First published in the Civil and Military Gazette, 8 February 1890. Collected Volume IX, No. 63 of Turn-overs, 1890, and in Abaft the Funnel (Unauthorised and Authorised Editions), 1909.
Kipling had been living in Villiers Street, London for three months before this story was first published, after his return to England from India in 1889.
The narrator begins by relating how he was approached by ‘a gentleman of infinite erudition offering to publish my autobiography’ and would he also forward a cheque for five guineas for ‘incidental expenses’ . The narrator responds by offering to publish the autobiography of the gentleman on similar terms, whereupon the proposals are dropped after a certain amount of contumely by the gentleman.
The narrator is then approached by one of the those gentlemen who ‘also speaks with authority on Literature and Art’ followed by others of a similar breed who try to determine whether he belongs to the ‘Neo-Gynekalistic school’ or is an ‘anti-Gynekalist’ . Being neither, he is content to amuse himself, and his Anglo-Indian readers, at the expense of all of the literati.
In this story Kipling is making fun of the various opposing literary camps that he was exposed to in London, each of which endeavoured to claim him for its own. Chapter IV, “The Interregnum” in his autobiography Something of Myself, carries several passages that relate his experiences with the various literary sets. After being elected to the Savile Club, he writes (pp. 83-84):
…and, on my introduction, dined with no less than Hardy and Walter Besant. My debts to the latter grew at once, and you may remember that I owed him much indeed … Nor did his goodness halt there. He would sit behind his big, frosted beard and twinkling spectacles, and deal me out wisdom concerning this new incomprehensible world. One heard very good talk at the Savile. Much of it was the careless give-and-take of the atelier when the models are off their stands, and one throws bread-pellets at one’s betters, and makes hay of all schools save one’s own. But Besant saw deeper. He advised me to ‘keep out of the dog-fight.’ He said that if I were ‘in with one lot’ I would have to be out with another; and that, at last, ‘things would get like a girls’ school where they stick out their tongues at each other when they pass.’ That was true too. One heard men vastly one’s seniors wasting energy and good oaths in recounting ‘intrigues’ against them, and of men who had ‘their knife into’ their work, or whom they themselves wished to ‘knife.’
Kipling did not have a high opinion of girls at school, as also shown in the first paragraph of “In the Matter of a Private”, first published on 14 April 1888 (see the notes to the story by J. McGivering):
People who have seen, say that one of the quaintest spectacles of human frailty is an outbreak of hysterics in a girls’ school. It starts without warning, generally on a hot afternoon among the elder pupils. A girl giggles till the giggle gets beyond control. Then she throws up her head, and cries,”Honk, honk, honk,” like a wild goose, and tears mix with the laughter.
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