The Moral Reformers

Notes on the text

These notes are based on those written by Isabel Quigly for the OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS edition of The Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) with the kind permission of Oxford University Press. The page numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of Stalky & Co. (1899), the collection in which this story first appeared.


[Page 130, line 14] lictor officer attending ancient Roman consul (who had twelve lictors) or dictator (who had twenty-four), bearing fasces and carrying out sentences on offenders. Here, of course, meaning someone in authority.

[Page 131, line 18] he ain’t in Orders, thank goodness Cormell Price, Kipling’s headmaster and family friend, and the model for Bates, was not in Holy Orders, nor was he a strong churchman, which was unusual in a headmaster at the time. In An English School Kipling writes `I think that one secret of his great hold over us was that he was not a clergyman, as so many headmasters are. As soon as a boy begins to think in the misty way that boys do, he is suspicious of a man who punishes him one day and preaches at him the next’ (Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, p. 257).

[Page 133, line 15] A Daniel come to judgment from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, IV. i.

[Page 134, line 7] the world . . . is too much with you sometimes a reference to Wordsworth’s sonnet CCLXXVIII, `The world is too much with us late and soon’.

[Page 136, line 32] Abana and Pharpar 2 Kings 5 12. `Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?’

[Page 137, line 11] my own Tenth Legion the Tenth was Caesar’s favourite legion.

[Page 137, line 25] study-fag See note to “In Ambush”, page 4.

[Page 137, line 29] we ain’t goin’ to have any beastly Erickin’. . . his neck another reference to Eric, or, Little by Little. `D’you want to walk about with your arm round his neck?’ refers to the sentimental behaviour scorned by Stalky and Co, and the warm friendships between older and younger boys, as described by Farrar in his books.

[Page 138, line 24] ‘As beautiful Kitty … tripping’ Irish song with traditional tune. The words in this version (there are others) are by E. Lysecht.

[Page 140, line 1] oratio directa direct speech; oratio obliqua indirect speech.

[Page 140, line 25] Galton’s `Art of Travel’ The Art of Travel by Sir Francis Galton, 1854, later reprinted with additions.

[Page 140, line 26] the kid whose bleatin’ excited the tiger This quote from Galton is repeated at p. 141 line 17. Jan Montefiore points out that this is quoted again in The Big Six By Arthur Ransome (Jonathan Cape, 1940), which seems to suggest that Ransome was familiar with Stalky & Co. The owner of a boat has lent it to the boys, knowing that the local villains are likely to push it from its moorings:

“And what do you want me to do now?” he asked, smiling. “The bleating of the kid excites the tiger. I suppose you want me to bleat all I can to let the tigers in the neighbourhood know the kid is waiting for them.” (p. 329).

[Page 141, line 10] wipe handkerchief.

[Page 141, line 17] the bleatin’ of the kid … See Page 140, line 26 above.

[Page 146, line 4] Isabella-coloured greyish yellow, the colour of soiled calico. Which particular Isabella inspired the name has not been established for certain.

[Page 150, line 19] my giddy Narcissus . . . reflection! Narcissus was a beautiful youth in Greek mythology, who saw his image reflected in a pool and fell in love with it. Then, unable to approach it, he killed himself. According to Ovid, his blood was then turned into the flower which still bears his name.

[Page 150, line 25] pax literally `peace’ in Latin. Colloquially used to mean: `Stop it, Let’s make a truce’; even: `I apologize’.

[Page 155, line 15] The only son of his mother … widow Luke, 7, 12.

[Page 156, line 9] Augurs official predictors of events in ancient Rome.

[I. Q.]