One View of the Question

Notes on the text

These notes, by Peter Havholm, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Many Inventions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Page 71, line 1] Shafiz Ullah Khan a Mahommedan name. Shafiz means an intercessor, and the whole could be rendered as ‘The Chief who pleads with God’.

Hyat Ullah Khan ‘The Chief who is God’s life.’

[Page 71, line 3] Rao Sahib a Hindu title of the ruler of a small state.

Jagesur or Jageswar, a small district and place in Bengal.

[Page 71, line 5] Kazi a Mahommedan Judge.

Jamal-un-Din Jamal means ‘beauty’ and Din ‘Islam’.

[Page 71, line 6] Jeresht-ud-Din Khan ‘Servant of Islam’.

[Page 71, line 8] Northbrook Club There used to be a Northbrook Society with premises in London, named for Sir Francis Baring, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Northbrook. He succeeded Lord Mayo as Viceroy of India on the latter’s assassination in 1872.

[Page 71, line 19] £60 in every hundred Presumably the balance of £40 in every £100 was to be paid by the bankers in Bombay on safe delivery there of the dogs. (See Page 72, line 3.)

[Page 71, line 21] tiger-dogs No breed has this name; this almost certainly refers to a ‘Great Dane’, one of the largest breeds, developed in Germany to hunt boars. They may be brindle, fawn, blue, black, or black and white. Males are 30 inches (75 cm) tall at the shoulder.

[Page 72, line 3] render account of them in Bombay see above, Page 71, line 19.

[Page 72, line 9] a pump-gun a magazine rifle.

[Page 72, line 11] a shell-gun large-bore rifle with big expanding bullets or small ‘shells’.

[Page 72, line 13] fowling-piece no lighter than a feather Perhaps a sign of haste. See Mulvaney’s ‘ambuscaded’ above, Page 52, line 21.

[Page 73, lines 6 and 7] wine in your house . . . . forswearer of brandy The ORG comments: ‘…a strange statement seeing that wines and spirits are forbidden to Mohammedans.’ This Editor in 2007 suggests that Khan is here urging his confederate, a drinker of wine despite the law, to provide Khan’s rival Bahadur Shah with enough of his favorite tipple, brandy (perhaps mixed with other drugs), not to kill him but to drive him mad—and hence out of the job Khan wants for himself. This picture of casual apostasy and vicious intrigue suggests that the story may be even less complimentary to educated Indians than the ORG annotators supposed.

[Page 73, line 9] Consider That is, ‘please consider taking care of Bahadur Shah for me in the way I have suggested’.

[Page 73, line 20 through Page 74, line 24] being dark and unclean . . . Compare the memories in Something of Myself, written more than 40 years later, of a five-day fog followed by a man’s cutting his throat in Villiers Street, the corpse instantly carried away:

One got to know that ambulance (it lived somewhere at the back of St. Clement Danes) as well as the Police of E. Division, and even as far as Piccadilly Circus where, any time after 10.30 p.m., the forces might be found at issue with ‘real ladies.’ And through all this shifting, shouting brotheldom the pious British householder and his family bored their way back from the theatres, eyes-front and fixed, as though not seeing. [Something of Myself, Ed. Thomas Pinney, Cambridge University Press.]

For more on that ambulance, see the notes to “‘Brugglesmith’” in this Guide.

[Page 74, line 11] become the more furiously drunk Licensing laws in Britain were changed in 2006 to deal with just this problem. The ORG calls these remarks on what is now often referred to as Britain’s ‘alcohol culture’ exaggerated, but the noise outside pubs at Saturday closing time could easily have shocked a traveller new to London. It surprised a visitor to Upper Street in Islington as recently as 2000.

[Page 74, line 32] mukht absolution.

[Page 75, line 13] among the barren women Maisie in The Light that Failed comes to mind at this line, given the exclusive devotion to her career and her work that leads her to reject marriage to Dick Heldar.

[Page 75, line 26] Ahmed’s beard or Mahmud’s be the longer given the beard’s significance in Islam, this comment suggests that neither the letter-writer nor his correspondent is strictly religious.

[Page 76, line 1] system of their statecraft The paragraph that follows is consistent with Kipling’s (and his father’s) low opinion of representative democracy as a system of government. For Rudyard’s view at this time, see the opening two paragraphs of “Judson and the Empire”, beginning 327 and the note to Page 346, lines 11 & 13, below.

[Page 76, line 32] yellow flowers in their hands a reference to the ladies of the Primrose League, founded in honour of Benjamin Disraeli, first Lord Beaconsfield, the great Conservative stateman. The primrose was mistakenly supposed to be his favourite flower.

[Page 76, line 33] her lover’s belief stripped of judgment This view of woman’s capacity drives Kipling’s poem “The Female of the Species.”

[Page 77, line 2] Well said the slave-girl to Mámún Abu Jafar al-Ma’mun ibn Harun was Caliph of Islam (813-833), renowned for his intellectual interests. Both the implied book and the end-stopped couplet sound like Kipling; it would have been faster for him to invent them than to do the research. Their meaning and connection to the issue of women in politics is obscure.

[Page 77, line 7] though that were Death itself Compare the Archangel of the English in “Uncovenanted Mercies,” who complains to Azrael about ‘the crudity of certain phenomena which lie within your provenance.’

[Page 77, lines 20-1] slaughter by night of men unarmed . . . slaughter of cattle a reference to the ‘Fenian outrages’ often reported in the Civil and Military Gazette in the 1880s. (See the note below to Page 78, lines 7–14 (which ORG finds ‘quite incomprehensible’).

[Page 77, line 29] made shorter by the head beheaded.

[Page 78, line 1] Manglôt perhaps Mangalkot in Burdwan, Bengal, not too far from Bihar.

[Page 78, line 3] cess assessment, tax or levy.

[Page 78, lines 7-14] land at secret war The reference is to the ‘Fenian outrages’ following the founding of the National Land League in Ireland in 1879, with Gladstone’s introduction of the Home Rule Bill in 1886 taken as political support for continued ‘war’. See the note to Page 87, lines 25-7, below, which confirms this.

[Page 79, lines 1-2] green-sickness among the people now, iron deficiency anaemia in young women, presumably to capture the ‘whimperingly, with pinching in the back’ of line 10. This seems an extended attack on what might now be called the working of democracy, the right of assembly, and a free press.

[Page 80, line 3] confused the loading and unloading There was a huge and successful London Dock Strike in 1889. The principle the text seems to be advocating here is: ‘each is equal under God to the appointed task’ (see the note to line 16, below).

[Page 80, line 10] ye know what Sa’adi saith The closest lines to this passage in Sa’adi’s Gulistan seem to be:

A caravan having been plundered in the Yunan country and deprived
of boundless wealth, the merchants wept and lamented, beseeching God
and the prophet to intercede for them with the robbers, but ineffectually.

Sa’adi, like Mámún above, is a historical figure, a Persian poet of the 13th century, but Kipling seems to have supplied the verses.

[Page 80, line 16] each is equal under God to the appointed task The principle both Khan and Kipling seem to adopt.

[Page 81, line 20] these people despise the trade of arms a complaint that anticipates Kipling’s advocacy of a nation in arms, in “The Army of a Dream.”

[Page 81, line 27] the order . . . that rotted out the armies This refers to an issue that was highly controversial in the 1880s and 90s. The authorities accepted the existence of prostitution and wished to regulate it to reduce the damaging incidence of disease; the reformers saw it as exploitation of women and wished to abolish it. The Indian Contagious Diseases Act of 1868 regulated sexual commerce in military areas. Josephine Butler, leader of the women’s repeal movement which succeeded in getting Britain’s Contagious Diseases Act repealed in 1886, began to publicize ‘state-regulated vice’ in British possessions abroad in 1888 in her periodical, The Dawn.

Alfred Dyer visited India and published a series of articles about the provision of prostitutes for British soldiers. To much public horror, he published a June 1886 circular from General Roberts (C-in-C, 1885-93) which ordered:

…in the regimental bazaars it is necessary to have a sufficient number of women, to take care that they are sufficiently attractive, to provide them with proper houses.

There followed a campaign by private citizens like Josephine Butler and by reformers in Parliament to abolish the Indian Contagious Diseases Act and then the Cantonments Act of 1889. By 1888, the cantonment rules had been suspended and the Indian Contagious Diseases Act had fallen into disuse. General Roberts’ indiscreet comments in an 1893 interview with the periodical Christian Commonwealth are said to have hastened the end of his tenure. In response to Parliamentary and campaigners’ pressures, regulation of prostitution was abandoned in 1895. There was significant Anglo-Indian resistance to the reform movement.

[Page 81, line 32] fifty of the barren women the assumption seems to be that all female campaigners are barren. Were they not, they would have been caring for children instead of interfering. See note to Page 83 line 3 below.

[Page 82, line 2] three regiments of white troops that is, about 3,000 of 50,000 British soldiers in India are in hospital with venereal disease.

[Page 82, line 3] This is to our advantage This seems to be the main point both of the fictional letter and of Rudyard Kipling’s invention of it. Democracy as practised in England in the 1880s will ultimately provide opportunity to Muslim forces to re-take India. See the pun on ‘deal with’ on Page 85, line 31.

[Page 82, line 16] that our lands and peoples should accurately resemble those of the English these people want India to become a self-ruling democracy immediately.

[Page 83, line 3] I am a free woman See above, Page 81, line 32.

[Page 83, line 15]hands on the bridle-rein See the “Envoi” to
The Story of the Gadsbys:

White hands cling to the tightened rein,
Slipping the spur from the booted heel..

[Page 83, line 28–29] dung-cake cow dung is made into fuel by hand in India, so the marks of the fingers are upon it.

[Page 84 line 9] their streets being evident witness London pub-goers, again.

[Page 84 line 28] beggar-taught educated at the expense of the Government in India.

[Page 84 line 32] they have power over all India that is to say, the power these people have represents our opportunity.

[Page 84, line 24-25] the boys from Bengal who are good speakers but physically weak.

[Page 85, line 1] having won their learning through the mercy of the government the implication is that educated Bengalis are turning this gift against the giver.

[Page 85, line 9] son of some grain-bag See previous page, line 29: ‘offspring of grain-dealers.’

[Page 85, line 12] perjury against the Salt he had eaten See note to line 1 above.

[Page 85, lines 30-31] the Mussulman will deal with the Hindu For the English-speakers at the table, ‘deal with’ means cooperate with. For the Muslim and the Hindu he has just insulted ‘in our own tongue’, it means Muslim conquest.

[Page 87, line 6] this leather-man John Bradlaugh was a Member of Parliament and famously an atheist, who made lecture tours in which he supported democratic reforms in India; he supported the Indian Councils Bill, and was unofficially known as ‘the M.P. for India.’ He was also a professed Radical in politics. A connection with the leather trade proves elusive, though Bradlaugh supported workers’ causes.

[Page 87, line 13] they call their Congress The references to Congress, the movement for popular representation in India, in the rest of the letter, makes “One View of the Question” the third piece during Kipling’s early months in London in which he attacked the Congress. The first was “India for the Indians” in the December 1889 St. James Gazette. This was the second (February 1890), and “Pagett M.P.”, on which Lockwood Kipling collaborated, appeared in the Contemporary Review in the August.

[Page 87, lines 25-27] the Island near by . . . of which I have written this confirms that the ‘smothered war’ refers to the ‘Fenian outrages’, encouraged (in Kipling’s view) by Irish M.P.s and further by Gladstone’s introduction of the Home Rule Bill in 1886. See above note to Page 78, lines 7-14.

[Page 87, line 31] fawn before the beggar-taught those committed to democracy and to India’s ultimate independence make the mistake of seeing Congress as a nascent Parliament.

[Page 88, line 13] Black Year 1857, during which the mutiny of Indian soldiers and a wider uprising occurred. All but two of the Princely States remained loyal, and loyalists were rewarded.

[Page 89, line 2] It is not long to wait until, presumably, England eases its military presence in India and gives more power to Congress.

[Page 89, line 4] Ferisht Mahommed Kasim Ferishta, a Persian historian (1550-1612) wrote a history of the Mohammedans in India, translated into English by Gen. J. Briggs in The History of the Rise of the Mahometan (London, 1829, 4 vols.). He does not seem to have been a king.

[Page 89, line 24] Jehannun Hell.

[Page 89, line 26] shouting very greatly a similar picture is presented in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat.”

[Page 89, line 28] some new strange thing see Acts 17,21.

[Page 90, line 7] £24 per annum Miss Castries’ Eurasian family and their associates in “Kidnapped” (Plain Tales from the Hills), earn ‘from Rs. 175 to Rs. 470 a month.’

[Page 90, line 8] Gurmukhi a Sikh script invented by Guru Anged to write down the knowledge he had learned from his teacher Nanak, the first founder of Sikhism, contemporary with Luther in the early 16th century.

[Page 90, line 9] panchayats village committees.

[Page 90, line 22] all must go softly To sum up:

‘We can take advantage of this British “green sickness” by quietly lowering taxes while taking money from the Hindu temple, pretending to admire democracy and Hindus and to hate fighting, giving us credit both with the people and with the English in Parliament and London. Then, when the British government has about given up India, make Congress demand independence, though you must prevent them from harming any English still in the country. Once the English are gone, we’ll take the country for ourselves. And don’t forget to make my rival Bahadur Shah mad (but don’t kill him) by giving him drugged brandy. I’ll be C-in-C.’

[Page 91, line 12] in a far country Brazil changed from an empire to a republic in 1889 with very little bloodshed. This was admired in liberal/radical circles in London.

[Page 91, line 17] Nikhal Seyn John Nicholson (1821-57), British soldier and gifted administrator, killed at Delhi. He was one of those who did most to stop the rebellion in 1857. Kipling’s footnote displays contemptuous irony at the gestures at a British reading public, grown distrustful of soldiers and the sword, scornfully characterizing a great hero of 1857.

[Page 93, line 20] Sahibs die out at the third generation in our land Kipling almost certainly learned this from his father, who wrote in the Pioneer on 27 June 1873: ‘the European…deteriorates in this country in the second generation, and…it is very difficult to rear him to any profit in the first.’

[Page 93, line 30] mules and barren mares impotent politicians and women devoted to politics instead of to children.

[Page 93, line 7] four score of the six hundred The Irish Parliamentary Party won 85 seats in 1885.

[P. H.]

©Peter Havholm 2006 All rights reserved