(notes edited and amplified
by George Engle)
notes on the text
‘I wish some special pains were taken for an uniform translation; which should be done by the best learned in both Universities, then reviewed by the Bishops, presented to the Privy Council, lastly ratified by Royal Authority, to be read in the whole Church, and no other’.Accordingly a body of scholars was appointed, which included the most learned men in the Kingdom. They were split into six groups meeting at Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster, each taking a different portion of the text. Eventually Miles Smith, a distinguished oriental scholar of Brasenose College, Oxford, and Thomas Bilson, the learned Bishop of Winchester, were appointed to make a final revision of the text of the Old Testament. Smith was made a bishop in 1612, following the publication of the King James Bible in 1611. The characters of Jonson and Shakespeare, and their relationship, resemble the account in Ben Jonson’s Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden (1619).
(Fuller’s Church-History of Britain, 1655, Bk X, p.14).
“to his godly apprehension, a parable, as it might be, of his reverend self, going down darkling to his tomb `twixt cliffs of ice and iron.”.Roger Lancelyn-Green, introducing the reprint of the story in the Kipling Journal 156 of December 1965 thought it:
“has a special appeal of its own, and must surely rank with his greatest artistic successes, even if on a lower spiritual plane than some of his most famous stories…[it] has a special appeal to those who follow Kipling’s own profession and most appreciate `the miracle of our land’s speech'.”In his introduction to Stories and Poems (Dent, 1970) Lancelyn-Green wrote of its “relaxed atmosphere of peace in the shady garden of old age”. But Angus Wilson (page 331) found it overrated: “It is the sort of piece of old-fashioned dons’ recreation which is usually called delightful, and so it is, but no more.” And Andrew Lycett (page 568) called it unenthusiastically “an erudite debate…on the craft of writing” in which “Rudyard was able to demonstrate his learning in a manner he enjoyed and, in particular, to show off his familiarity with Jacobean literature and culture.”
“he gives imaginative expression to his belief that the King James Bible represents the perfection of English speech…it is as if Kipling is trying to recreate the processes by which first Tyndale and Coverdale, and their early Jacobean scholars produced what Kipling believed to be the finest translation of the Bible”. (Kipling’s Hidden Narratives p.84).For an excellent full-length study of the story see John Coates’s article (subtitled “Kipling’s valedictory statement on art”) published in KJ 243 of September 1987 and reprinted in his The Day’s Work: Kipling and the idea of Sacrifice (pp. 120-127). The final paragraph reads as follows:
“The resulting piece of short fiction has a control of tone, not perhaps usually associated with Kipling. Its creation of character, atmosphere and period, its convincing unpretentious sketch of creation in act, its deeper seriousness, blend with its surface pleasures, the portrait of two old friends nodding in a shady garden, the mellow civilised tone. After so many stories involving reconciliation in his last period, it is fitting that Kipling should have reconciled art and intellectualism, himself and his critics.”See also Philip Mason’s ""Proofs of Holy Writ": an introduction" in the Kipling Journal of March 1988 (page 33), and David Norton’s ""Proofs of Holy Writ": Myths of the Authorised Version: Kipling and the Bible" in the Kipling Journal of December 1989, (page 18).