A Little Prep.

Notes on the text

These notes are based on those written by Isabel Quigly for the OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS edition of The Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) with the kind permission of Oxford University Press. The page numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of Stalky & Co. (1899), the collection in which this story first appeared.


[Page 158, line 1] Qui procul hinc from Sir Henry Newbolt’s “Clifton Chapel”. The Latin means `Who perished far away, before his time, but as a soldier and for his country’. The third line is on the plaque in Burwash church in Sussex, which commemorates Kipling’s son John, who was killed at the age of 18 in 1915 at the Battle of Loos.

[Page 159, line 11] the Pavvy the London Pavilion, then a famous music-hall.

[Page 159, line 14] King’s `whips an’ scorpions’ from 1 Kings 12, 11: `my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions’. Since King keeps mentioning them, and they appear in the Old Testament book of Kings, it is a double joke.

[Page 159, line 29] cat vomit. From the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth it was used with this meaning.

[Page 159, line 30] Pomposo Stinkadore echo of Surtees’s Pomponius Ego, and Bombastes Furioso, hero of a burlesque opera parodying Orlando Furioso.

[Page 162, line 13] Oh, you Prooshian brute Cormell Price had acted as tutor to a nobleman’s son in Russia: hence the soubriquet `Rooshian’, transmuted in Stalky & Co. to `Prooshian’.

[Page 162, line 27] `Strange, how desire doth outrun performance’ misquoted slightly from 2 Henry IV, II. iv.

[Page 165, line 2] `’alley tor … and knuckle down’ ‘Alley tor’ (or ‘taw’) referred to the marble itself, a large marble originally made of alabaster, of which this is said to be a corruption. ‘Knuckle down’ seems to be the way of saying ‘your turn’, and refers to the fact that marbles is played on one’s knees, with one’s knuckles on the ground. (ORG)

[Page 165, line 27] Board-school games Board-school meant what is now called a state school in Britain. Games like marbles and hopscotch were supposed to be played by children at such schools and were therefore socially despised by masters like King.

[Page 166, line 22] we aren’t a public school … a shareholder, too these are among the most quoted sentences in Stalky & Co, often used to make points about the United Services College. See H. A. Tapp, United Services College (1933), p. 1:`The need for a school where the sons of officers of the two services could be given a good education at a moderate fee, and whence their subsequent entry into Sandhurst or Woolwich could be ensured, led to the founding of the United Services Proprietory College Ltd. at Westward Ho! in September 1874. A Company was formed, consisting mostly of Army officers, and the purchase of fifty £1 shares enabled the holder to nominate one boy for education at reduced terms. This company was not formed for profit, and the name of the School was soon shortened to the United Services College.’

[Page 167, line 12] the mute with the bow-string the Turkish executioner who was a mute and strangled his victims with a bow-string.

[Page 167, line 19] my pound of flesh reference to The Merchant of Venice.

[Page 169, line 32] the Shop Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where officers were trained for specialist arms like the Artillery and Engineers, while Infantry and Cavalry officers were trained at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

[Page 171, line 4] Chiron the centaur, and teacher of young centaurs, famous for his knowledge of shooting, medicine, and music; also teacher of the great heroes of his age, Achilles, Jason, Aesculapius, Hercules, Aeneas, etc. Kipling uses him as an image of Bates, the headmaster, otherwise Cormell Price.

[Page 171, line 17] D.S.O. Distinguished Service Order.

[Page 177, line 3] cleek Possibly a wet cloth, but the more usual sense is a particular kind of golf club, an early number one iron at a time when more commonly clubs had wooden heads and shafts. The cold head of a metal golf club down your neck would certainly wake you up. Kipling used the word for a golf club in the unpublished story Scylla and Charybdis, and in his “Verses on Games”, OCTOBER (Golf):

Why Golf is Art and Art is Golf
We have not far to seek –
So much depends upon the lie,
So much upon the cleek.

[Page 177, line 28] Kalabagh in the North-West Frontier Province of India, south of Peshawar.

[Page 177, line 33] Afridis Afghans.

[Page 178, line 5] Sepoys native soldiers in Indian Army.

[Page 186, line 8] Aaron and Moses an unidentified but presumably obscene song.

[Page 186, line 8] Desire don’t outrun performance see note to p. 162.

[Page 187, line 10] It’s a way we have in the Army song by J. B. Geoghegan (1863). This seems to have been a school adaptation of the song, which Kipling quotes again in “An English School”.

[I. Q.]