At the End of the Passage

Notes on the text

(These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG, with information on medical matters from Dr Gillian Sheehan. 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.)


[Page 183] Heading Twelve lines by Kipling.

Philip Holberton writes: In Life’s Handicap this verse is attributed to “Himalayan”, published in Echoes in 1884, of which it is the third verse. The style is a parody of a minor American poet, Joaquin Miller. The other three verses, though still describing the hot season in the Plains of India, are relatively light-hearted, using a number of native words for comic effect and with the names of three hill-stations (Simla, Murree or Naini Tal) as a sort of refrain.

The verse used here as the Chapter Heading is deadly serious. The heat and the wind come from Hell, man loses all appetite and all interest, until his soul leaves his body – as happened to Hummil in the story, literally frightened to death.

[Heading line 12] Cholera-horn (or ‘collery horn’) a long brass horn of hideous sound, often used at native funerals. It has nothing to do with cholera. (Hobson-Jobson) [P.H.]

[Page 183, line 1] life, liberty etc. from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, 4 July, 1776.

[Page 183, line 4] darkened in the days before air-conditioning it was often better to draw curtains or close shutters in an endeavour to keep the heat out.

[Page 183, line 7] punkah a large swinging fan of cloth stretched over a timber frame suspended from the ceiling and pulled by a man outside hauling on a rope which passes through a hole in the wall.

[Page 183, line 13] apoplexy a seizure caused by blockage or rupture of an artery – see Dr. Sheehan’s Notes on Kipling and Medicine.

[Page 184, line 5] dust-devil a column of dust sucked up and whirled about by the wind; similar conditions at sea would produce a water-spout.

[Page 184, line 12] Gaudhari ORG suggests that this may be the district of
Ajmere-Merwara some 250 miles south-west of Delhi.

[Page 184, line 18] the Indian Survey the organisation responsible for mapping India. [see John Keay, The Great Arc, Harper Collins, 2000]

[Page 184, line 21] Civil Service …. political department he was the Resident appointed by the Government of India to assist and advise the Rajah of an independent state. [see The Naulahka, Chapter 7.

[Page 184, line 28] cholera an unpleasant intestinal disease – see see Dr. Sheehan’s Notes on Kipling and Medicine.

[Page 185, line 14] Pilsner a beer, somewhat similar to Lager, brewed in the Czechoslovakian city of Pilzen.

[Page 185, line 25] bumblepuppy in this context, whist played unscientifically.

[Page 186, line 5] Gazette of India a government publication for official announcements.

[Page 186, line 8] vestrymen members of a parish council – the lowest tier of local government – here used facetiously of a member of Parliament, the highest tier of central authority.

[Page 186, lines 14-26] the Civil Service in India… etc typical propaganda of the time, believed by many but not in accordance with the facts, as will be seen from these stories, written from first-hand knowledge,

[Page 186, line 28] ‘Ear ! ‘ear ! “Hear ! Hear!” is the usual cry from an audience that agrees with the speaker – here used sarcastically.

[Page 186, line 31 and overleaf] free and independent native prince see The Naulahka, Chapter 6 onwards.

[Page 187, line 4] women as a bribe Kipling was also offered money, a beautiful girl, jewels and horses but refused them all. (Andrew Lycett, p. 93) Something of Myself, Chapter 3.

[Page 187, line 12] drag in this context, a four-wheeled coach or carriage, drawn by two or four horses.

[Page 187, line 19] jewels and coin under his palace see “The King’s Ankus” in The Second Jungle Book and the note to page 192, line 11 below.

[Page 188, line 2] King’s Peg brandy and champagne.

[Page 188, lines 3-4] Heidsieck a famous Champagne, now (2006) known as Piper-Heidsieck.

[Page 188, line 5] Rao a title awarded to Indian gentlemen for good work as magistrates, etc. There is no such state as Jubela.

[Page 188, lines 22-25] my risks …. I don’t accept food … he has so far escaped being poisoned.

[Page 189, line 3] gin and Worcester sauce with cayenne getting cold or “chilled” was then thought to be one of the causes of cholera so soldiers in India were issued with a flannel waist-band or “cholera-belt” to prevent chill. Spurstow probably used this mixture in a surprisingly successful endeavour to warm him up. Such a drastic remedy, reminiscent of the shaving-soap, and trade gunpowder and hot water used in “A Deal in Cotton” (Actions and Reactions) would not usually be of any benefit to the patient. [G.S.]

[Page 189, lines 7 ff.] Chlorodyne, opium pill etc a description of the normal
case of cholera in the 1880s – chlorodyne, a mixture of chloroform and opium was used to stop diarrhoea; opium would be given for the same reason. Nitre was Potassium Nitrate used as a saline diuretic when given by mouth in a dilute solution – larger doses are liable to cause gastric and renal irritation, again unlikely to be of any benefit, [G.S.]

bricks to the feet in lieu of hot-water bottles.

[Page 189, line 9] the burning-ghaut where the bodies of the dead are cremated.

[Page 189, line 10] black cholera so called on account of the blue colour of the face (cyanosis) of a victim who has lost so much fluid that the circulation has collapsed and oxygen is not reaching all areas of the system. The patient would be unlikely to survive when given the treatment available at the time. [G.S.]

[Page 189, line 21] sextant an instrument used for determining the altitude of stars, etc., and the horizontal angles between other objects on land – normally used at sea. A land-surveyor would use a theodolite.

[Page 189, line 22] ophthalmia inflammation of the eye.

[Page 190, line 1] the Graphic a magazine similar to the Illustrated London News.

[Page 190, line 24] Chucks the Boatswain – something of a social climber – in Peter Simple (1834) a novel by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), In his introduction to the book, David Hannay wrote: “Gentleman Chucks, who by common consent is Marryat’s masterpiece … would of himself be enough to place the book high … In Marryat’s hands he is one of the fellowship of brave good men with a bee in his bonnet…”.

[Page 190, line 22] Job see the Book of Job in the Old Testament.

[Page 191, line 9] babu an English-speaking Bengali clerk.

[Page 191, line 17] Live and let live This saying, as Frank Hanson has pointed out, can be traced back to the 17th Century, and occurs in Smollett´s Sir Launcelot Greaves. However, Kipling´s use seems likely to echo its occurrence in Handley Cross II vii, by Robert Surtees: ´Live and let live as the criminal said to the hangman´.

die and let die Live and Let Die was the title of a novel by Ian Fleming (1908-1964) featuring James Bond (Cape, 1954) filmed in 1973; one wonders if it was inspired by this phrase. See also “Thrown Away” (Plain Tales from the Hills.) for a suicide that was hushed up.

[Page 191, line 21] skittles in this context, a slang term for “nonsense.”

[Page 192, line 2] eyes are rather gummy and swollen see Note at page 203, line 20 below for a suggestion this might be a sign of cataract.

[Page 192, line 11] chick in this context, short for chickeen, a sum of four rupees (Hobson-Jobson p. 193) ORG has six – from the Venetian zecchino a gold coin once in use in India and occasionally found in hoards of treasure.

[Page 192, line 12] a gold mohur the highest value coin in use in India at the time.

[Page 192, line 13] the rub short for the rubber, a series of games, usually three or five.

[Page 192, line 14] poker in this context, a game of cards for two or more players,– each receiving five cards and then betting on the strength of his hand There are several versions of the rules. (A sure way to lose money whichever version is used !)

[Page 192, line 22] camp-piano a small and fairly portable instrument.

[Page 193, line 2] ’79 1879.

[Page 194, line 7] “Grasshopper’s Polka” A polka is a lively dance of Czech origin this one may have been composed by Ernest Bucalossi (1859-1933)

[Page 194, line 8] prestissimo (Italian) instruction to the musician to play very quickly.

[Page 194, line 9] ‘Glory to thee ….’, by Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711) No. 23 in Hymns Ancient and Modern – slightly misquoted.

[Page 194, line 27] cockchafer Melolontha vulgaris – a European flying beetle.

[Page 194, line 29] bandbox a circular cardboard box to contain the large hats of the period.

[Page 195, line 7] fathom six feet. An obsolete nautical measurement.

[Page 195, line 15] lights in this context, oil lamps similar to those illustrated on the back cover of Mrs. Hauksbee & Co, ed. John Whitehead, (Hearthstone Publications, 1998) See Note to page 198, line 4 below,

[Page 195, lines 19, 20] David ….. Saul

And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
[I Samuel, 16,23,]

[Page 196, lines 11, 12] Jorrocks, where I dines, I sleeps the London grocer and Master of Foxhounds (M.F.H.) in the novels by Robert Smith Surtees (1803-1864) This misquotation from Chapter 7 of Handley Cross should read: …where the M.F.H. dines he sleeps, and where the M.F.H. sleeps he breakfasts. See KJ 75, and Notes to “The Propagation of Knowledge” (Debits & Credits>.

Surtees was a favourite author of Kipling and his study mates at United Services College. Jorrocks is also quoted in “Little Foxes” (Actions & Reactions), “My Son’s Wife” (A Diversity of Creatures). “His Gift” (Land & Sea Tales), “Verses on Games”, and “The Fox Meditates.”

[Page 197, line 12] dress some of my food poison him – see Note to page 188, lines 22-25 above.

[Page 198, line 3] 104° that would be in degrees Fahrenheit. which is 40 degrees Celsius, a dangerously high temperature.

[Page 198, line 4] badly-trimmed kerosene lamps the charred remains of the cotton wicks must be cut off square, otherwise they smoke.

[Page 198, lines 14 – 16] thick-necked … etc. see Note to page 183, line 13 above.

[Page 198, line 27] tom-tom a small drum played with the hands. See Hobson-Jobson, pp. 929-30.

[Page 200, line 13] bromide of potassium used in nervous diseases as a sedative. (Harmsworth’s Encyclopaedia).

[Page 200, line 21] the daintiest of fairy squirts a small hypodermic syringe for injecting substances into the body.

[Page 200, line 27] morphia a dangerous sleep-inducing drug derived from opium (Black) See “In an Opium Factory” (From Sea to Sea, Volume 2) and “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” (Plain Tales from the Hills).

[Page 201, line 5] spiking your guns driving big nails into the touch-holes of captured muzzle-loading cannon to prevent them being fired if recaptured.

[Page 201, line 7] a twelve-bore rifle ORG describes this as an elephant-gun, but rifles are usually described as having a calibre (diameter of barrel) in this case of of 0•729 inches (18•5 mm.) although the gun used in “The Killing of Hatim Tai” (From Sea to Sea, Volume 2) is an eight-bore firing a ball and probably a shotgun.

express in this context, a magazine-rifle, capable of rapid fire.

[Page 201, line 8] a revolver a pistol with a revolving cylinder containing the ammunition, firing (usually) six shots without reloading. The Doctor has put these weapons out of action so that Hummil will not be able to shoot himself.

[Page 203, line 10] rowelled like a horse the spurs attached to the heels of the rider’s boots usually have spiked wheels attached for urging the horse to greater speed or signalling movements. If over-used they can leave wounds on the hide

[Page 203, line 20] looked into the pupils of his eyes and passed his hand before them a simple test for eye-trouble.

[Page 203, line 33] a seventeen-inch collar he is heavily built and at risk of heat-apoplexy.

[Page 204, line 5] A blind face that cries… etc. an echo of Kipling’s own verse “La Nuit Blanche”, which first appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette of 7 June, 1887, under the title “Natural Phenomena”, verse 7:

Then a Face came, blind and weeping
And It couldn’t wipe it’s eyes,

[Page 204, line 15] a touch of the sun see Dr. Sheehan’s Notes on Kipling and Medicine.

[Page 205, line 12] go out die.

[Page 205, line 14] salted probably, in this context, “fever-proof” like Chinn – “The Tomb of His Ancestors” (The Day’s Work) See ORG Vol 3, p. 1364 ff. and Dr. Sheehan’s Notes on Kipling and Medicine.

[Page 205, line 25] Great Scott ! an exclamation of surprise believed to refer to the Unites States General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) [Nigel Rees, Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, Cassell, 1987, p. 90) The dialogue on this page shows unexpected chivalry in Hummil.

[Page 205, line 33] gin and ketchup perhaps a placebo.

[Page 206, lines 7 – 25] the figure of himself… etc. Andrew Lycett (p. 95 passim) records Kipling’s own trouble with eyesight and hallucinations.

Everest, the Chief Surveyor (after whom the mountain is named) when at Sironj, Rajastan, suffered similar symptoms which were only relieved when he moved to a more salubrious climate (Keay, p. 152)

[Page 207, line 31] the servants by the standards of the time this is not a very large staff to look after one man as each would only do one job – see “The Smith Administration“ (From Sea to Sea, Volume 2) a collection of ten rather slight stories, but valuable in that they throw light on the domestic arrangements of the period.

Also Archie Baron, An Indian Affair, (Channel 4 Books / Pan Macmillan, 2001) and David Burton, The Raj at Table (Faber, 1994) p. 46 ff.
Generally speaking, a cook, a butler, a house-boy or two, a dhobi, grooms, a grass-cutter, punkah-coolies and a couple of sweepers would probably be the minimum for a bachelor, which makes this retinue fairly modest. A married household would also have an ayah and a sewing-man. See also “The Debt,”(Limits and Renewals).

[Page 208, line 28] Heaven-born usually applied to members of the Indian Civil Service – likening them to the twice-born Brahmins, the highest Hindu caste. Here used as a flattering form of respectful address. Ed. R,V, Vernede,British Life in India, (OUP, third impression, 1996) p. 10.

[Pages 209 -211] The action on these pages is examined by ORG which quotes a letter of September 1954 to R.E.Harbord from an eye-specialist, a personal friend only identified by the initials A.S.P.

Kipling would have us believe he died of fright also that the negative showed something so horrible that his friends (sic) at once destroyed it. Presumably it showed an image of the man ‘with the blind weeping eyes.’

All this is, no doubt, quite ridiculous, but it is interesting to remember that there is an ago-old superstition that an image of the last thing seen during life is preserved in the eye of the dead person. No one knows where in the eye.

‘A.S.P.’ quotes the case of a policeman who was killed by two crooks who also shot him in each eye so that there would be no images to give them away. The letter continues:

There is no possibility whatever either in life or death of taking a photograph of the retina and seeing in it what the retina was ‘seeing.’

This fiction is a product of the lay mind and the development of photography, the argument being – if a film cam be taken out of a camera and ‘developed,’ why not do something the same to the ‘Film’ (retina) in the eye ? There are so many reasons why the idea is impossible that one hardly knows where to begin.

Images of things seen are formed in the brain, not really in the retina. It will be sufficient to say that photographing a retinal image never has been possible and there is no indication that it will become so in the future. (A.S.P.)
[The full text of the letter can be seen at p. 975 of Volume 2. of ORG]

[Page 207, line 13] at least three hours There is some incertainty as to both the cause and the time of Hummil’s death. This passage suggests that it was at least three hours before Mottram, Lowndes and Spurstow found him, early on Sunday morning

[Page 209, lines 24-25] he must have died at midnight ORG suggests that for Hummil to have died of heat apoplexy at 5 a.m. when it would have been marginally cooler, seems somewhat unlikely, On the other hand Kipling also suggests fright and hypertension which might have brought on cerebral haemorrhage.

It seems that Kipling was, for some reason, unable to write a convincing finish to this otherwise gripping horror-story which this reader occasionally forgets is a work of fiction. Edward Shanks in his Rudyard Kipling (Macmillan, 1930, cited in ORG pp.976-977.) reminds us that it is indeed impossible to photograph images in a dead man’s eyes, and observes:

However, if we assume the story to have been straightforward supernatural, with a picture of something gruesome appearing on the negative, the doctor could well have smashed the Kodak in a fit of revulsion.

He presumably means that against all scientific evidence the Doctor does photograph something horrible and manages to see it without developing the film. It is uncharacteristic of Kipling to expect his readers to suspend their disbelief to such an extent, but we believe that for once we should not allow mundane things like facts to spoil a ripping yarn ! [Ed.]

[Page 210, line 26] the tremendous words:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
John 11, 25-26, from The Order for the Burial of the Dead in the Book of Common Prayer.

[Page 211, line 8] a Kodak camera the trade-name of the Eastman Kodak Company.

[Page 211, line 14] I’ve torn up the films the negatives are difficult to tear and were not developed anyway.

[Page 212, lines 3 – 4] There may be Heaven…. etc a misquotation from “Time’s Revenge” by Robert Browning (1812-1889):

There may be heaven; there must be hell;
Meantime, there is our earth here – well !

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved