"Chautauquaed"

The majority of these notes have been drawn from Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895, edited by Prof D.H. Stewart (2003, ELT Press, English Department, University of North Carolina) to whom we offer our grateful thanks.
This work is Number Seventeen: 1880-1920 British Author Series by ELT produced under the General Editorship of Prof R. Langenfeld.

The Notes have been collated by David Page


notes on the text

[May 8th 2006]

Publication history

First published in the Pioneer, 1 April 1890, and in the Pioneer Mail on 2 April 1890 as No.XXXIX of the series of letters most of which, in an edited form, were collected in From Sea to Sea, 1899, but from which “Chautauquaed” was excluded. Collected in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909.

Although it was not published until 1890, Kipling finished writing this article on 11 August 1889 whilst staying in Buffalo, N.Y., as stated in a letter to Mrs Edmonia Hill (Letters, vol.1, ed. Prof T. Pinney, p.334).

The title

The title used on first publication in the Pioneer was of a descriptive length that was typical of the period:

TELLS HOW THE PROFESSOR AND I FOUND THE PRECIOUS REDICULOUSES AND HOW THEY CHAUTAUQUACKED AT US. PUTS INTO PRINT SOME SENTIMENTS BETTER LEFT UNRECORDED, AND PROVES THAT A NEGLECTED THEORY WILL BLOSSOM IN CONGENIAL SOIL. CONTAINS FRAGMENTS OF THREE LECTURES AND A CONFESSION.
When collected in both editions of Abaft the Funnel, the single word title was used with the original title reprinted as a sub-text, and the phrase ‘HOW THEY CHAUTAUQUACKED’ replaced with ‘HOW THEY CHAUTAUQUAED’.

The story

This, like the articles later collected in From Sea to Sea (1899), is not fiction, but could be described as “enhanced fact", or perhaps “faction” in modern terms. Most of the other articles collected in Abaft the Funnel are basically fiction, strengthened by the occasional fact.

The main structure of “Chautaquaed” is built around a visit that Kipling and Professor ‘Alec’ Hill make to the Chautaqua Institution on the shores of Lake Chautaqua, New York State. Neither are identified by name in the article, but unlike most of Kipling’s stories, it is safe to assume that the unidentified narrator is a semi-fictionalised Kipling, and that the Professor is ‘Alec’ Hill.

The story begins lazily in an orchard in Musquash on the banks of the Ohio River, discussing what Kipling should now go to see on his peregrinations around the U.S.A. After discounting Niagara, the Professor says: “If you want to see something quite new let’s go to Chautauqua. . . It’s a sort of institution.”

They took a train from Musquash to Lakewood on Lake Chautauqua, Kipling noting that the crowd in the railway cars contained “very many women and a few clergymen”. He liked the look of Lakewood but the Professor insisted that they take the lake steamer up to the Institution, where it transpires one is neither allowed to smoke nor to drink.

Chautauqua was a “sort of educational syndicate, cum hotel, cum (very mild) Rosherville.” Kipling was warned very strongly by the Professor that he had to behave himself. Most of the inhabitants of various Christian sects “were connected with missions to the heathen, and so forth”. Kipling is clearly appalled at the religious bigotry displayed there when, for example, a woman:

“pities you for having to associate with ‘heathen’ and ‘idolaters’—Sikh Sirdar of the north, if you please, Mahommedan gentlemen and the simple-minded Jat of the Punjab—what can you do?”
After being accommodated for one night in rooms of miniscule proportions, they finally escape from the Institution and Kipling stops over in the nice hotel in Lakewood where he begins to write the article. He sums up his conclusion in the last three sentences:

“I don’t like Chautauqua. There’s something wrong with it, and I haven’t time to find out where. But it is wrong.”
Background

Kipling, after leaving Chicago in July 1889 to continue his trans-American journey heading slowly back to the U.K., went to stay in the home town of Mrs ‘Ted’ Hill’s parents, the Revd R.T. and Mrs Taylor at Beaver, Northern Pennsylvania. There he met up again with Prof ‘Alec’ and Mrs ‘Ted’ Hill, his travelling companions on the journey from India to San Francisco. In the article for the Pioneer Kipling refers to Beaver by the pseudonym “Musquash”, the name of another large aquatic rodent [Andrew Lycett]. Beaver is on the Ohio River in Beaver County.

Chautauqua is a town on a lake of the same name at the far western end of New York State, close to Lake Erie. It is about 105 miles NNE of Beaver.


[D.P.]

©David Page 2006 All rights reserved