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Book Reviews Kipling & America Kipling's America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895. D. H. Stewart, ed. Greensboro : ELT Press, 2003. xlii + 282 pp. Paperback Original $40.00 IF CARRIE KIPLING'S disgrace of a brother, Beatty Balestier, had not behaved so atrociously toward her and her husband while they were living in Brattleboro, Vermont, it is conceivable that Rudyard Kipling may have remained in America for many more than the four years that he lived here. After all, he had married an American woman, he liked "Naulakha," the home that he had built on a hillside in New England, and he established lasting friendships with several of the residents in the area. When the Kiplings departed for England in 1896, disturbed and saddened by the deplorable circumstances that had involved her brother, they were to return to the United States only once, three years later, during which time they not only lost their young daughter Josephine to illness but Kipling himself almost died. Though he had a good many positive experiences while living in America, Kipling's attitude toward the country was as a rule that of a critical foreigner. Many of the townspeople of Brattleboro found him aloof and somewhat arrogant, and he did not hesitate to criticize his adopted country in print. When Arthur Conan Doyle, on a lecture tour, visited him at Naulakha, he tried (without success) to convince Kipling to be kinder in his remarks about America. Those remarks had a history, for his arrival with his young wife in her ancestral hometown of Brattleboro was not the first time that he had seen America. Indeed, he had previously written extensively of his first-hand observations of the country. Three years earlier he had traveled as a young bachelor from sea to sea in America, landing in San Francisco on 28 May 1889, and departing for England from New York four months later. Through an arrangement with his old newspaper, the Pioneer, he sent back to India what he referred to as "special correspondence" and "occasional articles" embodying his observations of America. Of the twenty "letters of travel" (as the genre was popularly known at the time) dealing with America, seventeen were collected in the two-volume From Sea to Sea, which in331 ELT 47 : 3 2004 eluded numerous other such essays, all of about the same length and describing what he saw in various other lands. Kipling was not particularly proud of the letters of travel in From Sea to Sea. In fact, the brief preface that he wrote for the first volume makes it clear that he was forced into collecting and republishing them because they were being pirated and because other such letters, not his own, were appearing under his name. If he ever undervalued any of his own writing, it was this collection. All of his stylistic sharpness, all of his keenness of wit, all of his strange prophetic intuition, all of his uncanny power of observation—all this and more fill the pages of these books. The portion that has to do with his travels in America is among the best writing of the work and among the most telling, both about America and about Kipling himself. Therefore, D. H. Stewart and ELT Press have made an important contribution to Kipling studies by gathering in one volume the twenty letters of travel about America that were originally published in 1889 together with five others with American subjects issued between 1892 and 1895 along with an appendix consisting of four interviews that Kipling gave to newspaper reporters. Kipling's America is not only an interesting and handy addition to a substantial body of work published in the last several years on Kipling but of indispensable worth to anyone exploring the fascinating subject of that author's intriguingly ambiguous thinking about the country he once thought would be his home. Stewart has written a concise introduction that contains not only abundant factual information but sound and perceptive observations about Kipling's attitudes toward America. A glossary, illustrations, informative notes, and a good index make the volume helpful as a reference guide. Rather than reprint the various letters as they were published in collections, Stewart...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 331-335
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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