Where the Shoe

(notes by Philip Holberton and John Radcliffe, drawing on the researches of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


There is a version handwritten by Kipling in Notebook 3, dated 10 April 1882. See Rutherford pp. 26-7 for details of the Notebooks. As Beresford (‘Turkey’) attests, these were kept very private by Kipling and never shown to his schoolmates.

The poem was never collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford p. 140, and Pinney p. 1648.

The poem

This is one of a number of sonnets written by Kipling about this time, addressed to Flo Garrard, with whom the young Kipling had become infatuated in the summer of 1880, when he was fourteen, and she a year older. She was staying at Lorne Lodge in Southsea, and had made friends with his sister ‘Trix’.

The title is taken from the old saying “No-one knows where the shoe pinches like the wearer”. The poem is a catalogue of the pains involved in a love affair. It would be bad enough to ‘suffer openly in all men’s sight.’ But the worst is to ‘suffer and no soul can know’ because their love has no official standing and ‘we have no right/To feel the sorrow.’


©Philip Holberton 2019 All rights reserved