- Kipling, Joseph Rudyard
- (1865–1936)A note British poet and author, Rudyard Kipling is now somewhat inaccurately remembered as an uncritical propagandist of imperialism. Kipling was born in India to English parents. He was left alone in England from the age of six, his parents returning to India, and attended minor public schools where his literary talents began to show themselves. He began his career as a journalist with a newspaper in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab. In 1886, he published Departmental Ditties, and two years later Plain Tales from the Hills, books of stories based on the lives of Anglo-Indian officials and soldiers. Kim, published in 1901, is probably his most famous novel. Kipling moved to London in 1889, and although as yet a man in his twenties, enjoyed enhanced fame lubricated by brisk sales. Kipling traveled extensively, particularly in the United States, staying for a time in Vermont, the home of his wife’s family. After a serious illness, he moved to South Africa, getting there in time for the South African War, in which he served as a military journalist.The South African War turned Kipling into an ardent supporter of conscription and national preparedness. In the early years of the twentieth century, his attacks on liberalism were ferocious to the point of alienating many of his readers, and he became an ardent Unionist. During World War I, Kipling, considering it the duty of a writer to support his country, turned out a massive volume of patriotic prose. Unusual for a man of first-rate literary talent, he got along well with the great and the good, becoming a friend even of King George V. For the last two decades of his life, he was increasingly ill with an ulcer only belatedly diagnosed; it killed him in 1936. Too often reduced to his well-known 1898 injunction to “take up the white man ’ s burden, ” Kipling portrayed empire, in that poem as well as elsewhere, as a necessary but unrewarding duty. The year before “White Man’s Burden,” on the occasion of Queen Victoria ’s diamond jubilee, he had written the prophetic warning against imperial triumphalism, “lo, all our pomp of yesterday/is one with Nineveh and Tyre.”See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Kipling, Rudyard. Something of Myself. Edited by T. Pinney. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990;Smith, Martin Seymour. Rudyard Kipling, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.