"His Gift"

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, as published and frequently reprinted between 1923 and 1950.

[March 6 2007]

[Page 77 line 6] 47th Postal District, London, SE Actually the numbering of London postal districts only goes up to 26. The higher numbers are mainly used for areas south of the Thames towards Surrey and Kent.

[Page 77 line 7] Boy Scouts a world-wide youth association founded one hundred years ago in 1907 by Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, later Lord Baden-Powell (1857-1941). and now known as Scouts. Younger boys join the Cub Scouts. Baden-Powell knew Kipling and borrowed some of his characters from the Jungle Books and Kim for the Cubs and Scouts. See Charles Carrington (p. 416), R L Green (pp. 123 ff and 217), and Angus Wilson (p. 243). Also Hugh Brogan on Kipling and the Scout movement.

[Page 77 line 10] French-polisher a tradesman who produces a glossy finish on wooden furniture – the process is explained after a fashion on page 79.

[Page 77 line 10] responsible for his beginnings see KJ 312/53 for the theory that William is illegitimate and that this phrase is the 'hidden clue' to the mystery; also see “The Gardener” (Debits and Credits) for a story that hinges on the same theme.

[Page 77 line 12] Wolf-Cub see Note to line 7 above.

[Page 78 line 10] tram-car a large public transport vehicle, carrying anything up to a hundred people, which runs on rails in the streets of towns and cities. The author is facetious.

[Page 78 line 23] Sealed Pattern, Mark A, Ass government stores were often so designated, the 'A' (or sometimes Mark 1) indicating that it is the first model issued. the 'Ass' is Equus animus or E. taeniopus – the donkey - slang for a stupid person. William was regarded by all as incontrovertibly and irredeemably stupid.

[Page 79 line 2] good turns Scouts are obliged to do something useful and helpful every day.

[Page 79 line 3] scout-staves they were armed with staves some six feet long to assist walking and for improvising tents etc. – but here they misused them on William.

[Page 79 line 17] park in this context, a large area of land surrounding a big country house.

[Page 79 line 26] push-cart a two-wheeled vehicle also known as a 'trek-cart' as its name implies, pushed by the users.

[Page 80 line 2] Navy of ’96 the Navy of 1896.

[Page 80 line 29] Scout uniforms they wore shorts in those days.

[Page 81 line 11] Mug in this context, another slang expression for a stupid fellow.

[Page 82 line 17] out Hendon-way Hendon is a suburb of North London.

[Page 83 line 17] vittles the correct pronunciation of victuals – provisions, or, despite Mr Marsh's strictures, food !

[Page 85 lines 17-18] 'nature-faking' this alludes to Theodore Roosevelt, in an interview published in the Chicago Tribune published in 1907, criticising Jack London's nature stories as being exaggerated. We don't think the phrase was TR's but the story ran and ran under the title 'nature-faking'. Roosevelt being a friend & correspondent of RK's, this may have been a private joke between them. It has rather the same mischievous ring as the Tennyson allusion at page 86 line 28 below.

[Page 85 line 24] psychologist one who studies the workings of the human mind.

[Page 86 lines 15 & 16] Walrus ... Carpenter a play upon his name and the verses “The Walrus and the Carpenter” in Chapter 4 of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by 'Lewis Carroll' the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898).

[Page 86 lines 28 & 29] path of duty ... road to glory an echo of Tennyson's Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington:

'Not once or twice in our rough island's story
The path to duty was the way to glory'.
[Page 87 line 4] postern a small gate or side door.

[Page 87 line 10] shutters in this context timber panels that slide in grooves to protect the shop-window.

[Page 87 line 23] Belay a nautical expression meaning to make a rope or line fast to a cleat or bollard, and so an order to stop doing something.

[Page 87 line 26] Movies 'moving pictures', the cinema.

[Page 88 line 10] picture-wire a thin brass wire used for hanging pictures and, in this instance, snares for game.

[Page 89 line 2] knots and splices in your stummick Generally speaking knots and splices are the intertwining of ropes and lines for various seagoing purposes, both practical and ornamental' Here used as a simile for digestive trouble, a feeling of knots in one's stomach caused by bad food.

[Page 89 line 19] Sherlock Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective created by (Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).

[Page 89 line 26] small brush-stuff brushwood and small sticks which were burnt in the oven until the brickwork was hot enough for the residual heat to cook the bread etc. that was put inside after the ashes were removed.

[Page 90 line 2] apron of office an echo of Masonic ritual where the members wear ornamental aprons etc.

[Page 90 line 24] patent flour probably 'self-raising' which does not need the addition of yeast or baking-powder.

[Page 91 line 5] Glasse Hanna Glasse (flourished 1747) produced important works on cookery and household management.

[Page 91 line 8] Sawyer Alexis Benoit Soyer (1809-1858) Chef at the Reform Club in London: reorganised army cooking in the Crimean War of 1854-1856.

[Page 92 line 20] Board of Trade then the department of government responsible for the Mercantile Marine which laid down a scale of rations for seamen.

[Page 92 line 27] stone stone-ware bottles.

[Page 93 line 3] since Noah was an able seaman an old joke meaning 'a long time ago' See Genesis, Chapters 6-9, which tell how Noah saved his family and animals from the Flood by building an Ark.

[Page 93 line 8] Mr. Jorrocks the grocer turned Master of Foxhounds created by Robert Smith Surtees (1803-1864) and often quoted by 'Stalky' and Kipling (see KJ 75). See also “My Son’s Wife” (A Diversity of Creatures), “The Great Play Hunt” (Thy Servant a Dog), “Verses on Games” and “Foxhunting.”

[Page 93 line 20] Put that in your pipe and smoke it an old saying when giving a person something to think about – 'Digest that if you can!')

[Page 95 line 14] bare knees he is wearing shorts – see page 80 line 29.

[Page 96 line 21] dampers cakes made of a mixture of flour and water cooked in the ashes of a camp-fire.

[Page 96 line 22] lobscouse a savoury mixture of salt meat, broken biscuit, onions and spices simmered in a stew. (The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea p.491.)

[Page 96 line 24] salmagundi salted or cured fish and onions simmered together. (The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea p. 746).

[Page 96 line 25] bacon, cheese and onions probably one of the many variations of Welsh Rarebit.

[Page 97 line 7] The Art of Cookery… see the Note to page 91 line 5 above and KJ 138 of June 1961 for an article on Hanna Glasse.

[Page 98 line 2] reelly a mispronunciation of 'really'.

"Prologue to the Master-Cook’s Tale"


Although Kipling's 'Preamble' calls this a parody or imitation of the verses of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400) it is more 'in the manner of' and a delightful work in its own right. T.S. Eliot was unable to decide if Kipling wrote poetry or verse and this Editor is certainly not rushing in where he feared to tread ! For more verses after the manner of Chaucer, see “The Justice’s Tale” and “ The Consolations of Memory” also the story “Dayspring Mishandled” (Limits and Renewals).

Chaucer had an active and interesting life mainly in royal service as a poet, diplomatic emissary, customs official and secret agent. The work here echoed is The Canterbury Tales, related by a party of pilgrims, who relieve the tedium of their journey to Canterbury by each telling a story, . See The Oxford Companion to English Literature (Ed. Harvey, 1937, p. 134). Chaucer completed only twenty-three titles out of the twenty-nine or so projected, a total of some 17,000 lines, mainly in heroic couplets like Kipling’s parody. “The Cook’s Tale” is described as imperfect and omitted from some manuscripts.

See Steve Ellis, Chaucer (Oxford University Press 2005) for observations on Chaucer’s "Cook’s Tale" and "Prologue" which, he says (p. 78): 'shows us the street life of late fourteenth-century London with an immediacy and energy without parallel elsewhere'.

Notes on the Text

As we have indicated, most of the
notes below are by Kipling himself

[Line 2] Rochelle La Rochelle - a port on the west coast of France.

Angoulême capital of the Department of Charente , some 270 miles south west of Paris.

[line 6] marzipans A kind of sticky sweetmeat. [R.K.]

[line 7] Caen City in Normandy, capital of the Department of Calvados, some 120 miles west-north-west of Paris.

[line 7] Burdeux snailés swote Bordeaux is a major region on the western coast of France. Its snails are specially large and sweet. [R.K.]

[line 8] Seinte Menhoulde They grill pigs' feet still at St. Menehoulde, not far from Verdun, better than anywhere else in all the world. [R.K.]

[line 10] wonne Gone - to get patés of ducks' liver at Toulouse in south west France; fatted poultry at Bourg in Bresse, on the road to Geneva; and very large chestnuts in sugar at Carcassone, about forty miles from Toulouse. [R.K.]

[line 11] Thuringie This would probably be some sort of wild-boar ham from Germany. [R.K.]

[lines 14-15] manne liveth nat alone / By bredde echoes of several Biblical quotations, including Matthew 4,4: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'

[line 16] purchasable Expensive. [R.K.]

[line 18] mortred Beaten up. [R.K.]

[line 19] carpe Sneer or despise. [R.K.]

[line 21] setteth him at boorde Brings him to table. [R.K.]

[line 25] sterve Starve. [R.K.]

[line 29] Holie Fader's self The Pope himself, who depends on his cook for being healthy and well-fed. [R.K.]

[line 31] disputison Dispute or argument. [R.K.]

[line 33] which follow them as schippe her gouvernail Men are influenced by their cooks as ships are steered by their rudders. [R.K.]

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved