These eight letters and their accompanying verses were written during and after a visit to Canada in the autumn of 1907. They were first published in 1908 in newspapers and magazines as follows:
- London: Morning Post 12, 19, 26 March, 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 April.
- Canada: Vancouver World 14, 21, 28 March, 4, 11, 18, 25 April and 2 May.
- U.S.A. Collier’s Weekly 14, 21, 28 March, 4, 11, 18, 25 April and 2 May.
They were subsequently collected variously: in the first Canadian edition in September 1908, in the first American edition in 1913 and in the Macmillan Uniform Edition in 1920 (the latter does not contain the verses, merely the Letters). For a complete list, readers are referred to David Alan Richards, item A. 215, pp 183-84.
The final versions were collected in:
- Scribner’s Edition, Volume XXVIII, Page 137.
- Sussex Edition, Volume XXIV, Page 131.
- Burwash Edition, Volume XIX.
In 1907, Kipling was invited to Canada to receive an Honorary Doctorate from McGill University, Montreal, and took the opportunity to travel the length of Canada to report on what he saw.
He and his wife left Liverpool on 20 September 20th 1907 in the Canadian Pacific Liner Empress of Britain, arriving on 26 September. They then travelled by special train in Canada: Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, Calgary to Vancouver and Victoria. After the inside of a week on the west coast, they returned via Medicine Hat and Toronto to Ottawa, and on to Montreal to McGill University for the presentation of the Honorary Doctorate. They left Canada on October 24th in the Allan liner Virginian and arrived home by November 2nd. Carrie’s diary records that he was working on his “Canadian essays” on that date.
The first and most important point to be made is that the Family does not refer to his relatives: the family he speaks of is the family of nations that comprised the British Empire. Kipling believed passionately in that Empire, and was firmly and outspokenly of the opinion that liberal (with a small ‘l’) sentiments (which were largely held by Liberals in politics) would destroy it.
Although the title of the collection is Letters of Travel, these articles are scarcely a travelogue, rather a series of political essays on matters Imperial. The ORG notes, compiled by a Canadian, occasionally respond in political terms to Kipling’s points, rather than simply explaining what he is driving at. We have edited out those ORG comments which, although applicable in 1963, are less true today, and do not add to one’s understanding of the 1907 text.
©JAlastair Wilson 2010 All rights reserved