Georgie Porgie

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 Life’s Handicap, as published and frequently reprinted between 1891 and 1950.

[Heading] This is a very familiar English nursery rhyme. The third line, however, usually reads:

When the boys came out to play.

[See Nursery Rhymes, ed. J. O. Halliwell,1842]

The rhyme is said to be based on several historical characters named ‘George’, but no evidence of this has been produced by any of the authorities we have consulted. See The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Ed. Iona and Peter Opie, (OUP 1997) p. 217.

[Page 381, line 3] the housemaid … is clearing away the dust in the days of domestic servants it was the convention that the employer and his family would not enter downstairs rooms (except the breakfast-room) until the cleaning was completed, after which the servants would not enter such rooms unless bringing refreshment or when sent for.

[Page 381, line 4] card-cases in this context, small and often valuable containers for visiting-cards, then an essential part of social life.

[Page 381, line 10] Decalogue the Ten Commandments given to Moses in Exodus 20 in the Old Testament and The Book of Common Prayer. The Seventh Commandment, for instance, is Thou shalt not commit adultery.

[Page 381, line 15] make the jungle ways straight an echo of Matthew 3,3 in the New Testament: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

[Page 381, line 17] Tchin there is a town called Tchin San Chai in Vietnam but we have not traced this reference and would appreciate information. [Ed.]

[Page 381, line 19] Thayetmyo chief town in the District of the same name in what was then known as Lower Burma, on the right bank of the Irrawaddy River. Burma became an independent Republic in 1948, and has been known as Myanmar since 1989.

[Page 382, line 4] Bhamo a town and District in north-east Burma.

[Page 382, lines 5-16] men whose desire was to be a little in advance of Respectability etc….. see the poems “The Explorer”, and “The Lost Legion”:

We preach in advance of the Army,
We skirmish ahead of the Church …

[Page 382, line 11] the Supreme Government the Viceroy of India in Council.

[Page 382, lines 18-26] Georgie Porgie, reckoned by all who knew him…’Puff’ puff…. Great Steamboat’ one of our members who was a Sub-Lieutenant in a gunboat in Burma about the time of the First World War explained this thus in ORG p. 1002, Vol. 2.:

– ‘Great steam-boat’ is Mee-Thimbawgyi (pronounced Thimbawgee). This, prefaced by an onomatopoeic syllable for ‘Puff-Puff’ gives us the ‘Georgie Porgie.’

[This does not seem a very convincing explanation, and we would like to see it clarified. Ed.]

[Page 382, line 19] He held an appointment it is not clear if he is a civil servant or a soldier – see below.

[Page 383, lines 5-6 dressed down dacoits on his own account ‘a dressing-down’ in this context is a verbal rebuke or ‘telling-off’ but here it is an understatement for ‘fought and killed’ armed robbers belonging to gangs – see Hobson-Jobson (p. 290). We are not told if he commanded troops of his own.

[Page 383, line 8] charivaris From the French charivari, a mock serenade with loud noises of beating on pots and pans, uproar.

[Page 383, line 21] the Daughters of Heth ‘… a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as those which are of the daughters of the land …’ Genesis 27,46.

[Page 383, line 22] nikkah the contract between a bride and groom in an Islamic marriage.

[Page 383, line 33] stockade in this context a fortification formed by large timbers driven into the ground to form a wall; this one would be of more solid construction than the keddah that figures in “Toomai of the Elephants” (The Jungle Book, p. 211)

[Page 384, line 2] five hundred rupees a substantial sum, more than a month’s pay for a young official.

[Page 384, line 13] Madrassee servants men from Madras.

[Page 386, line 24] Rangoon the capital of Burma, now known as Yangon.

[Page 387, line 24] Town in this context, London.

[Page 388, line 1] Petworth a town in Sussex, some fifty miles from London.

[Page 388, line 12] purple and fine linen ‘There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.’
(Luke, 16,19)

[Page 388, line 19] Arundel (pronounced with a long ‘a’) a picturesque town in Sussex.

[Page 388, line 31] Sutrain not traced

[Page 388, lines 32-33] ‘Sanitarium’ …drainage utterly neglected usually ‘sanatorium’, an establishment for the treatment of invalids; the writer is ironic.

[Page 389, line 16] the war of ’51 the Second Burma Campaign – Harmsworth and others record this as 1852, and lasting for less than twelve months.

[Page 389, line 18] Kullahs not identified.

[Page 389, line 22-24] the French girl …. etc. Kipling has confused St. Thomas à Becket (1117-1170) with his father Gilbert who married Matilda from Caen in Normandy. Thomas à Becket was murdered in his own cathedral following an ill-considered remark by King Henry II which encouraged four knights to do away with him.

[Page 389, line 33] the Black Water the sea.

[Page 390, line 3] a steerage passage cheap travel in an ocean going ship. The ‘steerage’ decks were deep within the ship.

[Page 390, line 14] the Grand Trunk the Grand Trunk Road – see the note to Kim, page 64, line 10.

[Page 390, line 18] sepoy an Indian soldier trained and dressed in the European style – Hobson-Jobson.

[Page 391, line 33] the lamps they would burn paraffin (kerosene) and would probably resemble those illustrated on the back cover of Mrs. Hauksbee & Co, Ed. John Whitehead, (Hearthstone Publications, 1998)

[Page 392, line 9] a queer little cough She is suffering from consumption, like Philadelphia Bucksteed in “Marklake Witches” (Rewards and Fairies) See Dr. Sheehan’s Notes.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved