Kipling’s Curse against
Copyright Pirates

In Yokohama on his way back from India to Britain, when about to travel to Nikko, Kipling discovered that copies of his work were to be published without his permission by the “Seaside Publishing Company” in America. He wrote what became known as the “Yokohama Curse”, included as the first section of the letter published in the Pioneer on 9 November 1889, but edited it out when the letter was later collected.
Then I cursed the Seaside Library and the United States that
bred it very copiously, in these terms and others unreported:

  • Because you steal the property of a man’s head, which is
    more his peculiar property than his pipe, his horse or his wife,
    and because you glory in your theft and have the indecency
    to praise or criticise the author from whom you steal, and
    because your ignorance, which is as dense as a pickpocket’s
    ignorance of anything outside his calling, leads you to trifle
    with his spelling, and because you print the stolen property
    aforesaid very vilely and uncleanly, you shall be cursed with
    this curse from Alaska to Florida and back again.
  • Your women shall scream like peacocks when they talk, and
    your men neigh like horses when they laugh. You shall call
    “round” “raound”, and “very” “varry”, and “news” “noos” till
    the end of time.
  • You shall be governed by the Irishman and the German, the
    vendor of drinks and the keeper of vile dens, that your streets
    may be filthy in your midst and your sewage arrangements
  • You shall be given over to the cult of tin-pot secret societies
    and the organising of “tuppenny-hapenny” processions, the
    spouting of nonsense and the perpetration thereof.
  • You shall be governed by laws that you cannot enforce and
    sentiments that you cannot control that the murderer may
    walk among you a vision of delight to young women and the
    darling of old maids while you are engaged in shooting the
    wrong man.
  • You shall prostitute and pervert the English language, till
    an Englishman has neither power nor desire to understand
    you any more.
  • You shall be cursed State by State, Territory by Territory,
    with a provincialism beyond provincialism of an English
    country town—you and your governors and what you are
    pleased to call your literature, your newspapers and your politics.
  • You shall buy your art from France and considerably spoil
    it in the buying because you are dishonest.
  • Your heart shall be so blinded that you shall consider each
    one of the curses foregoing a blessing to you as it comes about,
    and finally I myself will curse you more elaborately later on.


©JRudtard Kipling 1889