ORG Volume 5, page 2467 records the first publication (Uncollected No. 198) in Longman’s Magazine for April, 1890, (Volume XV. No, XC,, page 611 – 620) , The Sussex Edition, Volume 29, page 325 and the Burwash Edition, Volume 23.
and The One Volume Kipling: Authorized, Doubleday, Doran & Company 1928.) from which this text is taken.
See also Letters of Rudyard Kipling Vol 1, Ed. Pinney (pp.359-368) for a letter to to Edmonia Hill (8-16 November 1889) where Kipling refers to the story for the entry of 15 November:
‘Went ahead at a yarn entitled “For One Night Only” – the story of people who hired a box at a theatre but when they were in it could see nothing save howling chaos – the blank darkness of the Pit – not the theatre Pit. Worked it over and over and sent it to Longman’s …’
J M S Tompkins
looks at this and other stories of the supernatural, in her Chapter 7 “Man and the Abyss”, observing that some of which read like bizarre inventions (page 198) while some are founded on fact. ‘Nothing’, she says, ‘explains the haunted theatre-box of “For One Night Only” (p. 202).
A curious account of some social customs of the era and a visit to a theatre which has a remarkable effect on some of the audience
Notes on the Text
For One Night Only This title was an announcement displayed at a theatre or music-hall when a production or artiste was indeed on for just one performance, so that audiences were encouraged to seize a rare opportunity.
Missing Link a phase in the evolution of animals and humans showing the transition from one species to another, particularly that from apes to men. Much discussed after Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, six years before Kipling was born.
Theater (sic) of the Patent Develries It is not clear what entertainment Mrs. Skittleworth and her party witnessed, but it seems to have had a remarkable effect on them – perhaps “magic” and illusions similar to the entertainment provided by John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917) the English stage magician and entrepreneur at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly from 1873 to 1904. There was also an illusion known as “Pepper’s Ghost” – see Notes to “The Brushwood Boy” (The Day’s Work, page 363, line 20).
Zoetrope a device that produces an illusion of movement from pictures within a cylinder with vertical slits in the sides; on the inner surface of the cylinder are images from a set of illustrations. The cylinder revolves while the user looks at the pictures on the opposite side of the cylinder’s interior seeing a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion, as in a motion picture. It stands on a table, however, so in that form would not be large enough for the stage in a theatre. See Norman Page, A Kipling Companion, page 192 for the author’s interest in the cinema – and, as an amusing example of such interest, “The Prophet and the Country” (Debits and Credits) and “Aunt Ellen” (Limits and Renewals.)
Cook’s the world-wide travel agency founded by Thomas Cook (1808 –1892) , that is now the Thomas Cook Group. As Thomas Cook and Son: the company arranged travel for Kipling on many occasions and treated him very well when his bank failed when he was on his honeymoon, (Charles Carrington p. 203).
heaven above, or the earth beneath … an echo of the Second Commandment (Exodus 20, 4) ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’
Aunt Sally traditionally played on fairgrounds. a dummy in the form of the head of an old woman with a clay pipe in her mouth, or occasionally a ball on a stick. The players throw sticks at the head in to break the pipe.
belcher A neckerchief with blue ground, and large white spots having a dark blue spots, named after a pugilist called Jim Belcher, sometimes applied to any particoloured handkerchief worn around the neck. The earliest usage cited was 1805.
Westbourne Grove still a retail road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, from Kensington Park Road in the West to Queensway in the East, crossing Portobello Road. The original department store was created by William Whiteley, who started a drapery shop at 31 Westbourne Grove in 1863. By 1890 over 6,000 staff were employed.
[J H McG]
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