This book does not attempt a comprehensive survey of Kipling's work or a formal assessment of his achievement. I hope, however, that it will provide material for such a reassessment, and suggest the need of it. It has been my purpose to trace certain important themes in his work and to investigate some of his procedures as an artist. I have set out to explore, not to prove or disprove any of the assertions that have been made about him. Such general conclusions about his art as have been borne in upon me will be found briefly stated in my last pages. Here I will only say that it seems to me, taken in its whole extent, a rich and complex art, and, moreover, one that continued to develop to the end of his writing life.
This is not, then, a critical enquiry in the strictest sense of the term. In pursuing my subjects, I have drawn upon tales and verses of very varied quality and often without pausing to assess their different merits, though I do not think that I have left it open to any reader to suppose that I set the same value on 'The Tie', for instance, as I do on 'The Wish House'. My business is to offer fresh evidence along my chosen lines. What is chiefly necessary, before this, copious, vital, imperfect, brilliant writer can be seen in his true shape in the line of English fiction, is a wider and more exact knowledge of what and how he wrote. Opinion has often been based upon too narrow a selection of his work, and sometimes upon too superficial a reading of it. It is not opinion that so much concerns me here as facts.
For this study I have accepted strictly the limitations proposed by Kipling himself in the lines printed at the beginning of it. I have worked consistently within the tales, with support from the verses, the travel-books and speeches, and from Kipling autobiographical sketch, Something of Myself. I have only twice gone outside his published works, and that is to quote from an account by H. Rider Haggard of what Kipling said in conversa-