"A Fallen
Idol"


(notes edited
by David Page)


notes on the text

[Feb 25th 2007]

Publication history

First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 16 March 1888. Collected Volume I, No.9 of Turnovers, 1888, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909. This was one of the stories in the suppressed volume of 1890, The City of Dreadful Night and other Sketches, which had been prepared for publication by Messrs. A.H. Wheeler & Co.

The story

An expatriates club in India is very proud of Trivey, a club member who always manages to cap any story told by someone else, and, in particular, any visitor to the club. Naturally the club members did not believe his stories and ‘called him the Monumental Liar’. On one occasion, a ‘man from the frontier came in and began to tell tales—some very good ones, and some better than good.’

At last Trivey began to tell a story of his own about how he and a comrade had stumbled upon a rogue elephant in Anungaracharlupillay, Madras State, and had succeeded in overcoming it. After this, the man from the frontier yielded precedence to Trivey in the story-telling stakes.

All was well until another member of the club was posted to Anungaracharlupillay for a couple of months. When he returned home he reported that the story told by Trivey had been true and was not his ‘best and brightest lie’. Whereupon the club members were greatly annoyed since they had lost their reputation as the owners of the best teller of tall stories in the region.

Background

Despite extensive searches for the use of the term 'Club Liar', references are few and far between. Although Kipling does not use the actual phrase in this story, Trivey is undoubtedly considered to be such by the members, and hence their disappointment when they discover that Trivey is not a liar after all. One is by Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909) in an 1894 work, Katherine Lauderdale, where '. . . not even the famous club-liar, Stopford Thirlwall . . .'

The best-known occurrence of the phrase is in a story by H.H. Munro, pseudonym ‘Saki’, (1870-1916) “A Defensive Diamond”, collected in Beasts and Super-Beasts, 1914, which ends:

“I believe I take precedence,” he [Treddleford] said coldly; “you are merely the club Bore; I am the club Liar.”
However, the Kipling story pre-dates both of these.


[D.P.]

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