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Rudyard Kipling

Overview


This absorbing, widely praised biography brings a fresh and sympathetic eye to the career of the prolific writer whose popular Jungle Books and collections of poems like Barracks Room Ballads as well as the masterly novel Kim propelled him to the pinnacle of literary success before he was forty. With illuminative reinterpretations of his work, it also follows Kipling through the next three decades that took this complex, troubled, and brilliant man to tragic personal disappointments and galling disrepute among ...
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Overview


This absorbing, widely praised biography brings a fresh and sympathetic eye to the career of the prolific writer whose popular Jungle Books and collections of poems like Barracks Room Ballads as well as the masterly novel Kim propelled him to the pinnacle of literary success before he was forty. With illuminative reinterpretations of his work, it also follows Kipling through the next three decades that took this complex, troubled, and brilliant man to tragic personal disappointments and galling disrepute among the lions of literary fashion. In all, biographer Ricketts brings vibrantly to life the diverse worlds of imperialist India and Victorian London that both inspired and betrayed Kipling's genius.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kipling's biographers are still trying to find a balance between his reputation as an imperialist writer and his actual life. After Martin Seymour-Smith's psychologically speculative 1990 biography (also titled Rudyard Kipling), the more conservative approach of New Zealander Ricketts (editor of Kipling's Lost World) gives some redress to the fiction writer and poet--although in the process his account downplays many of Kipling's late reactionary opinions. Like many sons of the Empire, Kipling's childhood was divided unevenly between England and India (primarily Bombay), but he was effectively orphaned when he was sent at age six to live in an evangelical household in Southsea. Although that experience instilled a permanent sense of abandonment in Kipling, evident in his fiction, Ricketts points out that it also ingrained in him the indefatigable work ethic that sustained his long literary career. Ricketts's insights into the ironies of that career also challenge the assumptions of Kipling's posthumous reputation. Kipling became an ardently propagandizing imperialist only after he settled permanently in England and lost contact with his "native" India. The Nobel notwithstanding, Kipling, Ricketts recounts, precipitously lost critical standing as he gained international popularity. These points are enlivened by Ricketts's selection of letters by such rival authors as Henry James and Max Beerbohm, which provide amusing gossip as well as literary context. Much of Ricketts's portrait of Kipling as a man with many internal contradictions ("devoted son/damaged' orphan,'" "scholar gipsy/rule-bound conformist") seems astute, but his treatment of the author as a complicated colonial isn't as successful as his assessment of Kipling's personal affairs and poetry. Photos not seen by PW.(Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Kipling was a man of contradictions: identified with both India and England, he was a poet of the common man who also served as spokesman for the British Empire and the white man's burden. Poet and editor Ricketts tries to capture Kipling's complexity in order to show the sophistication and enduring quality of his fiction and poetry, which Ricketts sees as anticipating much in modernism. His sympathetic treatment is balanced, not glossing over Kipling's imperialism, right-wing politics, or anti-Semitism. This biography aims more at a popular audience than those of Angus Wilson (The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling, 1979), Lord Birkenhead (Rudyard Kipling. o.p.), James Harrison (Rudyard Kipling, 1982), and Martin Seymour-Smith (Rudyard Kipling, LJ 2/1/90). Though a bibliography would have been welcome, Ricketts's account is intelligent, thoroughly informed, and fluent. A pleasure to read.--Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Rubin
Critical yet sympathetic, Ricketts's life of Kipling is a compelling yet believable portrait.
The Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786708307
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 12/27/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 547,077
  • Product dimensions: 1.03 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Ruddy is Coming


Kipling adored his parents.

    His mother, Alice Macdonald, was lively, witty and talented; in a Jane Austen novel she would have been called accomplished. She wrote and published poems, arranged songs, sang and sewed and knew how to run a household. Her racy, gossipy letters captured acquaintances and social situations in phrases that flickered between mischief and malice. Frederic, her younger brother, thought her `keen, quick and versatile' beyond anyone he had ever known. She `saw things at a glance,' he recalled, `and dispatched them in a word'. Her poems showed another side, revealing a deep strain of melancholy, which she shared with her mother and three of her four sisters.

    Alice also had a flair for family melodramatics. Packing up on one of the Macdonalds' triennial moves — her father was a Methodist minister — she came across an envelope containing a lock of John Wesley's hair. `See!' she exclaimed, throwing the holy relic on the fire. `A hair of the dog that bit us!' She liked to startle the family with her talent for table-turning, an enthusiasm which led later in life to a more serious involvement with spiritualism.

    As a young woman she was considered a flirt and had already been engaged a number of times before she met her future husband: once, even perhaps twice, to William Fulford, a friend of her other brother Harry, and once to the Irish poet William Allingham of `Up the airy mountain,/ Down the rushy glen'. `Alice,' observed her youngest sister Edie, `neverseemed to go on a visit without becoming engaged to some wild cad of the desert.' From the few surviving photographs — she hated having her picture taken — Alice appears full of face and solidly built. It was apparently her bright eyes, variously described as blue or grey, which were her chief fascination: `they could both flash and sparkle,' said her friend Edith Plowden.

    Alice met her husband, John Lockwood Kipling, either late in 1862 or early in 1863. She was on a visit to her brother Frederic, then just beginning his first circuit as a Methodist minister at the Swan Bank Wesleyan Chapel at Burslem in Staffordshire. Frederic had recently made friends with Lockwood, who was in Burslem liaising between his employers at the Department of Science and Art, South Kensington, and manufacturers in the Potteries. Lockwood, like Alice, was twenty-six and in his much quieter way had an equally purposeful personality. Five foot three, he was already bald — and that and a long golden beard gave him a distinctly Socratic appearance. Intellectual curiosity, patience and an air of safety were the hallmarks of his character. `All things interested him,' recalled Frederic. `He seemed to know something about everything, as well as everything about some things.' As a couple, Frederic considered Alice and Lockwood ideally suited.

    The story of how they became engaged deserves a place in any anthology of courtship. The occasion was a picnic with friends at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire in the summer of 1863. There was a meal, followed by a walk. An old, gaunt-looking horse was spotted in a nearby field. `"Thrust out past service from the devil's stud,"' suggested Lockwood. `"He must have been wicked to deserve such pain,"' returned Alice, immediately recognising the quotation from Robert Browning's `Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came', and capping it with a line from the next stanza. `It was done in that moment,' she later observed.

    If the story sounds too literary to be true, it gains support from the entries the couple made a few years later in an In Confession book: although differing on every other point, both agreed that Robert Browning was their favourite poet. As an off-the-cuff glimpse into their tastes and preferences, other entries in the book make equally interesting reading. Alice's pet aversion was tripe, Lockwood's cold weather. Her favourite virtue was constancy, his patience. Becky Sharp was appropriately her favourite fictional heroine, while he preferred Balzac's Eugénie Grandet and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Her favourite real-life hero was Rajah Brooke of Sarawak; he plumped for St Vincent de Paul and Christopher Columbus. Her idea of happiness was freedom from care, his a ripe mango in his bath, with a cheroot.

    One further courtship story handed down by the family tells how Lockwood, still at that time known by his first name, John, arrived on a visit to the Macdonalds during the course of evening prayers. The lesson, from the first chapter of St John's Gospel, contained the sentence, `There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.' And the Macdonalds apparently took this as Biblical approval of Alice's choice.

    But although Lockwood was enthusiastically received as a prospective son-in-law, his immediate prospects were not considered good enough for the marriage to go ahead at once. In fact, it was not until the end of 1864, when Lockwood was appointed to one of the three new posts for artist-craftsmen at the Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay, that the wedding was finally arranged. Events then moved swiftly, and the couple were married on 18 March 1865 at St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington. The ceremony was by choice a modest affair. None of Lockwood's family was present and only a smattering of Alice's many relations: her sisters Aggie and Georgie, Georgie's husband the painter Edward Burne-Jones, her brother Frederic and an aunt or two.

    `Alice looked very nice,' wrote Aggie to Louie, another sister, who did not attend, `her bonnet became her very well, and she had a plain tulle veil.' The service was followed by one of those improbable-sounding Victorian wedding breakfasts: cakes, potted meats, ham, tongue, reindeer tongue, oyster patties, crystallised fruit, macaroons and apricots. One present that the newly married couple wisely decided against taking with them (and passed on to Lockwood's mother) was `an electro-plated palm tree out of which [rose] a tall glass of flowers'.

    The honeymoon was spent with Lockwood's mother and sisters in Skipton, Yorkshire, where Rud was presumably conceived. Then there were a few last hectic days in London before the departure for India. Aggie, with evident relish, reported to Louie on the full horror of a `desert hat' which Alice had bought. It was, she wrote, `of the foulest appearance ... The mind of man recoils from the sight of that hat: it is nearly as large as a beehive, you can see none of her face when it is on, and her voice sounds a mile off. There is also a green veil about a yard square which completes the costume.' On 12 April, Alice and Lockwood set sail on the SS Ripon for Bombay and the start of their new life.


That Alice and Lockwood had both been brought up in devout Methodist families, and had then lapsed, formed a significant additional bond between them. Not only Alice's brother but also her father and grandfather had served as ministers; indeed, from 1784 to 1928, the three of them covered 144 years of unbroken ministry. Her grandfather, James Macdonald, converted by John Wesley, was a man of formidable learning. A good Latin scholar, he read the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew, knew Italian and Spanish and spoke French fluently. He edited the Methodist Magazine and, among other books, wrote a life of the Reverend Joseph Benson. He died in 1833 at the age of seventy-two, his health broken by twenty-seven circuits as a minister.

    Alice's father, George, married twice and by his second wife, Hannah, had eleven children. Seven of these survived into adulthood: two sons, Harry and Frederic, and five daughters, Alice, Georgie, Aggie, Louie and Edie. George Macdonald was an eloquent preacher, a good storyteller and a cheerful, broad-minded workaholic. `Offspring, spring off,' he would say when his children disturbed his work by climbing on his knee. And as long as they grew up to be good Christians, he claimed not to mind whether they were Methodist or not. This tolerant attitude was perhaps just as well, since all his children except Frederic were to turn their backs on his faith. The peripatetic life of the ministry eventually wore George out too, though he did live long enough to see his grandson Rud.

    Alice's mother, Hannah, possessed a more troubled temperament than her husband. Even Frederic, always generous in his estimation of others, felt compelled to mention `the touch of sadness that was never far away from even her brightest moments'. Edie, Hannah's youngest daughter, was more specific, claiming that her mother's early Methodist training had encouraged an unhealthy introspection and a `melancholy tinge in the religious teaching which she gave to her children'. This melancholy tinge found its way into Hannah's diaries, as in this entry from August 1874, the year before her death:


Once a cherished wife, Mother of a numerous family, Mistress and Centre of a large household. Now a lonely widow, my children, all but one precious daughter, married and scattered over the earth: but I thank God, that with much sadness, there is no bitterness. My dear children are all good to me; and now that my own proper life seems to have terminated, I live in their joys and sorrows, as I once did in my own.


Of Alice's two brothers, the elder, Harry, was a failure, the younger, Frederic, a success. Harry (1835-91) seemed destined for great things when he left St Edward's School, Birmingham, with a scholarship to Corpus Christi, Oxford. But at Oxford he fell in love, lost direction and went down after two years without taking a degree. He moved to New York in the hope of making his fortune, but his early promise quickly faded. At school and at Oxford one of his most intimate friends was Edward Burne-Jones, and it was this friendship that led to the close ties between his sisters and the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Frederic (1842-1928), less obviously brilliant, certainly less highly strung, rose high in the Wesleyan Church, becoming President of the Conference and earning the affectionate sobriquet `The Admirable Crichton of the Methodist ministry'.

    Alice had two older sisters who died young. Of the four who survived, Georgie (1840-1920), three years younger than Alice, would prove the family mainstay in times of emotional crisis. After Burne-Jones proposed to her in front of the Arthur Hughes painting April Love, the couple were married in 1860. The marriage had its troubles, particularly in the late 1860s when Edward had an affair with the Greek heiress Maria Zambaco. But they stayed together, and their home, The Grange, North End Road, Fulham, became one of the chief meeting-places for Morris, Rossetti and the other Pre-Raphaelites, besides featuring prominently in the lives of Georgie's sisters. After Georgie came Aggie (1843-1906), the family beauty. She married another painter, the Academician Edward Poynter. Their wedding in August 1866 took place on the same day that Louie (1845-1925), the family hypochondriac, married the Worcestershire ironmaster Alfred Baldwin. Edie (1848-1937), the youngest of the five surviving sisters, was the only one to remain single. In marrying Alice, Lockwood had joined a clannish, socially ambitious and increasingly distinguished family.

    Lockwood himself came from more modest stock. The Kiplings had been small-holding farmers around Lythe in North Yorkshire for generations before his father Joseph (1805-62) decided to break away and join the Wesleyan ministry in the early 1830s. Joseph, like his son and grandson, was a short man but, unlike them, shy and retiring. An unusually sweet singer and fond of gardening, he was said to be singularly devout, though not an impressive preacher. Impressive or not, the title of one of his sermons, `The Eternal Nature of Hell's Torments', sounds promising. In 1836 Joseph married Frances Lockwood, fathered six surviving children, and died three years before the birth of his famous grandson.

    His wife, Frances, was equally devout but much livelier, with a sense of humour which she kept to the very end. During her last illness, the doctor, who was taking her pulse, asked her whose hand he was holding. `The hand of youth and beauty' came the whimsical reply. It was, incidentally, from Frances's side of the family that Kipling inherited the famous eyebrows that featured so prominently in photographs of him in later life.

    Lockwood, Joseph and Frances's eldest child, was born in Pickering on 6 July 1837, a couple of months after his future wife Alice. Following the family tradition of calling Kipling sons alternately John and Joseph, he was christened John and only started calling himself Lockwood at the time of his marriage. At the age of seven he was sent to Woodhouse Grove School, an establishment set up for the education of the sons of Wesleyan ministers. Clothes, shoes and six years' schooling were provided virtually free, but conditions were fairly spartan. Lockwood later remembered the school as `dreary' and claimed to have been beaten by the headmaster for his `stoical apathy'. His attitude to other aspects of his Wesleyan upbringing can be gauged from his unpublished romance Inezilla, in which the narrator caustically describes how he has bowed his head `in baize-lined pews of dissent' and marvelled `at the ravings of Methodist ranters round weeping and snuffling victims at the penitent bench'.

    It was a visit to the Great Exhibition in 1851 that determined Lockwood's future career as artist and craftsman. He was taken on as an apprentice by Pinder, Bourne & Co., earthenware manufacturers of Burslem in Staffordshire, while concurrently studying (and winning prizes) at Stoke and Fenton School of Art. After two years working in London and elsewhere for an architectural sculptor, he joined the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington. It was during his four years with the Department that, going to and fro between London and the Potteries, he met Frederic Macdonald and became engaged to Alice. By the time he applied for the job at the Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay, Lockwood could claim an extensive `practical knowledge of Gothic as well as Italian ornament' and a wide `acquaintance with the various processes of Pottery'; and it was these areas of expertise that secured his appointment. The contract that Lockwood was offered, and accepted, was initially for three years at a salary of 400 rupees a month (about £36), plus whatever fees he could pick up from pupils and apprentices.


The Bombay in which Alice and Lockwood arrived in May 1865 was a flourishing city, soon to be known as `The Gateway of India' with the opening of the Suez Canal. Their new home on the Esplanade was a whitewashed bungalow just across the compound from the School of Art. In the early summer the bungalow was surrounded by a colourful jungle of plants and scrub, which shrivelled into a dust bowl as the heat increased, then turned into a swamp when the rains came.

    Life at first cannot have been easy. While Lockwood had his new job to engross him, Alice had to set up a household in conditions very different from any she had previously experienced. Packing cases sent ahead had gone astray, and a dinner service had, expensively, to be bought. An array of servants, far more than in England, had to be employed and their castes and duties understood. Sanitary arrangements were primitive, fever frequent and the spicy food unfamiliar. The intricacies of the Anglo-Indian social hierarchy, in which the Kiplings occupied a low position, were not always easy to grasp. She suffered from homesickness and morning sickness.

    Their son was born at ten o'clock on the evening of 30 December 1865, after six days of labour — `as long as it took for the creation of the world,' as Alice later quipped. The servants sacrificed a goat to assist a safe delivery and quick recovery. The child was christened Joseph Rudyard Kipling — Joseph following the Kipling family tradition, and Rudyard, on Aunt Louie's suggestion, to commemorate the couple's engagement at Rudyard Lake. Had Rud been a girl, his name, less memorably, would have been Margaret Macdonald Kipling (which would have given him the same initials as another English writer about India, M M Kaye).

    A carte-de-visite of Rud as a baby showed him, white as a snowflake, asleep on his ayah's lap. Uncle Frederic, when he saw the photograph, pretended to mistake the ayah for Alice and joked, `Dear me, how dark Alice has become!' In another early photograph Rud, now a year old, sat on Alice's knee, smiling up at her raised finger. The deeply cleft chin was already clearly in evidence, though not of course the eyebrows or the slight cast in one eye. Rud made his presence felt from the beginning. Lockwood, writing to his sister-in-law Edie just before Rud's first birthday, described him as `a great lark' and how it was `the quaintest thing in the world to see him eating his supper, intently watched by three dogs to whom he administers occasional blundering blows with a little whip & much shouting'. From the same letter it appears that, socially speaking, the Kiplings were now starting to find their feet. At a recent party they had met Lady Frere, the Governor's wife, and `various swells', and Alice had `sung in the choruses and duets like a bird'. They were becoming assimilated into Anglo-India in other ways too. `A Hindoo,' Lockwood went on, `makes a shot at the right thing & he hits or misses by chance ... a strange and curious imperfection & falling short attends everything ... I don't suppose if I were to talk for a week I could make you quite realise how far the brains of the native take him and where the inevitable clog of his indolence & that'll-do-ishness stop him short.'

    When Alice again became pregnant in the autumn of 1867, they decided that she should return to England to have the baby, taking Rud with her. Given the difficulties of his birth, the decision was entirely understandable, although it must have severely stretched their finances.

    Alice and Rud reached London on 10 March 1868, and after a fortnight with Georgie and Edward Burne-Jones at The Grange went on to stay with Alice's parents, who were by now living in Bewdley in Worcestershire. As soon as they arrived, the two-year-old Rud made a rapid survey of the house's sleeping arrangements and announced indignantly that his grandparents had `tooken the best room for themselves'. With Alice's father, George, bedridden and dying, it was not an auspicious beginning.

    On 10 May Alice returned to Georgie's to have the baby, leaving Rud with her parents and her sister Louie, who lived nearby at Wilden. The baby was delivered a month later on 11 June. She was christened Alice after her mother, but was soon known by Lockwood's nickname for her, Trix. Weighing eleven pounds, she was born with a black eye and a broken arm and looked, according to Georgie, `like a Blake baby so big and white'. In fact, everyone assumed that she had been born dead until, after much slapping from the doctor, she started to breathe. Rolled up in a blanket, she was then placed on a chair in Burne-Jones's studio, where a large prospective buyer was only just prevented from sitting on her.

    Alice stayed on at Georgie's for another month after the birth. While his mother was away, Rud would apparently walk down the street in Bewdley, shouting `Ruddy is coming!' or, if anyone got in his way, `An angry Ruddy is coming!' It was not a story that Louie thought to pass on to Alice when the latter wrote, asking for news of her son. Indeed, as Louie informed Aggie, she would have been perfectly happy to send Alice `some Ruddy anecdotes ... but since he has not had his retentive memory crammed with rhymes & so on, he really says nothing funny, and is a very usual little boy'.

    Soon after Alice's return to Bewdley with Trix, Rud did in fact say something funny. On his mother remarking that Trix looked `like a Rubens lady', he agreed in his newly acquired Worcestershire accent that `ur be very like Reuben' — Reuben being Louie's coachman and Rud's current hero. Louie, writing again to Aggie, did not mention this particular exchange but did say that the baby was proving `terribly cross and troublesome', while Rud was being `good and nice', and that for the first time she felt `very fond of the child'.

    During August and September Alice took the children on a visit to Lockwood's mother at Skipton. In early October they returned to the Macdonalds at Bewdley for a final few weeks before leaving on the first leg of the journey back to Bombay. The departure from Bewdley on 2 November did not go well. Hannah noted in her diary that `Ruddy, after being sweet & pleasant for a little while, screamed horribly just before leaving, which had the effect of drying our tears. I cannot think how his poor Mother will bear the voyage to Bombay with an infant, and that self-willed rebel. I hope his Father will train him better.' A week later, in another letter to Aggie, Louie was more waspishly sententious: `Sorry as we were to lose [Alice] personally, her children turned the house into such a bear-garden, & Ruddy's screaming tempers made Papa so ill we were thankful to see them on their way. The wretched disturbance one ill-ordered child can make is a lesson for all time to me.' (A sobering reflection when one recalls that Louie had recently given birth to a future Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin.) On 13 November, a few days after Alice and the children had set sail, George Macdonald died.

    From the surviving evidence of this nine-month trip it has been suggested that Rud may have been the toddler from Hell. This is patently absurd — although at times he was no doubt quite as noisy, unruly and tyrannical as his grandmother and aunt claimed. Reading Hannah's almost daily accounts in her diary of her husband's failing health, and remembering that for much of the time she also had to contend with a turbulent two-year-old, it is impossible not to feel very sorry for her. For instance, the entry for 9 October reads simply: `Poorly and depressed beyond my power of expression, and I would not express it if I could.' In the circumstances it was natural enough for her to find Rud's tantrums intolerable. And yet one should feel sympathy for Rud too. He was after all a very young child, staying in completely unfamiliar surroundings among strangers, one of whom was slowly and painfully dying. In addition, his mother was absent a good deal and was preoccupied with the new baby. That he should sometimes have been `ill-ordered' and given to `screaming tempers' is hardly surprising. It would have been far more surprising had he always been `good and nice'.


Rud's earliest memories probably dated from his return to Bombay. He remembered lying awake in his cot, listening to the sound of the rain in the monsoons, and, when it was too hot to sleep, getting up and untucking the mosquito-net and getting bitten to death. He remembered `vast green spaces and wonderful walks through coconut woods on the edge of the sea where the Parsees waded in and prayed to the rising sun'; going to the fruit market in the early morning with his Roman Catholic Goanese ayah and Trix in her pram; with Meeta, his bearer, `assisting with offerings at some Hindu wayside temple' where, being below the age of caste, he `could trot in and out without offence'.

    His ayah and Meeta and the other servants formed the centre of his inner kingdom. With them he was Rud-baba and spoke in Hindi, and was lulled to sleep by their stories and songs. In one story a Ranee turned into a tiger; in another a potter's son married a princess. Listening to the servants' talk, he learnt `the elementary facts of life so discreetly veiled from the young in the west' and was surrounded by warmth, safety and unconditional affection.

    On the borders of this world existed his parents. With them he spoke English, `haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in'. He would wander across the compound on his own to the School of Art to see his father. On one such occasion, he later recounted:


I passed the edge of a huge ravine a foot deep, where a winged monster as big as myself attacked me, and I fled and wept. My Father drew for me a picture of the tragedy with a rhyme underneath —:


There was a small boy in Bombay Who once from a hen ran away. When they said: `You're a baby,' He replied: `Well, I may be: But I don't like these hens of Bombay.'


    This consoled me.


Without wanting to make too much of the incident, this was probably Rud's first experience of the consolations of literature. Less portentously, a pupil of Lockwood's, Pestonjee Bomanjee, recalled years afterwards how Rud would come into the room where they were modelling and would pelt the students with clay, before being forcibly removed by his father. Rud also remembered Pestonjee Bomanjee and preserved his name in the Just So story `How the Rhinoceros got his Skin'.

    Near the Kiplings' bungalow rose the ominous Towers of Silence, on top of which dead bodies were exposed to the vultures. One day Alice found a child's hand in the garden. Rud, naturally curious, wanted to see the hand; Alice, naturally upset, told him not to ask questions. Already an adept at knowing whom to pump for necessary information, he found out from his ayah. When Rud developed whooping cough, however, Alice's imagination and good sense rose to the occasion. He had been prescribed an emetic to be taken before going to bed, and Alice devised a ritual whereby after the nightly dose she would choose an interesting storybook and begin to read. Rud would then raise his hand at the crucial moment as a sign for her to stop. Less dramatically, she wrote to a friend of how, after desperately coveting a donkey, Rud had come to her saying, `Never mind of that donkey. I've seen a little white horse' and had gone on to tell her exactly how few rupees it would cost. Alice was particularly struck by her four-year-old son's unusual description of the horse as looking `rather like a bicycle'.


It is not known exactly when Lockwood and Alice decided that Rud and Trix should be sent to live in England. Why they chose to do so would not have surprised any of their fellow Anglo-Indians; in fact, the reason would have seemed too obvious to mention. If an explanation had to be given, it was usually that, at a certain age, white children became particularly susceptible to the rigours of the Indian climate. This, however, was a convenient euphemism, a broad-spectrum rationale, masking other concerns — since, medically, there was no reason why children of five and three, like Rud and Trix, should have been more at risk from the climate than children even younger.

    What were those other concerns? Two at least seem straightforward enough. Anglo-Indians did not want their children to grow up thinking of India as home: home, or `Home' as they usually referred to it, was England. Nor did they want their children to acquire sing-song, chi-chi accents, the almost inevitable consequence of prolonged exposure to the servants' English. In addition, there were less obvious anxieties, again involving the influence of the servants. Maud Driver in her 1909 book The Englishwoman in India was one of the first publicly to express these less mentionable fears. According to her, it was necessary to send Anglo-Indian children `Home' in order to remove them from `the promiscuous intimacy of the Indian servants, whose propensity to worship at the shrine of the Baba-log [the children] is unhappily apt to demoralise the small gods and goddesses they serve'.

    In other words, while Anglo-Indian parents were happy enough for their children, when very young, to be cosseted and worshipped by the servants, they did not want them to grow up unmanageable and, in the case of their sons, unmanly. And, strictly in its own terms, such an attitude makes sense. There is plenty of evidence, not least among Kipling's stories, to support the idea that the little sahibs were often extremely indulged and tyrannical. In his own case, his sister Trix remembered how the servants used to treat him as one of themselves, calling him (as he was later to call his character Kim) `Little Friend of all the world'. She added that he was also `rather noisy and spoilt'. More obliquely, Maud Driver also hinted at something more problematic than simple over-indulgence. Her phrase `promiscuous intimacy' suggests that the real demoralisation she had in mind was of a sexual nature: that, through such close and extended contact with the servants, white children ran the risk, at an early age, of finding out about the facts of life and of knowing more than was good for them. Kipling's own testimony bears this out, and he certainly came to feel that in India `it was inexpedient and dangerous for a white child to be reared through youth'.

    After five years in India, Lockwood and Alice probably fully shared and endorsed these concerns. But in their case two other factors contributed to their decision to send Rud and Trix to England. On 18 April 1870 Alice had given birth prematurely to another son who did not survive. Whether as catalyst or corroboration, that loss must have played its part. The other reason was more pragmatic: without the children, Alice would be better able to concentrate her very formidable social skills towards the advancement of Lockwood's career. So, in the circumstances, the decision to send Rud and Trix to England was nothing out of the ordinary. What seems puzzling, and requires some explanation, is why the couple should have decided to send the children to live with strangers and not with any of their numerous relations.

    Alice, who obviously had a monopoly on the domestic decisionmaking, must take responsibility for this. Edith Plowden recalled her later saying that `She had never thought of leaving her children with her own family — it led to complications.' Alice could hardly have been unaware of the bad impression that Rud's behaviour had made on her mother and sister Louie during the 1868 visit. Understandably, she would have wanted to avoid any possible repetition. Other worries probably also affected her thinking. While she and her sisters were undeniably close, their letters and Louie's diary show that they could be intensely competitive and at times extremely jealous of each other. Did Alice fear that if she sent her children to live with members of her own family, they might in time transfer their primary allegiance away from herself? The prospect of parting with Rud and Trix would have been painful enough in itself; to part with them to strangers might well have appeared a less threatening prospect than the risk of `losing' them to one or other of her tough, charming sisters. Towards the end of her life, Trix suggested that the obvious solution would have been for Rud and her to have gone to Lockwood's family at Skipton. But once Alice had discounted her own side of the family, clearly Lockwood's had to be discounted too; that would only have led to other complications.

    As it turned out, Alice and Lockwood chose Pryse Agar and Sarah Holloway of Southsea as the future `foster parents' for their children. Whether the original contact was made through an advertisement in an English or Indian newspaper or through some other channel has never been discovered. Presumably letters and references were exchanged and considered satisfactory. At any event, all the necessary arrangements must have been made long before Alice, Lockwood and the children set off for England in April 1871.


One final anecdote of Rud as a very young child survives. Told by his parents of the creation of the world in six days, he commented thoughtfully, `If God had half-made the world and then made a man how terrified he would have been.'

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
1 Ruddy is Coming 1
2 The House of Desolation 15
3 Beetle in Love 30
4 Echoes 54
5 Anglo-Indian Attitudes 75
6 Boundary-Crossing 85
7 Out of India 103
8 Charting the Orient 121
9 Knocking about the States 130
10 London and Fame 145
11 An American Wife 169
12 An American Home 187
13 The Trouble with Beatty 202
14 Recessional 226
15 Reputations 252
16 A Sadder and a Harder Man 257
17 Family and Foes 280
18 My Boy Jack 314
19 Debits and Credits 341
20 Pallbearers 367
Notes 391
Acknowledgments 414
Index 415
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