To Mrs. Hill
From Rudyard Kipling.
Our acquaintance with Mr. Kipling is progressing. His parents are quite noted people who now live at Lahore, in the Punjab. The father, John Lockwood Kipling, an architect and designer, was sent to Bombay by the English Government to take charge of the art school, and while there he designed the markets and several of the noted buildings. Young Kipling's mother is very talented. She is the oldest daughter of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, the Reverend George D. Macdonald. When the Kiplings were married they spent their honeymoon beside a little lake in England called Rudyard, and so when, on December 30, 1865, a son was born to them they called him by the name of the place where they had been so enchantingly happy.
Rudyard was educated at the United Services College, the famous school Westward Ho! in Devon, where he remained four years.
His great sorrow was that he could not enter the army, owing to his poor eyesight, and it was particularly hard for him to associate constantly with those who were preparing for the Service. Here at Allahabad I have met two young subalterns who were at Westward Ho! at the same time. They say he was so brilliant and cynical that he was most cordially hated by his fellow students. He was a leading member of the literary and debating societies, and editor of the school newspaper. He says that he earned his first money for a sonnet written for the London World, for which he received a guinea, and never since has he had any money which has given him such joy. He fairly thrilled when he spoke of it.
It seems that after his school days he went to London and stayed with his aunt and uncle. They felt that he was seeing too much of life about town, so it was arranged with the proprietor of the Pioneer and Civil and Military Gazette that he should come out to India to work on the latter paper. In response to the message, 'Kipling will do,' he, at sixteen, started out on his journalistic career. He tells amid roars of laughter how he pretended to be years older, and so had a rare time coming to India. In Lahore he was with his own people, for the Kiplings had been transferred from Bombay to the Punjab, and J. Lockwood Kipling was in charge of the art school of Lahore and curator of the museum.
Young Kipling is certainly all things to all people. He talks equally well to High Court Judge or to a scientist, and I hear he can make first-class love to the latest belle in Simla.
He soon became known from one end of India to the other by his 'turnovers.' The first page of the C. and M. is filled with advertisements up to the last column, and for this column Kipling wrote a story, a poem, a clever political skit, or whatever struck his fancy, so that he made quite a reputation. These articles were called 'turnovers' because they were continued to the first column of the second page, after which came the editorial.
Dear C. — I am the proud possessor of Rudyard Kipling's Early Verses, a small book bound in deep maroon, with back and corners of black striped with gold, about one half inch thick, 41/2 by 6, published by Shamus Din, Bookbinder, Mouch Gate, Mahala Sahdman Lahore, with a small 3/4-inch blue sticker in corner of cover. The inscription is 'January 1889: from Rudyard Kipling, these the first of his ventures into print.' One of the rhymes is the tale of his experiences coming out to India when he was about sixteen. He had grown a dark beard and for mischief was posing as a man of the world, making love to all and sundry aboard ship, which experience he portrays in 'Amour de Voyage.'
Mr. Kipling's characters as a rule have some foundation in real life. Mrs. Hauksbee is a charming personality who is well known in India. She is in appearance exactly the opposite to his description. She is wonderfully clever and a great wire-puller. She presented him with a Bible early in his Indian career with the advice to study it carefully and follow its literary style. No one is more apt than he with appropriate Biblical quotations, as all can see.
It is so interesting to us to learn the background of some of R. K.'s poems and stories. 'My Rival' in Departmental Ditties has much truth in it, as the two characters are his beautiful sister Trix and a delightful woman I knew at Simla who really merited all the praise that was given her, as she was so youthful and attractive. The latter is also the heroine of the 'Venus Annodomini' in the Plain Tales, and that is a very truthful picture too.
In 'Three and an Extra' the incident happened at Allahabad to a lady who has become one of my dear friends. I think R. K. gives his best description of Mrs. Hauksbee in this story.