From Sea to Sea XVIII

(notes by David Page, drawing on the work of the ORG Editors)

Publication History

The edited text largely corresponds with that first published in the Pioneer of 2 November 1889.


This and subsequent chapters on Japan can be followed, albeit with difficulty, at The University of Texas site. .

Exchange Rates

From now on in this series of reports it is worth remembering that at this time, when the U.K. was on the Gold Standard, £1 GBP was equivalent to $4.85 USD.

Notes on the Text

[Epigraph, page 405] Always speak to the stranger. . . the source of this Western Proverb has not been identified. It is always possible that it was an invention of Kipling’s.


[Page 405, line 1] Michni a place north of Peshawar in the area of the Khyber Pass in the North West Frontier Province of British India, now in Pakistan. There was a Frontier Constabulary Fort there. Kipling refers to it in the last stanza of “A Code of Morals” (Departmental Ditties).

[Page 405, line 4] dacoits robbers belonging to an armed gang. See “The Ballad of Boh Dah Thone.




[Page 405, lines 4 & 5] Black Mountain Expedition The Black Mountain is a mountain range and district on the Hazara border of the North-West Frontier Province. It is inhabited by Yusafzai Pathans. The Black Mountain itself has a total length of 25 to 50 m., and an average height of 8000 ft. above the sea. It rises from the Indus basin near the village of Kiara, up to its watershed by Bruddur; thence it runs northwest by north to the point on the crest known as Chittabut. From Chittabut the range runs due north, finally descending by two large spurs to the Indus again.

There were several British punitive expeditions to the Black Mountain, but Kipling is clearly referring to the First Hazara Expedition of 1888. The cause was the constant raids made by the tribes on villages in British territory, culminating in an attack on a small British detachment, in which two English officers were killed. A force of 12.500 British troops traversed the country of the tribes, and severely punished them. Punishment was also inflicted on the Hindostani Fanatics of Palosi.

See this web-site.

Kipling also mentioned this expedition in “A Conference of the Powers” in Many Inventions.

[Page 405, line 7] Home in this case meaning India.

[Page 405, line 16] the Burning Mountain Kipling is referring to the area known as Owakidani (‘Valley of the Greater Boiling’). [H.C./G.W.]

[Page 407, line 20] the old Gaiety Theatre in Simla was rather inconveniently placed, down the main steep slope from the central ridge of the town, close to the Lower Bazaar. [H.C./G.W.]

[Page 407, line 30] as dead as Queen Anne a reference to the Queen who reigned from 1702 to 1714. How this phrase came into being is not known, but it has been used in the United Kingdom for very many years as a riposte to someone who gives stale news as though it were fresh.

[Page 408, line 31] seers the seer as a weight varied in different parts of India, from 8 ounces to 3 pounds, but usually it equalled 2 pounds. It is also a measure of capacity in some parts, equal to a litre or 1.76 pints.

[Page 409, line 26] Tokaido the railway line did not follow the old East Sea Road exactly (see our notes on Letter XVII}.

[Page 410, line 33] a hogshead is a measure of volume equivalent to 52.5 imperial gallons or 238.7 litres.

[Page 411, line 18] dancing-girls by which Kipling’s interlocutor meant geisha who are professional entertainers, (not prostitutes). [ H.C./G.W.]

[Page 412, line 11] Nikko a well-known beauty spot about 90 miles north of Yokohama.

[Page 413, line 20] K—— This was Kawanabe Kyosai (1831- 26 April 1889). A long, laudatory article published in the Japan Weekly Mail of 18 May confirmed at least two of the points made by Kipling in susequent paragraphs. [H.C./G.W.]

[Page 413, line 23] Ému This French word, used here ironically as a euphemism for ‘drunk’, means ‘moved’ in the sense of ‘affected’ or ‘touched’. [H.C./G.W.]

[Page 414, line 32] Hokusai This was Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. In his time he was Japan’s leading expert on Chinese painting.

For Westerners, his best known painting is probably “Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa”.

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