by Dr Gillian Sheehan
and John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
…his last tale of revenge, in which the heat and sourness of some pages gets the overhand, in the total effect, of the fun of the petted sow, Angelique, and the affection of Mr. Gravell and his son.Angus Wilson (page 326) sees some reflection of Kipling’s post-war life in this story, which he calls:
a Stalky-like farce ... concerned with the turning of the tables against village spreaders of rumours. It is no more than an amusing story, but its social attitude is a good corrective to the false stereotype of Kipling as a snobbish would-be gentleman.In his Chapter 9 “Stalky and Others”, Professor J I M Stewart looks at this and other stories (page 169) observing:
Most do not trespass beyond the bound of mere amusement, but a few, mainly of late composition, are elaborate structures in which farce is deployed against a background in which we glimpse the interplay of altogether more serious and sombre passions. He describes the painting of spots on the pig as an activity belonging to the world of children’s comics, and ends with petty tyranny drowned by laughter. But when we come upon iron phrases in it – “the generation that tolerates but does not pity went away” – we know they are meant to be there.Martin Seymour-Smith (page 9) calls this 'an enigmatic revenge tale with a twist', while Kingsley Amis, displaying a sad lack of humour, comments (page 104) that Limits and Renewal shows a sad but not strange decline:
Disease, now accompanied by madness, comes back as a recurrent theme. There is a revenge-comedy, “Beauty Spots,” among Kipling’s unfunniest, which is saying something.In his critical collection, Rudyard Kipling, the man, his work, and his world, John Gross (Ed.) includes (p. 149) a piece by John Raymond, “The Last Phase”, in which he sees “A Naval Mutiny” (earlier in this volume) and “Beauty Spots” as: 'high-spirited comedies, the one with a typological, the other with an obliquely but genuinely sentimental difference.' Also in Gross's collection is Roger Lancelyn Green’s “The Countryman”, where (p. 120) he examines Kipling’s life as a landowner.
this one takes us back to an earlier model; a tiresome and malicious man is destroyed, so far as all local influence is concerned, quite pitilessly, almost casually, not from hatred, not to make honour clean, but simply to get rid of a nuisance. But that story trembles on the edge of farce.