: December 30, 1865 (1865-12-30)
Born In: Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died On: January 18, 1936 (aged 70)
Career: Short Story Writer, Novelist, Poet, Journalist
Henry James once said that “Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius that I have ever known." Rudyard Kipling was a British writer and poet, who garnered immense popularity during early 20th century. His early works always reflected a very natural and aesthetic way of Indian life. Kipling used Indian names, myths, legends and rituals in most of his work. He was the first writer in English language to receive the Nobel Prize for literature in the year 1907. He was a major innovator in the art of the short story writing, while his children's books have been enduring classics of children's literature ever since they were penned. Kipling was offered the British Poet Laureateship and knighthood, but he refused to accept either. In his lifetime, he had traveled around the British Empire and wrote from several locations. Let’s take a journey with the life of Rudyard Kipling.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 to Alice Kipling and John Lockwood Kipling in Bombay. His father, who was a pottery designer and sculptor, was working as the principal and professor of architectural sculpture at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay, which was founded recently then. His parents had met two years before, at the Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire, England. As such, they named their first born child after the lake, as they were smitten by its beauty. His parents were one of the first to use the term “Anglo Indians” and considered themselves to be the same. Rudyard spent his childhood between Indian children and learning Indian folk stories and children’s’ stories.
At the age of five, Rudyard, along with his sister Alice, were taken to Portsmouth in England, where they stayed with the couple, Captain and Mrs. Holloway, at Lorne Lodge, for the next six years. Later in life, Kipling recalled these days with utmost horror and revulsion. In January 1878, Kipling joined the United Services College, at Westward Ho!, Devon, where he founded many strong friendships. During this time, he also met and fell in love with Florence Garrard, a friend of Alice. After school, unable to join Oxford and with little money, Kipling was stranded till his father got him a job as the assistant editor of a small local newspaper, the Civil & Military Gazette in Lahore. Kipling touched down in Bombay on October 18, 1882, beginning a journey that took him around the British Empire.
The Journey Of A Writer
Rudyard, later, called the Civil & Military Gazette his "mistress and most true love”. He published his first collection of verse; Departmental Ditties in 1886. Also in the same year, his old editor at the Gazette moved away. The new editor allowed more creative freedom and included Kipling’s short stories in the paper. In the meantime, Kipling had become a regular visitor to Shimla that largely inspired all his work. In the November of 1887, he was transferred to The Pioneer in Allahabad, which was the much larger sister concern of Gazette. In January 1888, Kipling’s first prose collection, Plain Tales from the Hills was published in Calcutta. This included most of his short stories published in Gazette previously.
In the following year Kipling published six collections of short stories; “Soldiers Three”, “The Story of the Gadsbys”, “In Black and White”, “Under the Deodars”, “The Phantom Rickshaw” and “Wee Willie Winkie”, containing a total of 41 stories. He was also Pioneer’s special correspondent in Rajputana, where he had to write sketches which were later collected and published in “From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel”. In early 1889, The Pioneer relieved Kipling from his Rajputana duties over some disputes. He sold the rights to his works for a sum of 250 pounds. Added to it, the six months salary he got from The Pioneer, in lieu of notice, Kipling set out for London.
Kipling left India on 9th March 1889, from Bombay and traveled to San Francisco through Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. He began his journey of American cities from here and crisscrossed the whole of America and parts of Canada, before leaving for Liverpool from New York. At the time when he was in New York, Kipling met Mark Twain in Elmira and was deeply inspired from him. Form Liverpool, Kipling moved to his final destination, London to start a successful literary journey.
London Dreams And Married Life
While in London, most of Kipling’s stories where accepted into magazines and he moved into a quarters in Villiers Street, Strand. The next two years were really turbulent in the life of Kipling. He published a novel, “The Light that Failed” and then had a nervous breakdown. After recovering, he met an American writer and publishing agent, Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on a novel, The Naulahka. In 1891, he again set out for a journey which was to take him through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and finally India. However, Kipling returned midway as Wolcott Balestier died in London after suffering from typhoid fever. Before arriving, Kipling had proposed to William’s sister Carrie Balestier through telegram to which she had said a yes. The two got married on January 18, 1892, at All Souls Church in Langham Place.
The couple decided to celebrate their honeymoon in stages. The first was at the Balestier family estate near Brattleboro, Vermont and then in Japan. However, by the time the couple reached Japan, their bank, The New Oriental Banking Corporation, had collapsed. Heartbroken yet determined, the two returned to Brattleboro, where they rented small cottage on a farm near Brattleboro for ten dollars a month. They named the cottage, ‘Bliss Cottage’. It was there, that on 29 December 1892, their first daughter Josephine was born. Also, it was the same place where Kipling conceived the ideas responsible for the two Jungle books. With Josephine’s arrival, the couple left ‘Bliss Cottage’ and moved to a rocky hillside where they bought 10 acres of land and built their own home overlooking the Connecticut River. They named this house “Naulakha”, the original name for his novel collaboration with Carrie’s brother.
In the next four years, Kipling published many books including “The Jungle Books”, “The Days Work” a collection of short stories, the novel “Captains Courageous” and lots of poetry. His collection of poems, “Barrack:Room Ballads”, was published in March 1892. Kipling was occasionally visited by his father and British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his friend and golf tutor. The couple’s second daughter Elsie was born in February 1896. He enjoyed his life at Naulakha and the outdoors, but due to a family feud with Carrie’s brother (which grew into a court case) and also the growing tensions between US and Britain, the Kipling’s hurriedly packed their belongings and left Naulakha, Vermont, and the U.S in July 1896.
Return Home And Later Life
In England, the family settled in Toquay on the coast of Devon, in a hill side home facing the sea. Kipling’s son John was born in August 1897. Two of his most famous and controversial poems "Recessional" (1897) and "The White Man's Burden" (1899) were released from here. He also wrote “Stalky & Co.”, a collection of school stories. This book was primarily based on his experience at United Services College in Westward Ho!. Starting in 1898, (barring 1899) the Kipling family started spending their winter holidays in South Africa. It was during his visit in 1900, that Kipling helped Lord Roberts initiate a newspaper, The Friend, for the British troops stationed in Bloemfontein.
In 1902, Kipling bought a house named Batemans along with surrounding buildings, a mill and 33 acres of land, in rural Burwash, East Sussex for just 9,300 pounds. Kipling later proclaimed that he had fallen in love with the house as soon as the moment he had seen it. In 1899, during a visit to U.S Josephine contracted pneumonia and eventually died. Kipling published one of his most enduring title, “Kim” in 1901 and his next children’s classic in 1902, titled “Just So Stories for Little Children”. Kipling also wrote two science fiction short stories, “With the Night Mail” (1905) and “As Easy As A. B. C” (1912). Both these stories were set in Kipling’s imaginary world of Aerial Board of Control universe in 21st century.
His Career High
In 1934, Kipling also published a short story in Strand Magazine, "Proofs of Holy Writ", which suggested that William Shakespeare had helped to buff up the text of the “King James Bible”. With the advent of 20th Century, Rudyard’s fame rose higher than ever. He received the coveted Nobel Prize for literature in the year 1907, the first English language writer to do so. Following this coronation was the release of two interconnected poetic collections; “Puck of Pook's Hill” in 1906 and “Rewards and Fairies” in 1910. One of Britain’s favorite poems “If:” was a part of “Rewards and Fairies”. Some people also claim that he was offered the title of Poet Laureate, during the interregnum of 1892:96, but he turned it down.
Throughout his life and during the First World War, Kipling had been a staunch British rule supporter and advocate of British actions. He even got his son, John, accepted for officer training, at the age of only 17, in the Irish Guards through his influence, despite John being initially rejected by the army, because of his poor eyesight. The move eventually backfired, as John died during the Battle of Loos in 1915. John’s death inspired Kipling to pen the poem “My Boy Jack”. It also influenced Kipling to join Sir Fabian Ware's Imperial War Graves Commission. As motoring was becoming increasingly popular, Kipling became a motoring correspondent. In 1922, Kipling became Lord Rector of St Andrews University in Scotland, a position that he held for three years.
Kipling kept writing till his death, but his work was becoming more ordinary and less popular. He died of a perforated ulcer in his duodenum on January 18, 1936. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. His ashes were buried in Poets' Corner in the Southern Transept of Westminster Abbey, joining the likes of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Lewis Carol who were buried there.
The Story of the Gadsbys (1888)
Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
The Phantom Rickshaw and other Eerie Tales (1888)
The Light that Failed (1890)
"Mandalay" (1890) (poetry)
"Gunga Din" (1890) (poetry)
The Jungle Book (1894) (short stories)
The Second Jungle Book (1895) (short stories)
"If—" (1895) (poetry)
The seven seas (1896)
Captains Courageous (1897)
The Day's Work (1898)
Stalky & Co. (1899)
"The White Man's Burden" (1899)
"The Young British soldier" (1890) (poetry)
Just So Stories (1902)
Puck of Pook's Hill (1906)
Life's Handicap (1915) (short stories)
The Gods of the Copybook Headings (1919)
Limits and Renewals (1932)
1865: Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born.
1871: Rudyard and his sister were taken to England and left there for six years, boarding with Captain and Mrs. Holloway at Lorne Lodge, Southsea.
1878: Was sent to study at the United Service College at Westward Ho in Devon.
1882: Joined the newspaper, the Civil & Military Gazette in Lahore.
1888: His first prose collection “Plain Tales from the Hills” was published in Calcutta.
1887: Kipling joined the newspaper The Pioneer, Allahabad.
1889: Left the newspaper and moved to London.
1891: Wrote his first novel, “The Light That Failed”.
1892: Carrie and Rudyard were married.
1892: Their first daughter Josephine was born on 29 December 1892.
1894: Published “The Jungle Book”.
1895: Published the second volume of “The Jungle Book”.
1896: Couple's second daughter Elsie was born.
1896: The couple left America.
1897: First and only son John Kipling was born.
1901: One of his greatest masterpieces, “Kim” was released.
1907: Awarded the Noble Prize for Literature.
1915: His only son John Kipling died in 1915.
1922: Kipling was elected the Lord Rector of St Andrews University in Scotland.
1936: Left for the heavenly abode.