Rudyard Kipling

Eyridiki Sellou | Jan 20, 2024

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Joseph Rudyard Kipling (born December 30, 1865 in Bombay, died January 18, 1936 in London) - English novelist and poet. He gained worldwide popularity with his poems about British soldiers serving in the colonies and adventure stories classified as classics of youth literature. He was regarded as a singer of imperialism, but recognized the cultural values of conquered peoples. He portrayed colonialism as the mission of the white race, whose duty it is to propagate the principles of European civilization. He spent the years of his youth mainly in India, which is the exotic background of his best-known works: the novel Kim and the fantasy stories The Jungle Book. In numerous articles and occasional speeches he commented on the most important political events in the world. His hugely readable works elicited extremely mixed reviews from critics. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his perspicacity, original imagination, bold ideas and outstanding narrative talent."

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in Bombay, British India. His parents were Alice Kipling (née MacDonald) and John Lockwood Kipling. His father, a sculptor and illustrator who would go on to illustrate his son's works on more than one occasion, took a faculty position at the School of Fine Arts in Bombay, founded by the English. Alice Kipling (1837-1910) was one of four Victorian sisters who married famous men: the husband of Kipling's aunt Georgiana became painter Edward Burne-Jones, the second aunt, Agnes - painter Edward Poynter, the third, Louisa - conservative politician and railroad engineer Alfred Baldwin. Kipling's name comes from Rudyard Lake in the English county of Staffordshire, where his parents stayed while they were still pre-married. The writer became accustomed to the Hindustani language as a child, learning tales told to him by servants.

When Rudyard was six years old, in accordance with tradition in British India, he was sent to England. He was accompanied by his three-year-old sister Alice, called Trix (1868-1948) in the family. They settled in Southsea, where they were taken care of by Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, who took in the offspring of Anglo-Indians, as the British living permanently in India were called. The siblings stayed in their home for nearly six years. In his autobiography, the writer recalled this time with reluctance, ironically considering whether the combination of cruelty and neglect he experienced at the hands of Sarah Holloway could have accelerated the development of his literary talent. In January 1878, Kipling enrolled at the United Services College in Westward Ho! This school, known for its Spartan conditions, was founded to prepare boys for the military academy or administrative work in the colonies. Rudyard's systematic education ended at the age of 16, as his parents did not have enough funds to finance his further education at the prestigious academy, he failed to obtain a scholarship, and a visual defect excluded him from the ranks of the army. Lockwood Kipling sought employment for his son in Lahaur, where he was a museum curator. Starting in 1882, Rudyard began working as an assistant publisher of the small journal Civil & Military Gazette, where he remained until 1887.

Indian stories

"Civil and Military Gazette" was published throughout the year, six days a week. The publisher in time allowed Kipling a great deal of creative freedom and commissioned him to write stories. In the summer of 1883, Rudyard visited for the first time Simla, the summer capital of British India, where the viceroy and members of the government would move for six months. This city became the setting for many of the stories he wrote for the Gazette (Germ Destroyer - A Germ Destroyer, On the Strength of a Likeness - On the Strength of a Likeness, Wressley of the Foreign Office - Wressley of the Foreign Office). About 39 of Kipling's short stories were published in the magazine between 1886 and 1887. Most of them were later collected in Storytelling from under the Himalayas. In 1887 the writer was transferred to the much larger sister newspaper The Pioneer in Allahabad, for which he worked until 1889. Readers quickly appreciated his lively style, sense of observation and irony-filled comments. He worked extensively and over the next year published a total of 41 texts in the pamphlet series "The Library of the Indian Iron Railway," ranging from novellas of a few pages to full-length short stories, collected in six volumes (Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, In Black and White, Under the Deodars, The Phantom Rickshaw and Wee Willie Winkie), which could be bought at station newsstands.

In his stories, Kipling describes Indians with kindness and interest, although he regards them as a race inferior in every way to Europeans and capable of living only under the harsh rule of the white man. For him, India is a picturesque backdrop against which he depicted with satirical fervor the familiar world of officers, officials and colonial dignitaries. It is clear from his writings that he was a strong supporter of the caste system, and this was true both among Indians and the British themselves. Although he was aware of the stereotypes circulating about India ("As everyone knows, it is a country equally divided between jungles, tigers, cobras, cholera and sipayas"), he himself was generally content with rather superficial observations in his texts. Only some of his early stories stood out for their originality. In Lispeth (1888), the heroine is an Indian woman taken in by a pair of missionaries, who, having rescued an injured Englishman, decides to become his wife. The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows (The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows, 1888) is a depiction in first-person narrative of the degeneration of an opium addict who drags his wife into addiction and, after years of addiction, waits in a sleaze pit for his own death. The City of Dreadful Night (1885), with its title reference to a James Thomson poem, is an unabashedly ironic tale of Indians in Calcutta who, while running a municipal government, can't get anywhere in order and are content with idle politicking.

Kipling was also one of the first to describe ordinary soldiers, who, due to their origins in the social lowlands, were often considered derailers in the empire. Without avoiding glorification, he emphasized their nobility, sensitive feelings, spontaneous humor and ability to make heroic sacrifices. Witty depictions of the daily lives of privates were the subject of the Soldiers Three series inspired by several scenes from William Shakespeare's Henry V. As in the play, the contrasting characters converse with each other in their native dialects (London, Scottish and Irish), revealing in the process how the British differ in habits and mentality. Kipling still treated only child characters with equal empathy and without his usual sneering humor. In The Black Lamb (Baa baa, Black Sheep, 1888) he processed his own experiences, describing a boy who was sent back to England from India, raised by a fanatical nanny, experienced gradual loss of sight and was irrevocably emotionally crippled. Highly praised in particular was his short story The Drums of the Fore and Aft (The Drums of the Fore and Aft, 1888), showing the courage of two 14-year-olds who were the only ones in the regiment who did not retreat from a ravine surrounded by Afghan tribesmen and died heroic deaths.

New topics

In Kipling's later stories, elements of the fantastic and uncanny appeared just as often as moral themes in exotic settings. The Phantom Rickshaw (The Phantom Rickshaw, 1888) is the tale of a spurned woman who stalks an unfaithful lover from beyond the grave, in The Lost Legion (The Lost Legion, 1893) during a night expedition fallen soldiers mingle with the living at the site of an ancient massacre, and in A Madonna of the Trenches (A Madonna of the Trenches, 1926) the cause of a mysterious suicide turns out to be a phantom. In turn, The Finest Story in the World (The Finest Story in the World, 1891) testifies to the writer's interest in the concept of the wandering of souls and extrasensory perception. The short story They (One, 1904), in which a pragmatic automobile salesman begins to suppose that the ghosts of dead children are accompanying him to his Elizabethan estate, was considered a particularly successful combination of realism and horror.

Critics believe that at least two of Kipling's texts - Night Mail (With the Night Mail, 1905) and As Easy as D.R.U.T. (As Easy as A.B.C., 1912) - can be considered precursors to the narrative techniques that began to be used in science fiction literature only in the 1930s and 1940s. In Kipling's sympathetically depicted world of the year 2000, society is watched over by an organization that oversees modern forms of transportation and telecommunications, and suppresses any signs of rebellion bloodlessly with light and sound weapons. To make the imaginary realities plausible, the writer introduced numerous neologisms into the technical terminology, showed surprising props in passing and stylized the language in the conversations of the characters, taking their point of view on many issues. In this way he created a futuristic context taken for granted by the reader, perceived intuitively and requiring no further explanation. This way of presenting the worlds of the future would only become common thanks to the works of Robert A. Heinlein.

Kipling also mentioned freemasonic ideals in several works. In his short story On the Man Who Would Be King (The Man Who Would Be King, 1888), describing two adventurers self-assuming power in inaccessible territories, he invoked Masonic symbolism, which had also previously appeared in his poem The Mother-Lodge (Mother Lodge, 1886). The writer had become a freemason as early as 1885, joining a fraternity in Lahaur whose members were supposed to be equal to each other regardless of caste and skin color. There he came into contact, which he recalled with great fondness years later, with Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and representatives of reform movements. Explicit references to Freemasonry also appear in some of the stories in the Debits and Credits volume (In the Interest of the Brethren, The Janeites - Admirers of Jane Austen, A Friend of the Family).

In 1889, Kipling left India and began traveling the world. As a correspondent, he wrote reports and articles for The Pioneer, which were collected in the volume From Sea to Sea. He first traveled to Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. He traveled across the United States, from San Francisco through Portland to Seattle. Later he visited Victoria and Vancouver, Canada. Again in the United States, he traveled through Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Chicago all the way to Niagara, Toronto, Washington, New York and Boston. He then crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Liverpool in 1889. He soon made his debut in the literary world of London, where his Indian novellas were already known and appreciated.

Kipling tried early on to tackle a larger narrative form. The contents of his first, unfinished and lost novel Mother Maturin (Mother Maturin, 1885-1886) are still the subject of speculation today. His next attempt was The Light That Went Out (1890), a dramatic story about a blind painter and his unrequited affection for an ambitious, though talentless, girl eager for artistic success. Her cold reactions were starkly contrasted with the heartfelt male friendship that is a constant theme in many of Kipling's works. After the first edition of this novel, an abridged version was also printed in the press. However, the tragic death of the painter and the unemotional attitude of his chosen one were too depressing in the opinion of the newspaper owner, so the writer introduced an optimistic finale with the marriage of the protagonist couple. Only in the next book edition (1891) did he restore the original version of the ending. It is sometimes believed that the prototype of the unapproachable heroine was Kipling's early love, Violet Garrard called Flo (1856-1938), who spurned his advances. A chance meeting with her years later, in 1890, paid the writer with a nervous breakdown. The author's definite misogyny, also present in the short story collections The Story of the Gadsbys and Under the Deodars, whose plot centers around unsentimental depictions of romance, gossip and marital intrigue, clearly came to the fore in the novel.

Not long after his emotional crisis, Kipling met a publishing sales representative, Wolcott Balestier, with whom he wrote the adventure novel The Royal Jewel (1892). Its protagonist was an American engineer, traversing the Wild West and India in search of a valuable necklace. The novel's original title, The Naulahka, is a misspelling of the word naulakha, literally meaning 'nine lakhi' (900,000 rupees), as the legendary ornament once worn by Indian rulers was called. While working together, Balestier primarily prepared passages set in America, while Kipling authored the Indian portion. Soon the bond between the two men became so intimate that some biographers, analyzing this acquaintance, sought to find repressed homosexual tendencies in Kipling. After finishing the book, the overworked writer, on the advice of his doctors, embarked on another trip, visiting the Cape Colony, Australia and New Zealand. However, when he received news that Balestier had died suddenly of typhoid fever, he immediately returned to London. He soon asked for the hand of a friend's sister, Caroline Balestier (1862-1939), whom he had met a year earlier. The declarations were accepted. The wedding ceremony took place in 1892, and the bride was led down the aisle by writer Henry James. The newlyweds began their honeymoon with a trip to the United States and then traveled to Japan. When they arrived in Yokohama, they learned that their bank had gone bankrupt. They then returned to the States and in Vermont bought several acres of land from Caroline's brother, Beatty Balestier. They built a house there, which Kipling named "Naulakha" in honor of Wolcott and their partnership, without repeating the spelling mistake from the book's cover. The marriage produced three children, Josephine (1892-1899), Elsie (1896-1976) and John (1897-1915).

The success of The Jungle Book

In Vermont, Kipling wrote a series of world-famous and derived from the Panchatantra tradition of fast-paced short stories The Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895). The protagonist of many of them was a boy living among wild animals who, fed by a wolf pack, made friends with various predators and only returned to the human settlement in his adolescence (Mowgli's Brothers). The writer, without resorting to platitudes and a moralizing tone, showed the whole spectrum of various attitudes to life and the harsh, though not unethical, law of the jungle. The originality of these stories also lay in the fact that Kipling, drawing on the tradition of animal fables, abandoned the conventional representation of representatives of various species, which has hardly changed since the days of Aesop, Phaedrus and La Fontaine. In his case, wolves are protective, the panther is gentle, while the wise bear upholds the unwritten rules of coexistence in the community. Also the supporting characters - the independent python, the vengeful tiger, the philosophizing elephant, the cunning jackal and the weeping musk rat - are described in a way that is far from formulaic. The fairy tale as a literary genre for satirical reflection of reality appeared only in passages showing a herd of monkeys (Kaa on the hunt - Kaa's Hunting). This collective portrait of a mindless horde was sometimes interpreted as a malicious allusion to the milieu of Hindu nationalists. Contrary to the title, not all the stories are set in the jungle. Kipling also included in the series a story from the polar seas (The White Seal) and several texts set in the human world. In them he depicted the duties of a kornak in the service of a sahib (Toomai of the Elephants - Toomai of the Elephants), a brave ichneumon who saved a family of English colonists from cobras (Rikki-tikki-tavi), and an Indian minister who suddenly abandoned his prestigious post and plunged into mystical, hermit-like contemplation (The Miracle of Purun Bhagat - The Miracle of Purun Bhagat). Plastic descriptions of the lush natural world of the Ganges River and the author's extraordinary perceptiveness were appreciated by biologists over time. Kipling's name was immortalized in the names of an extinct crocodilomorph (Goniopholis kiplingi) and a spider of the skakun family (Bagheera kiplingi), in this case also commemorating the name of the black panther that cared for the book's hero.

In 1903, Kipling agreed to have some of the ideas from his stories used in the training program of a summer camp for boys, whose camps were held at Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. He supported the activities of this camp throughout his life. Robert Baden-Powell also used many of the themes from The Jungle Book in creating the principles, nomenclature and symbolism of the Scouting movement.

French composer Charles Koechlin, fascinated by these stories, created an orchestral cycle based on them, Le livre de la jungle, considered his most outstanding work. The cycle, which was in the making for nearly 40 years, includes three near-impressionistic songs with orchestra and four symphonic poems.

Initiation stories

Soon two events forced the Kiplings to leave Vermont. During this period, Britain and Venezuela were arguing over the borders of British Guiana. In 1895, the new U.S. Secretary of State Richard Olney escalated the conflict, deciding that the United States should be the arbiter in the matter. Although the crisis eventually turned into consensual cooperation, the writer was troubled by anti-British sentiment in the American press. In addition, relations between Caroline and her brother Beatty Balestier had long been strained because of his alcoholism and debts. In 1896, Beatty began threatening Kipling on the street. The incident led to the arrest of the assailant, but the writer's privacy suffered during a widely reported interrogation. That same year, a week before the start of the next trial, the Kiplings left for Britain.

During this period, Kipling focused mainly on writing works intended for young people. In them, he primarily extolled the virtues on which the permanence of the British empire depended. In this way, he upheld the tradition of didactic literature with elements of military adventure and bildungsroman. He often portrayed adolescent boys in colorful, exotic surroundings and praised their resourcefulness combined with ingenuity and individualism. Because he showed the process of hardening of character in the process, critics sometimes referred to his texts as initiation stories, emphasizing that their protagonists transform from carefree children into mature young men

The adventure novel Captains of the Scouts (1897), juxtaposed by some scholars with Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, is the story of a spoiled 16-year-old boy, the son of an American multimillionaire, who falls overboard during a voyage across the Atlantic by ship and is rescued by the crew of a Newfoundland cutter. The dynamic plot is punctuated by storms, menacing icebergs and monsters of the deep, and the bravery of the sailors, who teach the boy a lesson in diligence and perseverance while fishing, is highlighted by the very title, an allusion to an Elizabethan ballad about the brave Mary Ambree.

Stalky and Co. (1899), on the other hand, is an optimistic tale of the antics of three urchins, in which Kipling included memories of his youthful days at boarding school, portraying himself in the guise of a clumsy bespectacled boy, and portraying the future General Lionel Dunsterville as the title character. Incidentally, he also endorsed the canon of English educational ideals: honesty, truthfulness, self-reliance, and especially full respect for social divisions and the state system. Amusing stories from the lives of mischievous schoolchildren also provided an opportunity to describe the pedagogical methods of the time, according to which discipline and obedience were obtained primarily with rods. The writer also describes the teachers themselves, not hiding the fact that, in addition to authority figures, there were ruthless or intellectually limited people among them. According to modern critics, Kipling unwittingly portrayed the school as an authoritarian system with a hierarchical, almost military structure. This system, full of internal conflicts, was perceived by the outside world as monolithic, as the entire community, for the sake of the institution's good name, agreed to make many sacrifices.

Kim's popularity

The novel Kim (1901), considered by many biographers to be the writer's most outstanding work, was very popular among readers. Some, because of its fast-paced narrative and changeable scenery, linked it to the current of Picaresque literature, especially the Lazarus of Tormes, while others, noting the artful description of realities, believed that it turned out to be an achievement on a par with Edward Morgan Forster's The Road to India. The protagonist of this work was an observant boy recruited into British intelligence, who traveled through India with an old lama. The wanderings of this unusual pair allowed the writer to reveal the social stratification there, present cultural diversity and draw a witty and varied picture of Indian daily life. For critics, on the other hand, the journey described was a successful reference to the famous adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Cervantes and Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller in Dickens' novel. Although the main character, as often in Kipling's work, lived on the border of two separate cultures, the originality of the idea and the surprising twists and turns of the plot this time were determined by the spy plot set in the realities of the "big game" times. An additional attraction was the colorful language of all the characters, in which the writer included English archaisms, funny articulatory errors, words deliberately used in the wrong sense and terms from various Indian dialects.

It is sometimes believed that with this novel Kipling was trying to fend off critics claiming that his writing skills were limited to short prose forms only. However, it turned out that Kim, too, was essentially just a series of short stories featuring the same characters. Some of them readers already knew from earlier texts (Lispeth), while others were portraits of real people (Kipling introduced his own father as the museum curator). For researchers, the novel also became a pretext for considering Kipling's attitude to various religions. It is generally assumed that the writer referred contemptuously to Hinduism, which he associated with fatalism, apathy and escapist behavior. Besides, it was in Hinduism that he saw the cause of many of the social problems plaguing India. He took a much kinder view of Buddhism, far from any theological orthodoxy, in which he valued the practical application of ethical principles, reconcilable even with scientific materialism and the theory of evolution. The picturesque panorama of the Indian Peninsula depicted in Kim, however, was often accused of lacking the depth of analysis of the issues raised, typical, for example, of the works of Joseph Conrad, whom Kipling held in high esteem.

Fairy tales and stories for children

The Kipling family's return to the United States in 1899 ended in family misfortune. The writer and his daughter Josephine contracted pneumonia, which the girl did not survive. After the death of his daughter, a shaken Kipling began to work intensively on the collection Such Fables, which was published in 1902. These simple stories with a moral, counted among the classics of children's literature, thanks to their thoughtful form and fine humor became a literary attraction for adults as well. In this volume, the writer created a modern bestiary, which allowed him to explain to the youngest readers with a wink why an elephant has a long trunk (The Elephant's Child), how the camel's hump came to be (How the Camel Got His Hump) or for what reason the leopard got spots on its skin (How the Leopard Got His Spots), and described the cunning cat that always went its own way (The Cat That Walked by Himself) and the boastful butterfly that stomped its foot (The Butterfly That Stamped).

Once again, the writer turned to children in 1906, publishing Puck of Pukka Hill. At that time, he used themes from England's past, wishing to inspire respect for national traditions in young people. The stories, mostly set in Sussex County, featured gnomes and forest spirits this time. However, the author, introducing the title character Puck, referred not only to A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also portrayed visitors from ancient times: a Norman knight, a Roman centurion, a builder from the 15th century and a Jew from the era of King John Without Earth. Through them, he portrayed the lives of ordinary people against the backdrop of important historical events, which included in particular the Battle of Hastings, the revolt of the barons, the battles on Hadrian's Wall and the signing of the Magna Charta Libertatum. In his texts, he avoided moralistic instructions and unequivocal precepts. The stories that followed were meant to be testimonies from past eras, through which children discovered diverse visions of the world. The collection Rewards and Fairies (1910) followed a similar convention, with the same characters learning about past history. Characters from the past this time are a shepherd living in the Neolithic, Queen Elizabeth I, King Henry VII, George Washington and stethoscope inventor René Laennec. After the publication of this collection, critics once again pointed out that Kipling successfully imitates different historical varieties of English in individual episodes.

Heroism and mockery

Kipling enriched most of his prose texts with verse fragments: mottos, quotations, songs or proverbs. Sometimes he also used a poetic piece as an introduction or afterword to a collection of short stories (Actions and Reactions, Debits and Credits). Sometimes the poem provided a commentary on the main text or developed any of its side plots. On the other hand, in both Jungle Books, it was always a separate piece created ostensibly by a character from the depicted world (Hunting-Song of the Seeonee Pack, Parade-Song of the Camp Animals). It happened that these poems gained considerable popularity and were quoted independently of the prose parts of the work. In the case of Puck of Pukka Hill, the Harp Song of the Dane Women, The Runes on Weland's Sword and the hymnal ending of The Children's Song were sometimes considered separate texts. Most of these works were later collected in the volume Songs from Books (1912).

Kipling's first volume of poetry - the self-published humorous poems of the Departmental Ditties (1886) - was so well received that another edition was published the same year. Readers of these texts were amused primarily by the description of the absurdly elaborate administrative structure of colonial offices and the details of the vicious struggle for promotion and appanations. The writer strengthened his position with the collection Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), in which he used soldier jargon and the sometimes ungrammatical English of simple people to describe various episodes from the period of the colonial wars. Among these works, Gunga Din's poem about an Indian servant who distributed water along the battle line and died while saving a wounded private was particularly popular. Equally famous was the song Mandalay, a lyrical memoir evoking from a London perspective the beauty and uniqueness of the Burmese world. The complete absence of any patriotic sublimity can be considered a characteristic feature of these songs. Invariably praising perseverance, valor and barracks discipline, Kipling even indulged in criticism, which soon disappears completely from his poems. In Tommy he emphatically emphasized that the despised soldier is well aware of the hypocrisy of combat slogans. In contrast, the characters in The Widow at Windsor (nicknamed for Queen Victoria), wandering around the world with the army, describe with blatant sarcasm the dubious honor of service that fell to them. It is believed that it is because of this poem that Kipling was never elevated to the dignity of poet-laureate. Some of the texts in Barrack-Room Ballads were surprising in their far-from-conventional treatment of moral issues. In The Ladies, Kipling openly praised the establishment of close relationships with women of different races by soldiers stationed in foreign countries. Music was later composed for many poems from this period (Percy Grainger, Peter Bellamy), appreciating especially their uncomplicated steady rhythm, which made them associated with simple stanzas intended for choral singing while marching.

Apologia of empire

Upon his return to England, Kipling, jokingly referred to as "the literary inspector general of the British empire," increasingly included political allusions in his works. He advocated entirely the policies of Joseph Chamberlain, minister of the colonies in Lord Salisbury's Conservative government, celebrating the victory of the Tories, deprecating the decentralizing policies of the Liberals and advocating an increasingly strong union of the overseas territories with the motherland. This period saw the creation of the collection The Seven Seas (1896), in which Kipling described the vastness of the British state, with possessions on every continent. Two controversial poems originally published in The Times of London and later included in the volume The Five Nations (1903) are considered the most prominent examples of his colonial patriotism and messianic view of the white race. Hymn of Repentance (Recessional, 1897), composed on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign, is a cautionary tale written in biblical language and maintained in a choral rhythm against the pride and self-praise of a chosen people entrusted by God to rule over other peoples. In contrast, The White Man's Burden (The White Man's Burden, 1899), seen by some as a faithful and entirely natural praise of a rising power, was considered by others to be propaganda of militant imperialism and its accompanying racist views. The title burden, according to Kipling, was the difficult mission of caring for and educating the British, who, supposedly not seeking their own benefits, were only doing their civilizing duty. In these poems, the poet played the role of a mentor, mentioning the high moral demands on everyone whose mission was to promote Victorian values among the heathen. At the same time, he gave expression to a worldview derived from the Puritanism of Oliver Cromwell, the heroism of Thomas Carlyle and the moral rigor of John Wesley.

Kipling also celebrated the power of empire in a number of works from his volume The Five Nations, which speak, among other things, of new self-governing British communities in five parts of the world. The style of Kipling's poems was so evocative that many of the terms in them have entered the colloquial language. Among the most quoted is an excerpt from The Ballad of East and West (1889): "East is East and West is West and they will never meet." This sentence, taken out of context, has changed its original meaning. In fact, the author's intention was to emphasize that if two outstanding men from distant parts of the world meet, territorial boundaries and racial differences cease to exist.

Boer War

In early 1898, the writer and his family went to the Cape Colony for a winter vacation, starting a tradition that continued until 1908. There he was kindly received by a group of Britain's most prominent politicians: Alfred Milner, Leander Starr Jameson and, above all, Cecil Rhodes, the imperialist and diamond magnate who famously came up with the later "Cape Town to Cairo" concept, envisioning the colonization of African lands from the Cape Province to Egypt. It was under his influence that Kipling supported the British military action in the war against the Boers, whose rebellion stood in stark contrast to the idea of absolute obedience of the Dominions to Britain. The poem Lichtenberg (1901) in particular was very popular, commemorating, through the example of one veteran, the sacrifice of many Australians who volunteered to support the interests of the empire. The Boer Wars also appear in short stories, portraying the British as a nation adhering to a code of honor in contrast to the self-interested Americans and perfidious local guerrillas (The Captive 1902, A Sahibs' War 1904). During another visit to southern Africa, the writer helped establish The Friend newspaper for troops in Bloemfontein, the recently conquered capital of the Free State of Orange, where Frederick Roberts was in command. This journalistic work lasted only two weeks, but for the writer it was his first return to the editorial office after ten years, and the beginning of his friendship with Perceval Landon and Howell Arthur Gwynne.

Among the poems separating the stories contained in the volume Rewards and Fairies (1910) was the oft-quoted piece If (If-, 1910), probably inspired by the character and deeds of Leander Starr Jameson, who famously participated in the Boer War. This work, considered a monumental example of Kipling's mature work, was the quintessence of his beliefs and at the same time a code of exemplary conduct. In it, the poet, using elevated language, promoted a lifelong program of reliability, temperance and perseverance. This praise of self-control and stoicism, which are the guarantors of humanity, on which several generations of Britons were raised, is still considered Kipling's most famous poem. Probably for this reason, during the Revolt of the Young Angry, the work itself, intended to support the fortitude of English youth, became a symbol of mindless drift, servility and ossified social divisions. In 1968 Lindsay Anderson, referring to the universally recognizable title, made the film If..., awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The director, identifying himself with rebellious peers, showed in an allegorical finale a group of students who take shots at school notables and representatives of the upper classes.

British conflicts

When the Conservatives were ousted from power during the reign of Edward VII, Kipling's influence and popularity began to wane, although he himself never joined a party, held any political office and even refused to accept a title of nobility. Public opinion, however, was no longer preoccupied with the issue of the colonies, but with the tumultuous changes in the House of Lords, and the writer, contrary to general trends, supported any action against the Liberal government. Despite the growing resentment of those around him, for right-wing circles he was still an unquestioned authority. He was even asked by Max Aitken to speak during the Canadian elections of 1911. At that time, the writer's appeal was published, in which he opposed the reciprocal agreement with the United States, believing that after signing it Canada would have to submit to American values and legal rules. For the next week, Kipling's appeal was reprinted by most English-language newspapers in Canada.

When groups calling for at least partial independence began to achieve increasing success in Ireland, Kipling firmly sided with the Unionists, rejecting any separatist aspirations. At this time he maintained contacts with Edward Carson, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, who was responsible for training local volunteer troops and organized a powerful demonstration in Belfast against independent Irish rule. In his poem Ulster (1912), Kipling commemorated the signing of a resolution by nearly 500,000 people opposing attempts to separate Northern Ireland from the Crown.

Kipling's conservative worldview also concerned gender equality issues. The writer was hostile to any emancipation movement, and in 1911 he unequivocally spoke out against granting women the right to vote. He expressed his dislike of suffragettes emphatically in his poem The Female of the Species (Female of the Species, 1911). He was also a staunch anti-communist, which strengthened his friendship with popular writer and enemy of Bolshevism Henry Rider Haggard.

Fight against barbarism

At the beginning of World War I, Kipling wrote pamphlets and poems with which he encouraged armed resistance and supported efforts to recapture German-occupied Belgium. In these widely read works, he praised British soldiers, stressing that the army was a place for heroes and mocked those who tried to avoid military service (For All We Have and Are, 1914). Although he was aware of the atrocities committed by the invaders against civilians, he mainly emphasized the aspect of survival and triumph. Instead, he reacted with violent protest to the news of the torpedoing of the passenger ship "Lusitania" in 1915. He regarded the war as a civilization crusade against barbarians, stating bluntly that there were two categories of beings in the world: humans and Germans. He was critical of the way in which military operations were conducted, already in 1914 expressing indignation that Germany had not yet been defeated. For this reason, he accused the entire pre-war generation of British politicians of ineptitude, who, he believed, had not learned the lessons of the Boer Wars. Among his most ambiguous texts from this period is the short story Mary Postgate (1915). In it, he described the motives of an Englishwoman who found a wounded German pilot in her garden and failed to help him, watching his death with satisfaction.

In Kipling's view, the expansion of the country's navy was particularly important. Even before the war, he advocated taking decisive action in response to the development of the German navy under Alfred von Tirpitz. As an expert on the subject, he was even officially invited in 1897 to the great naval maneuvers and commented on the strategic moves of the British admiralty. Fleet reinforcement was the focus of a series of vehement articles printed in The Times and The Morning Post, which he later published under the joint title A Fleet in Being (1898). This issue remained close to his heart even after the outbreak of war. He included several naval poems in The Fringes of the Fleet (1915), for which Edward Elgar composed the music, and in subsequent articles written for the Ministry of Information (Sea Warfare, 1916) he continued to describe with enthusiasm the importance of the navy, of which the general British public was unaware.

Death of a son

Kipling took it for granted that his son should participate in the war. Eighteen-year-old John tried twice to enlist, but was rejected due to advanced myopia. His father then took advantage of his long-standing friendship with Lord Roberts, the commander-in-chief of the British army, and against the medical board's ruling John was accepted into the Irish Guards. Immediately after his enlistment, he was sent to the front and took part in the battles of Loos-en-Gohelle in September 1915. He was last seen on the battlefield. One soldier claimed that John had sustained an extensive gunshot wound to the face, but since there was no clear evidence of death, he was officially presumed missing. Kipling spent nearly two years hoping that his son had been captured. At the writer's request, British planes dropped leaflets on the German side of the front with an appeal for help in the search. John's body was identified, though without absolute certainty, only in 1992. Kipling indirectly alluded to this death with a two-line poem: "When they ask why death already rules over us,

After the tragedy, the writer joined the British Empire War Graves Commission, an organization founded by Fabian Ware that took care of British cemeteries wherever Commonwealth soldiers died. It was Kipling who chose the biblical verse "Their name lives on in generations" (Wisdom of Sirach 44:14) to be placed on memorial plaques at the graves of the fallen. Kipling, too, arranged the inscription "Known to God" on the graves of unknown soldiers and came up with the inscription "Dead in Glory" on the London cenotaph. To memorialize his son, he also wrote a two-volume history of the Irish Guards (1923), including frontline memoirs and excerpts from soldiers' letters and diaries. Kipling's bereavement has sometimes been linked to the poem My Boy Jack (My Son Jack, 1916), although the work accompanied a description of the Jutland battle and appears to speak of death at sea. There was also a direct reference to personal experiences in the poem The King's Pilgrimage (The King's Pilgrimage, 1922), which describes George V's wandering through the memorials created by the Commission. Readers were greatly impressed by the short story The Gardener (The Gardener, 1925), in which an unmarried woman is accompanied to her son's grave by an enigmatic figure reminiscent of Christ.

A special wartime experience for Kipling was his correspondence with a Frenchman, Maurice Hammoneau, whose life was saved by a copy of Kim tucked into the breast pocket of his uniform jacket. The soldier gave the writer the book in which the bullet had lodged and his War Cross, while Kipling agreed to become godfather to his son in 1929.

Between France and Germany

After the war, Kipling was skeptical of the League of Nations and Wilson's Fourteen Points. He hoped that the United States would abandon its policy of isolationism and that an Anglo-French-American alliance would be formed. The writer called France and England the twin fortresses of European civilization. In doing so, he constantly warned against revising the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles in favor of the Germans, believing that any concessions could lead to another war. He supported President Raymond Poincaré and in 1923 was one of the few English intellectuals advocating against his government and public opinion for the French occupation of the Ruhr. He also expressed his affection for France in ode France (France, 1913) and in his memoirs Souvenirs of France (1933).

Kipling declared himself an opponent of fascism, and considered Oswald Mosley a dangerous aristocrat. As early as 1933, he wrote that the Nazis were heading for a bloody conflict, and in 1935 he called Benito Mussolini a deranged megalomaniac. Because the covers of many of Kipling's books featured a swastika along with an image of Ganesi, the elephant-headed god, the writer was sometimes mistakenly considered a supporter of Nazism. However, the swastika in Kipling's right- and left-handed design alluded to the Indian meaning of the sign, which is a symbol of prosperity. Even before the National Socialists came to power, Kipling had it removed from printing plates so that he would not be suspected of supporting a hostile ideology. In his poem The Storm Cone (Eye of the Cyclone, 1932), a year before Hitler became German chancellor, he reminded people that world peace was only a brief period of illusory quiet. He also gave a speech in 1935 in which he warned of the threat from Nazi Germany.

Global prestige

In 1907, at the age of just 42, Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. At a ceremony in Stockholm, the secretary of the Swedish Academy, Carl David af Wirsén, paid tribute to both the writer and three centuries of English literature. Kipling himself, meanwhile, declined to deliver the customary lecture. He also soon received honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Montreal and Paris. In 1926 the Royal Society of Literature awarded him a gold medal, and in 1933 he became a foreign member of the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences (in 1937 his place was taken by Marceli Handelsman. Even during the writer's lifetime, in 1927, the Kipling Society was founded in England to study and popularize his works.

Kipling's late work reflected his worship of craftsmanship, his appreciation of professional prowess and his belief in technological progress. He expressed his beliefs in a popular poem alluding to the biblical parable of the sons of Martha, the laborers, and the sons of Mary, the thinkers (The Sons of Martha, 1907), in which he referred with evident sympathy to people who live by the work of their own hands. The writer referred to this very poem in 1922, when civil engineering professor Herbert Haultain of the University of Toronto asked him to write a solemn oath and prepare a graduation speech. Both of these texts were officially titled The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Kipling, moreover, more than once mentioned the power of technology in various poems (McAndrew's Hymn - McAndrew's Hymn 1893), and in stories from the collection The Day's Work he poignantly described the elements of a steamship and the functioning of a locomotive. He thus became one of the first writers to incorporate the mechanization of the industrialized world into fiction. In the plot of the short story Mrs. Bathurst (Mrs. Bathurst, 1904), on the other hand, a cinematographic screening played a key role. Kipling was also eager to use all the innovations in his own life. As the popularity of automobiles grew, he began publishing automobile-related articles in the British press, writing enthusiastically about his travels around England, even though he usually drove with a chauffeur. In 1922, he also became honorary rector of the Scottish University of St Andrews. He held this position until 1925. In his inaugural speech (Independence), addressing young Scots, he recalled the valor of their ancestors and stressed that the most important things in life are courage and self-reliance.

Recent years

Kipling continued to write until the 1930s, but at a much slower pace and without much success anymore. Only a volume of his short stories, Thy Servant a Dog (1930), depicting various people as seen through the eyes of their dogs, enjoyed great popularity. He took sober stock of his life and achievements in the unfinished autobiography Something of Myself. Over time, he even abandoned commenting on political events. The writer's death was reported prematurely by one of the newspapers, to which he promptly wrote: "I have just read that I have died. Don't forget, please, to remove me from the list of subscribers." In the last period of his life, Kipling suffered from serious gastrointestinal complaints, which intensified after the death of his son. Doctors ruled out cancer, but suspected gastritis or inflammatory bowel disease. But the recommended treatments, which required, among other things, the removal of all teeth, proved ineffective. Kipling died as a result of hemorrhage after perforating a duodenal ulcer on the night of January 18, 1936, two days before his friend George V. The writer's body was cremated, and his ashes were buried on January 22, 1936 in Westminster Abbey, next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.

Following the death of Kipling's wife in 1939, their 17th-century Bateman's estate in Burwash was donated to the National Trust, a heritage organization. Today, Bateman's houses a museum dedicated to the writer. A collected edition of his works (Complete Works, 1937-1940) includes 35 volumes. Kipling's name was carried by a British destroyer of World War II. As of 2010, one of the craters on Mercury also bears his name. In Canada, at the height of Kipling's popularity, a town in southeastern Saskatchewan was named in his honor.

Even during his lifetime, Kipling's work was subject to extremely different assessments, depending on the political and social views of scholars. A series of harassing newspaper articles began as early as 1891, when he was accused of egotism, vanity and chauvinism. Unfavorable opinions accompanied the writer even during the period of his greatest fame, although some critics stressed that racist comments in his works were uttered by fictional characters, not by him, which allowed for more accurate characterization of the characters. Kipling was also reproached for never openly condemning the massacre of civilians in Amritsar (1919), although he declared himself an opponent of forcible conflict resolution within the borders of the empire. In the last years of his life, he was ostracized by a circle of progressive intellectuals, seeing him primarily as a grotesque figure from Max Beerbohm's caricatures.

After Kipling's death, discussions about his work were revived on the occasion of subsequent revivals. T.S. Eliot counted him among writers of immense talent, countering opinions that he was merely a journalist who flattered communal tastes. In an essay preceding a selection of his poems (Rudyard Kipling, 1941), he appreciated the thoughtful construction of some ballads (Danny Deever, 1892) and the mastery of epigrams, especially evident in the bitter Epitaphs of the War, a poetic chapter of the volume The Years Between (1919). In doing so, he stressed that he did not see any manifestations of racial superiority in these works. George Orwell (Kipling, 1942) then came out with unprecedented criticism, calling the writer a representative of the British ruling class, whose works are not only devoid of moral sensitivity, but also aesthetically repellent. At the same time, he added that since Kipling himself considered himself a conservative, he must necessarily be counted among the racists whose works foreshadowed fascist ideology. Herbert George Wells, on the other hand, criticized Stalky and Co. seeing in this work the author's endorsement of the use of violence with the tacit approval of the authorities. James Joyce considered Kipling, along with Leo Tolstoy and Gabriel D'Annunzio, one of the greatest talents of 19th-century literature, although he admitted that all three shared almost fanatical views on religion or patriotism. His works were also praised by writers as diverse as Poul Anderson, Randall Jarrell and Jorge Luis Borges, who particularly praised his short story The Church that was at Antioch, 1932.

In independent India, the writer was initially treated reluctantly due to the imperialist overtones of his writings, especially those from before World War I. His books - with the exception of some children's stories - were often omitted from English literature curricula in high schools and universities. Over time, the reception of this work became much more nuanced, and Kipling was widely read especially by those members of the Indian elite, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, who had received a European education. Any comparisons with Kipling were strongly rejected by another Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, while Gandhi was rather forgiving in his assessments, claiming without giving specifics that the writer's intentions were sometimes misunderstood. An ambivalent attitude towards Kipling's works was also included in his opinion by Salman Rushdie, who, while noticing racist accents in his work, also saw in it an undying fascination with India.

Of all Kipling's works, individual stories from the collection The Jungle Book were most often transferred to the screen. The first adaptation, 1937's Kala Nag, directed by Robert J. Flaherty and Zoltan Korda, used an outline of the story described in Toomaim of the Elephants. The film was regarded as a typical example of cinematic paternalism toward peoples considered primitive. It was considered that the compromise between Flaherty's documentary style and Korda's atelier manner resulted in a merely mediocre result. Korda still returned to The Jungle Book in 1942, re-engaging Sabu Dastagir, an actor of Indian origin, for the lead role. However, it was the animated version from the Walt Disney Company, directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (1967), that went down in cinema history above all. Contributing to the film's success were its expressive animal silhouettes, dynamic main character and stylistically diverse melodies, from the jazzy song of the monkey king to the hypnotic lullaby of the snake.

Kipling's texts were often used by directors who specialized in sprawling epics, exotic melodramas or adventure films. His short story was first brought to the screen in 1921 by James Young. In this morality drama, titled similarly to the literary original Without Benefit of Clergy (Without God's Blessing), the writer was not only responsible for the screenplay, but was also listed in the credits as a production designer. Nevertheless, he did not hide his disappointment with the final result. In 1937 Victor Fleming made a film based on Captains of the Scouts, Heroes of the Sea with Spencer Tracy, who won an Oscar for his role as a brave fisherman. The same year saw the premiere of The Rifleman of Bengal, an adaptation of the short story Little Willie Winkie (Wee Willie Winkie, 1888). The director, John Ford, decided to change the gender of the main character so that Shirley Temple, a child star of the time, could play him in the film. Clear features of a melodrama is William A. Wellman's 1939 The Light That Went Out. Kim was brought to the screen in 1950 by Victor Saville, casting Errol Flynn as a secret agent. Highly successful with critics and audiences was John Huston's The Man Who Wanted to Be King (1975), with Michael Caine and Sean Connery as former soldiers setting out to conquer wild tribes and with Christopher Plummer in the role of Kipling himself.

The directors were inspired not only by Kipling's prose works, but also by his poetic works. The writer, fascinated by Philip Burne-Jones' painting, published a poem called The Vampire in 1897. Using the main theme of this text, Porter Emerson Browne wrote the scandalous play A Fool There Was, which was transferred to the screen by Frank Powell in 1915. This tale of a demonic temptress drawing doom on the family's universally respected father was commented on in the silent film by Kipling's stanzas arranged on boards. In contrast, the Polish avant-garde impression Boots (1933), directed by Jerzy Gabryelski and with cinematography by Rudolf Maté, was based on the poem Boots (1903). George Stevens in 1939 made a deft adventure film with popular actors (Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Joan Fontaine), using the plot of the ballad Gunga Din.


In Poland, many of Rudyard Kipling's novellas and short stories were published in collections whose contents were a compilation of various English editions:

Individual short stories were also included in anthologies:


A separate selection of Rudyard Kipling's poetry has not been published in Poland. His poems were translated by, among others: Józef Czechowicz, Andrzej Nowicki and Maciej Słomczyński. Some texts were included in anthologies:


  1. Rudyard Kipling
  2. Rudyard Kipling
  3. ^ The Times, (London) 18 January 1936, p. 12.
  4. ^ a b c d e Rutherford, Andrew (1987). General Preface to the Editions of Rudyard Kipling, in "Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies", by Rudyard Kipling. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-282575-5
  5. a b c d e Grzegorz Górny, Leksykon laureatów literackiej Nagrody Nobla, Agencja Wydawnicza Zebra, Kraków 1993, s. 24.
  6. 1,0 1,1 The Fine Art Archive. Ανακτήθηκε στις 1  Απριλίου 2021.
  7. a b Rutherford, Andrew: General Preface to the Editions of Rudyard Kipling, in ”Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies”, by Rudyard Kipling. Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-19-282575-5. (englanniksi)
  8. a b c d e Rutherford, Andrew: Introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of ”Plain Tales from the Hills”, by Rudyard Kipling. Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-19-281652-7. (englanniksi)
  9. a b c d Carpenter, Humphrey & Prichard, Mari: Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, s. 296–297. Oxford University Press, 1984. ISBN 9780192115829. (englanniksi)
  10. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Gilmour, David: The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, NY / Pimlic, 2002. ISBN 9780712665186. (englanniksi)
  11. Pinney, Thomas (toim.): Letters of Rudyard Kipling, volume 1. Lontoo & New York: Macmillan & Co. (englanniksi)

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