Bagdad Brighton, from the minarets and domes of the Royal Pavilion, reminiscent of the legendary city of the Caliph of Baghdad, capital of today’s Iraq. The Kiplings were living at ‘The Elms’ in Rottingdean, just outside Brighton, moving to ‘Bateman’s’ in September 1902, the year after publication of this story
brazen engines the engines (see above) were then painted a golden ochre, perhaps best described as gamboge: the engineer who designed this livery, William Stroudley, described it as “Improved Engine Green”, and in certain lights a green tone could indeed be seen. Today, the colour can still be seen on certain ex-L.B.S.C.R. engines running on the Bluebell Line in East Sussex.
some twelve merchants Company Law has changed so much that this Editor is unable to speak with certainty, but it seems possible that the figure was chosen deliberately, because there had to be a minimum number of members for a public limited company: delving into the recesses of memory, the figure was 15 – but that was in the 1970s.
Except his neighbour contend against him in the market-place ‘The Brighton’ railway company enjoyed a virtual monopoly in Sussex and east Surrey, and – it was contended – displayed the cavalier attitude which monopolies often display towards their customers or clients.
place of the brazen engines, which is over against the chief quarter of Bagdad . Brighton station (right) was and is, “over against the chief quarter” of the town, about a quarter of a mile uphill from the Prince Regent’s Pavilion, at the head of a street leading down another quarter-mile to the sea-front.
‘With thy permission!’ “By y’r leave” was the railway-porter’s traditional cry, asking people to move out of the way so that he could push through with his luggage barrow, the “small wheeled cart”, which today has disappeared, along with the porter.
the first is behind the third etc first, second and third class compartments. In other words “the first-class carriages are nearest the ticket-barrier, followed by the third-class, then the second-class”.
Isbahan Eastbourne: a pleasant seaside town in East Sussex
I wash my hands a symbolic gesture of unwillingness to take responsibility for some matter – see Matthew 27, 24. Look at the back of your rail ticket the next time you travel to see the current form which says “Travel is subject to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, etc. . . .”
‘Behold his hair!’ a rudeness – perhaps a variation on “Get your ‘air cut! or “Keep your ‘air on !” Probably the Caliph was bearded, and this may be Kipling’s version of the cry of “Beaver”, which was a sort of ‘I-Spy’ game played between two companions, to see who could sight the most bearded men, though the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest reference is not until 1910.
‘O true believers, who can do more than set forth his holy intentions? timetables have always carried a disclaimer in some form or another – e.g., “Connections are not guaranteed”. Today, the language may be almost as flowery as Kipling’s mock Persian, but the meaning is much the same.
Abu Bakr It is pure speculation, but it may be suggested that this is an indirect reference to the former chairman of the Brighton company. Until very recently the chairman had been Samuel Laing: outside London Bridge station there used to be a prominent advertisement on their factory, for the bakers and biscuit makers Macfarlane, Lang. Kipling may have used the expression Abu Bakr to indicate a baker (of biscuits) – the name Lang/Laing – being well-known on ‘The Brighton’, although Samuel Laing, the chairman, had no connection with Macfarlane Lang, the bakers, other then the fact that the names are homonyms.
Upon a day appointed: here follows Kipling’s most important suggestion for “Railway Reform in Great Britain”, and particularly on ‘The Brighton’: namely to so badger the Directors, at home (but in an entirely lawful way), and to ridicule them and their railway, so that they take their responsibilities as Directors seriously. Instead of merely holding a few meetings (‘It is the custom of those who are in partnership with the Afrit to meet but four times a year’), each of the Directors ‘cast off his garments and bought a leathern apron and a porter’s knot and went down to the caravanserai to oversee and to expedite the brazen engines’.
porter’s knot a band of cloth that goes round the forehead and down the back to support a load (Clifford W. Ashley The Ashley Book of Knots, Faber, 1944): not used on British railway stations, but the equivalent of the leather straps used by the French porters at Calais or Boulogne, whom Kipling came to know well, slung over their shoulders to carry passengers’ luggage.
heriots fines due to the lord of the manor on the death of a tenant – usually his best animal or article of furniture, etc.
[A.W./J. H. McG.]
©John McGivering 2009 All rights reserved