Abaft the Funnel

Notes edited by David Page.
In preparing these notes, the present editor has drawn where appropriate on those of the ORG.

[June 23rd 2013]

Publication history

This is a collection of stories (and one poem) in the reprinting of which, Kipling’s hand was forced. He had not intended that these particular items should be republished after their original appearance in the Civil and Military Gazette, the Pioneer and Pioneer Mail, the Week’s News, and the C&MG 'Turnovers' between 1888 and 1890. As he wrote to E.L. White on 5 April 1910:

I was a bit sick about Abaft the Funnel because the enterprising Dodge must have sent or got a man to rake through old newspaper files and hike out everything that he thought was mine.
[The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol.3, ed. T. Pinney, p.418].
In 1909, B.W. Dodge and Company of New York published an unauthorised volume of 30 pieces of prose and one of verse (“In Partibus”) under the title Abaft the Funnel. As Professor Pinney noted, there was no need for Dodge to rake through old files; he simply reprinted from the series of Turnovers put out by the C&MG. This unauthorised volume has the following Preface:

THE measure of a man's popularity is not always—or indeed seldom—the measure of his intrinsic worth. So, when the earlier work of any writer is gathered together in more enduring form, catering to the enthusiasm of his readers in his maturer years, there is always a suspicion that the venture is purely a commercial one, without literary justification.

Fortunately these stories of Mr. Kipling's form their own best excuse for this, their first appearance together in book form. Not merely because in them may be traced the origin of that style and subject matter that later made their author famous; but because the stories are in themselves worth while—worth writing, worth reading. “The Likes o’ Us” is as true to the type as any of the immortal Mulvaney stories; the beginning of “New Brooms” is as succinctly fine as any prose Mr. Kipling ever wrote; for searching out and presenting such splendid pieces of fiction as “Sleipner, late Thurinda,” and “A Little More Beef” to a public larger than their original one in India, no apology is necessary. (A.F.)

As Yan Shapiro points out David Richards comments, in "Kipling and the Pirates":
Dodge’s motive is patent from the disingenuous Preface, signed by ‘A.F. (Arthur Fremont Rider, according to a Yale University Library card catalogue note)
Doubleday, Page & Co. immediately published a similar authorised volume under the same title with the same contents except the above preface. The book was sold for the low price of 19 cents (or less than a shilling) in order to kill the sales of the unauthorised edition. They later re-issued this authorised version under the same date in the format of their regular editions, and containing the following Author’s Note:

'Messrs. B. W. Dodge & Company have issued without my knowledge or sanction the following odds and ends unearthed from newspaper files of twenty years ago, and therefore unprotected by copyright. I should never have reprinted them, but Messrs. Dodge's enterprise compels me to do so.' RUDYARD KIPLING, OCTOBER 1909.
The volume was not issued in England but the 30 stories are in Vol.XXIX of the Sussex Edition published in the UK and also in Vol.XXIII of the Burwash Edition in the U.S.A., with the third story “A Menagerie Aboard” retitled “One Lady at Large”.

A facsimile reprint of the B.W. Dodge volume was issued in paperback in 2001 by Fredonia Books, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ISBN 1-58963-365-2). http://www.fredoniabooks.com


'Turnovers' (or 'Turn-overs') was a series of 12 quarterly volumes published by the Civil and Military Gazette Press of Lahore between 1888 and 1890. In each volume, they reprinted stories and articles that had appeared in the C&MG during the preceding three months. The title of the series was derived from the position in that paper which they occupied, with each item beginning in the last column of page one and finishing in the first column of page two, which space was reserved for late newscables. The length of the story or article was thus subject to last minute adjustment. [Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliographical Catalogue, James McG. Stewart, ed. A.W. Yeats, Dalhousie University, 1959, p.70.]

All Readers' Guide References are to the 1909 Authorised Edition, New York, Doubleday Page & Co.

Title Page Quotation

The title page of both the authorised and the unauthorised editions carries the unidentified quotation:

“Men in pajamas sitting abaft the funnel and swapping lies of the purple seas.”
Charles Carrington [Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, Macmillan, 1955, p.121-122] says that Kipling “more than once used [t]his graphic, vulgar little phrase”, but no duplicate has been found in any of the standard prose works. However, see below.

There are other references in Kipling’s works to “pyjamas” which are considered as a comfortable form of dress in hot climates. “Hans Breitmann paddled across the deck in his pink pyjamas, a cup of tea in one hand and a cheroot in the other” [“Reingelder and the German Flag”, Life’s Handicap]; “It was pyjama time on the Madura” [“A Menagerie Aboard”, Abaft the Funnel]; “And the pink pyjamas and the blue pyjamas and the spotted green pyjamas, all fluttering gracefully . . .” [“A Smoke of Manila”, Abaft the Funnel]. The definition of “Pyjammas” in Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary by Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell (1886) includes the following information:

. . . A pair of loose drawers or trowsers, tied round the waist. . . It was adopted from the Mohammedans by Europeans as an article of dishabille, and of night attire, . . [1828.– “His chief joy smoking a cigar in loose paee-jams and native slippers.” Orient. Sport. Mag., reprint 1878. i, 64.] . . .
“Abaft” is a nautical term meaning behind or in the direction of the stern of a ship as opposed to the bows (or front) – “abaft the sheep-pens” [From Sea to Sea, VI]; “abaft the main-mast” [“The Burning of the Sarah Sands”, Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides]; “abaft the foremast”, abaft the quarterhatch” [“The Manner of Men”, Limits and Renewals].

The phrase “the purple seas” carries a redolent echo of Homer’s “wine-dark sea” [The Iliad and The Odyssey].

Prior use of the Title

The ORG contains the information that the title Abaft the Funnel had been given to a series of eight stories which appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette in 1889, as follows:

Date in 1889 in CMG
First collected in
1    (No number in CMG) A Menagerie Aboard March 30th Abaft the Funnel, 1908
2 Reingelder and the German Flag April 16th Life's Handicap, 1891
3 The Wreck of the Visigoth April 25th In one edition only of The Day's Work in U.S.A. in 1899, or of Soldiers Three (See No. 6)
4          The Lang Men o’ Larut May 29th Life's Handicap, 1891
5 Probably the story "It" which appeared on June 1st but without the general heading June 1st Abaft the Funnel, 1909
6 Of Those Called July 13th Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys, 1895
7 A Smoke of Manila July 18th Abaft the Funnel, 1909
8 Erastasius of the Whanghoa August 21st Abaft the Funnel, 1909

B.W. Dodge included Nos. 1, 5, 7 and 8 in their volume Abaft the Funnel.

Critical Opinions

In general, the critics have ignored this collection, possibly because some did not know of its existence or they considered it to be juvenilia and therefore unworthy of comment. Such references as there are are very much en passant, and there is no value in repeating them. Whilst there are various references in 60 issues of the Kipling Journal, they tend to be citations from the various pieces collected in the volume rather than critical reviews of the complete work. But, as was written in the ORG:

. . . if Dodge had not printed these 30 stories it is highly unlikely that we should have been able to study 24 or 25 of them and it therefore seems that it was quite a good idea that Kipling “had his hand forced”, for although some of them are not quite the best quality, others are interesting and worth reading.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved