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Reviewed by:
Rudyard Kipling. "O Beloved Kids": Rudyard Kipling's Letters to His Children. Ed. Elliot L. Gilbert. San Diego: Harcourt, 1984. 225 pp. $16.95.
Barry Menikoff. Robert Louis Stevenson and "The Beach of Falesá": A Study in Victorian Publishing with the Original Text. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1984. 199 pp. $24.50
Ira Grushow. The Imaginary Reminiscences of Sir Max Beerbohm. AthensOhio U P/Swallow, 1984. 304 pp $28.95.

"O Beloved Kids" presents us with the never before published letters of Kipling to his children John and Elsie from 1906 to 1915, the fateful year during which John (whose letters of that year arc also included) was reported missing in the battle of Loos a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday Elliot Gilbert has edited them tastefully and with becoming modesty. In his splendid Introduction he brings a sympathetic understanding to his task as chronicler and to Kipling's deep perplexity—for the letters tell the tale of the cruel diminution of a happy household. Up to 1912 the letters are an utter delight, full of "frivolling," puns, cartoons, and jokes, but our knowledge of John's tragic death invests them with sharp poignancy. They reveal a father who delighted in his children, who loved them genuinely, spoke their language, could, it appears, give readily of himself only to them, it is bitter to realize that such a man was destined to suffer, after the death of his beloved daughter Josephine, both the loss of the son in whom he had invested so many of his hopes and the consolation of grandchildren Gilbert surely is right to claim that with John's death Kipling lost "the magical childhood secret of life" that had inspired his finest writings. His home and family was his haven of "safe delights" that he fortified like a castle against the world raging outside. As Byron Rogers recently pointed out, Kipling was an outsider, in Sussex as much as in Lahore or in Vermont. In the world one had to play the game, but inside his enclosed valley of Bateman's he was among his own, where he was Daddoo to Bird, the old Man, and Mummy, the four of them united in affectionate and unguarded camaraderie. The letters suggest the tone of one who writes to his children as to members of a secret club, at times even like a spy in the world outside reporting to home base of the wonder [End Page 338] and silliness of it all. So he writes that when he entered the crowded Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford to receive an honorary degree, he "looked about and saw Mummy looking very sweet and beautiful and then I didn't mind." And the gowned usher, he explains, who met them at the station, looked rather like "an African parrot." There is no trace of emotional blackmail in the letters; he is never sentimental; he gives stern advice ("To boast is the mark of the Savage and the Pig"), can good naturedly speak of the children as "beastly" but also take their side and consider getting dressed for dinner as "disgusting." As John grew toward manhood the relationship of course had to be modulated: Kipling's letters became more business-like and exhortative. Yet he continued to write as if the family was the place one went out from and came back to. But that enclosed world would be invaded irrevocably by the "bleak inevitability of things" and never again be the safe harbor he had always needed ever since he had been a spoiled sahib in Bombay. From Elsie's testimony we know he bore his despair too stoically, and it not doubt fed the fierce hatred of Germans he poured into his wartime speeches. These biographical documents are further proof that Kipling was a great deal more than steam, patriotism, and moral goodness.

Barry Menikoff has rendered a real service in publishing the original version of Stevenson's "The Beach of Falesá." But he means to prove that the editorial changes the first publishers made constitute together a deliberate attempt to bowdlerize a work that attacked "the ethos of imperial England," Both the...

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