(notes edited by
and John McGivering)
notes on the text
"A Tour of Inspection" was probably written too late in 1904 to be included in Traffics and Discoveries (passed for press in June) with the four other Pyecroft stories. It is uncertain why Kipling did not collect it in Actions and Reactions (1909) or A Diversity of Creatures (1917): the first contains no Pyecroft stories, but "The Horse Marines" (written May 1910) appeared in the second. By this time Kipling may have been writing, or at least planning, his one-act play about Pyecroft, “The Harbour Watch”.See also KJ 34/20 and 329/27: also the articles on "Kipling's Sussex". and "Kipling and the Royal Navy" on this site.
We do not know why Kipling did not include "A Tour of Inspection" in one of his volumes of short stories that appeared after Traffics and Discoveries, for which it appeared too late. Commander Merriman would have ranked it above "The Bonds of Discipline", though he thought it most unlikely that the crew of a coasting schooner would have been expected to man a dumb [unpowered] barge into which they had unloaded cargo, and impossible for this to be moved any distance without towage.Background
On the other hand, another member, recalling his own youth in Cardiff, has memories of barges being towed by a single man, with the aid of a tow rope secured to the pivoting point, not the bow, of the craft.
'The fact that a drunken, psalm-singing Cardiff-Welsh deckhand is supposed to have towed an ammunition barge a mile or so along a peaceful country canal is quite in order and the sort of irresponsible escapade they would have rejoiced in.'The story, however, involves the Welsh mate towing a barge laden with china clay something like five miles, and this after a very heavy evening in the course of which he has appropriated a couple of red flags from an explosives barge, lending his own craft a dangerous appearance which enables him to terrorise a nearby concrete works into suspending operations.
Though the nub of the plot is as thin as that, it seems to have befogged some readers. Others may find that the humour is uncomfortably close to slapstick, or that Pyecroft deviating towards Elder Statesmanship is less entertaining than usual. Kipling may have felt that some revision was needed to make the story worth collecting.