Further Information

1886


(notes by Philip Holberton, drawing on the research of
Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


the poem


[April 7th 2020]

Source

This poem was published in the Civil and Military Gazette (CMG) on 29th September 1886, with the signature 'K' and the heading:
Lord Dufferin’s Staff don’t kiss' Pioneer Sept 23.
A copy seems to have been printed specially for Lord Dufferin himself (Stewart & Yeats pp.27-8, 451). Pinney notes (p. 2256) that it is not in Kipling's scrapbooks of cuttings apart from the signature 'K' and is atttributed on internal evidence only.

It was not otherwise collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 334) and Pinney (p. 1821).

The poem

Lord Dufferin's staff are an ascetic studious body of men. They don't dance, drink, or dine. They avoid balls and race courses, and all things frivolous. They are solemn, serious, prudish, and passionless.

Background

As Kipling and his readers knew full well, nothing could have been further from the truth.

However, the Pioneer of 23 September 1886 carried an anecdote about Lady Dufferin’s fancy dress ball for children at Simla:
'A diminutive Miss approaches an equally diminutive Master and enquires what he is: "I’m a Government House Aide-de-Camp", answers the well-taught pigmy. "Oh den I must tiss you", rejoins the lady. Autres temps, autres moeurs— the little maid must have lived before her time. Lord Dufferin’s staff don’t kiss.'
Rutherford notes that Lord Dufferin’s staff, headed by the Military Secretary, the dashing Lord William Leslie de la Poer Beresford, VC, (left) played a central part in the social life of Simla; and when an amateur poet wrote in the CMG of 6 October in defence of the asceticism attributed to them in this poem, the paper suggested;
... these very correct views …. ought to relieve the mind of those readers—if there were any such—who were harassed by a suspicion of irony in 'K’s' effusion.



Notes on the Text


Simkin champagne.

aid-de-cong pronunciation of Aide-de-Camp.

Munshi Indian teacher of languages.

gain and kaf Two letters representing Urdu phonemes difficult for Europeans to master.

P–l–ti’s Peliti’s, the famous cafe and confectioner’s at Simla.

the Annandale course The racecourse near Simla. Lord William Beresford was one of the best-known riders in India.

the legs of a horse cf Ps.147.10:
He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.


[P.H.]

©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved