Collecting Kipling

by David Alan Richards


 (Kipling Society Annual Luncheon – 5 May 1999)


“Collecting Kipling” is not a subject which has previously engaged this Society at an annual luncheon. It is not even a subject which has taken up many pages in the 71 years of the Society’s Journal, except for an occasional reference to auction prices realized at sales, or booksellers’ catalogue offerings of an unusual item. Our organization has historically been composed of admirers of Kipling’s poetry and prose, be those admirers simply readers, or literary critics, or students of his life and times as a public figure of the British Empire and the larger English-speaking world. To admire that written work, one does not need to own it — although many of you do, in individual volumes or collected sets — and certainly, to practice that admiration, one need not collect Kipling first editions. By ‘first edition’, book collectors mean the first printing of an author’s work, independently, between its own covers (this definition thus excludes appearances in newspapers and magazines). In Kipling’s case, that means not only books and pamphlets, but sometimes even leaflets and broadsides. So I am conscious that, while you all must have seen the announcement of the title of these remarks, and paid your subscriptions anyway, you are probably not collectors of Kipling –at least, not in the clinically obsessive manner I am about to describe — and remain to be convinced of the merits of the enterprise. Indeed, you may even privately share the opinion of the American poet Robert Frost, who said: “Collecting is the lowest form of literary appreciation. Very low.”

Frost’s contempt was founded, most likely, on an artist’s disdain for what has frequently been called the “game” of book-collecting, the aspects of “play” and “scorekeeping” inherent in the systematic acquisition of an author’s works. And those aspects are indeed primary characteristics. But there is more. To quote former Kipling Society Librarian W.G.B. Maitland, writing just over a half-century ago in our Journal in an article (the only such article) entitled “This Collecting Game”: Behind nearly every item in my library of books there lies a story of how it came into my possession and, as I handle them and refer to them, I re-live the pleasure and excitement their acquisition has given me. To the uninitiated — the man who has never been bitten by the collecting bug — I can only quote Kipling himself and say, “But who can show a blind man color?”

Today, I will try to show you color. More specifically, I will share with you some examples of what book-collectors have unearthed and preserved for everyone interested in the work and life of Rudyard Kipling. But first, a few more words in explanation of the genus “collector”, before moving on to that marvelous species, the “Kipling collector”.

Professor G. Thomas Tanselle of Columbia University has observed in a recent essay:

The [collecting] process can be analyzed into several components, which include creation of order, fascination with chance, curiosity about the past, and desire for understanding… [T]he gathering of tangible things entails a constant engagement with contingency, and one is dazzled by the diverse succession of things that pass one’s way…. [But w]hat one finds is still a matter of chance. The connection between collecting and gambling has often been made: both involve jousting with fate…..

The Kipling collector often feels he’s jousting not only with fate, but with RK himself: there are so many editions, so many titles, and yet, so few copies of several of them–all results intended by this author . It has been said that the history of Kipling’s bibliography is the most complex of any modern author, and the causes are many. His publishing career, including posthumous first editions, extended over sixty-three years (from 1881 through 1944, eight years after his death in 1936), and over four thousand separate printings of his work exist. Much of his prose and verse appeared in newspapers and magazines far from the world’s literary capitals, and their first book publication was spread over six continents, in India, England, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa. His earliest work in family-published paperbacks and provincial newspapers is extremely rare, through exposure to the wet and heat of the Asian outposts of the late nineteenth-century British Empire, and much now known to be from his teenage journalist’s pen was first published anonymously or under ever-changing pseudonyms.

The author himself sometimes suppressed works after they had been published without his sanction (including the Indian editions of The City of Dreadful Night and Other Sketches and The Smith Administration, the English edition of Letters of Marque, and the American edition of The Dipsy Chanty). Alternatively, he maintained the practice of including some previously uncollected or unpublished poem or story in all single- volume or multi-volume collections (beginning with the second through fourth editions of Departmental Ditties and Other Verses, which thus each became “first editions”).

Also contributing to the multiplicity of editions was the failure of the United States to enact international copyright protection until 1891, resulting in some American issues being the “true firsts” of Kipling’s books. And while Kipling’s trade editions soon began to be published in large numbers, after the American international copyright law’s foundation date of July 1, 1891, his London literary agent A.P. Watt and his New York publisher Frank N. Doubleday made extensive use of limited printings — as few as 8 to 25 copies — to establish copyright in each country.

Further, as his renown grew, many editions of Kipling’s work were printed by private presses (usually without his permission) and never offered for sale, while the author’s own deluxe and autograph printings (a bookselling device which Kipling established as a regular author’s practice) were never published in large quantities. Another factor swelling the volume of Kipling material was the publishing practice, in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth, of issuing a few poems or stories, or even single ones, in the form of pamphlets, leaflets, broadsides and small bound books; the strong market for such cheaply-priced ephemera attracted a host of both pirate printers and authorized publishers on each side of the Atlantic.

Finally, frequent textual changes occurred between first printings in newspapers, magazines or copyright pamphlets, and subsequent collections in books; between pirated editions and authorized editions; between corresponding authorized volumes (and even short stories) published effectively simultaneously in England and in America; and between first collected editions of poems or short stories or travel letters, and later printings in multi-volume collected editions.

In consequence, a comprehensive Kipling collection in any single institutional library is rare, even now, despite Kipling’s contemporaneity and popularity, and the vast number of affordable printings. The most complete institutional holdings presently available to the researcher–and they will be identified by location in my bibliography, down to binding color and presentation inscription– are themselves almost invariably the product of the efforts of a number of indefatigable collectors whose treasures have come to rest, removed from the rare book market and onto the library shelves.

Let us return now to Professor Tanselle’s four components of collecting generally– “creation of order, fascination with chance, curiosity about the past, and desire for understanding”– and discuss them in the context of collecting Kipling.

The creation of order. A book collector is merely an accumulator until he imposes order upon the accumulation, learning what he now has, and what he still lacks– but he cannot do so unaided, and his aid is the author bibliography. The noted American book collector A. Edward Newton (whose boxed and dustjacketed copy of Captains Courageous I now possess) observed in his Rosenbach Fellowship lectures of 1936:

Bibliographies are indeed not intended for average readers, be they gentle or simple. They are intended as tools for the scholar, weapons for the bookseller, and armor for the collector. 

By these standards, the collector of Kipling has long been well-armored, and his armorers have virtually all been predecessor collectors.

The first serious bibliography of Kipling–prominent enought to be cited by English bibliophile and later exposed Kipling forger Thomas J. Wise–was Luther Livingston’s anonymous catalogue of the collection of R.F. Pick, prepared in 1901 for the New York booksellers Dodd, Mead in a limited edition of 77 copies. Entitled The Works of Rudyard Kipling, The Description of a Set of the First Editions of His Books, in The Library of a New York Collector, it described 44 publications to that date (and was itself a Kipling first edition, with the initial publication of what was thought to be his schoolboy poem ‘In a high-art study’). Kipling at this time was only 36 years old, but his Indian Railway books and the earlier family productions of Schoolboy Lyrics, Echoes, and Quartette were already appearing at Sotheby’s, while his contemporaries Barrie and Wilde and Hardy were pretty generally ignored by collectors. The second bibliography, and the first to call itself by that name, appeared in 1922 under the title A Bibliography of the Works of Rudyard Kipling (1881-1921) , by Captain Ernest W. Martindell, and contained 148 entries. The next year he published a new edition, with 52 plates, including facsimiles of the title-pages of two presentation copies of Plain Tales From The Hills, given respectively to Kipling’s parents and to “The Lady of the Dedication”, and both acquired by Martindell at auction in the year since his first edition.

In his Preface, Martindell expressed his indebtedness to two American collectors, Flora Livingston (Luther Livingston’s widow) and Ellis Ames Ballard, who had helped Martindell with details of American copyright issues and of some of the rarer Indian publications.

The third bibliography, and still the most cited (if no longer the most accurate, or monumental) was published in 1927 by Mrs. Livingston “after nearly twenty-five years of constant research, collecting various editions and issues and comparing texts”, both in the Harvard libraries and her own and other collections. The first volume of her Bibliography (which was followed by A Supplement in 1938, incorporating another decade’s labor) listed 504 works appearing through 1926, including separate entries for the Indian and South African newspaper work, then- uncollected magazine appearances, and book auction sale catalogues with the first printings or facsimiles of early Kipling presentation copy inscriptions, plus an appendix on collected editions (which had begun appearing as early as 1899). The Supplement, starting with further books appearing in 1926 and effectively ending with Kipling’s posthumously published autobiography Something of Myself of 1937, added another 126 numbered works to the canon for the later years, made corrections and additions (never- numbered but entirely new entries for the period 1884-1924), and contained new sections on “pirate pamphlets” published by Martindell and Ballard, translations in 35 languages, portraits and caricatures, and books about Kipling and his work. Flora Livingston also effective established “a bibliographic precedent by listing both English and American first editions, regardless of strict stop-watch precedence.”

In 1930 appeared two other works which should be mentioned here; while not true bibliographies, they are visual delights and positive helps to all Kipling collectors. The first is the Catalogue Of The Works of Rudyard Kipling Exhibited At The Grolier Club From February 21 To March 30, 1929, published in a limited edition of 325 copies. This massive show featured 648 items, the largest and finest gathering of Kipling first editions, association copies, manuscripts, proof copies, portraits and caricatures ever assembled in one place, before or since. The book’s 34 plates included photographs of inscribed books and rare printings which were reproduced nowhere else. The text also drew on Captain Lloyd H. Chandler’s A Summary Of The Work of Rudyard Kipling Including Items Ascribed To Him, also published by the Grolier Club in 1930 in an edition of 325 copies as a companion to the Catalogue. Chandler’s work was a 465-page alphabetical compilation of every prose and verse Kipling title, with brief definitions of their contents and where they appeared, and of the first lines of untitled works. The Introduction to Chandler’s Summary was written by the United States’ greatest Kipling collector, Ellis Ames Ballard of Philadelphia. The full title to Ballard’s own book, self-published in a limited edition of 120 copies in 1935, gives ample evidence of this lawyer-collector’s passion and humor: Catalogue Intimate And Descriptive Of My Kipling Collection, Books, Manuscripts And Letters, With Reproductions of Rarities, How I Got Them, Why I Prize Them, And What I Failed To Get, With Inferences And Opinions Solely My Own and Probably Wrong.

The Philadelphian’s greatest joy, however, was almost certainly in knowing that his Catalogue would have to appear in any future Kipling bibliography (as it soon indeed did in Livingston’s 1938 Supplement), since Ballard’s shrine to Kipling included some thirty-five facsimiles of the author’s work not previously printed or collected.

In a letter about his Catalogue to Capt. Martindell dated April 9, 1936, sent after Kipling’s death and preserved in the copy of Ballard’s book given to the Kipling Society Library by Martindell, Ballard confided that he “could have got one to Kipling himself, but I was a little wary about sending him a copy until all my copies were distributed as I did not want a cable objecting to the distribution.”

After the Philadelphia collector’s own death, his horde of treasures was sold at Parke-Bernet in New York, but the sale, scheduled before but held the month after the attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, brought disastrous prices to the estate (and marvelous opportunities for institutional purchasers such as Flora Livingston for Harvard, and the Morgan Library, which gathered in 50 pieces of great rarity, including the elusive copyright edition of Just So Stories , for a little over $2,500).

The fourth, largest and most accurate bibliography available today is the modestly-titled Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliographical Catalogue, written by James McGregor Stewart, a Canadian barrister and industrialist who spent a lifetime building the greatest individual Kipling collection ever assembled, but in such obscurity that Kipling biographer Charles Carrington had almost finished his biography of Kipling before learning of Stewart’s existence. His collection (with three exceptions to be noted later) was left at his death to Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, which published Stewart’s book in 1959. Its manuscript was edited after his death by A.W. Yeats, whose Ph.D. thesis had been a comparison of Stewart’s collection and the Kipling trove then being assembled at the University of Texas from several purchased collections. “Stewart-Yeats”, as this compilation is sometimes styled in the catalogues of booksellers who cite it rather than Livingston, weighs in at over three pounds, with 763 primary entries, and 673 pages, including 108 of appendices, tabulating not only unauthorized editions which were not first editions, but also such things as 15 pages of musical settings.

Professor Tanselle’s second component of the collecting process, after the creation of order imposed by collectors and bibliographies, is the fascination with chance. Certainly, a Kipling collector of this author’s greatest rarities needs hunter’s luck, as well as speed, stamina, and thorough knowledge of the quarry.

Bibliographies are customarily no indicators of rarity. You will not learn from Livingston that the only known copies of her entry no. 1, the William Morris family children’s magazine The Scribbler of 1879-80 with the very first periodical appearance of a Kipling story and poem, disappeared after the William Gable sale of 1923. You will not learn from Livingston that The Vision of Hamid Ali (1885, Livingston 8) exists in only one copy, once owned by Martindell and thereafter by Ballard and now in New York’s Morgan Library (and you will not read it in Stewart, who omits this item entirely from the canon, mistakenly believing it to be merely a leaf from the Calcutta Review issue in which it first appeared). You will not learn from Livingston that The Seven Nights of Creation (1886, Livingston 9, Stewart 2) exists in only three copies (Stewart said two, and one was his!).

Other examples of breathtaking rarity abound. The only known complete set of “Turnovers” from the “Civil and Military Gazette” (1888-90, Livingston 49, Stewart 66-74) belonged to Stewart, and he did not leave it to Dalhousie with the rest of his collection. The only known copy of My Great and Only (1890, Livingston 50, Stewart 75), owned by Ballard, is now in the Morgan. The only known copy of the first suppressed Indian edition of The City of Dreadful Night and Other Sketches (1890, Livingston 69, Stewart 91), owned by Ballard and finally by Stewart, was also retained in the latter’s estate.

Kipling also suppressed The Smith Administration (1891, Livingston 73, Stewart 92), with only 6 known copies surviving out of the original 3,000–one of which was the third and last item retained by Stewart from his Dalhousie bequest. (The copy bought at the Charles Plumptre Johnson auction in New York in 1927, purchased by legendary bookseller Dr. Abraham Rosenbach for General Electric chief executive Owen D. Young and now in the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library, sold for $14,000, the highest price ever paid for the work of a living author, and equivalent to about $125,000 today.)

But are we downhearted, knowing that these books–and I could expand the list of “Kipling impossibles” by literally another two dozen titles–are almost certainly never to be obtained? No! Why? The fascination with chance, the hope–even the belief–that in some attic, or scrapbook, or box of discarded volumes, an old Kipling rarity will surface–or even a new one, unknown to all prior collectors and bibliographers.

And I have hard evidence for that belief. Let me describe to you what I have been fortunate enough to find in the five years I have been collecting:

  • copies of Lippincott’s Magazine for January 1891, containing the first appearance of The Light That Failed, as published in December 1890, not only for England and the United States, but for Australia, which is the deemed to be the earliest printing of all; I know of no other example in any Kipling collection.
  • a copy of The Flag, The Book of The Union Jack Club, appearing in 1908 and containing Kipling’s ‘The Marred Drives Of Windsor’, in the Sangorski and Sutcliff onlay pigskin binding, limited to 150 copies for presentation to members of the Royal Family, patrons of the Union Jack Club, and contributors to the book.
  • the autograph edition de luxe of A Song of The English of 1909, one of fifty numbered copies bound in full brown pigskin and signed by Kipling–mine is no.1, the Hodder & Stoughton publisher’s file copy.
  • one of the 25 copies of the London copyright edition of The Beginning of The Armadilloes (1900), of which 2 were deposited in the Library of Congress, one sent to Kipling’s American copyright lawyer, 10 sent to England for nominal sale, and the remaining dozen distributed in the United States (today, 10 copies are in institutional libraries in North America);
  • one of 25 copies of the 1907 Speech of Rudyard Kipling As Chairman At The Annual Dinner of The Artist’s General Benevolent Institution; 9 are known to be in American and Canadian libraries, but this is one of only three autographed by Kipling;
  • one of 19 copies of the very first edition (preceding the British by a year) and the American copyright issue of The Army of A Dream (1904); six of these are in North American university libraries, although this title is missing from both the Library of Congress or the New York Public Library;
  • a copy of the English copyright issue of Simple Simon, inscribed “marked and queried proof copy”, from the files of Kipling’s agent A. P. Watt. Here we have a mystery: according to Stewart, there were only 8 copies, and 5 should have been deposited in accordance with British law in the libraries of the British Museum and the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Dublin. But I have already located 8 copies in North America, so obviously more than eight were printed–still, mine may be the only copy in private hands.

Besides these hyper-limited editions, some wonderful “association copies”–books inscribed by an author or owned by those personally or professionally close to him–have appeared, and are now safe with me:

  • from the beginning of Kipling’s career, a purple-stamped publisher’s presentation copy from Thacker, Spink of the first Indian edition of Plain Tales From The Hills (1888), inscribed by E. Kay Robinson, Kipling’s editor at The Civil and Military Gazette, to his wife;
  • from the autumn of that writing career, a copy of Land and Sea Tales For Scouts and Guides, the first English edition published (1923), inscribed by publisher (and later Prime Minister) Harold Macmillan to the printer Edward Clark, congratulating him on producing and binding 35,000 sheets within two weeks;
  • from the library of Edmund Gosse, Kipling’s London literary godfather and one of the few members of his small wedding party, copies of The Record Of Badalia Herodsfoot of 1890 and of the first American book edition, in paperback in December 1890, of The Light That Failed, inscribed by Gosse in pencil: “positively the earliest of the various editions”.
  • a copy of the Colonial Edition of The Day’s Work, with the bookplate and ownership signature of Alfred, Lord Milner, the High Commissioner for South Africa, dated October 1898; a copy of Actions and Reactions of 1909, presented and inscribed by Kipling to Lady Edward Cecil, who would later marry Lord Milner, Kipling’s model for his poem ‘The Pro-Consuls’; and a copy of the Verse, Inclusive Edition, 1885-1932, inscribed “Violet Milner from Carrie Kipling”, to which Lady Milner has added “given me Dec. 2, 1939, the last time I saw her,” and, in the text beside ‘The Pro-Consuls’, “To Alfred”;
  • a copy of Departmental Ditties, Barrack-Room Ballads And Other Verses, published in New York by John Lovell and the first book edition (English or American) of the Ballads (including ‘Gunga Din’, ‘Danny Deever’ and ‘Mandalay’), inscribed by Kipling on the fly- leaf with a holograph transcript of the ‘Prelude’ ( “I have eaten your bread and salt”). This appears to be one of only about 20 Kipling volumes so inscribed with several stanzas of verse, and the only holograph of this particular poem, and the only copy of this book so fully inscribed;

  • and from Kipling’s library at his residence on Cecil Rhodes’ estate in South Africa, where the family wintered for several years, a copy with RK’s bookplate of The Works of William Shakspere [sic], an edition edited by Charles Knight, inscribed “Rudyard Kipling, his beach-book, from J.W.C. Bermuda 1894”, and presented to Kipling by a member of the Catlin family of Morristown, New Jersey, met on their joint winter voyage to Bermuda that year. The first play in the book is The Tempest, and it was on this trip that Kipling visited the Bermudian beach which he believed to be the original of that of Shakespeare’s play, as thereafter described in his letter to The Spectator of July 2, 1898, and later the subject of his 1931 poem The Coiner.
And then there are the complete surprises, the Kipling first editions which have been discovered, that no one knew existed. In the words of St. Luke (15:6), “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost”:

  • a copy of the Third Edition of Departmental Ditties and Other Verses of 1888, published not in the usual blue-gray boards, but in stiff cloth wrappers in the same design, an edition apparently unknown to Martindell, Ballard, Livingston and Stewart; the only other wrappered copy of the Third Edition known to me is that presented by Kipling to his schoolmaster W.C. Crofts, now in the Berg Collection, at the New York Public Library;

  • a two-page leaflet, the first separate edition of Kipling’s poem The Explorer, printed in 1911 in an unauthorized edition of 25 copies at the Montague Press in Massachusetts by Carl Rollins, later the Printer to the Yale University Press; unknown to all previous Kipling cataloguers, it is even unmentioned in the only two bibliographies of the Montague Press, and mine seems to be the only known copy;
  • a paperback booklet produced in Boston by the children’s magazine publisher Perry Mason Company entitled Bravest Deeds, a compilation of items previously appearing in its monthly numbers, which is the first book edition of the story “Winning The Victoria Cross”, uncollected by Kipling until 1923; this title may indeed be found in Livingston and Stewart, in a hardback under the date 1902, but my wrappered copy is dated 1901, and appears to be the only remaining copy;
  • a San Francisco concert programme of 12 pages dated May 24, 1900, and titled only on its paper cover Containing The Words Of The Patriotic Songs Sung On The Queen’s Birthday At The Second Grand Concert In Aid Of The London Mansion House Fund of San Francisco. I bought this sight unseen over the Internet last December, and upon its receipt discovered it to be the first American appearance (even before newspaper publication in New York) and the first book edition of Kipling’s ‘New Auld Lang Syne’, which had originally appeared only six weeks before as a single sheet sold for a shilling at an April 18 benefit concert in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, where Kipling had been a Boer War correspondent for the British Army newspaper The Friend. The contents of this American programme consist solely of the texts of 4 English and American patriotic songs, and 3 poems by Kipling; it is not in any Kipling bibliography or institutional collection, and this may be the only copy in existence (although, alerted by me, the Bancroft Library at the University of California in Berkeley across the San Francisco Bay is now searching its stacks for another);

  • and finally a broadside, on white paper, 11 1/8 by 4 1/8 inches, which may be the “black tulip” of Kipling ephemera, the suppressed issue of “Bobs”. Livingston said this was a “suppressed leaflet or broadside”, and Stewart included in his bibliography on her authority–but neither of them ever saw a copy.Mine came through the daughter-in-law of E. Kay Robinson, but I cannot prove that what I have is what I think I have, since it is not to be found in any institutional library, or any sales auction catalogue of the last century, or in any bibliography– so I may have to write my own!
In their very survival, all these items not only exemplify what Professor Tanselle has called fascination with chance, but lead directly into his third component of collecting, curiosity about the past.

What do the clutch of books from the Milner library at Great Wigsell tell us in their inscriptions about the relationships of power, patriotism and art? What does the little concert programme from San Francisco tell us about Kipling’s literary fame 10,000 miles from the front in the Boer War? What other effects did the chance presentation of a copy of Shakespeare’s plays have on Kipling’s ruminations on the nature of artistic suggestion? This book collector has not only these particular books, but the surmises which their very presence inspires.

Let me conclude with a brief mention of two other items from my collection which illustrate the fourth of the Tanselle components of collecting–less elegantly, the itches which are scratched–namely, desire for understanding. A collector can not love collecting an author’s books, without wanting to know about the author himself. The personal notes and inscriptions in books, preserved by collectors, can feed that desire.

Besides the aforementioned edition of Shakespeare, I own another book from Kipling’s personal libraries, this from his home in Brattleboro, Vermont, sold with the house named ‘Naulakha’ and all its effects long after the Kipling family returned to England.

The book is Macmillan’s 1894 edition of the Reverend A. Foster-Melliar’s The Book Of The Rose; it is dated “June/95” and signed by Kipling on the title page. Foster-Melliar writes in this book that “the finest H.P. [Hybrid Perpetual] Roses in the world are grown in England.” We know from his correspondence of 1895 that Kipling purchased two dozen “H.P. roses” for $6 from the Farquhar & Co. nursery in Boston, Massachusetts, (Note 7) and in a letter of June of that year, Kipling wrote “I am a Rosarian–a mad Rosarian…” (Note 8) The most charming thing about this book is to be found on the rear endpaper: here, in pencil, Kipling–living on land from his American his mother-in-law with his American wife and American-born children– has written a list of nine H.P. roses in which the names of famous Britons are prominent: Charles Darwin, Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Wellington, and so forth.

The second particularly evocative item is a Kipling presentation copy, this of the first Indian edition of The Story of the Gadsbys, published in Allahabad in 1888. The inscription reads “E.K.H./d.d/R.K./Dec/88” (“d.d” is dono dedit, the Latin for “gave as a gift”). “E.K.H.” was Edmonia Hill, the American wife of Professor S.A. Hill, a meteorologist in government service, and Kipling eventually boarded with the Hills in their bungalow, from April 1888 through January 1889, during which time she became his closest confidante. When Kipling’s later engagement with Caroline Taylor, Edmonia’s younger sister (whom he met while living for two months in 1890 in the house of Mrs. Hill’s parents in Beaver, Pennsylvania), ended badly, the relationship with Edmonia became a more distant and formal affair.

My book is one of a series of seven presentation copies with various forms of title- page inscriptions to Mrs. Hill made throughout 1888, the annus mirabilis of publication of the Third Edition Departmental Ditties, Plain Tales From The Hills, and the six Indian Railway books appearing through the beginning of 1889. Having this copy with its simply-initialled presentation inscription made me curious to trace the other presentation copies in this series, and I want to read to you what I found, listed here by shortened titles and ordered by date of inscription:

  • Plain Tales, this copy now at the University of Texas, with the six-stanza holograph poem ‘Between The Gumpot and The Shears’, ending “Framed pictures need no further stippling./ Forgive the faults./March, 88 /To Mrs. Hill, from Rudyard Kipling.”
  • Departmental Ditties, this copy also at the University of Texas, inscribed “E.K.H./d.d./R.K./April: ’88/’A poor thing but mine own’.”
  • Soldiers Three, whereabouts unknown, inscribed “Mrs. S.A. Hill/from the author:/Nov: 88.”
  • The Story of the Gadsbys, my copy, inscribed in December, as previously described.
  • Under the Deodars, this copy in the Rosenbach Foundation collection, inscribed “To Mrs. S.A. Hill from the Author: Jan/89:”
  • The Phantom Rickshaw, whereabouts unknown, inscribed simply “To you from me: Feb/89”.

And finally the last in the Indian Railway series, Wee Willie Winkie, where we know from surviving drafts now at Cornell University that Edmonia asked for a presentation poem, not merely an inscription. This copy is also at the University of Texas, and was presented on the second day of the voyage of Kipling and the Hills travelling to America on the first leg of their voyage. The 17-line holograph poem begins “I cannot write, I cannot think/I only sleep and eat and drink”, and was quoted in full by Mrs. Hill in her April 1936 Atlantic Monthly article entitled “The Young Kipling”, published three months after Kipling’s death. We know from the auction records that Mrs Hill had sold the same book some years before.

The poem ends: “I cannot sing–I cannot write/I am a Walking Appetite./But you insist and I obey. Here goes! / In steamer Madura/ Now rolling through a tepid sea”– and here the inscription continues over onto the first leaf of text– “March 10th/ To Mrs. Hill From Me,/A journalist unkempt and inky,/With all regards Wee Willie Winkie” (the last three words being the printed title).

Surely we see, in this arc of ever-more-charged inscriptions written over thirteen months, not only the self-importance of the newly-published author, and the social tentativeness of the young newspaper man with an older woman married to a professional scientist, but also the course, finally played out after Kipling’s death almost four decades later with the publication of Mrs. Hill’s reminiscences, of a stifled love affair. Or at least, this would be my understanding. I will close with a quotation from the American bookman and librarian David A. Randall, who wrote an insightful article in Publisher’s Weekly just after Kipling’s death, in January of 1936, entitled “Kipling and Collecting”. His own essay on my very subject concluded with an echo of Kipling’s poem ‘The Ladies’:

These problems of suppression, copyright, forgeries, unidentified contributions and so on, first faced the Kipling dealer and collector, and later the collector of modern firsts in general. They can say, and may it not be the least of Kipling’s glories, that “they learned about collecting through him.