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Big Books

Penelope Fitzgerald, 15 September 1988

William Morris: An Approach to the Poetry 
by J.M.S. Tompkins.
Cecil Woolf, 368 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 900821 84 1
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... As a schoolboy, Rudyard Kipling used to stay in North End Road, Fulham with his aunt and uncle, the Burne-Joneses. One evening William Morris came into the nursery and, finding the children under the table and nobody else about, climbed on to the rocking-horse and slowly surging back and forth while the poor beast creaked, he told us a tale full of fascinating horrors, about a man who was condemned to dream bad dreams ...

They were all drunk

Michael Brock, 21 March 1991

The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Vol I: 1872-1889 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 386 pp., £45, November 1990, 0 333 36086 9
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The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Vol II: 1890-1899 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 386 pp., £45, November 1990, 0 333 36087 7
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... If it still needs to be proved that Kipling’s realism was highly intermittent, those lines from his last years should do the job. His correspondence was sure to reach biographers and editors in the end. He could hamper, but not stop them. Ever since the launch of the Kipling rocket more than forty years earlier he had been far too famous for his letters to have been thrown away ...

Internal Combustion

David Trotter, 6 June 1996

The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Vol. III: 1900-1910 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 482 pp., £50, December 1995, 9780333637333
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... one with its own idée fixe of velocity.’ The public wanted its preconceptions back in a hurry. Kipling should have been there. He was having trouble with his Daimler. At the end of September, he decided that enough was enough: ‘the motor goes to her birthplace to have her innards repaired.’ The Daimler was the latest in a long line of idées fixes ...

Kipling and the Irish

Owen Dudley Edwards, 4 February 1988

Something of Myself 
by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Robert Hampson and Richard Holmes.
Penguin, 220 pp., £3.95, January 1987, 0 14 043308 2
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Stalky & Co 
by Rudyard Kipling, introduced by Isabel Quigley.
Oxford, 325 pp., £2.95, January 1987, 0 19 281660 8
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Kim 
by Rudyard Kipling, introduced by Alan Sandison.
Oxford, 306 pp., £2.95, January 1987, 0 19 281651 9
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... Kipling leapt into British fame at the beginning of 1890, and it had been Ireland which had given him his chance – that and the rich harvest of short stories from his Indian years. He hit England just before the Commission on ‘Parnellism and Crime’ was about to report. That report, predictably, exonerated Parnell and his party, accused by the Times of having fomented the Phoenix Park murders of Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish and Under-Secretary Thomas Burke, who had in reality been killed (on 6 May 1882) by Parnell’s bitter enemies the Invincibles ...

Kipling the Reliable

David Trotter, 6 March 1986

Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling 1879-1889 
edited by Andrew Rutherford.
Oxford, 497 pp., £19.50, March 1986, 9780198123231
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Kipling’s India: Uncollected Sketches 1884-88 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 301 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 38467 9
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Imperialism and Popular Culture 
edited by John MacKenzie.
Manchester, 264 pp., £25, February 1986, 9780719017704
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Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases 
edited by Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell.
Routledge, 1021 pp., £18.95, November 1985, 0 7100 2886 5
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... stands a muzzled stripling,     Mute, beside a muzzled bore, When the Rudyards cease from Kipling     And the Haggards Ride no more. The Haggards have ridden rather precariously since the decline of Empire, if at all. But the next few years promise no end of Kipling. When copyright runs out, his work will be ...

Hustling off the Crockery

John Bayley: Kipling’s history of the Great War., 4 June 1998

The Irish Guards in the Great War: The First Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 320 pp., £24.95, January 1997, 1 873376 72 3
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The Irish Guards in the Great War: The Second Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 223 pp., £24.95, January 1998, 1 873376 83 9
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... cause of all the fuss. A professional soldier from Limerick, he got on with his job. A chastened Kipling, who had once held that everyone must have the strongest views about everything where race and nationhood were concerned, would none the less have respected the sergeant’s attitude. Time and again in this history he emphasises that ‘a battalion’s ...

Oh, Lionel!

Christopher Hitchens, 3 December 1992

P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth 
by Barry Phelps.
Constable, 344 pp., £16.95, October 1992, 9780094716209
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... setting out on life’s road). He cited authors as various as Lion Feuchtwanger and Rudyard Kipling, and didn’t bluff about a book he hadn’t read. And we know that he was excessively fond of the theatre. But he never alluded to the author of these ensuing lines, which come from Act One, Scene One of an imperishable stage moment, when ...

A Broad Grin and a Handstand

E.S. Turner: ‘the fastest woman in the world’ and the wild early years of motor-racing, 24 June 2004

The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a Motor-Racing Legend 
by Miranda Seymour.
Simon and Schuster, 301 pp., £15.99, February 2004, 0 7432 3146 5
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... which ‘sang like a six-inch shell across the Sussex Downs’ contained (in the back seat) Rudyard Kipling, a bit of a road-hog who had the nerve to proclaim that the car had at last brought a major blood sport to Britain. His fellow poet and road-hog, John Masefield, also exulted as he traversed the Downs at furious speed, his Overland emitting ...

Sahib and Son

J.I.M. Stewart, 22 December 1983

‘Oh Beloved Kids’: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to his Children 
edited by Elliot Gilbert.
Weidenfeld, 225 pp., £10.95, October 1983, 0 297 78296 7
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... The dust-jacket of this book reproduces a snapshot of Kipling squatted on the deck of a Union Castle ship while reading or telling a story to a group of absorbed small children clustered around him. In the book itself there is record of a contrasting occasion. On board a P – O ship bound for Egypt, he writes to his daughter Elsie, who is just seventeen, and to his son John, 18 months younger: I haven’t found anybody interesting yet ...

Kipling and Modernism

Craig Raine, 6 August 1992

... At the outset of his long literary career, Rudyard Kipling was apparently content to recognise the distinction between verse and poetry, and, if we are to judge from his letter to Caroline Taylor of 9 December 1889, equally content to accept that his own place was below the salt: ‘I am not a poet and never shall be – but only a writer who varies fiction with verse ...

So Much to Hate

Bernard Porter: Rudyard Bloody Kipling, 25 April 2002

The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 351 pp., £22.50, March 2002, 0 7195 5539 6
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... Kipling is an easy man to dislike. He wasn’t much loved in his own time, apparently, even by people – schoolmates, for example, and neighbours in Vermont – with whom he thought he was rubbing along well. In his later years he lost many of the friends he had, except the most right-wing ones and King George V, who found Kipling the only literary figure he could get on with at all ...

Kipling in South Africa

Dan Jacobson: Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Rhodes, 7 June 2007

... The first piece of verse by Rudyard Kipling I committed to memory – without even knowing I was doing so – was incised in large Roman capitals on a wall of the Honoured Dead Memorial in Kimberley, South Africa. During the Anglo-Boer War, Kimberley was besieged for some months by forces from the two Boer republics, the Transvaal (De Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek) and the Orange Free State ...

Athenian View

Michael Brock, 12 March 1992

Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain, 1850-1930 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 383 pp., £40, September 1991, 0 19 820173 7
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... in the Diamond Jubilee year under Rule 2 for ‘distinguished eminence in Literature’. Though Rudyard Kipling does not feature in Dr Collini’s pages he was undoubtedly a public moralist; like Mill and Arnold, he relied on religious resonances while standing obliquely to Christian faith; and he was an archetypal outsider, being, as James Barrie ...

Necrophiliac Striptease

Thomas Jones: Mummies, 6 February 2014

The Mummy’s Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 321 pp., £18.99, October 2012, 978 0 19 969871 4
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... In 1889, Rudyard Kipling, 23 years old, recently arrived in London and looking to ingratiate himself with England’s most popular novelist, wrote to Rider Haggard with the outline of a story he’d recently heard, a ‘thing picked up the other day across some drinks’: There was first one Englishman and one mummy ...

Last Words

John Bayley, 7 January 1988

The Collected Stories of Angus Wilson 
Secker, 414 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 436 57612 0Show More
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... His cousin Oliver Baldwin described Kipling’s story ‘Mary Postgate’ as ‘the wickedest story in the world’. It did shock its readers very much, but it is not entirely easy to determine just what the shocking element was, perhaps still is. Told with a subdued but cheerful elegance a little in the manner of Jane Austen’s novels, which Kipling much admired, it is a tale about a virtuous spinster companion during the Great War, whose employer’s nephew in the RFC is killed on a training flight ...

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