Presentation on theme: "Rudyard Kipling. From his autobiography, Something of Myself Scandalised his mother and father when at the age of 16 (1881) went to work on the Civil."— Presentation transcript:
From his autobiography, Something of Myself Scandalised his mother and father when at the age of 16 (1881) went to work on the Civil and Military Gazette, based in Lahore Small editorial staff, of whom Kipling represented 50 per cent “My chief took me in hand and for three years or so I loathed him. He had to break me in, and I knew nothing. What he suffered on my account I cannot tell; but the little that I ever acquired of accuracy, the habit of at least trying to verify references, and some kind of knack of sticking to desk-work, I owed wholly to Stephen Wheeler.” (What do you gain from this of Kipling’s understanding of and appreciation of journalism?)
Something of Myself contd Worked as a reporter “So soon as my paper could trust me a little, and I behaved well at routine work, I was sent out, first for local reportings; then to race meetings which included curious nights in lottery tents…Later I described openings of bog bridges and such-like which meant a night or two with the engineers; floods on railways…murder and divorce trials and (a really filthy job) an inquiry into the percentage of lepers among the butchers who supplied beef and mutton to the European community of Lahore…My first bribe was offered to me at the age of nineteen.’
Cynicism ‘In 1885 a Liberal Government had come into power at Home and was acting on liberal ‘principle’ [Native judges should try white women…revolt among Europeans] ‘Our paper, like most of the European Press, began with stern disapproval of the measure, and I fancy, published much comment and correspondence which would now be called ‘disloyal.’ ‘One evening, while putting the paper to bed, I looked as usual over the leader…it furnished a barely disguised exposition of the Government’s high ideals. In after-life one got to know that touch better, but it astonished me at the time… ‘As I entered the long shabby dining room where we all sat at one table, everyone hissed. I was innocent enough to ask: ‘What’s the joke? Who are they hissing?’ ‘You,’ said the man at my side. ‘Your dam’ rag has ratted on the bill.’ It is not pleasant to sit still when one is twenty while all your universe hisses you. Someone said kindly: ‘You damned young ass! Don’t you know that your paper has the Government printing contract?’ I did know it but I had never before put two and two together…’
‘A few months later one of my two chief Proprietors received the decoration that made him a Knight..
What early years as a reporter gave his writing: ‘I have told what my early surroundings were, and how richly they furnished me with material. Also, how rigorously newspaper spaces limited my canvases and, for the reader’s sake, prescribed that within these limits must be some sort of beginning, middle and end. My ordinary reporting, leader- and note-writing carried the same lesson, which took me an impatient while to learn. Added to this I was almost nightly responsible for my output to visible and often brutally voluble critics at the Club. They were not concerned with my dreams. They wanted accuracy and interest, but first of all accuracy….My young head was in a ferment of new things seen and realised at every turn and – that I might in any way keep abreast of the flood – it was necessary that every word should tell, carry, weigh, taste and, if need were, smell.’
Take for example the very first lines of ‘The Village…’ ‘Our drive till then had been quite a success. The other men in the car were my friend Woodhouse, young Ollyett, a distant connection of his and Pallant, the M.P.’ Distinctive; not a word of padding; vigorous – means the reader has to run to keep up with the narrator
The road to fame Starts contributing fiction to the newspapers he writes for and leaves for England in 1888 Is immediately successful as a freelance journalist/writer of mainly short stories in London Towards the end of C19 starts becoming rich and famous with publication of Plain Tales from the Hills (1888), Barrack Room Ballads (1892) and the Jungle Book (1894).
The Man who would be King (1888) Tells the amazing story of Peachey Carnehan and Dan Dravot, two ‘Loafers’ who set off to the kingdom of Kafiristan to become king, and the terrible fate that befell them. The narrator is the unnamed correspondent/editor of the Backwoodsman (the Allalabad Pioneer, which employed Kipling as a roving correspondent) Narrator portrays himself as a ‘vagabond’, slightly roguish who has to live off his wits, ‘I had no money at all owing to a hitch in the Budget’.
Similarities with some of the other characters we have come across ‘When I left the train I did business with divers Kings and in eight days passed through many changes of life. Sometimes I wore dress clothes and consorted with Princes and Politicals, drinking from crystal and eating from silver. Sometimes I lay out upon the ground and devoured what I could get, from a plate made of leaves, and drank the running water, and slept under the same rug as my servant.’
Describes the fluster and excitement of putting a paper to bed, and the after-calm ‘I sat there while the type ticked and clicked, and the night-jars hooted at the windows, and the all but naked compositors wiped the sweat from their foreheads, and called for water…There was no special reason beyond the heat and worry to make tension, but as the clock hands crept up to three o’clock, and the machines spun their fly wheels two or three times to see that all was in order before I said the word that would set them off, I could have shrieked aloud.’ What is the image created here of the newspaper office?
Poem ‘The Press’ 1913 Who once hath stood through the loaded hour Ere, roaring like a gale The Harrild and the Hoe devour their league-long paper bale, And has lit his pipe in the morning calm That follows the midnight stress- He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art We call the daily Press
A Burgher of the Free State (1900) The newly created staff of the Despatch pranced joyously outside the press-room's sealed door till such time as Captain Ritson, of the Intelligence Department, should enter upon his search. They counted sixty-seven pitched battles among the three of them and skirmishes innumerable. It was their business to run without ceasing from strife to strife at a rumour, in constant peril of death, imprisonment, disease, — and the wrath of criticised Brigadiers; seeing all things, foreseeing all things, fording all things, riding all things, proving all things, holding fast to the Wire. Three continents waited on their words for the truth; and in their hands lay the reputation of every combatant officer. But they took it lightly
Attitude becomes ambivalent following his acquiring ‘celebrity’ status…
On his marriage, 1892 ‘I saw pinned down by weights on the rainy pavement as was the custom of those untroubled days, a newspaper poster announcing my marriage, which made me feel uncomfortable and defenceless.’ Moves to Bliss Cottage, near Boston, New England ‘Reporters came from papers in Boston, which I presume, believed itself to be civilised, and demanded interviews. I told them I had nothing to say. ‘If ye hevn’t, guess we’ll make ye say something.’ So they went away and lied copiously, their orders being to ‘get the story.’ This was new to me at the time; but the press had not got into its full free stride of later years.’
Boer Wars Got involved in an early Daily Mail ‘stunt’ asking for public donations to help buy ‘small comforts for the troops’ using Kipling’s poetry, The Absent Minded Beggar. Arthur Sullivan put the words to music, which anyone could copy as long as they gave money to the fund ‘which closed at about a quarter of a million.’ (Inspiration for The Village…?)
Early C20 Buys Batemans, West Sussex his home for the rest of his life in 1902 Becomes friends with HA Gwynne, editor of the Morning Post, Max Aitken who later becomes Lord Beaverbrook and Ralph Blumenfeld, editor of the Daily Express Publishes poetry regularly in the Times and the Morning Post Used his position as a famous writer to engage in debates such as Irish Home Rule, which he vehemently opposed.
Rudyard Kipling by Jan Montefiore Evokes passionate and conflicting responses in readers: on the one hand is a genius of storytelling; on the other right wing, racist stereotyping Indians, Jews, the Irish Orwell’s summary: ‘Kipling is a jingo Imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting. It is better to start by admitting that, and then to try to find out why it is that he survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him wear so badly.’
Embraced modern inventions and technology Was in love with the motor car and possessed several Rolls Royces from their earliest invention Was one of the first English writers to respond creatively to the revolutionary technologies of the early twentieth century – radio, cinema, motor cars
Was the first ‘Literary Superstar’ thanks to global technologies ‘He owed the scale of his success as an internationally famous and discussed writer not only to his own talent, great as it was, but to the existence of an expanding publishing industry circulating its products worldwide at the moment he began to make his career as a London-based professional writer…when he lay dangerously ill with pneumonia on a disastrous family trip to New York in 1899, his condition was headline news all over the world and his recovery brought a telegram of congratulation from Kaiser Wilhelm.’ (p.125)
What his father thought: ‘Owing to the recent developments and organising of journalism, syndicates and what not, each new boom is more portentous, more wide-spread and more voluminous in print than the last and it will be literally true that in one year this youngster will have more said about his work, over a wider extent of the world’s surface than some of the greatest of England’s writers in their whole lives. Much of this of course is merely mechanical, the result of the wholesale spread of journalism and the centralising tendencies of it.’ (1890)
The Village… The story tells what happens when a country squire, who is also a Liberal MP and a magistrate unfairly passes judgement in his local courthouse on Woodhouse, a businessman and newspaper proprietor, Olyett, an ambitious young newspaper editor and graduate of Brasenose, and the narrator, who owns shares in Woodhouse’s ‘half-dead halfpenny evening paper.’ In the case which follows straight after, a powerful theatrical impresario, Bat Masquerier, is similarly dealt with, for speeding.
What kind of story is it? Is it pure farce? Is it a revenge story taken to extreme lengths? Is it a political commentary on the Liberal Government and Home Rule? Is it a commentary on the power of the new press and other media such as cinema? Who are the baddies? The journalists? Sir Thomas Ingell? Bat Masquerier? At first the journalists’ desire for revenge seems perfectly reasonable. Ingell uses his position to make money out of unwary motorists. He is arrogant, pompous, anti-semitic. ‘We can’t have this kind of thing going on, you know,’ says Woodhouse. Are the journalists ‘avenging angels’ on a mission to right an intolerable wrong? (The view of French critic and essayist Andre Maurois)
Athenaeum Review a review in the Athenaeum in May 1917 the story is described as a ‘farce’ which piles ‘situation on ludicrous situation, and climax on climax, long after it seems as if the final limit of extravagance had been reached…is a piece of uproarious comedy that…has the advantage of being set in the Home Counties, and enacted by local magnates, villagers, city men and MPs such as we all know.’ Anonymous Review, No 4617, p.240
Kipling and Revenge Kipling wrote several punitive farces. Possibly fantasise about getting his own back on the people who treated him so cruelly when his parents sent him to be educated in England as a young boy In ‘A Friend’s Friend’ (1887), a drunken guest has insulted the women and dishonoured them men of the little English community at their ball, he is elaborately done up with gelatine, meringue-cream, cork and red cloth…The narrator says: ‘This was not punishment, not play remember…we were so angry that we hardly laughed at all…’
Village ‘I was not correct when I said that the Speaker was the only man who did not laugh. Woodhouse was beside me all the time. His face was set and quite white…’ ‘To be able to break even a noxious insect on so huge, glittering and maddening a wheel as modern publicity is no simple joke; it really is not a joke at all.’ (Tomkins, 1965, p35)
Some delight for Kipling Despite the deadly seriousness of the revenge stories, Kipling takes evident delight in his piling up of ridiculous scenes, events and happenings. The Hoopoe; Hugly/Hoglsea letters; foot and mouth; the Gubby, the vote
‘Modern media’ These four men represent the media tycoons of their day. Bat Masquerier, particularly, with his music halls represents the power of the popular press, and its focus on catering for the lowest possible common denominator of taste and intelligence. The avengers are selected for their ability to bring into play the resources of their professions. Bat even scares the journalist Ollyett: ‘Masquerier seems to like you,’ I said. ‘Yes, but I’m afraid of him,’ Ollyett answered with perfect sincerity. ‘He’s the Absolutely Amoral Soul. I’ve never met one yet.’(p.176)
The story went ‘viral’ The Cake and the Bun may start the story, but it gets picked up by the Spectator, the Pinnacle; the Press Association and Reuters news agency joins in. Other publications including Punch, The Lancet and The Times are also mentioned. Even a ‘ponderous architectural weekly’ discusses Ingell’s contemptuous treatment of the C14 font he removes from the village church. This was an age when commentator F.R. Leavis was moved to say: ‘a deluge of printed matter pours over the world.’
The journalists’ efforts at revenge at first appear comic and light hearted Stories about Huckley, starting with the sighting of a rare Hoopoe in Huckley, which had, ‘of course been shot by the local sportsmen,’ through evidence of possible foot and mouth disease in Huckley cattle, to Huckley being the sole place in England where the pre-Christian ‘Gubby’ dance is performed, to the village voting, by unanimous vote of 438, that the earth is flat.
The arguments for pure farce the gleeful mischief of the pressmen and their inventions are depicted in a comic light – ‘For Huckley was News. The Bun also contributed a photograph which cost me some trouble to fake (p.192)’ Ingell is portrayed as a charicature of an arrogant country squire: ‘he began with an allocution pitched in a tone that would have justified revolt throughout empires’; we know he is stitching people up and the reader has no sympathy for him
Ingell’s destruction is recounted matter-of- factly: ‘It did not even interest Ollyett that the verb ‘to huckle’ had passed into the leader-writers’ language. We were studying the interior of a soul, flash-lighted to its grimiest corners by the dread of ‘losing its position. (p.205)’
What about the people of Huckley? the people of Huckley are ‘fed up’ with all the attention they are getting (p.197); the journalists simply do not understand the consequences of their actions: ‘Ollyett’s account in The Bun…lacked the supreme shock of his version in The Cake, but it bruised more; while photos of ‘The Gubby’ were beyond praise and the next day beyond price. But even then I did not understand. (p.186)’ What does it mean when the journalists fail to consider the consequences of their actions? These men are representatives of the new media;
Ireland In the last pages when the House of Commons descends into helpless hilarity, the Speaker adjourns the House and a white-faced Sir Thomas Ingell requests a private interview with the Chief Whip. The Irish use their order papers as trumpets to magnify the noise; when the House shows signs of weakening, it is the Irish who whip them up into further hysteria and it is the Irish who, starting to ‘shuffle’ the first steps of ‘The Gubby’ finally prompt the Speaker to adjourn
Kipling was hugely exercised by the Home Rule debate and regarded moves towards Irish independence as a betrayal by the Liberal Government. By December 1913, the Home Rule for Ireland Bill had been passed three times by the House of Commons, and rejected twice by the Lords but thanks to the Parliament Act of 1911, the Lords could not reject it a third time. See particularly his letter to HA Gwynne, December 2 1913 in The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, ibid. This letter, written while he was writing ‘The Village..’ contains some interesting references to how once a political movement has started, it then has a life of its own.
In the climax the small numbers of Irish MPs are able to wag the whole dog of the House of Commons – and put the Liberal Prime Minister to shame: ‘At this moment two persons came in practically abreast from behind the speaker’s chair, and halted appalled. One happened to be the Prime Minister…The House, with tears running down their cheeks, transferred their attention to the paralysed couple. They pointed six hundred forefingers at them. They rocked, they waved, and they rolled while they pointed but still they sang. When they weakened for an instant Ireland would yell: ‘Are ye with me, bhoys?’(p.212)
Consider the Timing In 1912, Kipling wrote to Aitken suggesting he read out Kipling’s controversial poem ‘Ulster’ in the House of Commons during a Home Rule debate to see what kind of reaction it would provoke amongst the Irish MPs, a suggestion with uncanny resonance in ‘The Village’ If the Irish cannot even concentrate on a serious debate about their future, then how can they govern themselves?
Revenge in Steam Tactics In another similar revenge story, ‘Steam Tactics’ when the driver and passengers of a motor car are ambushed by thieves, one of the culprits is captured and taken and put in a private zoo, full of zebras, beavers and kangaroos. The Irish are the equivalent of the zoo animals: dumb agents of revenge and humiliation rather than the plotters, who are clever, resourceful and creative.
England in Steam Tactics Kipling fell in love with the Sussex countryside when he returned to England in early twentieth century. In a letter 1902 he described it as ‘the most wonderful foreign land I have ever been in’ and often his short stories contain expressions of love for the countryside. In Steam Tactics (1902) he writes: ‘We climbed out of the violet purple shadows towards the upland where the last of the day lingered. I was filled to my moist eyes with the almost sacred beauty of sense and association that clad the landscape…’ Appearing towards the end of the story when revenge is almost complete, it underlines the healing quality of rural England. In many of Kipling’s cruel revenge stories, there is salvation and restitution in the beauty of the English countryside
England in the Village There appears to be no such salvation in The Village. Huckley is: a ‘pale-yellow market-town with a small Jubilee clock tower and a large corn exchange’ (Jubilee = 1887 = new) Origin is suspected to be from ‘Hugly’ or ‘Hogslea’ People talk with a ‘glutinous native drawl’ the village children have ‘neglected adenoids’ Description of the ‘crepuscular penumbra spreading her dim limbs over the boskage’ The sexton’s wife is making money out of Huckely’s notoriety by selling post cards of the C14 font
Is the entire story, then a ‘dodgy dossier’, an ‘exercise in spin’; a post-hoc justification for what the journalists have done?
The Poem ‘The Press’ Contains references from the Old Testament Book of Job, which, in summary is God telling Job that justice is not man’s business, but God’s. Appears after the Village in the story collection: is it a straight forward hymn of praise to the press? Is it ironic? Certainly the power of the presses ‘the thunders of the Press’ is there Is it a good or a bad thing?
The Role of Bat Masquerier He is a ‘large, flaxen-haired man in somewhat striking clothes.’ (p. 165); he has ‘gun-metal blue eyes’ His ‘Are you with me’ (p. 168) is echoed by the Irish at the end of the story. Threatening: ‘When I begin a thing I see it through gentlemen’ ‘Now, we’ll pool our assets. One London morning and one provincial daily, didn’t you say? One weekly commercial ditto and one M.P.’