From Sea to Seaand Other Sketches

Letters of Travel

(Notes edited by David Page, drawing on those of the ORG)

Title Page

The quotation on the title page of Volume I

‘write me as one that loved his fellow-men’

is from the poem by James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) “Abou-ben-Adhem” (1834).

Publication History

This two-volume collection consists of special letters and articles written by Kipling for his newspapers between 1887 and 1889. His “Preface”, printed in Volume I, explains why the collection was published:

In these two volumes I have got together the bulk of the special correspondence and occasional articles written by me for the Civil and Military Gazette and the Pioneer between 1887-89. I have been forced to this action by the enterprise of various publishers who, not content with disinterring old newspaper work from the decent seclusion of the office files, have in several instances seen fit to embellish it with additions and interpolations.

The two volumes were first published in their entirety in America in 1899, and in England in 1900. The publication history of the individual components is covered in the introductory essay for each, as appropriate.


The articles are grouped as follows:

Volume I.

  • 19 Letters of Marque
  • 24 chapters of From Sea to Sea.

Volume II.

  • 13 further chapters of From Sea to Sea
  • 8 articles – The City of Dreadful Night
  • 3 articles – Among the Railway Folk
  • 3 articles – The Giridih Coalfields
  • 1 article – “In An Opium Factory”
  • 18 short stories – The Smith Administration.

A Kipling Biography for 1887-1889

Having left school at 16 in 1882, Kipling have gone out to India where he was employed as the Assistant Editor of the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. This was a small sister-paper to the Pioneer of Allahabad, and so successful had Kipling been with the CMG that his employer, George Allen, transferred him to the larger paper in November 1887 as a Special Correspondent. A few months later he was asked to edit a new weekly newspaper for the Pioneer, the Week’s News. About May 1888, Kipling determined to return to England in February 1889, although it was actually 9 March 1889 when he sailed from Calcutta on a roundabout route via the Far East and North America to reach England on 5 October that year. (Letters Vol 1, “Chronology”)

There is a description of the period covered by these events in Chap.III, “Seven Years Hard” (pp. 69-76) of Kipling’s autobiography, Something of Myself, starting:

In ’87 orders came for me to serve on the Pioneer, our big sister-paper at Allahabad, hundreds of miles to the southward, where I should be one of four at least and a new boy at a big school. . . I fancy my owners thought me safer on the road than in my chair; for they sent me out to look at Native State mines, mills, factories and the like. Here I think they were entirely justified…

On my side I was ripe for change and, thanks always to All in a Garden Fair [by Walter Besant], had a notion now of where I was heading. My absorption in the Pioneer Weekly stories, which I wanted to finish, had put my plans to the back of my head, but when I came out of that furious spell of work towards the end of ’88 I rearranged myself. I wanted money for the future. I counted my assets. They came to one book of verse; one ditto prose; and—thanks to the Pioneer’s permission—a set of six small paper-backed railway-bookstall volumes embodying most of my tales in the Weekly—copyright of which the Pioneer might well have claimed. The man who then controlled the Indian railway bookstalls came of an imaginative race, used to taking chances. I sold him the six paper-backed books for £200 and a small royalty. Plain Tales from the Hills I sold for £50, and I forget how much the same publisher gave me for Departmental Ditties. (This was the first and last time I ever dealt direct with publishers.)
Fortified with this wealth, and six months’ pay in lieu of notice, I left India for England by way of the Far East and the United States, after six and a half years of hard work and a reasonable amount of sickness.

There is more immediacy in the descriptions of his activities to be found in a diary letter to his cousin, Margaret Burne-Jones, of 25 January-24 March, 1888 (Letters Vol 1, pp.149-156). This letter will be quoted, where relevant, in the Introductions to the various groups of articles.


The works in the two volumes of the book From Sea to Sea consist of four groups of articles, effectively describing three journeys and a miscellany of stories, one of which is most probably linked to one of the journeys. Based on the evidence of dates given in From Sea to Sea, the letter to Margaret Burne-Jones, the first publication dates of the various articles, internal evidence in the articles, and the routes of the East Indian Railway (E.I.R.) the following table re-orders the Contents into a timeline.

Vol. Series Visit Dates Location Published
II The Smith Administration Lahore and Allahabad 1887 and 1888
I Letters of Marque Nov-Dec 1887 Rajputana 14 Dec 1887-29 Feb 1888
II The Bride’s Progress Jan 1888? Benares 8 Feb 1888
II In an Opium Factory Jan 1888? Ghazipur 16 April 1888
II Among the Railway Folk 25 – 28? Jan 1888 Jamalpur 24 July-8 Aug 1888
II The Giridih Coalfields End of Jan 1888? Giridih 24 Aug-20 Sept 1888
II The City of Dreadful Night Jan-Feb 1888 Calcutta 18 Feb-9 April 1888
I From Sea to Sea 9 Mar-28 May 1889 Calcutta to the USA 17 Apr-30 Nov 1889
II From Sea to Sea 28 May-25 Sept 1889 USA and Canada 6 Dec 1889-1 Apr 1890

The publication dates alone would have suggested a different travel schedule in Eastern India, but the Burne-Jones’ letter gives a firm and conclusive anchor for the Jamalpur visit at the end of January 1888, and all else flows from this.

“The Bride’s Progress” is collected as a story in The Smith Administration, but in the view of this Editor, Benares (now Varanasi) would have been his first port of call in a journey from Allahabad to Calcutta (now Kolkata), particularly since he must have visited the city by February 1888 for it to have been published on 8 February 1888.

For anyone interested in understanding the background to the three journeys described in this collection, it is well worthwhile reading Chapter VII, ‘Allahabad and Home (1887-1889)’ in Rudyard Kipling by Andrew Lycett.


©David Page 2007 All rights reserved