Brazilian Sketches


(notes edited by John Radcliffe, drawing on the edtion of Brazilian Sketches published by Paul Waters in 1989, and on the work of the ORG Editors)



In February/March 1927, Kipling made a visit to Brazil with his wife, and wrote seven travel letters for the Morning Post in London (now amalgamated with the Daily Telegraph), published from 29 November to 20 December of that year. They were also published in Liberty in the U.S.A. from 3 December 1927 to 31 March 1928. Each article was accompanied by a poem. The letters published in Liberty were substantially the same as those in the Morning Post, although the titles varied considerably.

All have been collected in an edition by Doubleday Doran in New York, in 1940, and in vol. xxiv of the Sussex Edition and vol. xix of the Burwash Edition, together with Letters of Travel. The Doubleday Doran titles follow those in the Sussex Edition. A paperback edition was also published in London in 1989 by P E Waters & Associates (105 Highland Road, Bromley, Kent BR1 4AA).

The poems also appear in all the collections mentioned above, in the Sussex Edition, Vol. xxv, and in the Burwash Edition, Vol. xxviii.

The Letters

Title in Sussex Edition Subtitles Publication inMorning Post Linked poem
I The Journey Out A Trip South. 29-Nov-27 “The Friends”
II Rio The Mountain that Runs.  Gardens of Rio. Brazil’s Dream City of Shell-white Palaces. 02-Dec-27 “A Song of Bananas”
III The Father of Lightnings How Power came to Paulo. Light and Power. A visit to the “Hooded Devil” who dwells above San Paulo. 06-Dec-27 “Song of the Dynamo”
IV A Snake Farm Adam and the Serpent . Visit to a Modern Snake Farm.  Visit to the strangest “Farm” in the World. 09-Dec-27 “Poison of Asps”
V Sao Paulo and a Coffee Estate Post-War San Paulo. An Up-country Coffee Estate.  A City and a Silence. Exploring the Heart of Old Brazil. 13-Dec-27 “The Open Door”
VI Railways and a Two-Thousand-Feet Climb The Romance of Railway Building.  A Drop in Traffic . A Trip Down from the Cloudsin a Marvellous Iron Horse. 16-Dec-27 “Such as in Ships”
VII A World Apart A People with their own God.    How the Founders’ Strain Survives.     A World by Itself. Brazil’s Mystery and Wonders in review. 20-Dec-27 “Two Races”


Charles Carrington writes (p. 499):

After Rudyard’s illness in 1926 Bland-Sutton (his doctor) recommended a long sea voyage which enabled him to realize an old dream. He had written in Just So Stories: `I’d love to roll to Rio, some day before I’m old’, and, after nearly twenty years of absence from the tropics, he crossed the line again in 1927 on a voyage to Brazil, taking the deepest interest in his fellow passengers, mostly Spaniards and Portuguese. With some firmness he detached himself from publicity, declining to become a guest of the nation; and revelled in the prospect of a race of Europeans, at home in a tropical climate, and busily engaged in pioneering a new country. Brazilian Sketches … had the gusto of his early Letters of Marque, and were lightened with verses in his simplest, sincerest style.

The Editor of the 1940 Doubleday Doran edition, published in New York, writes:

Brazilian Sketches contains Rudyard Kipling’s impressions, vivid, sharp and intuitive, of Brazil, largest and most diverse of the southern republics, and of the Brazilian people. The mind that observed so keenly the life of Asia and the Empire loses nothing of its power when trained on one of the greatest nations of the New World … This book is inevitably a collector’s item, but it is much more: a joy to read, a key to better understanding of our Pan-American neighbors.

Paul Waters writes in the introduction to his 1989 edition:

I originally became aware of the possible existence of this work during my railway history research in Brazil. A fellow member of the Associagao Brasileira de Preservacao Ferroviaria in Sao Paulo mentioned that Rudyard Kipling had visited Brazil and the Sao Paulo Railway. However, this remained at the back of my mind until one day in 1986 a large envelope arrived containing a note from Peter J C Mosse in New York, together with a photocopy of a pre-war publicity brochure of the Sao Paulo Railway called “The Gateway to Sao Paulo”…

“The Gateway to Sao Paulo” contained an eight page description of the line, most of which was, not unnaturally, devoted to the Sierra Section. (For the uninitiated, this is a remarkable and, given its scale, unique 2000 foot climb by a main line railway using cable haulage. It was too steep for locomotives, and is described by Kipling in his sixth letter: “Railways and a Two-
Thousand-Feet Climb”.

I very much felt that this was a work which should be resurrected to help increase the British awareness of Brazil. Of all our former trading partners, Brazil has been most forgotten since our withdrawal from the world after the Second World War… Let us hope that Kipling is still able to do his bit to improve Anglo-Brazilian relations.


©John Radcliffe 2009 All rights reserved