quotes_june28_2009.htm

(June 28th to July 4th)



Format: Triple

A newspaper office seems to attract every conceivable sort of person … Missionaries wish to know why they have not been permitted to escape from their regular vehicles of abuse and swear at a brother-missionary under special patronage of the editorial We; stranded theatrical companies troop up to explain that they cannot pay for their advertisements, but on their return from New Zealand or Tahiti will do so with interest; inventors of patent punkah-pulling machines, carriage couplings, and unbreakable swords and axle-trees, call with specifications in their pockets and hours at their disposal; tea-companies enter and elaborate their prospectuses with the office pens…

  

This is from the introduction to “The Man who Would be King” in Wee Willie Winkie and other stories.

The narrator, a young editor on a newspaper in India with a strong resemblance to Kipling’s Civil and Military Gazette, encounters two adventurers who plan to make themselves kings in the mountains of Kafiristan. Later in the story one of them returns, a broken man, with a fantastic tale of their triumph – and eventual tragedy.


There were newspaper exchanges from Egypt to Hong-Kong to be skimmed nearly every morning and, once a week, the English papers on which one drew in time of need; local correspondence from outstations to vet for possible libels in their innocent allusions; ‘spoofing’ letters from subalterns to be guarded against (twice I was trapped here); always, of course, the filing of cables, and woe betide an error then! I took them down from the telephone—a primitive and mysterious power whose native operator broke every word into mono syllables.

   

This is from Kipling’s autobiography, Something of Myself, describing his work as Assistant Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore.


Yet, I had presentiments, and waited anxiously for what might come. The flying keel stayed at the Golden Gate, where the sea-lions romp and gurgle and bask: Europe shook with the tread of armed men, but—where was my paragraph? In America—for San Francisco wished to know, if “Allah allowed the tiger,” etc., how much a Los Angeles hotel-keeper would be justified in charging a millionaire with delirium tremens? Would Eastern America accept it? The paragraph touched Salt Lake City; and thenceforward, straight as a homeward-bound bee, headed New York-wards….

   

This is from “The Track of a Lie”, a story first published in the Civil and Military Gazette in 1888, which did not figure in any of the standard editions of Kipling’s collected works until the Sussex and Burwash editions. It has recently been published on this site.

It tells of a small, intriguing, but apocryphal news paragraph about the value of the food eaten by a tiger each day, said to be determined by Allah at one rupee eight annas. The tale describes the process by which this piece of misinformation is picked up by successive newspapers around the world, until it comes back to India again, fifteen months later.

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