Notes on the text

These notes on the text, by Peter Havholm, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Many Inventions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


[Page 261] Heading from The Lover’s Melancholy IV, ii by John Ford (1586-1639). Daniel Karlin points out that, while the play’s title and Kiplng’s quotation suggest a tragedy, this play by Ford is in fact a romantic comedy.

[Page 261, line 5] gold-beater skin animal membrane, between which gold is beaten into gold-leaf.

[Page 261, line 6] lozenge-wise just as clay, where a puddle has dried, curls up and cracks.

[Page 262, line 4] reporting ORG comments here that ‘Kipling does not often mention his own part’, but in fact the reverse is true. “I” in many of the Plain Tales from the Hills, beginning with “In the House of Suddhoo” (published 30 April 1886 in the Civil and Military Gazette as “Section 420, I.P.C.”) establishes his relationship with characters in the tales, and the occasion of his presence when the story is told or the events take place.

The best-known early example occurs in “The Man Who Would Be King” in Wee Willie Winkie, in which the story is told to a journalist in precisely Kipling’s situation as an editor waiting one burninng hot night to put his copy to bed and set the presses rolling. (This required that in John Houston’s film version, Christopher Plummer as the journalist was made to look a lot like Kipling).

Kipling continued the practice after “I” ceased to be a journalist and became a writer of fiction. “In the Interests of the Brethren” provides an example in 1918 (“I” makes a new friend because both men are Masons and have lost sons in the War), and ‘“They”’ in Traffics and Discoveries (1904) presents an “I” who, we learn, has found the beautiful house in which the tale is set because his own child has died. In “The Honours of War” (1911), it makes no sense for the two boys to whoop with laughter on Wontner’s referring to “I” (who here is ‘Beetle’) as ‘that reporter-chap’ unless ‘Beetle’ is now a famous writer who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

[Page 262, line 7] fouling marks the black marks of the explosive.

[Page 262, line 24] he surely would not be hanged Daniel Karlin points out that the original of the frame in this story can be found in Something of Myself:

A soldier of my acquaintance had been sentenced to life-imprisonment for a murder which, on evidence before the court, seemed to me rather justified. That soldier ends in Lahore jail, making blank accounting forms.

[Page 262, line 26] a warder in the Andamans These islands in the Bay of Bengal held a British India Penal Establishment, begun in 1858. It held about 14,000 prisoners in the 1890s, and employment there would be the best that Sergeant Raines, as an ex-soldier of good chracter, could expect after serving his sentence (Daniel Karlin).

[Page 263, line 15] ‘ave they pushed your ’elmet off yet, Sergeant? that is, his cuckold’s horns (Daniel Karlin).

[Page 264, line 4] the ‘beastie’ the water-carrier. More usual Hindustani transliteration is bhistie. See “Gunga Din”.

[Page 265, line 20] put his hand to his brow that is, he did not put on the black which would signify a sentence of death.

[Page 265, line 31] Secular Arm a reference to the practice of the Spanish Inquisition, sitting as an ecclesiastical court, which, having pronounced the guilt of a relapsed heretic, consigned the accused to the Secular Arm, or civil power, for the execution of the sentence of death, thus keeping themselves officially guiltless of the shedding of blood. See also George Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan”, who in mediaeval France during the Hundred Years War, was tried by the church for heresy, but handed over to the English civil authorities to be burned at the stake.

[Page 265, line 32] ticca-gharri hired carriage.

[Page 266, line 12] E’s got a colley dot wot do Kipling corrected this to ‘collie dorg’ in the Sussex Edition.

[Page 266, line 14] Murree a hill station on the road between Rawal Pindi and Srinagar in Kashmir.

[Page 266, line16] spend ut in Masses as restitution for having lied on oath so spectacularly.

[Page 266, line 21] barrick-damages a fund from which the cost of breakage is met.

[Page 267, line 6] Losson’s see “In the Matter of a Private”

[Page 267, line 23] Light marchin’ ord(h)er in contra-distinction to parading with full kit. See “Tommy” in Barrack Room Ballads:

An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

[Page 268, line 3] muster recognition, character (a special use of the word).

[Page 268, line 28] comether ‘come-hither’; probably Kipling was the first to use it in print. 1900 is the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary.

[Page 269, line 16] the book the Bible.

[Page 270, line 24] cap on three hairs his cap so far at the back or side of the head that it appears almost unsupported.

[Page 272, line 1] Pindi Rawalpindi.

[Page 272, line 5] Silver’s Theatre See “With the Main Guard”, where a battle is named after a fictional Dublin theatre of this name. In the story, both the Black Tyrone and the ‘Ould Regiment’ are engaged.

[Page 273, line 2] Windystraws ‘windlestraw’, an English word meaning an old stalk from certain kinds of grass. In old English, grass for plaiting.

[Page 273, line 32] Bobbs Lord Roberts was, at the time of this battle, preparing to hand over the command of the Force to Sir Donald Stewart. Usually spelt “Bobs”, it was his pet name.

[Page 274, line 13] Forninst ‘next to’ (Irish).

[Page 274, line 19] sungars stone breastworks.

The long bradawl the bayonet.

[Page 275, line 20] bloodin’ this verb is taken from the traditional practice in fox-hunting of smearing the blood of the newly killed fox on the face and hands of a novice.

[Page 275, line 29] jeldy Hindustani, meaning ‘quick’.

[Page 276, line 13] bugle Mulvaney was not a bugler, so he must either have borrowed a bugle or taken one with him.

[Page 276, line 14] ’Tini a Martini-Henry British Army rifle.

[Page 276, line 23] tree-toads much of the night noise of India is made by ‘tree-frogs’.

[Page 276, line 25] Oh, Lord, how long See Isaiah, 6.

[Page 276, line 29] gydon the small flag of a troop of light cavalry. More usually ‘guidon’ (Oxford English Dictionary). A pennant narrowing to a point at the free end, used as a standard of dragoons.

[Page 277, line 23 and Page 270, line 18] ghostly consolation a sarcastic reference to the phrase used for the spiritual counsel or comfort given by a priest.

[Page 278, line 22] Brigade Ordhers ‘Completely incomprehensible’ or, perhaps, ‘Double Dutch’ in an older dialect. No mere private soldier could be expected to understand Brigade Orders at that time.

[Page 278, line 25] grup the heel av him from Job 19:9, a passage concerning the fate of the wicked:

‘he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare. The gin shall take him by the heael, and the robber shall prevail against him … terrors shall make him afraid on every side … His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors’ ( Daniel Karlin).

[Page 278, line 30] Paythan the word ‘pathan’ is pronounced by Indians with an accent on the second syllable, but the British soldier said it as he read it: accent on the ‘pay’.

[Page 279, line 60] I told you I was Cain that is, so marked that he could not be killed. See Genesis 4: ‘whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold’.

[Page 280, line 11] a blind byle in an oil-mill round and round the mill-stone crushing out the oil from the seeds, with the blind-folded bull.

[Page 280, line 15] consate conceit, in its archaic use as a verb, meaning to imagine, to persuade oneself.

[Page 280, line 26] the Hilts av God ‘by these hilts’ is an oath recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary in Shakespeare, and Chapman (Daniel Karlin).

[Page 281, line 1] Paternosters the Lord’s Prayer in Latin, so called because the first line of the prayer runs: Pater noster, qui est in coelis — Our Father which art in heaven. Mulvaney was a Roman Catholic.

[Page 281, line 3] our promenade acrost the hills from Ghazni (Ghuzni) to Peshawar as the crow flies was about 190 miles, and the force that retired by that route in 1842 was wiped out. This date is 1879 or 1880.

[Page 281, line 11] soldiering them cleaning and polishing them, in soldier-like fashion.

[Page 283, line 31] locomotus attacks us this is Mulvaney’s attempt to pronounce locomotor ataxia (or ataxy), otherwise known as tabes dorsalis and posterior spinal sclerosis which is a progressive degeneration of the nervous system causing a lack of muscular co-ordination and disorder of gait and posture. The essential symptoms—stamping gait, swaying with the eyes shut, intermittent blindness with small fixed pupils—are well described by Kipling. It is one of the forms taken by syphilis in its tertiary and fatal stage.

[Page 284, line 6] bull’s-wool the soldier’s facetious description of Army boot-leather.

[Page 285, line 6] doolies covered litters.

[Page 285, lines 18-19] singin’ “Home, swate home” at the top of his shout song from Clari, the Maid of Milan (1823) by John Howard Payne (1791–1852).

[Page 285, line 20] d(h)rop under the gun . . . come out by the . . . this should read ‘Drop from the limber and come out under the gun, etc.’ Just one of Kipling’s own slips, for the order was—6 horses, the limber and then the gun.

[Page 285, line 28] Jumrood a fort on the road running nearly due west from Peshawar to the Khyber Pass, eleven miles from Peshawar and about four miles from the entrance to the Pass, which is thirty-three miles long. Ali Musjid is about nine miles from the entrance to the Pass. At the summit of the Pass is Landi Kotal about midway.

[Page 285, line 30] all Peshawar was along that road day and night waitin’ these pages surely form the most moving accout of the return of troops from a campaign that has ever been written (see Angus Wilson’s comment in the headnote).

It is obviously meant to represent the end of the Second Afghan War of November 1878 to August 1880 —rather than a minor Frontier Campaign— in which 50 or more Regiments and other units were actively engaged. The operations included Lord Roberts’s memorable march from Kabul to Kandahar and it lso notable in that five of the General Officers who took part were holders of the Victoria Cross.

The Kandahar Star, a special war medal, was suspended on the famous rainbow pattern ribbon so well-known in India during the nineteenth century—the last medal on that red-white, yellow, white and blue ribbon which was also used in yhe campaigns of 1842 and 1843.

[Page 286, line 6] “For ’tis my Delight” from “The Lincolnshire Poacher”, an old folk song.

[Page 286, line 10] “The Wearin’ av the Green” an Irish Nationalist ballad for the Tyrones.

[Page 286, line 14] The Jock Elliots The King’s Own Borderers, later the K.O.S.B.’s (Scottish Borderers).

[Page 286, line 20] the Lancers see “The Rout of the White Hussars”.

[Page 286, line 24] the Cavalry Canter “Bonny Dundee” (words by Scott). See “Song of the Camp Animals” in The Jungle Book.

[Page 286, line 30] the Fly-by-Nights another regiment, unidentified (ORG). Daniel Karlin suggests that this might also be the White Hussars, given their behaviour with the drum horse, in “The Rout of the White Hussars”.

[Page 287, line 1] Ali Musjid in the Khyber (see Page 285, line 28 above).

[Page 287, line 6] “The Dead March” from Saul, Handel’s oratorio.

[Page 287, line 19] tattoo a pony trap.

[Page 289, line 9] Edwardes’ Gate named after Sir Herbert Edwardes, John Nicholson’s great friend and Commissioner of Peshawar at the end of the 1857 uprising.

[Page 290, line 21] through the flies av an E.P. tent Standard tents for private soldiers on active service. See the notes on “My Lord the Elephant” notes, page 49, line 9.

[Page 291, line 2] parade-set without moving.

[Page 291, line 27] Aigypt see Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, IV,xv: 19–21, Mark Antony’s dying speech:

I am dying, Egypt, dying; only
I here importune death awhile, until
Of many thousand kisses the poor last
I lay upon thy lips.

Daniel Karlin remarks:

In implying that Mulvaney does not recognize them as Shakespeare, Kipling forgets that Mulvaney quotes Hamlet to the narrator in “The Courting of Dinah Shadd” and tells of seeing many Shakespearian performances in Dublin during his youth.

[Page 293, line 8] issiwasti ‘for this reason’ (Hindustani).

[Page 294, line] Oh, do not despise by Kipling. It is the chorus or an additional verse to the three verses (not titled) in “My Great and Only,” a story first published 11 & 15 Jan. 1890 in the Civil and Military Gazette and collected in Abaft the Funnel.


[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved