Tuesday, February 10, 2015


A Book of Words

Rudyard Kipling

An Undefended Island 

The Royal Society of St George Connaught Rooms, 6 May 1935

I AM UNFORTUNATELY a producer of fiction; but outside office-hours, I plead guilty to an interest in facts.

Will you allow me just to run through a few facts which may be of interest to our England of to-day?

First, let it be granted that when men are dead, they cease to live, and, as Solomon says, 'neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.' Great Britain's quota of dead in the War was over eight hundred thousand when the books were closed in '21 or '22. It would be within the mark to say that three-quarters of a million of these were English. Furthermore, a large but unknown number died in the next few years from wounds or disease directly due to the War. There is a third category of men—incapacitated from effort by the effects of shock, gassing, tubercle, and the like. These carry a high death-rate because many of them burned out half a life's vitality in three or four years. They, too, have ceased to count.

All these were men of average physique, and, but that they died without issue, would have continued our race. The selective elimination of so many men of one type, and their replacement by so many persons of another type and their children, led to an extensive revision of all standards of English thought and action.

Now, there were a number of persons who, for various motives, had dissociated themselves from the War at the outset. These, however, were all able to answer to their names at the close of hostilities and to rejoin the national life with a clear field before them.

Still they were not happy. There is a necessity laid upon man to justify himself to himself in order that he may continue to live comfortably with himself. Our initial errors, as we all know, are trivial. It is what we say and do to prove to ourselves that our errors were really laborious virtues which builds up the whole-time hells of this life.

So it was in exact accord with human nature that, very shortly after the War, a theory should have sprung up that the War had been due to a sort of cosmic hallucination which had infected the nations concerned with a sort of cosmic hysteria. This theory absolved those who had not interested themselves in the War and, by inference, condemned those who had; thus supplying comfort and moral support where needed. Naturally, the notion bore fruit. For this reason.

Most children and all nations, when they have hurt themselves, instinctively run indoors and ask to be told a pretty tale. So it was with us, and so to us, too, a tale was told. (You may remember we were all a little fatigued at the time.) The special virtue of our tale was that its moral bases were as inexpugnable as the most upright preceptress could desire. Here they are:—

All pain—whether it come from hitting one's head against a table or from improvising a four years' war at four days' notice—is evil. All evil is wicked. And since, of all evils, war gives the most pain to the most people, wickedest of all things is war. Wherefore, unless people wish to be thought wicked, they must so order the national life that never again shall war in any form be possible.

Granted the first premiss, the rest of the reasoning is unanswerable—on paper. But why the entire commination-service should have been addressed by ourselves to ourselves is a little obscure. For if ever there was a converted nation since the days of Saint Augustine, it was us.

A little later—in '22 or '23—on the heels, you might say, of Rachel mourning for her children—our electorate was enlarged by the enfranchisement of all Englishwomen over twenty-one.

This gave renewed impetus to our national ideal of an ever-rising standard of living and the removal of want, discomfort, and the accidents of life from the lives of all our people. To this end we built up, and are now building, gigantic organisations to control and handle every detail of those lives. But for reasons which I shall try to show we chose—we chose—not to provide that reasonable margin of external safety without which even the lowest standard of life cannot be maintained in this dangerously congested island.

The world outside England had other preoccupations. Like ourselves, it had dealt—had been compelled to deal—with an opponent whose national life and ideals were based on a cult—a religion, as it now appears—of war, which exacted that all his nationals should be trained at any cost to endure as well as to inflict punishment.

In this our opponent was excusable. He had won his place in civilisation by means of three well-planned wars waged within two generations. He had been checked somewhat in his fourth war, but soon after the close of it—in '24 or '25—seemed to be preparing for a fifth campaign.
In this, also, our opponent was excusable. His path was made easy for him. Stride for stride with his progress towards his avowed goal, we toiled,--as men toil after virtue, to cast away a half, and more than a half, of our defences in all three elements and to limit the sources of their supply and renewal. This we did explicitly that we might set the rest of the world a good example.

That the rest of the world—down to little uneasy neutrals who had seen what can happen to a neutral at a pinch—was openly or furtively trying to arm itself against whispered eventualities had nothing to do with our case. It was laid upon us to set the world an example, no matter at what risks. And we did.

For several years—more than ten, I believe—our responsible administrators dwelt, almost with complacency, on the magnitude of the risks we were running, and on our righteousness in running them, and through all those years our people were made to appear as if they loved to have it so.

But through all those irrecoverable years a large part of the world outside England had not been idle.

Today, State-controlled murder and torture, open and secret, within and outside the borders of a State; State-engineered famine, starvation and slavery as requisite; State-imposed godlessness, or State-prescribed paganism; are commonplaces of domestic administration throughout States whose aggregate area is between one-fifth and one-fourth of the total land-surface of the Eastern hemisphere. These modern developments have been accepted in England without noticeable protest even from quarters usually quick to protest.

Nevertheless, the past year or so has given birth to the idea that our example of State-defended defencelessness has not borne much fruit, and that we have walked far enough along the road which is paved with good intentions. It is now arranged that, in due time, we will take steps to remedy our more obvious deficiencies. So far, good; but if that time be not given to us—if the attack of the future is to be on the same swift 'all-in' lines as our opponents' domestic administrations—it is possible that, before we are aware, our country may have joined those submerged races of history who passed their children through fire to Moloch in order to win credit with their Gods.

And yet, the genius of our race fights for us in the teeth of doctrine ! The abiding springs of the English spirit are not of yesterday or the day before. They draw from the immemorial continuity of the nation's life under its own Sovereigns. They are fed by a human relationship more intimate and more far-reaching than any the world has ever known. They make part of a mystery as unpurchasable as it is incommunicable.

One has but to look back over the last century of our past to realise how that Royal relationship set itself—through Mother, Son, and Grandson—to consolidate and prepare for our future and to meet the hazards of our present
. Three generations of our Ruling House have accepted whatever burden of responsibility, whatever merciless demand for effort, whatever of personal risk, the honour or the needs of their people laid upon them. Each generation in turn has bowed the neck to unbroken sacrifice, devotion, and patience.

These things are assuredly not exhibited for the sake of example only. But they have come, by cumulative weight of virtue and toil, to create, to stiffen, and to inspire, the whole taken-for-granted fabric of sane and silent discharge of duty—both in the island and throughout our Empire—on which our destiny depends.

That—behind and beyond all—is our strength and hope. It is in that hope that I ask you to drink to England and the English. 

A Book of Words

Selections from speeches and addresses
delivered between 1906 and 1927
This is one of the six later speeches not included in that collection which were added for the Sussex Edition

"An Undefended Island" 

The Royal Society of St George
Connaught Rooms, 6 May 1935

Notes edited
by Leonee Ormond
The speech  
Notes on XXXVI  

[April 11th 2011]


Published in The Times, 7 May 1935, p. 9, reprinted in Vital Speeches of the Day, I, no 17, 20 May 1935; Nineteenth Century, June 1935; The English Race, August 1935 and National Review, September 1936. It was collected in theSussex Edition vol. XXV, pp. 321-28, together with the earlier speeches collected in A Book of Words, and in theBurwash Edition vol. XXIV.


Hitler and the Nazis had come to power in Germany in 1933, and had made it clear that they planned to re-arm and restore the greatness of the German Empire after the defeat of 1918.

This was a continuing source of concern to Kipling, who recalled the horrors of the Great War, in which he had lost his only son. There had been some 3.2 million British casualties, including over 900,000 dead. He had little faith in collective security through the League of Nations, or in the appeasement of Hitler, and believed that it was essential for Britain to look to her defences.

See also "The Bonfires" (1933), and "The Pleasure Cruise", of the same year.

This speech, given on the day of George V’s Silver Jubilee (marking twenty-five years on the throne), was published in the newspapers, broadcast and recorded. Lord Queenborough (1861-1949) was in the Chair, and Kipling, as principal speaker, proposed a toast to 'England and the English'. Caroline Kipling reported that ‘Rud does his speech. He speaks firmly and in good form’. [Letters (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 6. p. 351]

Kipling explained to his daughter that:

All sorts of letters, wires and cables coming in still – One from a Methodist clergyman much grieved and shocked and pained and demanding of me and the world generally, whether a little “self-sacrifice” couldn’t appease the Boche! 
[13 May Letters (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 6. p. 351]

Writing to Sir Percy Bates, the Chairman of the Morning Post and of Cunard, Kipling reported that he had received ‘literally, hundreds of letters and lots of wires, and, oddly enough, cables from rather important people in the Dominions’. [14 May, Letters (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 6. p. 353]

Kipling had already told Sir Percy on 9 May that many ‘want the thing distributed as a leaflet – or tract. What d’you think?’ [14 May, Letters (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 6. p. 354] Now he assured him:

No. I wasn’t thinking of the M.P. [Morning Post] as a distributor of my speech. That ‘ud be only dealing with the converted: and I don’t think, for a minute, that the League of Nations Union ‘ud touch it with a barge-pole.
[Letters (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 6. p. 353]

In his speech Kipling argued that England had lost many men in the Great War, some in battle, some dying later as a result of war. Others had suffered from post-war traumas. He believed that the loss of these men and of their potential children had altered the population, and that those who had been pacifists or opponents of the war were in part responsible for a growing national belief that the war had been fought for no good reason. This attitude excused those who had not taken part and implicitly criticised those who had.

This effect, and the granting of the vote to women over twenty-one, had increased the demand for a comfortable life. It also encouraged the nation to neglect external safety and its defences. Germany and Russia had meanwhile been strengthening their power of aggression. In the last year, work had begun to strengthen Britain's defences but this might not have been in time. The English spirit, however, still survived under the nation’s monarch.

Notes on the text

(the page and line numbers below refer to Volume XXV of the
Sussex Edition of Kipling's works, Macmillan, London 1938).

[Page 323 line 7] Solomon says Ecclesiastes 9,6:

This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
[Page 325 lines 10-11] Saint Augustine of Canterbury (d 604) first Archbishop of Canterbury. Sent to England as a missionary by St Gregory, he converted Ethelbert, King of Kent, to Christianity.

[Page 325 line 13] Rachel mourning for her children Jeremiah 31,15. and Matthew 2.18: ‘Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not’. 

[Page 325 lines 14-15] enfranchisement of all Englishwomen over twenty-one the franchise was granted to women of thirty and over in 1918 and to all women of twenty-one and over in 1928.

[Page 326 lines 2-3] three well-planned wars all victorious campaigns fought by Prussia under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck (1815-98): in Schleswig-Holstein against Denmark in 1864, against Austria in the Seven Weeks War of 1866 and in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

[Page 326 line 4] his fourth war the Great War, 1914-18.

[Page 327 line 2] States Germany and Russia.

Joseph Stalin had been in power in Soviet Russia since 1924, and had embarked on a highly centralised policy of industrialisation and rearmament. designed to make Russia strong and invulnerable.
[Page 327 lines 11-12] the road which is paved with good intentions Proverb:'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions'. The precise source is uncertain, but St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) wrote ‘Hell is full of good intentions and desires’. 

[Page 327 line 20] Moloch god of the Ammonites, to whom children were sacrificed by fire. For references in the Old Testament see 1 Kings 11,7 and Amos, 5,26-27.

[Page 327 line 32] Mother, Son, and Grandson Queen Victoria (1819-1901), her son Edward VII (1841-1910) and her grandson George V (1865-1936). 

Sunday, February 8, 2015


A Book of Words

Rudyard Kipling

France and Britain 

Annual Banquet of the France-Grande Bretagne Association
Cercle Interallief, Paris: July 1931

A FEW WEEKS AG0 I visited your wonderful Colonial Exhibition, and it recalled to me the time when as a boy of twelve I came to Paris with my father to the Exposition of '78.

He was in charge of the Fine Arts exhibits from India, and the arrangement of them kept him very busy, for in those days expositions were not always complete even after they had been formally opened. So he presented me with a free pass to everything and told me to run away and play while he worked. I obeyed him—filially I obeyed him for five glorious weeks.

There stood in the Trocadero gardens the bronze head of your great Bartholdi's statue of Liberty enlightening the world. For a sou one could climb up into that vast and vacant cranium and look out through its empty eyeballs into the secure and gracious world of Paris beneath.

I went there often, and one time the Guardian said to me, 'See here, you small Englishman—never forget that for once in your life you have looked through the very eyes of Liberty herself.' And I did not forget.

But I omitted to notice then—what I have often noticed since—that Liberty has not eyes at the back of her head to guard against dangers that may overtake her. It is bold to look forward. It is wise to look backward.

Our two countries can look back together for many years. They were the first to disentangle themselves from the confusion that followed the fall of Rome and to stand apart as civilising nations.
During that process it was organically necessary for England to assimilate the French conquerors which you had sent over. They would not learn English. It was equally vital for France to eliminate the English invaders whom we had sent over to you. It is true that they had tried for a hundred years to improve your tactics and strategy. You complained and with justice that they ruined your country.

Now we have evolved the exclusively English-speaking tourist who annually invades your pleasant land but who does not ruin your country—in the same way. This minor adjustment, typical of so many others, took only five or six hundred years. Naturally it was accompanied by certain differences of opinion: but long before the end of that epoch those differences were regulated by conventions almost as strict as those which rule the composition of your classical poetry or the etiquette of our national English game.

As an instance do you remember your Commodore Du Casse's immortal letter to our Admiral Benbow? It was after a sea-fight near Hayti—nearly two hundred and thirty years ago—when for personal or political reasons five of Benbow's ships deserted him at the beginning of the action. Benbow attacked Du Casse's squadron of four ships with his rermaining two. He was beaten off, and returned to Jamaica in his battered flagship wounded to die.

A few days after the action Du Casse sent in by a frigate under cartel a letter to Benbow, which I quote textually: 'Sir, I had little hope on Monday last but to have supped in your cabin' (meaning, of course, "as your prisoner"). 'But it pleased God to order it otherwise. I am thankful for it. As for those cowardly captains who deserted you, hang them up, for by God they deserve it.'

My friends, our unregenerate ancestors used language which we, their more highly civilised sons, must deplore; but mon Dieu! they understood each other jusqu'au bout. At the present moment the background against which these gallant gentlemen played their parts has vanished as utterly as their wooden ships. All the apparatus they employed has been changed beyond recognition, except, curiously enough, the anchor which prevents vessels from drifting.

In place of these things mankind everywhere has been overtaken by the magic of new mechanism, which has saved them so much labour that it seems to save the exertion of thought.

We have caused space to shrink so enormously that in another generation it will practically cease to exist. We have added such far-reaching powers to our senses that a fly's footfall on paper or the murmur of a weak heart can be amplified to equal the reverberations of a drum.

Is it any wonder that this congestion—this apoplexy —of daily wonders should waken hope that the world itself can be speeded up and amplified so as to give men without too much thought an immediate millennium?

The obstacle to this achievement is man's inveterate instinct not to confide his weight to a branch till he has tested it.

At any rate the instinct forms part of the reserve of earliest experience by which the lives of men are unconsciously stabilised. And our two peoples between them possess the largest reserve of this experience in our first-hand proven knowledge of each other's characters, failings, and necessities.

This triple knowledge has served us well. It has led us through the ages to a very distinguished respect for each other, ashore or afloat. It furnishes to each of us patience and confidence through our recent ordeal by fire. And it now underlies our friendship.

A Book of Words

Selections from speeches and addresses
delivered between 1906 and 1927
This is one of the six later speeches not included in that collection which were added for the Sussex Edition

"France and Britain" 

Association France-Grande Bretagne
Cercle Interalliée, Paris, 2 July 1931

Notes edited
by Leonee Ormond
The speech  
Notes on XXXIV  
Notes on XXXVI  

[April 11th 2011]


Published in pamphlet form, Doubleday, New York, 1931 as "Address at the Annual Banquet of the France Grande Bretagne Association". A short version was published in The Times for 4 July 1931, page 11. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. XXV, pp. 309-14, together with the earlier speeches collected in A Book of Words, and in the Burwash Edition vol. XXIV.


Kipling was the guest of honour at the Banquet. From the chair, the diplomat, archaeologist and writer, the Marquis de Vogué (1848-1910), told his audience that Kipling was loved in France for his writing, and also for his love of the country. After his speech, M. Reynard (1878-1966), the Minister for the Colonies, again thanked Kipling for his friendship to France.

After hearing the speech, the art historian and literary historian, Louis Gillet (1876-1943), asked Kipling to write Souvenirs de France, published in French and in English in 1933.

See also his poem "France", and the stories "The Bull that Thought" (Debits and Credits)"The Miracle of Saint Jubanus"(Limits and Renewals), and "The First Assault upon the Sorbonne£.

Kipling began by recalling his childhood visit to Paris for the Exhibition Universelle. Speaking of the relationship between France and Britain, he noted the history of invasions of one by the other, taking the gentlemanly understanding of two warring admirals as an example of mutual respect. He recalled the First World War, and declared his belief in the friendship of the two nations.

Notes on the text

(the page and line numbers below refer to Volume XXV of the
Sussex Edition of Kipling's works, Macmillan, London 1938).

[Page 311 line 2] Colonial Exhibition held in Paris in 1931.

[Page 311 line 4] Exposition of ’78 the "Exposition Universelle" or Third World’s Fair. Kipling describes his time at the esposition in Something of Myself, pp 24-25.

[Page 311 line 13] Trocadero gardens in Paris, on the site of the Palais de Chaillot and opposite the Eiffel Tower. The Palais de Trocadéro was built for the Exposition Universelle and the head of Liberty stood in the garden during the exhibition.

[Page 311 line 14] Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), French sculptor. His Statue of Liberty has stood in New York Harbour since 1885.

[Page 312 line 8] French conquerors the Norman invasion of England under William the Conqueror took place in 1066. Kipling may also be thinking of the accession of Henry II, the first Plantagenet or Angevin king, in 1154.

[Page 312 lines 10-11] English invaders Kipling is referring to the Hundred Years War against France, which began in 1337 during the reign of Edward III (1312-77). It ended with the French capture of Bordeaux in 1453.

[Page 312 line 25] our national English game cricket. It never aroused Kipling's enthusiasm.

[Page 312 lines 26-27] Commodore Du Casse Jean-Baptiste Du Casse (1646-1715).

[Page 312 line 27] Admiral Benbow John Benbow (1653-1702) was a Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy. Having met a French fleet under Du Casse off Santa Marta in the West Indies, he pursued it in his flagship, HMS Breda, but was, as Kipling says, forced to retire because his captains protested and refused to support him. He died of his wounds in Jamaica soon afterwards.

[Page 313 line 14] jusqu’au bout To the end, completely.



(notes edited
by George Engle)

notes on the text  
the poem 
[May 1 2003]


In the National Observer (23 January 1892), but according to Carrie Kipling's diary, written in the previous April. Collected in Barrack-room Ballads, R.B. and O.V., 1892; I.V., 1919; D.V., 1940; Sussex Edition, Vol. 32, page 322; Burwash Edition, Vol. 25.

Lines omitted from the published version

The ORG prints the following "extra lines" from the text of the original manuscript. Lines 33 to 36.
"Ye have taken toll of a thousand soul in silver and snippet and share,
And I have
 [perhaps Kipling wrote 'An I had']saved you," quo Peter, "I were saving Berkeley Square.
Ye have borrowed and filched the shadow of right that is neither saving nor sin-
Get hence, get hence, to the Lord of Wrong, for I dare not let you in."
Six lines at the end
So Tomlinson took up the flesh in his home in Berkeley Square
And syne he heard the coffin head that bumped upon the stair.
He shifted the shroud about his mouth and garred the watchers scream
"I have lain," quo he, "in a drouthy trance and dreamed a murderous dream;
But whether I rise from the red fever or the redder mouth of Hell,
By God his will, for good or ill, I'll live my life mysel'."
Background to the story

On his arrival in England in October 1889 Kipling took an instant dislike to the followers of the so-called Aesthetic Movement, who tended to go in for long hair, affectation of speech and manner, and eccentricity of dress. In a poem ("In Partibus") which he sent to the Civil and Military Gazette in the following month he wrote-
"But I consort with long-haired things
In velvet collar-rolls
Who talk about the Aims of Art
And 'theories' and 'goals',
And moo and coo with womenfolk
About their blessed souls."
Tomlinson is one of these, see The Long Recessional by David Gilmour (2002), pp. 92-95.


In Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work (1955) Charles Carrington remarks (p. 350): "The reader of Kipling's verse will not fail to notice a tendency to slip into Scotticisms (for example in "Tomlinson") where there seems no need of that dialect in particular."


Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square,
And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair -
A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way:
Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease,
And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys.
"Stand up, stand up now, Tomlinson, and answer loud and high
The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die -
The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!"
And the naked soul of Tomlinson grew white as a rain-washed bone.
"O I have a friend on earth," he said, "that was my priest and guide,
And well would he answer all for me if he were by my side."
"For that ye strove in neighbour-love it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Heaven's Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we called your friend from his bed this night, he could not speak for you,
For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two."
Then Tomlinson looked up and down, and little gain was there,
For the naked stars grinned overhead, and he saw that his soul was bare:

The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up his tale and spoke of his good in life.
"This I have read in a book," he said, "and that was told to me,
And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy."
The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path,
And Peter twirled the jangling keys in weariness and wrath.
"Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought," he said, "and the tale is yet to run:
By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer - what ha' ye done?"

Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore,
For the Darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven's Gate before:
"O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I have heard men say,
And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway."
- "Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven's Gate;
There's little room between the stars in idleness to prate!
O none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin
Through borrowed deed to God's good meed that lies so fair within;
Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for doom has yet to run,
And...the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!"

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell
Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell:
The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain,
But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again:
They may hold their path, they may leave their path, with never a soul to mark,
They may burn or freeze, but they must not cease in the Scorn of the Outer Dark.
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it nipped him to the bone,
And he yearned to the flare of Hell-Gate there as the light of his own hearth-stone.
The Devil he sat behind the bars, where the desperate legions drew,
But he caught the hasting Tomlinson and would not let him through.
"Wot ye the price of good pit-coal that I must pay?" said he,
"That ye rank yoursel' so fit for Hell and ask no leave of me?
I am all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that ye should give me scorn,
For I strove with God for your First Father the day that he was born.
Sit down, sit down upon the slag, and answer loud and high
The harm that ye did to the Sons of Men or ever you came to die."
And Tomlinson looked up and up, and saw against the night
The belly of a tortured star blood-red in Hell-Mouth light;
And Tomlinson looked down and down, and saw beneath his feet
The frontlet of a tortured star milk-white in Hell-Mouth heat.
"O I had a love on earth," said he, "that kissed me to my fall,
And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all."
- "All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run,
For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!"
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sin in life:
"Once I ha' laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave,
And thrice I ha' patted my God on the head that men might call me brave."
The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and set it aside to cool:
"Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool?
I see no worth in the hobnailed mirth or the jolthead jest ye did
That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid."
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace,
For Hell-Gate filled the houseless Soul with the Fear of Naked Space.
"Nay, this I ha' heard," quo' Tomlinson, "and this was noised abroad,
And this I ha' got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord."
- "Ye ha' heard, ye ha' read, ye ha' got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh -
Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o' the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?"
Then Tomlinson he gripped the bars and yammered, "Let me in -
For I mind that I borrowed my neighbour's wife to sin the deadly sin."
The Devil he grinned behind the bars, and banked the fires high:
"Did ye read of that sin in a book?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!"
The Devil he blew upon his nails, and the little devils ran,
And he said: "Go husk this whimpering thief that comes in the guise of a man:
Winnow him out 'twixt star and star, and sieve his proper worth:
There's sore decline in Adam's line if this be spawn of earth."
Empusa's crew, so naked-new they may not face the fire,
But weep that they bin too small to sin to the height of their desire,
Over the coal they chased the Soul, and racked it all abroad,
As children rifle a caddis-case or the raven's foolish hoard.
And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play,
And they said: "The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind
And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find:
We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone,
And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own."
The Devil he bowed his head on his breast and rumbled deep and low:
"I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should bid him go.
Yet close we lie, and deep we lie, and if I gave him place,
My gentlemen that are so proud would flout me to my face;
They'd call my house a common stews and me a careless host,
And - I would not anger my gentlemen for the sake of a shiftless ghost."
The Devil he looked at the mangled Soul that prayed to feel the flame,
And he thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good name:
"Now ye could haste my coal to waste, and sit ye down to fry:
Did ye think of that theft for yourself?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!"
The Devil he blew an outward breath, for his heart was free from care: -
"Ye have scarce the soul of a louse," he said, "but the roots of sin are there,
And for that sin should ye come in were I the lord alone.
But sinful pride has rule inside - and mightier than my own.
Honour and Wit, fore-damned they sit, to each his priest and whore:
Nay, scarce I dare myself go there, and you they'd torture sore.
Ye are neither spirit nor spirk," he said; "ye are neither book nor brute -
Go, get ye back to the flesh again for the sake of Man's repute.
I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should mock your pain,
But look that ye win to worthier sin ere ye come back again.
Get hence, the hearse is at your door - the grim black stallions wait -
They bear your clay to place to-day. Speed, lest ye come too late!
Go back to Earth with a lip unsealed - go back with an open eye,
And carry my word to the Sons of Men or ever ye come to die:
That the sin they do by two and two they must pay for one by one -
And. . .the God that you took from a printed book be with you, Tomlinson!"


A Book of Words

Rudyard Kipling

School Experiences 

How shall we learn to judge men—the subtlest of all things created?
Even in childhood at play before they have hidden their hearts.

Junior King's School.Canterbury: October 5th 1929

GENTLEMEN—I am not going to tell you much that you do not know. Indeed, the only advantage I have over you is that you have not yet the words in which to express your knowledge, and—you are not allowed'' to contradict me. You have been told hundreds of times that your school presents you in advance and in miniature with almost every problem and situation that you may be called upon to meet later. Strangely enough, this is true, because (and perhaps you have not been told this) very few men are more than sixteen years old when it comes to the pinch. So, if you can remember the style of a man's work, and more particularly of his play, you can make a close guess later on as to what he will do, and why and how; and you will realise, presently, that men seldom do anything for the first time in their lives, except at school. It isn't as if man was an original creature. He is a boy-product. There is another thing that you know. You may have noticed already that there is not much justice in your present world. There is less outside. This ought to save you all the time and trouble of looking for it. Most injustice is not inflicted deliberately, but because people won't take the trouble to think things out. Thinking makes their heads ache, and if persisted in may make them change their opinions. Consequently it simply `isn't done, you know.'

But may I work out for you a simple equation? The next time that a personal injustice is inflicted on you for your manners, habits, or appearance, try to recall the last time that you were—1 won't say unjust—but unfair to someone else. If you have forgotten, ask a friend. He'll remember. Bracketing these factors, you will see that they cancel out. In the case of impersonal injustice—that is to say, when you have not had credit for some really decent thing you have done— remember that you have got, or may hope to get, credit for all sorts of things you didn't do, or stumbled into by accident. Once more bracketing these two factors, they cancel each other. You see, too much fussing over abstract justice leads to standing up for your rights and dwelling on what you owe to yourself. That is a temptation of the Devil. Any debt that a man thinks he owes himself can wait over till all the others are paid; and, besides that, standing up for one's rights, and not being put upon, and all the rest of it, often ends in one becoming a man with a grievance; which is the same as being a leper. So, when you are told off' to shoot any sort of tiger (as you certainly will be) try not to choose a man with a grievance for your partner. If his disease attacks him, he will sulk and hang behind the scrum, and will delay or wreck the work that you are trying to do with him. Some of you in the School may have discovered this already in making up Elevens and Fifteens. Some of you may already have been told that you had a down on a man because you made him play where he could not do much harm to his own side.

So, you see, all your experiences at school are rehearsals for what you may expect on a larger scale and on a stage where it is important that you should know your part. And here is where the great value comes in of what is wrongly called `secondary education.' All education is primary not to say primitive. It is one's school that teaches one how to keep one's temper and when to lose it. If one is too clever and shows it, it is one's school that helps one to suffer fools. If one is a fool oneself, it is one's school that tells one precisely what sort of a fool one is. Lots of men go through life without grasping that great fact. If one knows how everything ought to be done (and some people seem to), it is one's school that recommends one to go and do it, instead of standing about talking. That means that one can pick up the rudiments of self-control, knowledge of what really matters, and a habit of burning one's own smoke—keeping one's mouth shut.
Now, as far as one man can judge another, I think that Lord Milner's character was built up on these three points—self-control, a sense of what really matters, and the power of possessing his soul in patience. They gave the enduring background to his natural great qualities. They strengthened his wide influence over men. His career was full of difficulties and some bitter disappointments, but in all the years that I had the honour to know him he never revealed that he was thrown out of his stride by difficulties, delays, and intrigues that theoretically ought to have defeated him altogether. Whether he suffered fools gladly I don't know, but he suffered them in silence. After eight years of splendid and far-seeing work in settling and reconstructing a half-ruined Dominion, and after he had put aside honour and great preferment in order that he might finish that work, it happened to him to be treated unjustly by what the history books call `his ungrateful country.' As a matter of fact, it was only the House of Commons— a paltry exhibition which took the form of a pious rebuke. Broadcasting was not invented in those days, but that rebuke went all round the world, and caused a great deal of talk. But Lord Milner did not contribute to the discussion, nor did he encourage his friends to. He went on with his work, and let other people do the talking.

Years later came the War, which does not interest you as much as it interested us at the time; and Lord Milner, who was then on the Imperial War Council, used every gift and power that he had to bring it to a certain end. We do not yet realise, and you will not for a long time, how vitally important his work was, and what it saved us. He saw that one thing needed to be done, and done quickly, and he gave all that was in him to get the matter accomplished. But all that while he was working sympathetically and serenely with some of the very men who had done him the public injustice years before. I think that that was a glorious climax to a devoted and unspotted career.

But whatever a man's natural gifts may be, he cannot slip on the virtues that built up a character such as Lord Milner's a few minutes before they are required. One has got to practise somewhere before one plays anywhere. And here, gentlemen, is your practice-ground. Lord Milner had to learn in a harder and a lonelier school. Looking back on his life, and his intense influence over the men he worked with, one feels that no memorial to Lord Milner is needed except one. And just that fitting memorial has been made possible by Lady Milner's discerning gift of the lands on which the junior branch of the oldest school in England enters now. But it is you, and you only, gentlemen, who can keep that memorial. It is you, and only you, who can keep it in permanence and due honour by the temper of your lives while you are here, for on that temper surely depends all the work you will do hereafter in and for the world. You have no small or self-seeking example to follow. May you be fortunate: lucky in little things; and secure in the possession of the few real things that life has to offer. And on these lines—shall we say?—the School will be open. 

A Book of Words

Selections from speeches and addresses
delivered between 1906 and 1927
This is one of the six later speeches not included in that collection which were added for the Sussex Edition

"School Experiences" 

King’s School Junior School
Canterbury, 5 October 1929

Notes edited
by Leonee Ormond
The speech  
Notes on XXXIII  
Notes on XXXV  

[April 12th 2011]


Published in The Times 6 October 1929, page 11. Published in pamphlet form as "Address at Milner Court", Doubleday, New York, 1929. Published in the King’s School Magazine, The Cantuarian, December 1929, and in the American magazine Living Age 15 November 1929. Printed in leaflet form in England, 1929. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. XXV, pp. 301-7, together with the earlier speeches collected in A Book of Words, and in the Burwash Edition vol. XXIV.


The Junior School of King’s School, Canterbury was named after Viscount Milner (1854-1925), whose widow gave the land at Milner Court, Sturry, on which the Junior School stands. At the request of Lady Milner, Kipling was speaking at the Dedication of the new School.

The ceremony took place in the Tithe Barn, and the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a short service. William Spens, the Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge presided. After Kipling’s speech, the Headmasters of the Senior and Junior Schools spoke, followed by the Bishop of Dover, John Macmillan (1877-1956), who asked Kipling to formally open the South Door of the New Building.

Unfortunately, the boys, who were placed furthest from the platform, had difficulty in hearing Kipling’s speech, but the Headmaster later read it to them. Kipling’s request that the boys should have a half-holiday, to compensate them for having to come to school on a Saturday, was granted by the Headmaster, Norman Birley (1891-1980).

Kipling argued that the schoolboys would learn about life at school. He urged them not to spend their time complaining about injustice or nursing grievances. He paid tribute to Lord Milner, giving a broad outline of his career, and concluded by urging the boys to follow Milner’s example.

Notes on the text

(the page and line numbers below refer to Volume XXV of the
Sussex Edition of Kipling's works, Macmillan, London 1938).

[Page 304 lines 27-28] Elevens and Fifteens cricket and rugby teams.

[Page 305 line 8] to suffer fools see II Corinthians 2.3.

[Page 305 line 19] Lord Milner Alfred, Viscount Milner (1854-1925), imperial administrator. He was director general of accounts in Egypt (1889-92), High Commissioner in South Africa (1897-1905) and served in the War Cabinet from 1916-1918. He was a friend of Kipling's, who much admired him.

[Page 305 line 32] a half-ruined Dominion Milner was High Commissioner for South Africa from 1897 to 1905. He had urged on the Cabinet the need to go to war against the Boer republics in 1899, in the Second South African War, and did much to rebuild the country after peace was made in 1902. Like Kipling, he believed strongly in the merits of British imperial rule.

Many of his policies were opposed in the House of Commons, in particular by the Liberals, who were in office from January 1906 to May 1915. The Liberals gave the Boer republics self-government under the British Crown.

[Page 306 lines 19-20] one thing needed to be done As a member of the War Cabinet, Milner was sent to France in 1918 to investigate the problems arising from the lack of a supreme command. As a result of his report, Marshal Foch was placed in overall command, and this helped to bring the war to an end.

[Page 307 line 4] Lady Milner Violet Georgina, née Maxse (1872-1958), Editor of the National Review.



O loved little Island, forget never the Sea.
Never the Sea forgivs such as forget her.

Liverpool Shipbrokers’ Benevolent Society
Adelphi Hotel, 26 October 1928

WHEN Lord Hewart was your guest lasy year he gave you some interesting facts about maritime law as that affected freights. But I don't recall that he mentioned a certain saying about that maritime by-product, passengers. So many of us guests are passengers, and so many of our hosts are interested in our passages, that I need not apologise for quoting it. It runs: 'God made men; God made women; and then He made passengers.' This libel is based on the cruel superstition that if you put people into a ship, and roll them round Ushant, by the time they are decanted at their first port, they look and behave like nothing on the face of the waters except passengers.

I expect this accounts for the way we were treated within human memory. I won't go into details farther than to remind you that our cabins used to open directly into the dining-saloon, and we were warned by notices on the mahogany-inlaid mizzen-mast which came through the table that we were under the authority of the Master, and that 'the limit of his authority was the needs of the case, having regard to the security of the ship and those on board.' This covered a large area.

But now that we have imposed the world-end habit on the week-end habit the case is altered. So long as we passengers muster at boat-stations with our belts on, and do not try to alter the ship's course or set her alight, we can do absolutely what we please. And we do. To take one side of our activities only: We arrive in 20,000-ton liners to assault lovely and innocent coast towns, a thousand of us, under cover of a gas attack by 200 motor-cars. We roar through the streets, a pillar of dust by day. We come back at night, with our picture postcards, to dance to amplified gramio- phones on promenade decks till it is time to call boarding parties away to carry the next place of interest on the, programme.

And this traffic, this prodigious tourist-traffic, is increasing. Time and distance only excite it to wilder effort; for there is a man at this table who expressed his regret to me the other day that he could not for the moment—for the moment, mark you!—include the Galapagos Islands—where the giant tortoises come from—in a tourist itinerary.

Well, even supposing we may be able, next year, to cruise about scratching our initials on turtle-back sterns, what is the good of us? Apart from our dividend-earning capacity what moral purpose do we passengers subserve in the general scheme of things? This—and it is not a little matter. When we are home again, and have arranged the snapshots of ourselves standing in front of the Pyramids or the Parthenon, we have, at the lowest, realised that there are other lands than ours where people live their own lives in their own way and seem quite happy about it, and where we have seen and touched the things we had hitherto only read about. And when interest in one's neighbour, curiosity about his housekeeping, and understanding of his surroundings are waked and can be gratified in hundreds of thousands of hearts, they make for toler¬ance, good-will, and so peace. And that is to the good.
Much of this good the world owes to those big companies who foresaw that, after the War, people would need a little fresh air and exercise, and supplied it. I do not accuse them of undiluted benevolence in this respect, but organisations that have to visualise the full circuit of the globe, as a matter of daily routine, are given—gloriously given—to building better than they know. The history of Liverpool since the Restora¬tion is proof. The mere constructive imagination used to order and equip a port that serves every sea on every tide far outmarches what is known as 'imagination' in the imaginative callings. The demands on it are more incalculable; the difficulties of execution greater; the penalties of failure more severe. But these. trifles do not affect us passengers. We reserve our imagination for our own jobs. All we demand of you is to be taken everywhere as punctu¬ally as by train; as cheaply and as quickly as possible; in the greatest luxury and, of course, in absolute safety. Nothing more. And that is why some of you here have, like Shakespeare and others, to create masterpieces on approval every few years. But if your imagination be at fault as to her lines; if you have not imagined the best system for driving and fuelling her; if she fails to come up to speed and con¬sumption standards, you cannot throw her in the waste-paper basket. She is there—every foot and ton of her—a burden on her shareholders and a museum of useful warnings to your rivals in the same game. And to come into such a game, before a card is drawn,, costs, I believe, several millions.

Even after experience and science have been tried out to the last, it takes nerve to break away and back one's own judgment against the world. But nerve is the cutting-edge of imagination, and it happens to be a quality which, taking one century with another, our country has not altogether lacked. Whether we de¬veloped it because we were forced to use the seas in order to live, or whether we had it from the first and took the seas on our way, does not matter. Nerve, which knows risks and faces them, seems to be dis¬tributed vertically and uniformly, as far down as we have been able to mine into the grit of the national character.

Nowhere has it proved itself more splendidly than in the Merchant Service. Here you have, in daily use, the imagination that foresees, without being over¬whelmed, any risk that the ocean may deliver; and the nerve that deals with every immediate peril arising out of that risk. These things are so wholly given and taken for granted, that we accept them as we accept the fact that our people depend for their food, their material, and their credit on the Merchant Service. We know that if our shipping goes, we go; and that fact is per¬fectly understood by our ill-wishers. We have always accepted those risks as part of our existence.
Just now, our existence is so fantastically burdened and handicapped that, if we chose to give rein to imagination, we could waste half our time and effort in forebodings. Fortunately we do not, we cannot, so choose. For it was the sea that, from our beginnings, directed our imaginings. It was the sea that waited on us the world over, till our imaginings became realities, till our mud-creeks at home grew to be world-com¬manding ports, and our remotest landing-places the threshold of nations. It is the sea that has given us the cutting-edge to our imagination, the nerve that meets all manner of trouble with the inherited conviction that nothing really matters so long as one keeps one's nerve, and, in that certainty, overcomes every handicap without too much clamour. 

Liverpool Shipbrokers’ Benevolent Society
Adelphi Hotel, 26 October 1928 

Notes edited
by Leonee Ormond
The speech  
Notes on XXXI  
Notes on XXXIII  

[April 11th 2011]


Published in pamphlet form as "The Nerve that Conquers", Doubleday, New York, 1928. Published in The Times 27 October 1928, page 9 and on the same date in the New York Times and East Anglian Times. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. XXV, pp. 285-91, together with the earlier speeches collected in A Book of Words, and in the Burwash Edition vol. XXIV. Kipling gave permission for his speech to be printed in pamphlet form in aid of the Benevolent Society, but there is no record of such a publication.


Kipling had been asked to give the speech by Sir Percy Bates (1879-1946), the Chairman of Cunard, and of the Morning Post, with whom he stayed.

He arrived in Liverpool on 25 October and on the following day toured the docks on the Overhead Railway.

An account of his visit was given in the Liverpool Echo of Ocrober 26th under the title: Rudyard Kipling Sees Our Ships. Famous Author's Trip Along the Docks:

Youth is restless in Liverpool, today, for Rudyard Kipling is here. A glimpse of the author who has inspired every right-thinking Englishman, at some time or other, is a possibility of the streets.And middle-aged men reflect to themselves and try to recapture the magic of reading "Kim," or "Soldiers Three," or "Barrack Room Ballads" for the first time.

Kipling arrived last night, and this evening will be the chief guest at the banquet, in the Adelphi Hotel, of the Liverpool Ship- brokers' Benevolent Society... In such an atmosphere what more natural than that the author of "Ballad of the Bolivar," "The Ship that Found Herself," and other marvellous romances of the mercantile marine, should take a cruise among ships? Thus it came about that Mr. Kipling took a voyage not on a ship, but amongst and alongside ships--on the Overhead Railway...

To Mr. Kipling the tour along the docks in the Overhead train was a treat he made no effort to disguise. As the train passed the Northern Docks, containing the biggest liners, its pace was reduced, so that he might have a better chance of seeing the craft. The keen interest he displayed is, perhaps, best indicated by one little incident. He espied a Blue Funnel liner.Quick as lightening he queried,

"Where have I seen a funnel like that before?" Then,with equal rapidity, he supplied the answer himself, "Ah! I remember now, it was at Yokohama about twenty years ago."

Concerning another ship, Mr. Kipling recalled that he travelled on a vessel of that fleet from a China port. She carried tea, and so much of it that she had to put a couple of hundred tons of her bunker coal on deck. He won't readily forget it, he said, because the coal shoot passed near to his cabin, and he got the full benefit of it. About the wonderful panoramic view of the docks and ships, obtainable from the Overhead Railway, Mr. Kipling became positively enthusiastic.
In a letter to Elsie of October 10, Kipling wrote:

I am going up to Liverpool to stay a night with Percy Bates and make a speech to the Benevolent Shipbrokers of that Port. Did not know that that sort of people were benevolent but anything is possible at Liverpool.
[Letters, (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 5. p. 455[.


A Book of Words

Rudyard Kipling

Healing by the Stars 

The Grave-stone, heavy with grief, says:—'Earth availed not to save my dead.
Watchers of the sick, look up now to the over-regarding stars.'

Royal Society of Medicine Dinner: November 15, 1928

WHEN FELLOW-GUESTS—1 don't know how it is with you, but, when a medical man approaches me in the language of compliment, I am filled with an uneasy suspicion that somebody's tobacco is going to be rationed. That possibility, however, is behind us for this evening, so we can the better appreciate Colonel MacArthur's flattering diagnosis of our several virtues and merits. Some of us must have all of the symptoms indicated. I have one. I am a story-teller.

Lord Dawson, Members of the Royal Society of Medicine, gentlemen, and ladies, will you lend me your patience while I tell a perfectly true story?

Nearly 300 years ago there was an astrologer-physician, called Nicholas Culpeper, practising in Spitalfields. And it happened that a friend's maid-servant fell sick with what the local practitioner diagnosed as plague. Culpeper was called in as a second opinion. When he arrived the family were packing up the beds, preparatory to going away and leaving the girl to die. He took charge. There was no silly nonsense about looking for the characteristic plague tongue. He only asked at what hour the young woman had taken to her bed. That gave him, as I need not tell you, 'the hour of the decumbiture.' He then erected a horoscope, and 'inquired of the face of the Heavens how the malady might prove.' The face of the heavens indicated it was not plague but just smallpox, which our ancestors treated almost as lightly as we do. And smallpox it turned out to be. So the family came back with their bedding, and lived happily ever after; the girl recovered; and Culpeper said what he thought of his misguided fellow-practitioner. Among other things, he called him 'a man of forlorn fortunes with sore eyes.'

Preposterous as all this was, you must remember that Culpeper justified his practice by the theory that `this creation, though composed of contraries, is one united body, of which man is the epitome, and that he, therefore, who would understand the mystery of healing must look as high as the stars.'

That was a distorted shadow of the ancient idea that the universe is one in ultimate essence—which essence is sustained and embraced and interpenetrated by a creative motion or inner heat—the pneuma of certain Greek physicians, who practised 500 years before St. Paul, preached at Athens. It was a noble belief, but it did not prevent Dr. Culpeper from using a pharmacopoeia and treatment that would have made a West African witch-doctor jealous. And when he came across anything that he did not understand, or that Aristotle had not provided for, he put it down to 'influences' or `emanations'—same as you do a common cold.

But if he could return to earth to-day and see how things have progressed in the mystery of healing, I fancy he would be quite at ease in your Zion. He believed in the transmutation of metals. He could be shown that in full blast at a Royal Society soirée—with emanations. He would find that the essential unity of creation is admitted as far forth as we have plumbed infinity; and that Man, Culpeper's epitome of all, is in himself a universe of universes, each universe ordered—negatively and positively, by sympathy and antipathy—on the same lines as hold the stars in their courses.
Consequently, he would not be astonished to see men snatch out of the air an influence—an inner heat or pneuma—of which they know no more than that it visibly warms, lights, and works for them, and, invisibly, transmits their speech and vision to one side of the world on the instant that they themselves speak or look from the other. And the news that unknown influences from out of the skies lash and tear through all matter everywhere at all times would be received by him with perfect calm.

Being an astrologer, he would, of course, go to Greenwich Observatory, to learn more about those influences. There he would be given monographs on terrestrial magnetism—its daily and seasonal tides the world over, magnetic storms, sunspots, auroras, and so forth, but all discussed without any relation to the severity or incidence of prevalent epidemics and diseases. From Greenwich he would certainly push on to tell the B.B.C., who would him that there are unknown heavenly influences which prevent millions of bold youths and blushing maidens from hearing the music they would dance to—influences which at times cause the spoken word to die out under the stars as the note of a rubbed finger-bowl dies when the hand is lifted.

Presently—for he was always stronger on theory than research—he would fetch up among the laboratories, where, if he was as lucky as I was this summer, he would be shown marvellous films of infected tissue being subjected to the influence of an influence called radium. Then, I fancy, the fun would begin. Up to that point, he would find the main axiom which he had quoted three centuries before accepted, proven, and in use; the influence, the inner breath, the pneuma —not only exceeding all bounds of wonder and belief in its proper manifestations, but, under the name of electricity, piping and singing in the market-place on a commercial basis.
So, as with his smallpox case, his first question after he had seen the films would be: 'What was the aspect of the Heavens at the time these phenomena occurred?' He would take it for granted that, with the whole universe alight to signal some tremendous secret to mankind, men would naturally 'look as high as the stars.' And what answer would he get? When I asked a similar question of a man of science lately he said: 'You'd better see a doctor.' I told him that, with any luck, I expected to see ever so many of them before long. That expectation having been fulfilled to-night, I want to ask you some questions. Isn't it likely that the multitude and significance of the revelations heaped upon us within the past few years have made men in self-defence specialise more and more narrowly? Haven't we been driven headlong to abandon our conceptions of life, motion, and matter? And isn't it human that in that upheaval men may have carried off each his own cherished prepossession and camped beside it—just as refugees do after an earthquake?

Is it then arguable that we may still mistake secondary causes for primary ones, and attribute to instant and visible agents of disease unconditioned activities which, in truth, depend on some breath drawn from the motion of the universe—of the entire universe, revolving as one body (or dynamo if you choose) through infinite but occupied space? The idea is wildly absurd? Quite true. But what does that matter if any fraction of any idea helps towards mastering even one combination in the great time-locks of Life and Death? Suppose then, at some future time when the bacteriologist and the physicist are for the moment at a standstill, wouldn't it be interesting if they took their problem to the astronomer, and—in modern scientific language, of course—put to him Nicholas Culpeper's curious question: 'What was the aspect of the Heavens when such-and-such phenomena were observed?'? 

Kipling spent much of his speech talking about Nicholas Culpeper, the seventeenth century physician. His argument was that Culpeper, as an astrologer, believed in the unity of the universe. Kipling declared that Culpeper would find much to confirm his belief in modern science and medicine. Kipling feared that recent scientific discoveries had made medicine more limited in approach.

In July 1928 he had visited an international conference on cancer hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine which was presided over by his friend Bland Sutton. In a letter to his daughter Elsie he wrote:

'... at the end an exhibition was given where the cells were all illuminated white against black, and it was like staring into the Heavens. Just the same as the nebula....' 
[Letters, (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 5. p. 448].
See also his "A Doctor of Medicine" in Rewards and Fairies, his poem "Our Fathers of Old", Dr Gillian Sheehan's article on "Kipling and Medicine", and —in particular—his story "Unprofessional" (October 1930), collected in Limits and Renewals, which developed the ideas expressed in this speech. 

Kipling spent much of his speech talking about Nicholas Culpeper, the seventeenth century physician. His argument was that Culpeper, as an astrologer, believed in the unity of the universe. Kipling declared that Culpeper would find much to confirm his belief in modern science and medicine. Kipling feared that recent scientific discoveries had made medicine more limited in approach.

In July 1928 he had visited an international conference on cancer hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine which was presided over by his friend Bland Sutton. In a letter to his daughter Elsie he wrote:

'... at the end an exhibition was given where the cells were all illuminated white against black, and it was like staring into the Heavens. Just the same as the nebula....' 
[Letters, (Ed. Thomas Pinney) vol 5. p. 448].
See also his "A Doctor of Medicine" in Rewards and Fairies, his poem "Our Fathers of Old", Dr Gillian Sheehan's article on "Kipling and Medicine", and —in particular—his story "Unprofessional" (October 1930), collected in Limits and Renewals, which developed the ideas expressed in this speech. 

Friday, February 6, 2015


http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_words_intro.htm    THIS IS THE WEBSITE

http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/XXXVI_text.htm SPEECH TO CANADIAN AUTHORS
STRICTLY BETWEEN OURSELVES, I think this is an occasion when we are justified in feeling a little proud of our calling. We know that, after all the men who do things have done them, and the men who say things about their doings have said them, it is only words—nothing but words—that live to show the present how, and in what moods, men lived and worked in the past.
And we do not know what words they will be. That is one of the reasons why there can be neither first nor last in the kingdom—for it is not a republic—of letters.

We who use words enjoy a peculiar advantage over our fellows. We cannot tell a lie. However much we may wish to do so, we only of educated men and women cannot tell a lie—in our working hours. The more subtly we attempt it, the more certainly do we betray some aspect of truth concerning the life of our age.
It is with us as with timber. Every knot and shake in a board reveals some disease or injury that overtook the log when it was growing. A gentleman named Jean Pigeon, who once built a frame house for me, put this in a nutshell. He said: `Everything which a tree she has experienced in the forest she takes with her into the house.' That is the law for us all, each in his or her own land.

Canadian writers and poets have dealt directly or by implication with every detail of their country's life and background.

Some have chosen the days of the first adventurers wandering bewildered across blind forests and great waterways. Others have illuminated the distracted times of the United Empire Loyalists, of the great famine year, the Fenian raids, and Riel's rebellion. Others, again, those periods of doubt and self-distrust that followed the political birth of your huge sub-continent.

And now men and women are dealing with the marvellous later years when Canada, first of the new Powers, came to her soul and strength, and, incidentally, sent four hundred thousand free men to the War.
Directly or unconsciously, then, the splendour, the toil, and the variety of your national history will have inspired or coloured all your work.

Somewhere in the mass of this work must be laid up the very lines, phrases, and books which will be taken by the world of to-morrow as the authentic portrayal of your world of yesterday. But, as I said, who the people are that have already written those words, and for what reason of art or emotion their words will be accepted before all other words, we cannot tell.

Mercifully, it is not permitted to any one to foresee his or her literary election or reprobation, any more than it was permitted to our ancestors to foresee the just stature of their contemporaries, whose shrines and former dwellings you are now in the process of visiting.

You have already spent five or six fairly crowded days with us. You have before you ten more in which to look over some of the possessions, and verify some of the title-deeds, of your imperishable inheritance here.
The things that you will see here, and the atmospheres you will realise, are not, as aliens might regard them, archaeological curiosities or ineffective echoes out of a spent past. Whether they be the work of men's hands, or men's souls, they bear witness to the instinct—it is more than tradition—the immemorial racial instinct towards unbridled expenditure on matters material and spiritual for sheer joy of the exercise.

They are proof of our land's deep unconscious delight through all ages in her own strength and beauty and unjaded youth.

That same headlong surplus of effort and desire goes forward along other paths to-day. But our eyes are held. Like the generations before us, we cannot perceive among what new births of new wonders we now move. And all these things, out of our past, in our present, and for our future, are yours by right.
They are doubly yours, since the dominant strains of your blood draw from those twin races—French and English—which throughout their histories have been most resolute not to be decivilised on any pretext or for any gain.

If on your journeys some of you feel inclined to faint by the wayside, you have my deepest sympathy, for it was given to me once to see Canada en bloc. I had known portions of it, of course, many years before, but this was one prodigious sweep from Quebec to Victoria and back again.
Through three amazing weeks it was my turn to be shown things—to listen to prophecies which, within the next ten years, fell short of the facts, and to feel the moral pulse of a land and a people free as their own airs, and yet set in most ancient and sane practices of justice, honour, and self-control.

I tried to grasp all these things because they were just as much mine as everything here is yours. Not till long after my return did the significance of them begin to break in upon me. Then my experiences and impressions clarified and arranged themselves, and as I sorted them out in my head I found that I had the key to them all the time in my heart.

It will be the same with you on your return, because one's own heart is the best place to store the few things in life that really matter.
A Book of Words

Selections from speeches and addresses
delivered between 1906 and 1927
This is one of the six later speeches not included in that collection which were added for the Sussex Edition

"Speech to Canadian Authors" 

Luncheon for
the Canadian Authors’ Association
Royal Society of Literature
Claridges, London, 12 July 1933

Notes edited
by Leonee Ormo
A Book of Words

Selections collected in A Book of Words from thirty-one speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927, together with six later speeches from the Sussex Edition 


Notes by
Leonee Ormond

[April 25th 2011]

Publication History

This collection, with thirty-one speeches, was published by Macmillan in 1928. The last six speeches, making thirty-seven in all, were published in the Sussex Edition, volume XXV, in 1938.

Angus Wilson (p. 255) comments:

... one of the paradoxes about Kipling is that for a man who disliked public appearances and speaking, he put some of his most deeply personal and revealing statements into his speeches. As a result, A Book of Words, that incorporates them, makes splendid reading. His speech to McGill University is no exception. It is his most direct and fierce attack upon materialism.

The Title Page 

Kipling was born in Bombay on December 30, 1865. At the age of six he was placed in the care of some relatives in England, but he returned to India on reaching the age of seventeen. He obtained a position on the staff of The Civil and Military Gazette, published at Lahore, and in his early twenties edited The Pioneer at Allahabad. In his capacity as a journalist, and for his own purposes, he travelled extensively throughout India. On those journeys he acquired a thorough insight into Hindu conceptions and sentiments and became intimately acquainted with the different Hindu groups, with their varying customs and institutions, and with the special features of English military life in India  This firm grasp of the true inwardness of all things Indian is abundantly reflected in Kipling's writings, so much so that it has even been said that they have brought India nearer home to the English nation than has the construction of the Suez Canal. Of his early works the satirical Departmental Ditties (1886) attracted notice by the audacity of the allusions it contained, and by the originality of its tone. Also among the early productions are Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) and Soldiers Three (1888), collections of stories famous among other things for the three lovingly drawn soldier types: Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd. Other works in the same category are, for instance, The Story of the Gadsbys (1888), In Black and White (1888), and Under the Deodars(1889), all of which are concerned with society life in Simla. The series entitled Life's Handicap, embracing some stories of serious import, appeared in 1891. The same year saw the publication of The Light that Failed, a novel somewhat harsh in style but containing some strongly coloured descriptive passages of excellent effect.
As a poet Kipling was already full-fledged at the appearance of Barrack Room Ballads (1892), magnificent soldier-songs brimming over with virile humour and depicting realistically Tommy Atkins in all his phases, valiantly marching onward to encounter dangers and misery wherever it pleases «the Widow of Windsor», or her successor on the throne, to dispatch him. In Kipling the British Army has found a minstrel to interpret in a new, original, and tragicomical manner the toils and deprivations through which it has to pass, and to depict its life and work with abundant acknowledgment of the great qualities it displays, but without the least trace of meretricious embellishment  In his verses descriptive of soldiers and sailors he so happily expresses their own thoughts, often in the very language they themselves employ, that they appreciate him deeply and, as we are told, sing his song whenever they have a pause in the day's occupations. Surely, there is hardly any greater mark of honour that can be given to a poet than to be beloved by the lower orders.
In the cycle entitled The Seven Seas (1896) Kipling reveals himself as an imperialist, a citizen of a world-wide empire. He has undoubtedly done more than any other writer of pure literature to draw tighter the bonds of union between England and her colonies.

In Sweden, as elsewhere, «the jungle books» by Kipling, the first of which appeared in 1894, are much admired and beloved. A primordial type of imaginative power inspired the creator of these mythlike tales of the animals in whose midst Mowgli waxed in strength: Bagheera the Black Panther, Baloo the Bear, Kaa the cunning and mighty Rock-Python, Nag the White Cobra, and the chattering, foolish Monkeys. Some of the scenes are simply sublime; for instance, the one where Mowgli is resting in «the living armchair» Kaa, while the latter, who has witnessed so many generations of trees and animals, dreams of bygone ages; or again when Mowgli causes Hathi the Elephant to «let in the jungle» to take over the fields of men. These descriptions display an instinctive feeling for a poetry of nature which is quite phenomenal, and Kipling is far more in his true element in the primeval grandeur of these jungle stories than, for instance, in «The Ship that Found Herself» (in The Day's Work, 1898), an interesting though eccentric personification of mechanical inventions. The Jungle Book tales have made Kipling a favourite author among children in many countries. Adults share the delight experienced by the young and relive their childhood while perusing these marvellously delightful, wonderfully imaginative fables of animals.

Among the large number of Kipling's creations, Kim (1901) deserves special notice, for in the delineation of the Buddhist priest, who goes on a pilgrimage along the banks of the stream that purifies from sin, there is an elevated diction as well as a tenderness and charm which are otherwise unusual traits in this dashing writer's style. There is, too, in the figure of the little rascal Kim, the priest's chela, a thorough type of good-humoured roguishness.

The accusation has occasionally been made against Kipling that his language is at times somewhat coarse and that his use of soldier's slang in some of the broadest of his songs and ballads verges on the vulgar. Though there may be some truth in such remarks, their importance is offset by the invigorating directness and ethical stimulus of Kipling's style. He has won immense popularity, not only in the Anglo-Indian world, which possesses in him a great literary master, but also far beyond the limits of the vast British Empire. During his serious illness in America in 1899, the American newspapers issued daily bulletins regarding his condition, and the German Emperor dispatched a telegram to his wife to express his earnest sympathy.

What is then the cause of this world-wide popularity that Kipling enjoys? Or, rather: In what way has Kipling shown himself to deserve it? How is it, too, that he has been deemed worthy of the Nobel Prize in Literature, for which a writer must especially show an idealism in his conceptions and in his art? The answer follows:

Kipling may not be eminent essentially for the profundity of his thought or for the surpassing wisdom of his meditations. Yet even the most cursory observer sees immediately his absolutely unique power of observation, capable of reproducing with astounding accuracy the minutest detail from real life. However, the gift of observation alone, be it ever so closely true to nature, would not suffice as a qualification in this instance. There is something else by which his poetical gifts are revealed. His marvellous power of imagination enables him to give us not only copies from nature but also visions out of his own inner consciousness. His landscapes appear to the inner vision as sudden apparitions do to the eye. In sketching a personality he makes clear, almost in his first words, the peculiar traits of that person's character and temper. Creativeness which does not rest content with merely photographing the temporary phases of things but desires to penetrate to their inmost kernel and soul,is the basis of his literary activity, as Kipling himself says: «He draws the thing as he sees it for the God of things as they are.» In these weighty words lies a real appreciation of the poet's responsibility in the exercise of his calling.