The Adoration of the Mage

Notes on the text

(by David Page. The verse and line numbers
below refer to pages 193-196 of the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.)


[Page 226, line 6] four-wheeler a “four-wheeler”, frequently called a “growler”, and sometimes a “Clarence”. The name “Clarence” was given to a four-wheeled two-horse carriage introduced in 1842, from which the London cab, with a single horse, was derived. The hansom cab had only two wheels. (KJ 315, p.63. Letter to the Editor from Cdr A.J.W. Wilson)

[Page 226, line 9] Captain Kydd Kipling probably means Captain William Kidd (c.1645-1701), pirate and privateer, who was commissioned in the war against the French and who met his end on the gallows. Another (remote) possibility, knowing the friendship that existed between the two men, is the Captain Kydd “claimed” as an ancestor by Mark Twain (Samuels Clemens) in his 1871 book, A Burlesque Autobiography.

[Page 226, line 15] a cracker slang for a tall story, or lie.

[Page 226, line 19] a London Particular was the nickname for the fogs which lay over London in the days of universal coal fires. No fog or “smog” of today can compare with them. The last “pea-soup” fog seems to have been that of November, 1952. [ORG]

[Page 227, line 3] each gas-jet at this time the street lamps in London were gas-jets with an incandescent mantle.

[Page 227, line 9] Tophet the valley near Jerusalem where the burning of sacrifices to Moloch took place. Kipling refers to it in at least eight of his works, including the first stanza of “Buddha at Kamakura” (1892).

[Page 227, line 21] cabby driver of the four-wheel cab or “growler” in this instance.

[Page 227, lines 23 & 24] ‘arf a crown apiece half-a crown or two shillings and sixpence for each passenger, amounting to ten shillings for the four people in this story, or 50 new pence. This would have been sufficient to buy 60 helping of sausage and mash in Villiers Street at that time.

[Page 228, line 17] Brompton Oratory , Brompton Road, London, SW7, about 4 miles from Regents Park Canal, NW8, and 2.5 miles from Villiers Street WC2. This Roman Catholic church is a jewel of 19th century baroque architecture.

[Page 228, line 21] Mister Gladstone William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), the Liberal Prime Minister – bête noire of Henley and his “young men”, of whom Kipling was one. He was in particularly bad odour in the 1880s for the Retrocession of the Transvaal and for failing to save General Gordon in Khartoum. The present story is probably apocryphal but typical. Not long after writing this sketch, Kipling attacked Gladstone over the Parnell Commission in the poem, “Cleared”, which even Frank Harris was afraid to print; it was rescued and published by Henley (see Commentary) in the Scots Observer (8 March, 1890). Gladstone was four times Prime Minister of Great Britain. This story pokes fun at his “worshippers” (the modern slang, “fans” is not a strong enough word). [ORG]

[Page 229, line 19] went off his chump a slang phrase for someone who went off his nut, is dotty, fruitcake, bananas, barmy, bonkers, loony, etc. The British have always had a multitude of slang appellations for someone whom they consider to be crazy or who expresses views with which they personally disagree.

[Page 229, line 21] Inverness a sleeveless overcoat with an attached cape. They are still made and are very warm and comfortable to wear.

[Page 230, line 17] South Kensington Museum this was most probably the Victoria and Albert Museum on which Kipling’s father, Lockwood, had worked before going to India. It is located at the corner of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, SW7.

[Page 231, line 8] drinking-fountain in High Street, Kensington this drinking fountain is still in place (2006) on the pavement outside No. 98 Kensington High Street.

[D. P.]
©David Page 2006 All rights reserved