A Retired Gentleman

Notes on the text

(edited by Sharad Keskar)

First Publication

The first letter, entitled “A Retired Gentleman” was published in New York in the Saturday Evening Post on 2nd June, 1917.

All four letters appeared in New York in the Saturday Evening Post during May or June, 1917. Three were published in Paris in La Revue des Deux Mondes in June of the same year (omitting Letter No. 1).

A booklet, The Eyes of Asia, containing all four stories, was published by Messrs. Doubleday, Page and Company in 1918. The stories were collected in: Scribner’s Edition vol. 34; the Sussex Edition vol. 26 page 175; the Burwash Edition, Volume 20. Mrs. Kipling presented a volume containing the original MSS. of the stories in the Volume A Diversity of Creatures and the greater part of these four stories to Edinburgh University Library.

Notes on the Text

[Heading] As collected there is the following addition: ‘Written in the fifth month of the year 1916’.

[Page 3, line 1] Singh Used in the names of Sikhs and Rajputs (both Hindus) and meaning “lion”.

Subedar Major A senior Infantry Indian Officer (Subedar).

[Page 3, line 2] The regiments and most of the places mentioned are of course disguised but they have Indian sounding names. See the notes on the Dekkani Horse (Page 181, line 5) below.

[Page 3, line 4] Sawant Reporter or spreader of news.

[Page 3, line 5] Risaldar Major A senior Indian Officer of Cavalry (Rissaldar).

[Page 3, line 6] Fief Land presented to him, often as a reward for good service.

[Page 3, line 7] Thakore Sahib A land owner (Thakur).

[Page 3, line 3] Rajputana See Readers’ Guide notes on Letters of Marque above in Section II.

[Page 4, line 6] The forest reservation referred to is the New Forest in Hampshire, England, which was set aside by the Norman Kings of England in the 11th century for their own hunting. There is still a well defined area known as the New Forest to this day.

[Page 4, line 4] Officer Sahibs All the Regiments of the “Indian Army”, as distinct from the British Army stationed in India, had a number of British Officers holding the Queen’s (or King’s) Commission, as well as a larger number of Indian gentlemen holding commissions from the Viceroy of India. The Commanding Officer was nearly always a Briton.

[Page 7, line 2] Chitoree Bastion No link with the Rajput fortress of Chitor, but from a Hymn to victory, celebrating Arjoon’s [Arjuna] ascent into Heaven, where the blowing up of the regions of defeat and desolation, of Hell and Hades, prior to entry into Heaven, occurs with a majestic and theatrical explosion.

[Page 7, line 3] Arjoon (Arjuna) One of the Pandava brothers and a hero of the Great Hindu epic, The Mahabharata, but also semi-divine because, although his mother is human, his father is the god Indra, the Lord of Heaven. (Indra’s role combines that of Thor and Jupiter in the ancient Roman pantheon.) On the eve of the great battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna, in disguise, becomes his charioteer, and his advice to Arjuna is the Bhagavad Gita.

[Page 7, line 11] bunnia’s marriage-feast It has always been important that parents should provide a great feast for the wedding of daughters and the bunnia (shop-keeper) obviously had to lead the way in expenditure.

[Page 7, line 22] caste The divisions of society in India into social groups or classes.

[Page 10, line 2] The Maharanee of the Nurses Maharanee being “Princess”, she is the Chief Sister or the Matron.

[Page 14, line 2] Dekkani Horse As this Regiment had several names between its formation and 1947, the date of Indian Independence, some short historical notes may be useful:

In 1790 a treaty between the Honourable East India Company and the Nizam of Hyderabad led to the formation of a body of 10,000 Cavalry Levies the men to come mainly from Behar.

  • In 1816 its name was ame changed to the Re-formed Horse with four Regiments.
  • In 1826, ten years later, there was another reorganisation when the first Regiment became known as the 1st Royal Nizam’s Cavalry.
  • In 1853 they were described as ‘the finest irregular Cavalry in the world.’
  • Next year, in 1854, they became known as ‘The Hyderabad Contingent’ (H.C.).
  • In 1890 the name became ‘1st Lancers of the H.C.’
  • In 1903 they were incorporated into the Indian Army, with the style Royal Deccan Horse.

[Page 18, line 10] Spindle-side the ‘distaff side’ of the family, the female line.

[Page 18, line 13] In India washing was commonly done at the riverside or near the local well by beating and rubbing the clothes on smooth stones by hand.

[Page 19, line 3] Philawat now Phillaur in the Punjab.

[Page 19, line 6] Haliana Possibly Hala near the Indus.

[Page 19, line 19] Kandesur This possibly refers to Khandash to the north-east of Bombay.

[Page 20, line 11] Military Cross (M.C.) A decoration for gallantry in the field, instituted on 28th December 1914]; the riband is white, violet, and white, in equal thirds.

[Page 20, line 16] Girton one of the colleges of Cambridge University, established in 1869 for women, but since 1977 admitting both men and women students.

[Page 20, line 19] Sunborn steeped in chivalry, the Rajputs, an ancient warrior race, are of all the peoples of India the most representative of Hindu idealism. Akbar the Great, a 16th century contemporary of Elizabeth I, recognised their bravery and martial qualities, and by firm diplomacy won them over and involved them in his government of Mughal India. He reaped the benefit of their code of unquestioning loyalty. The Rajputs themselves claim to be the origin of the warrior caste, born out of fire and sword. They see themselves as guardians of Hinduism, and though second to the Brahmin priestly caste, all the Rajas and Princely rulers of India are proud of their Rajput descent and a genealogy which connected them to the Sun and the Moon.
See also the notes by Brigadier Mason on the Rajputs.

[Page 21, lines 13-16] The four-line verse is probably Kipling’s.

[Page 21, line 5] Jam A title given to native chiefs in Kutch, Kathiawar and the lower Indus.

Sulliman A title given to chiefs in some other parts of the East.

[Page 22, line 7] Pech Possibly Pesh-Satara, Bombay.

©Sharad Keskar 2008 All rights reserved