From Sea to Sea XXXV

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

Publication History

The edited text corresponds to that first published in the Pioneer of 18 March 1890.

Kipling’s Journey

Kipling continues his journey from Omaha (Nebraska) across Iowa to Chicago (Illinois) on the south-west shore of Lake Michigan, although there is no mention of the route taken. He arrived in Chicago mid-July 1889.

Notes on the Text

[Title, Page 151] Shambles an old English word of uncertain parentage meaning ‘stalls where flesh is laid for sale’; a place where butchers sit and sell meat. [An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, N. Bailey, London, 13th edn., 1749] A very appropriate allusion for the last section of this Letter.

[Epigraph, Page 151] I know thy cunning . . . from “San Francisco” by Bret Harte (1836-1902).

[Page 151, line 8] Calcutta now Kolkata, in Bengal, India, on the banks of the river Hughli. One of the major cities of India, then and now. See “The City of Dreadful Night” later in this volume, with Kipling’s account of his visit there in January/February 1888 as a special correspondent for the Pioneer. He found it a great city though a filthy one.

[Page 151, line 10] Its water is the water of the Hughli probably referring to the Chicago River which discharges into Lake Michigan, whereas the Hugli discharges into the Bay of Bengal. Its water is far from clean.

[Page 151, line 15] Palmer House a luxurious grand hotel in downtown Chicago. Built by Potter Palmer after his first hotel was burnt down in the Chicago fire of October 1871.

The Palmer House is still in business, although it was rebuilt in stages in the 1920s.



[Page 153, line 28] famine-relief distributions Kipling had seen much of this in India and was to write a story with famine-relief as a background, “William the Conqueror” in The Day’s Work, first appearing in 1895.

[Page 156, line 23] Talmage identified as Thomas de Witt Talmage (1832-1902), a prominent Presbyterian minister. [D.H.S.]

[Page 157, line 14] the great fire started in Chicago on 8 October 1871. It destroyed much of the city, including the first Palmer House Hotel.

[Page 157, line 22] mahajans or mahajuns. Hindi, from Sanskrit ‘great person’ – a banker and merchant. (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 157, line 23] jat a farmer in north-west India,probably a man of substance. See Kim pp. 267-8 et sequ.

As Kipling’s readers in India would have known, after the harvest a Jat would have been much preoccupied with the need to sell his grain, and ill disposed for idle chat.

[Page 158, line 13] Dime Museum the dime museums were an American phenomenon, entry to which cost a dime or 10 cents (10% of a US dollar). They were noted for screen entertainments of various sorts (phantasmagoria and lantern slides) and also for displays of “curiosities”

[Page 159, line 33] Isser Jang not identified on a map, despite the description given by Kipling. Presunably it is too small a village to be marked on the maps available to this Editor. The village is also mentioned by Kipling in “Gemini” in Soldiers Three, and “Miss Youghal’s Sais” in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 160, line 1] Montgomery a district and town in the Punjab about half way between Lahore and Multan, west-south-west from Lahore.

[Page 160, line 1] changar women female labourers. They are mentioned in Kim (p. 87 line 27) and are the workforce without whom many railways and bridges in India would never have been built.

[Page 160, line 6] lohar smith.

[Page 161, line 17] Chicago stock-yards

Kipling’s story “A Little More Beef” in Abaft the Funnel is well worth reviewing, together with our notes to that story.

©David Page and David Stewart 2011 All rights reserved