ORG Volume 5, page 2486 records the first appearence of this story in the United States in Harper’s Weekly for 25 April, 1891 and in the United Kingdom in the Ludgate Monthly for May the same year. It was headed by “Old Ballad” (ORG Verse No. 496) one of two other items so entitled.
Flora Livingston records a pirate edition of Plain Tales from the Hills published by R. F. Fenno & Co., New York in 1899 which included this item. Kipling sued them for infringement of copyright. It is also contained in a limited edition de luxe of one thousand numbered sets of Plain Tales for subscribers only, published by Chas. A. Lind & Co., Boston and New York. It was reprinted in KJ 129/05 without the verse.
The story is collected in the Sussex Edition, Volume XXIX, page 377, and the Burwash Edition, Volume XXIII with the verse.
Kipling explains how thinly spread were the administrators of the Indian Civil Service, the I.C.S. The I.C.S. was an elite service, staffed by men sent out from Britain to govern the Provinces and Districts of the Indian Empire under conditions of extreme stress. Only those who understood that the work must come before all else met the necessary standard. The chain was only as strong as its weakest link.
Circumstances, or as Kipling put it, ‘the gods’, imposed extra strains through famine and disease, and in the hot seaon the death toll among the administrators, from fever and heatstroke and sheer overwork, was fearful. In this story young Haydon holds out for eleven months until his leave is due, and goes up to Simla, the summer capital, for rest, relief from the heat of the plains, and some much needed social relaxation. But after a month his successor dies, and he is told he must go back to his post, at once. He sets off, angry and afraid, but that night, in the heat of Umballa station, he falls under a train to his death. We are not told so explicitly, but the strong implication is that he has committed suicide rather than return to his work.
J M S Tompkins quotes this piece in her Chapter 7, “Man and the Abyss” (page 188) where she discusses the various aspects of death in India compared with the United Kingdom, glancing at “The Song of the Dead” in “The Song of the English”, which commemorates British people who were killed on land and sea in the service of Sovereign and Empire.
The supreme government in India was headed by the Viceroy and Governor-General in Council, with, below, the various Lieutenant-Governors of Provinces, Presidencies etc. The Viceroy reoprted to the secretary of State for India, who was a senior member of the Cabinet, and answered to Parliament on Indian matters,
In India the British jurisdiction was divided into some two hundred and sixty Districts headed by Collectors or Deputy Commissioners who are the men mentioned in this story. The I.C.S. was a small, elite, and highly prestigious service, staffed by men from the United Kingdom who had succeeded in highly competitice examinations. As a career it ranked with the Dimplomatic Service, and the major Departments of State, like the Treasury.
For a simplified account of the Viceroy in Council, see “Tods’ Amendment” (Plain Tales from the Hills) and, for the military chain of command, “Her Majesty’s Servants” (The Jungle Book).
Some further Reading
- Charles Allen, Kipling’s Empire, Michael Joseph 1987
- Charles Allen, Kipling Sahib Little, Brown 2007
- Louis L. Cornell, Kipling in India Macmillan 1966
- Marghanita Laski From Palm to Pine, Rudyard Kipling Abroad and At Home Sidgwick & Jackson 1987
- Alan Sandison, The Wheel of Empire Macmillan 1967
- R. V. Vernede (Ed.), British Life in India (Oxford 1995
Notes on the Text
food for fever young men from the United Kingdom with no inoculations and thus vulnerable to unfamiliar diseases. See Dr Sheehan’s Notes. Also Something of Myself, page 41: ‘boys …died from typhoid mostly at the regulation age of twenty-two.’
The game is more than the player of the game,
And the ship is more than the crew.
the gods Random circumstances, which could readily catch the most experienced adminnistrators by surprise. In Greek mythology, Zeus and the other gods sitting on Mount Olympus frequently interfered unexpectedly in human affairs, especially when they felt that men were growing over-confident.
pestilences India was liable to outbreaks of disease. See Dr Sheehan’s Notes.
famines Farmers in India, using traditional methods, and burning their animals’ dung rather than spreading it on the land, were heavily dependent on the rains, and if the monsoon failed famine was always a danger. See Alastair Wilson’s notes on “William the Conqueror” (The Day’s Work) and Beast and Man in India by Lockwood Kipling, Chapter 6.
smallpox … cholera Lethal diseases endemic in India at that time. See Dr Sheehan’s Notes.
Shimla is now a popular tourist resort in the north-west Himalayas at nearly 7000 ft (2,130 metres), the city is surrounded by forests of pine, rhododendron, and oak, with pleasant summers and cold winters.
Connected to Kalka by one of the longest narrow gauge railways in India, Shimla is just over 70 miles (115 km) from Chandigarh, the nearest major city, and some 230 miles (365 km) from New Delhi now the national capital. Kipling was very happy there and the town is the scene of a good proportion of his Indian prose and verse. See”A Tale of Two Cities” :
…Still, for rule administration, and the rest,
See “One Viceroy Resigns” in Plain Tales from ghe Hills and other Indian stories, and the Lonely Planet guide to India, 1987 p. 131.
Brompton flat an apartment in a pleasant area of London, SW3. The young Kipling and his sister stayed with their mother in lodgings at 227 Brompton Road in 1877 (Something of Myself, page 18) a mile or so from “The Grange” in Fulham where he used to stay with his much loved Aunt ‘Georgy’ Burne-Jones.
See Something of Myself, page 229.
prickly heat see Dr.Gillian Sheehan’s Notes.
Hara-Kiri Japanese ritual suicide. As indicated in Hobson-Jobson, at that time in Japan an accused person could elect to commit ritual suicide in lieu of proceedings in court, in which case he received skilled assistance in carrying out the act.
Kalka the railhead for Simla before the narrow-gauge railway was opened in 1903.
panther a member of the cat family, Panthera pardus, also known as a leopard, found in Africa and Asia. The black panther named ‘Bagheera’ plays an important part in the Mowgli stories in the Jungle Books.
[J. H. McG.]
©John McGivering 2009 All rights reserved