In Reply to the Amateur

by Rudyard Kipling

First publication: Civil and Military Gazette, 24 February 1887

Sussex Scrapbooks 28/3, p. 82

This is the last of Kipling’s mock-diatribes against the Indian amateur (see 22 and 25 January 1887), written in response to a belated letter signed ‘Amateur’ in the CMG, 23 February. ‘Amateur’ complains of the ‘amateur critic’ — the ‘Lieutenant Quilldriver or Captain Steelslasher’ — as just as much a plague as the amateur singer. He then concedes that no amateur should ever sing ‘except for a charity’, giving Kipling his opportunity, and ends with a plea for simplicity and honesty — the part that Ananias says ‘I have forgotten’. (Kipling signs himself 'Ananias', the early Christian slain by God for his dishonesty, in his sketches on Criticism three weeks earlier).

‘I have seen four-and-twenty leaders of revolts in Faenza’ is from ‘Soul’s Tragedy’ by Robert Browning, a line that Kipling evidently liked, for he quotes it (or misquotes, as here) more than once. [T.P.]

Afmateur] C[ritic] — Does it matter? Is it worth it? On second thoughts, yes. He has spoken lightly of Me — the Great Ananias, neither Quill-driver nor Steel-slasher, nor another, but Myself. Therefore I will pulverize him. No! As I am strong, I am merciful. Listen, O man, you should have asked me to draft your letter. Between the seventieth and ninetieth line thereof you have set down, in black and white, that you and your kind are only worth hearing for charity’s sake: being deservedly valueless on your own merits. Why this abasement, when I could have saved you? There are three men and five women in India whom I, worn with many years’ bad music, would go far to hear — would go even through the preliminary shoutings of the Lesser Stars. Believe Me, my enemy — for I count, with the eight exceptions aforesaid, all makers of music as my foes — that in rare instances the Indian Amateur is worth listening to, even when he amator-tures, that orphan boys may have magenta comforters or the inebriated loafer a more easy charpoy (bed). Why did you not say this? Why did you not come to Me?

The rest of your letter I have read before . . . ages ago. Perhaps your father or his father wrote it. I have forgotten. ‘I have seen four-and-twenty leaders of revolts in Faenza’, and the complaint of the Amateur rises with the rising generations. But the Amateur is none the less evil. Yours, magnanimously,