by John Radcliffe)
|notes on the text|
A very early Kipling piece, "A Germ Destroyer" (Plain Tales from the Hills) described the discomfiture of Lord Dufferin by a patent fumigatory. The grain of truth behind this story was somewhat different. A well-known joke in India was that Dufferin had been put to flight by a swarm of bees at one of his Vice-regal ceremonies. Kipling transformed the circumstances in 1887, but perhaps filed away the bee story in his memory for use twenty-five years later. [see ORG page 50]Carrington (p. 407) also notes in his biography of Kipling:
Rudyard had become an enthusiastic bee-keeper at Bateman's, and more than once made symbolic use of of the social life of the bee in his comments on the contemporary human scene.[See "The Mother Hive" in Actions and Reactions (1909).]
When we remember that Kipling and his fellow-Imperialists were dedicated to exactly such federation, we can get something of the boredom that he suffered from colonial visitors to Bateman's.Some critical comments
Complex, deliberately wrought, visually rich, and ringing with various voices, these astonishing structures stand along the road of his art from "The Rout of the White Hussars" in Plain Tales from the Hills to "Aunt Ellen" in Limits and Renewals. They are houses of boisterous and primitive mirth ... Sooner or later in these tales we reach the moment of physical disorder, the inversion of human and official dignity, surely the oldest and most proved of the sources of laughter.But she also notes (page 37):
Not every lover of Kipling can love these farces. Some are repelled by the barbarousness of the occasion, and some disconcerted by the imagined pain of the victim. Others share the genial contempt of Meredith for 'the great stomach laugh of the English— on which they found their possession of the sense of humour'. If the mirth-quake, towards which the story forges, does not appear to the reader to be an exquisite moment of perception and sensation, then the whole tale results for him in an anti-climax, and the elaboration of the approach to it becomes tedious.