"Lispeth"

(notes edited
by John McGivering)




[July 11 2003]


Publication

The story was published in the Civil and Military Gazette on November 29th 1886, in the first Indian edition of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and in subsequent editions of that collection. See David Alan Richards p. 17, passim.

The Story

Lispeth was a Hill girl who was left at a mission as a baby in time of famine. She grows up, finds an Englishman suffering from fever on the road, and takes him to the mission, announcing that she will nurse him back to health and then marry him. He flirts with her and leaves. When she finds that he has no intention of marrying her, she returns to her own people.

Some critical comments

Norman Page in A Kipling Companion [Macmillan, New York 1984] quotes a contemporary critic as saying that the story "illustrates the truth that a mere dab of Christianity is insufficient to 'wipe out uncivilised Eastern instincts'". Page comments that "actually Kipling's point is the shallowness of the moral code of the English (the man's heartlessness, the chaplain's wife's cowardly lie), and his irony - "being a savage by birth she took no trouble to hide her feelings" - stresses the superior honesty of the girl's conduct".