by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
An interesting example of Kipling's skill in reworking a subject at different times and for different markets can be seen by comparing "On the Banks of the Hugli", Chapter IV of The City of Dreadful Night published in 1888 as one of the Indian Railway Library green covered paperbacks, with his story "An Unqualified Pilot", one of the brilliant little tales in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides...None of the other thirty-three commentators and biographers we consulted has noticed this story which is a pity, for as well as being a good example of Kipling in Young Man / Engine / Ship / makes good mode, it is an excellent and almost believable tale, based, as the opening line observes, on a real incident. It is unlikely, however, that a junk, or any vessel, for that matter, would have got very far without being stopped by the Port Authority, but it would be small-minded to disparage such a ripping yarn on a mere technicality ! .
Both these typically descriptive and perceptive pieces are Kipling at his very best and both evoke the power and danger of the mighty river and the skill of the pilots who brought shipping up to Calcutta. But "An Unqualified Pilot", being for young people, is written in a simpler and tighter style than "On The Banks Of The Hugli". Kipling was never profligate with words but he pared his writing down even more carefully as he got older. [KJ 307/17]