A Child’s Garden

(notes by John McGivering and John Radcliffe)



The last of the last group of six, which did not appear until 1929, when the whole set of 26 items was assembled within a three-volume collection called Poems 1886-1929. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. 35. p. 147. (ORG Verse No. 862).


“R.L.Stevenson” Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) celebrated and much loved Scottish writer of poems and stories, including Treasure Island and Kidnapped, whose works were much admired by Kipling. See “The Vortex” (A Diversity of Creatures).

Some of Stevenson’s poetry is collected in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), and Underwoods (1887).

Stevenson and Kipling corresponded, but in 1892 a plan to meet in Samoa where the former was living, came to nothing. See Charles Carrington (p. 203),

Kipling borrowed the title of a collection of Stevenson’s Essays Virginibus Puerisque—an echo of Horace’s Ode “Virginibus puerisque canto”, (“I sing for maidens and boys and for the young”)—for his verses in the Pioneer of 13 August 1888. See Early Verse (Ed. Rutherford) p. 415. See also KJ 032/130, 077/01, 141/17, 150/16, and 283/51, and Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

The Theme

A child, gravely ill from T.B., has to stay out in the garden, since treatment at that time called for as much fresh air as possible. He (or perhaps she) is frightened by the passing motor traffic, and does not enjoy a ride in a car. He sees the aeroplanes overhead, zooming through the sky, and says that when he is strong enough he will go through the air up in the clouds instead.


Notes on the text

[Verse 1]

T. B.:  Tuberculosis, or ‘consumption’ as it was called in the 19th Century, was an often mortal disease of the lungs. See Dr Gillian Sheehan’s “Kipling and Medicine”. Stevenson suffered from T.B. and eventually died of it.

[Verse 3]

charabancs: an early form of motor-coach, usually open with a hood, used for excursions. Charabancs figure in
“Beauty-Spots” (Limits and Renewals), “The Wish House” (Debits and Credits), and “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” (A Diversity of Creatures).

[Verse 4]

Croydon: then an airport in South London formed from two adjoining World War I military aerodromes. The first airport in the world to introduce air traffic control, in 1921. It was replaced by Northolt Aerodrome, and later by Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and London City Airports.

[Verse 6]

Nursey:  a childish abbreviation of ‘Nurse’ – in this context one trained to look after children.


©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved