The Propagation of Knowledge

Notes on the text

(by Lisa Lewis and Isabel Quigly)


[Page 273, line 2] Army Class Senior class preparing for entrance exams to officer training academies. See notes on “The United Idolaters.”

[Page 273, line 3] Augustan epoch So called after the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus, when Virgil, Horace and Ovid were writing. In English literature, the early and mid-18th century, largely coinciding with the reign of Queen Anne. Sometimes extended backwards to include Dryden, who is however “rather outside the Epoch” [page 281, line 33] Augustan writers both admired and imitated their Roman predecessors.

[Page 273, line 8] Pebble Ridge A bank of large grey stones which can still be seen between the golf-course on the Burrows and the shore at Westward Ho!

[Page 273, lines 11-13] pearls … before young swine Reference to Matt. 7, 6: “neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”

[Page 273, line 17] ad hoc For this purpose.

[Page 274, line 20] epigonoi Originally the seven sons of the Argive chiefs who in Greek legend marched against the city of Thebes in Boeotia. The Greek word, meaning descendants, came to mean the less distinguished descendants of an earlier generation.

[Page 274, lines 20-21] Johnson, Swift, Pope, Addison Samuel Johnson (1709-84), essayist, novelist, critic and lexicographer; Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), cleric and writer, chiefly remembered for Gulliver’s Travels; Alexander Pope (1688-1744), satirical poet; Joseph Addison (1672-1719) essayist and co-editor of the Spectator. This is an example of the “schoolmaster’s sarcasm” that Kipling attributes to Crofts.

[Page 274, lines 21-22] Harrison Ainsworth and Marryat Harrison Ainsworth (1805-82), author of historical novels which were not intended particularly for the young but became very popular with children: the best known is Old St Paul’s. Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), naval officer and writer of adventure stories which were already popular with schoolboys before Kipling’s day (Tom Brown and his friends were reading them in the 1850s in Tom Brown’s Schooldays). His best known books are the sea-stories Peter Simple, Mr Midshipman Easy, and Masterman Ready; also The Children of the New Forest, which was serialised on BBC television as recently as 1998.
He was the originator of the school of naval war stories of the Napoleonic period, exemplified by such writers as C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian.

[Page 274, line 27] Surtees R.S. Surtees (1805-64), author of Handley Cross and other humorous novels with a sporting (usually hunting) theme. They also provide a portrait of the nineteenth-century social scene, with effete aristocrats, servants and others who exploit them, and a rising class of merchants. Stalky quotes them frequently in Stalky & Co. and “The United Idolaters.”

[Page 274, line 33] dog of Scripture Proverbs 26,11: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.”

[Page 275, lines 5-6] Chucks … Peter Simple In chapter LXV of Marryat’s novel, Count Shucksen reveals himself as the original Bo’sun Chucks in these words. In his introduction to the book, David Hannay wrote: “Gentleman Chucks, who by common consent is Marryat’s masterpiece … would of himself be enough place the book high … In Marryat’s hands he is one of the fellowship of brave good men with a bee in his bonnet…”.

[Page 275, line 15] Macaulay Thomas Babington (later Lord) Macaulay (1800-59), politician, historian, critic and poet. From 1834-8 he was a member of the supreme council for India, where he successfully argued for the introduction of an English-style education system rather than the oriental madrasseh type, and may thus have been the indirect patron of Kipling’s father as an art-teacher in Bombay.

Macaulay’s essay on Samuel Johnson in the Edinburgh Review, September 1831, is collected in his Critical and Historical Essays. The details of this disparaging description are in several places, but what King read may have been: “The old philosopher is still among us in the brown coat with the metal buttons, the shirt which ought to be at wash, blinking, puffing, rolling his head, drumming his fingers, tearing his meat like a tiger, and swallowing tea in oceans.”

[Page 275, line 31] Admirable Crichton Someone distinguished by outstanding all round talents. The original, who inspired the name, was James Crichton (1560-85), Scottish traveller, scholar and swordsman, who was portrayed in Sir Thomas Urquhart’s The Exquisite Jewel, which in turn inspired Harrison Ainsworth’s novel Crichton. J.M. Barrie’s play The Admirable Crichton (with another, more modern protagonist), and the film made from it, have made the expression familiar in more recent times.

[Page 276, line 1] Du Maurier George du Maurier (1834-96), whose drawings in Punch and book illustrations made familiar a certain style of (particularly female) looks (B.P.s: ‘Passionate Brompton’ or ‘Professional Beauties’), such as the actress Lily Langtrey. He parodied the ‘Age of the Aesthete’ so perfectly captured in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Patience. In Paris he shared a studio with the painters Whistler and Kipling’s uncle by marriage, Edward Poynter. He is now chiefly remembered for his novel Trilby, and as the father of novelist Daphne du Maurier.

What Beetle quotes is one of a page of four cartoons headed “Vers nonsensiques, à l’usage des familles Anglaises (Par Anatole de Lester-Scouère)”, published in Punch, May 5, 1877. The quotation omits the first line of the limerick, “Chaque époque a ses grands noms sonores.” The whole might be translated:

Every age has its great resounding names.
Of all these deceased cockalorums
The moralising Fénélon,
Michaelangelo and Johnson
(The Doctor) are the most awful bores.

[Page 276, line 2] Punch Punch, or the London Charivari, was an illustrated periodical founded in 1841 as a vehicle for satire of a radical nature. It became less politicised, and the high quality of its comic articles, cartoons and verse made it a national institution. After a run of 150 years it could no longer compete with newer, more daring publications, and is now defunct, though an attempt was made to revive it in the 1990s.

[Page 276, line 4] Fénélon François de Salignac de la Mothe (1651-1715), known as Fénélon after his birthplace in the Perigord. French writer and ecclesiastic, finally Archbishop of Cambrai; author of the epic poem “Telemachus”, written for the instruction of his pupil the Duke of Burgundy, son of the Dauphin of France.

[Page 276, line 9] “Oh, won’t you come up, come up?” Traditional chorus after each solo when limericks are sung. The full chorus is:

Oh, won’t you come up, come up
Oh, won’t you come up, come up
Oh, won’t you come up,
Come all the way up,
Come all the way up to Limerick.

[Page 276, lines 19-20] store of lines Beetle copies out texts in advance to save up against future punishments. But in “The Impressionists” (Stalky & Co.) Beetle says he cannot pass off a newly-written document as an older one (or the other way round, presumably), because “our ink don’t turn black till next day.” Either Kipling has forgotten this, or King, like Prout in “The Impressionists”, is not expected to notice.

[Page 276, line 26] Outer Library See “The Last Term” (Stalky & Co.): “He [the Head] gave Beetle the run of his brown-bound, tobacco-scented library.”

[Page 277, lines 1-2] Curiosities of Literature By Isaac D’Israeli (1766-1848), father of Benjamin D’Israeli, the Conservative statesman and Prime-minister (later Lord Beaconsfield). It was a rag-bag of literary anecdotes and miscellaneous information, first published in 1791 and continually extended in later editions.

[Page 277, line 7] not without dust and heat Quotation from the political pamphlet Areopagitica (1644) by the poet John Milton (1608-1674), author of “Paradise Lost”, and a major figure in the English Literature syllabus.

[Page 277, line 13] Tom-a-Bedlam in Lear In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the character of Edgar disguises himself as a ‘Tom-a-Bedlam’, normally referred to as Tom o’ [of] Bedlam. According to D’Israeli, these were former patients of the mental hospital known as Bedlam (a corruption of the name of the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in Bishopsgate, London), who were discharged as “cured” when the hospital became overcrowded. They wore a special costume and were permitted to beg. After the dissolution of the monasteries, who used to relieve the poor, they had to rely on what in Britain would nowadays be called “care in the community.” D’Israeli distinguishes them from “Abraham men,” who feigned madness in order to beg with impunity.

[Page 277, line 20] With a heart of furious fancies This is the seventh and last verse of an anonymous madman’s song quoted by D’Israeli in his essay “Tom o’Bedlams.” He comments that this verse “contains the seeds of exquisite romance; a stanza worth many an admired poem.” A footnote says he found the song in “a very scarce collection, entitled ‘Wit and Drollery’, 1661; an edition, however, which is not the earliest of this once fashionable miscellany.” Kipling had previously used this verse as epigraph to the final chapter of the novel The Light that Failed.

[Page 277, line 31] impot-basket A basket in which impositions were placed and collected by the master.

[Page 278, line 2] pot-house Bar or tavern.

[Page 278, line 21] Twelfth of the Third The twelfth Ode in Horace’s third book of Odes.

[Page 278, line 22] Ionicum a minore The technical name of the metre used in this Ode, with feet consisting of two “short” followed by two “long” syllables.

[Page 278, line 27] ‘Miserar’ … Mala vivo laver’ aut ex—’ The opening lines of the Ode. After this in Strand; “‘King likes mala translated as “chops” not “jaws.”’ (They were smitten.)” ORG comments; “But Kipling surely knew that mala means ‘cares’ or ‘ills.’ Perhaps some joke is intended;” and translates the relevant passage as: “It is only for the unhappy neither to give indulgence to love, nor to wash away cares with delicious wine.” Mala, however, could also mean “jaw” or “cheek-bone.”

[Page 279, line 6] burble us some muck Babble us some rubbish.

[Page 279, line 15] Aubrey says John Aubrey (1626-97), antiquary whose biographical collections were published as Brief Lives after his death. Johnson annotated the speech “Poor Tom, thy horn is dry”, with: “Men that begged under pretence of lunacy used formerly to carry a horn, and blow it through the streets.” D’Israeli quotes “a manuscript note transcribed from some of Aubrey’s papers, which I have not seen printed.” This describes the costume and equipment of a Tom o’Bedlam, including “a great horn of an ox in a string” worn round the neck: “which, when they came to a house, they did wind, and they put the drink given to them into this horn, whereto they put a stopple.” It was not Johnson but another critic whom D’Israeli suggested was “dead-wrong” in arguing that Edgar speaks aside here, being tired of his masquerade and having no more to say; rather he is still in character and “thinking of his drink-money.”

[Page 279, line 19] Johnson started to learn Dutch D’Israeli writes in The Progress of Old Age in New Studies “Dr Johnson applied himself to the Dutch language but a few years before his death.”

[Page 279, line 21] his Dikker Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language: in Which Words are Deduced from their Originals, and Illustrated in their Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers (1755); last revised by him in 1775.

[Page 279, line 25] McTurk Spelt M‘Turk in Stalky & Co., but McTurk in the stories as originally published in Windsor Magazine, also in “The United Idolaters.”

[Page 279, line 28] For a draw As a tease; to wind him up.

[Page 279, line 30] Philistine Matthew Arnold’s term for the English middle classes, meaning ignorant and narrow-minded; first used in Culture and Anarchy, 1869, and in common usage in Kipling’s day.

[Page 280, line 4] Picciolas Picciola by Joseph Saintine, 1836, a sentimental novel about a prisoner and a flower, which was often used in schools.

[Page 280, line 8] die the death See Mark 7,10: “Whoso curseth the father or mother, let him die the death.” “Heffles” was one of their nicknames for Prout, their housemaster in Stalky & Co.

[Page 280, line 11] Sammivel, not Binjamin Samuel Johnson not Ben Jonson. The cockney pronunciation “Sammivel” is also a reference to Samuel Weller in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, while “Binjamin” is the name of Surtees’s kennel boy in Handley Cross.

[Page 280, line 22] della Cruscan Name adopted by a group of minor 18th century English poets, after the literary academy “della Crusca,” which was established in Florence in 1582 to work on the purification of the Italian language. According to D’Israeli’s essay “On the ridiculous Titles assumed by the Italian Academies”:

their title, the academy of ‘Bran,’ was a conceit to indicate their art of sifting; but it required an Italian prodigality of conceit to have induced these grave scholars to exhibit themselves in the burlesque scenery of a pantomimical academy, for their furniture consists of a mill and a bakehouse; a pulpit for the orator is a hopper, while the learned director sits on a mill-stone; the other seats have the forms of a miller’s dossers, or great panniers, and the backs consist of long shovels used in ovens. The table is a baker’s kneading-trough, and the academician who reads has half his body thrust out of a great bolting sack, with I know not what else for their inkstands and portfolios.

[Page 281, line 1] Ap-Howell Ap is a Welsh prefix to a surname, meaning “son of.”

[Page 281, line 11] came cleanly off the bat Metaphor from cricket – was a successful stroke.

[Page 282, line 3] Claude Halcro in the Pirate Unstoppably verbose poet in The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott, who constantly quotes the poet and playwright John Dryden (1631-1700), or refers to him as “Glorious John.”

[Page 282, line 7] Hell Crow chap Mispronunciation of “Halcro.”

[Page 282, line 8] Addison Beetle’s sources appear to be mixed: he seems to have consulted either Johnson’s Life or Spence’s Anecdotes (1820), about which D’Israeli wrote in the Quarterly Review of July that year. Addison’s predilections to drink are mentioned in both places, and Johnson cites Spence as his authority for the story of Addison summoning the profligate Lord Warwick to his deathbed and saying “I have sent for you, that you may see how a Christian can die.”

[Page 282, line 18] Mandeville Robert de Mandeville (1670-1733), a Dutchman who came to England, became a physician, and wrote medical and other works. D’Israeli wrote: “The cynical Mandeville compared Addison, after an evening spent in his company, to a silent parson in a tie-wig.”

[Page 282, line 25] two girls Swift’s two loves, Vanessa and Stella (in real life Esther Vanhomrigh and Esther Johnson).

[Page 282, lines 25-6] Saw a tree, an’ said “I shall die at the top” This is not in the Curiosities of Literature, but is quoted by Sir Walter Scott in his Memoirs of Swift (1814): “I shall be like that tree, I shall die at the top.”

[Page 282, line 27] ridiculous and trivial From Curiosities of Literature, but not a direct quotation: D’Israeli mentions “ridiculous amusements” and “perpetual trifles.”

[Page 283, line 3] Bags I Schoolboy slang for “I claim,” “I’m having.”

[Page 283, line 22] Diderot Denis Diderot (1713-84), French philosopher and man of letters. D’Israeli quotes his praise of Richardson at length, including: “The impassioned Diderot then breaks forth: ‘O Richardson! Thou singular genius in my eyes!’” Later in the same essay, D’Israeli notes that Richardson “was delighted by his own works,” and concludes it with a reference to “that sort of genius which makes the mind of Richardson so fertile and prodigal.”

[Page 284, line 14] lost tribes of Israel The ancient land of Canaan was divided between twelve tribes, descendants of the sons of Jacob. Ten of them were led away into captivity around 720 B.C. and their fate is a mystery. The “Anglo-Israelites” had a theory that the English were descended from them, but this is not plausible. (See also “Sea Constables” [page 43, line 14]).

[Page 284, line 16] Sappers Nickname for the regiment the Royal Engineers. Stalky’s father may have told him the well-known joke among other regiments that all Sapper officers were “mad, married or Methodist.”

[Page 284, line 22] biznai Schoolboy slang for “business.”

[Page 286, line 4] some transatlantic abomination about Shakespeare and Bacon The suggestion that Shakespeare did not write his plays, but that they were written by Francis Bacon, was first made by Herbert Lawrence in 1769. In 1857 books by William Henry Smith and Delia Bacon appeared on the subject, and by the end of the century there were many “Baconians,” mainly American.

[Page 286, line 6] Sutton A fictitious Oxford college.

[Page 286, lines 27-8] heifers the young are ploughing with See
Judges 14,18: “If ye had not ploughed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.”

[Page 287, lines 25-6] pups at walk It was, and still is in some parts of England, the custom for adolescent hound puppies to be sent out to live with selected members of a hunt, who would handle them and teach them manners. During this period they were said to be “at walk”. When fully adult they would be returned to hunt with the older members of the pack and live in the communal kennel. (See also “Little Foxes” in Actions and Reactions (1909), and Thy Servant a Dog (1930) passim.

[Page 287, line 30] details Military term meaning members of a team formed for a special purpose, as opposed to a regular unit.

[Page 288, line 22] Lundy Island famous for its puffins, about 11 miles north-west of Hartland Point, Devonshire, and visible from Westward Ho!

[Page 289, line 21] Elsie Venner Novel subtitled A Romance of Destiny (1861), by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94), American physician and writer. Elsie’s mother was bitten by a rattlesnake shortly before her birth. She grows up to be fatally beautiful and immune to the venom “in her blood”, but “pre-natal influences” have given her a treacherous and self-seeking character, such as snakes were popularly supposed to have. Holmes wrote in a preface to the 1883 edition that “The real aim of the story was to test the doctrine of ‘original sin’.” He admitted that “it is not based on any well-ascertained physiological fact.” Kipling was very interested in the possibility of pre-natal influences on a person’s later life;
see “In the Same Boat”.

[Page 289, line 27] Nathaniel Nathaniel Holmes, an American judge who wrote The Authorship of Shakespeare, New York, 1866. Holmes argued that Shakespeare was insufficiently educated, and could not have had the necessary “philosophical” mind, to have written the plays, whereas Francis Bacon was well-qualified to do so. He cited the recurrence of the metaphor of a prop, pillar or staff both in the plays and in Bacon’s writings, also certain words such as “mirror” and “swelling.” Three appendices dealt with “His learning in the law,” “His learning in medicine,” and “Classical attainments” (Latin and Greek).

[Page 290, line 12] Delia Delia Bacon (1811-59), The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded (1857), with a preface by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The text of the book is available on Gutenberg.

[Page 290, lines 29-30] seidlitz powder A laxative named after Seidlitz in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic); a substitute for mineral water.

[Page 291, line 30] ushers In Something of Myself [p. 26], Kipling says that Beresford (the original of McTurk) used to refer to their teachers disparagingly as “ushers”. An “usher” is commonly used for a doorkeeper, not a particularly distinguished role; here it refers to assistant schoolmasters, who in McTurk’s view were not distinguished either.

[Page 292, lines 24-5] for instruction today In 1921, the bitter campaign for Irish independence had led to a treaty, by which the six north-eastern counties were partitioned off and elected to remain British. There followed two years of civil war between those who did and those who did not accept the treaty. Kipling was not a sympathiser with Irish nationalism.

[Page 293, line 7] Bonnie Dundee A well-known song with words by Sir Walter Scott. It was one of the texts earlier parodied by Kipling in “Parade-Song of the Camp Animals” [The Jungle Book, 1894].

[Page 293, line 11] spirits he had called up See Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, Pt. I, 53, where Glendower boasts: “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”

[Page 293, lines 26-7] Virtue has gone out of me See Mark 5,30: “knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him.”

[Page 294, line 1] ab initio From the beginning. Ireland was never part of the Roman Empire.

[Page 294, lines 17-8] “what he was attributed to” This should of course have read “what was attributed to him.”

[Page 294, line 25] lie in the soul Phrase used by Jowett (see note below), in his introduction to his translation of Plato’s Republic: “The lie in the soul is a true lie.”

[Page 295, line 2] one Jowett Benjamin Jowett (1817-93), Tutor at Balliol College, Oxford, 1842-70; Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford 1855-70; Master of Balliol 1870-93. He was the subject of numerous anecdotes and stories. An anonymous article in Cornhill Magazine, December 1893 (probably by Evelyn Abbott), says:

“It was a common story in old Balliol days that an undergraduate who had attended the Master’s lectures on “Natural Religion” thought it the right thing to pose as an unbeliever, and said, “The fact is, Master, I cannot find evidence of a God anywhere.” “You must find one by midnight, or you go down tomorrow,” was the sharp answer that brought the young man to his senses, and discovered a divinity that shaped his ends where it was least expected, in the clear commonsense that would stand no trifling or levity in serious things.

Crofts, unlike King, was not a Balliol man. His Oxford college was Brasenose.

[Page 295, lines 15-7] There lives more faith … half the creeds From Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Section XCVI.

[Page 295, lines 18-9] peace among the Augustans an echo of the title of The Peace of the Augustans (1916), by Kipling’s friend, the literary critic George Saintsbury.

[Page 295, lines 32-3] Steele Sir Richard Steele (1622-1729), essayist, founder of the Tatler and co-editor (with Addison) of the Spectator. D’Israeli writes in Calamities of Authors of Steele’s notes to his wife “‘Dearest Prue’, which are dated from his office, or his bookseller’s, or from some friend’s house”, excusing him from returning home; and also notes that he was “we are told, ‘arrested for the maintenance of his bastards.’” This would have meant he was locked up in a “spunging-house,” kept by a bailiff or a sheriff’s officer, and formerly used as a place of preliminary confinement for debtors. Money difficulties caused Steele to leave London in 1724 for Carmarthen, where he died.

[Page 296, line 16] viva voce “Live voice” – an oral examination.

[Page 297, line 4] gigs Short for “gig-lamps,” the candle-lanterns with large round lenses used on either side of a horse-drawn gig; their slang for spectacles.

[Page 298, lines 28-9] “Don’t – make – a – noise, Or else you’ll wake the Baby!” Lines from a popular song written and composed by G.W. Hunt about 1875.

[Page 299, line 17] bowed down in the House of Rimmon II Kings 5,18. He means that he affected to worship a false god, as Naaman prayed to be pardoned for doing.

[Page 300, line 2] tripe Nonsense. See also “King’s views on lady-writers as a class,” [page 290, lines 17-8].

[Page 300, lines 5-6] Maxima debetur pueris reverentia Quotation from Juvenal, Satire XIV. Lancelyn Green in ORG suggests another translation: “The greatest reverence is due to the child.”

[L.L. and I.Q.]