[March 25th 2009]
The twelve stories, published in 1898 as a collection entitled The Day’s Work, were written very largely in Vermont, between 1893 and 1896. No fewer than four appeared in various magazines in December 1895 – that Christmas, it would seem that no matter which magazine you bought to while away a train journey, you were bound to get a story by Kipling. They are set variously in India, America, England, and at sea.
The title was taken from an inscription carved by John Lockwood Kipling over the library fireplace at ‘The Naulakha’, Kipling’s home near Brattleborough, Vt.
If there is one theme, it is that of Duty, in the widest sense of the word. Findlayson, in ‘The Bridge Builders’, follows the duty of his profession, as does Mr. Wardrop in ‘The Devil and the Deep Sea’; equally, John Chinn follows the duty imposed by his family in his responsibility for the Satpura Bhils; and so on.
Four of them are anthropomorphic, and have been castigated by some critics, who seem to dislike anthropomorphism on principle. Which is fair enough, but, it may be suggested that most of us have given a name to the family car, and attributed various human virtues and vices to it; and similarly with our domestic pets or other animals. So the great bulk of Kipling’s readers seem to have no problem with these tales, all of which illustrate some moral, without ramming it down the reader’s throat.
The stories are also collected in Volumes XIII and XIV of Scribner's Outward Bound Edition, and volume VI of the Sussex and Burwash Editions.
©Alastair Wilson 2009 All rights reserved