldom received. These blessed states were on his mind a great deal, and he wished for them not only for himself but also for his loved ones. In that same memorable conversation of 1918 in which he told Rider Haggard that he was certain that “this world was one of the hells,” he commented that “he was never happier than when he knew that as a child his boy was asleep in the next room.” Haggard relates that as he probed further, he found that what Kipling really wanted was “only to rest.”64 Although Dr. Keede functions in “A Madonna of the Trenches” as a kind of savior figure, the “living water” that he gives Strangwick is not precisely what Christ furnished, but it serves a similar function. The doctor first gives Strangwick “sal volatile and water” mixed in a graduated glass (261), but finding that inadequate, he soon changes to a drug, which after an odd pause, he refers to in his explanation as “paregoric” (263). Whether what Dr. Keede gives Clem is literally paregoric or not, its effects parallel the derivation of the word, which means “to talk over, to console, to lessen pain.” “Whatever drug it was,” comments the narrator, it does its job and takes “hold” (264), a word that serves as a reminder that up to this meeting with Dr. Keede, Strangwick had nothing to “hold on to.” The drug that Keede gives Strangwick, which enables him to open up to the doctor and the narrator and cathartically to get off his chest all that has confused and tortured him and then at last to find rest in blessed sleep—this drug, “whatever drug it was”—is a central symbol in the story. It stands for what the Senior Warden of this secret society has to offer those who are weary and heavy laden—the “Runners”—who have become horribly confused, who are alienated from their surroundings and feel strangely apart from all that is going on around them (hence the name Kipling chose— Strangwick), and who come in desperate need of order and rest. It is the drug that keeps one “quiet till he wakes,” which are the final words of “A Madonna of the Trenches” (284). Dr. Keede is instructing Brother Armine to sit by the boy’s side and let him rest until he wakes, but the words imply far more. C. A. Bodelsen argues that the “hidden meaning in the last line of the story [is]. . . that Strangwick must put up with life until ‘the real thing begins at

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death.’ ”65 A more plausible explanation of these last words of the story, however, is that Kipling is referring not to waking up to death but to life, this life, to which Strangwick has been dead while in his private hell. He must first find quiet and rest, and then his human spirit will be revived and he can function without being hopelessly crippled by the specter of chaos. His is the true resurrection of the story—from hell into life. While Dr. Keede is trying to reestablish order in Strangwick’s tumultuous life in the small Tyler’s Room by performing a sort of exorcism, the Brothers in the main hall are listening to a lecture, a rather dull one to be sure, but nevertheless a part of the ritualistic program in a Masonic Lodge of Instruction. The lecture is on the “Orientation of King Solomon’s Temple.” Its significance in the story is that it stresses an essential element that is glaringly lacking in Strangwick’s life since he returned from the army, something that he needs, which Freemasonry can help to supply— order. In Masonic tradition, Solomon’s temple is the exemplar of order. Its very arrangement, as Albert Pike explained, was based on the order of the universe: “Clemens informs us that the Temple contained many emblems of the Seasons, the Sun, the Moon, the planets, the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, the zodiac, the elements, and the other parts of the world.” The “orientation” of the Temple was that of the “most regular order.”66 Order lies at the heart of the teaching of Freemasonry (which, indeed, calls itself an “order”). The “object of Masonry,” as Albert G. Mackey writes, is indicated in the often used motto lux e tenebris, “light out of darkness,” which is closely related to another of its mottoes, ordo ab Chao, “order out of Chaos.”67 In illustrating the essence of order, nothing is more important to Freemasonry than the Temple of Solomon. Although Masons no longer believe as they once did that their secret society was established at the time of the building of Solomon’s Temple, their symbolism is in large measure associated with the Temple. “Now almost all the symbolism of Freemasonry rests upon or is derived from the ‘House of the Lord’ at Jerusalem,” writes Albert G. Mackey. “So closely are the two connected, that to attempt to separate the one from the other would be fatal to the further existence of Masonry.”68 Thus what Strangwick is listening to when he cries out, “I can’t stand this any longer” (261) is a lecture embodying matters so fundamental to Freemasonry—its basis in order and its practice in symbolism and ritual—that his running away from it constitutes a rejection of the Craft itself. Keede’s mission, as he sees it, is to bring him into the fold. A “new-made Brother” (260), Strangwick is not ready yet for what Freemasonry has to offer. He is still a “Runner,” and before he can sit serenely among his Brothers and take part in the calming and communing rituals, he must be given rest. He must stop running and “face Bogey,” as Dr. Keede tells him, “instead of giving him

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best every time” (263). Thus the first step in Dr. Keede’s cure follows not only sound psychiatric practice but also the Kipling creed, one of the main precepts of which is to recognize and then to confront squarely and defiantly the ogres of your existence. Keede’s long-term cure for Strangwick involves the secret service that he and his fellow Masons can perform, namely their reconnecting him with his surroundings through the ordering and reassuring practice of ritual. When he is able to sit quietly in the Lodge Hall and listen to a lecture on the “Orientation of King Solomon’s Temple,” he will be no longer be paralyzed by confusion and fear. A tender moment occurs near the end of “A Madonna of the Trenches” when Dr. Keede takes “some flamboyant robe from a press” and draws it “neatly” over the now peacefully sleeping Strangwick (282). The moment is as intriguing as it is moving, however, for as Kipling very well knew, Masons do not wear robes (except in a few of the higher degrees with which he was not really familiar). In all of Blue Masonry, aprons, not robes, are worn. What, then, is a flamboyant robe doing in the closet of this particular lodge? Keede’s action is obviously of significance as is the object with which he covers Clem. The comment that he makes as he throws the robe over Strangwick deepens the suggestiveness of both act and symbol: “That’s the real thing at last” (282). His remark recalls Strangwick’s insistence that what he witnessed between Godsoe and the ghost of Bella Armine was the “reel thing,” and it points in two directions: to sleep as that which Strangwick desperately needs—the real thing—and to the garment with which he is covering the youth. It, too, is the real thing. Just what Kipling meant this strange garment to signify can perhaps be best understood in the context of the man who finds it and uses it. In helping to restore Clem Strangwick to life, Keede is acting not only as a physician and as the Senior Warden of Faith and Works 5837 E.C. but also (and most notably) as a representative of that small group of secret servers within Freemasonry, those seen in all four of these stories as making up a secret society within a secret society, namely those who are consciously and unswervingly dedicated to the heroic life as Kipling defined it. Keede’s worldview is that of all of Kipling’s heroes, and his code of behavior is clearly reflective of the Kipling creed. Kipling’s characterization of Keede suggests that the doctor probably did not become a Mason because he wanted to be initiated into secrets that he wished to know but because he realized that Freemasonry (at least in its ideal form) was based on certain secrets that he already knew, among which was the truth that ritual furnishes rest for the spirit and is a stay against confusion. The robe, however, is the emblem of something even more “real,” that is, more permanent and basic, than Freemasonry, the symbolic apron of which would not be quite adequate to cover Strangwick. It takes something larger and with even more

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substance, something found not in the main lodge hall and not even in the small Tyler’s Room but in a closet within that room. The robe taken from a closet is thus an emblem of Dr. Keede and his small and elite group that operate within the domain of Freemasonry but are not restricted by it. If the robe is “flamboyant,” that is, highly elaborate and resplendent, so is the creed they follow. In throwing the robe over Strangwick, the doctor is covering him with the curative protection unselfishly offered by those noble servers who devote themselves to the heroic life and to rescuing tortured souls from a living hell with which they themselves are intimately familiar. At times, however, no rescue is possible, especially if the victim of life’s battering rams has no grounding in or proclivity toward protective ritual. Such is the case with the speaker in Kipling’s “The Mother’s Son,” a poem that introduces the story “Fairy-Kist” (1927) in Limits and Renewals (1932). The soliloquy of a young man suffering from a severe case of shell shock and confined to a mental hospital, the poem is deeply affecting in its depiction of war’s ravages on the minds of its participants. The speaker has with unspeakable terror watched himself “go out of his mind” because more has been laid on him “than a man could bear”; more has been asked of him “than any man could give.” Now beyond the breaking point, all that is left to him is a place “like the grave,” where “they do not let you sleep upstairs,/ And you’re not allowed to shave.” His prospects for recovery are but dim: “no one knows when he’ll get well.” So in this hellish place and in this hellish state of mind, he will have to remain. “The Mother’s Son” appears at first glance to relate to the plight of one of the major characters of “Fairy-Kist,” a disturbed ex-serviceman named Henry Wollin, who thinks that he has gone insane and who dreads so much being confined to Broadmoor asylum that he plans to take his life rather than spend the rest of it in that institution. In actuality, the character in “Fairy-Kist” who most closely resembles the speaker of “The Mother’s Son” is not Wollin but Jimmy Tigner, a younger man than Wollin who is mentally scarred from World War I and who is very much “the mother’s son,” for he lives with his mother. Unable to handle the sudden and mysterious death of Ellen Marsh, a village girl of questionable reputation with whom he has been involved, he breaks up emotionally and has to be sent to a mental institution. Dr. Keede, who again turns up as one of the major characters in this story, explains Jimmy’s condition in terms that closely parallel the language of “The Mother’s Son”: “He’d been tried too high—too high.” As if to anticipate a query from his listeners, Keede adds: “I had to sign his certificate a few weeks later. No! He won’t get better.”69 Unlike Jimmy, Wollin does not live with his mother but with an aging housekeeper, who was probably his childhood nurse, and again

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unlike the younger man, he does get better and does not have to go to Broadmoor. Thus through the introductory poem that underpins the delineation of Jimmy Tigner, Kipling has created a contrast to his characterization of Wollin and effectively juxtaposed two types of those who have glimpsed the horrors of hell: the unredeemable and the redeemable. Keede’s sad comment about Jimmy that “he won’t get any better” stands in opposition to his claim that after seeing Wollin come through his hellish mental state, “I know how a redeemed soul looks” (189). The reason that Wollin can be brought back from his dark night of the soul and Jimmy Tigner cannot relates to a central idea not only of “FairyKist” but of all the Masonic stories and beyond: that ritual is a bulwark against chaos. Wollin is a Mason and thus inclined toward ritual whereas Jimmy has no such supports. Keede explains that Wollin had been carried to the edge of madness by his war experiences and that he had been prevented from falling over that edge by concentrating his thoughts on gardening, an activity that functions therapeutically for him in the same way that focusing their minds on Jane Austen helped the Janeites. Keede explains that Wollin had been “doped for pain and pinched nerves, till the wonder was he’d ever pulled straight again. He told us that the only thing that had helped him through the War was his love of gardening. He’d been mad keen on it all his life—and even in the worst of the Somme he used to get comfort out of plants and bot’ny, and that sort of stuff” (183). That gardening to the “true gardener” (as the enthusiast is often called) can be considered a form of ritualistic activity is clear to anyone familiar with the substantial body of writing on the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the subject. Such books as those by Samuel Reynolds Hole (1819–1904), Dean of Rochester, constantly emphasize that gardening to its real initiates is more than a mere pastime or hobby. Though Hole’s overt topic is the cultivation of roses (A Book About Roses, 1869), his underlying motivation is to connect the act of gardening with the urge to create and with the religious impulse. For him, growing roses was a form of ritualized creative work steeped in tradition. His advice about the best soil and fertilizers is frequently interrupted by outbursts of impatience with what he considered charlatan gardeners who lack true devotion to planting, cultivating, and growing, which he argues require a knowledge of the traditions of gardening and a kind of innate talent. Unusual in its great popularity, Hole’s book nevertheless is in some ways typical of those works on gardening that are more than instructional guides, for most of them reflect the point of view that one must be a gardener in one’s heart (as Macklin says of Janeites) in order to be a true gardener in practice. That is a central point in “Fairy-Kist,” in which

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gardening is almost constantly in the foreground and in which as the dominant metaphor of the work it suggests a great deal more than is actually stated. Two of the five Freemasons of Lodge Faith and Works 583770 who meet for dinner periodically at the home of one of them in Berkshire, the setting for this particular story, are avid gardeners, William Lemming and Alexander Hay McKnight. They constitute a distinct circle within the circle of the five, which includes in addition to them Robert Keede, Lewis Holroyd Burges, and the narrator. These five in turn make up a separate secret society within the secret society of Freemasonry, for they are all Masons and members of the same lodge, but they have founded, with tongue in cheek, the “Eclectic but Comprehensive Fraternity for the Perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights” (the “E. C. F.”), which as an organization utilizes some of the language and ritual of Freemasonry— as “Lesser Lights” indicates—but is specifically devoted to praising deserving but not highly recognized persons of merit. Their “Altar of the Lesser Lights” is also their cigar lighter: “The single burner atop, representing gratitude towards Lesser Lights in general, was of course lit. Whenever gratitude towards a named Lesser Light is put forward and proven, one or more of the nine burners round the base can be thrown into action by pulling its pretty silver draw-chain” (164–65). As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly evident that this seemingly lighthearted activity of lighting a flame for the unsung heroes of the world is in actuality a way of recognizing each other, for these men are themselves prime examples of the type they celebrate; they are the lesser lights engaged in the heroic act of secret service. What Kipling has created, then, is an inner secret society, as it may be called, of gardeners, which is a small group within the circle of the E. C. F., which is a subgroup of this particular Masonic lodge. The gardeners, as represented by Lemming and McKnight, resemble members of what Kipling describes as a kind of religious group, for they have their own saints, their “apostles,” as Lemming calls the four English botanists depicted in the prints he bought from Wollin. Lemming and McKnight look upon these church fathers, as it were, with respect bordering on reverence. When McKnight names and describes the “whole a-apostolic succession of them,” as he calls them, his face “lit with devout rapture” (173). As is characteristic of a kind of secret religious sect, gardening as McKnight and Lemming practice it has its own language foreign to outsiders. When McKnight turns to the narrator and says to him “with utter scorn” that “ye’d not understand,” his remark applies to more than the four “apostles,” for in various places of the story, Lemming and

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McKnight exchange comments that indicate their mutual understanding of specialized terms in the language of gardening. At one point, for example, Lemming says of Wollin: “I asked him what the plants were,” and in conveying the answer (which is partially “a special loosestrife—a hybrid”), he turns directly to a comprehending and judicially nodding McKnight, and proceeds to talk “incomprehensible horticulture for a minute or two” (182). To underscore that Lemming and McKnight constitute a secret society within a secret society, Kipling later writes: “Here Sandy McKnight smiled and nodded across to Lemming, who nodded back as mysteriously as a Freemason or a gardener” (187). If gardening does constitute a secret society of sorts, then it follows that according to Kipling’s concept of the term, it is ritualistic in nature, for secret societies as he portrays them always rely on rituals steeped in tradition. Ritual, in fact, is what all three of the secret societies in “Fairy-Kist” have in common, Freemasonry, the “E. C. F.,” and true and benevolent gardening. The last of these is portrayed on two levels, the literal and the metaphorical. That is, literal gardening with its three enthusiasts, Lemming, McKnight, and Wollin, is of prime importance in the characterizations and plot of the story, but what gardening suggests metaphorically is of even wider significance. If all five of the members of the “Eclectic but Comprehensive Fraternity for the Perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights” are Freemasons, they are also—all five of them—“gardeners.” In a moment of pregnant irony, Keede confesses, “Gardening isn’t my line” (182), true enough speaking literally, but the doctor is very much a gardener when that term is considered metaphorically. “Fairy-Kist” defines the humanistic and spiritual values of gardening in the ideal sense, and those values, which are essential ingredients in the Kipling creed, are shared not only by Lemming and McKnight but also by Keede, Burges, and the narrator although they are not literally gardeners. The essence of these principles is set forth in what may be called the sacred text of this “religion” of gardening: Mary’s Meadow by Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841–85). McKnight calls it “the best, the kindest, the sweetest, the most eenocent tale ever the soul of a woman gied birth to” (190). McKnight’s fervent outburst is brought on by the sudden revelation, which is the climax of the story, that Wollen’s confusion is the result of his nurse’s reading of Mary’s Meadow to him while he was in the hospital and under the influence of narcotics. Voices and dreams haunt him after that with confused images and words that he does not associate with the book although they are derived from it. He therefore becomes convinced that he is insane. Once Lemming explains all this to him and reviews the plot, characters, and language of Mary’s Meadow, Wollin begins his process

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of recovery from the chaos of mind that nearly destroyed him. Order has chased the confusion from which he has suffered so greatly. As is often the case in Kipling’s writings, irony in “Fairy-Kist” is the author’s instrument of power, a principal cause of the work’s substantial impact. The dominating presence of irony in a story like “Fairy-Kist” is not merely an artistic device but a part of the philosophical underpinning of the work, that is, an outgrowth of Kipling’s keen sensitivity to the ironies that dominate life itself. “Fairy-Kist” is a forceful story not because it hinges on a cheap surprise but on a surprise that blossoms with meanings that are subtly planted previously in the narrative. Indeed, all the thematic strains in “Fairy-Kist” come to fruition in that climactic moment when Lemming realizes that Wollin is not hopelessly delusional but is actually experiencing a benign impulse attempting to communicate with him but failing because of his lack of understanding of what is happening. Ironically, what is confusing him will ultimately save him—the message of Mary’s Meadow. His situation is thus a bit like that described in the Book of Acts, where an Ethiopian eunuch has been reading scripture but remains confused and lost because he has no one to explain to him what it all means. Inspired and directed by God, the disciple Philip goes to him with the question: “Understandest thou what thou readest?” The eunuch answers: “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:30–31). Philip explains, and the eunuch is consequently enlightened and saved. That Kipling made a child’s story both a source of his character’s confusion and a major factor in his recovery, made this simple work the point of reference for the philosophical and spiritual implications of “Fairy-Kist,” and made Mary’s Meadow not only the means for helping a man emerge from his own personal hell but also the key to “Fairy-Kist” itself—these facts alone illustrate a high order of originality and a rare affinity for irony joined with a pronounced effectiveness in its use. Kipling’s interest in the author of Mary’s Meadow, he indicates in Something of Myself, began when he was a child staying with the Holloways in Southsea. “So I read all that came within my reach,” he writes. “As soon as my pleasure in this was known, deprivation from reading was added to my punishments. I then read by stealth and the more earnestly. There were not many books in that house, but Father and Mother as soon as they heard I could read sent me priceless volumes. One I have still, a bound copy of Aunt Judy’s Magazine of the early ’seventies, in which appeared Mrs. Ewing’s Six to Sixteen. I owe more in circuitous ways to that tale than I can tell. I knew it, as I know it still, almost by heart” (8–9). It is no wonder that this small boy in his particular circumstances was attracted to Six to Sixteen, which was serialized in Aunt Judy’s Magazine in 1872 and published as a book in 1875. The young heroine of the story has a

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background so similar to Kipling’s that he must have been immediately drawn to her. Her first few years are spent in India, where her father is stationed. She has an Ayah, whom she fondly remembers just as did Kipling. Because both her father and mother die in India, she is forced to leave this happy and comfortable situation when she is only six and travel to England to live with strangers. Having captured young Rudyard’s interest and sympathy through the heroine’s similarity to his own history, Six to Sixteen then drew him in through contrast, for the family that young Margery comes to live with in England is anything but like the Holloways. When the kindly Bullers go abroad, Margery is asked to join a family who live on the Yorkshire moors. This part of the story depicts a situation that must have seemed ideal to the profoundly unhappy young Kipling. The home that Margery comes to call her own is everything that Lorne Lodge was not—a place full of friendly dogs (guests in the house are asked as a courtesy if they would like a dog to sleep with!) and a mother and father who if somewhat eccentric are at the same time kindhearted, intellectual, and broadminded (in diametrical contrast to Mrs. Holloway and her cruel son). Though the father is a minister, there is no religious pressure upon the children, who are encouraged not only to read but to become interested in all sorts of matters including current fads. Because this family (the Arkwrights) have a daughter, Margery suffers no loneliness, for Elinor is of Margery’s own age and a true sympathetic friend in every way. Her two brothers are starkly different from the somewhat sadistic Harry Holloway, who delighted in tormenting young Kipling. As Kipling grew older and read more of Juliana Ewing’s children’s stories, including Mary’s Meadow (serialized in Aunt Judy’s Magazine, November 1883–March 1884, book publication 1886), his interest and admiration deepened, for the more he read her work and the more he learned about her, the clearer it became to him that though she did not partake of his pessimism, her concept of what constitutes a heroic life was in some essential ways similar to his own. Her tributes to the gallantry of the British soldier (as in Jackanapes and The Story of a Short Life) bespeak her commitment to the ideals of honor and duty that were so important to Kipling. What he probably found most endearing in works like Six to Sixteen and Mary’s Meadow, however, was Juliana Ewing’s devotion to the values of unselfish service and sacrifice. These noble concepts come especially into play in the final section of Six to Sixteen where Margery is called upon to sacrifice her wonderful life with the Arkwrights in Yorkshire in order to serve her aged grandmother and grandfather, who have no one to care for them in their final years. Looking after a senile old man and a still sharp witted but rather delicate aged woman is a heavy responsibility

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for a mere girl, but Margery takes it on and heroically sacrifices her own interests and pleasures until their death. It is in Mary’s Meadow, however, that the theme of unselfish service is relentlessly insistent and is linked to gardening, a linkage that Kipling found deeply appealing and consequently made the focus of “Fairy-Kist.” The very first words of Mary’s Meadow establish the book’s theme:
Mother is always trying to make us love our neighbours as ourselves. She does so despise us for greediness, or grudging, or snatching, or not sharing what we have got, or taking the best and leaving the rest, or helping ourselves first, or pushing forward, or praising Number One, or being Dogs in the Manger, or anything selfish. And we cannot bear her to despise us! We despise being selfish, too; but very often we forget.71

The five children of the work, Mary (who narrates the story), her sister, Adela, and her three brothers, Arthur, Harry, and Christopher, learn that true gardening, as practiced by the two disciples of that craft whose writings they discover, John Parkinson (1567–1650) and Alphonse Karr (1808–90), is in essence the practice of what their mother has been trying to teach them, unselfish service, especially that performed in secret. The route by which they find and become interested in John Parkinson’s book, Paradisus in sole Paradisus terrestris (1620), is a circuitous one. They have become fed up with books of their own, as Arthur indicates: “I’m sick of books for young people; there’s so much stuff in them” (19). Mary’s explanation of the word stuff is a classic definition of windy, unfocused, fuzzy prose, and it must have struck a chord with Kipling, for he held precisely the same view. “We call it stuff,” Mary says, “when there seems to be going to be a story and it comes to nothing but talk” (19). Having become disenchanted with their own books because of what they consider a certain phoniness in them, the children obtain permission from their father to browse his library. In her search for a book to help Arthur in his construction of a model water mill, Mary encounters there Miller’s Dictionary, which from the title she assumes will contain some information on water mills. Instead, she and Arthur find that it is “a Gardener’s and Botanist’s Dictionary.” They are disappointed at first, but the book becomes the source of their new enthusiasm for gardening: “The odd thing was that it turned out a kind of help to Arthur after all. For we got so much interested in it that it roused us up about our gardens” (22). This new eagerness leads them to John Parkinson’s “Book of Paradise,” as Mary calls it. Reasons for their immediate attraction to it are telling: it represents the past of their native culture and its long tradition, to which Mary especially is drawn. Kipling’s sympathy for such a view was, of

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course, immense. Mary states: “I like old, queer things, and it is very old and queer” (24), by which she means, principally, the book’s antiquated English. Despite the strangeness of the language, however, Mary is fond of the book because it is sincere, direct, and inspirational—it is not cumbered with “stuff.” It becomes not only a guidebook to actual gardening for the children but also to metaphorical gardening as well, for one passage in particular sticks in their minds as repeating their mother’s admonition about secret service: “The Honisucle that groweth wilde in euery hedge, although it be very sweete, yet doe I not bring it into my garden, but let it rest in his owne place, to serue their senses that trauell by it, or haue no garden” (32). Words from this passage echo throughout Mary’s Meadow becoming the inspiration and the motto for the children’s “game,” as their Aunt Catherine sympathetically calls it, a term that no doubt reverberated with meaning for Kipling. “Will you take me into the game,” asks Lady Catherine, “if I serve them that have no garden?” (63). Explaining to her young sister, Adela, how John Parkinson exhibited the virtue of unselfishness, Mary says: “He wouldn’t root up the honeysuckle out of the hedges (and I suppose he wouldn’t let his root gatherers grub it up, either); he didn’t put it in the Queen’s Gardens, but left it wild outside” at which point Arthur completes the sentence, “to serve their senses that travel by it, or have no garden” (39). The children consider John Parkinson the founder of a particular kind of gardening, that which combines their long interest in flowers with their aspiration to become unselfish and in some way to be of service. They had not realized before that this form of gardening existed as a long tradition and had its apostles, a more modern one of which they find to be Alphonse Karr, author of a book that Mary’s mother sends to her, A Tour Round My Garden (1877). In Karr’s work they discover a further development of Parkinson’s sentiment. Juliana Ewing considered Karr’s book so important to the theme of Mary’s Meadow that she has Mary quote it at length so as to emphasize the idea of anonymous serving. From the following passage in Karr, Mary gets the idea of her “game,” of planting flowers that she takes from her garden in places where strangers can enjoy them:
I ramble about the country near my dwelling, and seek the widest and least frequented spots. In these, after clearing and preparing a few inches of ground, I scatter the seeds of my favourite plants, which re-sow themselves, perpetuate themselves, and multiply themselves. At this moment, whilst the fields display nothing but the common red poppy, strollers find with surprise in certain wild nooks of our country, the most beautiful double poppies, with their white, red, pink, carnation, and variegated blossoms. . . . And then, how I enjoy beforehand and in imagination, the pleasure and

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surprise which the solitary stroller will experience when he meets in his rambles with those beautiful flowers and these delicious fruits. (34)

The character of Henry Wollin in “Fairy-Kist” was probably inspired by the portrait of Alphonse Karr as Kipling saw him from his reading of Mary’s Meadow. Once Wollin’s mental confusion is cleared up, he becomes another happy Alphonse Karr, rambling the countryside near where he lives, seeking out rather remote places where, unobserved, he can plant flowers from his own garden so that some “solitary stroller” can be cheered by them and enjoy their beauty so surprisingly encountered in these unlikely places. If true gardening, that is, the act of secret service, lifts the spirits of strollers along the solitary paths of life, it sometimes effects a life transformation in others, as Mary’s Meadow makes clear. Not only is grumpy Lady Catherine humanized by her awareness of the children’s game, but when the Old Squire, an extremely miserly, litigious, and meanspirited man, realizes that his neighbor Mary is engaged in planting flowers in his meadow, not taking flowers from it, he is so touched by her unselfishness that he gives the meadow to her, an act of generosity that would have been unimaginable before his transformation. He also tries to give her his yellow bull dog, Saxon (who is friendly to the children), but she refuses because, as she puts it, “It would be selfish” (73). Kipling no doubt recognized that what Juliana Horatia Ewing had written in Mary’s Meadow was not a book about gardening in which unselfishness is a sentimental by-product but a book about unselfishness in which gardening of a particular sort functions as its metaphor. She intended the story merely for children, as a lesson to them in one of the great human values, but it stirred Kipling’s heart, and because it did so, he appropriated its central trope, gardening, as a metaphor for secret service in “Fairy-Kist.” If the ideal of gardening through the example of Mary’s Meadow is the great light of “Fairy-Kist,” two dark influences also pervade the story. The first is that of World War I. In its wake torn bodies and minds struggle for recovery. Wollin is representative of an entire generation of that war’s victims. Pathetically, all he wants is to “live and be happy again, in his garden—like the rest of us” (184). What stands in the way of his doing so is the hell that war has made of his life. Speaking specifically of Jimmy Tignor’s emotional turmoil but commenting as well on the effect of the war, Dr. Keede says “Oh, I tell you the War has put an edge on things all round!” (167). As in several other stories, war in “Fairy-Kist” is treated as both a specific cataclysmic occurrence and at the same time as a symbol of the hellishness of life. The other ominous influence is less obvious than that of the war, but it is nonetheless pernicious in its own way. It is a danger that Kipling had for

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many years recognized as such and cautioned himself as well as others against—unreserved belief in the occult. Ironically, the story’s most dedicated believer in the occult is also one of the most attractive characters, Wollin’s old housekeeper. Loving and solicitous toward the man that she had once nursed, she wishes nothing more than that he should be released from his bondage, which she apparently associates with the hold that fairies have over him. It is she who in connection with Wollin’s mental condition uses the expression “fairy-kist.” McKnight asks Keede if she means that Wollin had “been kissed by the fairies.” The doctor answers: “It would appear so, Sandy. I’d never heard the word before. ’West Country, I suppose” (175). Although Keede and his friends treat the housekeeper’s belief in fairies as a slightly amusing oddity, it is apparently serious business for her as it was for countless numbers of people of that day. Though in some circles, fairies were considered benevolent, the general opinion was that they were extremely dangerous and to be left alone, for they possessed powerful supernatural abilities. The fairy kiss was especially dreaded. Indeed, to be fairy kist was to be fairy cursed. According to Lewis Spence, “a kiss upon fairy lips formed an almost unbreakable association.” That is, the person became bound “in servitude” to the fairy.72 Carole G. Silver indicates that believers in fairies in Victorian England were convinced that “the fairy’s kiss could strike one dumb.”73 When Wollin returned home from the war, confused and crippled by its hellishness, his ancient housekeeper no doubt explained his deplorable situation to him in the same way that she explained it to Keede and McKnight, that he had been kissed by fairies. Daily she must have expressed to him her conviction that he was under a supernatural spell brought on by creatures that they could not see. She was convinced (as she must have told him) that the only thing that could save him was an equally powerful spell performed by some as yet unknown magician. Rather than helping him to get to the bottom of his problem, therefore, the well meaning old woman with her absolute faith in the occult adds considerably to his desperation. When the forces of common sense and reason restore order in his mind, she attributes the success to occult influences. Keede remarks that she said that “she looked on us as a couple of magicians who’d broken the spell on him” (190). Dr. Keede’s description of the housekeeper at some points is so curious as to suggest that she has in some strange way deeply fascinated him. Indeed, his attraction to her might even be seen as sexual though she is merely an old woman of humble background and circumstances. In his mind, however, she takes on the attributes of a siren: “She had one of those slow, hypnotic voices, like cream from a jug” (175). Later, when he is describing her kiss, he appears genuinely drawn to her, as if she were a

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vamp—or, indeed, one of those dangerous creatures, a fairy: “She has a seductive old mouth still” (189). Hypnotic and seductive, she seems to be some sort of inexplicable creature out of time appealing to a deep yearning within him. “She was primitive Stone Age,” he remarks (189). He is, in fact, disappointed that she did not kiss him for a final time upon his leaving. What Keede is feeling is, of course, the appeal of the occult. It is mesmeric and alluring, but it is also deceptive and misleading. As if to emphasize that very point, Kipling links together in the same paragraph Keede’s expression of the housekeeper’s hypnotic magnetism and his mistaken “theory” that Wollin has killed Ellen Marsh. “Everything she said,” Keede relates of the old woman, “squared with my own theories up to date. . . . I knew that, and the old lady was as good as telling it me over again” (175–76). As it turns out, Wollin is not involved in “Jack the Ripperism” after all, and the message that he seemed to hear from the housekeeper was but a lie. Keede may be attracted to the occult, but he never gives himself over to it. He comes close to succumbing to another temptation, however, that which he refers to as “the Sherlock Holmes business” (171). Although “Fairy-Kist” may appear to be a kind of good natured tribute to detective fiction of the time, especially that involving the popular Sherlock Holmes, it is in fact just the opposite. As Daniel Karlin has pointed out, Kipling’s treatment of Sherlock Holmes is “barbed with irony,” for “the chain of reasoning which leads Keede and Lemming to fasten the guilt of Ellen Marsh’s ‘murder’ on Henry Wollin turns out to be completely misconceived.”74 Kipling’s purpose in making it appear that he was writing a detective story only to show with the progress of the narrative that he was not—his purpose for such a tactic was to point up the falseness inherent in the rejected genre and in the mindset behind it. “The laying of a false trail in a short story,” comments J. M. S. Tompkins, “is a dangerous manoeuvre. The reader may follow it too far and have no time to get back. I do not think, however, that Kipling ever engages in it out of provocation or mere love of the intricate. It is intended as an effect of contrast and sometimes as a warning.”75 The warning in “Fairy-Kist” is subtle but insistent: fascination with “this Sherlock Holmes business” is perilously akin to fascination with the occult. The two are brought into association early in the story as the five men begin a conversation after dinner. McKnight complains of “systematic pilfering in his three big shops,” to which Burges responds with an illustration dealing with the occult: “Burges told us how an illustrious English astrologer called Lily had once erected a horoscope to discover the whereabouts of a parcel of stolen fish. The stars led him straight to it and the thief ” (163–64). The mention of that notorious practitioner of the occult,

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William Lilly (1602–81), leads to their wondering “why detective-story writers so seldom use astrology to help out the local Sherlock Holmes” (164). The biting implication is inescapable—the one method is just as fallacious as the other. The ostensible process of reasoning that goes into detective stories is an illusion, an artificiality in the guise of rationality. It is as far removed from actual life as is astrology. Irony is piled upon irony in these first few paragraphs as the narrator confesses that he has never been able to “do a decent detective story” (164). In context, the reason is clear— there are no decent detective stories—and that, precisely, is what Kipling is getting at with his casting off “the Sherlock Holmes business” about half way through the work. With its linkage of the detective story mentality with that cast of mind disposed to the occult, “Fairy-Kist” becomes among other things an indirect but nevertheless biting criticism of the man who in Kipling’s opinion most clearly manifested that combination of traits, Arthur Conan Doyle. Although they maintained what may appear to be a casual friendship for some thirty-five years, the truth is that Kipling never really liked Conan Doyle. When the creator of Sherlock Holmes visited the Kiplings in Brattleboro for a couple of days during Thanksgiving of 1894, Conan Doyle (on a lecture tour of America with his brother Innes) tried to persuade Rudyard to be kinder in his remarks about America. They argued a good deal but parted on good terms thanks to the determination of both men to be as reasonable and generous as possible. Conan Doyle’s attitude, a lifelong characteristic, was that Kipling was misguided but that he could bring him around. Kipling’s attitude was that he found little—besides possibly the subjects of golf and skiing—that this man had to talk about that interested him. Even when Conan Doyle moved in 1907 to Crowborough in Sussex, only twenty or so miles from Bateman’s in Burwash, Kipling made little effort to see him. He told Rider Haggard that Conan Doyle “sometimes came to call” but bluntly confessed that he “got nothing from him.”76 Several years later, Conan Doyle circulated a petition seeking to commute the death sentence for treason of Sir Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist who had been in the British diplomatic service. Although Conan Doyle was successful in obtaining the signatures of numerous prominent authors, including G. K. Chesterton, John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, and John Masefield, Kipling refused to sign. Conan Doyle’s stand on Irish independence was anathema to Kipling even though he considered the man patriotic and generous by nature. What appears to have alienated him most was Conan Doyle’s immeasurable gullibleness. By the time “Fairy-Kist” was published in 1927, Conan Doyle had in Kipling’s mind come to personify that peculiar meshing of mental traits represented in the story: “the Sherlock Holmes business” and the occult.

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The creator of the world’s shrewdest, most astute detective made it known publicly in 1916 that he had been converted to what was to him a form of faith,“psychic religion,” or as it was better known, spiritualism. He lectured widely on the subject, and essay after essay, book after book came from his pen. In 1918, he published The New Revelation followed the next year by The Vital Message. Works like The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The Case for Spirit Photography (1922), and The Edge of the Unknown (1930) followed. Almost from the time of his announcement about his preoccupation with spiritualism, it seemed extremely odd to many people that a man who wrote so much about evidence and rationality should so completely turn his life over to communication with the dead, holding séances and becoming the leading proponent of spiritualism in England. After meeting the great magician Harry Houdini in Portsmouth, Conan Doyle invited him to his home in Sussex, where spiritualism became the topic of the evening. Martin Booth reports that Conan Doyle and his wife Jean (no doubt with the intention of converting their skeptic visitor) related their various experiences with contacting the dead: “Houdini avidly listened, and they talked long into the night. Houdini did not make any disparaging remarks, out of respectful deference to his host, but he found it incomprehensible that someone with Conan Doyle’s powers of deduction and logical thought, so well displayed in the Sherlock Holmes tales, could be so utterly credulous.”77 The extent to which Conan Doyle thought of himself as a kind of trail blazer much ahead of his time, indeed, as a champion (or even martyr) in the exploration of spiritual matters, is suggested by his brief preface to The Edge of the Unknown, published in the last year of his life:
There is a passage in that charming book “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” which runs as follows: “She was one of those persons who have allowed their lives to be gnawed away because they have fallen in love with an idea several centuries before its appointed appearance in the history of Civilization. She hurled herself against the obstinacy of her time.” We who believe in the psychic revelation, and who appreciate that a perception of these things is of the utmost importance, certainly have hurled ourselves against the obstinacy of our time. Possibly we have allowed some of our lives to be gnawed away in what, for the moment, seemed a vain and thankless quest. Only the future can show whether the sacrifice was worth it. Personally, I think that it was.78

No brief statement could possibly be more revealing of what Conan Doyle considered the nobility of exploring the occult and what Kipling considered to be the peril of doing so. As he looked back on his life, Conan Doyle thought his most worthwhile pursuit had been spiritualism. According to Daniel Stashower, “Conan Doyle once declared that he

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would gladly sacrifice whatever literary reputation he enjoyed if it would bring about a greater acceptance of his spiritualist message.”79 He saw himself as a truth-seeking warrior doing battle with a world obstinate in its determination to be blind, giving his life for an idea whose time had not yet come. Kipling saw him as the prime example of what can happen when fascination with the occult takes hold on one’s life—his life was “gnawed away” by his preoccupation.80 During the time that “Fairy-Kist” was published, 1927, informed readers would have found it difficult to read a story in which fairy lore was a context without thinking of Arthur Conan Doyle, for during the 1920s he became the world’s most notorious advocate for the reality of these small creatures. His book The Coming of the Fairies (1922) was the outgrowth of his involvement in promoting the Cottingley photographs. In 1917 two young girls near the village of Cottingley in Yorkshire supposedly photographed fairies. Conan Doyle heard about the photographs and after investigating became totally convinced that the girls had actually seen these remarkable creatures and caught their image on film. It was many years later (after just about everyone involved in the curious incident had died) before Elsie Wright and her cousin Frances Griffiths, themselves now old women, admitted that they had cut the images of fairies out of cardboard, attached the figures to leaves with hairpins, and taken the pictures. Meanwhile Conan Doyle and many of his spiritualists colleagues were completely taken in. His defense of the girls’ integrity was unwavering, and, as one of his biographers has put it, he “never lost either his interest or his belief in fairies.”81 If he had simply believed in fairies and kept it to himself, he would not have caused so great a stir, but he became a vociferous champion of the fairies. He prolifically proclaimed in lectures, essays, and books that these “dwellers on the border,” as he called them, live among us. He begins an essay in The Edge of the Unknown by stating his aim to “discuss the evidence for the existence of elemental forms of life, invisible to the normal eye, which inhabit the same planet as ourselves.”82 Throughout all of his writings on fairies, the word evidence recurs over and over. It is almost as if he has himself become his great sleuth Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery by presenting “evidence” not seen or really understood until he logically gathers it all together. Although Harry Houdini could not understand how the same man who seemed from his detective stories to possess “powers of deduction” could hold an unshakable belief in the occult, Kipling comprehended all only too well. “Fairy-Kist” powerfully makes the point—what looks like evidence in following “the Sherlock Holmes business” (that which would convict Wollin) turns out to be as fallacious as that which points to Wollin’s having been victimized by fairies. Both forms of this kind of “evidence” are

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worthless; detective stories can be as far removed from real life as is the belief in fairies. Thus the title of Kipling’s story refers by implication not to Wollin but to the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who is mentioned four times. It was Conan Doyle who had become “fairy kist,” for he seemed under a spell that was destroying his mind. By 1927, Kipling had spent a fair amount of time with Conan Doyle and may have known something of his background. Charles Doyle, the writer’s father, and Richard Doyle, his uncle, were both staunch believers in fairies. Heavy in Conan Doyle’s memory was the fact that his father heard voices and that he had to be committed to an institution for the insane, the very fate that Wollin in “Fairy-Kist” dreads to the extent that he contemplates taking his own life. Conan Doyle’s biographers speculate that his determination to prove conclusively that fairies existed was rooted in his thought that if he could do that, he would show that his father was not crazy after all: “The fairies were equated in his mind with the voices his father had been locked up for hearing. In other words, in Conan Doyle’s mind, if fairies and spirits existed, his father was not mad and he was not likely to go insane.”83 “Fairy-Kist,” however, is not principally about Arthur Conan Doyle, though his shadow over it is unmistakable. The story is what J. M. S. Tompkins has so astutely called one of Kipling’s “warnings” about a road that should not be taken, the “road to En-dor,” which beckons seductively and requires one to “follow the clue” to solving the mystery of life and death yet leads but to error and sorrow. The story is not merely a warning, however, for it offers another road, the one traveled by those committed to what may be termed Masonic gardening, Kipling’s concept of the heroic life. For a brief while Dr. Keede and his friend Lemming try to pursue “the Sherlock Holmes business” only to discover that it is as unreliable and as apart from actual life as is belief in fairies. In fact, the two are closely linked in fallacy. In the end, ritualistic “gardening” emerges as the ideal of the heroic life with the five men of the Eclectic but Comprehensive Fraternity for the Perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights being its cultivators. Kipling’s concept of the secret society was unquestionably a response to his enduring conviction that life is unfair and that suffering and destruction constantly surround us. Secret societies in his writing are imaginative constructs, ways of throwing up in his mind barriers so that at least for a while he could have the rewarding sense of doing something to hold off the hounds of hell. Lynn Sunderland has observed: “That sense of imminent disaster and the urgent need for some kind of mental manoeuvre to hold it at bay is one of the most powerful and consistent aspects of Kipling’s work.”84 That he made secret societies of one kind or the other central in

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a good deal of his writing is certainly a facet of that “mental manoeuvre” that Sunderland speaks of, but its more expansive manifestation is the creed of heroism that served as his shield in a defiant combat with the horrors of life. In Something of Myself, Kipling looked back upon those days of his childhood when for punishment Mrs. Holloway confined him to the mildewy basement of Lorne Lodge. Cut off from all that he considered endearing, hopeful, and beautiful, he nevertheless found a way to feel uplifted and energized. He considered this a sort of magic that somehow derived from what he had constructed, a ring made from the crude materials he found at hand, a cord, a packing case, a tin trunk, and a coconut shell. “The magic, you see,” he writes in his autobiography, “lies in the ring or fence [you make] that you take refuge in” (11).85 That magic ring, crafted from the materials he had at hand, later took the form of his creed of heroism. In writing about what he considered the heroic life, in creating characters who follow it, he felt anew that old magic. It was just that—magic—for because of it he could defy the horrors of that terrible basement into which life had placed him. He never really talked about his creed, that is, as a creed. His failure to do so has simply made it more powerful to generations of his readers, like the iceberg that he wrote of. If he had spoken directly of his creed, one wonders if he would have speculated as to its source. He knew that his best writings were the work of what he called his Daemon. He said that his Daemon had told him how to write “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” and “The Eye of Allah,” that his Daemon had been with him in his writing of The Jungle Book, Kim and both the Puck books. He described in Something of Myself how his Daemon came and went and how he had learned to wait patiently. Late in his life he mentioned his Daemon to a young man, who although aspiring to be a writer, had no idea what he was talking about.86 Even so, he might not have realized just how extensively he had been the instrument of that strange and mysterious force of primal intuition and imagination deep within him that he referred to as his Daemon. If he suspected that it was his Daemon that came to his rescue when as a child in that terrible basement of the House of Desolation and filled him with a sense of the magical that inspirited him, he did not indicate it. Nor did he say what well he might have said, that the Daemon who dictated to him what to write about and how to write as he composed his best works also provided him with the theme that pervades his work in general—the heroic life as defiance of the hell in which we are all born. The perennial question about Kipling is this: how could a small bespectacled man who never competed in sports nor fought in combat, a man ill much of his adult life know so much about the heroic virtues and know

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them so intimately? André Maurois said that it was because he was in touch with the “oldest and deepest layers of the human consciousness,”87 but that, after all, is simply another way of saying that he was in touch with his Daemon, even when he did not know it. And as Kipling himself said, it is a man’s Daemon and not the man himself that makes him a great writer.

Notes

Preface and Acknowledgments
1. André Maurois, “A French View of Kipling,” in Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 379. 2. Maurois, Prophets and Poets, trans. Hamish Miles (New York: Harper, 1935), 40–41. 3. It is true that Maurois’s statement about Kipling’s possessing “an instinctive and enduring contact with the oldest and deepest layers of the human consciousness” has been often quoted in passing, but otherwise Maurois’s insistence upon what constitutes the most vital aspect of the author’s work has been relegated to that body of early criticism before Kipling’s death that gets only scanty attention in modern commentaries.

1 Within the City of Dreadful Night
1. Kay Robinson, “Rudyard Kipling as Journalist,” in Kipling: Interviews and Recollections, ed. Harold Orel (Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1983), 1: 80. 2. In “Kipling in India,” McClure’s Magazine, 7 (July 1896), 99–109, Kay Robinson repeats that Kipling “was always the best of good company, bubbling over with delightful humor” (103). Closely on the heels of that remark, however, he admits that Kipling “suffered much” and that many of his early works set in India “tell us how deep he drank at times” of “bitterness” (104). 3. Failure and resulting despair recur as themes in Kipling’s early work. For example, “The History of a Fall” (Civil and Military Gazette, 1889) depicts the sense of failure of a once important government official serving in India who retires to England where he lives out his days in loneliness and depression. The story ends in words reminiscent of Herman Melville’s masterpiece of hopelessness, “Bartleby the Scrivener”: “Oh Life! Oh Death! . . . Oh Despair!” Abaft the Funnel (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), 61. 4. See Ann M. Weygandt, Kipling’s Reading and Its Influence on His Poetry (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1939), 106. 5. Louis L. Cornell, Kipling in India (London: Macmillan, 1966), 28. 6. “Shows How I Entered Mazanderan of the Persians . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 16: 157, 158.

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7. Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard: The Record of a Friendship, ed. Morton Cohen (London: Hutchinson, 1965), 136. 8. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 164. 9. The review, which originally appeared in the Review of the Week for March 24, 1900, is reprinted in R. Thurston Hopkins, Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Appreciation (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1915), 83–86. 10. Edgar Saltus, The Philosophy of Disenchantment (New York: Brentano’s, 1925), 223. 11. Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 74. 12. Something of Myself, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1937), 36: 33. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 13. The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, ed. Thomas Pinney (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 1990–2005), 1: 88. 14. J. M. S. Tompkins has written that in this stanza of Thomson’s, the words naturally and just were for the admiring Kipling “weighted with the futility of man and the nullity of the gods.” She thus suggests the basic ingredients of Kipling’s philosophical pessimism. These words, she claims,“infected” Kipling. The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London: Methuen, 1959), 100. 15. Not only did he get the author wrong; he deleted, added, and substituted words and cut and pasted from Clough’s poem with abandon. 16. That Kipling also knew something of the precursor of systematic pessimism, the Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), is indicated by the fact that he mentions him by name in “The Last of the Stories” (Week’s News, 1888). Thomson admired Leopardi greatly and quoted him often. Leopardi’s work and thought became fairly widely known in the Englishspeaking world in the middle of the nineteenth century when William E. Gladstone published an article about him in the Quarterly Review. 17. Later the original eight sketches that had appeared in the Pioneer formed a separate section called “The City of Dreadful Night” in the volume entitled From Sea to Sea, Part II. 18. Precisely when Kipling read Zola is a matter of speculation. Cornell speculates that as “an accomplished schoolboy,” Kipling may have read Zola in French, thus being “well in advance of his countrymen,” whose interest in the French naturalist developed some years later with translations into English (28). The first English translations of Zola’s works appeared in 1884. While on Christmas holiday from the United Services College, Kipling went to see Charles Reade’s play Drink, an English version of William Busnach’s melodramatic adaptation of Zola’s L’Assommoir. G. C. Beresford reports that Kipling was so taken with a scene involving delirium tremens that he enacted it repeatedly for his schoolmates, much to their delight. G. C. Beresford, Schooldays with Kipling (New York: Putnam’s, 1936), 103–04. 19. “The City of Dreadful Night,” in In Black and White, the Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 4: 40.

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20. “The Temple of Mahadeo . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 15: 31. 21. “The Burden of Nineveh,” in The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Work, ed. R. E. Harbord, 5 vols. (Canterbury: Gibbs, 1961–70), 5: 2063. 22. “The Burden of Nineveh,” 2064. 23. “Showing How I Came to Palmiste Island . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 271. 24. Cornell’s admonition in this regard is relevant: “But in fact Kipling’s achievement transcends such simple formulae” (126). Cornell points out that “Kipling, with his notebook and spectacles, his ‘’satiable curtiosity’ about technicians, soldiers, animals, and machines, was closer to the roman expérimental of Zola, whom he admired, than to the exotisme of Loti, whom he depreciated” (124–25). Nevertheless, “he never fully committed himself ” to any movement though he “preferred Zola’s naturalism to the exoticism of Loti” (126). 25. Cornell, Kipling in India, 28. 26. Angus Wilson writes that “Kipling was drawn to Zola’s work from early days,” appreciating his realism and frankness. Wilson believes, however, that Kipling was somewhat “alarmed” by the “element of sensuality” in Zola’s novels because “he was frightened of his own sensuality.” The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (New York: Viking, 1977), 141. 27. Norman Page, A Kipling Companion (London: Macmillan, 1984), 166. 28. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 118. 29. Letters, 1: 79. 30. However, Kipling’s poems in Echoes generally are not parodies in the usual sense of satire or ridicule, for in varying degrees he liked the writers he had in mind though he did not always agree with them. Nor are his poems merely imitations. Louis L. Cornell points out that in the poems of Echoes, Kipling “is borrowing, but not assimilating” and that his intention is to free himself from the tradition of nineteenth-century romantic poetry (73). Kipling’s conception of an “echo” is complex and original and merits serious analysis, for it illustrates dramatically one of the qualities of his genius even as a young creative artist. 31. As far as I can determine, no one has previously pointed out the target or targets of Kipling’s parody in “Way Down the Ravi River.” 32. Throughout the poem, Kipling capitalized the first letter of Alligator, suggesting perhaps that it carries an abstract or emblematic meaning. 33. “New Brooms,” in Abaft the Funnel, 86. 34. “The Bow Flume Cable-Car,” in Abaft the Funnel, 187. 35. Weygandt, Kipling’s Reading (166–81) explores Kipling’s early acquired and extensive knowledge of British music hall songs (as well as other genres) and American popular airs and ballads such as those included in Captains Courageous. She seems to have missed, however, Kipling’s parody of Stephen Foster’s most widely known song in “Way Down the Ravi River.” 36. Kipling originally wrote silently but changed it to the more effective merrily. Andrew Rutherford, ed., Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling, 1879–1889 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 187.

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37. It is important to point out, however, that Kipling did not consistently present nature in this light. Indeed, he was not immune to the fact that nature could also appear mild and beautiful. During the month of November in 1887 when he traveled through various native states of northern India, writing a series of articles called Letters of Marque for the Pioneer, he sometimes fell under nature’s spell and wrote accordingly. Taking a rest from his weary travels along the abominable Boondi Road, he found a field of growing tobacco in which to rest: “Sprawl in the cool of a nullah-bed with your head among the green tobacco, and your mind adrift with the one little cloud in a royally blue sky. Earth has nothing more to offer her children than this deep delight of animal well-being. There were butterflies in the tobacco—six different kinds” (“Treats of the Startling Effect of a Reduction in Wages . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 172). On Lake Pichola near Mewar, he found himself in a boat, “sprawled upon the cushions in deep content and laziness” as he gazed across the water (“Touching the Children of the Sun . . .,” in From Sea To Sea, Part I, 70). Describing a dawn that he witnessed from the shore of a lake near Boondi, he appears as in tune with nature as any Romantic poet: “The stars had no fire in them and the fish had stopped jumping, when the black water of the lake paled and grew grey. While he watched it seemed to the Englishman [Kipling] that voices on the hills were intoning the first verses of Genesis. The grey light moved on the face of the waters till, with no interval, a blood-red glare shot up from the horizon, and, inky black against the intense red, a giant crane floated out towards the sun. . . . The dawn swept up the valley and made all things clear. The blind man who said, ‘The blast of a trumpet is red,’ spoke only the truth. The breaking of the red dawn is like the blast of a trumpet.” “Of the Uncivilised Night . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 212. 38. See Rutherford, Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling, 187. 39. “Hush-a-by, Baby” was one of the fifty-one rhymes published in England in 1781 as Mother Goose’s Melody: or, Sonnets for the Cradle. Its words are as follows: “Hush-a-by baby/ On the tree top,/ When the wind blows/ The cradle will rock;/ When the bough breaks/ The cradle will fall,/ Down tumbles baby,/ cradle and all.” For a facsimile of the original publication, see Jacques Barchilon and Henry Pettit, The Authentic Mother Goose Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes (Denver, CO: Alan Swallow, 1960). 40. Hopkins, Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Appreciation, 82. 41. Hopkins, Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Appreciation, 82, 83. 42. “How I Struck Chicago and How Chicago Struck Me,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 244. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 43. “The Bride’s Progress,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 519. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 44. “How I Got to San Francisco and Took Tea with the Natives There,” in From Sea to Sea Part II, 34. 45. “Of Freedom . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 232. 46. “The Burden of Nineveh,” 2064. 47. “Letters on Leave, I,” in Abaft the Funnel, 204.

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48. The type of character represented by Pagett evolved in Kipling’s work from a detestable blunderer to a buffoon. The Member of Parliament in “Little Foxes” (1909), Lethabie Groombride, is an example of the latter. Kipling seems to have concluded that his scorn for this old enemy, the man without facts, could be expressed with greater effectiveness through comedy and ridicule than through invective. 49. “The Enlightenments of Pagett, M. P.,” in In Black and White, 370. 50. “The Enlightenments of Pagett, M. P.,” 384. 51. “An Interview with Mark Twain,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 281. 52. “An Interview with Mark Twain,” 282. 53. “The difference between a Cooper Indian and the Indian that stands in front of the cigar shop is not spacious.” “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences,” in Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays, 1891–1910 (New York: Library of America, 1992), 186. 54. The first sentence in the Preface to The Phantom Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales, no. 5, Indian Railway Library (Allahabad: A. H. Wheeler, 1888). 55. Preface, In Black and White, vii. 56. Preface, In Black and White, x. 57. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 115. 58. Robinson, “Kipling in India,” 104. 59. Kay Robinson recalls Kipling’s odd friendship with a “long-limbed Pathan, indescribably filthy, but with magnificent mien and features.” This man, who was given to wanderings “across the unexplored fringes of Afghanistan,” would upon his return seek out his friend, “Kuppeleen Sahib,” to convey the latest facts that he had gathered. The Pathan was “only one link in the strange chain of associations that Kipling riveted round himself in India. No half-note in the wide gamut of native ideas and custom was unfamiliar to him: just as he had left no phase of white life in India unexplored” (104). 60. As diligent as Kipling was in his efforts to be accurate, he occasionally stumbled. Angus Wilson points out that some scholars have claimed that the forgery one of the characters in “Dayspring Mishandled” creates and passes off as a lost fragment of Chaucer’s work is not really Chaucerian.“It is lucky,” writes Wilson,“that too many naval engineers and cancer specialists and Asian zoologists and arbiters of Simla social precedence have not got going at Kipling’s work. In ‘They’ I am always irked by a mistake about wild flowers in the autumn downland” (337). 61. “A Really Good Time,” in Abaft the Funnel, 241–42. 62. R. Thurston Hopkins’s harsh view of those enthusiastic about the Aesthetic Movement is probably close to Kipling’s: “It was a world largely composed of would-be literary dandies, and superior persons, into which the young writer [Kipling] entered. Everywhere he found the imitation ‘style,’ the pose point of view, the smart, cynical, sophisticated attitude. Besides these literary fops with sweet fawn-like eyes, there were, to be sure, a few men of sterling worth, but they were not voicing any original ideas. . . . The whole trend of the period was artificial” (4). For a more extended description of the Aesthetic Movement and Kipling’s reaction to it (“derision and contempt”), see Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling (New York: Random House, 1978), 102–07.

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63. “The Three Young Men,” in Abaft the Funnel, 256. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 64. “In Partibus,” 1889. 65. “On Exhibition,” in Abaft the Funnel, 248. 66. Robert Buchanan,“The Voice of the Hooligan,” in Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 240. 67. Buchanan, “The Voice of the Hooligan,” 247. 68. Oscar Wilde, “Oscar Wilde: Two Extracts,” in Green, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 104. 69. Colin MacInnes points out that it seems “likely there are parallels, and even cross-fertilizations, between his art and theirs,” and argues that “when Kipling becomes brash, bumptious, and even outright vulgar, he stands close to the spirit of the Halls.”“Kipling and the Music Halls,” in Rudyard Kipling: The Man, His Work and His World, ed. John Gross (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), 59. Oddly, in his discussion of Kipling and the London music halls, MacInnes never mentions “My Great and Only.” 70. “My Great and Only,” in Abaft the Funnel, 262. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 71. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 69. 72. Weygandt, Kipling’s Reading, 155. 73. “Concerning Lucia,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 354. 74. “Concerning Lucia,” 355–56. 75. “Deeper and Deeper Still,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 353. 76. “Deeper and Deeper Still,” 347. 77. “The City of Dreadful Night,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 335. 78. “Deeper and Deeper Still,” 346. 79. “The City of Dreadful Night,” 338. 80. “The City of Dreadful Night,” 340. 81. “Deeper and Deeper Still,” 349. 82. Andrew Lang wrote that Kipling’s story “is a realistic version of ‘The English Opium Eater,’ and more powerful by dint of less rhetoric.” “Andrew Lang on ‘Mr. Kipling’s Stories,’ ” in Green, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 74. 83. Cornell, Kipling in India, 95. 84. Cornell, Kipling in India, 93. 85. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 62. According to Charles Carrington: “The manuscript remained for years in the safe at A.P. Watt’s office until in 1899 Rudyard brought it down to Rottingdean to ransack it for notions which he could work into Kim. Thereafter Mother Maturin vanished, probably destroyed by the author, though many years later Kipling prepared a draft for a film scenario which contained episodes from the old story” (424). 86. “Rudyard Kipling’s Diary, 1885,” in Rudyard Kipling: Something of Myself and Other Autobiographical Writings, ed. Thomas Pinney (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 207. 87. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 105. 88. Letters, 1: 83. 89. He did, however, use some of the material in the manuscript of Mother Maturin for Kim, as several biographers and critics have pointed out.

NOTES

315

90. Quoted in Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 423. Mrs. Hill states that “it is the story of an old Irishwoman who kept an opium den in Lahore but sent her daughter to be educated in England. She married a Civilian and came to live in Lahore—hence a story how Government secrets came to be known in the Bazaar and vice versa.” 91. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 424. 92. Angus Wilson writes that “Lockwood’s disapproval might have been because he thought it a bit garish and sensational, or he may have disapproved of its sexual freedom, or he may have doubted the wisdom of discussing the leaking of Government secrets. All these objections would be in the character of a man of good but conventional taste, not without holy-holy qualities, and always sensible of the seriousness of the Establishment in whose favour he stood” (63). 93. Cornell states that “To Be Filed for Reference” is “a sort of advertisement for the forthcoming book” (97). 94. “To Be Filed for Reference,” in Plain Tales from the Hills, the Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 1: 348. 95. See Charles L. Ames, “Lalun, the Baragun,” Kipling Journal, 22 (July 1955), 6–8. 96. “To Be Filed for Reference,” 348. 97. R. Thurston Hopkins writes that “An American scenario writer visited Kipling at Burwash, and there the whole thing was devised and worked out in a rough draft.” Rudyard Kipling’s World (London: Robert Holden, 1925), 200. Hopkins gives a lengthy synopsis of the scenario, emphasizing at the end that he filled in some of the details of the plot and that the scenario was not the sole work of Kipling. See also Cornell, Kipling in India, 97–98. 98. To be sure, Kipling’s story was not the first to deal with London slums. Numerous writings about the East End preceded his, including George Gissing’s The Nether World (1889) and much fiction by now forgotten authors of decidedly inferior ability. However, writings with which “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot” is most often associated appeared after it. Arthur Morrison’s collection of stories about London’s East End, Tales of Mean Streets, e.g., was published in 1894, and with the possible exception of “Lizerunt,” nothing in that book approaches the frank and brutal detail of Kipling’s story. Morrison’s novel of the slums, A Child of the Jago, was not published until six years after “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot.” W. Somerset Maugham’s Liza of Lambeth, his first novel and certainly one of the best about slum life, did not come out until 1897. 99. R. Ellis Roberts, “Rudyard Kipling,” in Green, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 359. 100. See, e.g., Edward Shanks, Rudyard Kipling: A Study in Literature and Political Ideas (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940), 135–37. Ignoring Kipling’s considerable body of work that deals with naturalistic subjects and settings, work that comes before “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot,” Shanks declares that “this not very good story,” pronounces it highly uncharacteristic, and conjectures that it may have been written simply because of a suggestion from W. E. Henley, who wanted something “fashionable” from Kipling.

316

NOTES

101. “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot,” in The Days Work, Part II, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 14: 185. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 102. In discussions of “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot,” Kipling’s reference to Brother Victor’s clinching his teeth in mental pain has often puzzled readers. 103. Browning wrote morn instead of dawn in the second line. 104. “A Doctor’s Work,” in A Book of Words, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1928), 32: 51. 105. Quoted in “Reports on Discussion Meetings,” in Kipling Journal, 35 (December 1968), 17. 106. “Of Jenny and Her Friends,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 309. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 107. The details of this episode in Kipling’s life differ in various biographical renditions. For example, in Rudyard Kipling (New York: Harper, 1945), Hilton Brown gives the following account: “Indeed, at the age of sixteen he had some hankerings after a medical career; these were terminated by an operation at which he fainted and a case of labour at which he was sick” (101). Lord Birkenhead, on the other hand, attributes Kipling’s discouragement with medicine to his difficulties with Latin: “For a while, a year earlier [1881], he had played with the idea of becoming a doctor, but after a little time given to the Latin, which he studied in Caesar’s Commentaries, he abandoned it, although still haunting the precincts of St Mary’s Hospital at Paddington, where he picked up much half-knowledge of medicine” (55). Angus Wilson offers still another version by naming a different hospital and by having Kipling “put off ” by an autopsy: “It was during some of these holidays from Westward Ho that he managed to be taken into the Middlesex Hospital (presumably by some medical student friend). He had told his sister that he wanted to be a doctor but that a post-mortem had put him off. ‘Oh! in fact, Mark Twain has a word for it. I believe I threw up my immortal soul’ ” (55–56). Strangely, nearly 200 pages later Wilson changes the hospital involved from Middlesex to St. Mary’s. He writes of Kipling’s “unfulfilled medical ambition of his late schooldays, when he is said to have hung around St Mary’s Hospital” (332). Though the details of these accounts differ, a common denominator emerges, Kipling’s early ambition to be a doctor and his failure in one way or the other to show himself that he had what it took to do so. 108. Letter of October 22, 1919, to Andr´ Chevrillon. Letters, 4: 586. e

2 The City of Dreadful Night Within
1. “Her Little Responsibility,” in Abaft the Funnel (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), 14. Originally published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 1889. 2. “At the End of the Passage,” in The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Stories, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898),

NOTES

317

3. 4.

5. 6.

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

16. 17. 18. 19.

20. 21. 22.

5: 350. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this text. “The House Surgeon,” in Actions and Reactions, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1909), 24: 289. “In the Same Boat,” in A Diversity of Creatures, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1918), 26: 117. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. “Values in Life,” in A Book of Words, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1928), 32: 24. Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard: The Record of a Friendship, ed. Morton Cohen (London: Hutchinson, 1965), 99. Kipling’s reference to “a hell” rather than simply to “hell” probably reflects his awareness that in Eastern religions numerous hells exist, not just one as in Christianity. C. A. Bodelsen, Aspects of Kipling’s Art (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1964), 22. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (New York: Viking, 1977), 270. J. M. S. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London: Methuen, 1959), 215. Bonamy Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling: Realist and Fabulist (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 29–30. “Values in Life,” 24. “Values in Life,” 25. Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 422. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling (New York: Random House, 1978), 178. Kipling explained that the physician helped him by putting him on a certain “tonic” and by discouraging him from smoking. Quoted in Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 178. Curiously, Kipling gave the physician in the poem the same name as a physician who performs a similar service in the story “In the Same Boat,” Gilbert. Quoted in Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999), 176. Arthur Gordon, “Six Hours with Rudyard Kipling,” in Kipling: Interviews and Recollections, ed. Harold Orel (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1983), 2: 386. Something of Myself, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1937), 36: 121. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. “Independence,” in A Book of Words, 259. All references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Gordon, “Six Hours with Rudyard Kipling,” 386. Quoted in Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 107. Even Haggard was not as close to Kipling as he thought he was. He seemed to take great comfort in what he conceived to be the exclusive place that he occupied in Kipling’s heart. On occasion Kipling told him that they were much alike, praised his works often above their true merits, and said that he was more at ease in his presence than with anyone else. In fact, Kipling sometimes occupied himself with his

318

NOTES

23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28.

29.

30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42.

writing while Haggard was with him, feeling, as he claimed, an unusual sympathy and ease. Haggard was highly flattered, felt uniquely favored, and consequently perceived their friendship to be more intimate than it was. Actually, Haggard was not uniquely favored in being allowed to occupy Kipling’s study while he was writing if one is to believe Julia Taufflieb, who remembered that her husband was granted the same privilege: “One person was allowed to sit in one corner of the room and paint, and that was General Taufflieb. Rud said ‘The General is the only person in my life that I have ever allowed in the room when I am writing. I seem to work better when I feel his presence there.’ ” Madame J. H. C. Taufflieb, “Memories of Rudyard Kipling-II,” Kipling Journal, 10 (December 1943), 4–5. Hilton Brown, Rudyard Kipling (New York: Harper, 1945), 92. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 365. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 459. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 107. “The Uses of Reading,” in A Book of Words, 99. Actually, Kipling’s sympathy was probably more with the young man of action in the novel, Will Massey, than with Allen Engledew, who becomes something of an aesthete and thus did not represent the kind of author or life that Kipling was drawn to. “Prisoners and Captives (By One of them),” in The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Work, ed. R. E. Harbord, 5 vols. (Canterbury: Gibbs, 1961–70), 2: 1099. “Prisoners and Captives,” 1100. “A King’s House and Country,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 15: 141. “Treats of the Startling Effect of a Reduction in Wages . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 164. “Treats of the Startling Effect,” 165. “Concerning a Hot-water Tap . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 461. Quoted in Lycett, Rudyard Kipling, 225. “The Long Trail” was written during one of Kipling’s escapes, that is, during what he intended to be a voyage round the world in 1891. “Treats of the Startling Effect,” 164. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 230. Philip Mason, Kipling: The Glass, The Shadow and The Fire (London: Jonathan Cape, 1975), 97. Andrew Lycett reports that “Lucy Clifford told Rudyard frankly that she did not consider Carrie the right woman for him—with damaging consequences for their own friendship” (231). “Memoir By Mrs George Bambridge,” included as “Epilogue” in Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 592–93. Ernest Hemingway greatly admired “At the End of the Passage,” and it was, I suspect, the inspiration for Stephen Crane’s “The Upturned Face,” published some ten years later. All the more odd, then, that critics have not responded generally to it with a more pronounced sense of appreciation. Philip Mason,

NOTES

319

43.

44. 45. 46.

47. 48. 49.

50.

e.g., finds it a story with “wax figures” (101). Charles Carrington sees it as a “problem story in the same mode as the problem-pictures which were so popular at the Academy in Kipling’s younger days” (541). J. M. S. Tompkins considers it “a miscarried tale” (201–02). Dr. Spurstow speculates that Hummil died of a heat stroke, a heart attack, “or some other visitation” (357). Judging from the panic in his lifeless eyes, he seems to have been, as Lowndes puts it, “scared to death,” terrified of something emerging from within himself. In India, Kipling writes, “sudden death generally implied self-slaughter” (336). Lowndes implores the doctor to cover the ghastly face of the dead Hummil and asks, “Is there any fear on earth that can turn a man into that likeness?”. Dr. Spurstow’s answer is telling: “No fear— on earth” (358). The implication of his comment is that Hummil was not terrorized by something from without,“on earth,” but by something from within. Mason, Kipling: The Glass, 239. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling, 162. Miss Henschil discovers, thanks to her companion, Nurse Blaber, that her nightmare results from the visit by her pregnant mother to a leper colony. Conroy likewise finds out that when he was in his mother’s womb, she experienced a frightening episode at sea. Both occurrences scared the pregnant women so much that they passed the horror on to their unborn children, an explanation for the visitations that fails the test of authenticity in the view of most critics of story. Angus Wilson, e.g., argues that “the psychic element is so irrelevant or so metamorphosed into an appearance of medical psychiatry that its use as a solution or a means of identification of the source of the ill obscures and weakens otherwise interesting situations” (268–69). J. I. M. Stewart probably speaks for many readers when he states that “we are not very convinced” by Kipling’s explanation of why his characters in the story experience nightmares. Rudyard Kipling (London: Victor Gollancz, 1996), 168. Apparently, Kipling was attempting (though admittedly without total success) to find a way of showing that the nightmare visions of Conroy and Miss Henschil did not result from guilt or from some wrong that they had committed. He wanted the horror to be something “laid” upon them, as Nurse Blaber explains, and not the product of sin or overactive imaginations. “The City of Dreadful Night,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 16: 342. “The Dog Hervey,” in A Diversity of Creatures, 175. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. In “The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin” (1887), a doctor gives bromide of potassium to McGoggin to tranquilize him and to make him sleep after he loses control over his speech. Kipling hints that Hummil may have been relying on drugs to dull his fear even though he protests to Mottram that he has been taking “nothing” (338). The doctor injects him with a substantial dosage of morphine and is amazed that he must inject him a second time to induce sleep. Several factors could account for Hummil’s needing more morphine, one of which is the possibility that though not admitting it, he has used the drug before in some form and has

320

NOTES

51.

52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

61.

62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69.

built up resistance to it. My thanks to Dr. Clyde Partin of the Emory University Clinic for suggesting this possibility to me. At least on one occasion, however, Kipling made a distinction between the role opium plays in the life of native Indians and in that of white men. Robert H. M. Dawbarn claimed that in an interview with him, Kipling said that “there is an admitted difference between races in their reaction to its habitual use.” The native, he added, does become addicted but does not increase his consumption beyond a certain point, whereas the white man “steadily increases his dosage until a wrecked life is the result.” Thus Kipling’s horror of this form of drug addiction derived principally from its destructive effect on whites. “Opium in India—A Medical Interview with Rudyard Kipling,” in Orel, 1: 108. “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” in Plain Tales from the Hills, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 1: 302. “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” 306. “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows,” 297. “In an Opium Factory,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 433. “In an Opium Factory,” 441. “In an Opium Factory,” 440. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 37. “From Dusk to the Dawn,” in Harbord, 1091–92. Charles Carrington, e.g., finds that the story embodies Kipling’s “own mood of nervous exhaustion” (205), and both Philip Mason and Lord Birkenhead argue that Kipling wrote the tale from what Mason calls “personal experience” (102). Though “reference to hypnagogic experiences extends as far back as Aristotle,” according to Andreas Mavromatis, the phenomenon came under earnest scientific scrutiny beginning with the work of the Frenchman Maury in 1848. In 1890, S. W. Mitchell indicated that “the borderland of sleep is haunted by hallucinations . . . voices . . . distressingly real visions.” Quoted in Mavromatis, Hypnagogia: The Unique State of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), 4. Chronic insomnia is also a theme of “In the Same Boat,” where the main characters become addicted to Najdolene, a sleeping pill. Mavromatis, Hypnagogia, 225. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 25. Lycett, Rudyard Kipling, 44. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 25. Letters, 1: 69. Letters, 1: 61. In an early estimate of the story, Francis Adams considered it one of Kipling’s “deliberately supernatural tales,” and declared it a “distinct failure.” “Rudyard Kipling,” in Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 154. Angus Wilson sees ghosts (89) in the story and describes it as a work of “Gothic horrors” (156). J. M. S. Tompkins includes it among Kipling’s “early ghost-stories” of which she does not wish “to enter into any close examination” (198). Similarly, Bonamy Dobrée appears

NOTES

321

70.

71.

72. 73.

74.

to believe that in the story Kipling’s concern is with ghosts and mentions the work only in passing (12, 27). Although Charles Carrington calls “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” a tale “of horror written markedly in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe,” he veers off from the critics mentioned earlier when he states that the story “has some claim to consideration as a study of hallucination, the first and not the weakest of the many tales of psychopathic states which he was to publish” (105). Louis L. Cornell feels that Kipling was himself undecided about the nature of the apparitions and thus created a fascinating ambiguity. Kipling in India (London: Macmillan, 1966), 106–07. When Dr. Heatherlegh claims that Pansay is having problems with his eyes, he means that his patient literally has deficient eyesight. At one time Pansay tries to show him the phantom rickshaw, which he refers to as “that.” The doctor replies: “That may be either D. T. or Eyes, for aught I know. Now you don’t liquor. I saw as much at dinner, so it can’t be D. T. There’s nothing whatever where you’re pointing, though you’re sweating and trembling with fright, like a scared pony. Therefore, I conclude that it’s Eyes. And I ought to understand all about them” (21). Looking at Jack Pansay from the inside, it is clear that Dr. Heatherlegh was correct in a sense that he did not recognize when he diagnosed the problem as bad eyesight. Pansay does have trouble seeing—seeing himself. The pattern of references to eyes in the story creates a whispering revelation about Pansay’s inability to understand himself. Self-blindness is poignantly manifested in his statement that before the hallucinations began to appear, he was “in perfect health, enjoying a well-balanced mind” (11). The original version of the story did not have the introduction but consisted wholly of Jack Pansay’s words. Kipling added the introductory pages upon republication of the work in 1888. See Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling, 199. Whenever this decent and honorable side of his personality emerges, however, Pansay tries to vanquish it as if it is alien to him. For example, when he admits to being the offender in his relationship with Mrs. Wessington, he obliterates the decency reflected in that admission with a comment that marks him as a cad. He says that the knowledge that he was the offender transformed his pity of the woman into “blind hate” (7). When he says that he felt like an “ungrateful, evil-tempered invalid” for his impatience with Dr. Heatherlegh, he quickly adds: “But you shall judge for yourselves” (5). He says that because of his harsh, even brutal, words to Mrs. Wessington upon breaking up with her, he felt like “an unutterably mean hound,” but that statement, which creates sympathy for him in the minds of those who “shall judge,” is qualified into detestation of the man who made it when he adds that his noble feeling lasted “only a moment or two” (9). He thus seems determined to stifle the decent and honorable aspect of his nature as perhaps he has done for some time. Retributive justice occurs when Pansay receives much the same treatment from Kitty Mannering as he gives Mrs. Wessington. As the pathetic Mrs. Wessington begs Pansay for understanding and forgiveness, he lashes her with words that “cut the dying woman . . . like the blow of a whip” (9). The trope is significant, for its use foreshadows Kitty Mannering’s striking Pansay with an actual whip.

322

NOTES

75. 76.

77.

78.

79. 80.

81. 82.

83. 84. 85. 86.

She cruelly rejects him as he asks for understanding and forgiveness: “My answer was the cut of her riding-whip across my face from mouth to eye, and a word or two of farewell that even now I cannot write down” (27). Pansay therefore gets what he has given, a whip across the face, and justice prevails. Of his final meeting with Mrs. Wessington, where he disgraced himself, Pansay writes:“The scene and its surroundings were photographed on my memory” (9). Echoing through the story are the haunting words of Mrs. Wessington: “It’s all a mistake—a hideous mistake.” She says them to Pansay before her death, and in his hallucinations he hears them with maddening repetition. When he reveals to Kitty Mannering that he is seeing a phantom rickshaw, she speaks similar words: “There must be a mistake somewhere, Jack. A hideous mistake” (26). The hideous mistake of the story is Jack Pansay’s: he has greatly misunderstood himself. That mistake about his personal identity causes him to commit actions that result in a psychological crisis, a condition of the mind conducive to hallucinations. “The Phantom ’Rickshaw” shares several thematic strains with “At the End of the Passage,” among which is the complicated nature of honor. Hummil brings on his own destruction by refusing to violate what he considers his honor or duty. Pansay, on the other hand, is a victim of his honor in a different sense: he is the object of his honor’s revenge. That is, he violates his own sense of decency, and that submerged aspect of his personality takes its revenge on him, creating a living hell for him that brings on his death. At one point, Jack Pansay finds it difficult to distinguish unreality from reality: “It seemed that the ’rickshaw and I were the only realities in the world of shadows; that Kitty was a ghost; that Mannering, Heatherlegh, and all the other men and women I knew were all ghosts; and the great, gray hills themselves but vain shadows devised to torture me” (31). He thinks of himself as two people,“My two selves,” as he calls them (30). One is real and the other unreal, but he is unable to tell which is which. He states that “I myself was watching myself ” and that “presently I heard myself answering in a voice that I hardly recognized ” (29). “Values in Life,” 24. “The Woman in His Life,” in Limits and Renewals, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1932), 33: 46. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Conroy and Miss Henschil both practice counting for the same reason in “In the Same Boat.” “Proves Conclusively the Existence of the Dark Tower,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, 107. All page references to this sketch are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971), 3: 1821. James Tod, Rajput Tales (Delhi: Cosmo, 1996), 22. See Angus Wilson’s excellent explanation as to why Kipling’s parents did this (20–24). Randall Jarrell, “On Preparing to Read Kipling,” in A Sad Heart at the Supermarket (New York: Atheneum, 1962), 127.

NOTES

323

87. “Baa Baa, Black Sheep,” in Under the Deodars, The Story of the Gadsbys, Wee Willie Winkie, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 6: 368. 88. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 52. 89. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 52. 90. Mason, Kipling: The Glass, 34. 91. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 27. 92. Phillip Mallett, Rudyard Kipling: A Literary Life (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 3. 93. Mason, Kipling: The Glass, 35. 94. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 51. 95. “Baa Baa, Black Sheep,” 329. 96. “Baa Baa, Black Sheep,” 330. 97. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 290–91. 98. “São Paulo and a Coffee Estate,” in Brazilian Sketches (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940), 71. 99. “São Paulo and a Coffee Estate,” 71. 100. Quoted in Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 433. 101. Memoir, Mrs. George Bambridge, in Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 589–90. 102. “An Habitation Enforced,” in Actions and Reactions, 9. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 103. “The House Surgeon,” in Actions and Reactions, 288–89. Kipling chose not to attribute to inexplicable causes the dreadful experience of the narrator. What brings on the gloom that he and others suffer at Holmescroft is not “bewitchment,” as his friend’s daughter suspects, but the highly concentrated negative thoughts of a living person directed at this particular place. This woman believes that her sister committed suicide at Holmescroft, and for that act she cannot forgive her. It is this “influence” that creates the oppression that hangs over the house until the narrator, the “house surgeon,” reveals to everyone that the death was not suicide but an accident. Then the house is freed of its gloom-producing influence, and all ends happily. That part of the story that deals with the narrator’s descent into the dark places is striking and powerful; that part that clears up all mysteries by explaining the phenomenon is thin and unconvincing. Kipling was more effective when he dealt with the gloom-evoking power of a house over him as something deeply mysterious, as feng-shui, than when he attempted to explain it away with lame pseudo-logic. 104. For Kipling’s house in Brattleboro, Vermont, his father created in plaster molding over the fireplace of his study a blunt statement of the inevitability of one’s death: “The night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4). Later, after Kipling had acquired Bateman’s, his home in Sussex, he had a sundial in his garden inscribed with the words: “It’s later than you think.” Such sayings appear to be clever reminders to a man who thinks that he needs to be gently shaken now and then lest he idle away his time, but Kipling was not such a man. Indeed, he saw a memento mori everywhere he looked. The words over his fireplace at Naulakha and on his sundial at Bateman’s were not reminders to himself to mend his ways but manifestations of a preoccupation. As several

324

NOTES

105.

106. 107. 108. 109. 110. 111. 112. 113.

114.

115.

116.

117. 118.

biographers and critics have recognized, thoughts of death troubled Kipling through much of his life and repeatedly found their way into his writings. J. M. S. Tompkins devotes an entire section of her book to the subject, finding the early stories in particular “full of death” (187). She comments that “there had been nothing at all like it [this strong emphasis on death] in English literature for a very long while,” and she points out that although “with the coming of middle-age the rattle of bones is less insistent,” it is nevertheless present (187–88, 188–89). According to Angus Wilson, “few writers are more constantly apprehensive of death than Kipling. It is probably why he was so fascinated by the works of Webster and Donne” (34). Philip Mason states that “Kipling had always thought a great deal about death” and that in his works “from beginning to end . . . there is a consciousness of death” (278, 248). A few pages later he writes: “Heaven knows the men died fast enough from typhoid, which seemed to have something to do with water, but we were not sure; or from cholera, which was manifestly a breath of the Devil that could kill all on one side of a barrack-room and spare the others; from seasonal fever; or from what was described as ‘blood-poisoning’ ” (55). “Letters on Leave, I,” in Abaft the Funnel, 198. “Letters on Leave, I,” 201, 202. “A Death in the Camp,” in Abaft the Funnel, 236–37. “A Death in the Camp,” 237. Lycett, Rudyard Kipling, 364. “A Death in the Camp,” 232. “A Death in the Camp,” 234. This fascinatingly unusual short story has received little attention and most of that unfavorable. For example, an early reviewer, Lionel Johnson, thought that it did “not deserve publication” and a later critic, Bonamy Dobrée, found that it lacks “force.” See “Three Reviews by Lionel Johnson,” in Green, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 93, and Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling, 148. Strangely, Dobrée, who is normally a careful and perceptive reader of Kipling, erroneously states that the protagonist travels in a westerly direction when actually he pursues an easterly course, a fact highly important to the meaning of the story. “The Wandering Jew,” in The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Stories, 326–27. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Around the World in Eighty Days, trans. George Makepeace Towle (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), 161. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Kipling’s familiarity with “To His Coy Mistress” is clearly indicated in The Light That Failed when Dick Heldar says to his pet terrier: “Were there but world enough and time, This coyness, Binkie, were not crime. . . . But at my back I always hear—.” The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 9: 197. “Chatauquaed,” in Abaft the Funnel, 177. “Chatauquaed,” 181–82.

NOTES

325

119. The east has long been associated with the place of immortality. In his “Intimations” ode, Wordsworth mentions the east as the home of immortal souls before birth and depicts the process of growing up as a movement away from the east: “The Youth . . . daily farther from the east/ Must travel.” 120. “How I Met Certain People of Importance Between Salt Lake and Omaha,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, 213. All page references to this work are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 121. Unlike John Hay, Ahasuerus, wishes to die, desires to end the hell on earth that he has created for himself, but he cannot. 122. “Values in Life,” 24. 123. “The Last of the Stories,” in Abaft the Funnel, 323. The work also appears last in this collection. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 124. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 117. According to Cohen, “the manuscript sheets of Allan and the Ice-Gods that Haggard mentions survive, and they reveal the Kipling gave Haggard extensive help on this novel” (118). Kipling aided Haggard with his plots on several other occasions as well. 125. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 125. 126. Yet his best books, such as the ones he mentions in Something of Myself as having been inspired, “the Jungle Books, Kim, and both Puck books” (201), are all works—as are others of his books—of sustained narration and superbly developed characters who remain vividly in the mind. Whether we call these works novels or something else is of little consequence. Lord Birkenhead writes that it is not “difficult to put one’s finger on the weakness which prevented Kipling to the end from becoming a novelist. It was not that he was incapable of planning a full-length novel, but rather . . . [his] weakness in the creation of character, [which] made it difficult for him to sustain the reader’s interest beyond the bounds of the short story” (307). Surely, this is a lapse in judgment, for Kipling exhibited frequently his ability to sustain reader interest, as, e.g., in Kim. Confusingly, Lord Birkenhead argues that although Kim is a success, it is loose and episodic in form and thus not really a novel. He goes on to quote approvingly other critics who judge that Kipling’s characters “melt away rapidly out the memory,” that he “was rarely capable of creating a character” who “gathers flesh on his bones,” and that his “characters are little more than pegs on which to hang an anecdote” (307). He concludes by contrasting Kipling with Somerset Maugham, whom he considers vastly superior in the art of character portrayal. 127. “The Finest Story in the World,” in The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Stories, 107. 128. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 75. 129. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 100. 130. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 101. 131. Letter of March 4, 1919. Letters, 4: 538. 132. Ian Jack, Browning’s Major Poetry (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 194. 133. James Tod furnishes an illustration of this tower, which he calls the Pillar of Victory in his Personal Narrative. He states: “The only thing in India to compare

326

NOTES

with this is the Kutb Minar at Delhi” but the latter is “of a very inferior character.” The Pillar of Victory “is one hundred and twenty-two feet in height” and consists of “nine distinct stories.” Beyond that, Tod says, “it is impossible to describe it” in part because “it is one mass of sculpture” (Annals, 3: 1819).

3

The Immortal Woe of Life: Bereavement

1. Without specifically defining its meaning, Kipling used the phrase “the immortal woe of life” in his poem “A Charm,” which was first published in Reward and Fairies (1910). 2. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (New York: Viking, 1977), 34. 3. The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, ed. Thomas Pinney (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 1990–2005), 1: 133. 4. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling (New York: Random House, 1978), 76. 5. Letters, 1: 197. 6. Letter of May 15, 1888. Letters, 1: 178. About Flo’s letters, he wrote: “Therefore, when they are gotten by heart they are reverently burned.” 7. W. Somerset Maugham, Introduction, Maugham’s Choice of Kipling’s Best (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1953), xx. 8. Realizing that the poem was difficult to understand, Kipling made certain changes in it beginning with its publication in 1923 in the Inclusive Edition of his verse, slight alterations that resulted in a greater degree of clarity: Before my Spring I garnered Autumn’s gain, Out of her time my field was white with grain, The year gave up her secrets, to my woe. Forced and deflowered each sick season lay In mystery of increase and decay; I saw the sunset ere men see the day, Who am too wise in all I should not know. 9. “Without Benefit of Clergy,” in In Black and White, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 4: 128. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. 10. The situation somewhat resembles that in a story by a writer whose works Kipling admired, Edgar Allan Poe. “The Masque of the Red Death” depicts a ruler who retires to an abbey with walls and strong iron gates in order to avoid a deadly plague rampaging among the populace. He and his friends find pleasure for a time in their insulated world, but finally reality intrudes in the form of the disease that has so devastated his people and destroys them all. Unlike Holden, however, Prince Prospero of Poe’s tale is not a sympathetic character. He and his friends appear to deserve their fate, certainly not Kipling’s point about his protagonist. 11. Elliot L. Gilbert, The Good Kipling: Studies in the Short Story (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1970), 36. Gilbert is referring specifically to Walter M.

NOTES

327

12. 13. 14.

15. 16. 17. 18.

19. 20. 21.

22. 23. 24.

Hart, Kipling the Story-Writer (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1918), 70, but a more famous reader of Kipling, T. S. Eliot, seems to have fallen into the same trap. While a student at Harvard University, Eliot wrote for one of his English classes an essay on Kipling that points out certain “defects” characteristic of the author but highly praises—largely for the wrong reasons—one story,“Without Benefit of Clergy.” Young Eliot found it “the best thing which Kipling has done” and called it “that Indian idyl.” He saw the story as “tender” and as “less ambitious” than most of Kipling’s tales. He lauded it for being in better “taste” than Kipling usually exhibited and thus more mature. Strangely, he felt that “no tremendous impression is intended,” but he concluded that “there exists in any language no more touching idyl of illicit love told with such ingenuous simplicity.” “The Defects of Kipling (1909),” Essays in Criticism, 51 (January 2001), 1–7. Gilbert, The Good Kipling, 36. Gilbert points out Hemingway’s indebtedness to Kipling, who was one of his favorite authors (41–43). Jeffrey Meyers argues that Holden’s abandonment of his own world, that of English culture, is the cause of all his problems, that his relationship with Ameera “is doomed to destruction, not by fatal fever and cholera, but rather by Kipling’s sanction of the ‘colour prejudice’ and ‘superiority complex’ of his age.” In other words, Kipling was prejudiced and burdened with the idea of white supremacy and consequently imposed on Holden the penalty he deserved for his “attempts to transcend the white man’s code.” “Thoughts on ‘Without Benefit of Clergy,’ ” Kipling Journal, 36 (December 1969), 11. Letters, 4: 13. A. W. Baldwin, The Macdonald Sisters (London: Peter Davies, 1960), 134. A. O. J. Cockshut, ed., Rudyard Kipling: Life’s Handicap (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 309. Gilbert states that the theme of the story is the “failure of ritual” (29). For a refutation of Gilbert on this point, see Philip Mason, Kipling: The Glass, The Shadow and The Fire (London: Jonathan Cape, 1975), who points out that Kipling deeply believed in the efficaciousness of ritual (25). Lloyd H. Chandler, A Summary of the Work of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Grolier Club, 1930), 296. Holden reflects his belief in fate when he tells Ameera, “It will fall as it will fall. Tomorrow we do not know” (117). In a letter from India, Kipling wrote to his aunt Edith Macdonald of the sudden death by cholera of one of his orderlies, a man that he liked (so much, in fact, that he paid for his funeral): “His friends told me that it was the ‘will of God.’ I was never so angry with any one in my life before as I was with those dusky mourners” (Letters, 1: 63). Letters, 1: 179. “Business in the Sea of Marmara,” in War Writings and Poems, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1937), 34: 72. In Death in the Afternoon (New York: Scribner’s, 1932), Hemingway wrote that the power one senses in the movement of an iceberg derives from our

328

NOTES

25.

26. 27. 28.

29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

39. 40. 41.

awareness that much more of it is unseen, under the water, than seen. The iceberg was his metaphor for the technique of understatement, the art of leaving unsaid what can be sensed: “The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water” (192). In his comment about the iceberg, Kipling was speaking of war, that is, how much more of it there is than can be seen at any one place, but since he wrote so often of the importance of understatement and utilized it so poignantly in his fiction, it is easy to see how his metaphor could apply also to his style of writing. He apparently believed that the tendency to understate is inherent in the English character. In “Territorial Battalions” (1914), an article that he wrote during World War I, he refers to “the ineradicable English instinct to understate.” War Writings and Poems, 283. While praising the French in “Souvenirs of France” (1933) for hard work, he again comments on the Englishman’s “inveterate habit of understatement.” War Writings, 313. “On Greenhow Hill,” in Soldiers Three and Military Tales, Part I, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 2: 227. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Charles Carrington, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 204. Quoted in Hilton Brown, Rudyard Kipling (New York: Harper, 1945), 224. Although Hilton Brown possibly represents the view of a good many readers when he states that the “native deserter and Ortheris methodically shooting him” are “quite irrelevant” (170) to the rest of the narrative, they are in actuality parts of the strand of desertion that unifies the story. Bonamy Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling: Realist and Fabulist (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), 127. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 124, 226. Harry Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: Chatto and Windus, 1999), 174. Letters, 1: 378. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 204. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 82. Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute, 174. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 122. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 91. “Baa Baa, Blacksheep,” in Under the Deodars, The Story of the Gadsbys, Wee Willie Winkie, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 6: 333. “Watches of the Night,” in Plain Tales from the Hills, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 1: 94. “Watches of the Night,” 98. Kipling found that England was not the only country that regarded members of the armed forces in a negative light. During his trip to the United States in 1889, he visited Yellowstone National Park and found himself in the company of an “old lady from Chicago” and an American soldier. “America is a free

NOTES

329

42.

43.

44.

45. 46.

47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52.

53.

country,” he wrote in an article sent to the Pioneer, “but the citizens look down on the soldier. I had to entertain that trooper. The old lady from Chicago would have none of him; so we loafed along together, now across half-rotten pine logs sunk in swampy ground, anon over the ringing geyser formation, then knee-deep through long grass.” “Ends with the Cañon of the Yellowstone,” in From Sea to Sea, Part II, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 16: 172. Incongruity is especially noticeable in the frame setting, where Kipling’s descriptions of the beauty and serenity of nature jarringly contrast with an act of killing. Though a fundamental aspect of the story, this point appears somehow to have gone largely unnoticed. One commentator, e.g., takes the position that “the story’s intimation that Learoyd could have become a quite different person in civilian life underscored the diminished human sympathies that he and his friends had had to acquire in order to survive in the army” (Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute, 174). Surely this view misses Kipling’s characterization of Learoyd as a man for whom civilian life is alien, a man who was meant to be a soldier. Kipling even describes Learoyd in canine terms. When he is telling of his temptation to kill the Reverend Amos Barraclough, his “lips curled back over the yellow teeth” in what is in effect a dog-like snarl (225). Earlier Learoyd himself uses such imagery to depict his shame after he drinks on Liza’s borrowed money and returns to the Roantree household “wi’ my tail between my legs” (214). Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 225. Leon Edel, “A Young Man from the Provinces,” in Rudyard Kipling: The Man, His Work and His World, ed. John Gross (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), 64. Edel, “A Young Man from the Provinces”, 70. “Memoir by Mrs. George Bambridge,” published as “Epilogue” in Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 595. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 437. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 428. Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling: Realist and Fabulist, 27. Kipling admits in Something of Myself that in his writings he now and then made “a few lucky hits or happy deductions” with regard to psychic phenomena, but he hurriedly adds: “But there is no need to drag in the ‘clairvoyance,’ or the rest of the modern jargon” (206). Years earlier he had responded to an inquiry about his story “They” by refusing to label the characters: “I don’t know that I would apply the word ‘clairvoyant’ to any of the characters; as, in my mind, that always seems to go with ‘mediums’ and suchlike.” Letter of August 26, 1919. Letters, 4: 566. In India his father had known the Russian born Madame Blavatsky (1831–91), founder of Theosophy and its most forceful advocate, and he related to Rudyard that she was “one of the most interesting and unscrupulous impostors he had ever met” (Something of Myself, 57). During Kipling’s lifetime, interest

330

NOTES

54. 55.

56. 57. 58.

59. 60. 61. 62.

63. 64.

in paranormal experience spread rapidly in Great Britain and the United States, and as it did so, numerous impostors, like the notorious Fox sisters in America, were exposed and comically ridiculed. As more and more mediums held more and more séances and as those intent upon communicating with the dead multiplied by many fold, an ever increasing number of skeptics made a career of bringing to light the fraudulent methods of a host of the self-proclaimed psychics. To claim clairvoyance, therefore, was to bring upon oneself not only the glare of publicity—entirely of the wrong sort in Kipling’s opinion—but also the threat of hostile and meticulous examination of one’s claims. Janet Oppenheim, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 3. William James, “Review of Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, by Frederic W. H. Myers (1903),” in Essays in Psychical Research (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), 211–12. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 266. Baldwin, The Macdonald Sisters, 75. Dorothy Adelson suggests that Alice Kipling, whom she characterizes as rather stern and cold-hearted, was to a large extent responsible for her daughter’s emotional problems. Notwithstanding those problems, “Trix inherited psychic abilities of more than amateur quality.” “Kipling’s Sister,” Kipling Journal, 44 (December 1977), 13. See Alan Gauld, The Founders of Psychical Research (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968), 246. Quoted in Gauld, The Founders, 246. Oppenheim, The Other World, 156. Janet Oppenheim comments that “it is highly improbable” that “collusion, fraud, and self-delusion” were present “given the number of people, the sheer volume of material, and the span of time involved” (134). She points out that one of the most skeptical examiners of psychic claims during this period, Frank Podmore, “was deeply impressed with the SPR investigations of the mental mediums Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Thompson, as well as with the early cross-correspondence scripts of Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Holland [Trix], and others. In his last book, published the year of his death, he clearly distinguished the ‘revelations made in trance and automatic writing’ from the physical phenomena of spiritualism, which he persisted in assigning entirely to fraud.” Insofar as mental mediums like Trix were concerned, “he came to the conclusion that no ‘imaginable exercise of fraudulent ingenuity, supplemented by whatever opportuneness of coincidence and laxness on the part of the investigators, could conceivably explain the whole of these [trance and automatic] communications’ ” (147–48). Alson J. Smith, “Ed. Note,” The Psychic Source Book (New York: Creative Age, 1951), 180. For accounts of these two fascinating instances of cross-correspondences and Trix’s role in them, see Gerald W. Balfour, “The Ear of Dionysius,” Proceedings,

NOTES

331

65. 66.

67. 68. 69.

70.

71. 72.

73.

74.

75. 76.

Society for Psychical Research, 39 (1918). Repr. Alson J. Smith, The Psychic Source Book, 1951, 180–216, and Oppenheim, The Other World, 132–35. Baldwin, The Macdonald Sisters, 126. Haggard accepted “some external evidence which goes to support the doctrine of the continuance of the personality beyond the changes of death.” About spiritualism he wrote that “although many people, some of them of great intellect and high character, believe in it, and I know well that whatever it may be it is not all fraud, however much it may be mixed with fraud, I am by no means satisfied as to the real origin of its phenomena. Without expressing any definite opinion, at times I incline to the view that it also is but a device of the Devil, by specious apparitions and the exhibition of an uncanny knowledge which may be one of his attributes, to lead heart-sick mortals into regions they were not meant to travel and there infect them with the microbe of some alien, unknown sin.” H. Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life, ed. C. J. Longman (London: Longmans, Green, 1926), 2: 249–50. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London: Methuen, 1959), 203. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 438. Its title suggests that very much on his mind at the time of its composition were questions about the dead, “they,” and how he should deal with his bereavement. “Them” might have seemed a more natural way of referring to loved ones who had departed this life, but that pronoun is in the objective case. Kipling wanted the dead on center stage, as a subject, not an object, so he chose a pronoun for them in the subjective case. “They,” in Traffics and Discoveries, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1904), 22: 357. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 264. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 436. See, however, the admonition of R. E. Harbord, who insists upon the importance “of dissociating the narrator from the author.” Harbord then proceeds, however, to reprint approvingly an interpretation that merges the two. The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Works (Canterbury: Gibbs, 1961–70), 4: 1922. In her annotations to “They,” Lisa Lewis points out that Trix claimed to have had the same power as Miss Florence of seeing internally colors that manifest emotions or make up a person’s aura. Mrs Bathurst and Other Stories, The World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 288. Daniel Karlin makes essentially the same observation in his annotations to Rudyard Kipling, The Oxford Authors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 609. Winifred Sewell states that the primary interest of “They” is “in the experience of the blind woman who can see . . . colours which emanate from one’s personality,” but she gives no indication that the narrator is also gifted with the same ability. Kipling Journal, 35 (September 1935), 91. Angus Wilson, The Strange Ride, 265. Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts, 1886), 241. Albert Pike traces beliefs about the meaning of the Egg

332

NOTES

77. 78. 79. 80. 81.

82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88.

89.

in various cultures, but does not indicate that it is a symbol associated with Freemasonry. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston SC: A. M. 5632, 1871). Leslie Shepard, ed., Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 2nd ed. (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1984), 1: 392. A. J. C. Tingey, “The Egg That It Is Given To Very Few Of Us To See,” Kipling Journal, 66 (July 1943), 5. Karlin, Rudyard Kipling, 609. Letter of June 29, 1905, to Louis Fabulet. Letters, 3: 185. See entries for “Egg of Immortality” and “Eye of the Soul,” June G. Bletzer, The Donning International Encyclopedic Psychic Dictionary (Norfolk, VA: Donning, 1986), 190, 223. “Eye of the Soul,” 224. A conservative count reveals that there are approximately eighty references to seeing in the story. Letters, 2: 376. Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard: The Record of a Friendship, ed. Morton Cohen (London: Hutchinson, 1965), 107. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 139. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 139. For a differing opinion of why the narrator resolves never to return, see Lisa Lewis’s perceptive analysis, which details three stages of mourning that she believes the narrator experiences. Lewis concludes that he decides to stay away in the future because he has come to accept “that he has lost his child forever.” Thus he is at last reconciled to his loss, and he is “seen to recover command of himself and his affairs” (44). Although disagreeing with my interpretation of the story, Lewis’s article is an important contribution especially for its close attention to patterns of repetition and imagery. “Seeing Things: Repetitions and Images in ‘They,’ ” Kipling Journal, 78 (December 2004), 43–46. Angus Wilson, on the other hand, argues that the reason for the narrator’s decision is so unclear as to be “an artistic defect” in the story. He sees several possibilities for the narrator’s not wishing again to contact his dead child: “It may be that he thinks that indulgence in the occult will become a drug and destroy his active life. It may be that he believes that psychic gifts may be indulged by women but not by men. It may be that he is Kipling and his life is to create art. It may be that he needs to face his own grief without such occult aid” (265–66). Wilson thus appears to have considered nearly every reason except the one most in line with Kipling’s own personality and with his characterization of the narrator. Though “En-Dor” clearly reveals Kipling’s abhorrence of those who for a fee hold séances in order to get in touch with the dead and though the poem strongly suggests that such communication may be fraudulent, the focus is not on the mediums but on those “desolate hearts” who yearning for some sign that their departed loved ones still live and who desperately hoping that “we shall meet our Dead/ As they were even in life,” find themselves on “the oldest road/ And the craziest road of all.” Seeking “comfort” from “out of the dark,”

NOTES

333

90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95.

96.

97. 98. 99. 100.

these poor souls torn with grief have in store for them only woe. Indeed, the dominant note of the poem is sorrow. Essentially the same precautionary message is to be found in the late story “Fairy-Kist” (1927). James R. Lewis, Encyclopedia of Afterlife Beliefs and Phenomena (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1994), 39. The Light That Failed, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1898), 9: 114. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 100. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 261. Frederic W. H. Myers, “The Daemon of Socrates,” Proceedings, Society for Psychical Research, 5 (1888–89). Repr. Smith, The Psychic Source Book, 68–75. Sandra Kemp astutely observes that to Kipling “writing is a kind of occult experience,” and she points out that he was preoccupied with the similarities between the writer and the psychic. Kipling’s Hidden Narratives (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 47. Meryl Macdonald’s The Long Trail: Kipling Round the World (Bristol: Tideway House, 1999) contains an excellent treatment of Kipling’s extended romance with the automobile including descriptions of the cars he owned and accounts of his various adventures in them. Quoted in Karlin, Rudyard Kipling, 606. Quoted in Karlin, Rudyard Kipling, 606. “Unprofessional,” in Limits and Renewals, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1932), 33: 274, 300. The basic positions of the controversy are suggested by Kipling’s comments on how Mary Postgate herself responds to stories she hears: “She listened unflinchingly to every one [and] said at the end, ‘How interesting!’ or ‘How shocking!’ ” “Mary Postgate,” in A Diversity of Creatures, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1917), 26: 489–90. (All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition.) The reasons that some readers are shocked by the story derive primarily from a perception that in one way or another it is mean spirited (revealing the author’s hatred for Germans in particular and for women in general) if not sick (embodying a love of revenge, a cherishing of brutality, or a proclivity toward sadism). J. M. S. Tompkins says that “Swept and Garnished” and “Mary Postgate” are “two dreadful tales” that “assault the mind” (134). The story left Angus Wilson dogmatically disgusted: “ ‘Mary Postgate’ has been much more noticed. It is deeply shocking, and I reject all suggestions that its brutality can be explained away” (309). Often quoted in connection with “Mary Postgate” is Oliver Baldwin’s epithet of shock: “the wickedest story ever written!” It is worth noting, however, that Oliver Baldwin may actually have been praising his admired kinsman Kipling, not burying him, for he was not easily shocked. He may well have been using wicked not in the sense of “evil”—a label that Angus Wilson applied to the work—but to mean “naughty,” which carries sexual overtones that to him were not necessarily condemnatory. Among those who find the story more “interesting” than “shocking,” some, like Bonamy Dobrée point out that

334

NOTES

101.

102. 103.

104. 105.

106. 107.

108.

though Kipling did, indeed, abhor the Germans for their atrocities in World War I the story is not really about that subject and does not embody the author’s personal hatred (131). Others, C. A. Bodelsen, e.g., argue that if Mary is somewhat cruel in her reaction to the injured German airman, it is not because she is a neurotic, hysterical woman—an intended example of her gender—but because the horrors of war have made her, a decent English spinster, hate the enemy. Aspects of Kipling’s Art (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1964), 102. Kipling expressed this same sentiment in a letter to Brander Matthews, which I quoted in the previous chapter: “It’s a queer sensation to be in and of a people who’ve been through the whole mill of all available motion and have come out the other side—dazed, dumb, bewildered but still alive. . . . I’m sorry for people who haven’t had the experience—Hell though it is and has been.” Letter of March 4, 1919. Letters, 4: 538. Lord Birkenhead writes that Wynn is “represented as an unattractive boy who treated Mary with indifference and even contempt” (317). In “Kipling’s ‘Mary Postgate’: The Barbarians and the Critics,” Études Anglaises, 29 (January–March 1976), Peter E. Firchow convincingly argues that “Mary genuinely loves Wynn—the match that lights his pyre also burns ‘her heart to ashes’—and she patiently submits to a great variety of indignities for his sake. If she resembles anyone . . . it is the kind and gentle mother figure” (37). Firchow is less convincing, however, in his view that the story is meant to be read as a “spiritual allegory” with Wynn as “a sacrificial Christ figure,” with Nurse Eden as “rural England before the German Satan quite literally fell into it,” and with Mary Postgate as a kind of Virgin Mary (37). Firchow’s conclusion is that the work embodies “Old Testament hatred and vengefulness” that were very much a part of Kipling’s “stock in trade” (38). John Bayley, The Uses of Division: Unity and Disharmony in Literature (New York: Viking, 1976), 67. According to George M. Burnell and Adrienne L. Burnell, one of “the most prominent emotion[s] expressed by parents is that of anger.” Clinical Management of Bereavement: A Handbook for Healthcare Professionals (New York: Human Sciences Press, 1989), 125. See Beverley Raphael, The Anatomy of Bereavement (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 55, 116. Burnell and Burnell comment that “if there is a history of past unresolved or multiple losses, there may be a case of ‘bereavement overload,’ ” resulting sometimes from the “loss of all family members and friends by outliving them.” Such a condition can bring on “such pain” that “is often too overwhelming to deal with” (63). John Bayley reads this passage as an indication that “Mary is perfectly at home with death, as any of Jane Austen’s characters would have been.” He describes Mary as having “stoically accepted [death] as the normal way of things.” The Short Story: Henry James to Elizabeth Bowen (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1988), 92.

NOTES

335

109. Nora Crook unequivocally states that “Mary is mad—I would say a great deal madder than has been supposed.” Kipling’s Myths of Love and Death (London: Macmillan, 1989), 126. 110. Norman Page argues that it is possible that “Dr. Hennis has summed up Mary as an hysterical and perhaps even a crazed female.” “What Happens in ‘Mary Postgate’?” English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, 29 (no. 1, 1986), 42. 111. For a different interpretation, see Norman Page, who states that to Mary the German airman represents Wynn and that in watching him suffer and die, she is experiencing “unconscious retribution” for all his “cruelties directed at her over many years” (45). Similarly, Nora Crook takes the position that Mary (as a “artist”) hates Wynn and secretly wishes him dead because of his cruelties toward her. In letting the German airman die before her, Mary is therefore watching Wynn die. Crook posits the astonishing theory that since Wynn’s full name is Wyndham Fowler, Kipling is making reference to the Wyndhams, longtime friends of the Kipling family and owner of “Clouds,” their home where Lockwood Kipling died. Crook concludes that Kipling despised the Wyndhams for what they represented and thus named the cruel Wynn after them (136–44). 112. Since Kipling makes it plain that the man Mary discovers has fallen from a plane and is fatally injured, it is difficult to accept Charles Carrington’s view that she “has the opportunity of saving the life of a wounded German airman” (500). 113. Norman Page takes the position that “Kipling intends us ultimately to recognize . . . that Mary is assuredly the victim of a hallucination and that the airman never existed outside of her own mind. . . . Just as she claims to have heard and seen the aeroplane that dropped the bomb—a claim that the text shows unequivocally to be without foundation—she later believes in the imagined airman” (44). 114. Among critics who accept the airman as real, several have questioned whether he is actually a German. Seeing him as, say, French, is a step toward concluding that Kipling strongly condemned his heroine in the story. See, e.g., Bill Dower, “Did Mary Postgate Leave an Ally to Die?” Kipling Journal, 76 (March 2002), 42–47: “If it can be established that the airman in ‘Mary Postgate’ may not be an enemy but in fact an ally, then Mary is not only a cruel and vengeful person, but one who has robbed her country of one of its defenders” (47). 115. Recent criticism in particular tends to stress the theory that Kipling portrays Mary as experiencing sexual pleasure as she watches the German die. John Bayley writes that Mary is a closet sado-masochist who is, without knowing it, in love with Wynn and whose “secret thrill” in seeing the German die is a “sexual response,” in fact, the “source of acute sexual pleasure” (The Short Story, 89). In his brief commentary on the story, Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999), refers to Mary’s “perverted sexual joy” (452). Harry Ricketts goes much further in stating: “Kipling made

336

NOTES

116.

117.

118. 119. 120. 121.

122. 123. 124. 125.

126.

127.

128.

129.

it quite clear that she had an orgasm” while she excitedly observed the airman expire (319). “Proves Conclusively the Existence of the Dark Tower . . .,” in From Sea to Sea, Part I, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1899), 15: 112. It is interesting that Kipling has Miss Fowler use a word with masculine connotations, handsome, instead of pretty or beautiful, more feminine terms. He perhaps felt that handsome was more in keeping with the idea of Mary’s having gained a feeling of strength or power (often associated with masculinity) through suffering. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 152. “Somehow,” he wrote, “that almost drew tears.” Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 152. Cohen, Rudyard Kipling to Rider Haggard, 152. “Brander Matthews on ‘Kipling’s Deeper Note,’ ” in Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 341. Chandler, A Summary of the Works, 101–02. Edmund Wilson, “The Kipling That Nobody Read,” in The Wound and the Bow: Seven Studies in Literature (Boston, MA: Houghton, 1941), 180. Carrington, Rudyard Kipling, 542. Dobrée, Rudyard Kipling: Realist and Fabulist, 45. Numerous other eminent Kipling scholars, including J. M. S. Tompkins, Angus Wilson, Philip Mason, Elliot L. Gilbert, Lord Birkenhead, and Phillip Mallett, take as established fact that Michael is Helen’s natural son and that the story is about her painful cover-up. That one can read the story—and be profoundly affected by it— without perceiving it in this light is suggested by the comments of the historian and critic Noel Malcolm, who identifies “The Gardener” as the story that has most deeply moved him. In describing its plot, he writes: “Miss Turrell, a spinster who has brought up her brother’s son as if he were her own (but has always described him, correctly, as her nephew), goes to the war grave in Belgium where he now lies buried.” “Moved to Tears,” The Sunday Telegraph, December 21, 2003. “The Gardener,” in Debits and Credits, The Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1926), 31: 450. All page references to this story are hereafter given in the text and are to this edition. Kipling did make this final stanza of “The Burden” a part of “The Gardener” by having it, and only it, printed after the title of the story in Debits and Credits. For example, Lord Birkenhead writes that Helen “has found the strain of this deception almost unbearable” (335), and Elliot L. Gilbert refers to her “impetuous, bungled love affair” (84). One wonders, where in the story does Kipling indicate that Helen is under an almost unbearable strain because she is fostering a deception, and where is her headstrong sexual adventure depicted? Gilbert, The Good Kipling, 90.

NOTES

337

130. Mason, Kipling: The Glass, 294. 131. Lord Birkenhead, Rudyard Kipling, 336. Steven Trout argues that “The Gardener,” posits “an implicit advocacy of war as a beneficial and cathartic experience” because the gardener—whom Trout assumes to be a British veteran of the Great War because such grave-tenders frequently were—has been humanized and spiritualized by the great bloody conflict, which has “fostered his Christ-like capacity to understand Helen.” In addition, “by losing her son, Helen, in a sense, gains him for the first time” because the great burial site where she stands becomes “a place of spiritual rebirth—a place where, in other words, the values that led her son, and his companions, to their graves are reaffirmed.” “Christ in Flanders?: Another Look at Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Gardener,’ ” Studies in Short Fiction, 35 (Spring 1998), 177. 132. Ricketts, The Unforgiving Minute, 363. 133. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling, 181–82. Tompkins makes the valid and important point that the poems that accompany stories in such collections as Debits and Credits “are not indispensable to the tales, which in most cases were first published without them and can stand alone. We should not, therefore, I think, speak of them as keys” (106). That being said, she proceeds to treat “The Burden” as a kind of key to “The Gardener,” assuming that Helen Turrell is the speaker in the first three stanzas and interpreting the ending of the story in terms of the ending of the poem. She speculates that Kipling may have written “The Burden” to made his story free of any misunderstanding: “I have sometimes wondered whether Kipling added the explicit ‘The Burden’ after he found that ‘The Gardener’ could be misunderstood” (106). Is it not more likely, however, that the Kipling of this late period of his career would add a poem in order to enrich the ambiguity rather than to diminish it? 134. “His Gift,” in Land and Sea Tales, the Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Scribner’s, 1937), 35: 79. Tompkins argues that because of the opening words of “The Gardener,” “it is to be conveyed to us, but never stated, that what everyone in the village knew was that the ‘nephew’ Helen brought back from the South of France was her son” (117). Elliot L. Gilbert agrees and concludes that “it is what the village knows and what the village thinks that is the most important single fact in the lives of all the people in this story, and especially in the life of Helen Turrell” (83). Philip Mason offers a convincing argument against Gilbert’s condemnation of the village as a moral wasteland, but he concurs that “the village has all along known perfectly well that Helen was really Michael’s unmarried mother” presumably because of the way the story begins (291). 135. By the device of extra line spacing, Kipling divided “The Gardener” into five distinct structural parts. 136. That Michael is Helen’s nephew only biologically—that she is his mother in every other sense—may have motivated Kipling to place quotation marks around the word nephew when he made the following entry for March 14, 1925, in his motoring journal: “Have begun a few lines on the story of Helen Turrell and her ‘nephew’ and the gardner [sic] in the great 20,000 cemetery.” Without indicating where Kipling made the remark, Carrington quotes it, but

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NOTES

137. 138. 139.

140.

141.

he omits the quotation marks around nephew (572). Morton Cohen (152) says that Kipling made the statement in a “letter,” quotes it, but like Carrington, fails to reproduce Kipling’s quotation marks around nephew. Peter Keating, Kipling the Poet (London: Secker and Warburg, 1994), 213. Daniel Karlin, “Kipling and the Limits of Healing,” Essays in Criticism, 48 (October 1998), 332. Just as “London Stone” is at least in part an answer to I Corinthians 15: 55 (“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”), “The Bees and the Flies” is a refutation of I Corinthians 15:43, in which Paul, speaking of the resurrection of the body, states: “It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” Perhaps this is the attitude that Lafcadio Hearn admired. “I like Kipling’s morbidness,” he said, “which is manly and full of enormous resolve and defiance in the teeth of God and hell and nature.” “Letters from Lafcadio Hearn,” in Green, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, 173. The ending of the poem creates something of a problem, for it appears to contradict what he wrote elsewhere about bereavement, namely, that there is no way to ease the pain. When he writes “As I suffer, so do you,” however, he is not actually offering what he has personally found to be a password to comfort but simply a universal truth (expressed significantly not in his own words but as a quotation), which might be of help if not to himself, then to others. In the final line, the qualifier “may” adds to the aesthetic distance already created by the quotation marks of the previous line. Then his use of the word the to modify “grieving” in the last line permits him to maintain his position on the tightrope between private and public poet. He could have written “our,” but to do so would have involved him in the lie that he had advised others not to tell in time of grief. He could not honestly say that his own grief might be eased because he knew that it would not. He may well have been tempted to write “your,” but “your grieving” would have separated him pronouncedly from the bereaved nation he was supposed to be representing. On the other hand, simply to write “grieving” without any word before it might seem too general. Consequently, he settled on “the grieving,” which is specific enough to refer to this particular occasion, a nation remembering in great sadness all those lost in the Great War, but vague enough so that it neither excluded him from the commonality nor included him.

4

Children of the Zodiac: The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous

1. Contemporary reviewers judged it harshly. George Saintsbury, e.g., liked it least among the stories collected in Many Inventions (1893), though he was generally sympathetic toward Kipling. Andrew Lang praised several other stories in the collection but complained that “the fun of ‘The Children of the Zodiac’ I fail to see.” Cosmopolitan, 15 (September 1893), 616. Writing in the Academy,

NOTES

339

2.

3.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Percy Addleshaw called it (along with two other stories) “quite the worst things Mr. Kipling ever wrote” and judged it as “very bad.” Quoted in Introduction, Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971), 9. As a rule modern commentators have been more charitable, but often they have been put off by what they perceive as the obstinacy of obscurity, that is, what seems Kipling’s willful muddying of the waters. R. E. Harbord expresses the opinion of many when he writes that “The Children of the Zodiac” is both “difficult” (which of course it is, especially for a work of this early stage in Kipling’s career) and “disappointing.” The Readers’ Guide to Rudyard Kipling’s Work (Canterbury: Gibbs, 1963–70), 3: 1272. Charles Carrington complains that “no satisfactory explanation” of the work “has been offered by any commentator.” Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 542. Philip Mason con