No 127 Rudyard Kipling

By Fowler, Christopher | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), June 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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No 127 Rudyard Kipling


Fowler, Christopher, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


INVISIBLE INK

'Do you like Kipling?" asks the colonel on the seaside postcard. "I don't know, I've never Kippled," replies the shopgirl. But most people had, and they made him one of the most popular writers in the land. Remembered mainly for children's fables, he developed an image problem that kept his adult work off the radar for 60 years. The knee-jerk reaction is that he's a celebrator of British imperialism at its worst, so it's easy to overlook a few balancing facts.

Joseph Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and moved to England as a child. "Rudyard" was a middle name, after the lake in Staffordshire where his parents courted. The first cousin of the Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin, Kipling considered himself Anglo- Indian, which was common among the British born in India, and he returned to Bombay at 16. Starting work in a newspaper, he set a frenetic pace of writing, producing six volumes of short stories before heading to London, then the US, where he wrote the two Jungle Books. Although he loved Vermont, he made his home in Devon, and later in Sussex, after the growing anti-British sentiment in the US forced his hand.

Even before Queen Victoria had gone, Kipling was being seen as an arch-imperialist with such poems as "The White Man's Burden", although his writings contained ironies, particularly in Stalky & Co, about arrogantly cynical schoolboys.

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No 127 Rudyard Kipling
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