(notes edited by Peter Havholm)


This story was first published in The Week’s News (Pioneer Press, Allahabad) October 31 1891, Black and White Magazine, London, October 1891, and Harper’s Weekly, New York, October 17th, 1891.

The story is collected in:

  • Many Inventions, 1893, page 239,
  • Scribner’s Edition, Volume XIV, page 35
  • Sussex Edition, Volume V
  • Burwash Edition, Volume V

The story

One night after dinner on board a merchant ship moored in the Pool of London on the Thames, the narrator is to be rowed up river to a landing stage close to his chambers. As he gets into the dinghy another guest, very drunk, pushes his way into the boat, seizes the oars, and in seconds they are adrift on the river, and on a current of farce and indignity that continues through the tale.

Skirting a number of large vessels they meet the river police, and reach a landing stage where, though first regarded with suspicion, the narrator is able to establish that he has not stolen the dinghy. His companion, demanding drink, falls into the water, and has to be hauled out with a boathook. The narrator sets off home, only to be followed by his companion, as drunk as ever, wrapped in a blanket, voluble and scandalous. The narrator cannot escape him, so – with the aid of a friendly police sergeant – ties him up on an ambulance trolley and wheels him home through the streets to ‘Brugglesmith’, Brook Green Hammersmith, some miles away in West London.

Some critical comments

Edward Shanks wrote of this story in 1940:

We are translated into the serene upper skies of pure farce . . . drunkenness raised to the celestial plane.

J M S Tompkins comments:

the first of Kipling’s full-size farces …”‘Brugglesmith'” stands alone among [them]. It is the only one in which the “I” is a protagonist; and the “I” is so close in stature, residence and circumstances to the Kipling recorded in the “Interregnum” chapter of Something of Myself that it has needed an effort of consistency to avoid using the proper name. . . . a double sacrifice to the spirits of irony and ridicule.

Daniel Karlin writes (p. 569):

Although “The Village That Voted the Earth was Flat” is a greater farce in scope and depth, it is not more perfectly planned, and not funnier, than this consummate descent into indignity.

At a discussion meeting in 1961, members of the Kipling Society voted “‘Brugglesmith'” and “The Vortex” as Kipling’s funniest stories. (See KJ 140, p. 3 for a report of the discussion on humorous stories generally).

[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2007 All rights reserved