Letters of Marque



Notes by Brigadier A. Mason, M.C., R.E. for the ORG, with minor additions and amendments by David Page.



[October 12 2011]

Chapter XII


Contains the History of the Bhumia of Jhaswara, and the Record of a Visit to the House of Strange Stories. Demonstrates the Felicity of Loaferdom, which is the veritable Companionship of the Indian Empire, and proposes a Scheme for the Better Officering of Two Departments



First Publication

24th January, 1888, in the Pioneer and 25th January, 1888, in the Pioneer Mail.


Notes on the text


[Page 106, line 7] Rajputana-Malwa line the railway line running from Ratlam northwards via Chitor to Ajmir. (See the Map of 'Kipling's India' ). [DP]

[Page 106, line 9] bhumia the possessor of the soil.

[Page 106, line 13] jaghirdar the regional governor of a village or district to whom has been granted the revenues of that district by the Emperor, usually in payment for some service such as the maintenance of a troop of soldiers. [DP]

[Page 107, line 7] dacoity robbery by a band, or armed gang, of dacoits. [DP]

[Page 107, line 7] 'put up' Very much the same as our 'put-up-job' – see Kipling's story “Gemini” in Soldiers Three (In Black and White).

[Page 107, line 8] an Ahab Ahab in the Old Testament is mentioned many times by Kipling – the first time in these terms: 'and Ahab ... did evil in the sight of the Lord' (I Kings 16,30).

The reference here is to the way in which he obtained Naboth's vineyard – by bringing a false accusation against him for which Naboth was stoned to death (I Kings 21).

[Page 107, line 9] reive-gelt forced payment. reive: rob or forcibly deprive. gelt: money or payment.

[Page 107, line 21] Khan Bahadur in India, one rank above that of Khan; an important official. [DP]

[Page 108, line 8] Jhaswara has not been found on any map or any gazetteer. It may be fictional, but it seems strange that all other places mentioned are factual. [DP]

[Page 108, line 14] Bikanir or Bikaner. The principal city of Bikaner State on the edge of the Indian Desert, north of Ajmir and west of Delhi. [DP]

[Page 108, line 17] Palitana a town in Kathiawar, Guzerat, about 400 miles south of Ajmir and across the Gulf of Cambay from Broach.

[Page 108, line 26] Ajmir, the Crewe of Rajputana like Crewe in the county of Cheshire, in north-west England, Ajmir was a great railway centre with railway engine-building works.

[Page 108, line 29] North-west so Kipling being in Chitor and his stick indicating that he should travel N.W., he decided to go to Jodhpur – '100 miles for anything that flies direct but much more than that by road and rail'.

[Page 108, line 31] Houyhnhnms (pronounced whinims or whinhims), a race of horses with the finer characteristics of men, introduced by Swift in Gulliver's Travels with satirical effect. The name, invented by the author, is intended to imitate the whinny of a horse.

[Page 108, line 32] Jodhpur the State south of Bikanir and north-west of Udaipur; it is on the edge of the desert and about 100 miles west of Ajmir. The tight-fitting riding breeches are named after this city.

[Page 109, line 2] Gentlemen in the Ordnance or the Commissariat at this time this meant men of the standing of Warrant Officers in the British Services, but the organisation was quite different in the Supply and Transport Services.

[Page 109, line 10] a Political's august head A 'Political' was a Resident or a senior member of his staff.

[Page 109, line 12] light-cavalry of the Road commercial travellers and 'box wallahs' – also see line 19 below.

[Page 109, line 13] loafers people without gainful employment who drift from place to place, usually looking for sources of free drink. In this instance, the loafers have a particular knowledge and interest in horses. A more detailed description can be found on pages 118 & 119. See also "The Man who would be King". [DP]

[Page 109, line 17] Yahoo Swift's name in Gulliver's Travels (Book IV) for human beings in the land of the Houyhnhnms, where the horses were the rulers and men the bestial servants.

[Page 109, line 19] Uhlans German Lancers, here implying the 'light cavalry' of commerce, to whom the distance travelled is the prime factor towards sales.

[Page 109, line 20] bagmen another name for commercial travellers, or those attempting to collect the money for goods which had been supplied. [DP]

[Page 109, line 28] Marwar Junction a railway junction south-west of Ajmir, where the Jodhpur State Railway joined the Rajputana-Malwa network. See the Map of 'Kipling's India'. [DP]

[Page 110, line 15] Pachpadra 50 miles south-west of Jodhpur and on the Luni River. The new railway branch line runs from Luni direct to Pachpadra. [DP]

[Page 110, line 24] ak a plant of poor soil that has an acrid juice.

[Page 110, line 32] ’all the King's horses and all the King's men’ a quotation from the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” from 1785 which, however, was known from antiquity as a riddle.

[Page 111, line 6] forty lakhs rupees 4,000,000—then worth £266,666.

[Page 111, line 18] Hyderabad-Pachpadra also spelled Haidarabad or Hydrabad. This does not refer to the great native State of the name in South India, but to the district and large town in Sind along the Indus River towards its mouth. (There are other places of this name in India and Pakistan.) Pachpadra is about 250 miles to the east of Hyderabad, Sind.

[Page 111, line 23] Sir Theodore Hope Sir Theodore Cracraft Hope (1831-1915) – secretary to the Government of India for Finance and Commerce (1881-1882), and Public Works (1882-1887), when he retired.

[Page 111, line 32] ‘up and spake an elder knight, sat at the King’s right knee’ This is from the Border Ballad, “Sir Patrick Spens”:

O up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King's right knee—
[Page 112, line 8] Nagore more usually now Nagaur or Nagar. It is on the branch line from Merta Road to Bikanir, heading north from what became the Jodhpur-Merta-Jeypore line, which passes Makrana and Sambhar. See this web-site for an 1893 map of the area, including the railway lines. [DP]

[Page 112, line 9] Makrana from Jodhpur to Bahawulpur was about 250 miles, or twice the distance to Bikanir or Makrana. Many new lines were planned at the time and an 1895 map shows railways from Jodhpur to Jaipur (Jeypore) and one from Hyderabad towards Pachpadra as having reached Umarkot – 100 miles or so.

[Page 112, line 10] Sambhar too is on the line, about 40 miles west of Jeypore.

The Sambhar Lake was one of the main sources of salt in India, on which there was a monopoly, initially of the Indian Royal States, then by the East India Company and finally by the Government of the Raj and became a significant source of revenue from taxation and duties levied by all the Governments. For more detail see this note on the Indian Salt Tax. [DP]

[Page 112, line 31] ticca-gharries four-wheeled horse-drawn carriages for hire. [DP]

[Page 112, line 33 & page 113, line 1] Three-eight for a bottle of whisky i.e. rupees 3½, or rather less than five shillings sterling at the time (£0.25). Not cheap.

[Page 113, line 21] baggage-coolies railway porters. [DP]

[Page 113, line 24] Gworlior the speaker is mispronouncing the name of Gwalior, a city about 140 miles ESE of Jeypore, in the State of Gwalior. [DP]

[Page 114, line 19] Doré's illustrations of the Contes Drolatiques Gustave Doré (1832-1883), was one of the leading 19th century illustrators, of international fame. His style was titanic, and slightly macabre. He illustrated Balzac's Contes Drolatiques in 1855, and is best known for his illustrations to Dante's Inferno (1861), Don Quixote (1863), Paradise Lost (1866) and the works of Rabelais (1873), among many others. He also made a number of remarkable engravings of Victorian London.

[Page 114, line 27] sowarri fast riding camels, not for load carrying like the shag-haired trading 'ships of the desert'.

[Page 115, line 4] kunkered surfaced with limestone gravel.

[Page 115, line 7] lynxes animals of the cat tribe with tufted ears.

[Page 115, lines 21 & 22] Akbar’s mother . . . ‘Guardian of Mankind’ Jelaludin Muhammed Akbar (1542-1605) was one of the greatest and wisest Mughal Emperors, which earned him the honorific of ‘Guardian of Mankind’. Kipling later wrote a poem about him “Akbar’s Bridge”, collected in Limits and Renewals, (1932). [DP]

[Page 115, line 23] Umarkot in Sind, not far from Hyderabad. [DP]

[Page 116, line 6] Maharaja of Jodhpur at this time was Jashwant Singh II. [DP]

[Page 116, line 33] ‘sweeper nonsense’ sweepers (mehtars, banghi, or scavengers) were the ‘untouchables’ who cleaned latrines, etc. and were at the lowest level of the caste system.[DP]

[Page 117, line 25] collecting money like the 'bagmen' in The Naulahka.

[Page 117, line 33] khansama steward and caterer.

[Page 118, line 7] From Peshin to Pagan from longitude 67° in Baluchistan, north of Quetta to longitude 95° (both east) on the Irrawaddy River in Burma, nearly 2,000 miles. It also spans about 90° of latitude.

[Page 118, line 8] Hyderabad this is not the place of that name in Sind which we have been thinking about during the above few pages, but the great native State then under the rule of the Nizam in Southern India.

[Page 118, line 11] Doomsday Book of Calcutta 'Domesday Book' was the great land record of the Kiingdom of England for taxing purposes, prepared in 1086 A.D. for William the Conqueror. Kipling is comparing it to the contemporary ongoing business record of doubtful credit risks in India.

[Page 118, line 20] Abdul Rahman a horse dealer mentioned again on page 136. In Kim there is also mention of a horse dealer of this name (chap.X, page 240, line 1). [DP]

[Page 118, line 28] Nym and Pistol see Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

[Page 118, line 33] sack breeches this could be a shortened form of 'sackcloth breeches' made from (Indian) hemp which would have been very cheap, though probably uncomfortable to wear. [DP]

[Page 119, line 11] store-coffin a ready-made coffin rather than one tailored to fit. [DP]

[Page 119, line 20] Intelligence and the Political Department intelligence Officers were on the Quartermaster-General Branch of the Staff of the Indian Army, while the Foreign and Political Department was part of the Government of India.

[Page 119, line 28] tertiary politics of States third-rate.

[Page 119, line 29] succession-cases where and when a man might have several wives there are bound to be such queries about the succession on his death.


[A.M./D.P.]

©A Mason and David Page 2007 All rights reserved