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Book Reviews Kipling Letters, 5 & 6 The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Volume 5:1920-1930. Thomas Pinney, ed. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004. viii + 584 pp. $85.00 The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Volume 6:1931-1936. Thomas Pinney, ed. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004. viii + 527 pp. $85.00 ADDED TO his many books and articles, Pinney's publication of the final volumes of Kipling's letters confirms him as America's leading authority on this most controversial English author. When the first volume appeared fourteen years ago, Pinney had 6,300 items in hand. Today the number stands at approximately 7,200; he has printed almost 1,900—a quarter. Covering the years 1872 to 1936, the letters dramatize the kaleidoscopic, turbulent worlds in which Kipling lived and about which he wrote. He tests his editor with obscure people, places, events and terminology from six continents (outlandish American dialect, forgotten actresses, bizarre occurrences in India, off-road towns in France, maritime engineering jargon, literary allusions to neglected authors, to name a few). And Pinney identifies virtually all of them. Or when he writes "unidentified" in a footnote, one doubts that anyone will ever fill the gap. His years of patient labor have produced six handsome volumes that virtually retell late-Victorian and earlytwentieth -century history from a Tory perspective. He divides these two volumes into five sections, each with an introductory essay that readers will appreciate. Each volume has its quota of rarely reproduced photographs and Kipling's drawings, the latter reminding us that he had instruction as a child and that his father was an artist. Volume six contains "addenda and corrigenda" for the first four volumes that suffered from careless printing. Of more importance is the eighty-eight-page general index for all volumes. This is an achievement in itself. In addition to the usual catalog of proper names, Pinney adopts a novel format under the entry "Rudyard Kipling." Here we find a chronological life summary and an unusual presentation of "Writings" that include collaborations, unauthorized editions, projected works, prose and verse (both collected and individually) and speeches. Then too there are unexpected lists 63 ELT 49 : 1 2006 of Kipling's possessions: automobiles, horses, residences but (sadly) no dogs. The index also includes a handy glossary of Indian terms. An author's published letters are expected to shed new light on his or her creativity or technique and on the meaning or value of the work. Because recent biographers (Gilmour, 2002; Lycett, 1999; Ricketts , 1999) had access to much of Kipling's correspondence, the last two volumes of letters contain fewer surprises than the first four. To be sure, they chronicle Kipling's bad health beginning in 1915 and continuing (with brief respites) until his death in 1936. Pain certainly interrupted his work, inhibited his humor and increased his irascibility . With Kipling it is convenient to separate the man writing letters from the man writing fiction and verse. The man who emerges from the letters after 1900 is sometimes not attractive—as when he boasted to Charles Eliot Norton, "at last Fm one of the gentry" (30 November 1902). When he and Carrie attended a two-day garden party at Buckingham Palace Kipling complained, "All our friends ... must have gone to the first. It is all the small people on the second day" (25 November 1925). He seems peevish when he resigned abruptly from the Rhodes Board administering scholarships because of the appointment of a new member whom he disliked. Both he and his wife crabbed constantly about their farm workers and domestic help, and many had short tenure . Ironically Kipling is often skeptical of titled, wealthy, fashionable or spoiled people but also grateful for invitations to Great Houses for luncheon and garden parties or to exclusive clubs for dinner. The one hundred letters (in volumes five and six alone) to his daughter, Elsie, and her husband are overloaded with weather reports and chitchat about celebrities met, plays seen and pets. Pinney puts the best possible construction on this by saying that Kipling tried to keep Elsie (abroad because of her husband's diplomatic appointments) apprized of high society doings. But letters to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 63-66
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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