This is equally true of all Mr Kipling’s essays in brutality. His ferocity is as forced as his tenderness is natural. Violence and war are clearly foreign to his unprompted imagination. Only it happens that Mr Kipling has talked with soldiers; and, like Eustace Cleever, he is prompted occasionally to spend a perversely riotous evening in their company. The literary result is far from being contemptible; but it is far from being as precious as the result of his unprompted intrusion into the country of the Brushwood Boy, into Cold Lairs and the Council Rock.
The soldier tales rank not very far above the tales from Simla. Their interest is mainly the interest of watching a skilled writer consciously using all his skill to give an air of authenticity to things not vitally realised. Mulvaney is pure convention, and Ortheris, though he more individually belongs to Mr Kipling, is rather an effort than a success. We have not yet got at the heart of Mr Kipling’s work. It yet remains to cross the barrier which divides some of the best journalism of our time from literature which will outlive its author.
THE DAY’S WORK
When we come to The Day’s Work we are getting very near to Mr Kipling at his best. We should notice at this point that in all the stories we have so far surveyed the men have mattered less than the work they do. The great majority of Mr Kipling’s tales are a song in praise of good work. Almost it seems as if, in the year 1897, their author had himself realised the significance of this; for it was in that year he published the volume entitled The Day’s Work; and it was the best volume, taking it from cover to cover, that had as yet appeared.
The first and best story in The Day’s Work at once introduces the theme which threads all the best work of Mr Kipling. The Bridge-Builders is the story of a Bridge and incidentally of the men who built it. The crown has yet to be set upon a long agony of toil and disappointment. The master builder of the Bridge has put the prime of his energy and will into its building. Now it stands all but complete, with the Ganges gathering in her upper reaches for a mighty effort to throw