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Rudyard Kipling's Literary Property, International Copyright Law and The Naulahka Shafquat Towheed University of Nottingham DESPITE Rudyard Kipling's seemingly impregnable literary reputation almost seventy years after his death, his second novel, The Naulahka: A Story of West and East (1891-1892), remains difficult to pin down and even more difficult to explain away. This most neglected of Kipling's works is an unambiguous example of what T. S. Eliot called Kipling's "mixed form," in every meaning of the term; it was published in both serial and volume form, with and without verse chapter headings, and above all, it is a collaborative work of fiction, written in partnership with his close friend, the little-known American novelist and literary agent, Wolcott Balestier (1861-1891).1 Most of Kipling's devoted readers have been embarrassed by The Naulahka, and it is not entirely without justification. One of his first biographers , Charles Carrington, described the novel as "readable," declaring with some justification that it "added little to his reputation as a novelist."2 Others have been less generous in their assessment of the merits of the book.3 Critical discussion οι The Naulahka since its publication has been scant, with few of Kipling's peers deeming the novel worthy of serious attention; Kipling himself failed to mention the novel at all in his posthumously published and scandalously selective autobiography , Something ofMyself'(1937). Kipling's destruction of his correspondence with Balestier after his co-author's death also marks out this collaborative episode as one of the few undocumented lacunae in an otherwise very public and well-documented life, and the scarcity of surviving biographical or documentary evidence of his friendship with Balestier has prompted a great deal of speculation from some of his biographers .4 420 TOWHEED : KIPLING In fairness, The Naulahka is not one of Kipling's best pieces of fiction, nor does this discussion wish to make such a claim. As a collaborative work written with Wolcott Balestier, a minor, relatively obscure, and seemingly untalented American novelist, it is in the eyes of many an example of all of the worst features of a "mixed text." Indeed, to this day The Naulahka's authorship remains indeterminate and the subject of conjecture: just how much of the text did Kipling actually write?5 Readers over the years have found the plot to be contrived, the love scenes risible , and the predictably happy ending curiously disappointing. In many respects, The Naulahka, along with other examples of experimental literary cooperation, such as Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford's Romance (1903) and Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne's The Wrong Box (1889), deserves to belong in that relatively neglected late-Victorian and Edwardian British literary subgenre, the commercially expedient but intellectually unchallenging collaborative novel. Apart from the quasi-travel narrative descriptions of Balestier's American West and Kipling's Indian East—and if nothing else, there is plenty of that—critics have found little to commend in The Naulahka. Of course, one man's ignominy is often another man's claim to fame. If The Naulahka is the one work that Kipling's readers would rather wish that he had never written, then today it is one of the only reasons that Balestier is remembered at all. I want to approach this rather unloved book from a different angle and show that however weak it may be artistically, and however predictable it may be as a generic romance, The Naulahka is indeed of importance in defining our understanding of the contingent realities of writing for Kipling in the 1890s, delineating a period of transition in his personal and literary life, and demonstrating the effects upon him of a bibliographical environment radically different from our own. Above all, writing The Naulahka crystallised in Kipling's mind existing ideas about determining his right to establish and maintain authorial control over his literary property, an approach that would lead him insistently and frequently and for the rest of his life into confrontation with those that he perceived had violated his inalienable rights over his work. Even before he came to pursue that most unlikely of literary collaborations , indeed from the very start of his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 420-435
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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