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Tony Grist

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Me And Rud [Feb. 15th, 2005|10:16 am]
Tony Grist

I have a personal link with Rudyard Kipling.

During WWI my grandmother- not the one I've posted pictures of but my mother's mother, who hated having her picture taken- was enrolled in the Women's Land Army. The Women's Land Army existed to fill the jobs vacated by male workers, mainly agricultural workers, who had gone off to fight. She was offered a posting to Kipling's farm at Burwash in Sussex. "Don't take it," she was warned, "Mrs Kipling is a tartar," but my Grandmother was a big fan and she went.

So far as I know she had an easy ride and I don't think she had much contact with the Kipling family, or if she did, it wasn't the stuff of anecdotes.

But one thing she did do was get Kipling to sign one of his books for her. A modern author would have put an inscription, "To Mary Allen, with respect and affection" or something like that. Kipling just crossed through his printed name and signed beneath it. I'm told he was chary about handing out autographs and that Carrie Kipling signed all the cheques to stop them being bought and sold by autograph hunters.

Kipling was a god in my mother's family. Not as big a god as Winston Churchill but not far behind. I was introduced to the Just So Stories and the Jungle Books and after that I was hooked and could find my own way.  There are many writers I admire and a handful I love and Kipling is at the head of the second list. I enjoy everything he did, from the children's stories to the "difficult" quasi-modernist stories of his old age.  When I grew up I collected Kipling first editions. Back then Kipling was as far out of favour as it's possible for a major writer to be and they could be had for a few shillings each.

When I was about twelve my Grandmother said she'd give me the signed copy of The Seven Seas provided I learned several verses of Kipling's poem "Sussex" by heart. No sweat.

God gave all men all earth to love
But since our hearts are small
Ordained to each one spot should prove
Beloved over all;
That as he watched creation's birth,
So we in godlike mood
Might of our love create our earth
And see that it was good."

Yup, I still know it.

Thanks, Granny.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dakegra
2005-02-15 02:19 am (UTC)
Kate's parents live in Burwash, not too far from Batemans...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-15 02:50 am (UTC)
It's a beautiful part of the world.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-02-15 04:50 am (UTC)
I looooooooove Rudyard Kipling. The man knew how to write.

When I was at Yale, I remember seeing the inscription... I don't remember the whole story, if this guy was buried beneath the building, or what, or even what his name was any more. But the inscription said that this guy "lived by his pen and his sword". That always evokes Kipling for me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-15 05:36 am (UTC)
Kipling is still under-rated. Probably because his politics are a little unfashionable. I think he's one of the very greatest English writers- up there on the same level as Dickens and Jane Austen.

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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-02-15 07:01 am (UTC)
Yes, I totally agree--about the point about his politics and about Dickens/Austen.

Kipling represents a kind of English version of "no guts, no glory".
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From: saskia139
2005-02-15 05:15 am (UTC)
Though I haven't read any other Kipling, I remember The Jungle Book and The Just So Stories very fondly. What other works of his would you recommend, for someone who only knows the children's books and wants to read more?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-15 05:33 am (UTC)
I think you should get hold of an anthology of the short stories. I believe there's a good one out there edited by Craig Raine. Kipling is the best short story writer in the English language and his range is enormous.

Then there are the other books for children- Puck of Pook's Hill and its sequel, Rewards and Fairies and (possibly his masterpiece) the novel, Kim.

You might also want to look for a volume of the Collected (or selected) poems.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2005-02-15 06:18 am (UTC)
I know it's the most recognized and repeated, but I was always partial to If:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours in the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-15 06:35 am (UTC)
Kipling himself was surprised at how "If" took off. It was something he wrote as filler for Rewards and Fairies- one of his books of stories for children and he never thought it was anything special until...WhOOSH!

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From: morrison_maiden
2005-02-15 09:55 am (UTC)
I like Kipling. I'm not very familiar with his work, but I studied "White Man's Burden" in my history class. It's really nifty that your grandmother got her book signed!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-16 12:07 am (UTC)
As I rememeber White Man's Burden is an appeal to the Americans to take over from the British as top nation. Not very p.c.- but then Kipling was an unashamed (but not uncritical) imperialist.
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From: manfalling
2005-02-15 09:35 pm (UTC)

u passed it on

u passed it on too- cos i`ve always adored the just so stories. favourite was always how the alphabet got written. genius.
not rwad much else tho. hmm. perhaps i will....
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-16 12:04 am (UTC)

Re: u passed it on

Try and get hold of a "Best Stories Of". There's only one short story writer who's in the same league and that's Chekhov- and they're so different there's really no point comparing them.

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[User Picture]From: qos
2005-02-16 08:05 pm (UTC)
What a great story!

I fell in love with the Jungle Book and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi when I was in late elementary school. For years I could quote most of the Law of the Jungle (and still can recite parts of it.).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-17 12:16 am (UTC)
I hate it how the Disney film has eclipsed Kipling's original.






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