Frederic Lawrence Knowles.

A Kipling primer; including biographical and critical chapters, an index to Mr. Kipling's principal writings, and bibliographies online

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Online LibraryFrederic Lawrence KnowlesA Kipling primer; including biographical and critical chapters, an index to Mr. Kipling's principal writings, and bibliographies → online text (page 5 of 19)
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connotes sense. He improvises on whatever instru-
ment he plays. Is he after humorous effect ?
He out-Brownings Browning with such monstrosi-
ties as scarabeousness, adjutaunter, special-cor-
respondently and whalesome, or such compound
adjectives as expensive-pictures-of-the-nude-adorned,
Seidlitz-powders-colored, Government-broad-arrow-
shaped, and hair-trunk-thrown-in-the-trade. He
forms one part of speech out of another, or gives
an existing word a new ending, or restores obsolete
forms at his pleasure : badling, thumbling, empties

Mr. Kipling's Writings 79

(noun), grown-ups, high-grassed, hogged, horsehood,
know-how (noun), long-ago (adjective), old-maidism,
pine-needled, rocketed, smashment, Sahibdom, vaga-
bonded, springily, bad-worded (verb), brassily,
gentled (verb), gridironing, piglet, deerlets, rabbity,
tailing (part.) brotherliwise. His compound words
are innumerable. Fire-fanged, knotty-rooted, over-
ankle, rain-channelled, sweetish-sourish, scissor-
legged, twiney-tough — these are samples out of a
list numbering several hundred which I have col-
lected from his prose.

23. Figurative Language. — Mr. Kipling
shows his selective instinct no less in his choice
of figures than in that of words. He is one
of the greatest masters of metaphor since Shake-
speare. /

It may almost be said that Mr. Kipling writes in
nothing except figures. What is the whole body
of his recent work but metaphor ? A writer of
less penetration might have inveighed against the
materialism of an age like ours. Mr. Kipling
idealizes it, lifts it all into the region of symbol.
Every crank and piston is a letter in his alphabet of
spiritual power. He is the great allegorist of modern

Metaphors, using the word in the rhetorical
sense, are employed frequently in Kipling, yet so
discriminately, and with such an insistent origi-
nality, as always to avoid the merely florid. His

8o A Kipling Primer

tropes are notable equally for a quaint unconven-
tionality and for aptness.

So remarkable is Mr. Kipling's use of metaphor
that it deserves extensive illustration. A single
figure of speech, however, may be taken as typical.
Note the directness of the following similes : After
a river flood, which swept all barriers before it, " the
piers of the Barhwi Bridge showed like broken teeth
in the jaw of an old man." ^ " The grass-stems
held the heat exactly as boiler-tubes do." ^ " The
lightning spattered the sky as a thrown egg spatters
a barn-door."^ "Little by little, very softly and
pleasantly, she began taking the conceit out of
Pluffles, as they take the ribs out of an umbrella
before recovering it." * " The Colonel's face set
like the Day of Judgment framed in gray bristles." ^
" Dick delivered himself of the saga of his own
doings, with all the arrogance of a young man
speaking to a woman. From the beginning he told
the tale, the I — I — I's flashing through the records
as telegraph-poles fly past the traveller." ^

Kipling frequently introduces a sort of Homeric
simile which suggests the influence of the Iliad and
Odyssey so strikingly that it is diiHcult to believe he

1" In Flood Time."

"^ " BubbUng Well Road."

' " The Return of Imray."

* " The Rescue of Pluffles."
"'His Wedded Wife."

* The Light that Failed.

Mr. Kipling's Writings 8i

lacks intimate acquaintance with them. Here is an
example from The Naulahka : " His eyes were red
with opium, and he walked as a bear walks when he
is overtaken by the dawn in a poppy-field, where he
has gorged his fill through the night watches." The
Light that Failed yields good examples : " As swiftly
as a reach of still water is crisped by the wind,
the rock-strewn ridges and scrub-topped hills were
troubled and alive with armed men." Again : "The
mind was quickened, and the revolving thoughts
ground against each other as mill-stones grind when
there is no corn between." Once more : " A re-
frain, slow as the clacking of a capstan when the
boat comes unwillingly up to the bars where the
men sweat and tramp in the shingle." ^

24. Prose Style in General. — Mr. Kipling's
style, in a very remarkable degree, reflects his per-
sonality. His words do not conceal, they reveal
him. What Whitman wrote regarding Leaves of
Grass applies to the works of Kipling :

•' This is no book.
Who touches this touches a man."

The impression of really holding conversation
with the author is due in part to his honesty and
earnestness. It is attributable quite as much to the
style itself. The construction is that of speech.
Kipling never "reads like a book." He employs

' See Athentsum, April 18, 1891.

82 A Kipling Primer

the tongue in which we buy and sell, and make love,
and confess our sins. His sentences are brief and
idiomatic ; the order of the words is seldom inverted ;
there are few parenthetical clauses; the words
themselves are usually short and prevailingly Saxon.
An involved style is generally an obscure style.
Kipling's clearness is due partly to his natural and
effective arrangement of words ; partly also to his
unerring choice of the word that fits.
, His style has movement as well as clearness. It
sweeps one on with great swiftness to the story's
climax. There is no halting by the wayside to
pluck an epigram. Mr. Kipling sees his work too
much as a whole, he is too jealous for the integrity
of his central impression, to distract the reader with
aphorisms. Perhaps, too, he considers the epigram-
matic style to savor of pedantry, as witness the
following quotation from one of the Plain Tales :
"• ' No wise man has a policy,' said the Viceroy.
' A policy Is the blackmail levied on the Fool by
the Unforeseen. I am not the former, and I do not
believe in the latter.' I do not quite see what this
means, unless it refers to an insurance policy. Per-
haps it was the Viceroy's way of saying, ' Lie low.' " ^
"5 Regarding the force of Kipling's style, I have
already spoken. Force, next to sincerity, is its
prevailing note. Concentration, crispness, realism,
coherence, suggestiveness, all these, too, are part of our
' " A Germ Destroyer,"

Mr. Kipling's Writings 83

author's equipment. But it is often pointed out that
he has the defects of his qualities. His virility, we are
told, sometimes descends into coarseness, his realistic
manner into slang, his swift " go " into jerkiness and
journalese. He is always powerful, he is not always
highly-bred. In his passion for clearness and force
he sometimes forgets how many other qualities go to
make up a finished style. The subtle rhythmical
movement, the cadence, the pervasive overtones
which mark much of De Quincey's prose, and Cardi-
nal Newman's, and Louis Stevenson's, these, for the
most part, are absent from the author's page.

But it may be said in Kipling's defence that the
sort of verbal incantation which imparts almost a
sensuous thrill to the reader, perhaps seems to him
essentially insincere. It also may be said that a
highly beautified style is excluded by his persistent
aim to make his writings as much like spoken
speech as he can. That he is able, moreover, when
it suits his purpose, to write paragraphs where
rhythm is a marked feature, is shown in not a few
stories, especially in narratives put into the mouths
of natives, and in several of the Jungle tales.

Kipling's style, however, needs no apology. His
art is perfect if it perfectly achieve its purpose ; we
never should pronounce an author's method defective
till we have inquired what he aims to do. Mr.
Kipling occasionally shocks us with his coarseness.
But perhaps we need to be shocked. Granted that

84 A Kipling Primer

he violates our conventions. It does us good to
reexamine the ground for these conventions. Let
us admit that he is deficient in rhythm. Rhythm is
w^hat we ask for in a lullaby, not in a battle-slogan
or an alarm of fire. \The man who strives to shake
you out of your self-satisfaction, and to nerve you
for conflict or danger, ought hardly to be quarrelled
with because he refuses to sing you to sleep. Kip-
ling's message is not for the ear, but for the emo-
tions and the will. -^

Of course this peremptory, challenging style is
not universally popular. He or she — more often
she — whose ideal of literature is completely met by
the elaborately polite while beautiful style of Ad-
dison, whose taste is unpleasantly disturbed by Swift
and wholly outraged by Carlyle, — such a reader
will certainly shrink from the brusqueness of these
" straight-flung words and few." Kipling's style is
not custom-made. Like Whitman, he has " gone
freely with powerful uneducated persons." Readers
who look for evening clothes and court bows — who
care less for literary manner than for literary man-
ners — will cut his acquaintance just as soon as he
ceases to be a fashionable fad.

25. Influence. — Is Mr. Kipling a classic ?
Who knows, or cares ? His fate will probably be
the common one :

«' Some of him lived, but the most of him died
(Even as you and I !) "

Mr. Kipling's Writings 85

The permanency of his fame is doubtless Mr.
Kipling's least concern. Is it not the third-rate
poet who sighs with Cowley :

" What shall T do to be forever known
And make the age to come my own " ?

Time takes fine revenges on all such.

But whether or not Mr. Kipling is a classic, it
cannot be disputed that he is a force. The man
who has created a new respect for poetry, who has
conquered a new class of readers, who is already
quoted, imitated, parodied in every English-speaking
land, who, while still in his early thirties, influences
the policy of nations and marks time for their march-
ing feet, who gathers the civilized world at his bed-
side to pray for his recovery, — surely this man is
something far greater than the occupant of a literary
pedestal — he is the leader and friend of our com-
mon race.

26. Summary. — I have attempted to show in
this chapter on what grounds Mr. Kipling's work
may properly be called great ; I have attempted to
trace the development of his dramatic genius through
three stages which I have ventured to call the satiric,
the sympathetic, and the spiritual ; and I have finally
discussed a number of his general characteristics in
detail. In so short a treatise it can hardly be hoped
that anything more than an intelligent outline has
been furnished the student, yet the writer trusts a
few things have been made clear :

86 A Kipling Primer

I. Mr. Kipling is the most prominent figure in
the world of letters, and has made the most rapid of
modern literary reputations.

2. He has conquered three classes : the literary
class who read for style ; the average reader who
reads for amusement ; the non-reading class who are
fascinated by his familiarity with their material
world of commerce, trade, and machinery.

3. He is a great political force.

4. His work is notable for power, originality,
range, health, and sincerity.

5. Nature is to him simply the background for
the play of strenuous human emotions.

6. His philosophy of life is marked by vigor and

7. His temper is distinctly masculine. He is al-
ways strong, and sometimes coarse.

8. His manner is realistic ; his aim idealistic.

g. His forte is description, and he is a master of

10. jf His characterization is not always good, and
is never of the highest kind.

11. His ability to invent plots seems exhaustless,
and his mastery of the short-story form is unrivalled
in contemporary literature. He has not, however,
been especially successful in writing novels.

12. His verse is brilliant and rhetorical, and has
at least once attained the "nobly plain manner"
of the highest poetry.



American, An. ( The Seven Seas. ) — This description
of the typical American contains much wholesome criti-
cism. While it aims to be just, it is hardly calculated to
flatter national vanity. It is in part a parody on Emer-
son's Brahma, but it is much longer than the earlier poem.
A sample of its quality may be had from the next to the
last of its fourteen stanzas :

" Enslaved, illogical, elate,

He greets th' embarrassed Gods, nor fears
To shake the iron hand of Fate
Or match with Destiny for beers."
" To me it gives a sense of his penetration and his
grasp that nothing else does. I am tempted to call the
piece the most important thing, intellectually, in Mr.
Kipling's new volume of The Seven Seas.^' — IV. D.
American Notes. — This series of letters contributed
to a newspaper in India (the Pioneer, Allahabad), was
the result of Mr. Kipling's American tour of 1889.
Their publication in book form by a New York house
(1891) was unauthorized. They are satiric pictures of
society in the United States. Marred by journalistic
smartness and superficiality and by very evident prejudice
against America, but entertaining and clever. (See the
American Bookman for April, 1898.)

88 A Kipling Primer

The complete series of letters of which these are a
part were published in the Pioneer under the title
From Sea to Sea, and have this year (1899) been
republished in book form under the original title by
Mr. Kipling's authorized publishers, Doubleday &
McClure Company, (^ee From Sea to Sea.)
Amir's Homily, The. (^Life's Handicap.) — A thief,
brought to trial before the Amir, avers that he stole
because he was starving, having been unable to find work.
The despot tells him that he lies, "since any man who
will, may find work and daily bread." The magistrate
then relates a tale of his "evil days," when he himself
was starving. He refused gifts, asking only for work.
He was finally successful. Day after day he wrought as
a coolie on a daily wage of four annas. Then turning to
the prisoner he commands that he be led away to execution.
Among the Railway Folk. (See From Sea to Sea.)
Anchor Song. ( The Seven Seas. ) — A sailor-song
first published as Envoy to Many Inventions, and subse-
quently included in The Seven Seas. It has a rhythmical
movement, but fairly bristles with nautical terms.

" A magnificent bit of long-syllable versification." —
Angutivun Tina. — A poem following " Quiquern " in
the Second Jungle Book. It is supposedly a free transla-
tion of the "Song of the Returning Hunter," as the Es-
quimaux sang it after seal-spearing.

ANSvi^ER, An. (^Ballads.) — The truth that grief and
apparent failure are justified if they form part of God's pur-
pose is taught in this parable of a rose, who, tattered and
stem-broken, complains to God, and receives an answer
which comforts her as she bows her head to die.

Index to Writings 89

Arrest of Lieutenant Golightly, The. (^Plain
Tales.) — The story of a vain man's humiliation. Go-
lightly, dressed fastidiously, is caught in a tremendous rain-
storm which reduces his new white helmet to dough,
covers his gaiters with mud, and causes the dye-stuffs of
suit, tie, and hat-lining to run. He is mistaken for a de-
serter for whom the police are looking, and is delivered over
to the authorities. After some travelling about in custody,
and much struggling and profanity, he is rescued by one of
his majors who recognizes the dandy officer under the out-
ward appearance of a dirty tramp.

At Hovi^Li Thana. (/« Black and White.') — The
native who relates the tale has been dismissed from the
Police for a piece of rascality, and now begs the Sahib to
take him, into his employ as a messenger. The demand
for an explanation of his conduct leads to a willing admis-
sion of the facts, but the most nonchalant and ingenious
vindication of his motive. The sketch gives us much in-
sight into the strange workings of the Oriental mind.

At the End of the Passage. {Life's Handicap.) —
The health of a young assistant engineer at a lonely Indian
station is shattered during the hot season by sleeplessness
and pure terror, the latter resulting from phantoms created
by his feverish and disordered brain. The doctor offers
him a testimonial which will secure him leave of absence.
He refuses, since the man that would be sent to take his
place kcks the physique to endure the Plains, and would,
moreover, bring with him his delicate wife now convales-
cing in Simla. The doomed man, therefore, remains and
dies at his post.

At the Pit's Mouth. {Under the Deodars.) — The

90 A Kipling Primer

place is Simla. The three characters are known as "A
Man and his Wife and a Tertium Quid. ' ' The man is in
the Plains "earning money for his wife to spend on
dresses," and writing her daily. The wife is carrying on
a violent flirtation with the Tertium Quid. The affair has
reached almost the point of scandal when it is interrupted
by a tragedy. The two are riding on the Himalayan-
Thibet road, which in places is not over six feet wide,
with a sheer drop into the valley below of between one
thousand and two thousand feet, when the man's mare
shies at a log of wood, and, sinking in the earth loosened
by the heavy rains, falls with her rider to the valley below.
" When he [Kipling] deals in natural horror (take
'At the Pit's Mouth' as a sample, or 'The Other
Man '), I often find him a master." — Francis Adams
in Fortnightly.

At Tvi^ENTy-Two. (/« Black and White. ) — An old,
blind miner has married a pretty young wife who carries on
a shameless intrigue with a collier working in the same
gang with her husband. A heavy flood, during the Rains,
breaks through the crust of earth over one of the workings
and pours into the main galleries. The blind man's mar-
vellous knowledge of the mine, born of thirty years' ex-
perience, enables him to rescue his own gang and two
others. Among the saved is his wife's paramour. The
latter repays him by eloping with the woman.

" For skilful presentment in a few bold strokes of a
strange and moving scene, it would be hard to beat the
escape from the flooded mine in ' At Twenty-two,' or
the fanatical riot of ' On the City Wall.' The former
story, indeed, is a gem of the first water." — Aihe-

Index to Writings 9 1

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. ( Wee Willie Winkie. ) —
Two children of Anglo-Indian parents are committed to
the care of an aunt in England. The latter is an unlovely
woman, who has some aiFection for the little girl, but hates
the boy. Punch, and subjects him to a series of petty tor-
tures professedly designed for the good of his soul. His
childish exaggerations pronounced to be lies, he is finally
forced to actual deception in self-defence, and becomes
sullen and suspicious. After five years the parents come
to claim their children, discover the barbarous treatment
the Black Sheep has received at the hands of Aunty Rosa,
and, after some difficulty, win back the good there is in the
boy's nature by love and tact.

" A strange compound of work at first and second
hand. . . . But Punch lives with an intense vital-
ity, and here, without any indiscretion, we may be
sure that Mr. Kipling has looked inside his own heart
and drawn from memory. ' ' — Gosse.
Back to the Army again. ( The Seven Seas. ) —
A British soldier who has seen several years' service re-
turns after a time to the army, professing to be as ignorant
of things military as any new recruit, but he fails to deceive
the sergeant. It is evident from his song that he takes
pleasure in coming back, and pride in the prospect of
"learnin' the others their trade."

Ballad of Boh Da Thone, The. (^Ballads.) — A
gruesome story of an outlaw chief unsuccessfully hunted
down by an Irish company in the " Black Tyrone." The
captain marries and settles down, for the time-being forget-
ful of his quest. Meanwhile a native servant slays the
Boh and sends his head by mail to the captain. The
latter opens the package at breakfast, and the hideous Thing

92 A Kipling Primer

rolls out on the table. The bride faints. A little Irish
Kathleen, born shortly afterward, bears the Boh's head as
a birthmark.

Ballad of East and West, The. (^Ballads.') — A
story of magnanimity to a fallen foe, and of the appreciation
of bravery even among enemies:

" There is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed, nor

When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come

from the ends of the earth."

" One of the greatest pieces of epic narrative which is
to be found in our literature. ' ' — Saturday Review.

"Mr. Kipling's poetical masterpiece." — Critic,

"Worthy to stand by the border ballads of Sir
Walter Scott." — Spectator.

"A thing to stir the blood like a trumpet." —


Ballad of the "Bolivar," The. (^Ballads.') — A

triumphant song of seven drunken English sailors who had

brought their half-wrecked vessel through a terrific storm

" safe across the bay."

Ballad of the " CLAMPHERDOvifN," The» (^Ballads.)
— The " Clampherdown, " an English war-ship, engages
with a hostile cruiser, and is badly disabled, but when the
enemy demands the captain's sword, he refiises to surrender,
and, being then at close quarters, commands that the cruiser
be boarded. The latter is cleared from end to end, and,
while the war-ship sinks, her crew stands out " to sweep
the sea" on the captured vessel.

Ballad of the King's Jest, The. (^Ballads.') ■

Index to Writings 93

Unsought counsel is not welcome at court. A gossiping

youth wins an Oriental king's anger by warning him of the

reported advance of the Russians, and is placed in a tree

to await and give word of their coming. He is kept there,

guarded by bayonets, till he dies of starvation and madness.

"The inimitable ballad of the 'King's Jest.' " —

Saturday Review.

Ballad of the King's Mercy, The. (^Ballads.') —

A story of an Oriental despot's arbitrary and cruel conduct,

which his court flatterers professed to regard merciful.

Bank Fraud, A. (^Plain Tales.') — The manager of
an Indian bank has for accountant a conceited and peevish
fellow who finally breaks down with consumption. The
directors appoint a successor, but the manager, seeing the
necessity for keeping up the spirits of his employe if he
would prolong his life, not only cares for him and uncom-
plainingly receives his ungratefiil fault-finding, but invents a
series of letters from the directors, praising the sick man's
work and promising increased pay. The invalid's salary
is regularly paid him from the manager's own pocket, but
the man dies at last in the presence of his benefactor.

Bell— Buoy, The. — A poem of nine stanzas in
McClure's, February, 1897. This highly imaginative
song is given us in the supposed words of the bell-buoy.
Belts. (^Ballads.) — The story of a Dublin street row
between an Irish regiment and a body of English cavalry
which had a tragic ending.

" We went away like beaten dogs, an' down the street

we bore him.
The poor dumb corpse that couldn't tell the bhoys were
sorry for him»"

94 A Kipling Primer

Bertran and Bimi. {Life's Handicap.) — Hans

Breitmann, the German orchid collector who tells also the

tale of Reingelder (^.».), relates the story. Bertran is a

French naturalist and Bimi his pet orang-outang. Bertran,

who has had Bimi twelve years, marries. The beast is

jealous of the woman and kills her. Bertran, in return, kills

the orang-outang, but in the unequal struggle is himself slain.

"The horrible story of 'Bertran and Bimi,' though

its power cannot be denied, is a kind of thing that

ought never to have been written. . . This is

nightmare literature. ' ' — Edinburgh Review.

" 'Bertran and Bimi' is detestable, and is not in
the least saved by being extremely cleverly written. ' ' ■ —
Beyond the Pale. {Plain Tales.') — Every man
should keep to his own caste. Trejago, an Englishman,
didn't, and his love intrigue with Bisesa, a pretty Hindu
widow of fifteen, resulted only in sorrow to himself and to
her. When the aiFair was discovered by her relatives, bar-
barous punishment was inflicted on Bisesa, and the man
himself was wounded. Thenceforth the girl was lost to
him completely.

Big Drunk Draf', The. {Soldiers Three.) — The
"big drunk draf" were the " scourin's an' rinsin's an'
Divil's lavin's av the Ould Rig' mint," who were " knock-
in' red cinders out av ivrything an' ivrybody . ' ' The ' ' little
orf'cer bhoy " who commanded them was unequal to the
situation until Mulvaney, who tells the story, gave him
counsel and active assistance in restoring order. The ring-
leaders in the disturbance were "pegged out," and the rest
of the men driven to their tents. From that day the " little
orf'cer bhoy ' ' had his men in complete control.

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Online LibraryFrederic Lawrence KnowlesA Kipling primer; including biographical and critical chapters, an index to Mr. Kipling's principal writings, and bibliographies → online text (page 5 of 19)