The Courting of
Dinah Shadd

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Life’s Handicap, as published and frequently reprinted between 1891 and 1950.


[Title] Dinah Shadd also appears or is mentioned in “The Last of the Stories” (Abaft the Funnel – ‘large, red-cheeked and resolute’) “His Private Honour” and “Love o’Women (Many Inventions), “The Daughter of the Regiment” (Plain Tales from the Hills), and “The Big Drunk Draf’” and “With the Main Guard” in Soldiers Three.

[Heading] This is the last verse of Kipling’s famous “The Ladies”, collected (with slight variations) in Definitive Verse, and included in Carrington’s (1973) and Whitehead’s (1995) editions of Barrack-Room Ballads but not in Methuen’s Barrack-Room Ballads of 1892 and later editions. It is included in Methuen’s The Seven Seas (1896).

[Page 38, line 4] the wisdom of the Government this remark usually reveals the author in sarcastic mode, as will be seen below. ‘Manoeuvres’ as they were also called, usually killed less people than the real thing, but the rest of this page illustrates disasters from past wars being repeated.

[Page 38, line 7] cavalry charged unshaken infantry see Page 70, line 19 below.

[Page 38, line 11] armoured train see Uncollected Sketches, Ed. Pinney, (page 135) for an account of the construction of the train in the Lahore Railway Workshops and the trials of the armament.

[Page 38, line 13] Armstrong field-guns developed by William George Armstrong (1810-1900, first Baron Armstrong), of which the army had several types. ‘Twenty-five pounder’ refers to the weight of the shell.
Nordenfelts Thorsten Nordenfelt (1842-1920) Swedish inventor and industrialist, who designed machine-guns with varying numbers of barrels and varying degrees of success.

[Page 38, line 15] boiler-plate iron, and later steel, normally used for industrial purposes but here, as in previous wars, adapted for use as armour.

[Page 39, line 11] lumber a word of many meanings and not very well chosen as it normally refers to furniture that is not in use, but here probably meaning the ‘tail’ of camp-followers and equipment that follows an army on the march.

[Page 39, line 22] flying column horsemen capable of rapid movement. See the note to page 40, line 8 below.

[Page 39, line 23] Ghoorkhas (usually Gurkhas) hardy hillmen from Nepal who make excellent soldiers and have enlisted in the British army since about 1815. They appear in many of these stories.

[Page 40, lines 8-10] A Noah’s Ark of elephants…etc. see “Her Majesty’s Servants” and the verse “Parade-Song of the Camp Animals” (The Jungle Book).

[Page 40, lines 15-17] ‘How’s that, umpire ?’…’Hout !’ The appeal from the fielders in a cricket-match, and the umpire giving the batsman ‘Out’.
drivers and limber-gunners the drivers ride the near-side horses, the others sit on the limber, the two-wheeled ammunition carrier to which the trail of the gun is attached. See the verses “Ubique”, “The Jacket” and “Snarleyow.”

[Page 41, line 1] umpire An army officer, who, as his name implies, watches the activities of both sides and decides who has the advantage.

[Page 41, line 3] Eblis the Devil.

[Page 41, line 5] bivouac passing the night in the open air – ORG maintains it is not much of a hardship in the dry season in India !

[Page 41, line 22] medical comforts food and drink of a more delicate nature than the usual army rations, intended for wounded and invalids, but here used humorously.

[Page 41, line 24] brutal an’ licentious soldiery see the note to “In the Matter of a Private” at page 77, line 21 of Soldiers Three.

[Page 41, line 25] thruck Truck. He probably means ‘things’ or ‘stuff’.

[Page 41, line 27] iron filin’s an’ dog-biscuit He means ‘filings’ – a reference to the tinned food and hard biscuit which would be provided in the field. (See page 42, lines 15 onward.)

[Page 42, line 2] lushin’ Lushing – slang for drinking – usually to excess.

[Page 42, line 4] haversack part of the soldiers equipment – originally for food but also containing spare socks, knife, fork and spoon etc.

[Page 42, line 7] Wolseley Garnet Joseph, Viscount and Field Marshal, (1833-1913) Commander-in-Chief of the army and author of The Soldier’s Pocket-Book for Field Service. See notes to “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” Pages 331, line 13 and 332 line 5 of Wee Willie Winkie.

[Page 42, line 9] pot-luck a casual invitation to eat whatever may be available. There is a certain amount of sarcasm, here, however, as the narrator is invited to come and eat some of his own provisions !

[Page 42, line 11] commissariat see notes to “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” Pages 348, line 8 and 382, line 4. Here used humorously.

[Page 42, line 17] Erbswurst a German sausage containing peas.

[Page 42, line 20] Thomas Atkins classic nickname for the British soldier – see the note to “In the Matter of a Private” page 77, line 7 of Soldiers Three.

[Page 42, line 27] kid in this context, the young of the goat – ORG maintains it is not readily distinguishable from mutton.

[Page 42, line 31] chaff in this context, repartee of a fairly robust nature.

[Page 43, line 10] jackals canis aureus a breed of wild animal allied to the dog. One named ‘Tabaqi’ appears in The Jungle Book.

[Page 43, line 11] tamarisks shrubs that grows in dry areas.

[Page 43, line 12] musketry-fire the weapons would probably be Martini-Henry rifles by this time, rather than muskets. But rifle-practice was referred to as “musketry” for many years into the twentieth century.
leagues an old-fashioned measure of length – some three miles.

[Page 43, line 26] Agra Town a song that we have been unable to trace

[Page 43, line 27] The Buffalo Battery A Royal Artillery song – see KJ 13/22.ORG maintains it was less popular than “The Elephant Battery” in Volume 1 of The Oxford Song Book and quotes the chorus:

Aye …. Twist their tails and go !
Hathi, hathi
(elephant) … oont (camel) and buffalo !
Oh that’s the way we shout all day as we drive the buffalo !

Marching to Kabul not traced.
The long, long Indian Day words by Mario adapted to a German Volkslied published in Bombay in 1889.

[Page 43, line 28] The Place where the Punkah-coolie died quoted in ORG (Vol. 2, p. 950) and KJ 13/23.

[Page 43, line 30] Youth’s daring spirit, manhood’s fire… David Page reports that this comes from the chorus of a song on “Hunting the Boar”. It is recorded as being sung regularly by groups of pig-stickers in Bengal as a drinking song in honour of the creature they hunted on horseback with a spear. (Blackwood’s Magazine, Edinburgh, 1893).

It is also quoted in G.A. Henty’s (1832-1902) Indian novel, In Time of Peril (1881). In My Indian Journal by Walter Campbell (1864), Chapter XVIII Hog-Hunting”, p. 331, the full text is to be found. Kipling is quoting here from the second verse:

The boar, the mighty boar’s my theme,
Whate’er the wise may say;
– My morning thought, my midnight dream,
My hope throughout the day.

Youth’s daring spirit, manhood’s fire,
Firm hand, and eagle eye,
Do they require, who dare aspire
To see the wild-boar die.

Then pledge the boar, the mighty boar,
Fill high the cup with me;
Here ‘a luck to all who fear no fall
And the next gray boar to see—

See also David Page’s notes on Chapter IX of Letters of Marque, p. 74.

[Page 44, line 13] ‘might, majesty, dominion and power’ echoes of Jude, verse 25: To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Also Revelation 5, 13: Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power…, which Handel set to music so memorably in his great oratorio Messiah.

[Page 44, line 16]‘There’s a blister…’ The point is also made by the doctor in “My Lord the Elephant” (Many Inventions, page 62) when Mulvaney reports sick with a sore foot: ‘a marchin’ man is no stronger than his feet.’

[Page 44, line 19] housewife in this context a rollup cloth case containing sewing equipment. Cris makes one for Lew in “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie page 347, line 11.) It is usually pronounced hussif.

[Page 45, line 22] Polonius see Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, where the old man is giving sage advice to his son:

Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t , that’th opposed may beware of thee.

[Page 45, line 33] Silver’s Theatre a Dublin theatre that figures in “With the Main Guard” mentioned above , “Love o’Women,” (Many Inventions) and the verse “Belts.”

[Page 46, line 8] as full as a cornucopia slang for drunk – a cornucopia is the classic horn of plenty, overflowing with fruit etc.

[Page 46, line 9] the Black Tyrone one of Mulvaney’s regiments – see ORG, Vol. 1. p. 7.

[Page 46, line 21] soliloquishms another portmanteau word, meaning ‘soliloquy’, a dramatic monologue in which the speaker is uttering reflections to himself.

[Page 46, line 26] the Ghost the ghost of Hamlet’s father has an important part in the play.

[Page 47, line 13] Kathleen O’Moore words by George Nugent Reynolds (c. 1770-1802) to an Irish air. This song went into 13 editions when published in 1800,

[Page 47, line 17] ‘For all we take…etc not traced.

[Page 48, line 22] ricochet fire aiming short of the target so that the bullet strikes the ground and flies up at an angle with a disconcerting noise and inflicting a terrible wound.

[Page 49, line 9] bradawl a small pointed tool used in woodwork, here used as a nickname for the bayonet.

[Page 49, line 11] clanin’-rod cleaning-rod , a long straight rod used for cleaning the barrel of a rifle.

[Page 49, line 24] Annie Bragin see “The Solid Muldoon” (Soldiers Three).

[Page 50, line 5] Krab Bokhar probably a fictitious name. ORG points out that were it spelt Kharab Bokhar it would mean ‘Bad Fever’.

[Page 50, line 22] the Hollow of Hiven A quotation from Chapter 5 of The Silverado Squatters (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘all but the hollow of heaven was one chaos of contesting luminaries – a hurly-burly of stars.
This seems an unlikely remark to put into the mouth of Mulvaney but this is the only reference we have found. See Headnote to “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three for Kipling’s contacts with Stevenson, a wirter he admired but never met.

[Page 51, line 13] married lines in this context, the quarters in barracks or cantonments where the married families were quartered, and a source of much trouble as will be seen in other Mulvaney stories.

[Page 52, line 4] pipeclay a fine white kaolin, mixed with water, used until fairly recently to whiten belts and other equipment

[Page 53, line 1] the Soldier’s Pocket Book see Note to Page 42, line 7 above.

[Page 53, line 12] thrapesin’ traipsing – to gad or rush about in a slovenly or dissipated manner.

[Page 53, line 25] the pride av the spurs to jingle This was the ‘Cavalry Swagger’, as imitated by Miss Minnie Threegan in “Poor Dear Mamma” on p. 119 of Soldiers Three. The cavalry always saw themselves as an elite, and carried themselves accordingly. This was not a view shared by the men of other arms of the Service.

[Page 54, line 12] the Duchess av Clonmel Clonmel is an Irish town partly in Co. Tipperary and partly in Waterford – an Earldom from 1793 to 1935.

[Page 54, line 23] hair-thriggerA ‘hair-trigger has a very light pressure so the weapon will fire easily without disturbing the aim. See “Black Jack” p. 110, line 15 in Soldiers Three: ‘A light pull is ten points on the range to me’, says Mulvaney.

[Page 54, line 27] Bob-tailed Dhragoons Dragoons – applied to horses with short tails, here probably the nickname of a cavalry regiment. Dragoons were ‘heavy cavalry’, as compared with Hussars, who were ‘light cavalry’.

[Page 55, line 7] plastrons ornamental cloth on the chest of cavalry uniform.
epigastrons a portmanteau word from a variety of sources that sound like part of the ornamentation on cavalry uniform.

[Page 55, line 14] shovel-futted clod-breakin’ ‘shovel-footed cloth-breaking’ – a deadly insult from a cavalryman who considered himself superior to a foot-soldier.

[Page 55, line 18] Scots Greys orf’cer The Royal Scots Greys, a famous cavalry regiment; it is not clear, however, if or why one of their officers should behave in that manner!

[Page 55, line 26] quarter the ground an’ gyard high
Alastair Wilson comments: The meaning here is that the man is exhausted, and trying to evade Mulvaney (‘quarter the ground’), and guard his face at the expense of his body (‘gyard high’). This is slightly unusual in boxing or old-style prizefighting, since the exhausted man usually ‘drops his guard’.
Go large I take to mean something akin to being ‘glaringly abroad’.
It indicates that the boxer is, to use a much later phrase, ‘all over the shop’, and doesn’t know whether it’s Christmas or Thursday. I didn’t know its derivation, so so I googled it, and found that Partridge (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: Colloquialisms and Catchphrases Fossilised) has a usage. He says it means ‘to go noisily’ – and in this tale’s context, I take it that Dempsey is winded, and his breath is coming noisily and in gulps – all highly likely.

I do wonder if ‘Go large’ doesn’t have a nautical root, because ‘going large’ I would describe as ‘sailing off the wind’, though any connection here would be pretty tenuous. The expression ‘By and large’ comes from the same root, I believe. [A.W.]

[Page 55, line 30] shtock – stock – a leather band worn round the neck as part of some uniforms of the time.

[Page 56, line 13] tailor’s samples bundles of coloured cloth. An apt comparison, particularly if reds. blues and yellows predominate. (See page 57, line 7)

[Page 56, line 18] rough-rider in this context, an expert horseman and probably an assistant to the Riding-Master.

[Page 57, line 8] sash a broad red band worn over a shoulder and across the chest indicating that he was Duty N.C.O.

[Page 57, line 14] tumbleways see “Certain Maxims of Hafiz,” Stanza XVI:

My Son, if a maiden deny thee and scuffingly bid thee give o’er,
Yet lip meets with lip at the lastward. Get out ! She has been there before.
They are pecked on the ear and the chin and the nose who are lacking in lore.

[Page 57, line 22] a live coal to my pipe men sometimes picked up the cool end of a burning stick or coal from the fire to light their tobacco-pipes.

[Page 57, line 25] balance-steppin’ – stepping – the slow march; difficult and painful but gives good deportment and looks splendid when well executed.

[Page 58, line 8] Mullingar Irish market-town and cattle-rearing district in Co. Westmeath, west of Dublin

[Page 58, line 11] Black Curse of Shielygh See KJ 15, Mulvaney was to: die quick in a strange land … see ORG 1/12 for Kipling’s letter in The Academy for 20 March 1897.

[Page 59, line 2] nectar the drink of the gods.

[Page 59, line 28] comether ‘Come hither’, come here.

[Page 59, line 32] bull’s-eye in this context the highest scoring point, the centre of the target.

[Page 60, line 12] velvet-drunk probably speaking somewhat thickly.

[Page 61, line 3] panjandhrum panjandrum – a nonsense-word invented by Samuel Foote (1720-1777) to signify a person of great importance but here incorrectly used to mean an assembly (of hell-cats).

[Page 64, line 26] sutler a merchant who sells provisions etc. to soldiers in camp or garrison.

[Page 64, line 33] the black blight perhaps a reference to the dreadful Famine in Ireland in 1846/47 when the potato-crop failed.

[Page 65, line 24] the half av that I’ll take A thought echoed in the later story “The Wish House” (Debits and Credits, p. 131): ‘ Let me take everythin’ bad that’s in store for my man …’

[Page 67, line 24] Umballa and Kalka on the road to Simla.

[Page 67, line 27] Father Victor he also appears in Kim.

[Page 68, line 14] Rabelaisian yarns François Rabelais (1495 -1553) French monk. physician and celebrated author of bawdy stories.

[Page 68, line 26] Ratcliffe Highway a road near the Tower of London, described as a: …street or filthy…passage, with alleys of small tenements…. [Stowe, quoted in The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 2nd. Ed. p. 830]

[Page 68, lines 27 ff.] My girl she give me the go onst etc. ORG (p. 710). This is collected in Definitive Verse as “Private Ortheris’s Song” and in Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling Ed. R.T. Jones (Wordsworth Poerty Library, 1994.)

See The Letters of Rudyard Kipling (ed Pinney) Vol 5, pp. 439-440 for a letter to his literary agent A.P.Watt about a proposed three-volume de luxe edition of his poetry to include this item.

[Page 68. line 31] a shillin’ the Recruiting Sergeant gave a new recruit a shilling (one day’s pay, 5 pence in modern currency) when he agreed to join. See the verses “Shillin’ a Day.”

[Page 69, line 11] dah a Burmese knife.

[Page 69, line 20] pop in this instance, probably beer.

[Page 69, line 22] the ‘shop’ cells.(See “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three, page 89, line 14.

[Page 69, line 25]a full C.B. the punishment of being Confined to Barracks – ironically enough it also stands for Companion of the Bath, a distinguished order of knighthood.

[Page 69, line 34] lost my tip Jones (Page 68,line 27 above) glosses this as failed to achieve my objective. (This may, perhaps, refer to a billiards-player who looses the tip of his cue and so misses his shot ! Ed.)

[Page 70, line 19] ORG (Volume 2, pages 952-953) reports that early American editions have four extra paragraphs here, telling how this detachment is then attacked by the ‘enemy’ and ‘forms square’ – an evolution not used by the British army since operations in the Sudan in 1898. This classic formation appears in several of Kipling’s soldier stories and in particular The Light that Failed. Each side was formed of two lines of riflemen with machine-guns (if available) at the corners and baggage in the middle. The second paragraph reads:

Tr-ra-ra sang th thrice-blessed bugle, and the rush to form square began. There is much rest and peace in the heart of a square if you arrive in time, and are not trodden upon too frequently. The smell of leather belts, fatigue uniform and packed humanity is comforting.

[Page 70, line 21] Prometheus in ancient Greek mythology, he stole fire from heaven to give to men and was condemned to be chained to a rock where an eagle daily devoured his liver; it grew again in the night. Hercules slew the bird and freed him.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved