(notes edited by Peter Havholm)


This story was first published in Many Inventions in 1893. It is the seventeenth of the eighteen Mulvaney stories.

It is also collected in:

  • Scribner’s Edition, Volume III, page 309
  • Sussex Edition, Volume V, page 359
  • Burwash Edition, Volume V

The story

This tale it set within a frame, in which a womanising sergeant has been shot dead by the husband of a woman he had been making love to. The husband gets a lenient jail sentence, and the wife survives. Mulvaney, himself no mean womaniser in his time, reflects that the luckiest one of the three is the dead man.

Mulvaney goes on to tell the story of Larry Tighe, a big dangerously attractuve gentleman-ranker, who wilfully makes love to many good women, and breaks hearts out of sheer devilment. He moves on to another regiment, and Mulvaney meets him years later, during a bloody campaign on the frontier. There, Tighe takes risks designed to get himself killed— to no avail. He tells Mulvaney that he can no longer get drunk and that he has long ago thrown away a love that was ‘di’monds an’ pearls’. As the regiment returns to Peshawur, Tighe succumbs to the last stages of syphilis. The woman he remembers finds him and takes him to her brothel, where he dies in her arms. She shoots herself dead.

Some critical comments

Angus Wilson says that the ‘most graphic moment in all the battle scenes’ is the one where Dinah and the Colonel’s wife meet the regiment in a pony trap.

J.H. Fenwick (in Kipling’s Mind and Art, Andrew Rutherford, Ed.) says:

‘Love-o-Women’ fails in its center because both Mulvaney and Kipling are unequal to it … Kipling does not realize the complexity of what he is handling. Larry Tighe is scarcely drawn at all.

Fenwick goes on to comment that the story descends into:

complex and unacceptable melodrama. While Kipling wrote many more serious stories, he did not again attempt the kind of tragedy he seems to have had in mind in this story and in “The Courting of Dinah Shadd”. (Life’s Handicap).

Daniel Karlin comments:

The story … belongs to a group of early tales of sexual passion and obsession, [such as] ‘Beyond the Pale,’ ‘On Greenhow Hill’ … ‘Dray Wara Yow Dee’ and ‘In Flood Time’. Mulvaney’s prickly, compassionate, fearful attitude to ‘Love o’ Women’ anticipates Pyecroft’s feelings about Vickery in ‘Mrs. Bathurst’.

[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2007 All rights reserved