Poor Dear Mamma

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 Soldiers Three and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Heading] Gipsy Song these four lines are attributed to Kipling in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Second Edition) and form the penultimate verse of his poem “The Gipsy Trail” but in quotation marks. There was a version by F.E. Wheatherley in about 1880 (see the Kipling Journal 119, Oct 1956).

[Page 118, line 18] body in this context, either a bodice or the whole dress.

[Page 118, line 22] Captain Gadsby Philip Gadsby of the Pink Hussars. Other cavalry stories include “ The Rout of the White Hussars” (Plain Tales from the Hills) and “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap).

[Page 119, line 9] Harrar set in this context, a circle of friends led by a person named Harrar.

[Page 119, lines 28 – 30] being kissed … by a man who didn’t wax his moustache….etc the first use of this phrase, which is attributed to Kipling in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Second Edition.), has become proverbial; a special wax was used to mould the moustache to what was considered to be a fashionable shape. Birkenhead (page 99) calls this remark “the collector’s piece of vulgarity”.

[Page 120, line 16] filly a female horse under four years old, but here a slang term for a young woman.

[Page 120, line 18] sire in this context, the stallion who fathers a foal.

[Page 121, line 13] duds slang for clothes, but usually implying old and ragged garments.

[Page 121, line 24] Peliti’s a fashionable café in Simla on the site of a former dak-bungalow. From 1830 to 1850 it was Bentinck Castle, the residence of the Viceroy, the Simla Bank to 1877 and then a club which burned down in 1878. Four years later, the site was bought by Chevalier Peliti, the Viceroy’s chef who opened it at first as Peliti’s Grand Hotel. [See Edward J, Buck, Simla Past and Present (Thacker, Spink, Calcutta, 1904) Chapter 1.]

[Page 122, line 1] khansamah house-steward.

[Page 122, line 13] Mir Khan a Pathan. Kipling uses the name in several stories.

[Page122, line 16] vernacular Hindustani, derived from Urdu, the language of the camp.

[Page 122, line 17] Higher Standard an examination, compulsory for British officers of the Indian Army.

[Page 122, line 23] topees sun-helmets, but here she means heads

[Page 122, line 24] maunds a weight of some 80 lb or 36.3 kilograms.

[Page 122, line 24]seers a seer is one-fortieth of a maund, ie. rather less than a kilogram. but these weights vary all over India. [See Hobson-Jobson for an interesting examination of the origin and history which goes back to the days of Babylon. The Replica (p.13) has hats, tons and pounds]

[Page 122, line 27] Steady the Buffs ! or more correctly ‘Steady – The Buffs !’ believed to be used when the regiment was under fire. It is, however, attributed to Kipling and this story in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Second Edition). See the Kipling Journal 261/40 for other suggestions. The expression also appears in “The Last Term” (Stalky & Co.) and “His Brother’s Keeper” (Abaft the Funnel). [possibly also elsewhere – information will be welcomed: Ed.]

[Page 122, line 33] sais groom

[Page 123, line 1] eight rupees about twelve shillings or sixty pence.

[Page 123, line 5] grass-cut sometimes the wife of the sais, sometimes a man who went out to cut grass and bring it home to the stable.

[Page 124, line 19] fibs not very serious lies.

[Page 124, line 26] vixen a she-fox, but here another slang term implying an ill-tempered woman.

[Page 125,line 5] Jakko the highest peak (8,000 feet) near Simla – with a road at the level of the town providing a well-known and popular ride mentioned many times in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 126, line 22] Dicksee’s pictures Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee (1853–1928): popular English painter who expressed his art in sentimental or poetic form with realistic though somewhat mechanical technique.

[Page 126, line 26] Home in this context, the United Kingdom.

[Page 126, line 27] the Galleries art exhibitions in London included the Tate and National Galleries, plus many private ones in the West End

[Page 126, line 28] a Philistine an uncultured person (Judges, 16, 12) from its use by Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888) in his Culture and Anarchy (1869).

[Page 127, line 7] habited – hatted and booted dressed for riding.

[Page 127, line 16] Shakespeare and the musical glasses from The Vicar of Wakefield, Chapter 9, by Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774) (Musical glasses consisted of a set of glasses containing water which gave musical notes when touched with a moist finger, the height of the note being proportional to the amount of water in each glass.) Mozart and Beethoven composed for them !

[Page 127, line 33] curb in this context, a chain or strap attached to each end of the bit, passing behind the lower jaw – uncomfortable if too tight.

[Page 128, line 6] throttle in this context, the throat.

[Page 128, line 18] makes the foot-rest he interlaces his fingers to make a step to assist the lady to mount her horse but she hesitates and is too heavy for him.

[Page 128, line 28] habit in this context, the jacket of the riding-habit which also comprises a voluminous skirt to enable the lady to ride side-saddle.

[Page 129, line 6] trotting out the Gorgonzola a pun on the famous Italian cheese, which is here used as the diminutive of Gorgon. This quotation is also attributed to Kipling in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. The caption to a cartoon in Punch (vol. XCVI, p. 82) Hi, James, let loose the Gorgonzola ! appeared in 1889, the year after the publication of this story.

[Page 129, line 8] the Gorgon the Gorgons, in Greek mythology, were three winged female monsters who turned all who looked upon them to stone.

[Page 129, line 13] crumbles breaking into crumbs or small pieces; perhaps a misprint for ‘crumples’ – to crush into irregular wrinkles.

[Page 129, line 14] Chinese Lantern usually made of waxed or oiled paper, which would be crumpled when crushed, not crumbled.

[Page 129, lines 23 – 25] left arm … the third finger the traditional place for an engagement-ring.

[Page 130, line 6] Piano (Italian) instruction to a musician to play softly.

[Page 130, line 9] Pianissino prestissimo similar instructions to play very quietly and very quickly.

[Page 130, line 10] Forte similar – loudly.

[Page 130, line 11] jhampani ‘rickshaw-man.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved