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194 THE DEVELOPMENT OF KIPLING'S PROSE FROM 1883 THROUGH "PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS" by Louis L. Cornell (Columbia University) As the Nineties advanced and Rudyard Kipling's stature became assured, his years in India became more than merely the subject of his readers' idle curiosity. It became increasingly evident that anything with Kipling's name on it was worth money, so that publishers began to ransack the files of Anglo-Indian newspapers for his apprentice work: Wheeler's of Allahabad tried unsuccessfully to launch two piracies in 1890; Dillingham's of New York succeeded with OUT OF INDIA in 1895; and there were many others. It was bad enough, Kipling felt, that the profit from these ventures should accrue to unscrupulous publishers; it was even worse that ephemeral journalistic pieces, written in youth and in haste, should be exposed to the critical eye of the reading public. By the turn of the century Kipling had developed an implacable hostility to the resurrection of his early writings. Having purchased all his copyrights from the newspapers on which he served, he was able to discourage further attempts to make accessible the hundreds of uncollected pieces buried in newspaper files; and he thus contributed to widespread impression that he had published no prose before the precocious PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS of 1888. Needless to say, this impression is quite false. Kipling's development as a writer of prose was rapid, but he did undergo an apprenticeship comparable to that of writers whose early attempts, published in English journals, are far more accessible than his Indian writings. Furthermore, Kipling's amazing productivity during his Indian years—he published nearly four hundred separate, identifiable items between I883 and I888—makes his apprenticeship unusually interesting, for his development shows a continuity absent from the work of other writers who proceeded from novel to novel in, as it were, discrete jumps. In Kipling's case it is possible to watch all the experiments, the false starts, and the happy discoveries of a gifted young author who was later to achieve a certain kind of greatness. But the very wealth of material, the sheer number of his poems, sketches, and stories, makes it impossible to display the full scope of Kipling's development within the compass of a sbort article. In the essay that follows, I have had to limit my discussion to three distinct phases of Kipling's early prose work: the purely conventional sketches of his first year as a journalist; the transitional years I885 and I886, when he mastered the rudiments of his story-writing technique; and 1886-1887, the year of PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS, when he applied that technique to the construction of a unique and personal vision of India. In such a discussion no clear separation between style and content is possible or indeed desirable, for, as Kipling gained control of his prose style, his attitude toward the Anglo-Indian world in which he lived grew in richness and complexity; it would grow still richer, still more complex during a later period of his life, but even in PLAIN TALES he achieved something that was beyond the powers of his Anglo-Indian contemporaries. Thus, I conclude this sketch of Kipling's development with an examination of PLAIN TALES: not because these stories represent the end of Kipling's apprenticeship, but because they help to point the direction his artistry was to take during his long and productive career.' 195 When Kipling went out to India in 1882, he was a raw schoolboy of sixteen, his journalistic experience limited to the editing of a school paper and his literary ambitions focused exclusively on poetry. Stephen Wheeler, his first chief at the CIVIL AND MILITARY GAZETTE, had little use for the poetry but made what he could of the boy's meager journalistic background. An assistant editor, not a reporter, Kipling was soon given his fill of the routine chores of a newspaper office. He wrote a restrained description of this period in SOMETHING OF MYSELF under the forbidding chapter title "Seven Years Hard," but another account of Wheelei—by Edward Kay Robinson, who supplanted him as editor-in-chief...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 194-206
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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