"My Lord
the Elephant"

Notes on the text


These notes, by Peter Havholm, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Many Inventions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.






[November 8th 2007]


[Heading] Included as a Chapter Heading in Songs from Books. Kipling describes a number of such headings as being from a 'Barrack Room Ballad' though, like this one, they do not appear in his Barrack Room Ballads.

Byles the Hindustani word for bullocks, now transliterated bails

forty-pounder the weight of the shot thrown by the heavy siege guns that came into use in the 1860s. (See the note by Roger Ayers on "Heavy Batteries in India".)

[Page 43, line 5] rocked it is a habit of elephants to rock from one foot to the other after standing still for some time.

[Page 43, line 6] mud-walled stables much of India produces clay for building. It may be moulded into bricks and burnt or not as required. See Kipling Journal 55, page 1.

[Page 43, line 8] mahouts keepers and riders of elephants who have served a lengthy apprenticeship.

[Page 44, line 8] white clothes worn by troops in the hot weather.

[Page 44, line 14] anthrax an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most common in cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores, but it can also occur in humans. There are now vaccines for both animals and humans.

[Page 44, line 22] tart originally a shortened form of 'sweetheart'—a young woman. Later, pejorative for a girl of immoral character.

[Page 44, line 23] uttees ’oller Ortheris’s pronunciation of 'Hathis holler'. The first word is derived from hath, hand in Hindi, referring to the trunk which serves the elephant as a hand. The second is an English or American word for bellowing or shouting.

[Page 44, line 25] elephants loathe little dogs See Alan Underwood's notes on "Her Majesty's Servants")

[Page 44, line 31] dorg cart Dog-cart, a one-horse, two-wheeled trap with a high seat facing both ways; so named because dogs were carried under the seat in a box-like compartment.

[Page 45, line 23] musth from the Persian word for 'drunk', dangerously frenzied, sometimes through sexual excitement

[Page 45, line 27] sugared euphemism for an imprecation.

[Page 46, line 9] A Kumeria of the Doon an important family from the Doon valley between the Himalayas and the Sewalik Hills. There is now a Kumeria Reserve Forest in the area.

[Page 47, line 3] I translated While “I” in the stories set in India is bilingual,
Rudyard Kipling was in fact only familiar with a limited Hindustani (camp hindi) vocabulary. (The authoritative source on this question is Husain, S.S. Azfar. The Indianness of Rudyard Kipling: A Study in Stylistics. London: Cosmic Press, 1983).

[Page 47, line 7] Cawnpore an industrial city on the River Ganges about 600 miles north-west of Calcutta.

[Page 47, line 17] As the naygur sez 'As the nigger says'. Mulvaney’s casual use of this now despised word for a non-white person appears in six of the nineteen stories in which he appears. One presumes it was typical of soldiers in the ranks at that time.

[Page 48, line 5] Sir Garnets paragons. 'All Sir Garnet' was a phrase used to mean 'all correct', a tribute to Sir Garnet Wolseley (later Lord), Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1895 and leader of the expedition that failed to arrive in time to save Gordon at Khartoum.

[Page 48, line 22] Waterloo Allied forces (German, Dutch and British) led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the French under Napoleon at this place near Brussels on 18 June 1815. The battle halted Napoleon’s imperial campaign.

[Page 49, line 5] cowlick tuft of hair brushed over the forehead. ORG adds that, in soldiers’ circles it was thought to be very smart.

[Page 49, line 8] fatigue a chore, routine work, i.e., 'fatigue drill.'

[Page 49, line 9] E.P. tents Indian Army usage.
E.P. tents were tents for European Privates, canvas shelters on bamboo poles. Each covered 22 x 16 feet (7 x 5 metres), accommodated 16 soldiers, and weighed 1.5 cwt (some 75 kg). They were also known as G.S. (General Service) Tents.

[Page 49, line 10] rest-camps camps set up for troops away from their units.

[Page 49, line 12] Mormon a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded by Joseph Smith in northern New York State in the United States after - the Mormons believe - conversations with an angel who led him to the burial place of the Book of Mormon, which Smith is said to have translated into English from a written language called Reformed Egyptian. Many of Smith’s followers moved to what is now the State of Utah after persecution in New York. The group practised polygamy officially until 1890, when the Church outlawed it. However, some groups, taking the practice as fundamental to their faith, split from the main church and continued the practice.

[Page 49, line 23] clink prison, originally a notorious jail in Southwark in south London.

[Page 49, line 26] cholera a fatal disease of which the cause was not then known. Outbreaks in British India were carefully tracked and widely publicised. See Dr Sheehan's notes.

[Page 49, line 29] Holy Christians most regiments had a nickname. It is possible that this referred to a unit which had not seen service in India, perhaps having newly arrived.

[Page 50, line 2] forninst an Irish word meaning 'alongside'.

[Page 50, line4] probosculum the Latin for nose is Proboscis.

[Page 50, line 7] perusing he was running, but Mulvaney lost the word he wanted.

[Page 50, line 16] stringers handcuffs.

[Page 50, line 26] Ochterlony monument this was on the Calcutta Maidan and commemorated General Sir David Ochterlony, a Scotsman born in America who distinguished himself in the early 19th century in the wars against the Mahrattas and Gurkhas. In 1968, it was renamed 'Shaheed Minar', or 'Martyrs’ Column', in memory of Indian freedom fighters.

[Page 50, line 29] throw out pickets in frontier warfare it was customary at every halt to push out small detachments on all sides, to prevent surprise attacks.

[Page 51, line 16] Snider The British Army’s conversion of the Enfield muzzle loader into a breech loader, sometimes called the Snider-Enfield. Used a metal cased cartridge, .577” caliber. The Mark I Snider was approved for the British Army in 1866, and was replaced by the Martini-Henry in 1871.
(See the the 'Digger History web-site')

[Page 51, line 19] howlin’ desolation an echo of Deuteronomy 32,10: 'He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness'.

[Page 52, line 21] ambuscadin' the word strictly means 'to attack from ambush'. Mulvaney is using it loosely here.

rapparee an Irish robber, bandit or freebooter, so-called because armed with a rapaire or half-pike.

[Page 52, line 24] compound enclosure.

[Page 52, line 30] grambags looking like a sack of fodder.

[Page 53, line 7] goglet a porous pottery water cooler.

[Page 53, line 29] landos landau, a four-wheeler carriage with a roof that can be let down.

b’rooshes barouches, four-wheeled carriages with the driver outside.

brooms broughams, one-horse four-wheeled carriages.

wag’nettes wagonettes, carriages designed to carry a large number of passengers, who sat on long bench-style seats facing each other.

[Page 54, line 15] field gun in charge a field gun was originally one that could be moved in battle, as opposed to siege cannon or mortars.

[Page 54, line 23] Rigadoon a lively, somewhat complicated dance for two people (Oxford English Dictionary).

[Page 56, line 6] poultice a soft moist mass, often heated and medicated, spread on cloth over the skin to treat an inflamed part of the body.

[Page 56, line 9] Thrajectory Trajectory, the track of a missile, a perfect sobriquet for this elephant at this moment.

[Page 57, line 1] Commissariat the Army department providing provisions.

[Page 57, line 3] Potiphar’s Potiphar was a Captain of Pharoah’s Guard (Genesis 39), and the nickname was a favourite at the United Services College.

[Page 57, line 30] t(h)ropers troopers, cavalrymen.

[Page 58, line 8] double ends a favourite Indian nickname for an elephant, with his trunk at the front and his tail at the back.

[Page 58, line 20] long Jew’s nose It is Mulvaney who uses the slur casually, but the story treats the figure in the same way as 'Ould Thrajectory', and reminds us how common, once, was the idea that people of Jewish faith had observable biological characteristics.

[Page 58, line 26] Smith O’Brine William Smith O’Brien (1803-64), Irish nationalist, was convicted of high treason in 1848 for leading armed insurrection and transported to Hobart, Tasmania. Pardoned in 1854.

[Page 59, line 28] neem leaves their antiseptic properties led Kim to clean his teeth with them.

[Page 60, line 2] arrack local brandy distilled from coconut and rice.

[Page 60, line 7] shackles foot-chains, fetters.

[Page 60, line 20] Holy Christian’s Hotel cells.

[Page 61, line 21] Afghan business the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880.

[Page 61, line27] boot-gall a 'gall' was a term originally used for a painful swelling, pustule, or blister, esp. in a horse (cf. windgall). In later use, as in this context, a sore or wound produced by rubbing or chafing (Oxford English Dictionary).

[Page 62, line 2] Tangi Pass tangi means a narrow pass, a defile or 'gut'. Tangi village is about twenty miles from Peshawar near Abazai.

[Page 62, line 22] doolies came dancing hammocks carried on springy bamboos.

[Page 63, line 2] gun-wheels before lubrication was better understood, they squeaked unbearably.

[Page 63, line 13] backside of the Afghan Medal as Mulvaney fought at Ahmed Khel in April 1880, in the Second Afghan War (1878–80), he had the medal with a gun-elephant on the reverse; the ribbon is green with crimson sides.

[Page 63, line 14] a drain where the rocky hills come so close that the road must lie along the sandy bed of the stream when it is dry and dusty.

[Page 63, line 22] nullah a watercourse or stream.

[Page 63, line 32] ’Utee soldiers slang for Hathi, elephant (Hindi). See above the note to page 43, line 23.

stock A stiff close-fitting neckcloth, commonly worn by men in the nineteenth century, now only used in the army (Oxford English Dictionary).

[Page 64, line 32] Islin’ton Road this road was used much more than most roads in London for cattle droving, as it led to the famous Agricultural Hall in North London (in 2007, the Business Design Center) where regular Agricultural Shows were held.

[Page 65, line 5] propped said of a horse that refuses a jump by stopping dead, without swerving.

[Page 65, line 17] accha the first word the British learn in India (according to ORG). 'All right', literally 'good', like 'OK' in 2007.

[Page 65, line 23] bull-oont male camel. The camel’s bite was often septic. See Kipling's verses "Oonts".

[Page 66, line 2] Tommy make room for your uncle a famous music-hall song of the period by T. S. Lonsdale.

[Page 66, line 14] Ortheris’s Honour see the story “His Private Honour”, page 136 in Many Inventions.

[Page 66, line 29] corner man another allusion to Minstrel Shows. The corner-men at each end of the row were responsible for a great deal of the 'cross-talk' with Mr. Interlocutor. These shows were popular about this time. There is an extended minstrel-show style number in Act II of Gilbert and Sullivan’s light opera Utopia Ltd. (1893).

[Page 66, line 31] nigger In the United States, where slavery did not end until 1865 and African-Americans were not allowed to vote in any numbers in some Southern and Southwestern states until a century later, the malevolent power of this slur is difficult to measure. One can get a glimpse of the reasons for its power in the creation of a whole genre of popular entertainment that depended on the assumption that African Americans were comic savages. Quite different in effect from Scottish or Welsh jokes, it was the kind of humour that, in the southern United States., helped to allow lynchings of blacks to be tolerated, even celebrated, well into the 1920s.

[Page 67, line 7] “There’s another bloomin’ row downstairs” another music hall song.

[Page 69, line 3] coot a waterbird rather larger than a moorhen, and another name for a 'simpleton'.

[Page 69, line 16] giddy-go-rounds earlier name for a merry-go-round.

[Page 70, line 16] entire Army Corps characteristic hyperbole. Two thousand men (see Page 68, line 9) do not constitute an Army Corps.


[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved