Rudyard Kipling Biography

Rudyard Kipling Biography

Rudyard Kipling is an author of whom you are already partly aware if you are familiar with Baloo (the bear) and Mowgli (the young boy) from the Disney movie The Jungle Book. 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, which 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 that the author spent almost as much time reading letters sent to him from children as he did writing.

Facts and Trivia

  • 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.


(History of the World: 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.

Early Life

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.

Life’s Work

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 impressions of India into literature, because it was in Vermont that he produced the Mowgli stories, publishing The Jungle Book in 1894 and The Second Jungle Book in 1895. He wrote the second half of Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses in Vermont, and began work on Kim (1901), his great visionary epic of India. During this time he also made several trips to the whaling port of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to do research for Captains Courageous (1897). Several factors combined, however, to end his stay in the United States. His once-harmonious relationship with his wife’s younger brother deteriorated into litigation, he feared that the Cleveland Administration would draw the United States into war with Great Britain over a minor dispute in Venezuela, and he felt hounded by American reporters who pursued him for his celebrity without giving him the peace to continue the writing that produced it.

The Kiplings returned to England in time for the Jubilee of 1897, and Kipling contributed to the carnival atmosphere with his memorable poem “Recessional,” which was published in the London Times after a family friend retrieved it from the wastebasket where Kipling had discarded it. Many people read their own political feelings into the poem, often missing its negative view of the imperial creed, but the poem contributed considerably to Kipling’s reputation. Oxford granted him an honorary degree, compensating for the disappointment of his inability to matriculate there ten years earlier, and he was elected to the very exclusive Athenaeum Club, a tribute considered “one of the greatest professional-class establishment honors of late Victorian England.” The publication of “The White Man’s Burden” (also in The Times) in 1898, with its explicitly racist title, was Kipling’s statement of resistance to foreign tyranny and anarchy, two bêtes noires of his belief in the necessity of an ordered existence. While visiting South Africa during the winter of 1898, he met and was captivated by Cecil Rhodes, and became a firm supporter of Rhodes’s empire-building ideas, thus further developing an ideology particularly repugnant even to many people who much admired his other work. Perhaps more significantly, during his stay in South Africa he journeyed along the Limpopo River, a crucial part of his inspiration for the Just So Stories (1902), which he composed in a comfortable house made available on Rhodes’s estate.

After returning from the United States, the Kipling family had lived in close proximity to various relatives in Rottingdean, in Sussex, from 1897 to 1902. Kipling completed Kim in this setting and pulled the Stalky stories together, as well as finishing the last of the Just So Stories, “The Elms.” The death of his young daughter Josephine in New York City in 1899, however, spoiled the charm of the home in which she had been reared. Kipling purchased a house in Burwash, in the country of East Sussex, in 1902, and there spent the remainder of the time he was in England. The failure of the British imperial venture in South Africa distressed him, and the ascendancy of the Liberal Party to power in 1906 made him feel like a member of the rejected Tory old guard. He believed that his cherished concept of “order,” the foundation of his faith in existence, was now threatened by such new forces as “cosmopolitanism,” “egalitarianism,” and “individualism,” unconventional ideas which, he thought, undermined England’s “world-civilizing mission.” With his fabled India fading into the oblivion of memory, the deaths of both his parents in the winter of 1910-1911 cut him off from the possibility of recall in conversation, and he felt compelled to find a new locus for his faith. To some extent, he found it in the lush, unspoiled Sussex countryside which he established as a constant source of value in his cyclical stories of renewal set in medieval times, Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906). Paradoxically, just as he was retreating from public life, he was named the first British laureate by the Nobel Committee (1907).

England’s entry into World War I drew Kipling back into active public life, and the death of his son John in October, 1915, led him into two large-scale projects to combat his sorrow. As a kind of memorial for his son, he compiled The Irish Guards in the Great War (1923), interviewing many of his son’s fellow officers, and he accepted an appointment to be Commissioner of War Graves, a post that took him to Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and other sites where British forces fell in battle. His last two collections of stories deal primarily with the psychological effects of war on combatants and emphasize themes of compassion and healing. A striking exception to this, however, was his continuing hatred of everything German, which found expression in some virulent anti-Kaiser poetry and in the famous story “Mary Postgate,” in which a German airman dies in agony. Through the 1930’s, Kipling continued to criticize the Germans, and with the rise of Nazism, acting with typical consistency in personal as well as political affairs, he removed the Indian “ganesh” sign from his publications because of its resemblance to the swastika.

Kipling’s health had been declining for some time when, in 1922, he suffered a serious gastrointestinal attack (the result of an undiagnosed duodenal ulcer). This moved him further into what Angus Wilson called “an ever-growing introspective meditative frame of mind.” During his later years, Kipling and his wife spent considerable time abroad, particularly in France, with Kipling writing occasional stories, verse, essays, and an interesting and revealing autobiography, Something of Myself: For My Friends Known and Unknown (1937). He died in January, 1936, just as England was beginning to respond to the Nazi menace about which he had warned. Kipling was buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, near the ashes of Charles Dickens, who had died the year before Kipling arrived in England.


The passage of time has not been particularly kind to Rudyard Kipling. His strong political opinions earned for him the enmity of many people in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and India during his lifetime, and while such eminent critics as Edmund Wilson and George Orwell paid him the compliment of taking him seriously, their attacks on his ideas and his art have contributed to a general attitude that Kipling is either a historical curiosity, a local colorist, a Tory bully, or, at best, the writer of cliché-ridden, jangling verse and a few charming children’s books. Ezra Pound’s caustic assessment, beginning “Rudyard the dudyard/ Rudyard the false measure . . .,” suggests how simple it is to dismiss Kipling in the style of his own poetry, how close he is to parody even at his best.

Yet Pound, probably because he detested Kipling’s politics, missed one of Kipling’s greatest strengths, something that Pound himself (in The ABC of Reading, 1934) prescribes as an essential component of poetry: the sheer, unforgettable rhythmic musicality of Kipling’s best work. There is a primal power of language in poems such as “Gunga Din” and “Mandalay” which has pressed them into the memory of at least three generations in the United States and the British Commonwealth, where they can be easily recalled and recited with evident sensual delight. Kipling instinctively sensed the energy of the popular song and knew how to seize and use it, though it is not only the sound of the best poems that is so compelling. Some of his most familiar lines—“East is East and West is West,” “Somewheres East of Suez,” “The female of the species is more deadly than the male,” and “He travels fastest who travels alone”—have been incorporated into the collective subconscious as aphoristic folk wisdom.

Even if Pound were right about Kipling’s politics—a bizarre anomaly in the light of Pound’s own political theories—the chauvinistic, semiracist, cryptofascist declarations are distortions of some quite sensible and thoughtful political formulations. Kipling’s idea of The Law is akin to Ernest Hemingway’s famous “Code” in that it was not a rigid social contract but a method of maintaining personal integrity amid the forces of chaos, and a doctrine designed to ensure maximum individual freedom amid a cooperative social system. Because Kipling was so easily unsettled by personal demons, he tended to overcompensate by supporting what he hoped were organizational principles which would guarantee some stability in what he knew was a fragile world even for the strongest of men and women. A careful reading of Kipling’s stories and poems will reveal a very subtle mind.

While his children’s stories have been highly praised, they have also been appreciated only as children’s stories. As Angus Wilson points out:

. . . the elusive magic which lies at the heart of most of his best work . . . came from the incorporation into adult stories and parables of two of the principal shapes which are to be found in the imaginative world of children. The first is the transformation of a small space into the whole world which comes from the intense absorption of a child. The second is the map-making of hazards and delights which converts a child’s smallest journey into a wondrous exploration.

That aspect of the adult psyche that remains permanently tied to childhood has rarely been touched and projected as well as in Kipling’s writing.

Finally, Kipling’s sense of India, especially the Anglo-Indian world that he loved, gave him a subject and a sense of place from which a powerful literary vision could be drawn. Kim, the “Ariel of Kipling’s magic kingdom,” is one of the true originals of English literature. His delight in life, his openness to people and things, make him a wonderful guide to Kipling’s own India, and his story, as Wilson perceptively explains, is “an allegory of that seldom portrayed ideal, the world in the service of spiritual goodness.” By contrast, the more ordinary but still complex mortals of his songs and stories are dreadfully human in their faults and limits, but the soldiers, civil servants, and their families that he wrote about are the subject of a kind of compassion and empathy surprising in a man regarded as an aloof defender of class and caste. If the worst of Kipling is caught in the crumbling of an obsolete empire, the best is preserved in the art of a man who understood how tenuous life is and how valiant the human struggle can be.


Bodelson, C. A. Aspects of Kipling’s Art. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1964. A superior interpretation of Kipling’s writing, with attention to his symbols.

Cornell, Louis L. Kipling in India. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1966. Contains a considerable amount of important information about Kipling’s early career, as well as an incisive interpretation of the crucial aspect of India as a visionary concept in Kipling’s writing.

Dobrée, Bonamy. Rudyard Kipling. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1951. An early examination of Kipling from the perspective of a professional soldier turned professor who provides a balanced view of Kipling’s ideas.

Henn, T. R. Kipling. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1967. Brief but succinct discussion of Kipling and his writing, including a survey of criticism and a list of the short stories.

Kipling, Rudyard. Something of Myself. London: Macmillan, 1936. An underrated, candid, and revealing account of Kipling’s life from the artist’s own point of view. Important as a complement to any other study of Kipling.

Rutherford, Andrew, ed. Kipling’s Mind and Art. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1964. Includes the historical views of Lionel Trilling, George Orwell, and Edmund Wilson, as well as more recent essays of particular sensitivity that cover the full spectrum of modern criticism.

Stewart, J. I. M. Rudyard Kipling. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1966. A biographical and critical study of Kipling’s writing and his personality.

Wilson, Angus. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling. New York: Viking Press, 1977. A prominent novelist’s quirky, passionate, and highly knowledgeable study of Kipling’s life and writing, grounded in very thorough scholarship and guided by a most sympathetic, individualistic series of insights. Indispensable for anyone interested in Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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 glasses, Kipling was not an outstanding or popular student, but his literary interests proved a defense and a consolation. The university was not an option for him, primarily for financial reasons, and he returned to India, where his parents had found a position for him on an English-language newspaper.

Kipling was fascinated by India. Often unable to sleep, he spent his nights wandering the streets. He had written some poetry as a schoolboy and continued to do so, while also composing newspaper sketches featuring his Anglo-Indian environment. By the end of the 1880’s, he had already published several volumes of short stories and poems. No British writer since Charles Dickens had become so well known, and Kipling was only in his mid-twenties. His works were often satiric, and some readers believed that he cast aspersions upon the British army and imperial authorities in India, but the opposite was closer to Kipling’s own feelings. He doubted that the English at home understood the sacrifices that the average soldier, the young officer, and the district commissioners were making to preserve Great Britain’s prosperity and security.

Kipling left India in 1889 and established himself in London, where he became acquainted with the major literary figures of the day, including Thomas Hardy and Henry James. In 1890, he published his first novel, The Light That Failed. With the American Wolcott Balestier, Kipling, in spite of his previous unwillingness to attach himself to any literary partnership, wrote a second novel, The Naulahka: A Story of East and West (1892). Kipling’s relationship with Balestier was very close, and, after the latter’s death, he married Balestier’s sister, Caroline (Carrie), in 1892. Kipling subsequently settled in Vermont, near his wife’s family. Although residing there for four years before returning to England, Kipling never admired the United States and had difficulty with Carrie’s family.

His fame reached its pinnacle in the years before the South African Boer War broke out in 1899. His portrayal of the Empire struck a chord in the British psyche during the 1890’s; a changing political climate, however, began to make Kipling’s public posture as an imperialist less acceptable. Still, he continued to write, both for children and for adults. In 1902, he purchased Bateman’s, a country house in Sussex, which remained his home for the rest of his life.

Long a frustrated man of action and a Francophile from his schoolboy years, he vehemently opposed Germany during World War I. His only son was killed in action in 1915. Kipling’s health had begun to decline, his marriage was less than fulfilling, and although he received much formal praise, his later stories were not widely read. He died in 1936 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, more a recognition for his earlier than his later career. Only after his death was it possible to separate the public man—imperialist and antiliberal—from the literary artist whose best stories have continued to survive.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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 Jungle Book stories and several others: “The Mark of the Beast,” “The Finances of the Gods,” and “Moti Guj, Mutineer” are some examples.

Kipling’s mother, Alice Macdonald, was one of five Macdonald sisters, three of whom married into prominent families. Georgina Macdonald married the distinguished Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones; Agnes Macdonald married another painter, Sir Edward Poynter, who was influential in helping John Kipling obtain a position in India; and a third sister married Alfred Baldwin, the railroad owner, whose son Stanley Baldwin became prime minister of England. Kipling was therefore connected with creative and intellectually stimulating families through his mother, while from his father he inherited a strong Wesleyan tradition.

Rudyard and his sister, Trix, spent the first six years of their lives in India. Surrounded by Indian servants who told them Indian folktales, Kipling absorbed the Indian vocabulary and unconsciously cultivated the habit of thinking in that vocabulary, as illustrated in his short story “Tod’s Amendment.” Kipling recalls these early years in his posthumously published autobiography, Something of Myself, noting how he and his sister had to be reminded constantly to speak English to their parents and that he spoke English “haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in.” This contributed to the great facility with which he uses Indian words as part of his writing style. Edmund Wilson, in his essay “The Kipling That Nobody Read,” writes that Kipling even looked like an Indian as a young boy.

Like other Anglo-Indian children who were sent home to England for their education, Kipling and his sister were shipped to London to live with a relative of their father in Southsea. The pain and agony of those six years under the supervision of this sadistic woman in what Kipling calls “the house of desolation” is unflinchingly re-created in the early part of The Light That Failed and in the short story “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” According to Wilson, the traumatic experiences of those six years filled Kipling with hatred for the rest of his life.

Kipling studied at the United Services College, a public school for children from families with a military background or with the government civil service. Kipling served as editor of the school newspaper, the United Services College Chronicle, to which he contributed several youthful parodies of poets Robert Browning and Algernon Charles Swinburne. One poem, “Ave Imperatrix,” however, with its note of patriotism and references to England’s destiny to civilize the world, foreshadowed Kipling’s later imperial themes. Although Kipling makes fun of flag-waving in “The Flag of Their Country” (in Stalky and Co., 1899), he did imbibe some of his imperial tendencies at the school, as there was an almost universal desire among the boys to join either the army or the civil service for the glory of the Empire.

In 1882, when Kipling was sixteen, he returned to India, and his “English years fell away” and never “came back in full strength.” Through his father’s connections, Kipling had no difficulty in becoming assistant editor on the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore at the age of eighteen. Two horror stories written during this period, “The Phantom Rickshaw” and “The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes, C.E.,” have found their places among his best-known stories.

After four years on the Civil and Military Gazette, Kipling moved to Allahabad as assistant editor to The Pioneer, and his writings began to appear in four major newspapers of British India. Young, unattached, with servants and horses at his disposal, enfolded in the warmth of his family, Kipling found these years to be his happiest and most productive. He wrote to a friend, “I’m in love with the country and would sooner write about her than anything else.” His poetry collection Departmental Ditties was published in 1886, and the story collection Plain Tales from the Hills appeared in 1888. Soon Kipling was known all over India, and a favorable review in the Saturday Review also created a demand for his writings in London.

In March, 1889, he left Lahore on a leisurely sea journey to London by way of Rangoon (now Yangon), Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and San Francisco. After making several stops across the United States, the twenty-four-year-old Kipling arrived in London in October, 1889. (He describes this journey in From Sea to Sea, which was published in 1899.) In London, Kipling came into contact with the American Wolcott Balestier, whom he met in the drawing room of the home of the writer Mrs. Humphry Ward. The two men subsequently collaborated on the writing of the novel The Naulahka. Balestier’s sister Caroline was later to become Kipling’s wife. Befriended by the poet W. E. Henley, Kipling published Barrack-Room Ballads, and Other Verses in 1892. It was a completely new poetic voice in style, language, and content. Kipling won an audience, as many readers were startled and shocked but also fascinated by his style.

Kipling left England for the United States in June, 1891, and the short visit brought him into conflict with certain members of the American press. He then returned to England and went on a long sea voyage with a sentimental stopover in India, his last visit to the subcontinent. He returned to London hurriedly because of Wolcott Balestier’s death, and a few weeks later, on January 18, 1892, he married Caroline Balestier. The American author Henry James gave away the bride.

The newly married couple returned to the Balestier home in Brattleboro, Vermont, where Kipling wrote the Jungle Book stories and other works. He also became a friend of Mark Twain. His desire for privacy, his recurrent conflicts with the press, the death of his eldest daughter, Josephine, his own illness, and the notorious publicity he received as a result of a quarrel with his brother-in-law all contributed to Kipling’s decision to leave the United States in 1897, never to return.

Kipling went to South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902) and became a good friend of another empire builder, Cecil Rhodes. It was during the war that Kipling completed his most important novel, Kim. Published in 1901, it was Kipling’s farewell to India. In 1907, Kipling received the Nobel Prize. During World War I, Kipling lost his only son, John, and his melancholy deepened. The poem “My Boy Jack” (1916) articulates the grief and pain of that loss. In writing other works, he turned to the strange and the macabre, as in “A Madonna of the Trenches,” “The Wish House,” and “The Eyes of Allah.”

Plagued by ill health during the last years of his life, Kipling relied on his wife for support, but she also lost her health to the crippling effects of diabetes and rheumatism. He published collections of stories in 1932 and 1934 and continued to show interest in British and world affairs, angry at the complacency of his countrymen toward the growing fascism in Europe. He died January 18, 1936, and his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

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 was taken with his sister Alice to England and left with Captain and Mrs. Holloway of Lorne Lodge in Southsea. After several unhappy years in the ungentle care of Mrs. Holloway, he left Lorne Lodge in 1877. In 1878, he was sent to United Services College in Devon. In 1882, he traveled to Lahore, where his father had found him a job as a reporter for the Civil and Military Gazette. He had seen little of his parents since 1871. Somewhat to his annoyance, he discovered that his parents had gathered the verses from his letters to them and had them published as Schoolboy Lyrics in 1881. In 1887, he joined the staff of the Pioneer of Allahabad, which he left in 1889. His experiences in England figure in many of his stories; his experiences as a journalist in India are reflected not only in his fiction but also in much of his best verse.

In 1888, Émile Édouard Moreau began the Indian Library, primarily to help Kipling and to capitalize on the young writer’s talents. The first six volumes of the series consisted of Kipling’s work. In 1889, Kipling traveled to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan; through the United States; and to England. His Departmental Ditties was printed in England in 1890, and the response to his poetry moved him from the status of a promising young writer to the forefront not only of English letters but also of world literature. His writing from 1890 onward brought him wealth and lasting popularity. The initial praise of his work was extraordinary—in 1892, Henry James wrote to his brother William, “Kipling strikes me as personally the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known”—but by the 1900’s, he would suffer extraordinary abuse at the hands of the critics. Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier in 1892 and moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, where her relatives lived. While living in the United States, he had two daughters. Although he liked his home in Vermont, Kipling left the United States when his enmity with his brother-in-law became public and created a scandal. After some traveling, he returned to visit his mother-in-law; during a stay in New York, he and his family fell ill; his wife, younger daughter Elsie, and baby son recovered quickly, but he nearly died and his elder daughter Josephine did die.

He settled at Rottingdean in England in 1897. His wife took charge of much of his family and social affairs, and A. P. Watt, a literary agent, handled his literary and business affairs. His life in Rottingdean was productive but isolated; as the years passed, he saw less and less of his literary friends. In 1907, to the chagrin of his detractors, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. His poetry at the time warned England of impending war and of England’s unpreparedness. When war began in 1914, his son, with his father’s help, enlisted in the army. In late 1915, John Kipling was killed in a British attack during the Battle of Loos. From the end of World War I to his death, Kipling worked to perfect his literary art and vigorously expressed his opinions on politics and society. At the end of his life, he wrote his autobiography and helped prepare the Sussex edition of his works. He died January 18, 1936, while embarking on a vacation. His ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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.

According to Kipling’s own account, in his autobiography as well as in fictional accounts in his works, he was not happy during this period, particularly after the death of Captain Holloway. For whatever reason, Mrs. Holloway did not like him and frequently punished him for what she saw as his headstrong and spoiled behavior. Because of her Calvinist threats of hellfire and damnation, Kipling called the house in the little seaside town the House of Desolation. His life was made even more miserable by his worsening eyesight, which caused his schoolwork to suffer.

In 1878, his mother returned to England to spend some time with her children, but once again she left for India, this time leaving Kipling in the United Services College boarding school in North Devon, where he stayed until 1882. Because the school had been recently founded primarily for the sons of military officers who could not afford to send them anywhere else, however, it quickly developed a reputation for being a place for bullies and toughs, as Kipling’s fictional Stalky and Co. (1899) makes abundantly, sometimes obnoxiously, clear.

Since the school was primarily established to get boys past the military examinations rather than into Oxford or Cambridge, Kipling, an omnivorous reader but not the best of students, did not continue his education but left England at the age of seventeen to rejoin his parents in India and to take a position on the staff of an English newspaper, The Civil and Military Gazette, in Lahore. Kipling wrote news articles as well as topical fiction for the paper until 1887, when he was transferred to a larger paper, The Pioneer, in Allahabad. His job there was to edit the weekly magazine supplement, in which one of his own stories usually appeared. He published his first collection of stories written for the Lahore newspaper, Plain Tales from the Hills, in 1888. Also during this time, he wrote a number of other stories, such as Wee Willie Winkie, and Other Child Stories (1888) and The Phantom ’Rickshaw, and Other Tales (1888), which were published in what was called the Railway Series.

In 1889, Kipling went back to London by way of America, and the following year British magazine editors began publishing the Railway Series, which was well received. Kipling enjoyed great success and was very prolific during this London period. He published Barrack-Room Ballads, and Other Verses (1892), a collection of poems that includes such well-known works as “Gunga Din” and “Mandalay,” as well as his first novel, the autobiographical The Light That Failed (1890), and some of his most highly respected short stories, such as “Without Benefit of Clergy.”

In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier, sister of Wolcott Balestier, with whom he had collaborated on the romance The Naulahka: A Story of East and West (1892). When their honeymoon was cut short by the failure of Kipling’s bank, they went to stay with Caroline’s family in Brattleboro, Vermont, where they lived for four years and where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book (1894), Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks (1897), and the first draft of Kim (1901). When Kipling became involved in a bitter squabble over money with Caroline’s younger brother Beatty, he had to return to England in 1896. In 1907, he became the first English writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Kipling and his family lived for five years near Rottingdean, not far from Brighton, and then moved to a mansion in rural Sussex. They spent each winter in South Africa, where Kipling met influential British political figures and became even more convinced of the God-given mission of the British to govern over “blacks” and “browns” (as the people of color were called there). After the Boer War, during which he helped edit a newspaper for the British troops, Kipling became more vocal about his imperialism and consequently more alienated from many of his compatriots, who did not share his views. After losing his son in battle during World War I, his hatred of the Germans gave rise to one of his most memorable short stories,“Mary Postgate.” Suffering ill health during his final years, particularly because of an ulcer that he feared was cancer, Kipling remained the conservative reactionary until his death on January 18, 1936, in London, not long after he had turned seventy. He was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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 contributed to the biblical accent in many of Kipling’s works. Like many other Anglo-Indian children, Kipling was sent to England for his education. As depicted in his story “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” the contrast between his permissive Indian servants in Bombay and the first hellfire-threatening Britons with whom the six-year-old Rudyard was left was traumatic, especially because his eyesight then began to fail. Highly myopic thereafter, Kipling could take little part in athletics; instead he spent his spare time writing for and editing the school paper at the United Services College at Westward Ho!, North Devon, the school that is portrayed in Stalky and Co.

His school journalism led to professional journalism when Kipling returned at seventeen to India to work on the staff of the Lahore Civil and Military Gazette. Various assignments for this paper and the Allahabad Pioneer gave him the opportunity to travel and provided abundant material for his books. From the publication of Departmental Ditties in 1886, the young writer found a wide public for his poetic and narrative impressions of the Indian subcontinent as viewed from a certain distance. It was a distance, some later critics have suggested, in which full knowledge and considerable condescension are mingled, in which sympathy and impatience are paradoxically mixed, except in his best work, particularly his masterpiece, Kim.

In 1889 Kipling left India and spent three years traveling to every continent. Then, in the United States, he married Caroline Starr Balestier of Vermont; there he lived until 1896, when, because of a disagreement with his brother-in-law, the Kiplings went to England to live. Kipling continued to win both great financial rewards and fame by work as a writer, literary and journalistic. He did not (and here he differed from many writers who are taken more seriously by contemporary criticism) turn aside from the chance to cover newsworthy events. Thus, he went as a newspaper correspondent on English naval cruises, made a second visit to the United States, and went to South Africa to report on the English forces in the Boer War. So great was the popular veneration for Kipling that his checks were preserved rather than cashed, his signature being worth more than the amount of the check. Kipling in his later years continued to mingle writing and action and covered events in World War I.

Kipling’s greatest honor lay in the indefatigable public that responded to his vivid, decided insights into the role of beneficent imperialism and, more sensitively, into the differences between cultures brought into startling contact by conquest (as in Kim). He was the recipient of many specific honors, such as the doctor of laws degree from McGill University (1899) and doctorates of letters from Oxford (1907) and Cambridge (1908). Further, when in 1907 he became the first Englishman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, it became apparent that his special sort of greatness was recognized beyond the confines of the English-speaking world. That he failed to become poet laureate on three possible occasions was—twice at least—the result of temporary difficulties rather than a reflection on his eminence; in 1892 he was in disfavor with Queen Victoria, to whom he had referred as “the widow of Windsor,” and in 1930 there was concern over Russia’s reaction to honors accorded a poet who had once referred to Russia as “the bear that walks as a man.”

Kipling died in London, January 18, 1936. He was buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, beside Charles Dickens, another storyteller and journalist who served popular tastes but achieved greatness nonetheless. On the day after Kipling’s death, General Sir Ian Hamilton wrote in the London Observer: “His death seems to me to place a full stop to the period when war was a romance and the expansion of our Empire a duty.” On the surface, Kipling’s whole literary output was a brilliant expression of an attitude later out of favor. Apparently, he urged action at the expense of refinement of perception and rigorous analysis of the presuppositions on which action rests. He prolonged Thomas Carlyle’s gospel of work and the hero. He seemed unsympathetic to democracy and many liberal causes, such as the emancipation of women, and his veneration for the signs and tools of material progress has seemed to some persons uncritical.

Consequently, by the 1940’s, Kipling’s defenders consisted principally of conservatives, such as T. S. Eliot, who held that Kipling wrote transparently, “so that our attention is directed to the object and not to the medium.” Read thus, he might be praised for great economy of words and an “unsurpassed” ability with ballads. Kipling’s energy was poured out in a variety of forms in a way that few more recent writers can imitate. Though The Light That Failed was Kipling’s only attempt at the conventional novel, he wrote tales for adult readers, tales for children (The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, and Captains Courageous), and poetry stirring to people of differing ages.

It is this variety that seemed his distinguishing mark. It was possible to accuse him, as did Richard Le Gallienne, of honoring “everywhere the brute and the bully.” More recent literary studies, however, find in Kipling less an extrovert, optimist, and champion of bullies than an introvert, pessimist, and advocate for the oppressed. His writings seem not transparent sagas but subtle psychological allegories, rich in previously unsuspected allusions, ironies, and even feminist insights. Instead of being a British Theodore Roosevelt, he now seems more the little boy of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” who lied as defense against violent hypocrites and learned such fictionalizing so well that decades have been required to penetrate his protective coloring.

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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 Little Children (1902) have been attacked as part of Canada’s Impressions reading series. One story, for example, has been singled out for its use of the word “nigger.” Even Kipling’s widely known poem “Gunga Din” has been removed from some Canadian libraries as a result of pressure from groups claiming that the poem is “violent and racist and unsuitable for a multicultural society.”

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, on December 30, 1865. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, had gone to India to teach at the Bombay...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

Rudyard Kipling Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

The son of English parents, Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India, on December 30, 1865. He and his sister Alice (‘‘Trix’’) were...

(The entire section is 403 words.)