Comparative Literature Studies 39.4 (2002) 293-304
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A Reading of "From Tideway to Tideway"
In February 1892, Rudyard Kipling and his new wife Caroline set off for their honeymoon trip. After visiting North America, they arrived in Japan. The newlyweds seem to have been warmly received by the expatriate community in Yokohama, partly because Kipling was already a celebrity, and partly because his wife's grandfather was a well-known legal adviser to the Japanese government. 1 During their few months' stay there, however, Kipling encountered financial difficulties due to the sudden failure of his savings bank. Forced to abandon their further travel plans, the couple returned to the United States.
"From Tideway to Tideway," a relatively short travelogue, is the product of this ill-fated trip. The piece is certainly minor in Kipling's oeuvre. Nevertheless, the period in which it originally appeared is important. Early in 1890, Kipling, who had been a well-known journalist and writer in colonial India but an obscurity in the London literary world, established his literary fame in the latter. "From Tideway to Tideway" is the first major piece of travel writing Kipling produced as an enormously popular writer in the metropolis. This article seeks to examine the changes occurring in Kipling's cross-cultural imagination around this time. To this end, I will analyse the piece's sections on Japan, in comparison with "From Sea to Sea," the earlier travelogue produced out of his journey in 1889 from India to London via Southeast Asia, Japan and the States. Kipling's main attention in "From Tideway to Tideway" has shifted from an exotic Japan to the unity of British Empire. Nevertheless, his concern with British imperial unity seriously impairs his cross-cultural vision. It will be suggested that [End Page 293] something tremendously important had died in Kipling by the time of his second visit to Japan.
While "From Sea to Sea" describes Kipling's restless sightseeing trip across Japan, his narrative persona in "From Tideway to Tideway" is content with staying around Yokohama. This might be partly because his wife's pregnancy prevented them from travelling as extensively as on the earlier occasion. 2 Nevertheless, the few excursions which they apparently made are not featured in the narrative, with the exception of a short description of Kamakura. 3 As this omission indicates, "From Tideway to Tideway" does not emphasise Japan as an exotic Other, as the writing emerging from his earlier visit did.
In this respect, it is significant that the second of the piece's three chapters on Japan is titled "Our Overseas Men." Kipling's interest in the expatriate communities scattered around the Empire is so acute that he treats the one in Yokohama as representative, even though Japan was not a British colony. Referring to his earlier visit to South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, Kipling draws the reader's attention to "the Overseas club," the British enclave abroad:
And elsewhere, and elsewhere, and elsewhere among the Outside Men it is the same—the same mixture of every trade, calling, and profession under the sun; the same clash of conflicting interests touching the uttermost parts of the earth; the same intimate, and sometimes appalling, knowledge of your neighbour's business and shortcomings; the same large-palmed hospitality, and the same keen interest on the part of the younger men in the legs of a horse. 4
Kipling's rhetoric conspicuously homogenises expatriate societies. Condensed into a collective phrase, "Outside Men," they are presented as identical. The homogenisation is also achieved by the triple repetition of "and elsewhere" at the beginning of this passage, and by the frequent use of the term "same." Furthermore, the deployment of the present tense not only characterises the sameness as an immediate reality, but also, as Johannes Fabian points out, "unduly magnifies the claim of a statement to general validity." 5
There are two interrelated effects of this powerful generalisation. Firstly, the emphasis on alikeness among the "Outside Men" enables the narrator to identify himself on a...