The Appeal


Notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)

Publication history

ORG (Volume 8, page 5488) lists this poem as Verse No. 1232. It was first published in a copyright edition in 1939, three years after Kipling’s death. It is collected in:

  • Definitive Verse 1940
  • Sussex Edition Vol, XXV, as the last entry
  • Burwash Edition
  • A Choice of Kipling’s Verse, T S Eliot, Faber 1941
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling, Wordsworth Poetry Library 1994

Thomas Pinney writes (vol. 2, p. 1550):

“The lines are written on the title page of RK’s copy of Verse, Inclusive Edition 1885-1932, 1933, now at Wimpole Hall, and are signed ‘R.K’. They are placed last in the volume of Early Verse in the Sussex Edition, where they were first collected, and are last in the Definitive Edition [as indeed in the Wordsworth edition – DH], but since RK put them on the title page of the volume in which they are inscribed they should probably stand at the head of any collection of his poems or works”.

See David Alan Richards p. 333.


These charming verses, which T. S. Eliot said he would like to have written, reflect Kipling’s desire to rest in peace, with no attempt by clairvoyants or others to communicate with him after his death. They are also instructions to consider only his published works with no attempt to investigate his private papers or unpublished matter.

Kipling seems (see our notes to the poem “En-Dor”) to have inherited something of his family gift for second sight, but preferred not to use it. He was opposed to séances purporting to communicate with the dead, and other such practices, often fraudulent, which he ridiculed in “The Sending of Dana Da” (Soldiers Three).

Prevention of intrusion on their privacy must have been a rule in the Kipling household, as witness Frank Doubleday’s visit to Bateman’s in 1934, when he found Kipling burning manuscripts. Andrew Lycett (p. 586) reports:

Rudyard had already made clear his aversion to potential biographers. On one of his last visits to Bateman’s before his own death in 1934, Frank Doubleday had encountered a sweating Rudyard shovelling bundles of papers into a blazing fire. When asked what he was doing, he replied: .’No one’s going to make a monkey out of me after I die’.

See Dr Philip Holberton’s letter to the Kipling Journal below, our notes on “How Shakespeare came to write “The Tempest”, and the inscription on Shakespeare’s tomb at Stratford-on-Avon –

Good frend for Iesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare.
Blese be y man y spares thes stones
And curst be he y moves my bones.

See also KJ 320/10 for an article by Dr John Lee on Kipling and Shakespeare.

Kipling’s widow Carrie later destroyed his notebooks and other unpublished work. After her death, this process was continued by their daughter Mrs Bambridge, who presented some published manuscripts and printed books to various colleges and institutions. (Andrew Lycett pp. 586-7)

As Charles Carrington remarks, however:

…a man who endears himself to a whole generation by his art cannot reject their natural desire to know more of his life. He had made himself their friend and had to accept the demands of friendship…

Carrington (p. 501) also refers to Kipling’s Something of Myself, which he describes as:

….hardly an autobiography but a reluctant release of what little he wished his readers to know; it contains no mention of Flo Garrard or of Mrs. Hill, of Wolcott or Beatty Balestier, no allusion to the deaths of Josephine and John Kipling. There are few dates, and those not always accurate.

In her Foreword, Marghanita Laski quotes the poem, observing (p. 6):

Rudyard Kipling was, however, as regards his private life, one of the most reticent of writers. If his daughter had needed any justification for her fierce exclusiveness, she could always call on filial piety and on her father’s wishes, which we the public know best from his poem “The Appeal” … It might have been thought decently pious in us too to abide by Kipling’s wish for continuing privacy, but it would be inconceivably priggish, in today’s climate, not to look at a writer’s life as well as his work, just because he had asked us not to do so in some touching verses.

But we must be cautious. Though it may not be possible to refrain entirely from speculation about relations between Kipling and his work, it would be foolish to make guesses that soon may be disproved by evidence.

Dr Philip Holberton, however, believes that “The Appeal” merely prohibits clairvoyance. Writing in KJ 329/63, he refers to Fred Lerner’s article in KJ 328 which quotes “The Appeal” and observes that Mr. Lerner worries about disregarding Kipling’s wishes by reading his published letters. Dr. Holberton continues:

I do not see how reading his letters can disturb Kipling’s quiet. I understand these lines to mean that he did not wish his spirit to be disturbed and called up by spiritualists and mediums. But did Kipling have any faith in spiritualism? He certainly damns it in another poem, “En-dor”.

T.S. Eliot proposed the toast “The Unfading Genius of Rudyard Kipling at the Annual Luncheon of the Kipling Society in 1958 (KJ 129/9) in the course of which he said:

I suggest that the fact that Kipling was an intuitive and not an intellectual, may go to account for his being under-rated by intellectuals who are not intuitive. He had a gift of prophecy, and he must have appreciated the frustration of Cassandra. He foresaw two wars. That of 1914 is foreshadowed in his Ode to France written in 1913. And in 1932 he foresaw, in “The Storm Cone”, the storm that was to burst seven years later, three years after his death. In his last years he regarded the future of the world with more and more misgiving. He seems to me the greatest English man of letters of his generation. Before lifting my glass I should like to quote in full as a reminder of the man, the short poem which concludes his volume of verse – a poem of which I should like to have been the author:

If I have given you delight
By aught that I have done,
Let me lie quiet in that night
Which shall be yours anon.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Unfading Genius of Rudyard Kipling.’

[In Greek mythology Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy and so beautiful that Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy. As she did not return his love, however, he cursed her so that nobody would believe her predictions. Ed.]

Daniel Hadas adds: This poem can easily be imagined as an epitaph. It is very common for Roman epitaphs (among others) to be couched in the first person, to address the reader, and remind him that he will soon be joining the defunct.  [D.H.]

Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

aught: anything.

anon: in this context, an archaic form of ‘soon’.



[J McG./J.R.]

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2011 All rights reserved