Rudyard Kipling, (1865-1936) was born in Bombay, India, where his father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an arts and crafts teacher at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art. His mother, the former Alice Macdonald, was a sister-in-law of the painter Edward Burne-Jones. India was at that time ruled by the British. Ruddy, as Kipling was affectionally called, was brought up by an ayah, who taught him Hidustani as his first language.
Kipling’s writings at the age of thirteen were influenced by the pre-Raphaelites – and he also had family connections to them: two of his mother’s sisters were married into the pre-Raphaelite community. At the age of six he was taken to England by his parents and left for five years at a foster home at Southsea. Kipling, who was not accustomed to traditional English beatings, expressed later his feeling of the treatment in the short story ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’, in the novel THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (1890), and in his autobiography (1937).
In 1878 Kipling entered United Services College, a boarding school in North Devon. It was an expensive institution that specialized in training for entry into military academies. His poor eyesight and mediocre results as a student ended hopes about military career. However, these years Kipling recalled in lighter tone in one of his most popular books, STALKY & CO (1899). Kipling’s bookishness separated him from the other students; he had to wear glasses and was nicknamed “Gigger”, for gig (carriage) for lamps. However, Kipling wrote about the non-conformist Headmaster, Cormell Price: “Many of us loved the Head for what he had done for us, but I owed him more than all of them put together and I think I loved him even more than they did.”
Kipling returned to India in 1882, where he worked as a journalist in Lahore for Civil and Military Gazette (1882-87) and an assistant editor and overseas correspondent in Allahabad for Pioneer (1887-89). The stories written during his last two years in India were collected in THE PHANTOM RICKSHAW. It that included the famous story ‘The Man Who Would Be a King.’ In the story a white trader, Daniel Dravot sets himself up as a god and king in Kafristan, but a woman discovers that he is a human and betrays him. His companion, Peachey Carnehan, manages to escape to tell the tale, but Dravot is killed.
Kilping’s short stories and verses gained success in the late 1880s in England, to which he returned in 1889, and was hailed as a literary heir to Charles Dickens. When he toured Japan he criticized the Japanese middle-class for its eagerness to adopt western fashions and values. “… I was a barbarian, and no true Sahib,” he wrote. Between the years 1889 and 1892, Kipling lived in London and published LIFE’S HANDICAP (1891), a collection of Indian stories that included ‘The Man Who Was,’ and BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS, a collection of poems that included ‘Gunga Din,’ a praise of a Hindu water carrier for a British Indian regiment. Wellington had viewed the private soldier as “the very scum of the earth”, but Kipling portrayed him as the embodiment of British virtue
In 1892 Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier, the sister of an American publisher and writer, with whom he collaborated a novel, THE NAULAHKA (1892). The young couple moved to the United States. Kipling was dissatisfied with the life in Vermont, and after the death of his daughter, Josephine, Kipling took his family back to England and settled in Burwash, Sussex. According to the author’s sister, Kipling became a “harder man” – but also his political beliefs started to stiffen. Kipling’s marriage was not in all respects happy. The author was dominated by his wife who had troubles to accept all aspects of her husband’s character. During these restless years Kipling produced MANY INVENTIONS (1893), JUNGLE BOOK (1894), a collection of animal stories for children, THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK (1895), and THE SEVEN SEAS (1896).
Widely regarded as unofficial poet laureate, Kipling refused this and many honors, among them the Order of Merit. During the Boer War in 1899 Kipling spent several months in South Africa. In 1902 he moved to Sussex, also spending time in South Africa, where he was given a house by Cecil Rhodes, the influential British colonial statesman. In 1901 appeared KIM, widely considered Kipling’s best novel. The story, set in India, depicted adventures of an orphaned son of a sergeant in an Irish regiment. His own children appeared in the stories as Dan and Una – the death of “Dan” (John) in the WW I darkened author’s later life. John Kipling was a brave young officer, unspoilt by his father’s fame.
Soon after Kipling had received the Nobel Prize, his output of fiction and poems began to decline. In 1923 Kipling published THE IRISH GUARDS IN THE GREAT WAR, a history of his son’s regiment. Between the years 1922 and 1925 he was a rector at the University of St. Andrews. Kipling died on January 18, 1936 in London, and was buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. Kipling’s autobiography, SOMETHING OF MYSELF, appeared posthumously in 1937. Kipling did his best to obtain and destroy letters he had sent – to protect his private life. His widow continued the practice but a number of his letters survived and have been published. In 1884 he wrote to Edith Macdonald about his visit to an Afghan Khan, Kizil Bas, who had to stay in Lahore as a prisoner – the Afghan Sirdars had fought against the British. The Khan asks Kipling to write to his “Khubber-Ke-Kargus” (newspaper) and help him to gain again his freedom. He throws a bundle of money to Kipling who refuses to take them. Then the Khan offers a Cashmiri girl, and Kipling loses his temper. Finally he promises three beautiful horse. Kipling resists the temptation, they smoke, drink coffee, and Kipling rides of the city. “I haven’t told anyone here of the bribery business because, if I did, some unscrupulous beggar might tell the Khan that he would help him and so lay hold of the money, the lady or, worse still, the horses. Besides I may able to help the old boy respectably and without any considerations.”
Kipling’s glorification of the “Empire and extension” gained its peak in the poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ (1899): “Take up the White Man’s burden – / Send forth the best ye breed – / Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need; / To wait in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild – / Your new-caught, sullen peoples, / Half devil and half child.” George Orwell, who also spent his early childhood in India, rejected in an essay in New English Weekly (1936) Kipling’s view of the world, which he associated with the ignorant and sentimental side of imperialism, but admired the author as a storyteller. However, readers loved Kipling’s romantic tales about the adventures of Englishmen in strange and distant parts of the world. Characteristic for Kipling is sympathy for the world of children, satirical attitude toward pompous patriotism, and belief in the blessings and superiority of the British rule, without questioning its basic nature.
- Blue Roses by Rudyard Kipling
Plucked I for my love’s delight.
She would none of all my posies–
Bade me gather her blue roses.
Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew.
Half the world unto my quest
Answered me with laugh and jest.
Home I came at wintertide,
But my silly love had died
Seeking with her latest breath
Roses from the arms of Death.
It may be beyond the grave
She shall find what she would have.
Mine was but an idle quest–
Roses white and red are best!