"His Private
Honour"

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]


[Page 136, line 1] old regiment Probably based on the East Lancashire Regiment, of which a battalion was stationed at Lahore in Kipling's time. See also John McGivering's notes on "The Three Musketeers" for more on the 'Soldiers Three'.

[Page 136, line 4] from the Depot A base, often the headquarters of the regiment, where recruits are assembled and drilled, and where soldiers who have not yet joined their units are held.

[Page 136, line 5] reported himself very sick this seems inconsistent with Mulvaney’s character as presented in every other story about him. Where else does he shirk his duty? For one reader, at any rate, this begins the story on an awkward note.

[Page 136, line 10] rookies recruits.

[Page 137, line 1] Whitechapel in the East End of London, a poor district in those days.

Top-spit the surface turf when digging.

[Page 137, line 2] interogue a Mulvaneyism for 'interview' or 'interrogate'.

[Page 137, line 15] whelks an edible gastropod mollusc, much tougher eating (and less expensive) than the prawn. Sold, with other shellfish, on 'whelk-stalls' in London and elsewhere.

[Page 137, line 16] pink-eyed Jews As mentioned above, Ortheris’s anti-semitism seems never to be disapproved by the story. Indeed, the narrator’s comment just below in line 24; 'It is right that this should be so', must apply to the preceding nine lines, entirely taken up with Ortheris’s using 'Jew' as an insult, and Anderson’s accepting it as such. None of the 'Three Musketeers' makes remarks like these in the other stories.

[Page 137, line 29] Overlopped hanging over to one side.

[Page 138, line 7] squidgy small and mean-looking, puny.

Ham-shanked short, thin calves? The 'shank' is the leg between knee and ankle.

[Page 138, line 19] Johnnie Raws an old term for beginners.

[Page 139, line 11] wid a belt ORG says that the recruits could not have been beaten by their enlisted seniors, but this story clearly imagines otherwise, here and above in line 1: Learoyd thrashed them methodically.

[Page 139, line 15] Militia Regiment part of the citizen army as distinct from professional soldiers. It has meant the same since 1590. The territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907 saw the virtual end of the true militia. The modern equivalent is the 'Territorial Army'.

[Page 139, line28] like a Jew monkey this seems entirely gratuitous, despite the fact that Ortheris is clearly meant to be a sympathetic character. Such open anti-semitism would, perhaps, have been commonplace at the time.

[Page 140, line 9] number of fools Kipling says in the story that 'twenty seasoned men cannot push twice that number'. The ORG comments, 'but surely they are inexperienced rather than foolish?' Colonel Bagwell Purefoy, the ORG annotator, clearly speaking from his own experience, went on to note that 'Kipling was no soldier and we can let the sentence stand, but it can be done in a week or two. At any rate, it could twenty years after Kipling wrote this.'

[Page 140, line 17] echelon a formation of troops in parallel lines, sections, companies, etc., so arranged that each has its front clear of the one in advance of it.

[Page 140, line 23] aloe-clump The aloe is a spiky plant.

[Page 140, line 25] roundel In heraldry or as an emblem, any round shape, e.g. the RAF roundel.

[Page 140, line 30] one delightful day at a sham fight the amusement here at the Colonel’s theatrical fury seems entirely appropriate and points at what may be a difficulty in the story: new soldiers mucking up drill on the parade ground is neither unusual nor irretrievable. Training is of course a serious business, but the errors of new students are a sign that it is going forward rather than grounds for deep concern. (See the frontispiece to KJ 39 of September, 1936.)

[Page 142, line 8] 'ammerer Ortheris’s dreadful pun. Amara, 'hammerer'.

[Page 142, line 11] Heno Eno’s Fruit Salts—a common aperient.

[Page 142, line13] 'ome Home, London or another large town in England.

[Page 142, line 14] kep-huntin' cab-hunting, getting a cab for someone, a means of earning a tip.

'orse-'oldin' ... baggage-tout Youths and young men who could not get regular work often hung about in busy streets or at railway stations, looking for the chance to earn a little money by 'horse-holding', standing at horses’ heads to keep them from moving whilst the drivers or owners went on business or to get a drink. The stations were also places where money could be earned as a 'baggage-tout', carrying bags for a penny or two.

[Page 142, lines 14-15] matches ... penny-toy ... bootlace beggars and tramps as well as old men and some women stood at the kerbside in the London streets selling these small items from trays slung round their necks.

[Page 142, line 16] sandwich-backed wearers of sandwich-boards.

Se-werss soors pigs (camp hindi).

[Page 142, line 22] Boot-black Brigade cleaning shoes at the kerbside was also a way of earning money in the London streets.

[Page 143, line 7] the junior subaltern Ouless It is rare in Kipling that the protagonist is introduced so late, after more than a third of the story. Kipling may have been writing about good soldiering rather than about particular soldiers.

[Page 144, line 17] forty-pound muzzle-loaders The 40-pounder was a rifled muzzle loader introduced in 1874. The guns fired a 40-pound (18 kg) shell, weighed some 4.5 tons, and were drawn by teams of forty bullocks or three elephants.

[Page 144, line 27] locks the ranks stops all movement on parade.

[Page 145, line 10] Cashmere (Kashmir) the northern province with a climate like the Alps, often in the news since 1947 because of its disputed ownership. The Moghul emperor Akbar conquered and annexed Kashmir in 1586. In 1757 it was conquered by Ahmed Shah Durrani and became part of Afghanistan. In 1819 Ranjit Singh conquered Kashmir and made it part of his Sikh empire. In 1846, when the British defeated the Sikhs and annexed Punjab, they sold Kashmir to Ghulab Singh of Jammu for Rs. 7.5 million under the Treaty of Amritsar. Ghulab Singh, who entitled himself the Maharajah, signed a separate treaty with the British that, in effect, gave him the status of an independent princely ruler of Kashmir. He added to his dominion by conquering Ladakh. Ghulab Singh died in 1857 and was replaced by Rambir Singh (1857-1885). ORG says that 'drunken imbecile' must refer to Ranjit Singh and is therefore anachronistic.

[Page 145, line 16] Eurasians People of Asian and European descent. In this case, Kipling is assuming that some English soldiers in his army would marry Indian women. The Eurasian fighting line would be 'second' for reasons made clear in stories like “His Chance in Life” and “Kidnapped,” both in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 145, lines 17-18] Englishman could colonise, and if we had foothold there we could...ORG notes that this is Kipling’s first mention of his expectation that India would become a self-governing country. However, the dream in this story envisions a 'colonized' independent India, ruled using a white/Eurasian army headquartered in Kashmir. Indian rulers do not figure.

[Page 145, line 23] guarding Aden The dream India clearly shares and implements British imperial policy.

[Page 145, line 29] four million sturdy thrifty natives ORG comments: 'a reference to the system of indentured labour, by which the over-population problem of India was partially solved. In India it was justly and beneficiently administered.' It is fair to say that there is disagreement about that careful claim.

[Page 146, line 4] He was in no position to do this It is just possible that Kipling changed the story’s focus at this point in the writing. The swift filling-in of character and history here reminds one of the way television soap operas provide a quick back-story for long-lost siblings, children, parents to bring viewers up to date.

[Page 148, line 9] seven years’ service and three medals seven years’ service would barely have permitted Ortheris to have earned three of the following medals (or any others unless he had served in Africa, which was unlikely). It probably implies that he had served the seven years in the East, with perhaps a year or two in England.

possible medals Second Afghan War, 1878–80; Kabul to Kandahar Star, 1880; Burmese War (Indian General Service), 1885–87; Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Medal, 1887. (See ORG, pp. 7-16 )

[Page 149, line 8] portin’ arms raising rifles for inspection to show that they are unloaded and that the barrels are clean.

[Page 150, line 3] sword knot a fastening—the strap which linked sword-hilt and wrist. Purely decorative nowadays.

[Page 151, line 23] jagged sliver of silver would do its work well This tense error (the sliver of silver did its work on contact; there is nothing more for it to do) is one of the many signs of haste in this story.

[Page 151, line 32] Samuelson, the Jew The man's name is Anderson, but Ortheris keeps on calling him 'Samuelson' as an insult.

[Page 152, line 6] the cat a nine-lashed whip, the cat-o-nine-tales. Thrashing was the punishment for a few serious crimes.

[Page 152, line 30] Ouless, av course With this, the story’s attention shifts fully to Ouless. Thus, the bad batch of recruits that sends Mulvaney into hospital and hence gives charge to Ortheris becomes the frame for the story of Ouless’ passage into manhood—by way of Ortheris’ fully achieved manhood.

[Page 153, line 18] If the Jew The story seems here to have accepted Ortheris’s insult as fact.

[Page 154, line 28] bought extra ammunition this was the regular practice of units who wanted to work up a high musketry standard.

[Page 155, line 1] rich ripe saddle-colour from sunburn; the butts were in full sun to give recruits a long day when the targets showed clear.

[Page 155, line 7] khaki while khaki is now the color of No. 2 dress in the British Army, camouflage is worn in the field. Indian troops now wear a dark, brownish khaki.

[Page 155, line 16] Ballyhooley an Irish song, words and music by Robert Martin (1887).

[Page 156, line 16] second-class shots troops were classified by scores into three classes: Second Class Shots, First Class Shots, Marksmen.

[Page 157, line 31] bullfinch has a musical note and used to be a popular cage bird.

[Page 158, line 3] conscrip’ the British regular soldier is proud of being a volunteer, even when conscription is enforced in wartime. There were none at that time nor are there any at the present. The last consctipted National Serviceman left the army in 1963.

[Page 158, line 8] being neither a menial nor an American One presumes that Kipling was thinking of American pirates as he wrote this in early 1890, though he certainly thought the United States a good object-lesson in the perils of democracy. See “As Easy as A.B.C.” in A Diversity of Creatures.

[Page 159, line 1] arxed ’im very polite to ’it back To one reader, at least, it seems that Ortheris here performs a malicious version of Ouless’ innocent error—but the text seems not to disapprove.

[Page 159, line 19] place where I went off my ’ead See “The Madness of Private Ortheris” in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 160, line 12] Hooray! This seems as incautious on the part of the author as it is for the narrator.

[Page 162, line 21] My rights! ’Strewth A’mighty! I’m a man One has an appropriate place in the scheme of things, not individual rights. See “The Children of the Zodiac” later in this collection.


[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved