Her Little Responsibility

Notes on the text

By David Page. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.


[Page 13, Subtitle] AND NO MAN MAY ANSWER FOR THE SOUL OF HIS BROTHER This may be a quotation, despite not being enclosed in the appropriate marks. The closest that I have found is:

No man can save himself, nor save the soul of his brother, nor find a ransom, nor procure an offering for the expiating of his sin; . . .

This comes from a sermon delivered by Stephen Crisp, at Devonshire House, 5 August 1691, ‘Scripture Truth Demonstrated in a Series of Sermons or Declarations of Stephen Crisp’, Part II. York: Alexander & Son, 1822, pages 364-385.

[Page 13, line 7] the freemasonry of the public schools Public schools in the U.K. are independent fee-paying establishments (i.e. not controlled by the State). The phrase does not mean Freemasonry as it is usually understood, but can be expressed as the recognition of “the old school tie” network. (See also “The Tie”, Limits and Renewals).

[Page 13, line 8] the Craft an alternative term for freemasonry. Kipling had been an active freemason during part of his time in India as recorded in “Seven Years Hard”, Something of Myself, p.52:

In ’85 I was made a Freemason by dispensation (Lodge Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C.), being under age, because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary.

[Page 14, line 9] Inferno A reference to “L’Inferno” (Hell) by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the first section of his great three-part work, the Divine Comedy.

[Page 14, line 20] Harrow One of the two best-known public schools (see above) in England, the other being Eton. Kipling’s cousin Stanley Baldwin was educated at Harrow.

[Page 15, line 1] a parson A priest or incumbent of a parish. The title and function has been in existence for centuries, a parson being one of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400) .

[Page 15, line 2] Salisbury A cathedral town in the County of Wiltshire, England.

[Page 15, line 2] Washington Territory in the North-Western United States, was originally formed in 1853 and became part of the State of Washington when it was admitted to the Union in 1889. It is located on the Northwest coast of the U.S.A., and bounded by the Canadian province of British Columbia, and the States of Idaho and Oregon. Kipling visited here in June 1889. (See Chapter XXVII of From Sea to Sea, also Background).

[Page 15, line 14] mashed on a girl Victorian slang for being in love, supposed to have originated in the U.S.A. about 1879, but origin and etymology are doubtful. (ORG). (See also “That’s what the Girl told the Soldier” from “My Great and Only”, Abaft the Funnel.)

[Page 15, line 16] the Vicarage the dwelling of a vicar, The terms ‘vicar’ and ‘parson’ are effectively the same, as are vicarage and parsonage.

[Page 16, line 5] Palace The Palace Hotel in San Francisco opened on 2 October 1875, the result of William Ralston commissioning an architect to study the finest hotels in Europe and to design one that outdid them. Kipling stayed at this hotel in 1889 and described it in Chapter XXIII of From Sea to Sea. (see also Background).

[Page 16, line 14] guinea A coin with the value of £1. 1s. 0d. in Kipling’s day, or £1.05 in the 1971 decimalised U.K. currency.

[Page 16, line 24 and Page 19, line 10] Cleopatra The ORG records that this is the romance, Cleopatra, by Sir (Henry) Rider Haggard (1856-1925), published in June, 1889. ‘The priest chap’ is the hero and narrator, Harmachis, the Royal Egyptian, who falls in love with Cleopatra when he should have assassinated her (he being heir to the ancient Egyptian line, and Cleopatra only a Greek usurper). He can never cease to love her even when she has betrayed him and his only mission in life is to bring about her fall and death. When at the end he has achieved his vengeance and administered the poison to Cleopatra, he is forced to admit:

‘For though that thing we worship doth bring us ruin, and Love being more pitiless than Death, we in turn do pay all our sorrow back, yet we must worship on, yet stretch out our arms towards our lost Desire, and pour our heart’s blood upon the shrine of our discrowned God.’


This is one of only four references in Kipling’s stories to the work of his contemporary and friend, Haggard. Kipling must have read it very soon after publication. The other three references are:

  • Allan Quatermain (1887) is mentioned in “The Last of the Stories” (1888), Abaft the Funnel.
  • She (1887) is referred to in “Among the Railway Folk” (1888), From Sea to Sea, Vol.II.
  • King Solomon’s Mines (1885) is mentioned in “A Flight of Fact” (1918), Land and Sea Tales.

[Page 16, line 25] Kearney Street A street in San Francisco, also mentioned in Chapter XXIII of From Sea to Sea.

[Page 17, line 19] Tacoma A seaport city on Puget Sound in the State of Washington, in what was formerly the Washington Territory. It was visited by Kipling in late June 1889. (See also Background).

[Page 19, line 10] The priest chap see the note on Page 16, line 24 above.


©David Page 2006 All rights reserved