Letters of Marque

Letter XIX

(notes edited by David Page)

First Publication

28th February, 1888, in the Pioneer and 29th in the Pioneer Mail.

Notes on the Text

[Page 194, line 2] Irregulars the Deoli Irregular Force (Infantry), or Meena Battalion, was raised in 1857. In 1861 it became the Deoli Irregular Force consisting of infantry and cavalry and between 1903 and 1922 it was reorganised as infantry and became the 42nd Deoli Regiment. [DP]

[Page 195, line 14] hope of a Star all administrators, and others too, were delighted to have their services recognised by being granted a ‘decoration’ in the form of membership of an Order. All the Orders carry a jewelled “Star” to be worn. The senior of the Orders awarded to people in India under British rule was called the Order of the Star of India.

[Page 195, line 25] under the shadow of our flag remain in British India.

[Page 195, line 28] across the Border here this means ‘out of British India into one of the Native States’. (Not ‘The Border’ as understood on the North-West Frontier of India in those days).

[Page 196, line 6] Haroun-al-Raschid Caliph of Baghdad (763-809) who figures in many of the Arabian Nights’ tales – The Thousand and One Nights.

[Page 196, line 29] a shoe leather is unclean to Hindus and contact with it is liable to cause loss of caste. This suggestion therefore means adding insult to injury.

[Page 199, line 21] ‘This ‘ere Burma fever…’ malaria was endemic in many areas, and the cerebral malaria of Burma had a particularly high and swift death rate. See Gullian Sheehan’s article on “Kipling and Medicine”.

[Page 199, line 24] Thomas nickname for a private in the British Army, from ‘Thomas Atkins’. (see Kipling’s Prelude to Barrack Room Ballads, “To Thomas Atkins”, and “Tommy”.)

[Page 200, line 8] march down to Calcutta Several months on the road.

[Page 201, line 29] daws jackdaws.

[Page 202, line 11] argot slang. [DP]

[Page 203, line 13] scallawag a scamp or scapegrace. [DP].

[Page 203, line 24] Edwin Arnold Sir Edwin
Arnold (1832-1904) poet, translator of The Bhagavad Gita and author of The Light of Asia. This is probably a reference to his 1887 poem “In an Indian Temple”, where

Good friends were dancing girl and priest
To one I knew, such friends—at least—
As those may be whom Fortune gives
Stars wide apart and differing lives:
And Gunga to the Saheb would sing
Sweet Indian songs for pleasuring;


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