Maria Antonietta Saracino
“England is the most wonderful foreign land I have ever been in, ” Rudyard Kipling wrote to his friend and colleague Henry Rider Haggard in 1902, and perhaps this was not meant as a joke. Indeed, the man who, at the turn of the nineteenth century and at least for the first two decades of the twentieth, was the most popular writer in English, in both prose and verse, was the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1907, and was the recipient of honorary degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Durham, McGill, Strasbourg, and the Sorbonne, during his entire life regarded India as his real home.
Kipling was born in Bombay on December 30, 1865, the first child of English parents who had gone out to India early that same year. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, was a teacher of architectural sculpture at the government-sponsored Bombay School of Art. His mother, Alice Macdonald, was, like her husband, the child of a Methodist minister in England.
As was customary among the British living in India, Kipling was sent to England at the age of six to receive his education at a private school. His parents placed him for five and a half years in Southsea, a district of Portsmouth, with a certain Mrs. Holloway. These early years in a new environment, in the care of a woman he disliked, would later be remembered as years of hell, marked by a sense of maternal betrayal. References to what he later described as “the House of Desolation” may be found in his autobiographical writing, Something of Myself (1937), as well as in The Light That Failed (1890) and in the story “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” (1888).
In 1878, aged twelve, he was sent to North Devon to attend a public school that had been founded by Indian army officers to offer a suitable education for their sons. Unlike his previous school experience, this one proved all joy and