Aunt Ellen

Notes on the text

(These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.)


[Page 121 line 2] the Eastern Counties Lincolnshire, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire
and Middlesex are on the way from Grantham to London.

[Page 121 line 6] Grantham a market town in Lincolnshire, twenty-four miles (39 km) south-west of the city of Lincoln.

[Page 121 line 8] Hammersmith a London Borough on the Thames, and scene of “Brugglesmith”, another farce, in Many Inventions.

[Page 121 line 9] Prescott it was then the custom for some households to address all their servants, male and female, by their surnames.

[Page 122 line 6] two-seater in this context, an open car with room for two in front, usually having a ‘dickey-seat’ for two more, disclosed when a hatch at the back is opened. If that applied here, the narrator could have put the bundle into the dickey, shut the lid and there would have been no story ! See page 126, lines 7 & 8.

[Page 122 line 8] reef-points lengths of small rope secured to a sail to tie down a ‘reef’ (a fold in the sail), to make the sail smaller when the wind gets up.

[Page 122 line 9] pendulus oriole The true or forest orioles include 28 species of birds that make up the family Oriolidae.

[Page 122 line 11] a seat of learning Grantham is 109 miles (176 km.) from Oxford and 68 miles (109 km.) from Cambridge. This was probably Cambridge.

[Page 122 line 13] O. B. E. The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, established in 1917.

territorials See “The Army of a Dream” part I, page 259 line 12, in Traffics and Discoveries; also “The Honours of War” Page 114 line 32, and “The Horse Marines” both in A Diversity of Creatures. See also A.V. Sellwood, The Saturday Night Soldiers, Wolfe Publishing, 1966.

[Page 122 line 21] the ‘Life of St. Paul’ Kipling was particularly interested in St Paul; see “The Church that was at Antioch” and “The Manner of Men” in this collection. Such a film does not appear to have been made until The Bible – St Paul in the year 2000.

[Page 122 line 19] when his ship came in when he had made his fortune; a metaphor based on a ship returning from a successful trading voyage.

[Page 122 line 23] Pan-Imperial Life-Visions’ Association a splendid-sounding title that does not appear to mean anything in particular, like many of the names of film companies then and now.

[Page 122 line 25] St. Martin’s a fictional college

[Page 122 line 27] a University town almost certainly Cambridge.

[Page 122 line 28] hostages to fortune ‘ He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief’. [Of Marriage and Single Life, by Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans (1561-1626). See also Kipling’s verse “The Winners”: ‘He travels the fastest who travels alone.’

[Page 123 line 1] fathers pay all their bills many undergraduates then came from wealthy families.

Kipling wished to attend a university like his cousin Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947, first Earl Baldwin and three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) but family finances would not permit, so he returned to India to begin work as a journalist. (See
Harry Ricketts, page 71.) He was, however, awarded numerous honorary doctorates and other degrees as follows:

  • McGill University 1899 (Ricketts, page 574), A Book of Words, page 17
  • Oxford, Durham and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 (Ricketts, page 284)
  • Trinity College, Cambridge. 1908. Edinburgh, 1920. A Book of Words, page 189.
  • Sorbonne 1921 A Book of Words pp. 193 and 199.
  • Rector of St. Andrews, 1922, A Book of Words, page 231.
  • Strasbourg, A Book of Words pp. 207 and 211.
  • University of Athens, 1924.

Kipling also served on the War Graves Commission, and was a Trustee of the Rhodes Trust.

[Page 123 line 2] canoe-ended natural wood sporting machine many cars of the era had beautifully-made wooden boat-shaped bodies.

[Page 123 line 3] the starboard quarter the right-hand side of the after-part of a vessel.

[Page123 line 7] tuning-in normally a reference to the adjustment of early radio-sets (see “Wireless” in Traffics and Discoveries) but here a slang term for drinking – or having a few jars as students might say today.

[Page 123 line 10] Hollywood an agricultural district in Californin until filming started in 1907. From then on Hollywood became the centre of the world film industry.

[Page 123 line 14] ‘mass-appetence’ a strong desire for something by the public

[Page 123 line 15] ‘sinnymus’ cinemas – known as the ‘kinema’ or ‘kinematograph’ in the early days.

injuncted psychoses perhaps a reference to the mental state described as involving a ‘loss of contact with reality’. Sufferers from it are said to be psychotic. Quite appropriate for some aspects of the world of the cinema.

[Page 123 line 16] endyoclinics information will be appreciated.

[Page 123 line 18] abracadabras magic words traditionally used as a spell by conjurors.

[Page 123 line 21] Madeira in this context a delicious fortified wine, somewhat similar to port, from the island of the same name.

[Page 123 line 22] quite definite in this context, somewhat drunk.

[Page 123 line 27] Helvellyn a three thousand foot mountain in the Lake District, in the north-west of England

[Page 123 line 28] the Wash a large estuary in West Norfolk, on the east coast of England.

Holy Island there are several islands so-called in the United Kingdom – the one in question is probably that off Anglesea on the coast of North Wales as, with Helvellyn and the Wash, the three form a large triangle in accordance with the ambitious and mischievous ideas of the Narrator. See page 125 line 22 below.

[Page 124 line 1] the spirit, not the letter one who obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter is doing what those who drafted the law intended, but not obeying the literal wording.

[Page 124 line 3] Elect Lady the Virgin Mary.

[Page 124 line 29] bounded marsupially leapt like a kangaroo. See “The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo” in the Just So Stories.

[Page 125 line 4] ‘For Women and Wine’ see “The Woman in His Life” at page 55 line 30 earlier in this volume.

[Page 125 line 22] my Demon of Irresponsibility see Something of Myself, Chapters 3, 5. 7 and 8 for the Daemon who inspired Kipling’s writing. This Demon of Irresponsibility, however, obviously inspires the mischief the Narrator exhibits in this story.

[Page 126 line 20] ruined his shirt-front he had soiled or otherwise damaged his starched dress-shirt.

[Page 126 line 26] the glow-worm should lend me her eyes etc an echo of “The Night-piece: To Julia” by Robert Herrick.(1591-1674):

HER eyes the glow-worm lend thee
The shooting stars attend thee;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

[Page 126 line 32] the terms of the front-line of ’16 he swore in the manner of the soldiers in France in 1916; the lorry-driver, also a survivor of the war, replied in similar terms and they parted with no hard feelings.

[Page 127 line 8] Thus – thus to come unto thee see page 128 line 16 below.

[Page 127 line 15] tar in this instance the tarred road.

[Page 127 line 29] Cadogan Gardens there are several in London but this one is a pleasant residential square off Pont Street, SW3.

[Page 128 line 3] pavement artists men who drew pictures in coloured chalks on the pavement and then sat beside them to receive donations.

[Page 128 line 7] Regius Professor of Medicine a professorship at the ancient universities of the United Kingdom; Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. ‘Regius’ indicates that this was an appointment made by the Crown.

[Page 128 line 16] thus – thus – to come unto her an echo of the 4th verse of “Julia…”:

Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
Thus, thus to come unto me:
And when I shall meet
Thy silv’ry feet,
My soul I’ll pour into thee.

[Page 129 line 6] Plane of the Ecliptic the path that the sun appears to follow, here used jokingly.

[Page 129 line 7] Samson at Gaza he was betrayed, blinded and put to work in a mill – see Judges, 16.

[Page 129 line 8] Wordsworth’s own daffodils an echo of the firsst verse of “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth, (1770-1850):

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils.

[Page 129 line 10] a Trappist monk ‘The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance’ or ‘Trappists’, a Roman Catholic religious order that strictly follows the rule of St. Benedict. They only speak when necessary – idle talk is strongly discouraged and meals are usually taken in contemplative silence.

[Page 129 line 11] cranking-handle usually called the ‘starting-handle’ with which the engine could be turned over and started by hand.

[Page 129 lines 21 – 26] as soon as Lettcombe understood ….unimaginative trade, did good work he is beginning to understand the joke when it is explained to him. Several of Kipling’s stories have been filmed over the years with varying success. See Norman Page, page 192, “Filmography”.

[Page 130 line 3] decided henceforth to journey in company not traced – information will be appreciated.

[Page 130 line 9] carried strong port helm inclined to sheer to the left with the wheel admidships.

[Page 130 line 14] Boadicea (or Boudicca), Queen of the Iceni, a British tribe, in what is now East Anglia, led a revolt against the Romans in south-east England and poisoned herself when she was defeated in A.D. 60. Her chariots are usually depicted with sword-blades on the wheels. There is a statue of her in her chariot on the Embankment in Central London.

[Page 130 line 19] horses drew carts and blacksmiths shod them strictly speaking farriers shoe horses and blacksmiths are engineers in metal who were then beginning to repair motor vehicles as well as agricultural and domestic appliances – the forerunners of garages. Applying a hot shoe to a hoof produced a characteristic pungent smell of burning feathers.

[Page 130 line 21] ’The Shaving of Shagpat’ From An Arabian Entertainment, a novel by George Meredith (1828-1909) published by Chapman and Hall in 1856

[Page 130 line 29] dumb-iron the forward portion of the front suspension.

[Page 131 line 12] complex, but with no trace of inferiority an inferiority complex, in psychology and psychoanalysis, is a feeling that one is somehow inferior to others – here used humourously.

[Page 131 line 21] butyric acid from the Greek word for butter, a carboxylic acid with a very complex aroma.

[Page 131 line 32] digital exploration the Narrator must have licked his finger (his digit) after putting it into the mixture.

[Page 132 line 12] cameo head of Eros the head of the Greek god of love carved on a precious or semi-precious stone. The Romans knew him as Cupid.

[Page 132 line 14] winkle-vendor one who sells the the edible sea-snail (periwinkle) which has, after boiling, to be extracted from its shell with a winkle-pin.

[Page 132 line 27] Klaxons motor-horns with a characteristic loud three-phase note. From the Ancient Greek klazo ‘to shriek’.

[Page 132 line 30] W. E. A. F. the call-sign of a particular radio-station.

[Page 132 line 31] the present conjunction of the planets see “A Doctor of Medicine” in Rewards and Fairies, page 256, lines 31-33. It would obviously not affect the radio but other atmospheric conditions might.

[Page 133 line 12] the Alphabet probably discussing four-letter call-signs.

[Page 133 line 15] flagolet in this conrext a wooden wind-instrument like a flute.

[Page 133 line 20] College boat his injury prevented him from rowing for his college in the ‘bumping’ races on the River Cam, keenly contested every year. (The river is too narrow for boats to race abreast so they start at intervals, with the aim of catching up the boat in front, and ‘bumping’ it.)

[Page 133 line 21] slipped cartilage perhaps what is informally known as a ‘slipped disc’ when the soft part of a disc in the spine bulges through the circle of connective tissue, with painful results.

[Page 133 line 22] tuning-in a little see page 23 line 7 above.

[Page 133 line 23] Archdeacon a rank in the Church just below a Bishop.

[Page 134 line 1] Kalang-Alang There is a military camp in the Philippines of this name, where there is also a town called Alangalang, a venacular word for indecision. But we suspect Kipling probably invented it as an onomatopoeic for the sound of a bell ringing – see page 144 line 1 below.

[Page 135 line 1] Erebus a place of darkness between Heaven and Hell.

[Page 135 line 8] maxim-belts the ammunition-supply to an early machine – gun. See “Judson and the Empire” in Many Inventions, page 343, lines 11 and 22.

descents of barrages many field-guns suddenly opening fire simultaneously.

[Page 135 line 10] liquefied air a refrigerant with freezing point of -216.7°C

[Page 136 line 17] hydrophobia see Dr. Gillian Sheehan’s observations in the Headnote to “The Mark of the Beast” in Life’s Handicap.

[Page 137 line 19] swashed in this context splashed about in water.

[Page 138 lines 7-9] the hour….mightiest see page 125 line 22 above and the verse “The Dawn Wind”; this is really Kipling’s Daemon that inspired his writing and not his Demon of Irresponsibility..

[Page 138 line 25] gigantesque very large – gigantic.

[Page 138 line 26] Robert William Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet (1788-1850) Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who helped to create the modern police force while Home Secretary, hence the nicknames for a policeman of ‘Bobby’ and ‘Peeler’. The former is still used today.

[Page 141 line 5] Inky-pinky parlez-vous part of the chorus of “Mademoiselle from Armentières”, a somewhat bawdy marching and music-hall song of World War I. The origins are believed to be an Indian Army song and another from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 while it is also credited to the Canadian soldiers Sergeant Edward Rowland and composer, Lt. Glitz Rice in 1915. See ORG volume 7 page 3212, for more on this, and Rowland’s obituary in the Daily Mail of 14 March 1955.

[Page 143 line 6] Jimmy James Francis Durante (1893-1980) actor, comedian and music-hall star.

[Page 143 line 16] Doug Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) American actor, screenwriter, director and producer, celebrated for his swashbuckling roles in silent films.. His son Douglas Elton Fairbanks, Jr. (1909-2000) was also a famous actor.

[Page 143 line 29] Clara Clara Gordon Bow (1905-1965) American actress of the silent films of the 1920s, known as “The It Girl” for her sexual magnetism . See “Mrs Bathurst” in Traffics and Discoveries page 352 line 12, for the earliest use of this phrase and the story “It” in Abaft the Funnel.

[Page 144 line 1] level-crossing gong see page 134 line 1 above. Alastair Wilson writes:

Kipling is referring to Continental (particularly French) practice. All British railway level-crossings were required by law to be protected by gates, operated from the nearest signal-box if the distance was only a matter of tens of yards, or manually by a crossing-keeper. There was no need for an audible warning of an approaching train. The present half- and full-barriers, with flashing lights and audible warning were only introduced widely in Britain from 1975 onwards.

However, in using the onomatopoeic “Kalang-alang-alang-alang” for a level-crossing gong, Kipling is reproducing perfectly the sound which he would have heard, either from his compartment on the rapide from Paris to the South of France, or from the back seat of his car ‘Esmeralda’, as she waited at some rural crossing on the way back. The gong was initiated by the train’s passing over a treadle in the track.

Gongs were also found sometimes in the USA, and occasionally in Britain on such lines as those within docks, but would not have been within the general experience of most Britons. [A. W.]

[Page 144 line 6] Charlie Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, KBE (1889-1977) known as Charlie Chaplin, Academy Award-winning English comic, he became one of the most famous actors as well as a director, composer and musician in the early to mid Hollywood cinema.

[Page 144 line 24] valise a light suitcase.

[Page 145 line 5] ‘change, alarm, surprise’ an echo of line 70 from “Stanzas in Memory of the Author of ‘Obermann’ ” by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888):

But we, brought forth and reared in hours
Of change, alarm. surprise
What shelter to grow ripe is ours ?
What leisure to grow wise ?

Kipling wrote these lines on the fly-leaf of the copy of Plain Tales from the Hills he gave to his parents some forty years before this story was written.

[Page 145 line 8] older than Abraham ‘And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred three-score and fifteen years’. (175 years). Genesis 25,7.

[Page 145 line 9] whiter than Lot’s wife ‘…. his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar ol salt. ‘ Genesis 19, 26.

[Page 145 line 31] a striped awning from the front door to the edge of the pavement so that the guests reach their cars in the dry if it rains.

“The Playmate”