ALLAHABAD, December 1887
Dear C. — I've met an unusually interesting man with the uncommon name of Rudyard Kipling. It happened this way. We were invited to dine with the Allens, who are neighbors. Mr. Allen, the proprietor of the Pioneer of Allahabad and of the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, is always on the lookout for the best material for his papers. Some very interesting articles have been appearing in the Pioneer entitled 'Letters of Marque,' which were unsigned, and we were all inquiring as to the author, who had supposedly come from the Punjab.
When we were seated at table, and conversation was in full swing, my partner called my attention to a short dark-haired man of uncertain age, with a heavy moustache and wearing very thick glasses, who sat opposite, saying: 'That is Rudyard Kipling, who has just come from Lahore to be on the staff of the Pi. He is writing those charming sketches of the native states, "Letters of Marque," which the Pi is publishing.'
Of course I was interested at once, for I had been fascinated by these unusual articles so cleverly written. The author has struck a new vein, and everyone was talking about the information he displayed.
Mr. Kipling looks about forty, as he is beginning to be bald, but he is in reality just twenty-two. He was animation itself, telling his stories admirably, so that those about him were kept in gales of laughter. He fairly scintillated, but when more sober topics were discussed he was posted along all lines.
After dinner, when the men joined the ladies in the drawing-room, evidently the rising young author had marked me for an American, and, seeking copy perhaps, he came to the fireplace where I was standing and began questioning me about my homeland. I am surprised at his knowledge of people and places. He is certainly worth knowing, and we shall ask him to dinner soon.
Life in an Indian Station is varied, and one great pleasure is the opportunity of meeting delightful people. I must explain that the Pioneer is the leading newspaper of India. It is a sheet of abounding interest to all Government servants, because it publishes a list of promotions, sailings, and everything that is important for the Anglo-Indian exile to know. There are Reuter telegrams covering the news of the world, English letters by noted correspondents, local items, which, with its dignified literary style, combine to make its daily appearance an event.
Dear People: We give a garden party to-morrow. I never saw more perfect turf. About twenty old women have been squatting down picking out each stray weed and bottling it, while Umar the head gardener looks on. There are two fine tennis courts and six badminton courts where we can accommodate six or eight players at each. A badminton court is smaller than a tennis court, the net being narrower and higher. The game is played with racquet and feathered cork and is a very merry one with good players who keep the shuttlecock over the net with many rallies. The place will look very festive with the daintily gowned women, the sporting subalterns, the serious civilians, the bountifully spread tables, and the attentive servants in their picturesque uniforms and white turbans.
We sent a note to Rudyard Kipling inviting him to come to the garden party. He replied in a characteristic note saying that the tongue of Pennsylvania was the one language he long and ardently had desired to learn. He would be late, as he had to help put a paper to bed. He does not play tennis, but is quite good at badminton. He said he was pleased to come, and if life here was to be tempered with Allahabadminton he would begin to take comfort. He has told us much of his early life at school.
Dear J. — I had a lovely surprise this afternoon. A messenger from the Pioneer office appeared bringing me a book from the young man I told you of meeting at the Allens'. We have become quite well acquainted and we both enjoy his cleverness. The title of Kipling's collection of stories, which first came out in the Civil and Military Gazette, is Plain Tales from the Hills, and it has this amusing inscription:—
Between the gum pot and the shears,
The weapons of my grimy trade,
In divers moods and various years
These forty foolish yams were made.
And some were writ to fill a page
And some — but these are not so many —
To soothe a finely moral rage
And all to turn an honest penny.
And some I gathered from my friends
And some I looted from my foes,
And some — All's fish that Heaven sends—
Are histories of private woes.
And some are Truth, and some are Lie,
And some exactly half and half,
I've heard some made a woman cry —
I know some made a woman laugh.
I do not view them with delight
And, since I know that you may read 'em,
I'd like to thoroughly rewrite,
Remould, rebuild, retouch, reword 'em.
Would they were worthier. That's too late—
Cracked pictures stand no further stippling.
Forgive the faults.