Letters of Marque

Letter VI

(notes edited by David Page)

First Publication

3rd January, 1888, in the Pioneer and 4th January, 1888, in the Pioneer Mail.

Notes on the Text

[Page 42, line 2] banian tree (Ficus Indicus) belongs to the mulberry family (moraliae). It is notable for the aerial roots which grow from the branches to form supporting pillars and so increase the area covered by the shade of the tree, which is considered sacred throughout India.

[Page 42, line 4] Pauper Province the Punjab – Kipling served for 5 years in Lahore. Compared with the three Presidencies of Bengal (Calcutta), Bombay and Madras, it had little trade or resources.

[Page 42, line 12] Setts properly Seths, bankers – rich men.


[Page 42, line 15] Jodhpur was about 100 miles due west of Ajmir but was about 150 miles from Ajmir by rail at this time going via Marwar Junction. [DP]

[Page 42, line 17] between thirty and forty-five lakhs (of rupees). A lakh is 100,000, and thus Kipling is referring to between 3 million and 4.5 million rupees. This was equivalent in Sterling to between £200,000 and £300,000 at the exchange rate of 16 old pence to the rupee in 1887. [DP]

[Page 42, line 20] carrying salt over it the importance of the salt trade is discussed in Chapter XII during Kipling’s visit to Jodhpur. [DP]

[Page 43, line 4] Great Exchange Question Unlike the U.S.A. at this time, India did not have a bimetallic (silver and gold) currency standard, since the rupee was only available as a silver coin. Unfortunately though, India traded with other countries who were using a gold standard, the most significant being Britain. As the price of metallic silver fluctuated versus gold, the rupee/pound exchange rate did so as well, and the discovery of vast reserves of silver ores in the U.S.A. and other locations caused the price of silver to fall significantly in the latter part of the 19th century. A further discussion from the [ORG] can be found in “The Great Exchange Question” [DP]

[Page 43, line 6] Seer as a weight it varied in different parts of India, from 8 ounces to 3 pounds, but usually it equalled 2 pounds. Also a measure of capacity in some parts, equal to a litre or 1.76 pints.
Five different rupees this seems rather less likely but not incredible.

[Page 43, line 13] Meena the Meena formerly occupied and ruled major parts of Rajputana including Amber. [DP]
See Wikipedia.

[Page 43, line 14] Peshawari a man from Peshawar in the North Western; Frontier Province.

[Page 43, line 18] tamasha entertainment, show, or display.

[Page 43, line 19] Maharana of Udaipur (or Oodeypore) S.S.W. of Ajmir. The title “Maharana” is a variant of “Maharaja”. The ruler from 1884 to 1930 was Maharana Fateh Singh. [DP]

[Page 43, line 23] Neemuch (Nilmach), 150 miles S. of Ajmir and 95 miles E.S.E. of Udaipur. [DP]


[Page 43, line 25] Chitor 100 miles due S. of Ajmir and about 70 miles from Udaipur which lies W.S.W. of Chitor. See Chapters X and XI for Kipling’s description of Chitor. [DP]


[Page 43, line 27, et seq.] dhak-jungle dhak (Butea frondosais) is an Indian tree with red flowers. [DP]

[Page 44, line 4] the Gumber River (or Gambhiri River) flows from south to north through Chitor and then, turning east, joins the Banganga at a little lake between Dholpur and Bharatpur and enters the Jumna about 30 miles south of Agra. Kipling refers to it again at the beginning of Chapter XI where it is spelled “Gamberi”. [DP]




[Page 44, line 9] Graphic A London weekly picture periodical of that time, founded in 1869 and only ceasing publication in 1951.


[Page 44, line 10] Inflexible and Devastation British battleships – launched in 1876 and 1871 respectively.

[Page 44, line 32] Mewar is the old name of a state which had two capitals – the historic Chitor on the railway, and later, Udaipur under the Aravali mountain range. [DP]




[Page 45, line 1] tonga Kipling faced a journey of about 70 miles in this two-wheeled cart. [DP]

[Page 45, line 4] aram comfortable, literally “rest”.

[Page 45, line 6] Thakur a Rajput Chieftain and Feudal Lord. [DP]

[Page 45, line 7] ‘tail’ staff of servants or following retinue.

[Page 45, line 21] sowar a mounted orderly or guard. [DP]


[Page 45, line 21] chipped a pony clipped or dealt the pony a glancing blow. [DP]

[Page 46, line 7] Bunjarras itinerant dealers in gram (pulses for horse feed).

[Page 46, line 11] Sindbad (of the Sea) Now commonly known as “Sindbad the Sailor”. One of the best-known of the tales in the Arabian Nights Entertainments or The Thousand and One Nights. Sindbad himself undertakes a number of sea-voyages He was a young man of Baghdad, but is sometimes said to have been of Indian origin.

[Page 46, line 17] one of the hide and skin castes very low caste Hindu or outcastes (untouchables).

[Page 46, line 27] Beruch (Berach) in Rajputana, a tributary of the Banas River.

[Page 46, line 27] Wyan this stream is not marked on available maps. The Beruch and Wyan streams continue the work of the Gumber in separating the plateau from the hills further south.

[Page 46, line 33] crupper a piece of harness that runs along the spine of the animal and is fastened under the tail. [DP]

[Page 47, line 4] The dumchi! this could be a reference to the “Lama Dance” which takes place in Tibet, although it does seem to be stretching things a little. [DP]

[Page 48, line 18] Sirkar’s mail the Government’s mail. [DP]

[Page 49, line 14] Sahara used here to symbolise the worst desert of all.

[Page 50, line 3] Anglo-Indian Cockney A town-bred foreigner, Kipling’s own description of himself. ‘Anglo-Indian’ was then the correct description for such as he, i.e., a European (British resident in India) but later that name was given to those known as Eurasians – partly of European and partly of Asiatic blood – usually those with a British father. ‘Cockney’ strictly meant one born in London – near enough to Cheapside in the City (E.C.) to hear the sound of the Bow Bells – the bells of the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow.

[Page 50, line 6] Plimsoll Mark a Member of Parliament in Britain named Plimsoll, known as “The Sailor’s Friend”, obtained the passage of an Act of Parliament in 1876 which assured that ships of British Registration must be marked on the hull so as to indicate how deep they were in the water. The safety mark was clearly shown and a ship was not allowed to sail if she was loaded so heavily that this mark was below the water line.


[Page 50, line 8] Alice see Through the Looking Glass, Chapter III (1871) by Lewis Carroll, (Charles L. Dodgson, 1832-1898).

[Page 50, line 9] Sahib and Hazur Sir and Your Excellency. [DP]

[Page 50, line 14] tulwars swords with curved blades.

[Page 50, line 30] Jonah the Old Testament story of the man who brought misfortune with him particularly on a sea journey.

©A Mason and David Page 2007 All rights reserved