Rudyard Kipling was a prolific author whose audiences included both children and adults; who wrote works of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction; who worked as a journalist; and who lived on three different continents. Narrowing down all of his achievements would be quite an undertaking, but here are some of the highlights:
- Kipling was born in India and then sent to England to live with a widow in order to receive an English education. When he completed this, his parents could not afford to send him to an elite English university, so he returned to India to rejoin his parents. There, he found work as a journalist because of his writing skills and also served as assistant editor of the Civil and Military Gazette.
- In 1889, he became determined to pursue a writing career in England and by 1890 was firmly established as one of London's great poets. Both "The Ballad of East and West" and "Danny Deever" were published at this time.
- He met an American publisher and then married the publisher's sister. The couple settled near her family in Vermont.
- Kipling then met Theodore Roosevelt, and the two became close, often discussing politics and culture. Kipling notes in an autobiography that Roosevelt "was a much bigger man than his people understood or, at that time, knew how to use, and that he and they might have been better off had he been born twenty years later."
The Jungle Books were written in Vermont, and the adventures of Mowgli remain popular stories in children's culture today.
- In 1901, Kipling published Kim, which many believe to be his best novel.
- Returning to his love of children's literature, Kipling then published the Just So stories, which explained the "Why?" behind lots of children's questions, such as how the camel got its humps.
- In 1907, Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was the first English language writer to receive the prize and at age 41, the youngest to date.
- He was offered the British Poet Laureateship and knighthood, both of which he declined.
Kipling had a magical way of connecting with people of all ages with the way he was able to craft language. Consider the following words he wrote in "If," a poem about how to become a real man:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise
His words remain timeless and transformative. Kipling's greatness lies not just in one genre or in works written for a narrow audience but in his diverse body of works that remains some of the best-loved literature in the English canon, even over 8 decades after his death.