"Steam Tactics"

Text changes

(there are a number of interesting textual differences between the Windsor Magazine version and the story as collected in Traffics and Discoveries. This note was written by Mr. A.E. Caddick of Christchurch, New Zealand. for KJ 51, the Kipling Journal for October 1939)

[December 3rd 2008]


A.E.Caddick writes: in a general way Kipling has toned down the solecisms of Pyecroft and Hinchcliffe. He has restored many missing aspirates; corrected or changed occasional verbs; omitted, inserted or altered certain words or phrases ; and checked a tendency to repetition. It should be noted, too, that Leggat, Kipling's "engineer," is " Filsey " in the original tale.

Here are some restored aspirates : 'ardly becomes hardly ; 'ot—hot; 'im—him; 'ow—how; 'ave—have; be'old—behold. The list could be made a fairly lengthy one. When Agg " lashed his horse and passed out of sight still rumbling," Pyecroft remarked, "The fleet's sailed leavin' us on the beach as before" The last two words do not appear in the "Windsor " version.

While Leggat (once Filsey) was showing Hinchcliffe (then minus the "e") the gadgets of the car Pyecroft drove "an elbow back into the deep verdure of the hedge foot" not into "the mallow and scabious of the hedge-foot," as in the first version.

Grammatical Changes.

Minor grammatical changes are fairly frequent: "I'll teach you" instead of "I'll learn you"; "I'm not" — "I aren't"; "remarkably hectic" — "remarkable hectic". "Blighted" and "blighter" occur too often and are changed or omitted. Thus "blighted shaving glass" ("little shaving glass"); "blighted photograph" ("cabinet photograph"); "navigate by your blighted self" ("by your automatic self"); "it's blighted sorcery" ("it's sorcery"); "the blighter" ("our Robert"); "the blighted bulgine" ("running bulgine"); "blighted sleeve" ("dainty sleeve").

Kysh's car was originally a "twelve horse Octopod": it became a "twenty-four-horse" one; and the last of the hill up which he drove her, and down which he let her run back a few feet to show Hinchcliffe "what sort of a brake" he used, rises "one in eight" and not "one in eleven" as it does in the Windsor. In the collected version Kysh when driving "flings a careless knee over the low raking tiller that the ordinary expert puts under his armpit". (rather than "his oxter")

When Hinchcliffe has some difficulty in manoeuvring Kipling's car to where Pyecroft and R. K. are waiting, Pyecroft observes "That the mountain will go to Ma'ommed" instead of “come to Ma'ommed".

An interesting change is, "We adjusted ourselves, and, in the language of Marryat's immortal doctor, paved our way towards Linghurst", becomes "in the language of the immortal Navy doctor."

Other minor changes.

When they espy a man "semaphorin' like the flagship in a fit", Hinchcliffe exclaims "Amen! shall I stop or shall I cut him down?" His expletive was originally, "Oh! 'Eavens!"

When they heard the policeman's charge, Pyecroft said briefly, "That’s Agg". In the collected version, it is "That's Agg's little roose". When they have the policeman in the car later, he "swore" something instead of just "he said something"; and Kysh, "one of his more recent fines rankling in his brain" said not that it was a "Beastly swindle" but "an infernal swindle."

Referring to Hinchcliffe's trouble with the car's peculiarities Kipling says "My car never lights twice in the same fashion". This is altered to "My car (now, thank Heaven, no more than an evil memory) never lit twice in the same fashion".

Hinchcliffe, angry at having to obtain water, politely enquires, —"where does our much advertised 24 miles an hour come in?" and adds "Ain't a fly more to the point ?" The substituted "dung cart" for "fly", while less polite, is more in keeping with Hinchcliffe's state of mind. When petrol ran short he originally remarked that "a pair of stilts would be quicker—to my own way of thinkin'"; but in the Traffics and Discoveries version he merely remarks with resignation; "This is worse than the Channel Fleet".

After refilling the tank with petrol and putting oil in (when Hinchcliffe wanted to "discharge our engineer") they set off again, "but the engines set up a most bitter clamour and, spasmodically kicking, refused to rotate". In the final version Kipling prefers—" the engines set up a lunatic clucking and after two or three kicks, jammed".

"You'll fall in at six bells right enough" is omitted from Pyecroft's advice to the bewildered and angry policeman, just before Kysh gives his great improvisation "on the keys."

As Lottie Venn and Nellie Farren are both mere names to me, I did not appreciate this change, though I remembered 'Dal Benzaguen's desire (in "The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat) to have the audience "coo" over her as they did over Nellie.

Another alteration is the insertion of "Till one knows the eccentricities of large landowners" between "one is not" and "trained to accept kangaroos, zebras or beavers as part of its landscape". In the last paragraph but one he identifies the landowner by altering "the keeper" to "Sir William Gardner's keeper".

In that magnificent paragraph, beginning "I had seen Kysh drive before", there are several changes worth noting. "She turned her bows to the westering light (instead of "westering sun") ; "she whooped into veiled hollows" ("still hollows"); "forgotten hamlets whose single streets gave back reduplicated, the clatter of her exhaust ("whose one street..."); "the infant school ... where it disembogued yelping on cross-roads" ("the infant school ... where that disembogued on cross roads").

Two changes

There are two changes which deserve special mention. "Ain't that Eastbourne yonder?" said our guest reviving. "I've an aunt there could identify me." Thus the Windsor version. The addition of a few words making this read, "I've an aunt there—she's cook to a J.P.—could identify me", begins to place Robert with Mrs. Nickleby (in NIcholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens) and Miss Bates (in Emma by Jane Austen). Another addition immediately follows this: "Ere he (Pyecroft) had ceased to praise family love and domestic service", becomes—"Ere he had ceased to praise family love, our unpaid judiciary, and domestic service." I seem to see the faint outline of Sir Thomas Ingell, Bart, M.P. (in "The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat), rising slowly behind the words.

There are other differences—which may be found by the interested—but enough has been said to help us note how careful Kipling was with his published prose and how right he invariably is.


©A. E. Caddick 1939 All rights reserved