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When Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, he became the first Englishman to win the award; he is still the youngest-ever recipient. A writer of poetry, short stories and novels, Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the world during the late 19th century and the first one-third of the 20th century. His tales of life in India inspired the children's classic The Jungle Book (1894) as well as the still-popular poems "Gunga Din" and "If."

Kipling was born in Bombay (Mumbai) to parents who were part of an extended family of artists and sculptors; his cousin, Stanley Baldwin, was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the 1920s-1930s. After returning to England for prep school, he returned to Bombay, where he graduated from St. Xavier's College. Travelling in India and Pakistan, Kipling began writing for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, Pakistan, where he contributed news stories, poetry and short stories. A "frenetic" writer, Kipling published at least six editions of short stories by 1888. In 1889, Kipling returned to England, but not before visiting Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma and the United States and Canada. While in Elmira, New York, he was thrilled to have been able to meet Mark Twain. By the time he reached England, his literary reputation was already well established. After spending two years in England, he continued his travels to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa before again visiting India. Marrying in 1892, Kipling honeymooned in Vermont and Japan.

Kipling continued his travels, settling in Torquay, Devonshire for a short time. He became a Freemason (the topic of which would later appear in poems and his short story, "The Man Who Would Be King.") The most popular writer in England, Kipling turned down both a knightship and the opportunity to become Poet Laureate. His most famous works include the novels Captains Courageous (1897) and Kim (1901); his collection of short stories The Jungle Book (1894), which included "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi"; and the poems "Mandalay," "Gunga Din," and "If."