Towards a new
Readers' Guide

Some special considerations relating to the verse

This note of guidance for Editors and contributors is offered by John Walker,
with the advice of George Webb and members of the NRG Project Group.

[July 29 2003]

1. The verse section of the ORG is the least complete of the material produced before 1972. It is known that another volume was planned, which would have carried analysis and annotation. Unfortunately, the location of these notes is not known. However, the existing volume of the ORG relating to verse remains an unique resource for unpublished items, juvenilia, and many pieces for which attribution is debated.

2. The verse section of the New Readers’ Guide seems more likely to be consulted by “casual readers” than that for the prose. In particular, it is possible that there will be a class of researcher interested only in one aspect of one verse. For example, should the Examination Boards decide to make regular use of Kipling’s verse, (other than “The Way Through the Woods”), younger users of the Internet would be accessing the material for course work background, and preparing for examinations. It is also clear that enough of the verse is quoted regularly for an authoritative source to be valuable to journalists and fiction writers.

3. Even in the Definitive Edition of the verse, pieces have been grouped under subject headings. It is very likely that the proposed thematic connections, to be offered by the NRG for the prose, would be vital for the verse. With almost 1300 items listed in the verse volume of ORG, this is a major undertaking. It will certainly be ongoing, as successive contributors point to important themes or trace connections with other verse. (An example might be the links to Kipling’s reading, and the influence of other poets).

4. Early “pilot” contributions to the NRG for verses have made clear that the meanings and significance of individual words are critical to understanding. It is likely that both annotations and summary of critical comment may be longer, and more “debatable”, than those for the prose. Harbord himself, in a letter found pasted into a copy of ORG, made clear that the lost material would produce the largest volume of the series.

5. Many of the verses were originally published in connection with prose pieces. The contributor responsible for the relevant prose will be asked to annotate these where possible. However, where additional verses or different versions were collected elsewhere, there will need to be additional notes. These need to be linked to the original version, rather than offered separately, and the prose contributor will be offered the opportunity of making these notes.

6. Commentary and criticism, including summaries of critical studies, and links to essays, etc., will eventually be offered separately from the publication facts and annotation. We are considering whether we may need a Literary Editor to oversee this material. This should create opportunities for relating criticism of individual poems with others, and generating authoritative articles on particular aspects of Kipling's verse.

7. It will helpful for indexing purposes always to refer to the titles of collections in full, together with their dates of publication, rather than abbreviating them. Several of the collections feature different contents according to the edition, so that, for example, Departmental Ditties and Other Verses would need four reference codes, unless the full name is used with the date of publication.

8. There are some 540 verses in the Definitive Edition, but almost 1300 are listed in ORG. The NRG database will need to include a great number of uncollected, or unobtainable texts in full, as well as additional verses and variant forms. We envisage making these available separately, subject to the necessary permissions, for “idle browsing”; these are likely to be among the last verses to be annotated.

9. Line references should be based on the Definitive Edition, as this will be the most commonly available to users of NRG. However, contributors are also be asked to check on any changes made when a poem was publisjhed in the Sussex Edition, and on whether adjunct verse includes all of the material collected elsewhere. Occasionally, only a small part of a verse piece is used as a chapter heading. The prose contributor should then offer a link to the notes on the full text, if this is being handled by another contributor, or include notes on the full text with any comments on Kipling’s possible reasons for the selection.

10. We see it as essential that the NRG is authoritative on dates of publication, provenance, alternate titles, variations in text and explanation of background. This will be an ongoing task as the project proceeds. As far as possible variations by Kipling in the text in successive versions should be dated. As with the prose, all entries in the NRDG will be shown with the date of the latest changes made.

11. It is clear that a chronological approach to the verse, as used in some selections, is very valuable in demonstrating the development of Kipling's style, and enabling students to trace themes or influences. Many of the dates for first publication given in ORG are problematical, and contributors are expected to note any doubtful points. However, any attempt to renumber the entries should be deferred until the exercise is complete.

12. Changes made by Kipling for the Sussex and Burwash editions are certainly significant. Although this would involve yet another link, it may be possible to provide the final edition of each verse in full in the NRG as a separate source. Even if this does not prove possible, a comment within the notes on changes made for the Sussex is essential.