To Be Filed for Reference

(notes edited by John McGivering)


This story was first published in Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and in successive later editions of this collection. It is the last of the forty stories in the collection. No magazine publication. It is headed by the verses “By the Hoof of the Wild Goat”.

The story

McIntosh Jellaludin was once a classical scholar and Fellow of an Oxford college. He has abandoned the scholarly life, gone to the bad in India, and converted to Islam; “a tall well-built, fair man, fearfully shaken with drink, and he looked nearer fifty than thirty-five, which, he said, was his real age.” The narrator happens on him one night in the Sultan Caravanserai, drunk and helpless, helps him home to his filthy lodgings where he lives with a native woman, becomes his friend, and listens to his ramblings as he dies of pneumonia, brought on by drink. Before his death, McIntosh bequeaths the narrator the manuscript of his book, Mother Maturin, which may or may not be a masterpiece of low life in India. This was the title – and indeed the theme – of Kipling’s first attempt at a novel, of which he had written over 200 pages in 1885, but never completed.

Some critical comments

This is a story which several commentators believe contains more than a trace of autobiography. Paffard observes (p. 54):

Like all Englishmen, he [Kipling] perceives a mystery in India which he desires to penetrate , but equally he believes, like all Englishmen, that to do so is to lose oneself. Another figure that fascinates him is the “loafer” the white man “gone native” like McIntosh Jellaludin [who] … it is hinted, has penetrated some of the mysteries of the East, but he pays the price in degradation and death.

Kipling’s nocturnal ramblings and Strickland’s activities are not mentioned here, but obviously come to mind as Wurgaft notes (p. 108):

Kipling was known for his unusual knowledge of native life , and for his intimacy with “wild” or “filthy” Indians from the frontier regions (and) was familiar with natives and their customs and was constantly holding chats with “filthy” tribesmen who regarded him as a “Sahib apart”.

One of these, recorded by E Kay Robinson in Mclure’s Magazine, July 1896, in an article called “Kipling in India”, was “a Pathan horse-dealer with magnificent mien and features Mahbub Ali, I think was his name, who regarded Kipling as a man apart from all other ‘sahibs.’” They had conversations together and, some four years after the publication of Robinson’s article, Mahbub Ali appears as a principal character in Kim.
Louis Cornell comments on McIntosh Jellaludin:

By every Anglo-Indian standard he has failed utterly. And yet he has captured Kipling’s imagination: the conversations between McIntosh and the reporter suggest in a curious way that two conflicting impulses in Kipling himself are debating against one another. McIntosh embodies that part of Kipling’s mind for which the restraints of Anglo-Indian life were intolerably burdensome…McIntosh is enviable to the extent that he has seen to the bottom of Indian life, and can therefore laugh at Strickland as an ignorant man. He is enviable as the author of ‘Mother Maturin’, the novel Kipling had begin but was never to complete.

See McClure (pp. 46 ff.) for an interesting examination of the narrator’s interaction with Strickland in this and other stories and a suggestion why Mother Maturin was never finished.

The introduction to Rutherford’s edition of Early Verse discusses Kipling’s two-sided nature, how he was an intellectual at school and an admirer of men of action in later years with, at times, a somewhat anti-intellectual attitude possibly influenced by envy of his cousin Stanley Baldwin; see the note to p.326, line 17 . See also the poem “The Two-Sided Man”.