THE FINER GRAIN
It has been Mr Kipling’s habit all through his career to peg out literary claims for himself as evidence of his intention later on to work them at a profit. Thus, writing Plain Tales from the Hills, he includes one or two stories, such as The Taking of Lungtungpen and The Three Musketeers, which clearly look forward to Soldiers Three and all the later stories in that kind. Or, again, he looks forward in Tods’ Amendment and Wee Willie Winkie to the time when he will write many stories, and, in a sense, whole books concerning children. Tods’ Amendment promises Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Just So Stories; it even promises Stalky & Co., which is simply the best collection of boisterous boy farces ever written. Then, again, there is In the Rukh, out of Many Inventions, which looks forward to the Jungle Book. Finally, there is, in The Day’s Work, clear evidence of Mr Kipling’s intention ultimately to abandon the hills and plains of India and to take literary seisin of the country and chronicles of England.
The first undoubted evidence that Mr Kipling, who started with skilful tales of India, was bound in the end to turn homewards for a deeper inspiration is contained in a story from The Day’s Work. My Sunday at Home is ostensibly broad farce, of the Brugglesmith variety—farce which might well call for a chapter to itself were it not that broad farce is much the same whoever the writer may be. But My Sunday at Home is really less important as farce than as evidence of Mr Kipling’s enthusiasm for the stillness and ancientry of the English wayside. The pages of this story distil and drip with peace. Moreover, the story is neighboured with two others, all beckoning Mr Kipling home to Burwash in Sussex. There is the Brushwood Boy, who after work comes home and finds it good—good after his work is done. There is also An Error in the Fourth Dimension wherein Mr Kipling is found playing affectionately with the idea that England is quite unlike any other country. There is in England a fourth dimension which is beyond the perception, say, of an American railway king, who after much amazement and wrath concludes that the English are not a modern people and thereafter returns to his own more reasonable land.
Of the miscellaneous stories in which Mr Kipling surrenders utterly to this later theme perhaps the most memorable is An Habitation Enforced from Actions and Reactions. Here we are in quite another plane of authorship from that in which we have moved in the tales of India. There is a wide difference between The Return of Imray—to take one of the most skilful tales of India—and An Habitation Enforced. The Return of Imray betrays the conscious resolution of a clever man of letters to make the most effective use of good material. But An Habitation Enforced is the spontaneous gesture of pure feeling. The Indian stories are ingenious and well managed. Their point is made. Their workmanship is excellent. Atmospheres and impressions are cunningly arranged. But they very rarely succeed in carrying the reader as the reader is carried upon this later tide.