[January 30 2007]
Published in America and Britain in 1893, the collection includes stories whose original publication dates from February 1890 through the date of the collection’s American publication, May 1893. It was thus Kipling’s first collection of stories all of which had been written after his departure from India in March 1889. Eight were written in England before his marriage and six in the United States, after he and Caroline Balestier had married and settled in Vermont.
In retrospect, one can see that the collection looks forward and back. “In the Rukh” is the first story about Mowgli, and it has a form similar to that of “The Bridge Builders” and “The Tomb of His Ancestors” in The Day’s Work; “A Conference of the Powers” introduces 'The Infant', who reappears in “Slaves of the Lamp, II” and other 'Stalky' stories; “‘Brugglesmith’” introduces McPhee who (we will learn in “‘Bread upon the Waters’” in The Day’s Work), is married to a woman “who succeeded Dinah in my heart; for Dinah was half a world away,” and “Judson and the Empire” is the first Royal Navy story. Looking back, “My Lord the Elephant,” “His Private Honour” and “‘Love o’ Women’” are all Soldiers Three stories; indeed, “‘Love o’ Women’”, which strives for the kind of feeling at which “The Courtship of Dinah Shadd” aimed, is the last of them. Arguably, too, “A Matter of Fact” might have appeared in Abaft the Funnel, while “The Lost Legion” would have fit snugly into The Phantom ’Rickshaw and Other Eerie Tales, and “One View of the Question” as seamlessly into In Black and White.
Firmly set in the London Kipling knew from his Villiers Street lodgings are “The Finest Story in the World” and “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot”, though the latter is an exploration not pursued of the fictional potential of the British urban poor, in a line of fascinating storytellers, that began with “My friend Gabral Misquitta” and was to continue through the priest who tells the story of “The Miracle of St. Jubanus” (to “Monsieur”, who is clearly “I”).
Thus, the many inventions in the collection include the last from Kipling’s old world and look forward to the Jungle Books, the sea stories, and the boys and old boys of the United Services College. In the story placed last, the allegorical “The Children of the Zodiac”, Kipling portrays the singer, Leo, as one whose songs help people face death bravely. The three songs Leo makes are the song of the Girl, the song of the Bull, and the song of the Twins. The first fills men with pride because of the happiness available to them through romantic love. The second makes men take pride in good work, and the third makes women take pride in the achievement of children and a loving home. For the rest of his life, Kipling wrote stories about the joys and perils of romantic love, about valued work, and about the education of children.
The stories appear in volumes II, III, IV, V, and VIII in the Scribner’s Outward Bound edition and in volume V of the Sussex and Burwash editions.
©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved