Saint Valentine, his day


(notes by Philip Holberton, drawing on the researches of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


An MS in Kipling’s hand unsigned, with the subtitle “To You”, in the Morgan Library, New York. It had been sent to Evelyn Welford, whom Kipling described in a letter to Edmonia Hill in November 1889 as ‘an ally of mine seven years ago’. She was the daughter of the London representative of the New York publisher Scribner.

The Feast of St Valentine, February 14th, has been celebrated in England since the 18th Century as a time when people send romantic greetings – called ‘valentines’ – to their loved ones, often anonymously. This valentine is undated, but a note on the MS, presumably by a member of Miss Welford’s family, says “before 1884”. Since Kipling was writing from ‘across the sea’, i.e. in India, this suggests a dating of February 1883.

Notes on the Text

[Verse 3]

I wis I know well.

Videlicet ‘namely’.

[Verse 5] N.B. Nota Bene (Latin) Note well.

[Verse 8]

wrack rubbish.

spate flood.

[Verse 9]

lavish pay When Kipling was still at school, aged sixteen, he was told by the Head that: ‘I would go to India to work on a paper…and would get one hundred silver rupees a month!’ (Something of Myself p. 37) The exclamation mark suggests that, at a distance at least, Kipling thought this a generous salary. This was indeed his starting salary, the equivalent of some £10,000 at 21st Century values, and it was tripled after a year. He was very adequately paid, though not lavishly, and of course in Lahore he had the advantage of living with his parents.

A senior member of the Indian Civil Service typically earned some 2000 rupees a month, the equivalent of £185,000/year in today’s values.


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved