‘The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling’, by David Gilmour

This March 2002 study of Kipling’s life, by David Gilmour, the acclaimed biographer of Lord Curzon, studies the public role of the man who so embodied the spirit of the British Empire.

Some reviewers’ comments on David Gilmour’s book

Andrew Lycett wrote in the Sunday Times: ‘His meat is in his brilliant teasing-out of the political content in Kipling’s fiction, verse, letters and other pronouncements…Along with his effortless command of his material, Gilmour impresses as a stylist: always to the point, able to sum up a verse or a character in a sentence. He makes one look again at certain poems…while noting the salient points of works usually ignored…Gilmour has illuminated not just Kipling, nor simply the troubled but fascinating history of empire, but something important about ourselves.’

Robin Knight wrote in Time Magazine of April 1st 2002: ‘…It’s a measure of this balanced book that Gilmour puts Kipling firmly in the context of his time but does not attempt to defend the indefensible. As he stresses, Kipling – ever the realist – touched real chords in the British psyche during the first 40 years of his life…but basically he failed to change with the times…’

Tom Paulin wrote in The Times Literary Supplement: ‘… The Long Recessional is an important act of cultural reclamation, which ought to bring readers back to the Kipling canon…’

Ruth Padel wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘…David Gilmour has written an enthralling biography of a mind. His focus is on the “imperial life” of Kipling as artist: a case of the British Empire in the head…(he) charts beautifully the labyrinthine twists of British politics over imperial matters from 1900 to 1935, but never strays from chronicling Kiplin’s writerly progression. Which makes this book essential reading for anyone who cares about how a writer finds, and passionately lives, his subject.’

Andrew Roberts wrote in the Mail on Sunday: ‘…This beautifully written, touching, and occasionally very funny book is far more than an apology for the greatest phrase-maker in the English tongue since Shakespeare. It is a chivalrous yet scholarly rescue of a great man’s reputation…Gilmour has gently taken the old boy by the elbow and helped him up on his rightful pedestal, carefully slipping the laureate’s crown back upon that balding scalp. A victim of decades-long debunking, Rudyard Kipling is now triumphantly re-bunked.’