Introduction to the Collection

Introduction to the Collection

by David Page, drawing on the work of the ORG Editors

Publication history

This is a collection of stories (and one poem) in the reprinting of which, Kipling’s hand was forced. He had not intended that these particular items should be republished after their original appearance in the Civil and Military Gazette, the Pioneer and Pioneer Mail, the Week’s News, and the C&MG ‘Turnovers’ between 1888 and 1890. As he wrote to E.L. White on 5 April 1910:

I was a bit sick about Abaft the Funnel because the enterprising Dodge must have sent or got a man to rake through old newspaper files and hike out everything that he thought was mine.
[The Letters of Rudyard Kipling Vol 3, ed. Thomas Pinney, p. 418].

In 1909, B.W. Dodge and Company of New York published an unauthorised volume of 30 pieces of prose and one of verse (“In Partibus”) under the title Abaft the Funnel. As Professor Pinney noted, there was no need for Dodge to rake through old files; he simply reprinted from the series of ‘Turnovers’ put out by the C&MG. This unauthorised volume has the following Preface:

The measure of a man’s popularity is not always—or indeed seldom—the measure of his intrinsic worth. So, when the earlier work of any writer is gathered together in more enduring form, catering to the enthusiasm of his readers in his maturer years, there is always a suspicion that the venture is purely a commercial one, without literary justification.

Fortunately these stories of Mr. Kipling’s form their own best excuse for this, their first appearance together in book form. Not merely because in them may be traced the origin of that style and subject matter that later made their author famous; but because the stories are in themselves worth while—worth writing, worth reading. “The Likes o’ Us” is as true to the type as any of the immortal Mulvaney stories; the beginning of “New Brooms” is as succinctly fine as any prose Mr. Kipling ever wrote; for searching out and presenting such splendid pieces of fiction as “Sleipner, late Thurinda,” and “A Little More Beef” to a public larger than their original one in India, no apology is necessary. (A.F.)

As Yan Shapiro points out David Richards comments, in “Kipling and the Pirates”:

Dodge’s motive is patent from the disingenuous Preface, signed by ‘A.F. (Arthur Fremont Rider, according to a Yale University Library card catalogue note)

Doubleday, Page & Co. immediately published a similar authorised volume under the same title with the same contents except the above preface. The book was sold for the low price of 19 cents (or less than a shilling) in order to kill the sales of the unauthorised edition. They later re-issued this authorised version under the same date in the format of their regular editions, and containing the following Author’s Note:

‘Messrs. B. W. Dodge & Company have issued without my knowledge or sanction the following odds and ends unearthed from newspaper files of twenty years ago, and therefore unprotected by copyright. I should never have reprinted them, but Messrs. Dodge’s enterprise compels me to do so.’ RUDYARD KIPLING, OCTOBER 1909.

The volume was not issued in England but the 30 stories are in Vol.XXIX of the Sussex Edition published in the UK and also in Vol.XXIII of the Burwash Edition in the U.S.A., with the third story “A Menagerie Aboard” retitled “One Lady at Large”.

A facsimile reprint of the B.W. Dodge volume was issued in paperback in 2001 by Fredonia Books, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ISBN 1-58963-365-2).


‘Turnovers’ (or ‘Turn-overs’) was a series of 12 quarterly volumes published by the Civil and Military Gazette Press of Lahore between 1888 and 1890. In each volume, they reprinted stories and articles that had appeared in the C&MG during the preceding three months. The title of the series was derived from the position in that paper which they occupied, with each item beginning in the last column of page one and finishing in the first column of page two, which space was reserved for late newscables. The length of the story or article was thus subject to last minute adjustment. [Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliographical Catalogue, James McG. Stewart, ed. A.W. Yeats, Dalhousie University, 1959, p.70.]

All Readers’ Guide References are to the 1909 Authorised Edition, New York, Doubleday Page & Co.

Title Page Quotation

The title page of both the authorised and the unauthorised editions carries the unidentified quotation:

“Men in pajamas sitting abaft the funnel and swapping lies of the purple seas.”

Charles Carrington [Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Work, Macmillan, 1955, p.121-122] says that Kipling “more than once used [t]his graphic, vulgar little phrase”, but no duplicate has been found in any of the standard prose works. However, see below.

There are other references in Kipling’s works to “pyjamas” which are considered as a comfortable form of dress in hot climates. “Hans Breitmann paddled across the deck in his pink pyjamas, a cup of tea in one hand and a cheroot in the other” [“Reingelder and the German Flag”, Life’s Handicap]; “It was pyjama time on the Madura”,[“A Menagerie Aboard” Abaft the Funnel]; “And the pink pyjamas and the BLUE pyjamas and the spotted green pyjamas, all fluttering gracefully . . .” [“A Smoke of Manila”, Abaft the Funnel]. The definition of “Pyjammas” in Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary by Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell (1886) includes the following information:

. . . A pair of loose drawers or trowsers, tied round the waist. . . It was adopted from the Mohammedans by Europeans as an article of dishabille, and of night attire, . .

[1828.– “His chief joy smoking a cigar in loose paee-jams and native slippers.” Orient. Sport. Mag., reprint 1878. i, 64.] . . .

“Abaft” is a nautical term meaning behind or in the direction of the stern of a ship as opposed to the bows (or front) – “abaft the sheep-pens” [From Sea to Sea, VI]; “abaft the main-mast” [“The Burning of the Sarah Sands”, Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides]; “abaft the foremast”, abaft the quarterhatch” [“The Manner of Men”, Limits and Renewals].

The phrase “the purple seas” carries a redolent echo of Homer’s “wine-dark sea” [The Iliad and The Odyssey].

Prior use of the Title

The ORG contains the information that the title Abaft the Funnel had been given to a series of eight stories which appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette in 1889, as follows:

Number Title Date in 1889 in CMG First collected in
1    (No number in CMG) A Menagerie Aboard March 30th Abaft the Funnel, 1909
2 Reingelder and the German Flag April 16th Life’s Handicap, 1891
3 The Wreck of the Visigoth April 25th In one edition only of The Day’s Work in U.S.A. in 1899, or of Soldiers Three (See No. 6)
4 The Lang Men o’ Larut May 29th Life’s Handicap, 1891
5 Probably the story “It” which appeared on June 1st but without the general heading June 1st Abaft the Funnel, 1909
6 Of Those Called July 13th

Soldiers Three, The Story of the Gadsbys

, 1895

7 A Smoke of Manila July 18th Abaft the Funnel, 1909
8 Erastasius of the Whanghoa August 21st Abaft the Funnel, 1909


B.W. Dodge included Nos. 1, 5, 7 and 8 in their volume Abaft the Funnel.

Critical Opinions

In general, the critics have ignored this collection, possibly because some did not know of its existence or they considered it to be juvenilia and therefore unworthy of comment. Such references as there are are very much en passant, and there is no value in repeating them. Whilst there are various references in 60 issues of the Kipling Journal, they tend to be citations from the various pieces collected in the volume rather than critical reviews of the complete work. But, as was written in the ORG:

. . . if Dodge had not printed these 30 stories it is highly unlikely that we should have been able to study 24 or 25 of them and it therefore seems that it was quite a good idea that Kipling “had his hand forced”, for although some of them are not quite the best quality, others are interesting and worth reading.

Post-Annotation Summary

Whilst annotating this volume, it became clear that the stories fell into several clearly defined groups, despite being scattered at random through Abaft the Funnel. By adding the date of first publication together with the newspaper in which it appeared to the Contents list, and then sorting by date, the pattern becomes apparent.

Location First Published Where Turnovers Original Series Contents
Allahabad 4 Feb 1888 The Week’s News The Likes o’ Us
Allahabad 16 Mar 1888 C&MG I 9 A Fallen Idol
Allahabad 7 Apr 1888 The Week’s News His Brother’s Keeper
Allahabad 12 May 1888 The Week’s News “Sleipner”, Late “Thurinda”
Allahabad 19 May 1888 The Week’s News A Supplementary Chapter
Allahabad 3 Aug 1888 C&MG III 31 New Brooms
Allahabad 15 Sep 1888 The Week’s News The Last of the Stories
Allahabad 26 Oct 1888 C&MG IV 35 Tiglath Pileser
On Voyage 30 Mar 1889 C&MG V 37 A Menagerie Aboard
On Voyage 1 Jun 1889 C&MG VI 42 It !
On Voyage 18 Jul 1889 C&MG VII 44 A Smoke of Manila
On Voyage 20 Jul 1889 C&MG VII 45 “The Red Lamp”
On Voyage 31 Jul 1889 C&MG VII 47 Griffiths The Safe Man
On Voyage 2 Aug 1889 C&MG VII 48 The Shadow of His Hand
On Voyage 21 Aug 1889 C&MG VII 49 Erastasius of the Whanghoa
On Voyage 10 Sep 1889 C&MG VII 50 The Bow Flume Cable-Car .
On Voyage 18 Sep 1889 C&MG VII 51 A Little More Beef
On Voyage 19 Sep 1889 C&MG VII 52 Her Little Responsibility
London 23 Nov 1889 C&MG VIII 53 The History of a Fall
London 10 Dec 1889 C&MG VIII 54 The New Dispensation—I
London 16 Dec 1889 C&MG VIII 55 The New Dispensation—II .
London 23 Dec 1889 C&MG VIII 56 In Partibus (Verse)
London 2 Jan 1890 C&MG IX 57 The Three Young Men
London 11 Jan & 13 Jan 1890 C&MG IX 58 My Great and Only
London 23 Jan 1890 C&MG IX 60 “The Betrayal of Confidences”
London 25 Jan 1890 C&MG IX 61 The Adoration of the Mage
London 29 Jan 1890 C&MG IX 62 A Death in the Camp
London 8 Feb 1890 C&MG IX 63 A Really Good Time
London 21 Feb 1890 C&MG IX 64 On Exhibition
On Voyage 1 Apr 1890 The Pioneer Chautauquaed
London 17 Sep & 11 Oct 1890 The Pioneer Letters on Leave

Prof Pinney [The Letters of Rudyard Kipling Vol 1, ed. Thomas Pinney, p.147) comments that Kipling:

… had left Lahore by mid-November 1887 and was writing for the Pioneer [of Allahabad] by early December. . . At the beginning of 1888 he was put in charge of a new supplement to the Pioneer called the Week’s News … Thus began the series of stories that, later in 1888, were collected in the series called “The Railway Library” … So abundant was the flow from Kipling’s pen in these months of 1888 that the Pioneer could not absorb it all and a good part of it continued to be diverted to the pages of the Civil and Military Gazette [in Lahore].

In November and December 1887 he wrote the nineteen “Letters of Marque” which appeared in the Pioneer between 14 December 1887 and 28 February 1888, and most of the eighteen articles in The Smith Administration. January and February saw the generation of eight articles on Calcutta grouped as “The City of Dreadful Night” whilst later in 1888 there were the three articles in “Among the Railway Folk”, the three in “The Giridh Coal-Fields”, and “In an Opium Factory”, all collected in the two-volume From Sea to Sea.

The six volumes of the “Indian Railway Library” consist of:

  • No. 1. Soldiers Three – seven stories and one poem.
  • No. 2. The Story of the Gadsbys – eight chapters and one poem.
  • No. 3. In Black and White – eight stories.
  • No. 4. Under the Deodars – six stories.
  • No. 5. The Phantom Rickshaw – four, two of which had been previously published in Quartette in 1885.
  • No. 6. Wee Willie Winkie – four stories

Thus the Allahabad identified total is 95 stories or reports, and there were undoubtedly more.

On Voyage

Having decided to return to England in order to move beyond the limits of Indian journalism, he sailed from Calcutta on 9 March 1889 in company with his American friends from Allahabad, Professor ‘Aleck’ and Mrs ‘Ted’ Hill. Their voyage took them via Malaya, Singapore, China, and Japan to San Francisco in the U.S.A., arriving on 28 May aboard the S.S. City of Peking. Here the party split up and whilst the Hills went directly to Beaver City, Northern Pennsylvania, Kipling travelled up the western seaboard of the U.S.A. before striking across country and eventually reaching Beaver on 24 July. From here he travelled around the eastern seaboard before sailing on the Inman Line S.S. City of Berlin from New York on 25 September to dock in Liverpool, England, on 5 October.

During this seven month journey, Kipling wrote the series of ‘Letters’ for the Pioneer, most of which were collected in From Sea to Sea. Ten concern the period before arriving in Japan, thirteen are about Japan, and twenty relate to North America. At the same time, as can be seen from the summary of the contents of Abaft the Funnel (above), he was writing pieces of fiction based on his experiences which were printed in the Civil and Military Gazette. The output for this period is at least 54 stories or ‘Letters’.


Kipling travelled down from Liverpool to London in October 1889, and arranged to take rooms in Villiers Street, just off the Strand, on 23 October. From his writings, he does seem to have been genuinely dismayed by the London fogs, which are frequently mentioned in the stories reprinted in Abaft the Funnel. It must be remembered though, that these, as well as all the other stories written before he reached London, are aimed at his Anglo-Indian audience, and that his objective was to interest and amuse that audience.

At the same time as these stories were being published in the Civil and Military Gazette, he was writing other stories for British and American audiences for publication in the St James’s Gazette, Harper’s Weekly, Longman’s and Macmillan’s Magazines to name but four. Stories such as “The Courting of Dinah Shadd”, “The Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney”, “The Man who Was”, “A Conference of the Powers”, “Without Benefit of Clergy” and “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot”. Then there were the poems – the Barrack-Room Ballads which first appeared in 1890 in the Scots Observer to mention just one series, and his novel The Light that Failed. It is not surprising that on 3 October 1890 The Times reported The Athenaeum saying:

We regret to hear that Mr. Rudyard Kipling has broken down from overwork. He has been ordered to take a sea voyage, and sailed on board the P. and O. steamer Shannon for Naples on Thursday.


Despite being ignored by most readers, since its existence is not well known, the stories contained in Abaft the Funnel form an excellent selection from a period of much change in in Kipling’s life. It was possibly his most productive period, when he was still supplying reading matter to an Anglo-Indian audience that was accustomed to his ironic style, but also breaking new ground with British and American readers to whom the Empire and the East were virtually unknown. It also provides an interesting contrast between his fiction and his travel journalism, written at the same time in 1888 and 1889.

©David Page 2006 All rights reserved