From Sea to Sea

March to September 1889

37 Travel Letters from Kipling’s journey
from Calcutta to London


Notes edited by David Page drawing on the work of the ORG Editors

Publication History

The two-volume collection From Sea to Sea consists of letters or travel reports written by Kipling for his newspapers between 1887 and 1889. They include both letters from journeys within India between November 1887 and February 1888, and from his journey back to England, ‘from sea to sea’, between March and September 1889. See the ‘Learn more’ panel on the right for the reports written in India before his departure.

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. Those discussed here can be found in:

Volume I of From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches: Letters of Travel
Includes 24 chapters of From Sea to Sea.

Volume II of From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches: Letters of Travel
Includes 13 further chapters of From Sea to Sea.

There are a number of differences between the numbering of the chapters in these volumes and those in the original newspaper publication, because one whole letter and part of several others were omitted from the collected editions.

First publication of the 37 individual letters about the journey back to England

I Of Freedom and the Necessity of using her. The Motive and the Scheme that will come to Nothing. A Disquisition upon the Otherness of Things and the Torments of the Damned The Pioneer & The Pioneer Mail 17 April 1889
II The River of the Lost Footsteps and the Golden Mystery upon its Banks. Shows how a Man may go to the Shway Dagon Pagoda and see it not and to the Pegu Club and hear too much. A Dissertation on Mixed Drinks The Pioneer 3 May 1889
III The City of Elephants which is governed by the Great God of Idleness, who lives on the Top of a Hill. The History of Three Great Discoveries and the Naughty Children of Iquique The Pioneer 3 May 1889
IV Showing how I came to Palmiste Island and the Place of Paul and Virginia, and fell Asleep in a Garden. A Disquisition on the Folly of Sight-seeing The Pioneer 14 May 1889
V Of the Threshold of the Far East and the Dwellers thereon. A Dissertation upon the Use of the British Lion The Pioneer 24 May 1889
VI Of the Well-dressed Islanders of Singapur and their Diversions; proving that all Stations are exactly Alike. Shows how One Chicago Jew and an American Child can poison the Purest Mind The Pioneer 8 June 1889
VII Shows how I arrived in China and saw entirely through the Great Wall and out upon the Other Side The Pioneer 15 June 1889
VIII Of Jenny and her Friends. Showing how a Man may go to see Life and meet Death there. Of the Felicity of Life and the Happiness of Corinthian Kate. The Woman and the Cholera The Pioneer 18 June 1889
IX Some Talk with a Taipan and a General: proves in what Manner a Sea-Picnic may be a Success The Pioneer 29 June 1889
X Shows how I came to Goblin Market and took a Scunner at it and cursed the Chinese People. Shows further how I initiated all Hong-Kong into our Fraternity The Pioneer 11 July 1889
XI Of Japan at Ten Hours’ Sight, containing a Complete Account of the Manners and Customs of its People, a History of its Constitution, Products, Art, and Civilisation, and omitting a Tiffin in a Tea-house with O-Toyo The Pioneer 30 July 1889
XII A Further Consideration of Japan. The Inland Sea, and Good Cookery. The Mystery of Passports and Consulates and Certain Other Matters The Pioneer 16 August 1889
XIII The Japanese Theatre and the Story of the Thunder Cat. Treating also of the Quiet Places and the Dead Man in the Street The Pioneer 30 August 1889
XIV Explains in what Manner I was taken to Venice in the Rain and climbed into a Devil Fort; a Tin-pot Exhibition and a Bath. Of the Maiden and the Boltless Door, the Cultivator and his Fields, and the Manufacture of Ethnological Theories at Railroad Speed. Ends with Kioto The Pioneer 24 September 1889
XV Kioto, and how I fell in Love with the Chief Belle there after I had conferred with Certain China Merchants who trafficked in Tea. Shows further how, in a Great Temple, I broke the Tenth Commandment in Fifty-three Places and bowed down before Kano and a Carpenter. Takes me to Arashima The Pioneer 1 October 1889
XVI The Party in the Parlour who played Games. A Complete History of All Modern Japanese Art; a Survey of the Past and a Prophecy of the Future, arranged and composed in the Kioto Factories The Pioneer 11 October 1889
XVII Of the Nature of the Tokaido and Japanese Railway Construction. One Traveller explains the Life of the Sahib-Log, and Another the Origin of Dice. Of the Babies in the Bath-Tub and the Man in D.T. The Pioneer 26 October 1889
XVIII Concerning a Hot-Water Tap, and Some General Conversation The Pioneer 2 November 1889
XIX Of The Legend of Nikko Ford and the Story of the Avoidance of Misfortune The Pioneer 9 November 1889
XX Shows how I grossly libelled the Japanese Army, and edited a Civil and Military Gazette which is not in the least Trustworthy The Pioneer 16 November 1889
XXI Shows the Similarity between the Babu and the Japanese. Contains the Earnest Outcry of an Unbeliever. The Explanation of Mr. Smith of California and Elsewhere. Takes me on Board Ship after Due Warning to those who follow The Pioneer 20 November 1889
XXII Shows how I came to America before My Time and was much shaken in Body and Soul The Pioneer 23 November 1889
XXIII How I got to San Francisco and took Tea with the Natives there The Pioneer 30 November 1889
XXIV Shows how through Folly I assisted at a Murder and was Afraid. The Rule of the Democracy and the Despotism of the Alien The Pioneer 6 December 1889
XXV Tells how I dropped into Politics and the Tenderer Sentiments. Contains a Moral Treatise on American Maidens and an Ethnological One on the Negro. Ends with a Banquet and a Type-writer. The Pioneer 12 December 1889
XXVI Takes me through Bret Harte’s Country, and to Portland with ‘Old Man California.’ Explains how Two Vagabonds became Homesick through looking at Other People’s Houses. The Pioneer 25 & 28 December 1889
XXVII Shows how I caught Salmon in the Clackamas. The Pioneer 31 December 1889
XXVIII Takes me from Vancouver to the Yellowstone National Park. The Pioneer 7 January 1890
XXIX Shows how Yankee Jim introduced me to Diana of the Crossways on the Banks of the Yellowstone and how a German Jew said I was no True Citizen. Ends with the Celebration of the 4th of July and a Few Lessons therefrom. The Pioneer 8 January 1890
XXX Shows how I entered Mazanderan of the Persians and saw Devils of Every Colour, and some Troopers. Hell and the Old Lady from Chicago. The Captain and the Lieutenant. The Pioneer 14 January 1890
XXXI Ends with the Cañon of the Yellowstone. The Maiden from New Hampshire—Larry—‘Wrap-up-his-Tail’—Tom—The Old Lady from Chicago—and a Few Natural Phenomena—including one Briton. The Pioneer 27 January 1890
XXXII Of the American Army and the City of the Saints. The Temple, the Book of Mormon, and the Girl from Dorset. An Oriental Consideration of Polygamy. The Pioneer 3 February 1890
XXXIII How I met Certain People of Importance between Salt Lake and Omaha. The Pioneer 3 March 1890
XXXIV Across the Great Divide: and how the Man Gring showed me the Garments of the Ellewomen. The Pioneer 4 March 1890
XXXV How I struck Chicago and how Chicago struck me. Of Religion, Politics, and Pig-sticking, and the Incarnation of the City among Shambles. The Pioneer 18 March 1890
XXXVI How I found Peace at Musquash on the Monongahela The Pioneer 25 March 1890
XXXVII An Interview with Mark Twain. The New York Herald 17 August 1890

Kipling’s journey back to England

About May 1888, Kipling determined to return from India 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. [See Letters Vol.1,Thomas Pinney (Ed.) (Chronology).]

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

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.

Prof S.A. (‘Aleck’) and Mrs Edmonia (‘Ted’) Hill – Travelling Companions

Kipling had made the acquaintance of Prof and Mrs Hill when he was transferred from Lahore to Allahabad at the end of 1887 to work for the Pioneer. The growth of their friendship is well documented in an article that Mrs Hill wrote for the April 1936 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, based on letters that she had written to relatives at the time and from her diaries. See The Atlantic site.

One should also look at Kipling’s many letters to her and her husband which are included in Thomas Pinney (Ed.) The Letters of Rudyard Kipling.



Prof Samuel Alexander Hill (1852-1890) was an Ulsterman and a meteorologist who had been appointed by Lord Salisbury to fill the chair of Science at the Muir Central College, Allahabad University, at Allahabad, India. His wife Edmonia (1858?-1952) was an American, the Methodist daughter of the Revd R.T. Taylor, President of the Beaver College for Women, of Beaver, Northern Pennsylvania. Mrs Hill was about seven years older than Kipling. (See Andrew Lycett p. 212).

It was in July 1888 that Kipling was first invited to lodge with the Hills at their house, “Belvedere”, and he stayed with them whenever he was in Allahabad until January 1889 when Mrs Hill was taken ill. When Kipling took his final decision to try his luck in London, they agreed to travel together from India via the Far East and across the Pacific. On landing in California, the Hill’s went to stay with her family in Beaver, W. Pennsylvania, whilst Kipling travelled around North America on his own. He did visit them and the Taylors towards the end of his journey. At the end of this visit to the U.S.A. he travelled to England with Mrs Hill, her cousin Edgar Taylor, and her sister Caroline to whom Kipling had become unofficially engaged, sailing from New York on 25 September 1889 for Liverpool. Prof Hill had already started back for India by this time.

Prof Hill and Photography

One of Prof Hill’s hobbies was that of amateur photography. He had developed considerable expertise during his time in India and Mrs Hill had prepared an album of his photographs and one of her own to be raffled in Allahabad in February 1889 for the Benefit of Trinity Church. She also persuaded Kipling to contribute some verses – “A Ballade of Photographs” – to the album. Both of these albums are now in the Library of Congress collection, LC Control No.: 2007567066 (Andrew Rutherford, Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling 1879-1889, pp.450-1, KP 27/6).

On their journey through Asia, Prof Hill continued taking photographs, as frequently mentioned in the text of From Sea to Sea. They had planned to use these for an illustrated version of Kipling’s reports but this proved to be too costly. Mrs Hill prepared an album of which there are thought to be two copies of this extant. One album of 48 prints is in the Library of Congress Carpenter Collection. (LC Control No.: 2007570095. See also paper by Debra Wynn given at the 2007 University of Canterbury 2007 Kipling Conference, published in KJ326, April 2008, p.25). Another copy of the album is recorded by Hugh Cortazzi and George Webb in Kipling’s Japan, and by David H. Stewart in Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895 as being in the Manuscript Collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California .

In the words of Debra Wynn of the Library of Congress, (again at the 2007 University of Canterbury 2007 Kipling Conference, published in KJ326, April 2008, p.25-6):

Kipling proceeded on his American portion of his Sea to Sea journey without the Hills and without Mr. Hill’s camera. He writes in a letter to Aleck Hill on July 2, 1889 from Livingston Montana:

You should be with me. I haven’t even a kodak and I’m moving among the lordliest scenery in a wilderness of Indians, cow punchers, herds of horses wandering loose over the prairie, pink and blue cliffs, cascades, tunnels and snow clad mountains that would make your very camera’s mouth water with envy. (The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, edited by Thomas Pinney, 1990, vol. 1, pp. 326-327)

In one scrapbook compiled by William M. Carpenter, the collector takes Kipling’s wish to heart and later attempts to re-create some of the North American leg of Kipling’s 1889 Sea to Sea trip, this time taking photographs himself.

Volume 1 of LC Control No.: 2007581631 contains photographs taken by William M. Carpenter about 1929 along the Clackamas River in Oregon which Kipling visited in 1889. A Kodak website covering the history of the Kodak cameras shows that their earliest cameras (1888-89) were factory loaded, but doesn’t say with what. However, later cameras are recorded as taking glass plates (see notes to Chapter III). In fact Kodak apparently produced four more models in 1889, all factory loaded.

Other Sources for the Texts

The definitive sources are the Letters published in the Pioneer in 1889 and 1890, because in the collected editions of From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches: Letters of Travel published in 1899 and 1900, Kipling had edited the originals and cut some of the material.

More recently, there are two books where the authors have returned to the original material published in the Pioneer. These both include commentaries and explanatory notes for the parts of the journey that they cover, and both have additional material on other journeys that Kipling made to Japan and the U.S.A. respectively. The full details are:

Kipling’s Japan: Collected Writings edited by Hugh Cortazzi and George Webb. (The Athlone Press, 1988, ISBN 0-485-11348-1). This covers the original Pioneer Letters XI to XXII and excerpts from Letter XXIII.
Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895 edited by David H. Stewart (ELT Press, 2003, ISBN 0-944318-17-7). This covers the original Pioneer Letters XXIII to XXXIX together with two further Letters that were written during the journey but not printed in Pioneer, nor collected in From Sea to Sea .

Both of these books also include material from Kipling’s subsequent travels in these countries.

It is mentioned by Hugh Cortazzi and George Webb in Kipling’s Japan that the original manuscripts of From Sea to Sea are in the Manuscript Collection of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The Library of Congress also has photostat copies from Huntington in its Carpenter Collection in scrapbook 1 of 7 (LC Control No.: 2007581632). These cover the Letters for the journey from India through Japan together with some stories that were written at this time.

Lastly, mention must be made of American Notes, the unauthorised extracts from Kipling’s Letters which were first published as a book of seven chapters by M.J. Ivers & Co, New York in 1891.

Biographical Coverage

Three of the biographers have given extensive resumés of this journey in their works; Charles Carrington, Harry Ricketts, and Andrew Lycett.

The general conclusion is that Kipling was in a holiday mood during this journey, but that when he reached America, despite his admiration for individual Americans, he let his guard down to the Press and made comments about America for which he was soon made to suffer. Even so, he clearly had an enjoyable time there, and it was only Chicago with its abattoirs and meat-packing plants that he really disliked.

The Ships

  • 9th March 1889
    Sailed from Calcutta on board the S.S. Madura for Rangoon. British India Line, 1942 tons.
  • At Rangoon 14 March 1889
    Sailed from Rangoon aboard S.S. Africa for Singapore, calling at Moulmein and Penang. British India Line, 2032 tons.
  • At Singapore 24 March 1889
    Sailed from Singapore aboard S.S. Nawab for Hong-Kong. In chapter VI, Kipling describes this as a P. and O. (Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company) vessel although it has not been identified so far. A vessel of this name was however owned by the Asiatic Steam Navigation Line, 3142 tons but since it was launched in 1889 it is doubtful that Kipling was mistaken in the ownership of the vessel on which he travelled.
  • At Hong-Kong 1 April 1889
    Sailed to Canton and back aboard P.S. Ho-nam or Honam. Hong-Kong, Canton and Macao Steamboat Company, stern-wheel paddle steamer, 2363 tons.
  • At Nagasaki 15 April 1889
    Sailed from Hong-Kong aboard S.S. Ancona for Nagasaki and then on to Kobe. Peninsular & Orient Line, 3081 tons.
  • Overland from Kobe to Yokohama.
  • Sailed fromYokohama 11 May 1889
    S.S. City of Peking for San Francisco. Pacific Mail Co, 5080 tons. Docked at San Francisco 28 May 1889.
  • Overland from San Francisco around North America to New York.
  • Sailed from New York 25 September 1889
    S.S. City of Berlin for Liverpool. Inman Line, 5491 tons. Docked at Liverpool 4 October 1889.



  • There are excellent maps available on the internet originally published at the end of the 19th century, and most are accessible via the University of Texas Library
  • The first section of the journey (Calcutta to Hong Kong and Canton, Nos. I to X) can be followed on:
    this page.
  • The second section of the journey in Japan (Nos. XI to XXI) can be followed on the 1911 overall map of the region which can be found here .
  • The final section of the journey in North America (Nos. XXIII to XXVII) was mainly by rail. For the USA there is an excellent series of relief maps by State for 1895, showing the railroads which is accessible from The Atlas of the United States, or from History USA
  • 1891 Railway maps for many of the railroads can be found via
    The 1891 Grain Dealers and Shippers Gazetteer

The Two-Sided Man

It is often not realised that whilst Kipling was writing this series of travel reports for the Pioneer in Allahabad, he was also writing fiction based on these travels for the sister-paper in Lahore, the Civil and Military Gazette. Several of these were finally collected in Abaft the Funnel, initially in an unauthorised volume, and then by Kipling in 1909 who considered that his hand had yet again been forced.

The details of the stories and their publication are given in our notes on Abaft the Funnel .

©David Page 2010 All rights reserved