[April 9th 2020]
This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette on 9 October 1886, with the signature 'K.' and the heading from the Pioneer of 25 September:
Is it or is it not true that the hon’ble Mr. H.E.Sullivan has violated the covenant of his order? His honour has been called in question. Yet he moves not.It was reprinted in the Pioneer on 11 October 1886. The Pioneer was the senior sister paper to the Civil and Military Gazette, and Kipling was transferred to work for it full-time in 1887. The poem is included in Scrapbook 3 of Kipling’s own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections.
It was not otherwise collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 338) and Pinney (p. 1825).
The poem is a cutting frontal attack on the integrity of one of the most senior Government officials in southern India, Mr H E Sullivan, accusing him of mismanagement and corruption. He has been asked by a court to explain his behaviour. He must do so. It was a powerful expression of Kay Robinson's campaign to raise the profile of the CMG. See also "A Logical Extension".
Although Kipling did not include the poem in any of his collections, he liked it enough to use it as the basis for the beginning of "Cleared", published in 1890 and collected in Barrack Room Ballads. The first line of that only differs by one word, and the parallels continue to the end of the second verse:
Help for a patriot distressed, a spotless spirit hurt,
Rutherford (pp. 331 and 338) gives the background to the affair from the files of the CMG and Pioneer:
Through the summer of 1886 the Pioneer ran a series of articles on what it described as "The Madras Scandals". These centred on the charge that Mr H.E. Sullivan, the Senior Member of Council in Madras, had been guilty of serious malpractice, and that Mr Crole, the Collector of Madura (now Madurai), had been victimised because of his attempt to draw attention to the case.
See also "The Vindication of Grant Duff".
Despite Kipling's later tales of devoted and effective young administrators working in their districts in punishing conditions, David Gilmour (p. 76) stresses that at this time his attitude to the Indian Civil Service was far from deferential.
Some of his fictitious officers were admirable, but others were pedantic bureaucrats, impractical theorists ('over-engined for the beam') or social hazards ('like unto a blandishing gorilla'). In his newspaper articles he denounced officers who appeared to have fallen below the Service's high ethical standards through involvement in business transactions.The little CMG had, at its service, an increasingly powerful and confident voice.
©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved