by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
I spent an afternoon reading Soldiers Three and when I went out to a dinner party that evening I could talk of nothing but this marvellous youth who had dawned upon the eastern horizon. My host, a well-known journalist and critic of those days, laughed at my enthusiasm, which he said would hardly be justified by the appearance of another Dickens. 'It may be', I answered hotly, 'that a greater than Dickens is here.'See also the notes on “The Three Musketeers” in Plain Tales from the Hills.
Search English literature and you will find no treatment of the English soldier on any adequate scale between Shakespeare and Kipling.Kingsley Amis does not agree:
Soldiers Three and Wee Willie Winkie ... contain little of Kipling’s best work. The soldiers ... have not yet come to their maturity ... Mulvaney recites long, not very funny anecdotes in Irish dialect, every other word conscientiously mutilated by an apostrophe or a would-be phonetic spelling. (page 59)But see also Patrick Braybrooke’s Kipling and his Soldiers (The C. W. Daniel Company, 1925):
Avoiding absurd hero-worship of the soldier on the one hand and condemnation of him on the other, Kipling has drawn a picture of the British soldier with an accuracy that can only come from a perfect combination of knowledge and sympathy. (Preface)This view was echoed forty years later by the anonymous author of Giants of Literature – Kipling (Sampson Low, ed. Arnoldo Mondadori, 1968):
These are no stylised soldiers but flesh-and-blood men – cynical, good-natured, undisciplined, rowdy, hard-drinking and rough-speaking. (page 34)Kipling Journal references