Fairy-kist

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the work for ORG of Roger Lancelyn Green, who traced the references to Mary's Meadow. We have also been grateful for critical comments and suggestions from Peter Havholm. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.



[September 27th 2012]

[Title] Fairy-kist 'Kissed by the Fairies'; a dialect word meaning 'bewitched', and thus 'deranged'. touched - touched by the fairies - has a similar meaning.

[Page 153 line 7] M. R. C. P. Member of the Royal College of Physicians

[Page 153 line 8] accoucheur one who attends the birth to deliver a child.

[Page 153 line 10] South Eastern postal districts There are 27 of them in London from Southwark to West Norwood; the higher numbers are further out into the country.

[Page 153 line 21] 1903 Chateau la Tour an ancient and important House producing fine clarets; ORG (vol 7 page 3214) believes, however, that 1903 was not a particularly good year and would have preferred 1899 or 1900.

[Page 153 line 24] curvet abroad on their hobbies Daniel Karlin (p. 645) finds the elegance of this phrase in the association of 'curvet' (a move in horsemanship) with the original form of 'hobby', “hobby-horse”.

[Page 154 line 4] Lily William Lilly (or Lily) 1602-1681, an English astrologer and occultist (left) probably known to Kipling from D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature. See “The Propagation of Knowledge” (Debits and Credits page 277, lines 1-2)

[Page 154 line 9] periscope perhaps a misprint for 'horoscope'. Daniel Karlin (p. 645) suggests the term is used fancifully, in the sense of 'survey' or 'look around'.

[Page 154 line 11] Sherlock Holmes (right) the famous detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, much of whose work also appeared in the Strand Magazine. His last story “The Maracot Deep” appeared in the issue for February 1928 with “Fairy-kist”. (See “The House Surgeon” Actions and Reactions page 274 line 16). Doyle introduced Kipling to golf in Vermont. ( Harry Ricketts, page 209).

[Page 154 line 16] I wish I could do a detective story As “I” in stories set in India is a journalist, he is after 1890 a writer of fiction, continuing the connection between the fictional narrator and the real author.

[Page 154 line 24] Barnet Horse Fair believed to date from the 12th Century, this famous fair is held in Barnet, Hertfordshire, some 11 miles north of central London.

[Page 154 line 28] Altar of the Lesser Lights Daniel Karlin notes (p. 644) the Masonic significance of “lesser lights” and argues that it does not change the meaning here: people “whose fame has been obscured by time”.

[Page 155 line 9] Lodge Faith and Works 5836 corrected to 5037 in the Sussex Edition volume 11 p. 149, with a footnote (not included in the Uniform or Pocket Editions) to give it the same number as the Lodge in the Masonic stories collected in Debits and Credits.

[Page 155 line 21] Berkshire an important breed of pig.

[Page 156 line 4] fern-trowel a tool developed by Victorian gardeners for digging out 'nook and cranny' ferns in awkward places. [Google],

[Page 156 line 14] shove-halfpenny an old game played in public-houses – smooth coins are propelled along a polished board by the ‘heel’ of the hand to stop in marked ‘beds’ – a variant of 'shovelboard', 'shove-shilling', etc.

[Page 156 line 15] Oddfellows a friendly and benevolent society founded in the eighteenth century, with lodges similar to those of Freemasons. There were more than a million members in the early 20th Century.

[Page 156 line 23] Bobby Policeman, after Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary who introduced the Police Act passed by Parliament in 1829.

[Page 156 line 26] a believing soul Unmoved by Ellen’s reputation.

[Page 157 line 3] “the morning after” suffering from a hangover due to excessive drinking.

[Page 157 line 7] cautioned the “Caution” at that time was probably something like: 'You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so – anything you do say will be taken down in writing and may be used in evidence.'

[Page 157 line 15] high dungeon a malapropism for 'high dudgeon' – a feeling of resentment and anger.

[Page 158 line 9] bloods in this context would-be smart young men.

[Page 158 line 17] was afraid we’d be dragged into it Karlin suggests Lemming fears suspicion that he has been one of Ellen’s lovers.

[Page 158 line 30] modus operandi method or system of working.(Latin.)

[Page 159 line 9] the Huish poisoning case We have not traced this case, which Kipling may have invented, but there is a character of this name in Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Ebb-Tide (1894) which he wrote in collaboration with his step-son, Lloyd Osbourne. Kipling was closely familiar with Stevenson's work (see “The Vortex” in A Diversity of Creatures, p. 386 line 18.)

[Page 159 line 14] 'ung hanged, then the punishment for murder.

[Page 160 line 11] Salonika fever a variety of malaria prevalent among the allied troops in the Gallipoli campaign in the Great War

[Page 160 line 18] Mitcham town in the London Borough of Merton, 7.5 miles (12 km) south-west of Charing Cross in Central London.

[Page 160 line 19] West Wickham in the London Borough of Bromley, England, 10.3 miles (16.6 km) south-east of Charing Cross in Central London.

[Page 160 line 32] two-seater in this context a motor-car similar to that belonging to the narrator of “Aunt Ellen” earlier in this volume.

[Page 161 line 31] carneying in this context, in a wheedling, insinuating and cunning manner. In use in the 1914 War but dating back to the 1880s (Partridge's Dictionary of Slang).

[Page 162 line 1] Ray John Ray (or Wray) English naturalist, 'the father of English natural history' who published important works on plants and animals. He was a Fellow of Trinity College, ambridger, and in 1663 toured Europe snd came back with historical collections which he used for his great Historia Generalis Plantarium (1686-1704).

[Page 162 lines 19-21] Morrison… with the Duke of Orleans at Blois Robert Morison, Scottish botanist, who, with his contemporary John Ray, developed the systematic classification of plants; an outstanding scholar who was a Doctor of Philosophy at 18. During the Civil War between King and Parliament, he was a Royalist, and when King Charles I was deposed, fled to France where he became physican to the Duke of Orleans. He returned at the Restoration in 1660 and was responsible for much of the work on which John Ray based his Methodus Plantarum.

[Page 162 line 10] counterfoil Part of a bank cheque, with details of the transaction, kept by the payer, in this case McKnight, as a record of the payment.


[Page 162 line 21] Grew Nehemiah Grew, English vegetable anatomist and physiologist. He graduated at Cambridge in 1661, and took the degree of M.D. at Leiden University in the Netherlands ten years later, his thesis being Disputatio medico-physica de liquore nervoso. He began observations on the anatomy of plants in 1664. His essay, The Anatomy of Vegetables was published in 1672.

[Page 162 line 23] Hales Stephen Hales, Fellow of the Royal Society, English physiologist, chemist and inventor, who studied the role of air and water in the maintenance of plants and animals.

[Page 162 lines 25-30] Tom Morrison ... links the narrator is confusing Robert Morison (line 19 above) with 'Old Tom Morris' (1821-1908), one of the pioneers of professional golf.

[Page 163 line 29] on the drop a man to be hanged stands on the trapdoor which the hangman “drops” by pulling a lever.

[Page 164 14] gout a constitutional disorder connected with excess of uric acid in the blood, and manifesting itself by inflammation of joints with deposition therein of urate of soda and also by morbid changes in various important organs. (Black's Medical Dictionary)

[Page 164 line 21] wounded and gassed and gangrened
Injuries commonly received in the Great War. See The Irish Guards in the Great War page 82, and Soldier from the War Returning by Charles Carrington, page 72.

[Page 164 line 33] break of life In crisis.

[Page 165 line 3] Jack the Ripperism 'Jack the Ripper' was an unknown homicidal maniac, who killed women in the East End of London in a particularly brutal manner in 1888.

[Page 165 line 14] the C. I. D. the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard in London.

floating kidney the kidney is slightly movable - more commonly in women. The condition is responsible, by its pressure upon neighbouring organs, for many obscure abdominal complaints, from severe conditions like chronic obstruction of the bowels, or constant pain, down to inveterate dyspepsia. (Black's Medical Dictionary)

[Page 167 line 4] in the light in the way.

[Page 167 line 15] bromide one of the salts of bromine which act chiefly as paralysers of the brain and sensory nerves.(Black's Medical Dictionary)

[Page 168 line 14] a pithed ox an animal slaughtered by severing the spinal cord, instantly dropping dead. The expression is used in “With the Night Mail” (Actions and Reactions p. 127 line 1) for the destruction of an aircraft.

[Page 168 line 25] sign his certificate certify that he is insane.

[Page 168 line 30] Worshipful Sir polite form of address to the Master of a Masonic Lodge, or a Mayor, etc.

[Page 169 line 7] a higher seat in the Synagogue an echo of Mark, 12,39-40: '… the scribes… which love… the chief seats in the synagogues… Here it simply means a more prestigious seat in church.

[Page 169 line 8] the Squire’s pew In an English village church there would be a pew reserved for the squire and his family, and other local worthies would have had their own seats. See “An Habitation Enforced” (Actions and Reactions, page 28, line 20.)

[Page 169 line 17] that kind of glare a far-away look of utter despair, often seen in photographs of soldiers at the time—and since.

[Page 170 line 16] Broadmoor a high-security psychiatric hospital at Crowthorne, Berkshire, England.

[Page 170 line 31] Goya Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) court painter to the Spanish Crown, and one of the great painters of Spain. The picture might have been one of his "The Disasters of War" (1810-14). .

[Page 171 lines 5 & 6] daffodils see Mary’s Meadow by Mrs Ewing (Society for the Propagation of the Christian Gospel, 1886), p. 38.

honeysuckle probably Coral Honeysuckle which, in the 'Language of Flowers' means 'the colour of my fate.' Mary’s Meadow quotes Parkinson:

The Honeysuckle that groweth wild in every hedge, although it be very sweet, yet doe I not bring it into my garden, but let it rest in its owne place, to serve their senses that travel by it, or have no garden.
loosestrife – a hybrid not mentioned in Mary’s Meadow but Lancelyn Green in ORG quotes Parkinson, who calls it a kind of double cowslip – 'Hose-in-Hose' – which plays an important part in the story. Another variety – 'Creeping Jenny' – means 'horror' in the 'Language of Flowers'; perhaps a hidden reference to this plant.

[Page 171 line 28] the Somme one of the greatest and most ghastly battles of the 1914 War.

[Page 172 line 3] something else besides a G.P. they are Freemasons.

[Page 172 line 6] on the Square another reference to Freemasons meaning 'honestly' or 'fairly'.

[Page 172 line 13] Gotha The earlest type of German aircraft used for long-range bombing.

[Page 172 line 15] V. A. D. Voluntary Aid Detachments, formed in 1909 to provide medical assistance in time of war. By the end of the 1914 war there were 38,000 working as assistant nurses, ambulance drivers and cooks.

[Page 172 line 27] Army Corps then a main sub-division of the army – perhaps some 36,000 men – he is speaking figuratively.

[Page 173 line 2] helled in this context to hound him on - 'giving him hell' in the process; ORG believes this to be a usage coined by Kipling.

[Page 174 line 1] the Ancient Mariner principal character in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1789).The poem begins:

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
Karlin suggests that Keede’s reference is to the Mariner’s compulsion to tell and re-tell his tale, though in Wollin’s case, the compulsion is caused by his suffering rather than by his having committed a crime.

[Page 174 line 30] "Paradise" The reference is to the old botanical book of John Parkinson (1567-1650), herbalist, and apothecary to James I, called Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris, or A Garden of all sorts of Pleasant Flowers which our English ayre will permit to be nourished up, published in 1629. This is the book which the children find in Mrs Ewing's Mary's Meadow, and which forms much of the background of their game, most of them taking names or characters from Parkinson.

Roger Lancelyn Green in ORG reminds us that Mrs Julia Horatia Ewing (1841-1885), the daughter of Mrs Gatty, author of Parables from Nature, was a favourite of Kipling's when he was a boy in the "House of Desolation" in Southsea:

... he quotes Mrs. Ewing several times: Jackanapes in "The Last of the Stories", The Story of a Short Life in "An English School", and We and the World in Stalky & Co. (p. 28) besides Mary's Meadow here. Except for Lewis Carroll, Kipling refers to no other writer of children's books as frequently as he does to Mrs Ewing.

So popular did Mary's Meadow prove, that a Parkinson Society was formed, with the aid of Aunt Judy's Magazine in which the story appeared, with the object of collecting and exchanging rare plants, listing old or dialect names for them, and planting flowers in waste places 'for such as have no gardens' as the children did in the story, and as Wollin was doing in "Fairy-kist".

The relevant clause in the prospectus of The Parkinson Society of Lovers of Hardy Flowers. as set out by Mrs. Ewing in the number of Aunt Judy's Magazine for August 1884, tells us that one of the purposes of the Society is: 'sowing and planting hardy garden flowers in wild places ...' Mrs. Ewing's story is based in part on another gardening book, Volage autour de mon Jardin (1845) by Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-90), whose book was translated into English as A Tour Round My Garden by the Rev. J. G. Wood (1827-89), the popular writer on natural history. [R.L.G.]
[Page 175 lines 2-3] for such as have no gardens The phrase does not occur in Mary's Meadow precisely as quoted by Kipling. Mrs. Ewing quotes Parkinson on p. 50: 'to serve their senses that ... have no garden'; and Aunt Catherine asks the children (p. 90): 'And who serves them that have no garden'. Although Parkinson left the honeysuckle to grow by the wayside 'to serve their senses that travell by it, or have no garden', it was actually Karr who went out and planted flowers in waste places: 'I ramble about the country near my dwelling and seek the wildest and least-frequented spots'. Mrs. Ewing quotes him as saying (p. 53):

'I ramble about the countryside near my dwelling and sek the wildest and least-frequented spots. In these, after clearing and preparing a few inches of ground. I scatter the seeds of my most favourite plants ... It affords me immense pleasure to fix upon a wild-rose in a hedge, and graft upon it red and white cultivated roses...'
[Page 175 line 5] ipsissima verba (Latin) the very words.

[Page 175 line 9] A big yellow bull-terrier Actually Saxon is described in Mary's Meadow (p. 14) as a "yellow bulldog". The occasion when he was called off is on p. 85, when Mary is suspected of digging up flowers in the Meadow when she is actually planting them: 'When his paws were almost on me the Old Squire left off abusing me, and yelled to the dog...'

[Page 175 lines 15-17] That yellow bull-terrier came into a library with a Scotch gardener who said it was a great privilege to be able to consult botanical books This occurs in Chapter III of Mary's Meadow (pp. 34-5) where "the Old Squire's Scotch Gardener" comes by invitation to the library in the children's house to look at Philip Miller's Gardener's Dictionary (1724), leaving Saxon the dog sitting thumping his tail on the mat outside the door:

'The Scotch Gardener enjoyed himself very much ...When he took up his hat to go, he gave one long look round the library. Then he turned to Arthur (and Saxon took advantage of this to wag his way in and join the party), and said, `It's a rare privilege, the free entry of a book chamber like this...'
[Page 175 line 28 onwards] "Now i'll tell you the story, Mr Wollin, that your V.A.D. read or told you ... Lemming and Wollin together trace the references to Mary’s Meadow. in his nightmares.

[Page 176 lines 1-8] The references are all to Mary's Meadow; e.g. 'I'll be the Honestest Root-gatherer', said Harry' (p. 45). quoting from the Parkinson extract on Daffodils quoted above and later he becomes simply the Honest Root-gatherer; one of the children, Chris, is described by his sister Mary, who tells the story, as saying 'very funny things: perhaps it is because his head is rather large for his body, with some water having got into his brain when he was very little'. (p. 23). [ 'Water on the brain' was a popular name for hydrocephalus, an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities of the brain, which can cause enlargement of the head, convulsions, mental disability. and death.]

The old Weeding Woman describes how the mean Old Squire (according to his Butler) kept his walnuts, which he could no longer eat:

... 'till the karnels be mowldy, and a keeps 'em till they be dry, and a keeps 'em till they be dust; and when the karnels is dust, a cracks aal the lot of 'em when desart's done - zo's no one mayn't have no good of they walnuts, since they be no good to he"... :
[Page 176 lines 17-18] A lilac sunbonnet: The mistake is natural on Robin's part. He was thinking of S. R. Crockett's famous "Kailyard" novel The Lilac Sunbonnet (1894).

[Page 176 lines 19-20] Not lilac-marigold. One string of it was canary-colour and one was white See Mary's Meadow p. 46:

This refers back to p. 42 when the children make up the story, based on Parkinson, Bechstein, and real people, about the Queen and the Weeding Woman and the Honest Root-gatherer, on which they base their game.

[Page 176 lines 24-5] A nightingale singing to the Man in the Moon This refers to the "new story" the children's mother made for them based on "The Man in the Moon, and How He Came There" in The Old Story-Teller (1854) by Ludwig Bechstein:

' ...about the nightingale in Mary's Meadow being the naughty wood-cutter's only child, who turned into a little brown bird that lives on in the woods, and sits on a tree on summer nights, and sings to its father up in the Moon". And from their window the children can see that "on a slender branch of a tree in the hedgerow sat the nightingale, singing to comfort the poor, lonely old Man in the Moon'.
[Page 176 lines 25-6] An old Herbal - not Gerard's The best-known of all old Herbals was that published in 1597 by John Gerard (1545-1612). But the Herbal in question was Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris, described above.

[Page 177 line 21] evaporated like ether Disappeared quickly. Ether is a very volatile gas.

[Page 177 line 22] didn’t leave a stink Karlin suggests that this is a nod to the superstition that evil spirits leave a bad smell, and good ones the contrary, when they vanish.

[Page 178 line 2] home counties Though not a technical term, this refers to the counties around London; Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex.

[Page 178 line 9] Juliaana Horratia Ewing McKnight has a strong Scottish accent.


"The Mother's Son"

the poem


Critical comments

Andrew Lycett (page 527) comments:

If further evidence were required that Rudyard was alluding to himself and his own recovery from a near psychotic state, it came in the poem “The Mother’s Son” which accompanied “Fairy-Kist” when it was published in book form.
Marghanita Laski observes (page 169):

It could be that Kipling came to understand that there were worse ends than dying in that (1914) war. It might be worse to live.
She calls it (page 58) a sinister late story.


Notes on the text


[Verse 2]

They do not let you sleep upstairs to prevent the patient committing suicide by jumping out of the window.

not allowed to shave for the same reason – the cut-throat razor was in use at the time – see "The Woman in His Life", page 69 line 15, earlier in this volume.

[Verse 4]

The Cup an echo of Matthew 26,42: ' Jesus prays before he is betrayed and crucified - 'O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except before I drink it, thy will be done'. See “Epitaphs of the War” and “Hymn of Breaking Strain” for verse in similar vein.


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved


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