First published in The Week’s News, 3 November 1888 and collected in Life’s Handicap, 1891.
A tough-minded young administrator, ‘Georgie Porgie’, in a wild hard district of Upper Burma, feels the need for a woman to look after him. As was not uncommon in those times, he buys a Burmese girl for 500 rupees from her father, a village headman, and calls her ‘Georgina’. She lives with him, manages his household, and loves him dearly.
After a time, he tires of her, and decides to seek a wife in England from among his own people. Without telling Georgina, he applies for leave, takes ship to England, finds and marries a pretty girl, and brings her back to India, where he has arranged a transfer to another district. . Georgina is determined to find him, and despite fearful difficulties and a long journey in a strange country, tracks him down. Through the window of his house she sees him with his new wife, and realises that she has been rejected and betrayed. She goes away, weeping bitterly. When Georgie Porgie’s wife hears her sobs, her husband supposes that it’s ‘some brute of a hillman beating his wife’.
This is on Lionel Johnson’s list of: ‘six stories that in my sincere and humble opinion do not deserve publication’. [Kipling, the Critical Heritage, R L Green (Ed.) p. 93.]
Bonamy Dobrée (p.46) regards the ‘hero’ of this story as: not a very honourable character (who) sneaks off … promising Georgina that he will come back. Like Dobrée, Kipling’s sympathies in such cases are commonly with the women concerned, though he understands very clearly the attitudes and pressures that lead to the men’s behaviour.
See also “Without Benefit of Clergy” (earlier in this volume) “Lispeth”, “Beyond the Pale” and “Kidnapped”, the curious story of the man who wished to marry an Eurasian girl but was prevented from doing so by his friends, all in Plain Tales from the Hills. Also “The Church that was at Antioch” (Limits and Renewals), “Mrs. Bathurst”(Traffics and Discoveries), “A Wayside Comedy”, “The Hill of Illusion” and “The Man who would be King” (Wee Willie Winkie) and ” The Eye of Allah” (Debits and Credits) for women in irregular relationships which end in various degrees of tragedy. (‘Lispeth’ does, however, appear later in Kim in somewhat happier circumstances.) Kipling says, not perhaps without irony, when introducing the tale:
…civilised people who eat out of china and carry card-cases have no right to apply their standard of right and wrong to an unsettled land.
[Page 381, line 5]
For soldiering and other activities in Burma, see also “A Conference of the Powers” (Many Inventions). “From Sea to Sea II and III” (From Sea to Sea, Volume I) and “The Taking of Lungtungpen” (Plain Tales from the Hills) Also the poems “Mandalay” and “The Ballad of Boh Da Thone.”
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved