In the Pride of his Youth

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 Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


[Title] This looks like a quotation, with possible echoes of Virgil, Ecclesiastes or, perhaps, Proverbs, but an extensive search, both manual and electronic, has only produced Wordsworth’s “I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,/ The sleepless soul that perished in his pride”. (“Resolution and Independence”). This seems quite appropriate, so that one wonders if Kipling had it at the back of his mind. A possible alternative, suggested by Roger Ayers, is that this is an echo of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, describing Phaeton when he ignores Apollo’s warning, and takes Apollo’s chariot for a disastrous ride across the heavens, ‘in the pride of his youth and strength’.

[Heading] collected under Chapter Headings in Definitive Verse and Inclusive Verse In both collections the exclamation mark at the end of the first line is omitted, and in Definitive Verse the last line has ‘weight-cloth’ in the singular.
Cutting it here means ‘not doing his utmost’; a cur is an ill-bred and usually worthless dog, implying a useless creature; rated and chidden are two words for ‘scolded’ or ‘reproved’. A weight-cloth has pockets for weights designed to handicap a race horse as described in “The Broken-Link Handicap” (Page 165, line 10) See also “The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin” .

[Page 213, line 1] The Worm a principal character in “His Wedded Wife” earlier in this volume.

[Page 213, line 7] nearly of his own caste Castes were and are the artificial divisions of society in India. The word comes from the Portuguese caste, meaning “breed, race, kind” which was believed to be an Indian word. [Hobson-Jobson]

The English class system of the day trod a very fine line between those who were socially acceptable and those who were not; this girl was evidently just on the wrong side of it. These distinctions are still arguably with us today (2003) although somewhat diluted by – for example – highly paid footballers who are immensely wealthy but would not lay claim to high social status.

[Page 213, line 17] Registrar the official who registers births and deaths and conducts civil marriages. Fifty shillings is £2.50, the price of a pint of beer today in Britain, while the ceremony now costs some £37.50 in a local Registrar’s office (our sample was in Brighton) and “from £200” at other authorised premises.

[Page 214, line 11] the ‘long as ye both shall live‘ curse the author is being sardonic. This is not, of course, a curse, but part of The Form of Solemnization (sic) of Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. See “L’Envoi” to “The Story of the Gadbys” in Soldiers Three collected as the poem “The Winners”: “What is the moral ? Who rides may read …….He travels the fastest who travels alone” and the poem “Certain Maxims of Hafiz”, which in Stanza XI asserts “…the colt who is wise will abstain from the terrible thorn-bit of Marriage”.

The young Kipling’s wariness about the state of marriage was also expressed in “With any Amazement”, the wedding chapter in “The Story of the Gadbys”, with the lines: “…you may carve it on his tombstone, you may cut it on his card, /That a young man married is a young man marred!”. (Kipling borrowed the last line from Shakespeare’s (All’s Well that Ends Well, II, 3)

[Page 214, line 13] ‘The Voice that breathed o’er Eden No. 340 in Hymns Ancient and Modern, by John Keble (1792–1866) traditionally played at English weddings, including that of the Gadsbys in Soldiers Three.

[Page 214, line 22] Addison Road Station was on the District Railway between Earl’s Court and Shepherds Bush in West London, near Olympia.

[Page 214, line 24] Gravesend the port in Kent from where liners departed to India – see the note to “Yoked with an Unbeliever” p 35 line 1, earlier in this volume.

[Page 214, line 25] thirty-shillings a week bed-and-living-room Thirty shillings was £1.50 a week, now worth perhaps £100 in today’s money; whether this is two rooms or what is now called “a bed-sitter” is not clear.

[Page 214, line 26] Montpelier Square in Brompton, south of Hyde Park in central London, now a fashionable area.

[Page 215, line 1] 1–6 and seven eighths One shilling and six and seven eighths pence; this was the £/rupee exchange rate at which Dicky sent money home to his wife. The rate of exchange varied from time to time, and was affected by whether you were buying or selling; Dicky was buying sterling and therefore had to pay more for it. The normal rate was 15 rupees to the £, or 1-4, one shilling and fourpence per rupee.

[Page 215, line 7] Rs. 700 about a fortnight’s pay for Saumarez in “False Dawn” See the note to “False Dawn”, p 43 line 20, earlier in this volume.

[Page 215, lines 9 & 16] trifling details…full beauty The author is being sardonic; Hatt is in serious difficulties financially.

[Page 215, line 20] crossed written in the usual way from left to right, turned at right-angles and written across the first writing to save paper and postage. Difficult to read.

[Page 215, line 23] chummery several bachelors who set up housekeeping together and share expenses.

[Page 216, line 1] seven-rupee eight-anna filter a cheap filter for his drinking-water.

[Page 216, line 2] thirty-seven rupees a month over a quarter of what Dicky had left to live on after sending money home.

[Page 216, line 10] Scotch tallow-chandler The Scots were traditionally seen by the English as very tight with money, and a small tradesman like a ‘tallow-chandler’ would have been expected to be particularly mean.

[Page 216, line 16] a Bombay Bank if he had used a local bank, word of his plight might have got out, even though officers of the bank were not supposed to discuss their customers’ affairs with others.

[Page 216, line 19] Home the United Kingdom.

[Page 217, line 3] ‘screw’ slang for “pay” or “salary” and a pun upon billiards or snooker, where a hit off–centre will affect the path of the ball.

[Page 217, line 21] Exchange See the note to p. 215, line 1, above.

[Page 217, line 28] a Parsee’s bill This would have been accurate and detailed, and no lower than that of any other trader. From Persia, Parsees were known as Parsi, which became Farsi. Good businessmen, they usually prospered and are still remarkable in India today for their public spirit. Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a distinguished Parsee, endowed the School of Art in Bombay where Kipling’s father, Lockwood Kipling was teaching as Professor of Architectural Scupture, at the time Rudyard was born. Kipling used the name of Pestonjee Bomonjee, an instructor at the School, as the name of the hero of “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin” in Just So Stories.)

[Page 219, line 1] If a youth would be..etc this couplet looks as if it comes from a ballad, but as no attribution is given, it may be one of Kipling’s own compositions; but it is not, as far as we know, collected.

[Page 219, line 12] ‘gone with a handsomer man than you’ this is from a ballad by William Carleton (1794–1869).

[Page 220, line 4] English Mail the letters from Home

[Page 220, line 25] ‘Six hundred and fifty rupees’ The firm was offering to nearly double Dicky’s salary.

[Page 221, line 3] time I retired Dicky had simply given up the struggle. The handicap of his marriage had been too much for him.
[This seems a most unsatisfactory ending, quite unlike Kipling’s usual well-turned finishes, and posing more questions than it answers. One cannot help wondering what happened to Dicky. Would he take a local discharge and “go native”, like Macintosh in “To be Filed for Reference” later in this volume, or would the authorities ship him Home to avoid a scandal ? Or, perhaps he changes his mind, resumes his post and has a long and distinguished career ? Any comments to will be most gratefully received: Ed. ]

[J. McG.]