Towards a new
Readers' Guide

A note for

The Kipling Society has set up a Project Group to plan and manage the development of the New Readers’ Guide. It includes John Radcliffe (On Line Editor for the Society's web-site), John Walker (the Kipling Librarian), David Page (Editor of the Kipling Journal), Alastair Wilson (former Chairman of the Society's Council), Professor Peter Havholm, Professor Leonee Ormond and Dr Mary Hamer,

Harbord's Guide | A new Guide for new readers | Objectives
Content | House style | Publication on the Internet
How we plan to work | Source material | Copyright | Contacts

[January 6 2006]


1. Although many of Kipling's stories and poems can be enjoyed without recourse to a life-support apparatus of notes, they contain innumerable allusions, characteristic of Kipling's style and understood by his contemporaries, but increasingly unfamiliar to modern readers. For them, particularly for young people with a foreign background grappling with 19th and 20th century English Literature, annotation to clarify Kipling's texts is a most valuable aid to understanding. The Kipling Society has accordingly become the prime mover in renewing the Readers' Guide to the Works of Rudyard Kipling, edited by Reginald Harbord, (henceforth referred to as the ORG), which it published a generation ago, intending to provide a comprehensive annotation of all of Kipling's works.

2. The ORG was privately published by the Society by instalments, between 1955 and 1972, in eight stout volumes, averaging more than 500 pages each. A good many of the 105 sets have found their way into libraries, but because of their comparative rarity, most present-day readers of Kipling's works, and indeed many Kipling scholars, have never seen a copy.

That the ORG got published at all was due to the generosity of Reggie Harbord, who financed it, and the devoted skill of a few Society members, including Philip Mason, Charles Carrington, Roger Lancelyn Green, John McGivering, Brigadier Mason and Admiral Brock, who - with many others - helped as compilers and annotators, and earned complimentary copies for their pains.


3. Forty-odd years ago, the creation of the ORG was an act of pietism, of nostalgic homage to a writer not so very long dead, whose prose and verse had captivated his readers by brilliantly evoking a great range of environments - the way of life of the British soldier; the condition of India under the Raj; the lonely responsibilities of administrators in imperial outposts; formative life at a Victorian boarding-school; the allure of travel; the subtle romance of ships and the sea; the curiously imagined anthropomorphic potential of locomotives and machinery, and (more credibly) of wild animals in the Jungle Books. His readers, initially of his own generation, included many who found common ground with the characters he portrayed, and were delighted by his unusual empathy with the 'Sons of Martha', who did the world's work.

4. Though this novel focus was relished by the common reader, it did not appeal equally to the academic or the professional literary critic. The literary intelligentsia of the 1890s and later, though envious of Kipling's popularity and acknowledging the originality of his style, deplored his illiberal politics and the drum-and-trumpet violence of some of his verse. Kipling responded to their disapproval with contempt.

5. The Kipling Society, though leavened by some notably scholarly members, was certainly no coterie of highbrows. When its members embarked on compiling the ORG, they instinctively endowed it with a certain blunt realism. This posture was, perhaps, a natural standpoint for a Kipling Society, but given the chronic polarisation of critical attitudes to Kipling - either strongly for or strongly against - it gave the ORG an air of complacency which in time would add to its out-dated flavour. Today its tone is apt to sound naive, unscholarly, or unsophisticated, when compared with assessments of Kipling published since the 1960s. These increasingly reflect a well-considered but dispassionate evaluation of Kipling as an enduring literary phenomenon of major importance.

6. The Kipling Society forty years ago still included many members old enough to have direct experience of Kipling's world, the Raj and the Great War. This shared background gave them a nearness to their subject which we cannot match. But their self-confidence gave the ORG an occasional flavour of smugness. It was focused so comfortably on the past that it struck many of us as out of touch with the present - and quite unconcerned with the future. George Webb well remembers the Kipling Society at that time - an ageing and traditionalist group, some of whom seemed to a youngish new member, to have reached, if not crossed, the verge of ossification.

7. Produced with a minimal print-run for a small coterie of 'insiders', the ORG never attracted the wider interest it merited. For decades now it has languished obscurely, whether in private hands or in a few institutional collections, generally unheard-of, rarely acknowledged by grateful researchers, never apparently sought by potential purchasers. It has been increasingly overtaken by the flow of newer writing about Kipling, much of it of high quality.


8. To plan and create the New Readers' Guide, the NRG, we have set up a small Project Group, meeting monthly, which has made a work-plan spreading over the next five years. Starting in 2003, we plan to cover roughly one fourth of Kipling's works each year, ie five short story collections, one of the novels, two other pieces of major prose writing, and at least one of the major collections of verse, plus twelve or so general articles. We have set up a General Editorial Board to advise on our plans, and to comment on sections of the Guide as they emerge in draft. We are finding Editors for each of the main collections, or novels, identifying possible contributors with special interest in particular works or themes, and commissioning a wide range of general articles. The aim of this document is to brief contributors on the scope and nature of the project as a whole, and on the principles we hope to observe in order to maintain quality. It will be important, in particular, for contributors to have a clear picture of the readers we are aiming to serve, since they are a very different constituency from that of the ORG.

9. In our view, the kind of users we need to attract to the NRG will be of scholarly inclination, not always members of our Society, though in some cases familiar to us from active appearance on our web-site, letters to the Kipling Journal, and even occasional attendance at our meetings. We also expect to induce a fair number of libraries, colleges and English Literature faculties around the world, some of them regular institutional subscribers to the Journal, to make use of a revamped RG for its quality and for its practical utility to literary researchers or students.

10. We are aiming high with the new Guide, recognising with hindsight that the ORG was not immune from design defects, nor always clear in its composition, nor ideally organised. We aim to give it radical treatment, including a sweeping re-write and up-date, an exhaustive amendment of its presentation of detail (as in its many pages of notes and references) and a major restructuring where necessary. This is a stiff challenge, demanding a high standard of scholarship, a professional level of presentation and an exemplary house style.

11. There are new readers who seem likely to provide an appreciative and growing audience for Kipling, and exemplify the direction in which his reputation has for some years been moving, away from association with an Empire which no longer exists. British imperialism has surely become a worked out theme, and, as the arch-imperialist himself foretold, Kipling's Empire is now "one with Nineveh and Tyre". His new readers will include previously unlikely people such as foreign students of literature at schools and colleges abroad, who find him on their curriculum as a serious literary figure, and who, with the passing years, will presumably be less bothered by his now time-expired politics.

12. There will still be a cultural gap between these new readers and ourselves, as Kipling scholars or members of the Kipling Society, for they can hardly be as familiar as we are with the multiple allusions with which Kipling's writing is sprinkled. In the presentation and annotation of the NRG we need to bear this in mind. The notes in particular need to be comprehensively informative, while avoiding condescension. Our comments need to be addressed to readers of sophisticated academic standing, who are likely to be receptive to the idea that Kipling is a major literary figure who repays study in depth.


13. This is an opportunity to contribute to an encyclopaedic project of real importance, and one which justifies a perfectionist approach. We are aiming to make the NRG an authoritative guide to a complex writer and his world, compiled in a style as balanced as it is scholarly, and as smoothly accessible to a tyro as to an expert. Not least of the factors that will encourage and attract users to the NRG is a consistent and user-friendly house style and a search system which will make it pleasant, as well as rewarding, to consult. The finished product must be distinguished enough to stand comparison with any analogous guide to the work of any other writer in the field of English Literature.


14. The NRG, like its predecessor, includes both entries on specific works, and ‘General Articles’ on themes relating to Kipling’s life and work which will draw on a number of individual tales or poems. The entries on specific works are arranged within their collections, and include an introductory section (sometimes referred to as the 'headnote') followed by notes on specific points within the text. Each entry offers paragraphs on – for instance – a story’s first magazine publication, and later collection in book form; a brief summary of the plot; a summary of noteworthy critical analysis to which it has been exposed; basic information on major textual emendations it has undergone; the provision of illustrations where this is significant, etc., together with such introductory points as seem helpful to the reader. It then concludes with detailed notes on the text, in a standard format. If contributors wish to suggest illustrations, these can be included.

15. We are aware, of course, of the existence of Kipling - A Bibliographical Catalogue, edited by Stewart & Yeats (Dalhousie University Press, 1959), a book which has long held the field with its encyclopaedic coverage, and is still indispensable (not least as a major source for the NRG), but is a formidable work for anyone but a specialist to handle. David Alan Richards, one of our members in New York, is currently working on an update of this massive volume, which makes it unnecessary for the NRG to offer more than a brief outline of the publishing history of each of Kipling’s works.

16. The General Articles, of which there will eventually be at least fifty, will be more akin to extended articles in the Kipling Journal, and cover a wide range of themes, including Kipling and the Royal Navy and Kipling's Biographers(also up on the web-site), "Kipling and France", "Musical Settings for Kipling's Verse", "Kipling in the Antiquarian Books Market", "Kipling's Burma", "Kipling and Horace" - and so on. The layout and format of these articles inevitably vary according to the theme tackled. Our concern as editors is they should embody excellence of style, soundness of scholarship, and lightness of touch.


17. The NRG requires a clear, elegant and unambiguous style, best achieved by starting with the text of the old Readers' Guide - the ORG - and seeing what amendments are needed to adapt it into the improved new version. (We are providing contributors with the ORG text on the works they are covering) We believe that some of our suggested house rules (in the Annexe herewith) will take us a useful way towards our objective, the creation of a consistent and quotable NRG style tailored to the requirements of a new type of reader. We include consistency as a desirable feature of the NRG despite Emerson's disdainful assertion that it is a "hobgoblin of the mediocre mind", since gratuitous inconsistency can surely prove most irritating to the fastidious reader.

18. There are two related but distinct aspects to a house style for the NRG. One is the overall visual impact of the eventual layout, whether on paper or screen - the 'look' of the thing rather than its cerebral content. The other, more usual aspect of 'style' is the verbal, intellectual concept - stemming from disciplined, consistent and sophisticated handling of language, which may be attained, at least in part, with help from clearly framed 'house rules'. The NRG needs to commend itself to users not only by its excellent visual 'look' but by its assured mastery of Kipling's life and works, and its fluent but succinct interpretation of whatever calls for explanation or comment.

19. In drawing up the rules for our house style, we have drawn heavily on the well-tested format of the Kipling Journal. The Journal and the Readers' Guide, as twin publications of the same Society, may appropriately share some features such as basic standardisation of typeface and spacing. We have also been influenced by the successor to Hart's Rules, the newly published Oxford Guide to Style, compiled by R.M. Ritter, and published this year by the O.U.P., priced at £16.99p. This is a massive and impressive work, which puts Hart in the shade, both in its bulk (623 pages) and in its mastery of detail - whether workaday or arcane. Although disparate views are sometimes stubbornly held by otherwise rational people about minutiae of layout - font size, leading, indenting, margins, italics, etc - we cannot think we will be prevented by anyone's inflexible prejudice from reaching necessary decisions.


20. Partly for reasons of cost, but also to make the NRG as widely accessible as possible, we are publishing it initially on the World Wide Web, as part of the Kipling Society web-site at Its pages can be found via the 'Readers' Guide' button on the home page of the site. Publication on the Web makes the NRG visible to the growing millions who are using thr Web. It also enables us to publish piecemeal, as particular sections are completed, and to make changes with ease and simplicity in response to comments and suggestions from users. The electronic NRG can thus offer access to a continuing dialogue between scholars and others with a serious interest in Kipling's works, continuously updated, and reflecting new ideas as they emerge.

21. Electronic publication also makes it possible to use a range of search systems and cross-references, supported by indexes, which will make it very much easier to find one's way around the NRG than its printed predecessor. One can find a poem by its name, by its collection, or by its first line, and in some cases by the story it is associated with. There are lists of works ordered alphabetically, and chronologically, so as to make it possible to locate entries related to a particular year. There are also multiple cross-references, which take advantage of the 'hot-linking' possibilities of the web.

22. We have created a design for the pages of the NRG which is intended to be elegant, clear, and simple, in a style with a strong family resemblance to the Kipling Journal. We have designed a navigation system which will make it easy for someone unfamiliar with the Web to find their way around as painlessly as possible. We are hoping that as more and more people use the NRG they will send us their comments, so that we can improve and refine the design, and indeed the content, over the years.

23. If users prefer to use the NRG off-line, they can download individual pages of particular interest simply by saving them to their local computers. These can also be printed out, and we are bearing this need in mind in laying out the pages.



24. We are providing Editors and contributors with copies of the text of the ORG for the works they are covering, together with a list of relevant references in the back numbers of the Kipling Journal. If copies of the articles are required they can be obtained via John Radcliffe. We can also provide Editors with a list of the General Articles currently planned, and flag those which seem relevant to the parts of the NRG they are working on.


25. Editors or contributors may wish to make verbatim use of some sections of the ORG , or to quote from it. The Society will take responsibility for the use of text from the ORG in the NRG, and for the use of quotations from Kipling's works. It is permissible under current copyright conventions to make use of an insubstantial part of a secondary work for purposes of criticism. Thus a brief quote from J. M. S. Tompkins or T. S. Eliot could be used without seeking permissions. However if it is required to use a more substantial extract from a published work, Editors need to flag this as early as possible with John Radcliffe, so that steps can be taken to clear it. This principle would, of course, apply to the re-use of published commentary (e.g. notes) on a particular work.

26. Editors and contributors will be committing a substantial amount of work to the NRG, much of which may well be original. The Society is not, though, in a position to pay royalties to contributors in respect of publication on the Web, since it does not receive any revenue from the web-site. By agreeing to contribute, contributors are giving the Society the right to publish their work freely on the web, but if commercial publication in any other form (print or CD-ROM) is envisaged, their author's rights would remain, and any payments would be a matter for the publisher.

27. The Kipling Society is allowing users of the NRG on line, whether or not they are members of the Society, the right to download sections to their computers, or to print them out for personal use. However if wider use is envisaged, this cannot be permitted without authorisation from the Society. In presenting the NRG we have been generous with space on the screen, but we are also offering a 'Version for Printing' of each document which will be rather more economical for people who wish to make hard copies of particular entries.


28. Please send any questions or comments on this document to John Radcliffe at (or by post to The Old Rectory, Welford Road, Long Marston, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 8RH)