The Kingdom of Bombay

(notes by Philip Holberton drawing on the researches of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


These lines were published at the head of an article in the Pioneer on 10 April 1888, and reprinted in the Pioneer Mail on 11 April, in the Civil and Military Gazette on 12 April; and The Week’s News on 14 April, with a heading which quotes from the Times of India (published in Bombay):

‘All classes and creeds are alike interested in a policy (the transfer of Sind from the jurisdiction of the Bombay Government to the Punjab) which strikes a mortal blow at the future growth and prosperity of the Kingdom of Bombay’—Times of India, April 5th.

Kipling’s lines were unsigned and uncollected, but the sequel, “Bombaystes Furioso”, is included in Kipling’s Scrapbook 4 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections. They are to be found in Rutherford (p. 399) and Pinney (p. 1879).


As Pinney explains, the occasion of these lines was the objection by the Bombay Presidency to a plan to transfer Sind to the government of the Punjab. Sind was an important province, to the north of Gujerat, which included the city of Karachi, and is now part of Pakistan.

The objections from Bombay clearly did not impress opinion in Lahore in the Punjab, or in Allahabad in the Central Provinces. The allusions are all to places in Bombay. Since the early days of the East India Company, the Bombay Presidency along with the Bengal Presidency and Madras Presidency had been the three major centres of British power in India.

The Poem

Kipling’s lines deride what was seen in Lahore and Allahabad as the overweening pretensions of Bombay, as revealed in the description of the Presidency as a ‘Kingdom’.

They echo verse 2 of “The Commonweal: A Song for Unionists” by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), a poet of great interest to the young Kipling:

‘What are these that howl and hiss across the strait of westward water?’

Kipling had been born in Bombay, where his father was teaching at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art.

Notes on the Text

where the High Gods live Simla, seat of the Indian Government; sometimes nick-named ‘Olympus’, the home of the Gods in Greek mythology.

Prince’s Dock One of the main docks in the harbour area of Bombay.

Colaba A former island, now a promontory, part of the city of Bombay.

Apollo Bunder The famous landing-place on Bombay Harbour.

Back Bay Between the Malabar and Colaba promontories.

bacilli Germs. In 1875 a guide to Bombay described the foreshore as ‘the latrine of the whole population of the Native Town.’


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved