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1. KIPLING REMEMBERED REVIEWS Kipli ng: Macmilian: Each. Interviews £ Reco! Iections, Harold Orel, ed. London: Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1983. 2 Vols. $26.5U Enormously popular during his lifetime, Kipling has not escaped the common fate of posthumous undervaluation that succeeds such popularity; and, with a few notable exceptions, recent critics have done less than justice to his work, especially his often masterly short stories. To call him the English Maupassant, as his contemporaries sometimes did, seems to me grudging: at his best he beats the Frenchman hollow in psychological penetration as well as in technical originality. If the recent precedent of Hardy is anything to go by, however, we may expect the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 1986, and the expiry of the Kipling copyrights soon afterwards, to stimulate renewed interest and more sustained critical and scholarly attention; and it is good to know that Professor Thomas Pinney is already at work on both a new biography and an edition of Kipling's letters. Harold Urel has assembled a "composite biography" of Kipling that comprises some ninety items, mainly by those who knew him well or slightly (a few are by writers who never met him, and one or two by Kipling himself). The contributors fall broadly into three groups: 1. Kipling's relatives and close friends, including his sister "Trix" (Alice Fleming), his cousin Florence Macdonald, and Mrs. Edmonia Hill, whom Orel describes as "Kipling's closest confidante in the late 1880s" (those who accuse Kipling ot misogyny might note how important women were in his life); 2. fellow-authors such as Rider Haggard, Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and Jerome K. Jerome; and 3. those who, while not knowing Kipling well, were able to speak with more or less authority concerning specific passages of his life — for example, those of his contemporaries at the United Services College who long afterwards set down their recollections of Kipling as a schoolboy. Obviously anyone compiling a collection such as this can use only the material that exists; and the editor has quarried the mass of Kiplingiana with exemplary thoroughness. If some of the voices we should most like to hear—those, for instance, of Kipling's wife Carrie and his father John Lockwood Kipling, both remarkable people in their different ways—are silent, this is not because they have been overlooked or ignored but because they did not speak out. Again, the problem of balance is complicated by the availability or non-availability of material. It may seem odd that about ninety pages are devoted to Kipling's association with the U.S.A., while his numerous sojourns in South Africa are cursorily treated; after all, if New England gave us Captains Courageous, Africa gave us the Just So Stories. But here, as in other respects, an editor is 323 324 at the mercy of the existing or surviving sources. Yet again, it is not to be expected that everyone with something to say about Kipling will possess the ability to write good prose; and the literary quality of an anthology of this kind is inevitably uneven. The style of one of Kipling's former school chums, G. C. Beresford, whose memories are generously represented, fairly makes one squirm: "We felt it a rotten thing to be messed and muddled up with poems that Gigger [Kipling] showed to nobody and objected to anybody's looking at. He said they were letters to his mater; not even a cad would look at letters to a mater. Besides, he was asking for money, and you oughtn't to humbug that up" (p. 51). Such passages, though, are not without interest as a gloss on the language of Stalky S^ Co., a s well as of incidental psychological or psycho!inguistic interest (Beresford, a founder of the Kipling Society, was writing more than fifty years after the event, and it can hardly be supposed that he expressed himself in this way during his career as a civil engineer). Such testimony as Beresford's inevitably raises the question of reliability: just how much credence can be attached to detailed reports of incidents and even conversations that took place years if not generations earlier...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 323-325
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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