Rudyard Kipling eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 59 pages of information about Rudyard Kipling.
is a charming woman.  Mrs Hawksbee is really nothing of the kind.  She is an anthology of witty phrases.  She is the abstract perfection of what a clever head and a good heart is expected to be in a fashionable comedy.  But Mr Kipling desires her to be accepted as a charming woman.  His procedure, on a high and delicate plane, is precisely the procedure to which we are accustomed on a low and obvious plane in the majority of popular novels where the hero has to be accepted for a man of brilliant genius.  We have to take the author’s word for it.  The author who tells us that his hero is a genius usually requires us to believe it without further proof.  He does not show us a page of the hero’s music or the hero’s poetry, but we must believe that it is very fine, even though the hero loves Pietro Mascagni and worships Martin Tupper.  Similarly Mr Kipling, presenting us with Mrs Hawksbee, nowhere affords us direct evidence that she is a charming woman.  He assumes it, gets everyone else in the story to assume it, and expects his readers to assume it—­his cunning as a writer being of so remarkable a quality that there are very few of the Simla tales in which the reader is not prepared to assume it for the sake of the story.

Mrs Hawksbee is typical of the majority of Mr Kipling’s studies in social comedy.  His success in this kind is remarkable, but it is barren.  Mr Kipling realised this himself quite early, for he quite soon abandoned Simla.  There are some sixteen stories in Plain Tales from the Hills into which the Simla motive is threaded.  In the books immediately following, published in 1888 and 1889, Simla is not wholly abandoned, but the proportion of Simla stories is less. The Phantom Rickshaw (1889) is the last story which can fairly be brought within the list, and this story can only be included by straining its point to vanishing.  Of all the groups of stories in Plain Tales from the Hills the Simla group, though it was largest, promised least for the future.

III

THE SAHIB

There is another group of Indian tales, a group which deals with the governance of India—­with the men who are spent in the Imperial Service.  The peculiar charm and merit of these tales is best considered as a special case of Mr Kipling’s delight in the world’s work—­a subject which claims a chapter to itself.  But apart from this, Mr Kipling’s Anglo-Indian tales—­his presentation of the work of the Indian Empire, of the Anglo-Indian soldier and civilian—­have an unfortunate interest of their own.  They are mainly responsible for a misconception which has dogged Mr Kipling through all his career.  This misconception consists in regarding Mr Kipling as primarily an Imperialist pamphleteer with a brief for the Services and a contempt for the Progressive Parties.  It is an error which has acted mischievously upon all who share it—­upon

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Rudyard Kipling from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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