Liberave Animam Meam


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


This poem was published in The Week’s News on 21 April 1888, with the heading:

‘The Bishop of Bombay is displeased with Society because it encourages the sinful game of ‘Tommy Dodd’ at Charity Bazaars.’ Pioneer, April 14th.

It is unsigned but authenticated by inclusion in Kipling’s Scrapbook 4 of his own press cuttings in the Kipling Papers at the University of Sussex Special Collections.

It was not collected otherwise by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 400) and Pinney (p. 1880).

The Week’s News

In mid-November 1887 Kipling moved to Allahabad to write for the Pioneer, the sister and senior paper to the Civil and Military Gazette for which he had been working in Lahore. George Allen, the chief proprietor of both newspapers, had been largely responsible for Kipling’s employment in India in the first place:

He now pondered how best to employ his protege’s talents. The Pioneer already had two assistant editors in post so Allen decided to make Ruddy a special correspondent, with the additional responsibility of editing a new weekly, The Week’s News, made up of ‘a rehash of news and views’ taken from the main newspaper together with an extra page devoted to fiction.
(Charles Allen p. 247)


Rutherford (p. 400) explains that the Bishop had written to the press protesting against the use of this game at a Fancy Fair held by Lady Reay, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bombay, in aid of the Cama Hospital for women and children. The Pioneer noted:

For the benefit of the uninitiated, it may be explained that “Tommy Dodd” is a compromise between between roulette and the race game: four small leaden horses struck on the four points of a weather-vane, a barrel-head divided into compartments for the staking of rupees, and … an energetic lady to control the bank, are all that is requisite to play it.

The Bishop of Bombay was Dr Louis George Mylne (1843-1921), an academic and high church Anglican, former Fellow of an Oxford college, who had a strong sense of his own authority. This was clearly not shared by the Pioneer. At this time, because of the pressure on government finances, the possibility of reductions in financial support to the Anglican church had been under discussion.

The Poem

The poem is spoken by Tommy Dodd as the personification of mankind’s eternal hope of getting something for nothing. He existed before Bishops and will continue after them. Verses 5 and 6 list a number of impossible challenges, Dam the Indus … Cleanse the Earth of Evil … Tum the heart of man from woman … only if the Bishops can accomplish such tasks will Tommy Dodd admit that they are greater than he. Until then, mankind will always leave the Bishops’ highest altars for Chance and the lure of the call: “Try your luck—you’re sure to win!“.

Notes on the Text

Liberave Animam Meam Latin for ‘I have set my spirit free’, from the Letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) In Tommy Dodd’s case, freedom from the domination of Bishops, in the tradition of Kipling’s non-conformist forebears.

lawn very fine linen.

crook a Bishop’s staff, with a hook on the end like a shepherd’s crook, a symbol of his duty of looking after his flock.

Bell and Book From ‘by Bell, Book and Candle’: the solemn curse in the Roman Catholic ceremony of Excommunication.

Crozier An Archbishop’s staff of office.

rochet a vestment worn by Bishops.

mitre a Bishop’s head-dress.

pall a woollen vestment for an Archbishop.

spokeshave A spokeshave is a two-handled plane for shaping wood, uncommon as a verb. Presumably here it means to shape humanity correctly so that they are no longer ever–failing.

sinnit braided cord.

croupier the person in charge of a gambling table.

psalters books of psalms.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved