In the Pride of his Youth

(notes edited by John McGivering)


This story was first published in the Civil and Military Gazette on 5 May 1887, and collected in the first edition of Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888 and in subsequent editions of this collection.

The story

Dicky Hatt marries at the age of twenty-one, and goes out to an office job in India. He sends money back to his wife in London, and plans to bring her out to join him; But he is not very well paid and finds it very hard to make ends meet, let alone raise the money for her fare. Then his little son at home dies, and his wife writes to tell him she is leaving him ‘for a handsomer man than you’. In despair he resigns his job. The firm offers him promotion that would have made all the difference, but it is too late. He leaves, a broken and disappointed man.

This is the story promised in the last sentence of “His Wedded Wife” earlier in this volume. (See also “In Error”, also in this collection.
Louis Cornell (Kipling in India p. 36) puts forward the interesting suggestion that the young Kipling who at one time considered himself unofficially engaged to Florence Garrard, resembles the unfortunate hero of this story. (See Andrew Lycett in Rudyard Kipling pp. 74 etc.) She is also reflected in the red-headed girl in The Light that Failed and in some of Kipling’s juvenile verses. Seymour-Smith (Rudyard Kipling p. 87} who never neglects an opportunity to belittle anything Kipling says or does, points out that Tillie Venner in “Wressley of the Foreign Office” later in this volume is also a reflection of Miss Garrard, and claims that Kipling said so in a letter which is not quoted in the book.

In the loss of his love, Dicky Hatt suffers some of the same agony as Trejago in “Beyond the Pale” earlier in this volume, and Holden in “Without Benefit of Clergy” in Life’s Handicap, with little of the brief happiness the two latter managed to enjoy from their affairs. It is a bleak tale, which strongly expresses the young Kipling’s sense of the dangers of marriage to a man’s work, when he is striving to make his way in a hard world.