Notes on the text

These notes, by Peter Havholm, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Many Inventions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Page 239] Heading This probably comes from one of the sixty or more nautical tales written by William Clark Russell (1844-1911), who served in the Merchant Navy from 1858 to 1866.

[Page 239, lines 1, 7] Breslau, M’Phee see also “Bread upon the Waters” in The Day’s Work for Chief Engineer McPhee and S.S. Breslau.

[Page 239, line 4] below London Bridge the ship was moored in the Pool of London and the tide was running in (up river).

[Page 239, line 6] The black M’Phee that is, he has black hair the title is not uncommon north of the Border. There is an old joke about a Scot, having lost his waterproof, running up and down the platform alongside the Scottish express asking ‘Ha’ ye seen a black mackintosh in theer?’ To which he received the reply from one compartment, ‘Na, we’re a’ red MacGregors’.

[Page 240, line 4] M’Phee has a friend… we never hear his name.

[Page 241, lines 3, 10] Lascar an Asian seaman or sailor. The origin of the word is either in Persian lashkar, ‘band of followers’, or in the Tamil Khalasi meaning ‘sailor’ and Kara meaning ‘worker’. There were many thousands of such Asian seamen on British ships from the seventeenth century onward.

[Page 241, lines 17] began to saw the dinghy, having been cast loose, was rubbing along the ship’s side with a slight undulating movement, impelled by the tide, which was running in.

[Page 242, lines 8–10] “Little Barnaby Dorrit”… jumbled titles of Charles Dickens’s works: Barnaby Rudge (1841), Little Dorrit (1855–7), Bleak House (1852–3) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870).

[Page 242, line 11] badly found run on the most economical lines, with insufficient stores and poor and inadequate provisions. This was a common state of affairs before the Merchant Shipping Acts, also known as the Seaman’s Charter.

[Page 242, line 16] square holes some timber ships of those days had square ports in the hull on both sides of the bow to facilitate the loading of timber.

[Page 242, line 19] It was a consolation to me … It is characteristic that “I” immediately experiences rage toward his host and pleasure at his misfortune, (the dinghy does not belong to M’Phee’s friend), rather than anxiety about his own predicament. On the other hand, revenge often shapes comic plots, and the narrator’s feelings in “‘Brugglesmith’” are much more interesting than those of the “I” in this story’s precursor, “A Friend’s Friend” in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 242, line 24] Castle liner What was a Castle liner doing so far up the river? In the early days of this century the Union Castle berth was in the East India Dock, Poplar, as shown in this 1902 photograph.

[Page 242, line 24] ties are black there can be little doubt from the context that what are referred to here are the tiers (pronounced tyers) which are short lengths of rope or canvas used to secure the furled sail to its yard. They are also called ‘gaskets’, and at sea any short length of cordage would be used: for a ‘harbour stow’, either plaited line or canvas strips would be used to make a ‘tiddley’ job of it. At the beginning of the century some of the older Union Castle ships still carried yards and sails, although propelled by steam, and the author was probably referring to the canvas ties, tiers or gaskets as being painted black, this being done to give the very smart contrast of black against the white sails.

[Page 242, line 26] go large to steer large is to allow plenty of room. The landsman’s phrase ‘by and large’ comes from the sailing ship helm order ‘steer by and large’, meaning to steer by the wind, but without ‘pinching’ or sailing close to the wind.

[Page 243, line 4] the mercantile marine of Great Britain In 2007, all of these berths below London Bridge are gone, leaving only HMS Belfast and the river’s always increasing pleasure boat traffic. Even the old London Bridge is gone, purchased for $2.5 million and moved to Arizona in the U.S. in the 1960s to decorate the resort area of Lake Havasu. (It may or may not be true that the Americans thought they were getting Tower Bridge and were too embarrassed to complain about the less picturesque structure they unpacked).

[Page 243, line 22] the smartest clipper this verse is from an old song “Let the bulgine run”. Bulgine is minstrel-show dialect for ‘engine’, but was used by ships’ engineers the world over, according to ORG. The song dates from the early railways in the U.S.A. It was adapted as a sea shanty, used particularly when heaving the anchor by manual power on the capstan. Additional lines are:

Hi-ho-hi-ho, are you mos’ done?
To cl’ar de track let the bulgine run,
With Liza Lee all on my knee,
To cl’ar de track let the bulgine run.

[Page 243, line 29] Ye Towers o’ Julia . . . . this verse is made up from three different sources. Lines 1 and 2 are from “the Bard”, Part 2, third stanza, by Thomas Gray (1716–1771), referring to the Tower of London:

Ye towers of Julius, London’s lasting shame,
With many a foul and midnight murder fed.

The third line is correctly taken from “Prothalamion”, by Edmund Spenser (1553-1599), the refrain of the poem written in honour of the Ladies Elizabeth and Katharine Somerset. The fourth line is a muddle, but obviously from the first, second and third lines of the third verse of Bishop Thomas Ken’s (1637–1711) evening hymn “Glory to Thee, My God, this Night” (Hymns Ancient & Modern 23):

Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.

[Page 244, line 5] cautious self-control these lines are from Robert Burns’ “A Bard’s Epitaph”:

Know prudent, cautious self-control
Is wisdom’s root

Daniel Karlin points out that Burns also says of the dead bard that

thoughtless follies laid him low,
And stain’d his name.

[Page 244, lines 16-17] if your sin do not find you out . . . . there is some confusion between two Old Testament passages, ‘Be sure your sin will find out’ (Numbers 32,23) and ‘Let me be delivered out of deep waters’ (Psalms 69,14), or perhaps ‘Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have … drunk of deep waters’ (Ezekiel 34,18).

[Page 245, line 10] like unto the worms another confusion of two passages: ‘Man … is like the beasts that perish’ (Psalms 49,12) and ‘And though worms destroy this body’ (Job 19,26).

[Page 245, line 14] flat this is the name of the moored landing-stages, now used by the Metropolitan Police, Thames division, and by passengers on the Thames pleasure boats. River traffic must be moored to floating fixtures rather than to the shore because the tide raises and lowers the water level so dramatically.

[Page 245, line 30] had a card to show gentlemen of any standing usually carried a card with their name and address engraved on it in those days, particularly any young man like Kipling who had been accustomed to life in the British community in India or other of the dependencies (ORG).

[Page 246, line 3] drookit from drook (Scots), to soak, drench, duck.

[Page 246, line 8] Royal Humane Society the Society was founded in 1744 for the recovery of persons who had apparently drowned (Karlin).

[Page 246, line 20] near a bridge this must have been Blackfriars Bridge. In 2007, most of the journey that follows can be re-traced by bus, beginning, after one has made one’s way to Fleet Street from Blackfriars Bridge, with the number 11 headed toward the Strand.

[Page 246, line 22] hansom a two-wheeled cabriolet (cab) holding two people inside, the driver being mounted on a dickey behind. As invented (in 1834) by James Aloysius Hansom it was a comparatively safe vehicle with the driver placed at the side. The later and fashionable version “of very uncertain equilibrium and dangerous character” had the driver perched in a dickey high up at the rear where he took his orders through a small trap-door in the roof.

[Page 246, line 30] his wet silk hat in those days a topper would be worn with a frock coat or morning coat or even with a longe suit and overcoat. He was probably not wearing a dinner suit. Reginald Clever’s drawing in the de luxe edition of Kipling’s Humorous Tales shows him with a topper and overcoat.

[Page 247, line 1] the crackling o’ thorns Ecclesiastes 7,6: ‘For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool’.

[Page 247, line 16] carnelian neb flesh-red coloured. Neb means ‘nose’, ‘snout’, or ‘beak’ (Scots). He was a scottish boiler-maker, working in shipbuilding in Greenock, and – though clearly not without literary tastes – his Glasgow dialect would have been broad.

[Page 247, line 20] drunker than an owl probably used first in 1764 by Horace Walpole in a letter to the Earl of Hertford (February 15): ‘The noise, which made me as drunk as an owl.’

[Page 247, line 21] a good name is as a savoury bakemeat another mixed reference, two from Genesis, 27,4: ‘make us savoury meat’, 40:7 ‘all manner of bakemeats for Pharoah’, and one from Ecclesiastes 7,1: ‘A good name is better than precious ointment’.

[Page 247, line 31] Vine Street the well-known police station in Central London, not far from Piccadilly Circus.

[Page 248, line 1] “In the mornin’ . . . .” the lines parody a Minstrel song (not a folk tune):

“In de morning, in de morning by de bright light,
When Gabriel blows his trumpet in de morning”.

[Page 248, line 9] St. Clement Dane’s was nearly destroyed by bombs during World War II. It is the more easterly of the two churches in the centre of the Strand. The old church had escaped the Great Fire of 1666 but was taken down some years later and rebuilt to designs by Sir Christopher Wren. Doctor Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) was a regular and devout worshipper here. He occupied a pew in the north gallery. A statue to him still stands just outside the church (2007). Appropriately, he is reading as he walks. St. Clement Dane’s was gutted by German incendiary bombs, leaving only the walls and steeple, in May 1941. It was adopted by the Royal Air Force in 1956 and reconsecrated in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 as the central church of the Royal Air Force.

[Page 248, line 14] slummock a colloquialism, meaning to swallow greedily, move or speak in an awkward disorderly way. Cf. dialect, slammakin, sloven.

[Page 248, line 19] “Every member of the Force . . . .” part of a music-hall song written about 1880 by E. W. Rogers. It continues:

Has a watch and chain of course.
If you want to know the time
Ask a P’liceman.

[Page 248, line 32] sit on . . . head and cut the traces the old remedy for a fallen draught horse.

[Page 249, line 3] Holywell Street one of the streets destroyed when Kingsway was cut through some very poor property (ORG). In an 1860 Map Holywell is shown running parallel to and north of the Strand.

It was largely given over to the sellers of second-hand books, whose descendants in 2007 operate in Charing Cross Road and Soho. The number 11 bus now moves from Fleet Street to the Strand on the south side of the Aldwych.

[Page 249, lines 9 and ff.] Sir, let us take a walk down Fleet Street this quotation was popularly attributed to Doctor Johnson: it was the motto of the Temple Bar magazine ( Daniel Karlin) In fact, it is from George Augustus Sala (1828–1896) writing about Doctor Johnson.

[Page 249, line 17] Bow Street is not far from the Strand. Slightly north of it, it runs from Catherine Street to Long Acre. In it is situated perhaps the best-known of the London police courts.

[Page 250, line 14] scrob possibly an invented word. The equivalent, to be found in Stalky & Co., is probably ‘scrag’, meaning to tackle by the neck in football, or to squeeze the victim’s neck with the arm by way of torture.

[Page 250, line 20] garrotter a strangler. In Spain at one time executions took place by throttling with a garrotte, which is a cord tightened by twisting a pice of stick in a loop of it. The word first came into common use in the English language in 1851 to describe highway robbery by strangulation.

[Page 250, line 28] ambulance there were many of these trolleys in use at the end of the ineteenth century, and one has been seen in action as recently as 1921. One was always kept in the yard of St. Clement Dane’s Church (see Something of Myself, p. 87). Daniel Karlin adds:

A horse-drawn vehicle would have to be summoned and would in any case have difficulty negotiating th narrow streets of the City of London. Pedestrian ambulances resembling large wheelbarrows were therefore stored at a number of locations in the City. This one has a canvas cover which keeps the body out of sight.

[Page 251, lines 23, 24] Adelphi … my own country to the west of the Adelphi theatre is Villiers Street, hard by Charing Cross Station, where Kipling lived from 1889 to 1891. He probably wrote this story at that address. In May 2007, Evita was playing at the present Adelphi Theatre, which is on the north side of the Strand and in sight of Villiers Street.

[Page 252, line 13] round-house historically a lock-up or place of detention—hence a police-station. Thurston Hopkins says (in ORG) that round-houses, of which there are still one or two in existence, including one in Chandos Street, were usually built in churchyards to house police (or their predecessors, the Watch) stationed there to prevent grave-robbing by the resurrection-men or body-snatchers, who ‘resurrected’ corpses to sell them for dissection by doctors and students at schools of medicine. They were also called ‘watch-houses’.

In Thames Street on the south side of the churchyard of all Hallows the Less, there is an old watch-tower (now part of a public house) which dates back to the time when London was patrolled by watchmen who warned the citizens of fire by ringing a bell kept there for the purpose.

[Page 254, line 7] Brook Green, Hammersmith was the private address of Charles Whibley (1862–1930), one of the Henley–Kipling group of writers who held bachelor dinner parties in the 1890s at Sherry’s, a famous restaurant of the time in Regent Street. Whibley has been described as ‘a scholarly bon viveur with a well-earned liver complaint’.
Cockspur Street After leaving the number 11 bus at Trafalgar Square, one can walk up Cockspur Street to Haymarket, and up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus. Turn left on Piccadilly and take the Number 19 bus, headed toward Hyde Park.

[Page 256, line 15] Apsley House built by the first Duke of Wellington early in the nineteenth century, remained the London home of the Dukes of Wellington until, in 1952, the Sixth Duke turned it into a museum and presented it to the nation. It was long known as No. 1, London. It is at the west end of Piccadilly. Leave the Number 19 bus just past Apsley House on Knightsbridge and board a Number 10.

[Page 256, line 27] Hatton Garden runs between Holborn Circus and Clerkenwell and had long been a centre of the diamond business. In about 1890–91 there was a series of burglaries round about Hatton Garden which created quite a stir.

[Page 258, line 5] Mephistopheles one of the seven devils in the old demonology; the second of the fallen archangels and the most powerful in the infernal regions after Satan. He figures in the legend of Doctor Faustus as the familiar spirit of that magician. To modern readers he is chiefly known as the cold, scoffing, relentless fiend of Goethe’s Faust and the attendant demon in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

[Page 258, line 31] I had forgotten the bell ORG offers a quibble with respect to the construction of non-electric bells, and curious readers may find it at p. 1248 and in

It seems to this commentator (2007) unnecessarily literal in the face of the story’s magnificently epic conclusion.


[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved