KIPLING
THE MOTORIST

by Meryl Macdonald

RK in his first car, a Locomobile "Steamer", on the front at Brighton, May 1902
' I like motoring because I have suffered for its sake' , wrote Rudyard Kipling, looking back on his first four years as a pioneer motorist. 'Maniacs' they were called, masochists they had to be, enduring total discomfort, frequent breakdowns, and the acrimony of all other road-users; from the gentry, who despised the riding of ironmongery rather than horses, down to the humblest carter.

In The Vortex (1914) he wrote of:

'...the life of the English road, which to me is one renewed and unreasoned orgy of delight. The mustard-coloured scouts of the Automobile Association; their natural enemies, the deliberate market-day cattle, broadside on at all corners, the bicycling butcher boy a furlong behind...'

'... road engines that pulled giddy-go-rounds, rifle galleries and swings, and sucked snortingly from wayside ponds in defiance of the notice-board; traction engines, their trailers piled high with road metal; uniformed village nurses, one per seven statute miles, flitting by on their wheels; governess carts full of pink children jogging unconcernedly past roaring brazen touring cars; the wayside rector with virgins in attendance, their faces screwed up against our dust; motor bicycles of every shape charging down at every angle; red flags of rifle ranges; detachments of dusty-putteed territorials; coveys of flagrant children playing in mid-street, and the wise, educated English dog safe and silent on the pavement if his fool mistress would but cease from trying to save him, passed and repassed us in sunlit or shaded settings....'