"Lispeth"

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.



[November 21st 2011]

[Page 1, heading] Look, you have cast out Love!
A verse which encapsulates the essence of the story. The converted hill girl finds herself betrayed by the creed she had put her trust in.

The verse is collected in Songs from Books, Inclusive Verse, Definitive Verse, the Sussex Edition vol xxiv p. 211, and the Burwash Edition vol xxvii, p. 205.

Kipling was never very impressed by missionaries; see also "The Judgement of Dungara" in Soldiers Three - In Black and White.

The Three in One, the One in Three? This refers to the Christian belief in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, representing three different facets of the Christian God, the God of love and compassion. To Lispeth they proved cold, like her Englishman.

your cold Christ and tangled TrinitiesThe last line, “Your cold Christ” seems to be an echo of Swinburne’s “thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean.”(“Hymn to Proserpine” in Poems and Ballads, 1866) itself an echo of Julian the Apostate’s cry “Vicisti, Galilae!” ('You have conquered, Galilean !')

[Page 1, line 1] General MacMunn was shown Elizabeth’s House – the Bower, above Simla, and he tells the true story upon which Kipling based “Lispeth" in KJ Dec 1933, p.117.

[Page 1, line 5] the Kotgarh side Kotgarh is well above the river on the South and about 30 miles from Simla on the road to Thibet.

[Page 1, line 9] pahari 'mountainous' or 'hilly' and sometimes 'hard'.

[Page 1, line 10] cholera a deadly disease. prevalent in India and mentioned many times in Kiplings’ works.

[Page 1, line 13] chaplain a minister of religion, in this case in charge of the Mission.

[Page 1, line 14] Moravian a Protestant sect established in Eastern Europe in the fifteenth century and also mentioned in ”Brother Square-Toes” (Rewards and Fairies).

[Page 2, line 10] print-cloths cheap cotton material printed with a pattern.

[Page 2, line 13] Diana a Roman goddess, daughter of Zeus, associated with hunting and athletics.

[Page 2, line 26] Simla the summer capital of the Government of of India since 1864. [See Preface VII]

[Page 3, line 7] Narkunda a local beauty-spot on the Simla–Thibet road about twelve miles South–West of Kotgarh, with a dak–bungalow.

[Page 3, Line 14] Bagi a village in the hills about sixteen miles East–South–East of Kotgarh.

[Page 4, line 15} globe–trotters tourists. See “Pagett, M.P.” and Letters of Marque in From Sea to Sea.

[Page 4, line 16] P. & O. fleet Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Line; the principal shipping line for travel to and from India and the East. Mentioned many times in Kipling’s works.

[Page 4, line 17] Dehra Dun the nearest railhead in the plains to Kotgarh. An important military station 70 miles to the South–East.

[Page 4, line 33] Home the United Kingdom.

[Page 5, line 25] Muttiani the next stage toward Simla from Narkunda.

[Page 7, line 19] Tarka Devi the goddess of the Dawn.

[Page 7, line 33] infidel one who does not believe in the religion of the speaker.

[Page 8, line 4] Lispeth

She next appears in Kim as the 'Woman of Shamlegh', and makes unsuccessful overtures to him although he does give her a kiss on the cheek. This is an interesting link between Kipling’s first book on India and his last and somewhat of a contradiction in the fate of Lispeth in this story and her more successful life in Kim, where Lockwood Kipling’s illustration shows her as a well-built and obviously prosperous woman.


[J. McG.]