Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: The author of several books of extraordinary insight about the realm of childhood, as well as some stirring popular poetry sympathetic to the British soldier, Kipling’s greatest accomplishment was his depiction of life in India at the close of the nineteenth century.
Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in India, one year after his father had accepted a position as a teacher of architecture in Bombay. His parents both came from prominent but not wealthy families, and the promise of a reliable source of income was sufficient inducement for the Kiplings to leave England. Rudyard Kipling always recalled his childhood in India as a time of exceptional happiness, a paradisiacal existence in an Edenic setting where he was treated like a young god by a loving family and many friendly local servants. This idyll came to an end in 1871, when his parents, in accordance with British cultural expectations about hygiene, social status, and racial purity, sent him to England to board with a retired sea captain in Southsea. For the next six years, Kipling lived in what he called “The House of Desolation,” severely disciplined by the captain’s widow. The only pleasure he had during this time was his holiday visits to the home of his uncle Edward Burne-Jones, the renowned Pre-Raphaelite painter, in whose “magical domain” Kipling learned the stories of the “Arabian Nights” from family group readings, and from whom he developed an appreciation for games of language and wit, for stories of invention and surprise, and for the eclectic decor of the Burne-Jones home.
In 1875, Kipling’s father became curator of the museum in Lahore, a considerable advancement in status and financial remuneration. This promotion permitted Kipling to enter the United Services College, a very new, very minor public school with an unusual headmaster (Cormell Price) who shared the radical public views of William Morris and recognized Kipling’s need for encouragement in his idiosyncracies of character. Incompetent at and disdainful of the social-entry games of cricket and soccer, Kipling nevertheless became close friends with two other individualistic boys (the trio became the basis for the heroes of Stalky & Co., 1899) who shared his early interest in writing, debating, and exotic gestures such as decorating their study with Japanese fans, old china, and glass from second-hand shops. Avidly pursuing a program of self-education, the boys read and discussed all the modern poets, including Walt Whitman, whom Kipling defended against attacks by the English master. Kipling was editor of the school magazine but otherwise an ordinary student, and he could not qualify for a scholarship at Oxford, a necessity since his parents could not afford to pay his tuition. With no other prospects immediately apparent, his parents used their social connections to make an arrangement for him to return to India as a reporter for The Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore. In 1882, Kipling accepted this position and returned to India, three months before his seventeenth birthday.
Kipling’s return to the land of his birth gave him a renewed access to places and situations which fired his imagination and gave a direction to his tremendous latent creative energy. From his parents’ place in Anglo-Indian society, he was able to get a clear picture of the workings of the British colonial administration. His journalistic assignments enabled him to learn about the daily life of the British soldiers “at the ready,” and his desire to learn about Indian culture took him on excursions across much of the subcontinent. In 1885, in collaboration with his parents and his sister, he published Quartette, including his first major short story, “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes,” a powerful evocation of the fears of the rulers who recognized the precariousness of their position in a country torn by mutiny only twenty years before. In 1886, the year of his majority, he published Departmental Ditties, poems primarily about life among the civil servants based in Simla, the summer home for the Viceroy of India. Kipling’s stories had become a regular feature of The Civil and Military Gazette, and the pace of his work drove him to the limits of his energy. Between November, 1886, and June, 1887, thirty-nine stories appeared. In 1888, the volume Soldiers Three was published. It contained many of the best stories of three “typical” British privates whose farcical adventures in a picaresque milieu gave Kipling a frame to probe the barracks’ world of adultery, treachery, bullying, and even murder, and then to probe further into the brooding interior landscape of the soldier’s life, a harsh existence relieved only by the deep, close friendship of the men.
In autumn, 1887, Kipling was transferred to the senior paper of the syndicate, The Pioneer, where his astute but opinionated political commentary led to the threat of a lawsuit, attempted assault, and the grievance of some high government officials. As Kipling was becoming increasingly famous in English literary circles, with his parents’ encouragement he decided to test his skills as a free-lance writer in London. In March, 1889, he left Calcutta, returning only once more to India to visit his parents in 1891. For the remainder of his life, the cultural and psychic landscape of India haunted his dreams; it had already become the foundation for his finest work.
Kipling established himself in London as a kind of tentative bohemian bachelor. Generally reserved and no self-promoter, his ambition was still quite clear. Above the door in his rooms, he declared, “To Publishers, A classic while you wait.” Many others agreed, and his reception in London was very encouraging, beginning with a London Times leading article in March, 1890. The style of his life is captured in the description by Kay Robinson, his editor at The Pioneer, who wrote in 1896 about a man in a white cotton vest and trousers who suggested a Dalmatian because of the mass of inkspots that covered him. Robinson saw him as mildly eccentric, with a “mushroom-shaped” hat and a fox terrier that looked like a “nice clean sucking pig.” In later years, Kipling tended to look more formal, a smallish man of soldierly bearing with glasses and a cartoonist’s delight of a mustache, a high forehead, and, quite often, a hat when out in public. His first years in London saw the publication of the finest stories of his early period, The Courting of Dinah Shadd and Other Stories (1890), the two versions of The Light That Failed (1890, 1891), both in American editions, and Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses (1892), which included poems such as the very well known “Danny Deever.” Kipling’s visits to London music halls seem to have been instrumental in the development of the insistent jaunty rhythms which he fitted to poems of military life.
In spite of his success, Kipling was not entirely comfortable with the world of letters in London. Its innate conservatism in literary matters did not really suit his temperament or aesthetic principles. In addition, his usual regimen of constant, intensive writing and a continuing feeling of displacement or homelessness had brought him to the verge of a breakdown. Part of his course of recovery included a long sea voyage to Calcutta to visit his supportive family, and another part included his marriage to Caroline Balestier, the sister of his agent and a member of a prominent American family from Brattleboro, Vermont. By way of a kind of extended honeymoon, Kipling and his bride traveled extensively in the United States, where Kipling met Mark Twain, a favorite author. In 1893, Kipling and his wife settled in southern Vermont on five acres of land purchased from her family and lived there until 1895. The distance from India may have given Kipling the perspective he needed to shape his experiences and...
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The writings of Rudyard Kipling have long been controversial. As an author unafraid to expose his personal political and social beliefs to his readers, Kipling voiced his views not only through the actions of his characters, but also through public meetings, the courts, and the press. Censorship of his work goes back to 1898, when his new book A Fleet in Being: Notes of Two Trips with the Channel Squadron was suppressed by the British Government because it allegedly revealed Royal Navy secrets. (Copies of the book are now rare.)
Kipling’s Just So Stories for...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, in 1865. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, was an artist and teacher. His mother, Alice Macdonald Kipling, was from a family of exceptional sisters. One married the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, and another was the mother of Stanley Baldwin, the British prime minister in the years between the two world wars.
As was customary at the time, Rudyard and his younger sister remained in England when their parents returned to India, and Kipling dramatized his misery at being left behind in his later writings. He attended a second-rank private school that prepared middle-class boys for careers in the military; small, not athletic, and forced to wear...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on December 30, 1865. His father, John Lockwood Kipling of Yorkshire, England, was a scholar and an artist. The elder Kipling went to India as a professor of architectural sculpture in the Bombay School of Fine Arts and later became curator of the Lahore Museum, which Kipling was to describe meticulously in Kim. He also served as the Bombay correspondent of The Pioneer of Allahabad. In 1891, he published Beast and Man in India with the help of A. P. Watt, his son’s literary agent. The book contains excerpts from Rudyard Kipling’s newspaper reports to the Civil and Military Gazette. The book provided inspiration for Kipling’s...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on December 30, 1865. His parents were John Lockwood Kipling and Alice (née Macdonald) Kipling. His father was then a sculptor and designer and was principal and professor of architectural sculpture of the School of Art at Bombay, and he later became curator of the museum at Lahore. His mother came from a family of accomplished women. John Lockwood Kipling set many of the high standards for literary skill that Rudyard endeavored to match in both fiction and poetry. Both parents encouraged their son’s literary efforts and took pride in his achievements.
Except for a brief visit to England, Rudyard Kipling spent his first five years in India. In 1871, he...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, on December 30, 1865. His father, John Kipling, was a middle-class craftsman and designer who had received a post at a school of art in Bombay, probably with the help of his wife’s brother-in-law, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Kipling’s mother’s name was Alice Macdonald. By all reports, the young Kipling was spoiled by his parents and their Indian servants. When he was five years old, however, his parents began to fear that he was growing more Indian than English, so they brought him and his younger sister back to England, where they were boarded with a Captain Holloway and his wife, who were strangers to the Kiplings.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay on December 30, 1865. Born far from what he once termed “the provincialism of London,” he became a major voice for a multicultural empire—or, in later years, an Anglo-French federation of homelands and former colonies. Sometimes he sought to win followers for these visions by compromising with the ethnocentrism of his age, as in his notorious poem “The White Man’s Burden.”
Kipling was the first child of John Lockwood Kipling, architectural sculptor at the Bombay School of Arts, and Alice Macdonald Kipling. Both parents were children of Methodist ministers and...
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Poet, novelist, and short story writer Rudyard Kipling the first English writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature, was the most popular literary figure of his time. He was born December 30, 1865, in Bombay India to John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald Kipling. John Lockwood Kipling, who was an anthropologist and curator, inspired the character of the Keeper of the Wonderhouse in Kim.
Kipling spent his early childhood in India and was cared for by a Hindu nanny; as a young child he spoke Hindi. However, as was the custom of the time, at the age of six Kipling was sent to boarding school in Britain where he unfortunately was subjected to severe strictness and bullying. His poor eyesight kept him from advancing into a military career, so at the age of sixteen Kipling returned to his parents in Lahore, India, and began his career as a journalist, first at the Civil and Military Gazette (1882–1887) and then as a worldwide correspondent for the Pioneer (1887–1889). He became quite popular for his work, especially for his satirical and humorous verse. When he returned to England in 1889 at the age of twenty-four, he was already regarded as a national literary hero.
In 1892, Kipling married the American Caroline Balestier and moved to Vermont. Their two daughters, Josephine—who was to die at the age of six of pneumonia—and Elsie, were born here. The Kiplings returned to England in 1896; their only son, John, was born later that year. The Kiplings remained based in England and traveled regularly around the world.
Although Kipling did not live for a long period of time in India after his childhood and his early adult years, his love of India and interest in the subcontinent and his memories of the India of his childhood figured greatly in his writing. Kipling is best known for his works about India, most notably Kim, a novel that covers all corners of the continent and in which Kipling lavishly describes the many different cultures and native peoples of the empire. Published in 1901, Kim is widely regarded as his most mature and polished work.
Kipling was a prolific writer, and his skill at storytelling, his immensely readable and songlike verse, his refusal to mince words, and the strong sense of British patriotism that characterized his work made him immensely popular with the common readership. However, his receipt of the Nobel Prize in 1907 was met with disapproval from other literary critics and writers, who considered him vulgar and lacking in craftsmanship.
The death of his son, John, during World War I combined with failing health, affected Kipling’s writing deeply. His output decreased dramatically after this period. He died on January 18, 1936, and is buried at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Among Kipling’s other most well-known works are Captains Courageous (1897), The First and Second Jungle Books, and the poems “If,” “White Man’s Burden,” and “Recessional.”
Biography (Short Stories for Students)
IntroductionIf you are familiar with Baloo (the bear) and Mowgli (the young boy) from the movie Jungle Book, then you are already partly aware of Rudyard Kipling, who created the original characters. The movie was adapted from Kipling’s most successful book, and like much of Kipling’s famous work, it focuses on children and animal characters. The Jungle Book, a story that takes place in a tropical forest, was authored while Kipling’s writing room was almost buried in snow in Vermont. The author claims that he thought about Mowgli that cold winter and then sat back and watched his pen write the lost boy’s story. The book proved so successful, the author spent almost as much time reading letters sent to him from children as he did writing.
- In 1907, Kipling received a Nobel Prize for literature, the first English-language author to win the prestigious award.
- Kipling was named after Rudyard Lake in Britain, the place where his parents first met.
- When he was six, Kipling was sent from India, where his parents lived, back to England. He stayed with a very strict family whom Kipling later described as causing him such great terror that it led him to write.
- Kipling’s first book, Stalky and Co., relates juvenile tales of revenge, dead cats, bullying, and initial explorations into the topic of sex.
- Kipling might have lived in Vermont for the rest of his life were it not for his brother-in-law, who made a huge public display of threatening to physically abuse Kipling. This sent Kipling and his family back home to Britain.