The Education of Otis Yeere

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


[Title of section] Under the Deodars The Deodar is the common name in India for cedrus deodara a large and handsome tree found in north-west India and the Himalayas.

[Heading] This consists of four lines from “The Lost Bower” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) which is also quoted in “They” (Traffics and Discoveries)

[Page 3, line 16] Government Paper of the ’79 issue a Government loan for a number of years.

[Page 4, line 3] “The Fallen Angel” we have been unable to trace a play of this name before 1901 but it may well have bene an amateur production. Kipling appeared with Mrs Burton (a candidate for the original of Mrs Hauksbee) in “A Scrap of Paper” at The Gaiety Theatre in Simla in 1887 which was completed that year.

[Page 4, line 7] “The Foundry” All private houses in Simla had names; this rather odd one has not been located but is supposed to be in The Mall (see page 9, line 14).

[Page 4, line 8] tiffin a light meal – usually lunch.

[Page 4, line 11] chiffons chiffon is a soft semi-transparent
dress material, similar to Indian muslin; the writer is suggesting that a discussion of such matters would be unintelligible to men.

[Page 4, line 24] Apache one of the Native American tribes.

[Page 4, lines 26 –26] scalp … wigwam it was once the custom of the Native Americans to cut the scalps off their enemies, dry them outside their tents and keep them as trophies, much as a predatory female might ‘collect‘ the husbands of other women as lovers.

[Page 4, line 27] the Hawley Boy an officer in one of the local regiments, he would probably be stationed at Jutogh some five miles to the west of Simla. He appears in four of the ‘Hauksbee’ stories.

[Page 4, line 31] Aide at Tyconnel an aide-de-camp or personal assistant and social secretary to the Viceroy or Commander-in-Chief or whoever occupied this house at the time.

[Page 4, line 32] Mussuck the goatskin bag used by the bhisti or water-carrier (Hindi mashak) A bhisti gives water to the Lama and Kim in Chapter I of Kim. See also “Gunga Din”. This is an uncomplimentary nickname.

[Page 5, line 7] a Pillar of the Empire.

…With grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seem’d
A pillar of state…

John Milton (1608-74) Paradise Lost, Book ii l.300.

[Page 6, line 11] attachés in red coats officers attached to diplomatic missions.

[Page 6, line 12] one in black a priest

[Page 6, line 33] salon the French for drawing-room and, in this instance, one where witty and interesting writers and artists meet to discuss matters of mutual interest.

[Page 7, line 2] ‘Hear the words of the Preacher… see Jeremiah, 36 but those words are not quoted. We have ‘Baruch the son of Neriah’ in Jeremiah, 45, but no ‘Preacher’ except in Ecclesiastes – the search continues.

[Page 7, line 32] knout a long whip made of a triangular leather thong used at one time in Russia for beating convicts on the back. They rarely survived more than thirty lashes, but a skilful operator could kill with one stroke. See “The Man who Was” in Life’s Handicap.

[Page 8, line 4] Civilian in this context, a member of the Civil Service

[Page 8, line 11] teapoys three-legged (usually) tea-tables.

[Page 8, line 11] Lakka Bazar between Christ Church and the Elysium Hotel. An Indian shopping district.

[Page 8, line 21] darwaza band “door shut” – the lady is not at home – a polite fiction in that she probably is but is not receiving visitors. Legend has it that Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy, was once turned away from Mrs Alice Kipling’s door. (Source not traced, but suggestions welcomed; Ed.)

[Page 8, line 31] Peliti’s a restaurant and rendezvous of Simla society mentioned in much of Kipling’s Indian prose and verse. Prior to 1829 there was a dâk-bungalow on the site, followed in 1830 by Bentinck Castle, built for Lord William Bentinck, Viceroy of India 1828 – 35 . From 1850 to 1877 it was the Simla Bank and then a club. Burnt down in 1878, it was rebuilt and sold to the Chevalier Peliti, a former viceregal chef who called it ‘Peliti’s Grand Hotel’. See “Divided Destinies”

[Page 8, line 31] Scandal Point a well-known rendezvous in the Mall at Simla

[Page 9, line 7] khud a steep hillside

[Page 9, line 10] George Eliot the nom de plume of Mary Ann Cross, born Evans (1819–80) distinguished author and journalist, who wrote “The Mill on the Floss” “Scenes of Clerical Life” and much else. Her novels reveal an exceptional sense of the humour and pathos of life and a belief in the purifying effect of human trials.

[Page 9, line 29] Anglo-Indians At that time this signified people of European descent living in India. Now it refers to people of mixed race.

[Page 9, line 33] administrative ‘shop’ Discussion of business or professional matters at social functions. Interesting to the men concerned, but thought to be bad manners and very boring for the ladies

[Page 10, line 12] kala juggahs Anglo-Hindi ‘dark places’ –arranged for sitting out dances. See “Pink Dominoes”.

[Page 10, line 17] I have preached… the conclusion thereof: an echo of Ecclesiastes 12, 13 that Kipling must have quoted from memory like the Note at p.7, line 2 above

[Page 10, line 27] Abana and Pharpar Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel ? 2 Kings 5, 12. Also nicknames for Harrison and Craye, Senior House Prefects in “The Moral Reformers” in Stalky & Co.

[Page 10, line 30] Seepee (or Sipi) :to the East of Mashobra, some 5 miles from Simla.

[Page 11, line 12] calls in this context, visiting people socially for conversation and refreshments.

[Page 11, line 18] “cloud” a light shawl.

[Page 12, line 11] mem-sahib’s gharri Hindi – ‘the lady’s carriage’.

[Page 12, line 13] Padri a priest – usually an army Chaplain. From the Portuguese ‘padre’.

[Page 12, line 18] stays ! … Six-eight a pair Corsets – six rupees and eight annas a pair.

[Page 12, line 19] list in this context a strong woven textile used as a binding to form a formidable garment.

[Page 13, line 8] “Lucindy, your behaviour is scand’lus” [quotation not identified – suggestions will be welcomed; Ed.]

[Page 13, line 31] Sphinx-like enigmatic, like the Sphinx in Egypt, which has baffled onlookrs for hundreds of years.

[Page 14, line 2] Theosophists a religious system akin to Buddhism. Madam Blavatsky was a leading theosophist at one time, and Lockwood Kipling, with many others, believed her to be an imposter. See “The Sending of Dana Da” in Soldiers Three.

[Page 14, line 6] Theosophilander a portmanteau word coined from “theosophy” and “philander”, evidently applied to men rather than women, and suggesting a tendency to engage in illicit love-affairs under the cover of an enthusiasm for Theosophy.

[Page 14, line 16] Platonic pertaining to the Greek philosopher Plato (born 427 B.C.); in this context signifying love between soul and soul without physical desire.

[Page 16, line 2] sat at the feet And she [Martha] had a sister called Mary which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word. Luke, 10,39.

[Page 16, line 12] St. Simon Stylites a Christian hermit who for 30 years lived on top of a pillar over 70 feet high and only four feet square.

[Page 16, line 15] I’ll go to him and say to him etc adapted from Bunthorne and Jane’s duet in Act 2 of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” “…So go to him and say to him…”

[Page 17, line 3] Monday Pop a concert with admission at a modest price – also a quote from the Mikado’s song (“A more humane Mikado …) in Act 2 of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado”.

[Page 17, line 15] Milton Wellings Joseph Milton Wellings (1850-) Composer Mrs Tarkass is obviously not a very good singer – see p. 19, line 10 – ‘war-whoop’ !

[Page 17, line 17] Earl’s Court a station on the London Underground Railway.

[Page 17, line 22] right of trove a doubtful claim – in England gold or silver found in the ground was the property of the Crown unless otherwise decided by the Coroner. Finders is not necessarily keepers !

[Page 17, line 24] burra-khana Hindi, bara khana meaning big dinner.

[Page 18, line 6 ] the Pioneer The newspaper at Allahabad for which Kipling worked from 1887 until he returned to the U.K some eighteen months later.

[Page 18, line 22] guide, philosopher and friend Alexander Pope (1688–1744) An Essay on Man, Epistle IV line 390.

[Page 18, line 27] á la Gibbon This was Edward Gibbon (1737 -1794), author of the celebrated Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The quotation is from his Autobiography, p. 83 of The Oxford World’s Classics Edition, but the reference is not clear unless he is breaking off an engagement on the orders of his father.

[Page 19, line 19] the first fine careless rapture This is from Robert Browning’s “Home Thoughts from Abroard”:

“That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over
Lest you think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!”

This is the poem that begins: “Oh, to be in England /
Now that April’s there…”
Echoes of it can be found in Kipling’s poems “In Springtime”, “The Exiles’ Line” and “The Flowers”. Browning was a major influence on Kipling’s verse.

[Page 19, line 20] ‘Stunt Assistant

[Page 19, line 21] Stars insignia of a Knight Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, or other such decoration.

[Page 19, line 26] dead-centre an allusion to a steam-engine that has stopped with the connecting-rod in line with the piston-rod and will not go forward or back. See “.007” in The Day’s Work. Otis Yeere had reached the mid-point of his career, with an even chance of promotion or of remaining in his present rank until he retired.

[Page 20, line 10] ryot from the Arabic ra’iyat – “a herd at pasture” but has come to mean a cultivator of the land. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 20, line 30] unfeignedly thankful “… give us that due sense of all thy mercies that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful…” The Book of Common Prayer – “A General Thanksgiving”.

[Page 21, line 20] ’77 He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1877.

[Page 21, line 22] Prospect Hill about three-quarters of a mile south-west of Viceregal Lodge

[Page 22, line 1] Punjabis inhabitants of the Punjab, but in this instance British members of the Civil Service in that State.

[Page 22, line 18] debilitated Ditcher The Suez Canal was known as “the Ditch” but this is probably a reference to the Mahratta Ditch, made in 1742 as a defence against the Mahrattas who were threatening Calcutta It was also used as a disparaging term for an inhabitant of that city (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 22, line 21] passed out Did not faint, as is now one meaning of the expression, but left the room.

[Page 22, line 24] Church Ridge in the centre of Simla.

[Page 23, line 19] Member of Council The Governor-General in Council was then the supreme authority in India; he had six Members of Council to assist him in his enormous task, so such a Councillor would carry considerable weight. (See “Tods’ Amendment” in Plain Tales from the Hills

[Page 196, line 9].

[Page 23, line 20] side in this context, conceit.

[Page 23, line 26] Three thousand a month Saumarez, who “carried enough conceit to stock a Viceroy’s Council …” had nearly Rs 1400 per month which was a good salary at the time (See “False Dawn” in Plain Tales from the Hills

[Page 43 , line 20])

[Page 24, line 5] Jakko the 8,000 ft. hill with the Monkey Temple to the east of Simla

[Page 24, line 11] attaché see Note to page 6, line 11

[Page 24, line 18] Jeshurun But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked……then he forsook God which made him… Deuteronomy 33 15

[Page 24, line 33] Gulluls an imaginary tribe of hillmen in the Himalayas near Sikkim which latter was allied to Britain in 1886, It became a Protectorate of India in 1950 and a State of India in 1975.

[Page 25, line 11] Darjiling a hill-station in the Hymalayas (7,000 ft.) Summer resort of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal.

[Page 25, line 12] a native pleader an Indian lawyer

[Page 25, line 32] passed a high test presumably the Entrance Examination for the Civil Service

[Page 26, line 12] Channel Fleet Kipling was to become very interested in the Royal Navy (See “A Fleet in Being”, and “Kipling and the Royal Navy”.)

[Page 26, line 20] the Frontier the North-West Frontier between India and Afghanistan where there was always action; the scene of many of Kipling’s Indian stories and verses.

[Page 28, line 4] haramzadas from the Arabic meaning ‘son of the unlawful’ – a scoundrel. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 28, lines 21 & 22] Providence … Man …. Woman This is an echo of the story of the Creation from Genesis 2, 7: “And the Lord God formed man … “ and verse 22: “And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman.”
See “The Enemies to Each Other” in Debits and Credits and some of the verse, including “The Vampire” and “The Betrothed”.

[Page 29, line 12] Captain Kerrington’s pony Kerrington “won three races at the last Gymkhana” in “Wressley of the Foreign Office“ in Plain Tales from the Hills, but the pony must have refused on this occasion.

[Page 30, line 12] a square a formation-dance like the Lancers and the Quadrille

[Page 30, line 28] I would have made him anything ! She probably could have done, given half a chance ! (See “Consequences” in Plain Tales from the Hills where Mrs Hauksbee was more successful).

[Page 31, line 8] paddy-fields wet and muddy fields where rice is grown.

[Page 31, line 10] kala juggah see note to Page 10, line 12. (in preparation: Ed.)

[Page 32, line 6] Annandale the delightful sports ground and racecourse to the north of Simla and the scene of several of the stories.

[Page 32, line 15] Last wreck of a feeble intellect “ That last infirmity of noble mind” , John Milton from Lycidas.

[Page 32, line 18] Mrs. Browning Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 -61) wife of Robert Browning noted at Page 19, line 19 above. Her “A False Step” is quoted below.

Robert Browning’s verses are quoted by Kipling in “To be Filed for Reference“ in Plain Tales from the Hills, and his parodies of both of them include “One Viceroy Resigns” and “Lady Geraldine’s Hardship”.

[Page33, line 6] swans singing before they die Shakespeare quotes this legend in Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Byron quotes it in Don Juan [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.]

The legend goes back to the Greeks and Romans, but the only words of the song seem to be an anonymous madrigal which Orlando Gibbons set in about 1612:

The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approach’d unlock’d her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last , and sung no more.
“Farewell all joys, O death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

[J. McG.]