The famous author Rudyard Kipling owes his name to Rudyard Lake. His father John Lockwood Kipling was working in Burslem and met Alice MacDonald in 1863 and courted her at Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire. Alice was one of the Macdonald sisters, talented beauties, four of whom married remarkable men: Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Sir Edward Poynter, Alfred Baldwin and John Lockwood Kipling himself.
After their marriage, they moved to India in 1865. Rudyard was born in Bombay on 30th December 1865. His parents had been so moved by the beauty of the lake area that when their first child was born, they referenced it when naming him.
John Lockwood & Rudyard Kipling c.1890
Young Rudyard’s earliest years were blissfully happy in an India full of exotic sights and sounds but at the tender age of five he was sent back to England to stay with a foster family in Southsea where he was desperately unhappy; the experience would colour some of his later writing. When he was twelve he went to the United Services College at Westward Ho! near Bideford in Devon where his new headmaster, Cormwell Price a friend of his father and uncles, fostered his literary ability. Despite poor eyesight which hindered him on the games field, he began to blossom. In 1882 aged sixteen, he returned to Lahore, where his parents now lived, to work on the ‘Civil and Military Gazette’ and later on its sister paper the ‘Pioneer at Allahabad’. In his limited spare time he wrote many remarkable poems and stories which were published alongside his reporting. When these were collected and published as books they formed the basis of his early fame.
Returning to England in 1889, Kipling won instant success with ‘Barrack-Room Ballads’ which were followed by some more brilliant short stories. After the death of an American friend and literary collaborator, Wolcott Balestier, he married Wolcott’s sister Carrie in 1892 and returned with her to her family home in Brattlebro, Vermont, USA where he wrote ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Captain Courageous’ and where their first two children, Josephine and Elsie, were born. A quarrel with his brother-in-law drove them back to England in 1896 and the following year they moved to Rottingdean in Sussex, the county which he adopted as his own. Their son John was born in the North End House, the holiday home of Rudyard’s aunt Georgina Burne-Jones, and soon they moved into The Elms where life was content and fulfilling until tragically, Josephine died when the family were back on a visit to the United States in early 1899. He had come to be regarded as the People’s Laureate and the poet of Empire, and he produced some of his most memorable poems and stories in Rottingdean, including ‘Kim’, ‘Stalky & Co’ and ‘Just So Stories’. However, life was never the same again after Josephine’s death and by living so close to Brighton he had become a tourist attraction. In 1902 he sought the seclusion of a lovely seventeenth century house called Bateman’s near Burwash, where he spent his remaining years. ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ and ‘Rewards and Fairies’ which included the poem ‘If’ and other well known volumes of stories were written there.
Kipling’s poem ‘The Absent Minded Beggar’ had raised vast sums of money for the benefit of British soldiers in the Boer War. Alfred Harmsworth, at whose request he had written for the fund, introduced him to the joys and frustrations of the pioneer motorist. Kipling was a friend of Cecil Rhodes, of Lord Milner and of Dr Jameson, on whose qualities the poem ‘If’ is said to have been based. He visited South Africa frequently and wrote for the army’s newspaper there during the Boer War.
Kipling foresaw the First World War and tried to alert the nation to the need for preparedness. The Kiplings were to suffer a second bereavement with the death of their son John at the age of 18 years in the Battle of Loos in 1915, but Kipling continued to write and some of the post-war stories (for instance ‘Debits and Credits’) are counted amongst his finest. He was also much involved with the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission and King George V became a personal friend.
The Kiplings travelled a great deal and at the outset of one of their visits in January 1936 Rudyard died just three days before his King. He had declined most of the many honours which had been offered to him including a Knighthood, the Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he had accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature.
His reputation grew from phenomenal early critical success to international celebrity then faded for a time as his conservative views were deemed by some to be old fashioned. The balance is now being restored and more and more people are coming to appreciate his mastery of poetry and prose and the sheer range of his work. His autobiography ‘Something of Myself’ was written in the last year of his life and was published posthumously.
Bateman’s and The Grange
After the death of Kipling’s widow in 1939 their Sussex home, Bateman’s, was left to the National Trust. It remains much as it was during Kipling’s years there. The old house, with its estate set in the valley of the little River Dudwell which features in Kipling’s ‘Puck’ stories, is an unfailing delight to the many members of the public who visit it every year; Bateman’s is open between April and October.
At the Grange at Rottingdean is a smaller-scale celebration of Kipling’s life. In addition to a realistic reconstruction of his study in The Elms there are exhibits devoted to his work. The Kipling Room was set up by the Rottingdean Preservation Society as part of it’s Museum and Art Gallery and receives the support of the Kipling Society which has provided some of the items on display. The Grange is open daily and there is no admission charge.
The Kipling Society
This is a literary society for all who enjoy the prose and verse of Rudyard Kipling whose versatile talent amounted to genius. Best selling poet, children’s author, novelist, supreme master of the short story, he incidentally enriched the English language with more memorable quotations than any other writer of his time.
The Society was founded in 1927 by J. H. C Brookling and a few fellow-enthusiasts including Kipling’s school friends Major-General L. C. Dunsterville and G. C. Beresford who featured in ‘Stalky & Co.’ as ‘Stalky’ and ‘M Turk’. Though the idea of an organisation in his honour met with strong disapproval from Kipling himself, the Society prospered and soon attracted hundreds of members all over the world.
As well as issuing its quarterly journal, the Society holds regular meetings in London and Sussex. At these, invited speakers address a wide range of interesting topics relating to Kipling’s life and work. A well attended annual lunchtime meeting is held each summer in London with a distinguished guest speaker.
The Society also maintains a comprehensive library and archive housed at City University, London which may be consulted by members.
The Kipling Journal
The Society’s quarterly house magazine has appeared regularly since 1927. It is received not only by all individual members but by many colleges, libraries and English faculties in at least a dozen countries. It has published many items by Kipling not found elsewhere as well as historical, literary and biographical commentary of immense interest to all who appreciate his work. Although generally scholarly in approach it is also entertaining and informative to the ordinary reader. The letters section affords ample opportunity for members and others to express opinion and to seek answers.