The edited text corresponds with that first published in the Pioneer of 3 May 1889.
Notes on the Text
[Page 217, Epigraph] from “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892).
[Page 217, line 4] Rangoon in Burma, now known as Yangon in Myanmar. The city is located about 40 miles upstream from the most easterly mouth of the Irrawaddy River.
[Page 217, line 10] never to return men who had died in the Burma campaigns of 1885-1887 and 1887-1889. [ORG]
[Page 217, line 11] Such an one Kipling’s contemporary from the United Services College at Westward Ho!, Robert Ashton Theodore Dury (1863-1885), killed in action at Minhla, Burma, 17 November 1885. He appears as ‘Hogan’ in “The Flag of their Country” (Stalky & Co., p.196). [ORG]
See also the article by G.H. Webb, “Kipling’s Burma”, in the Kipling Journal No.302 (June 2002). Dury’s death is also referred to in this Letter on page 228, line 24 and page 229, line 11.
[Page 217, line 13] Burmese dah a Burmese knife.
[Page 218, line 1] Minhla a heavily fortified town on the right bank of the Irrawaddy River, south of Magwé. It lies about 170 miles south-west of Mandalay and 240 miles north of Rangoon.
[Page 218, line 5] dacoit armed robbers. Hindu, Dakait. Under the Indian Penal Code, to constitute dacoity the gang must consist of at least five men. [Hobson-Jobson] See the notes to
“The Taking of Lungtungpen” by John McGivering.
[Page 218, lines 13-14] New Burma presumably referring to the change of status in 1886, when Burma became a province of British India. For the historical background to Kipling’s visit, see “Kipling’s Burma, A Literary and Historical Review” by Gerorge Webb.
[Page 218, line 26] Shway Dagon now more usually called the Shwe Dagon or Shwedagon Pagoda (see also p. 225, line 14).
[Page 219, line 1] Sunderbuns or Sunderbunds. The tract of intersecting creeks and channels, swampy islands, and jungles, which constitutes that part of the Ganges Delta nearest the sea. The limits of the region so-called are the mouth of the Hoogly on the west, and that of the Megua on the east, a width of about 220 miles. [Hobson-Jobson]
[Page 219, line 5] Tounghoo about 160 miles north of Rangoon and 200 miles south of Mandalay. [ORG]
[Page 219, line 8] ’htee or hti in Burma is the topmost ornament or ‘umbrella’ at the top of the spire of a Pagoda, and is considered its most important part.
[Page 219, line 16] Day of Judgement a concept common to several religions including Christians, Muslims and Jews, which refers to events at the end of the World when all creatures will be judged by God.
[Page 219, line 17] Tophet thought to be a site in or near Jerusalem where the Canaanites made sacrifices to Moloch by burning children alive. The name became synonymous with hell. Kipling also refers to it in “Buddha at Kamakura”, the poem he wrote in 1892 after his second visit to Japan.
[Page 219, line 19] when Gabriel first began to blow an allusion to a line from a gospel song: “When Gabriel blows his trumpet in the morning!”. Kipling also quotes from it in “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories).
[Page 219, line 26] Irrawaddy Flotilla The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company was founded in 1865 and consisted of a fleet of ships for transportation on the Irrawaddy River. Kipling also refers to it in his poem “Mandalay”.
[Page 219, line 31] Crown Colony a Colony administered directly by the UK government through a Governor.
[Page 219, line 33] videlicet namely, (Latin).
[Page 220, line 16] cheroots cigars with both ends trimmed square.
[Page 220, line 20] Madrassi a person from Southern India from the Presidency of Madras under the British Raj. The city of Madras is now called Chennai.
[Page 221, line 27] She shall not . . . that is, she should be a Buddhist and neither Muslim nor Hindu. [ORG]
[Page 222, line 5] about our army in Flanders let us say This refers to a remark made by “My Uncle Toby” in Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1713-1768) to change the subject when it was trespassing upon ground that seemed to him too indelicate for conversation. For example, in Chap XLIII when he breaks in on Dr. Slop’s detailed discourse on ‘the safe and expeditious extraction of the foetus‘ … “I wish”, quoth my Uncle Toby, “you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders”. [ORG]
[Page 222, line 16] putso is a skirt or sarong worn by Burmese men and boys.
[Page 223, lines 15-16, ff.] the three little maids from school are Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo, who are characters in the comic opera The Mikado by W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and A. Sullivan (1842-1900). It opened in London on 14 March 1885 at The Savoy Theatre in the Strand, running for 672 performances. It is still performed by both professional and amateur groups. One of the best known songs has the title “Three little maids from school”.
[Page 225, lines 29-30] lolloping, walloping women that Swinburne sings about large, lounging, round or rolling when walking. The ‘women Swinburne sings about’ refers to the poems of Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909), Faustine and Dolores. [ORG]
[Page 226, line 23] Pegu Club The Pegu Club was to Rangoon what the Selangor Club was to Kuala Lumpur and the Tanglin Club to Singapore, an old-established, prominent, and prestigious social club. [See the Atlantic web-site. ]
[Page 226, line 23] a Punjabi in this setting, a British civilian or officer of a Punjab regiment, one recognised to have worked in the Punjab province of India (now divided between India and Pakistan). [ORG]
[Page 227, line 2] pidgin-talk a mixture of abbreviated English and a local language, with a simplified grammar.
[Page 227, line 2] nauker bearer or personal servent. [ORG]
[Page 227, line 17] Zoungloung-goo not identified, but possibly a Burmese battlefield. There would clearly be problems of transliteration in a report such as this.
[Page 228, line 8] twelve or sixteen rupees a month (maximum just over £1 per month). This means that the pay of house servants in Burma was twice as much as it was in India at the same period. [ORG]
[Page 228, line 13] Dee fool meaning ‘damned fool’.
[Page 228, line 27] third Burmese ball there were three Burmese wars, 1824-26, 1852-53 and 1885-89.
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