"The Red Lamp"

(notes edited
by David Page)

notes on the text

[March 1st 2006]

Publication history

First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 20 July 1889. Collected Volume VII, No.45 of Turn-overs, 1889, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909.

The story

The story takes place one hot humid night on a passenger ship sailing between ports unknown. The narrator tries to find somewhere to sleep on deck in order to escape the heat in his cabin, as do many of the passengers. He finds a space right in the bows of the ship and falls asleep, but is awakened by the glare of a red lamp from another steamship which is approaching on a collision course. He cannot understand why the lookouts on both vessels do not raise the alarm, but watches as the two vessels collide. He is finally awoken from his nightmare by the quartermaster.


Kipling had sailed from Calcutta in March 1889 with various ports of call, arriving in San Francisco in June 1889, as recounted in From Sea to Sea chapters I to XXII.


ęDavid Page 2006 All rights reserved