Format: Single

They seated themselves in the heavy chairs on the pebbled floor beneath the eaves of the summer-house by the orchard. A table between them carried wine and glasses, and a packet of papers, with pen and ink. The larger man of the two, his doublet unbuttoned, his broad face blotched and scarred, puffed a little as he came to rest. The other picked an apple from the grass, bit it, and went on with the thread of the talk that they must have carried out of doors with them.


This is the opening of Kipling’s last story, “Proofs of Holy Writ”.

Will Shakespeare and Ben Jonson are having a quiet glass of wine in an orchard. As George Engel writes in his notes on the story; it emerges that Shakespeare has been consulted by Miles Smith, one of the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible then under preparation, with a view to improving its English.

Thereupon Shakespeare and Jonson work over some verses of Isaiah which have been sent to Shakespeare in proof (“hand-pressed proofs on their lavish linen paper”) for his suggested amendments. Their discussion of the choice of words is at the heart of the story, which has been called “Kipling’s valedictory statement on art”.