Look, I’d love one!

John Bayley

  • Stephen Spender: A Portrait with Background by Hugh David
    Heinemann, 308 pp, £17.50, October 1992, ISBN 0 434 17506 4
  • More Please: An Autobiography by Barry Humphries
    Viking, 331 pp, £16.99, September 1992, ISBN 0 670 84008 4

In a slight but revealing sketch, written well after his Soldiers Three tales and never published in his collected works, the soldiers Kipling invented are imagined discussing their author, and pointing out with tolerant contempt that he has simply got them all wrong. Kipling was well aware of the fact, and no doubt aware, too, that it was precisely because they were so well ‘done’ that Mulvaney, Ortheris and Learoyd – the three contemporary musketeers whose sentiments and background seemed so unflinchingly realistic – were in fact totally bogus. If they were not bogus his bedazzled readers would never have accepted them, as they did, as being completely convincing.

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