[March 28th 2006]
First published in the authorized edition of Mine Own People, United States Book Company, New York, March 1891, followed by its inclusion in Life’s Handicap published in the United States and England later in the same year.
A secret Irish republican organisation, based in America, aims to foment mutiny against the British among Irish soldiers of the British army. They send an agent, Mulcahy, who joins up in the 'Mavericks' and does all he can to stir up feeling against the authorities. The soldiers, who enjoy soldiering, particularly if it involves fighting, recognise Mulcahy for what he is, and have little sympathy for his views. They are deeply loyal to the Regiment and its traditions, and the battle honours inscribed on its Colours. But they realise that he is a plentiful source of beer, and encourage him to think they are with him.
When the news comes that the regiment is off on active service on the frontier, there is a great commotion. Mulcahy thinks that the promised mutiny has come, but finds that the men are overjoyed, and can't wait to get into battle. He tries to report sick, but is sent off nonetheless. It is made clear by his comrades that he is going to his death, at their hands or those of the enemy. He dies fighting.
Some critical comments
This story has not been noticed by many biographers and commentators – of the thirty-five or so consulted, only the following were found.
Dr Tompkins observes:
He spoilt the grim farce of “The Mutiny of the Mavericks” by an (to me) incredible episode with the regimental colours; but the tale is not an important one. Changing social habits throw an unsympathetic light on some passages.Roger Ayers comments:
Kipling's description of Dan leading the other soldiers into the (officers') mess in order to show them the battle honours on the colours does not ring true. For the cased colours to have been kept in the mess was normal practice, generally in a special stand in the mess entrance hall, an anteroom or behind the Mess President's seat at the dinner table. Much less probable is that a group of soldiers, on the sudden impulse of one of their number, would have entered the mess and uncased the regimental colour which bore the battle honours. The colours were and are held in very special esteem, so much so that it is most unlikely that any soldier would have behaved in this way. However, long serving members of the regiment would almost certainly have been able to have repeated the list of inscribed honours from memory.Knowles (p. 150) quotes a rather unlikely review in an undated Athenæum:
... this story and “Namgay Doola” ( later in this volume) are pure comedy …. Charmingly good-natured satires upon the inhabitants of the sister isle …Francis Adams writing in The Fortnightly Review of November,1891 sees this story as:
… for the most part a worthless piece of special pleading , but which ends with the admirable portrayal of the madness of a coward … and quotes the text from page 236, line 12 onwards.
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved