An Amateur

Unpublished Fragment of Pope

(notes by Philip Holberton, drawing on the researches of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


The poem was never collected by Kipling but is to be found in Andrew Rutherford (p. 57), and Pinney p. 1572.

A holograph [handwritten by Kipling] version appears above the notes on Pope on p. 286 of Kipling’s copy of Longer English Poems, ed. J.W.Hales (London 1878), which was used by Kipling as a schoolbook. (Rutherford p.57).

It cannot of course be dated but it may well written during Kipling’s last year at USC, probably 1881 or 1882.

The theme

“Our friend” thinks that he can make money by writing, and makes a nuisance of himself in doing so.
In “An English School” (Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides (1923), p.273) Kipling wrote that:

A London paper that did not know with whom it was dealing, published and paid a whole guinea (just over £1) for some verses that one of the boys had written and sent up under a nom de plume, and the Study caroused on chocolate and condensed milk and pilchards and Devonshire cream, and voted poetry a much sounder business than it looks.


Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon in 1878, at the age of twelve. As he recounts in Stalky & Co. (1899) it was a hard life for a small boy, with a good deal of bullying, beatings as punishments, and never enough food for hungry boys. But he did have the compensation of free access to the Head’s well stocked library, where he read widely, aiming to become a published poet.

He would also have encountered Alexander Pope in the Army Class, which included the Upper Fifth, studying ‘English’ (Literature—Augustan—eighteenth century); see “The Propagation of Knowledge”, collected in Debits and Credits (1926).

Jan Montefiore comments:

The Pope fragment is like one of Pope’s “Epistles”, which are full of digs at contemporary poets. Kipling gets the style pretty well.

See also his “Unpublished Fragment of Shelley” ; also “Schoolboy Lyrics and Echoes”, and “The Muse Among the Motors”. Throughout his career as a writer he took pleasure in parodying the work of other poets.

Notes on the Text


[Verse 1]

doggrel trivial, undignified, inelegant. (more usually ‘doggerel’).

bays wreaths of honour in ancient Rome.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved