Jane Smith

(notes by John Radcliffe)


Published in Echoes by Two Writers in Lahore in August 1884. Listed in ORG as No 113.

Collected, with the sub-heading (Wordsworth) in:

  • The Outward Bound Edition vol xvii (1900)
  • Edition de Luxe vol xviii (1900)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xxxv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xxviii (1941)
  • Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling (1986) Ed. Andrew Rutherford

The poem

On a cold day a young girl is hastening over the moor to the inn, for a bottle of gin for her mother. Someone in a passing coach picks her up, takes her there, pays the bill, and carries her home. He will never forget her gratitude. Written in simple prosaic language, it is – as Harry Ricketts suggests (p. 64) – ‘a neat parody of Wordsworth’s “Alice Fell”.

Jan Montefiore notes:

The confusion over the colour of the horses in the second stanza is probably parodying the much mocked lines about the pool in ‘The Thorn’, in Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads:

I’ve measured it from side to side,
’Tis three feet long and two feet wide.

“Lucy Gray”, also from Lyrical Ballads is one of Kipling’s targets in his later series of parodies, The Muse among the Motors published between 1904 and 1929. See “The Idiot Boy”. [J.M.]


After his fifteen-year old sister ‘Trix’ had come out to India in December 1883, she and Rudyard spent many hours in literary word games and conposition. Many of the Echoes grew out of this happy collaboration, a blessed relief for Rud from the daily grind of producing a newspaper. Some of them he had written earlier.

When its thirty-nine poems were published, seven were attributed to Trix, and thirty-two to Rudyard: these thirty-two were published in the various collections listed above. There had been close collaboration between brother and sister over the creation of the Echoes, and Trix later disputed Rudyard’s claim to authorship of four of them.

Andrew Rutherford notes (pp. 29/30)

The attribution of only seven poems to Trix is based on indications by Kipling in a number of
presentation copies dated 1884, and confirmed by his including the other thirty-two in the Outward Bound and De Luxe Editions. Trix, however, complained subsequently that when it came to sorting out the verses in Echoes, he claimed several of hers; and in a copy presented to Mrs Hill in I888 eleven poems (including the usual seven) are crossed out as if they were being repudiated. Since, however, one of the four items in dispute (‘The Ballad of the King’s Daughter’) appears in Notebook 3 and Sundrie Phansies, and another (‘Tobacco’) in the margin of one of his schoolbooks, Trix’s claim to this group can be discounted.

‘Jane Smith’, however, is still a disputed case. Louis Cornell argues (p. 71N) that ‘Trix’s authorship of this poem is attested by a note in her handwriting in the copy of Echoes sent to the Misses Craik.’ It is certainly attributed to her in the copies presented to Edith Macdonald and Mrs Alfred Baldwin . The case is unclear, and it is even possible that they co-operated on this poem.

Thomas Pinney does not include it in his Poems of Rudyard Kipling (Cambridge, 1913). Harry Ricketts comments (p. 64):

Trix claimed ‘Jane Smith’ as hers – which seems clear enough, except that Rud later included the poem in both the Outward Bound and De Luxe editions of his work. A case of fraternal
appropriation? Memory lapse? Or was ‘Jane Smith’ a combined effort? If so, were there other collaborations? Very likely. In July, writing to Aunt Edie about the still unpublished Echoes, Rud described the joint collection as ‘all parody work for which T. shows a great facility being her mother’s daughter where verse is concemed’.Trix would recall how, choosing pieces for republication, her brother subsequently ‘found it difficult to disentangle my work from his’.


After his unhappy years at Southsea, with an unsympathetic and authoritarian foster-mother, Kipling was sent to United Services College at Westward Ho! in Devon at the age of twelve, in 1878. Because of his poor eyesight he was no good at games, and the Head, Cormell Price, gave him the freedom of his library, where he read voraciously and began to write. (See Stalky & Co. pp. 217-8) Twenty-three of the poems he wrote while at school were published by his parents in Lahore in December 1881, under the title Schoolboy Lyrics..

He left United Services College in July 1882, and in October became Assistant Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore.

See our notes on “A Vision of India” for an account of his experiences and state of mind at that time.

Kipling and Wordsworth

William Wordworth (1770-1850) was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798). He succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate in 1843, and on his death was succeeded by Tennyson. A number of his poems, notably “Daffodils” (1802) remain popular to this day.

Kipling knew Wordsworth’s work well, as Ann Weygandt (p. 78) explains, referring to George Beresford’s Schooldays with Kipling (p. 234):

M’Turk tells us that Gigger approved of Wordsworth “when not too boring” – a point of view shared by most people, though M’Turk has expressed it rather baldly. Kipling’s quotations from Wordsworth are almost all familiar ones from the lyrics and sonnets, with a preponderance from the “Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” but there are quite a good many of them. Apparently he knew the best Wordsworth well, and his parodies show that he had also some knowledge of the worst.
“Jane Smith” is not based on any one poem, but seems to have been suggested by “Lucy Gray” and “Alice Fell.” The flatness of expression, the careful mention of the one black coach horse among its white brethren, and the ballad metre are all reminiscent of Wordsworth, but the effects are too easily obtained. There is no subtlety in shocking your audience by using Wordsworth’s style to describe a child’s visit to a public house to “fetch her mother’s gin”.


Notes on the Text

[Verse 1]

the lonely wold ‘Wold’ is an old English word for open uncultivated country, moorland.

[Verse 2]

the common Open country, probably uncultivated, not owned by any singte landlord but held in common by the local people.

[Verse 3]

mother’s gin Gin (‘Mother’s ruin’), a powerful spirit, was by tradition the cheap alcohol of hardened drinkers in the 18th century. See “Gin Lane” by Hogarth (left).

[Verse 4]

eau de vie ‘water of life’, alcohol.

[Verse 5

publican the innkeeper, in charge of a ‘public house’ or ‘pub’. ‘Public house’ is the legal term for a house licensed to sell alcohol.

©John Radcliffe 2017 All rights reserved