Rudyard Kipling died in January 1936, one of the most celebrated figures in English literature of his age. His wife, Carrie, died in 1939, leaving his daughter Elsie (Mrs George Bambridge) as the sole remaining member of his immediate family. A number of authors were approached by (or, possibly, themselves approached) Mrs. Bambridge with a view to writing an authorised biography of Kipling in the years immediately before, or during, the war. These included Hector Bolitho, a prolific author and biographer) and Captain Taprell Dorling, RN, another well-known author, though not a biographer. Eric Linklater, another prolific writer, had considered the project, but had been unable to come to terms with Mrs. Bambridge. [See the introduction by Robin Birkenhead to his father's Kipling biography; Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1978]
Towards the end of World War II, Lord Birkenhead met, fortuitously, Captain George Bambridge, and this led him to undertake the writing of the first authorised biography of Kipling. Mrs. Bambridge, though initially helpful and co-operative, retained a very complete control over the content of the book, which was completed in 1948. The first draft was sent to her, and to Birkenhead’s surprise and consternation, she refused point-blank to permit its publication. The various reasons she gave were not always consistent, and after some negotiation, the book was abandoned – for the time being. It was subsequently published in 1978 after the death of both Mrs. Bambridge and the author. While researching this bibliography, Lord Birkenhead was given access to the diaries which Carrie Kipling had kept from January 1892, just before her marriage, to Kipling’s death in 1936. His associate, Douglas Rees, was given permission to make extracts from the diaries. These are now held among the Kipling papers in the Special Collections in the University of Sussex. Through the good offices of Professor Thomas Pinney, and with the agreement of the literary executors of the late Lord Birkenhead, we are now (August 2015) able to reproduce the text of these 'Rees Extracts', with explanatory notes, on this site.
After Lord Birkenhead's project had been shelved, Professor Charles Carrington undertook the unfulfilled task in the early 1950s, and was, in effect, starting from scratch. He was given access to all Kipling’s papers, then in Mrs. Bambridge’s hands at Wimpole Hall near Cambridge, including the Carrie Kipling diaries. Carrington was not allowed to make copies of the diaries, but he was permitted to make extracts. These in turn were copied, four copies being made, of which the Kipling Society has two. Subsequently, Mrs. Bambridge destroyed the diaries, so the Extracts made by Rees and Carrington are of great value.
On the flysheet of the Extracts there is a manuscript note which Carrington used as a receipt from the Kipling Society. It will be seen that he stipulated that the Extracts should not be copied other than with the permission of Kipling’s Literary Executors and himself. These consents we have now obtained: from A P Watt at United Agents, who act for the National Trust to whom the rights in Kipling’s works were bequeathed; and from J B W Thomas, Esq., the husband of Professor Carrington’s niece, who is now the copyright holder of Professor Carrington’s work. The National Trust has stipulated that Mrs Kipling’s words must be on a site that is password-protected, and only accessible to members of the Kipling Society; also that they must be incapable of being copied and reproduced elsewhere. Since Carrington’s words are indivisible from Mrs. Kipling’s it follows that the National Trust’s conditions must apply to the whole of the ‘Extracts’. That is why the Extracts appear in their present format, and why they are not included among the ‘General articles" in this New Reader’s Guide.
In the text of the Extracts that follows, the bulk of the text is in black, and represents Carrington’s précis of Carrie Kipling’s diaries. Entries in bold blue are in Mrs Kipling's own words (occasional interpolations by Kipling himself are in bold black). Carrington also added explanatory comments: these were either typed, and appear in round brackets ( ), or had been written by hand on the typed copy of the Extracts, and are now also typed and in square brackets [ ].
The ‘Rees’ entries (starting from 1914) are identified by having the date in red (and with the month before the date – as it is written in the ‘Extracts’ themselves). Carrington specifically identified some of his entries as being direct copies of Carrie’s text. Rees makes no such identification.
We have not edited either of the ‘Extracts’, with the result that there is a fair amount of repetition. But we believe it would be wrong to do any such editing, which would leave an incorrect impression of what each compiler actually thought worth-while recording from Carrie’s diaries. Additionally, where the repetition is in identical words, it suggests that the words may have been Carrie’s actual text, even if not so identified by Carrington. We are including the Rees version alongside the Carrington in succeeding years from 1914, and will go back and insert it from 1892 to 1913 when we have completed up to 1936.
The text in italics is our explanation, interpretation, or amplification of the entries: since some are now more than a century old, many of the names and events may be unfamiliar to modern readers.
Individual articles, tales and poems by Kipling appear between inverted commas, in the same font as the text surrounding their title, eg, “An Error in the Fourth Dimension”. The titles of books and collections appear as they were published, in a different font from the surrounding text, eg, The Day’s Work.
For the American years, 1892-96, the Memoir from Mary Cabot, a close friend of the Kiplings, are invaluable for putting flesh on the bones of the Extracts. We have cited a reference where we think it is particularly appropriate, but have not quoted to any great extent.
We have noted, from time to time, that the ‘Extracts’ as reproduced here are slightly at variance with what other biographers have written – and that includes Carrington himself , who compiled these extracts. As an example, the ‘Extracts’ for 1897 record Kipling lunching with J M Barrie (later the author of Peter Pan) on 26 May. Later, in October that year, Carrington records (p. 269) that: “‘Uncle Ned’ [Burne-Jones] came down to ‘North End House’ . . . . bringing with him ‘Crom’ Price and a friend J M Barrie with whom Rudyard went for mighty walks across the Downs.” As written, the clear implication, to this editor at least, is that Kipling and Barrie had not previously met, which we (and Carrington) know is not so. We make this observation, not because it is significant (it is not), but merely to remind sharp-eyed readers with retentive memories that ‘Homer sometimes nods’.
See also "Kipling's Biographers" by Lisa Lewis.
©Alastair Wilson 2015 All rights reserved