Classic Author Focus: Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was a British poet, novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. He was born in British India, the location of many of his works. He is not as much in fashion these days, as a lot of his work celebrated British Imperialism, although he also wrote stories about British soldiers in India and tales for children. However, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Kipling was one of England’s most popular writers, and he is still valued as an interpreter of the empire and as a writer of extraordinary narrative gifts.

Kipling’s father was an artist and scholar who was appointed the curator of the Lahore Museum and as such appears as a character in the first chapter of Kipling’s novel Kim. Two of his mother’s sisters were married to 19th century painters Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Sir Edward Poynter, and another aunt was married to Stanley Baldwin, who became Prime Minster of England.

Kipling did not have a happy childhood. When he was six years old, he and his three-year-old sister were sent back to England to a foster home, which he later referred to as “the House of Desolation” and described in his story “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” When he was older, he was entered into an inferior boarding school, the experience of which is described in Stalky & Co.

Kipling returned to India in the fall of 1882 and took a job as an assistant editor for The Civil and Military Gazette and later was transferred to a larger sister paper, The Pioneer in Allahabad. In 1883, Kipling visited Simla, the hill town and summer capital of India, and it became a setting for many of his works. Although his first editor worked him very hard, he had an unstoppable need to write and came out with his first collection of poetry, Departmental Ditties, in 1886. Between 1886 and 1887, 39 of his stories appeared in the Gazette, and in 1888, he published six collections of short stories.

In 1889 after being discharged from The Pioneer, Kipling decided to move to London and pursue a literary career. However, in March he first traveled to San Francisco via Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Then he traveled extensively in the United States and Canada before crossing to Liverpool in October 1889. In the course of his journeys through the U. S., he met Mark Twain, who was deeply impressed by him. Within a year of returning to London, he was acclaimed as one of the most brilliant prose writers of his time. Then in 1892, he brought out another collection of verse, Barack-Room Ballads, which contained some of his most popular poems, “Mandalay,” “Ginga Din,” and “Danny Deever.”

After his marriage in 1892, he and his wife moved briefly to the United States, settling in Vermont, but they were unable to adjust to life there and the couple moved back to England in 1896.

Most of Kipling’s well-known work was published in the late 1890’s. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 and was given a house in South Africa by Cecil Rhodes. It was this association, his lack of sympathy for Home Rule for the Irish, and his ardent support of British aims during World War I that led to his being regarded a jingoistic imperialist and led to his loss of literary reputation in the 20th century, although T. S. Eliot tried to revive it.

Kipling died of an ulcer at the age of 70.

Dates: 1865-1936

Most famous works: Captains Courageous, Kim, The Jungle Book, Just-So Stories, The Phantom Rickshaw, “Gunga Din,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” “Mandalay,” Puck of Pook’s Hill, Tales of India, and many others

Other works: Plain Tales from the Hills, Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child’s Stories, and many, many more

Readers’ reviews:


7 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Rudyard Kipling

  1. Thank you for reminding me that I meant to put Kim on my next classics list! I really knew nothing about him and yet his name is so well known, all the travel is so fascinating!

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  2. Thank you for a review of his life. Unfortunately, I think he was an imperialist, meaning he was out of tune for his own time. He wrote The Jungle Book and The Man Who Would Be King, a wonderful tale. I have not read any of the books, just watched the films. The latter is a great movie and story. The Jungle Book as well, or course.


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