the British Empire
Methodological innovations in classes
on British foreign policy
by Igor Burnashov, the Kazak National University
British foreign policy is the major subject being taught for senior students of the International Relations Department of the Kazak National University in general and is also one of the most crucial components of British Studies in particular. The course on British foreign policy delivered by the author has two parts – British Imperialism, and The Period since 1918. In this article we shall speak about the new methods of learning for students used in the classes devoted specifically to the British Empire. |
The question of methodological innovations is a quite topical one because it is directly connected with the students' activity in seminars (in this case on the abovementioned subject). A teacher’s professional success is manifested in his/her activity in using non-traditional methods in the academic process. In this article I propose to analyse the essence of the British Empire via R. Kipling’s literary activity. Through thorough investigation of the most important of Kipling’s works students will acquire a more exact and complete comprehension of the British Empire. Students will also have the possibility of revealing their own independent analysis.
Kipling and Kipling studies (or Kiplingiana) are still too shameful a pleasure to be included in the English syllabus at most British universities. This was also so in the former USSR when the overwhelming majority of Kipling’s works were withdrawn from the libraries from the 1930s up to the mid-1970s. Only since 1990s there is a revival of interest in Kipling’s personality, and his creativity, in the post-Soviet territories, including Kazakstan.
The Author offers a multi-disciplinary approach and a complex analysis for revealing the theme of this article. The combination of both literary and historical methods (Kipling’s literary activity and the process of comprehending what the British Empire was) will provide the most effective learning by students about the nature of the British Empire. A comparative and historical analysis and synthesis will force students to think and speculate in an unusual way, and help avoid such things as trivial and simplified answers (like for example the statement that British imperialists 'only exploited and exterminated the natives somewhere in Africa or in Asia').
The complex approach towards Kipling is dictated by the political, societal, human, personal and contradictory qualities of this person. One of the main results of such an approach will become not the understanding of Kipling by students as the only “bard of imperialism” but as a personality who explored and showed the British Empire in all its manifestations. The author will prove the argument that R. Kipling himself, his family and the vast colonial territories of Britain abroad are not only designated by the single term ‘empire’ but they are also part and parcel of each other.
What kind of imperial heritage did R. Kipling leave after his death to humankind in the context of his literary activity? Did he deserve to be remembered by his descendants as a poet and playwright, contemporary and ideologue of the British Empire? What kind of lessons should the students of our department take into consideration as a result of indepth learning and analysis of R. Kipling’s works?
After his death R. Kipling left a very rich literary heritage, including some testaments. As for his literary will, he bequeathed to future generations the books written by him and this has vividly expressed in the verse The Appeal: “And for the little, little span / The dead are borne in mind, / Seek not to question other than / The books I leave behind.” (1)
R. Kipling in one of his most famous poems ’If—‘ calls for honesty despite the hardest circumstances: “I“If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. / Yours is the earth and every-thing that’s in it, / And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” (2) This poem is considered to represent the poet’s human will. ’If—‘ is the nation’s (English) favourite poem, the one most often displayed in people’s homes, framed and illuminated in fake medieval script, hanging on the wall as an exhortation to Moral Uplift. (3)
R. Kipling turned out to be very talented in the Jungle Books too. He had not been the first writer who was able to empathize (in this case it means to humanize) the animal world in these books but he was definitely the first one who created the empire of animated animalistics – in spite of tautology I would like to introduce for the first time this phrase here - in so picturesque and colourful tones. All the animals conduct themselves as people, have their own souls, and they have the same hierarchy of power as in human society. One may say it is a real projection from human society.
Those verses and ballads of R. Kipling with a political orientation are directly connected with the problem of the British Empire. For having more clarified this topic to students, the author put special questions that helped to direct them in necessary orientation. These questions were formulated in the following way: What are the main points of The White Man’s Burden and Recessional? Compare them. Is Recessional a punishment and simultaneously repentance of white people for their colonial burden? What is R. Kipling’s political testament: The White Man’s Burden, Recessional or other poems? Do the political views of RK (right wing conservative) make him orthodox and reactionary when he describes the British Empire in Recessional?
It is quite understandable that students’ response to these questions cannot be a simple and one-sided one. We can propose an answer like this: The White Man’s Burden is written by Kipling in a pro-imperialistic and pro-British manner, it glorifies the imperial greatness of England. Recessional, one can argue, is written in nationalistic and even jingoistic style, English superiority over oppressed nations and developed races (first of all Germans), though there is some kind of warning to great powers in relation to future colonialism. But such an scheme of answer ignores some substantial facts: first, the concrete political circum-stances in which both of them had been written; second, the hesitations of R. Kipling himself (it’s better to say fluctuations of his spiritual aura, inner self) while composing these pieces of writing.
The White Man’s Burden was written one year earlier (1898) than Recessional (1897). But it is more expedient to consider the conditions of creation of the first poem. Kipling had an American wife and lived for a time in Vermont, and the poem was specifically ad-dressed to the citizens of the United States, which was about to annex the Philippine Islands (4). In 1897 England had to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and Kipling was asked to write the poem on this occasion. He was under pressure from the Editor of The Times to dispatch an ode which the paper had commissioned him to write for this Jubilee. Carrie Kipling (wife of RK) wrote in her diaries just a week before Jubilee Day (which was June 22, 1897): “R (Rudyard. – I.B.) starts some verses on 'The White Man’s Burden'. Four days later her entry was: “More verses which do not come off” . (5).
There was therefore a distinct possibility that Kipling has intended to commemorate the Queen’s long reign with The White Man’s Burden, but that in writing the poem he was as-sailed with a writer’s block - the English Poet Laureate (Noble Prize for literature) Alfred Austin, whose official verses are still quoted for their unconscious humour. (6). Kipling might have been the Poet Laureate but he did not as a result of the preference given to Austin whose talent turned out to be much inferior (a fourth or even fifth class poet) to that of Kipling. We see hesitations of Kipling’s inner self because of these circumstances and this did not allow him to write the poem in time – by 1897.
The White Man’s Burden is dedicated first of all to the civilising mission of the British in their colonies. But before further continuation I would like to turn to the political philosophy of the British imperial elite. Its imperial outlook was founded on Social Darwinism. It envisaged a division of races into superior and inferior ones. In accordance with this theory, evolution was a struggle for survival in which only the fittest survived. Natural laws were brought into human society. The accent had been on national and racial struggle. British were superior people endowed by God and destiny (from here is the term Divine Providence) to rule over an ever-increasing proportion of the world’s surface for the good of its inhabitants. (7).
British constitutional practices – notably the exaltation of the “Westminster model”, British concepts of law and order, British standards of public and private deportment, all of these, and much more besides, made their mark – some of them long-lasting. British habits of eating, living, playing sport, pursuing culture, expressing sexual needs, raising and educating children, impacted in a variety of ways upon those who were under the British flag. Eventually, almost all the countries within the Empire were incorporated, at least to some extent, into a European-based – but in the first instance British-controlled – world order. At the same time deeply-rooted liberal and evangelical ideals produced a powerful sense of imperial mission and duty. The empire existed to civilise and uplift its subjects, or so its champions claimed. One of the first most clear-cut vision of the British imperial destiny had been given by John Ruskin in his 1870 inaugural lecture at Oxford: “There is a destiny now possible to us, the highest ever set before a nation to be accepted or refused. Will you youth of England make your country again a royal throne of kings, a sceptred isle, for all the world a source of light, a centre of peace and mistress of learning, and of the Arts, faithful guardian of time tried principles?”. (8).
The concept of “Anglo-Saxon manhood” had been very popular in the epoch of the British new imperialism (the notion appeared at the end of XIXth century and was based on the idea of developed nations’ superiority – in this case the English nation). It was an abstraction compounded in equal parts of patriotism, physical toughness, skill at team games, a sense of fair play (sometimes called ‘sportsmanship’), self-discipline, selflessness, bravery and daring.
Returning to The White Man’s Burden one can take into account the fact that this poem is devoted to substantiation of the British and American imperial duty and Divine Providence abroad. According to Kipling, “the whites’ burden” is the subjugation of inferior races for their own sake, not robbery and violence but constructive labour and purity of thought, not arrogant complacency but humility and toleration. In the poem these are the next lines: “Take up the White Man’s burden- / Send forth the best ye breed - / Go bind your sons to ex-ile / To serve your captives need; / To wait in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild- / Your new-caught, sullen peoples, / Half devil and half child”. (9). The White Man's Burden depicts the advantages of the British Empire and the positive side of imperialism. By writing phrases like “fill full the mouth of famine” and asking to “serve [their] captives’ need(s)”, Kipling points out the responsibility of England towards its colonies. At the same time this poem brought upon Kipling the title of a racist. But because in this verse he repeatedly emphasizes the injustice in rightfully regarding one superior to another on the basis of race or origin, he is far from having the qualities of a racist. Kipling’s belief that England needs to keep on supporting and providing for the colonies, arises from his belief that providing independence to colonies at this point of time would lead to their ruin. Kipling also depicts the need for sending forth the best of men to serve the needs of England. And not only to serve but, if necessary, to die for the British Empire, to become a Christian hero and Christian gentleman:“The ports ye shall not enter, / The roads ye shall not tread, / Go make them with your living, / And mark them with your dead”. (10).
(In this respect one of the most victimised imperial heroes is considered to be General Gordon who – there are contradictory versions of his death – had stood, aloof, unarmed and in full dress on the steps of the Khartoum residency, then turning disdainfully away from the Mahdists, he had been speared and killed. This exaggerated version of Gordon’s death was the only fitting end for a Christian hero. So emerged the familiar icon of Gordon facing his enemies and making the ultimate self-sacrifice for the cause of civilisation. (11)) Thus though imperialistic, this poem of Kipling's emphasizes not race, but the obligation of Europeans and Americans to the oppressed people of the world.
In summarising the material on The White Man’s Burden the author would like to emphasize that Kipling’s imperialism and colonialism in this poem should not be considered as only anti-human. Kipling here shows imperialism in all its contradictoriness and appears before us as “the responsible imperialist”. What is more important Kipling had definitely been the Apostle of Empire, he lived in imperial times and breathed with an imperial air and smell; but simultaneously he is the enthusiastic imperialist and the educator. We can also affirm that any of the imperialists’ kind of misdeeds and wrongdoings (like tortures of the locals, and more) is their punishment and at the same time their creative labour in the name of the Empire and the possible death in remote countries is their repentance and vindication. These tendencies are inextricably intertwined and go in parallel in this poem. The European usurpers considered themselves to be superior to the indigenous people, to be sure, but they did not alter the identity of the peoples they encountered, they wanted to possess riches, not souls. Once again, Kipling is one of a few who was able to analyse this process and who was part of it, and in this is his great enigma and genius. The White Man’s Burden is not a political testament of Kipling; this turned out to be Recessional and the rea\sons for that are the essence of the next fable. Lines in this passage are author’s thinking and I don’t insist that students speculate the same way. This is wrong. I only call for the students to analyse in their own way, but to give unbiased analysis. Lines of this passage will help, I hope, to orient students' thoughts in a direction they suppose to be the most suitable for their response.
It's high time to say that Recessional as well as The White Man’s Burden had a direct relation to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, to be held on June 22, 1897. Recessional was planned as an ode, commissioned from Kipling by M. Bell - the then Editor of 'The Times'. As it has been pointed out earlier A. Austin - whom Kipling (RK) disliked – became the reason why RK ceased to write this poem. The rumour that Queen Victoria blocked Kipling’s candidature for being Poet Laureate because she was offended by his ballad The Widow at Windsor is tosh, based on a bogus letter. The poem did not appear in the dull and foggy day of the Jubilee but it appeared under the name “After” on July 16, 1897, then, because of making some corrections under the influence of his aunt Lady Burne-Jones and Sally Norton, daughter of Ch. Norton, a Harvard professor, “After” changed its title to "Recessional" and was published on July 17 on the middle page of The Times, and with an orotund paragraph of approval in the leading article. (12).
Recessional serves as a warning against England’s precarious position in trade and against any complacency setting in within the British Empire. Kipling warns about England’s "Dominion" where Australia and Canada act as its poles. This poem is a sort of appeal to the English (and to other colonial powers too!) to be very cautious about any imperial triumphalism because “drunk with sight of power” they may loose: “Far-called, our navies melt away” and “all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”. (13). But the most controversial lines are these: “Such boastings as the gentiles use, / Or lesser breeds without the Law”. Because of this, critics have termed Kipling as jingoist, snob and racist. Apologists say that one should concentrate on the last three words. There is room for all within the law, which sees no breed which it has accepted as greater or lesser than another.
R. Kipling can really be called a jingoist according to the quoted lines of Recessional but at the same time there were concrete circumstances that became the reason for the appearance of such lines. On the one hand, Kipling is politically incorrect and offensive in his references to "Gentiles", “Huns”, “lesser breeds” and "heathen hearts", but, on the other hand, he was incapable of degenerating into an imperial racist. Kipling himself had Jewish roots but it did not stop him from criticising some activities connected with 'international Jewry'. He supported the point of view that Russian revolution of 1917 had been the result of “the international Jewish plot”. Kipling together with his friend the writer Rider Haggard made donations to the short-lived Liberty League that promised to combat the “Jewish plot”, Bolshevism, and trade unions within the British Empire. Moreover, in 1919 he backed the publication in the UK of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (a paper in which all the world's ills were ascribed to the Jews) that corresponded entirely to his views. Thus we can conclude that such attitudes by Kipling towards the Jews had been directly connected with the concentration of power at that specific time in the hands of the Jewish industrial and financial elite.
The RK’s anti-Teutonic expressions are explained by the fact that at the end of the XIX and beginning of XX centuries Germany was the main opponent of the UK in the international arena. Not long before the commencement of the British-Boer war (1899-1902) the Germans displayed their pro-Boer sympathies, because Germany had been the main colonial opponent of Britain in the region of South Africa (German South-West Africa was situated very near to Natal, Transvaal, Orange Free State and the Cape Colony – the territories which appeared to be the object of rivalry between Boers and British). There were also created two opposing military blocks: at the end of the XIXth century Germany became the leading member of the 'Triple Alliance' while at the beginning of the XXth century Britain became the leading partner in the 'Entente Cordiale'. If we read attentively everything RK wrote on the subject of World War I, we will find much of his writings, as H. Brogan – British professor - points out, “moving and compassionate” and Kipling a “storyteller, historian and journalist, who usually kept his head, and still has much to teach us”. (14).
The right wing conservative views of RK did not prevent him from giving an objective and subjective, in his own interpretation, picture of the Empire. Kipling had been a traditionalist and chauvinist while calling for war with Germany and the ‘Huns’ (as in 'For What We Have and Are') but this can be understood and justified in the context of the then hostile relations between Britain and Germany. But Kipling, this ‘insufferable Tory’, wrote Kim and The Jungle Books, his masterpieces, and this is enough to show that his human values dominated over his possible orthodoxy.
There is one more possible explanation of the “lesser breeds” line in Recessional. Staying in the US in 1896 with his family, R. Kipling became involved in a trial process, that had to go through several stages, against his brother-in-law Beatty Balestier, because of house problems in Vermont. The legal process was expected to be finished soon, but not in favour of R. Kipling. The family left the US for the UK. Such a catastrophe must have severely shaken him and it was his personal devastation. M. Newsom, the Honorary Librarian of the Kipling Society in 1976-90, considers that the line “lesser breeds without the law” which “has so contributed to his (Kipling's...) reputation for jingoism and racism, refers to those unkind wreckers of domestic life in Vermont: it was racist of him perhaps but understandable”. (15).
Recessional marked the turn of the high tide of Empire. Students have to understand that this contradictory piece of writing became a political hymn together with another poem by Kipling of the same content – Hymn Before Action – that preceded the appearance of Recessional. It also encapsulated paradoxes of Kipling’s reputation: before Recessional he was a popular writer. But after it he became a controversial celebrity, the poet of Empire, accused of jingoism.
Namely Recessional is the political testament of R. Kipling not The White Man's Burden in accordance with the abovementioned arguments. This fact is confirmed by the performance of Recessional at R. Kipling’s funeral as the recognised, if unofficial, national bard.
Continuing the methodological innovation line designated earlier one may underscore that we can put questions for students like this. How did the idea and practice of gentleman evolve in those of R. Kipling’s poems dedicated to the British Empire? Is he a die-hard ‘singer of imperialism’? How might Kipling reconcile the images and love of the British soldier and Burmese girl in his Mandalay – representatives of superior and inferior races? How could you explain that Kipling so severely believed in British imperialism and its civilising mission with the fact he himself was born in India?
It is necessary to clarify the point that the idea and behaviour of the English gentleman represent the idea of the civilising mission. The gentleman is defined in terms of the manners, culture, virtue and aloofness of an old aristocracy; but defined independently of lineage and wealth. You can become a gentleman, therefore, without becoming an upstart. It was a bourgeois man with aristocratic manners, a tolerant elitist, who appealed to snobbery and liberalism in equal measure. The greatest attraction of the English gentleman was the fact that he was made, not born. This system produced masters instead of slaves. The gentleman was typically identified by his moral values: integrity, honesty, generosity, courage, graciousness, politeness, consideration for others.
The only nation to have produced a national elite as powerful as the Romans was England. It was not a matter of aristocracy or medieval knights. No, England had created the gentleman. The English gentleman was one of the greatest creations of Western civilization.
The Christian gentleman phenomenon was one of the basic components of Victorian values – a set of moral rules and regulations which existed during the reign of the longest-ruling of British monarchs, Queen Victoria (1837- 1901) - and had been principally expressed on behalf of the middle class of England that was created in these very times. The idea and practice of the Christian gentleman evolved significantly in Kipling’s works. We can see that in Kipling’s world are depicted not only the people who wanted to enrich themselves as a result of British imperial conquests but also those of them who created the Empire and worked together with the natives side by side. His gentlemen are not only the representatives of the military and imperial elite – generals and governor-generals - but also the persons of non-aristocratic descent - the managers, the colonial administrators, the engineers, the skilled workers, the soldiers. Kipling's gentleman “has come down in the world” that was “harsher, more meagre, with few graces and limitations” (16) than the habitual one of Victorian times. We can even suppose that the best representatives of, for example, the Indian elite, having had a British education and upbringing, became Christian gentlemen. (One can remember the Rhodes scholarships that gave the possibility to settlers of the former British colonies to be educated in Oxford University).
It is necessary to stress that Kipling himself had been a real Anglo-Indian (as the Indian born Englishmen were called). He was born in India, for some years was brought up in England and in different periods of his life he lived and worked in such countries of the British Empire as once again India, the state of Vermont (USA), South Africa, and only since 1902 had he settled with his family in Sussex (England). (One might ask a debatable question: was Kipling an Indian-Christian gentleman?). In December 1902 in a letter to his friend R. Haggard Kipling called England “the most marvellous foreign country” where he “had ever been”. At the same time he loved not simply India but namely British India, British administration in this country and on the whole the British Empire. From here springs his deepest patriotism and disrespect towards other empires, nations and races (the German Empire and Germans first of all). Kipling looked at India through the eyes of the European person who knew it better than England. His relations with this country are organic ones. Kipling felt comfortable in India or elsewhere abroad, but not so much in England where felt moral and physical discomfort.
Kipling’s Anglo-Indianness is the reason for his double nature towards British imperialism. On the one hand he is the “singer of imperialism”, but not a deep-rooted one, its main agitator and propagandist; and on the other he makes a scrupulous analysis of this contradictory phenomenon with a bright skill and manner. RK’s Anglo-Indianness saved him from being a die-hard imperialist.
Kipling knew very well the different groups of Indian population, their belonging to this or that caste, family, kind of religion and national group, their occupation, and living in various parts of India. For him the Indians turned to be not the faceless locals and natives but equal partners, with their rich traditions, culture and statehood that were not inferior then their British counterpart. Moreover, Kipling introduced for the first time in his short stories a new kind of nation for the English reader – the Indians.
Some of Kipling’s verses are dedicated to boasting of the British Empire – like The Widow at Windsor. But more important is Kipling’s thorough analysis of the rank-and-file builders of the Empire and those natives (like Indians, for instance) with whom they interact. Even in The Widow at Windsor Queen Victoria is showed through the panorama of the British people who created the Empire and glorified it in the name of the Queen: “(Ow, poor beggars in red!…/ (Poor beggars – barbarious wars!)…/ Poor beggars! Victorious sons!)”. (18).
Kipling's dual relation towards the Empire is manifested quite clearly with respect to the Boer War. He supported it, but not unconditionally. He wrote two short stories dedicated to this war – 'The Captive' and 'The Way that he Took' - where the element of military propaganda is too strong, but at the same time he criticised here the helplessness of the UK government in this war and unskilfulness of the British commanders who became the basic reason for the British army’s defeats in its skirmishes with the Boers. Kipling condemned the results of this war and recognised it as a defeat for the UK in his famous poem The Lesson: “It was our fault, and our very great fault - and now we must turn it to use. / We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse. / So the more we work and the less we talk the better results we shall get - / We have had an Imperial lesson; it may make us an Empire yet!”. (19). In The Settler there is the very optimistic reconciliatory end: “Here, where my fresh-turned furrows run, / And the deep soil glistens red, / I will repair the wrong that was done / To the living and the dead.”.
During the Boer war all imperialistic Britain awaited from Kipling some kind of remarkable and jingoistic piece of writing dedicated to the glorification of the British role in this war. Instead of this he created a masterpiece - Kim (1902) – the most important novel that immortalised his name. The main character of this novel is an Anglo-Indian spy. But Kim did not become a political work of Kipling. According to the assessment of modern Indian literary critics, Kim is the best novel about India written by the European writer. Kim is “the undeniable masterpiece the Empire produced” and it expressed “the immemorial feel of India”. (20)
In his works dedicated to the Empire Kipling could not but talk of his relation to England. Once Chesterton said that Kipling did not belong to England. Many things he devoted to Eng-land are in this or that way connected with the military, national and imperial themes. Kipling supported World War I and his patriotism was articulated in For All We Have and Are. He warns ‘to stand up…The Hun is at the gate!’ and England ought to do its best to preserve a freedom: ‘What stands if Freedom fall? / Who dies if England live?’. (21)
The mother of RK, Alice Kipling, said one day to her son: ‘And what should they know of England who only England know?’. He answered with The English Flag – a pompous, declara-tive and imperial poem. British power was going to be spread all over the world. The same idea of expansive nationalism is represented in The Native Born. Despite being jingoistic, the grandeur of these two poems, written at the same time, is justified, from the modern point of view, in the fact of globalisation. Kipling’s call for the Anglicisation of many overseas territories had been fully performed in the XXth century when the English language became, like the Latin language, the ‘lingua franca’ of our time. That is as much an accident of the economic power of the United States as it is a legacy of the Empire. Anglo-Saxon globalism dominates today. (Kipling’s globalism was also expressed in the way that he for the first time in world literature introduced in his creativity the empire of engines and cars). And it is an eternal monument to Englishness, English language and English identity.
Four famous lines from Kipling’s poem The Return are coined as a refrain of his relation to England: ‘If England was what England seems, / An’ not the England of our dreams, / But only putty, brass an’ paint, / ’Ow quick we’d drop ’er! But she ain’t!’. (22)
Did Kipling have a basis for not loving England? Yes, probably. Namely, in England in his early childhood, he with his sister Trix lived in the ‘House of Desolation’ where little Rudyard was severely beaten by the hostess of this house and her son. He had been on the verge of breakdown and loss of sight. At the same time it was a kind of rigorous school of life school that taught the young boy to tolerate adversities staunchly and temper his moral will.
Continuing the military fable, we can stress that Kipling had a personal tragedy in the First World War. He lost his only son John, who died at 18 at the Battle of Loos (France), but his body was never returned to his parents and they were never able to lay him to rest. Kipling made some trips to France as a Commissioner for the Imperial War Graves Commission – a job he did in tribute to his son John. (23) His parents devoted their lives to finding him and even arranged drops over German lines, interviewed eyewitnesses and made appeals for anyone to come forward. It was all unsuccessful. Kipling’s grief led him to write The Irish Guards in the Great War and The Gardener.
The Ballad of East and West expresses his philosophical comprehension of the meaning of the East, his attempt to have a vision of life through Indian eyes. If, to be more exact, the four initial lines of this ballad are specifically marked out by the author in italics, it is Kipling’s attempt to speculate about the two systems of values – oriental and occidental. These lines are as follows: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, / Till Earth and Sky presently at God’s great Judgement Seat; / But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, / When two strong stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!”. (24) There is an opinion that the poet here opposes east to west but it is wrong because in reality the ballad itself is devoted to the nobleness of human deeds – a basic moral value which was able to unite people despite their national, religious and class differences. The main heroes of the ballad are the two guys - white and coloured - who at first fought with each other and then reconciled themselves through the depth of their souls. Students need to understand that Kipling’s creativity had not been narrow-minded, it was a comprehensive and a complex one.
It is not inherent for Kipling to have a demonstrative confrontation of “whites” to “blacks” and “coloured” in his creativity. Vice versa, as in case with Kim Kipling wants to understand (or more correct - to investigate) and to do justice to the colonial world, that arouses his interest and respect. In Fuzzy-Wuzzy (it was a name given by the British soldiers to the Sudanese) the author with admiration describes the audacity of Britain's enemies: “So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Fuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan; / You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man /…An’ ’ere’s to you. Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air- / You big black boundin’ beggar – for you broke a British square!”. (25) The same refrain is expressed in Mandalay the poem where the moving love of the Burmese girl and British soldier is described in a picturesque way. The fact that the Burmese girl represented the inferior and the British soldier superior races is secondary, because Kipling makes here a stress on human but not imperial relations.
Of course one cannot idealise Kipling in describing the people of the third world. He had been the personality of the Victorian times when at the end of XIX-beginning of XXth century there was the zenith of British Empire and a pro-imperial mood and ideology dominated in this country. Kipling’s creative inner self was torn between his upbringing and education in accordance with allegiance to the British Empirel, part and parcel of which he turned out to be, and his passionate desire for giving an objective picture showing the harsh reality of the biggest of the European empires.
One of the verges of Kipling’s consummate mastery is his endeavour to show the life of ordinary British soldiers, full of hardships and deprivations while they conquered the utmost overseas territories. We can mention the whole cycle of his Barrack-Room Ballads and among them to note the most lyrical ones like 'Boots', 'Danny Deever', 'Tommy', 'Birds of Prey March', 'Mandalay', 'Cholera Camp' and of course 'Parade-Song of the Camp-Animals'. Namely the last one is, as it was mentioned above, the empathic example where Kipling humanised the animals by means of militarisation of their souls.
One of the most important aspects of Kipling’s British Empire themes is expressed in 'Stalky & Co.', the collection of tales about schoolboys' life in English public schools. In these short stories Kipling creates a myth about boyhood, empire and public schools. The theme of 'Stalky & Co.' is to do with “imperial manliness” that produced public schools where the schoolboys were prepared as future administrators of the Empire. He also analyses the public school cult of athleticism. By 1899 when the abovementioned stories appeared Kipling had long been bothered about the fate of the British Empire. One of the most vivid examples of the crisis had become the Boer War and such a situation only reinforced Kipling's anxieties. The way out of this situation, according to Kipling, should come from ‘education’. He “believed strongly in the role of the public school in producing men to lead the Empire, both as soldiers and administrators”. (26)
In public schools the boys learned the grammar of the Latin and ancient Greek languages - the languages of the Greek and Roman Empires. It is quite understandable that religion occupied a dignified place in the process of teaching. As a result of such complex teaching the school leavers were Christian products brought up in a 'spirit of strength' cult with a social Darwinian instinct for survival and a readiness to perform the imperial mission somewhere abroad. The composition of 'Stalky & Co.' by Kipling expressed reality in view of the personal experiences of the writer – his learning in the school at Westward Ho! where he was given the lessons of life.
Kipling had not been fatalistic in terms of the further fortune of the Empire. At the beginning of 1920s there appeared apparent signs of the possible collapse of the European empires. In 1922 R. Haggard, the friend and companion-in-arms of Kipling, wrote in his diary that RK in changeable conditions envisaged writing a play 'The Fall of the British Empire'. Kipling had never composed this play because such kind of a sub-genre was not a prerogative of his talent, and probably it was beyond his mind to fulfil this task.
Kipling, besides the death of his son, had another family tragedy. His favourite daughter Josephine had been quite a talented girl: she illustrated father’s tales with her magnificent drawings and suddenly she died of disease. It was a great shock for the Kipling family. RK himself was born in the ‘jewel of the British Crown’ – India. All the family life of the Kiplings was connected with the Empire. His wife was a native-born American. The children of RK were born in the USA – a former part of the British Empire. His literary career had also been mostly tied up with the Empire which he explained in an original and individualistic way. Kipling’s best works had been written in India and America. He belonged not only to his family but to the Empire too. The British army, glorified by RK, conquered overseas lands for the sake of the Empire. The British imperial elite tried to use Kipling’s talent in its own purposes. The Royal family, especially Queen Victoria, Empress of India, was honoured by the special attention and subtlety of the poet. Thus we can conclude that RK himself, his clan, his literary career, the British society that surrounded him, and the British Empire are some kind of imperial corporation whose components are closely intertwined and mutually dependent. In this system Kipling became, on the one hand, a national and worldwide laureate, Nobel Prize winner for literature (he is still the youngest laureate: in 1907 he was only 42 years old); on the other hand, this system created him, glorified him and then buried him. (Once again, this is the author’s opinion, students have freedom of choice, whether to accept or reject it or to give their own original conclusions).
On January 23 1936 R. Kipling was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. England buried its greatest poet since the time when in 1674 J. Milton was buried there. But no man of letters attended Kipling’s funeral. England did not appreciate Kipling in a proper way when he was alive. The American poet T S Eliot assessed Kipling’s creativity in the following way: ‘Mr Kipling is a laureate without laurels. He is a neglected celebrity’. But it is a paradox of RK’s destiny that namely the same poet reestablished his good name some years later for the first time in the English-speaking world. The Empire buried its son and then reproduced the genius (owing to Eliot and others).
It is not necessary to make a cultural icon of R. Kipling, an icon similar to Lady Di. Kipling - or to be more exact his creativity - belongs to humankind. This is an indisputable fact. Today, at the beginning of XXI century, his empire is his numerous readers of all ages. Kipling’s epitaph on the Cenotaph (a stone monument in the middle of Whitehall, London, built in memory of the members of the armed forces who died in the World Wars) – “Their name liveth for evermore” is an eternal memory to Kipling himself.
The Argentinean writer Borges stated that Kipling’s nickname ‘singer of imperialism’ was a political label and that it was wrong and primitive because he wrote 35 various volumes going much beyond the description of only imperialism. Quite justifiably the English writer and journalist P. Johnson recognised that there are ‘four transcendental geniuses of the English canon – Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens and Kipling’. (27) At the same time Kipling had been a ‘singer of imperialism’ but of imperialism he understood in his own way. He contributed a very profound and innermost sense in this societal phe-nomenon that organically contributed east and west – first of all Britain and India. Students should neither be apologists nor opponents of Rudyard Kipling. They have to be attentive readers and inquisitive explorers of his creativity taking into account the political reality of his epoch in which he lived and created his works. And only then to make their own conclusions and generalisations.
This article is intended not only to present the author’s methodological innovations while teaching the 'British Foreign Policy' course, but also to arouse the real interest of all those readers who want to know Kipling himself and his own creativity. His creativity deserves to be investigated more and more. He and his works are still terra incognita for students, teachers and for many people living in the post-Soviet states. In England there is posthumously the so-called ‘definitive’ 1940 edition of RK’s works. But some explorers state that in this country there is no full, scientific and documented collection of Kipling volumes. Such kind of a situation (and even if it is not so!) means that Kipling’s creativity is still awaiting a thorough and scrupulous assessment.