Imperious Wool-booted Sage

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


There is a version of this poem handwritten by Kipling, though unsigned and undated, in the Library of Congress. It is to be found in Rutherford (p. 435) and Pinney (p. 1927).

We have tentatively entered it as October 1886 in our tables of dates for the poems. [J.E.]


In 1936 Edmonia Hill published an article, ‘The Young Kipling’, in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. clvii. In it she quotes from a letter she wrote in 1888:

I never saw anyone more devoted to children [than Kipling], and alas there are so few in this station; all old enough to have been sent to England, but Dr and Mrs J. Murray Irwin have a darling little girl who is my godchild. When she comes to the house there is nothing R. will not do to amuse her. He plays bear, crawling all over the floor, and he will endure every sort of teasing. On her birthday he wrote to accompany my small gift a gay little verse beginning ‘Imperious wool-booted sage’.

[Harold Orel, vol 1 p. 99]

The Irwins’ daughter Edna was baptised in Allahabad in December 1885. Her birthday is thought to have been in October. This poem must have been written for her third birthday in October 1888.


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