Souvenirs of France I

Notes on the text

(by Max Rives)


[Page 1, epigraph] J’étais géant alors et haut de cent coudées.

‘I was a giant in those times, and a hundred cubits high’. BONAPARTE. (Ed.)

This alexandrine line of verse has its origin in the “Mémorial de Sainte Hélène” by Las Cases (Memorial of Napoléon’s life on the Island), later put into verse by Victor Hugo (1802-1995).

[Page 1 line 1] The Paris Exhibition of 1878 This Exhibition (right) was France’s answer to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, in which all the most up-to-date products and artefacts of the new industrial age were shown off.

Lockwood, Kipling’s father, was an acknowledged expert on Indian art and crafts, and was then Head of the Mayo School of Industrial Art and Curator of the Museum in Lahore (the ‘Wonder House’ in Kim). Rudyard and his father crossed to France at the end of March 1878, his Easter holiday from USC. The Exhibition opened on May 1st.

[Page 1 line 8] The democracy of an English School Kipling had been at United Services College for one term (some three months). The rough and tumble of life among his fellows, where bullying was rife, had taught him that it is wisest to keep out of trouble. He had previously been seen as a rather turbulent boy.

[Page 1 line 5] twelve or thirteen years old Kipling was twelve years old on 30th December, 1877.

[Page 1 line 11-12] two steamers attached to each other side by side It was in fact a specially constructed vessel, with twin hulls (left)
Alastair Wilson writes: ‘ The Calais-Douvres was one of the earliest catamarans, and the idea was that she would
be more stable, and help to prevent the sea-sickness to which passengers
on that very nasty short sea route were prone. She was in service 1877-1886. She was the only one of her kind then, but today’s “fast-cats” which operate ferries world-wide are very similar.’ [A.W.]

Kipling was clearly uncertain, writing over fifty years later, whether he and Lockwood had travelled in the vessel of that name.

[Page 1 line 20] the bell-like call of the marchand-d’habits Garment seller.

[Page 2, lines 3-4 and 23 below] lots of restaurants all called Duval This was originally a chain of very cheap restaurants, serving only boiled beef and soup.

[Page 2, line 21] mitraille machine-gun fire. A loud staccato rattling.

[Page 2, line 25] déjeuner lunch .

[Page 3, line 4] Christ’s Hospital This Public School (ie a private school, unsupported by the state, for which fees are paid) at Horsham in West Sussex, still thrives today (2008), and the same traditional uniform is worn (right). It was established originally by Royal Charter under Edward VI (1537-1553) as a school for poor children; see below the consequences of the colourful costume the students had to wear, with the cab drivers and policemen in Paris.

[Page 3, line 7] the Bois de Boulogne The largest park in Paris, along the Seine.

[Page 3, line 21] gendarmerie the police.

[Page 4, line 13] those gentlemen in leather hats Cabs and horse-drawn buses were the main means of travelling around Paris at that time. The Metro undergound railway did not open until 1900.

[Page 4 line 24] Cambronne (left) a general of Napoléon’s army, who became famous at the battle of Waterloo by answering the injunction : “Rendez-vous !” (“Surrender !”) from the British, with the very rude and crude : “Merde !” (“Shit !”). The phrase “mot de Cambronne” (“Cambronne’s word”) is used to express the meaning in a less offensive way.

[Page 5, lines 4-5] the men that clipped the poodles Open air clipping of dogs, as it was performed on the narrower stretches of embankment on the River Seine, under the shelter of bridges, has now been replaced by dog-salons.

[Page 5, lines 1416] Quasimodo the crippled bell ringer in Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris. There had been a translation into English in 1833 and Kipling was familiar with Hugo.

phantasmagoria ghosts, haunting the great cathedral (right).

Esmeralda and her Djali the beautiful young gypsy and her goat, characters in the same novel.

[Page 5, lines 17-19] The Left Bank and the book-boxes of the quai Voltaire The Left Bank was beginning to be a symbol of intellectual life, and the parapet over the Seine bank was covering itself with the boxes in which ‘bouquinistes’ offered second-hand books. This extended later to most quays of central Paris (left) .

[Page 5, line 26] “The Burning of Bazeilles” during the battle of Sedan where the French were crushed by the Prussians in 1870, this small neighbouring town was burned.

[Page 5, line 29] the War of ’70 The Franco-Prussian War. In 1870 Prussia was still a separate German state. Only in the following year did von Bismarck (right) finally establish the German Empire by uniting Prussia with the other German states through a combination of determined diplomacy and military force.

[Page 6, line 2] a forlorn army Not at all a picture from 1812, but that of a similar situation; that of Général Bourbaki’s army on the east of Sedan, first successful against the Prussians, then defeated and driven back to the Swiss frontier on January 6, 1871.

[Page 6, line 5] concierge The English translation is ‘janitor’ or ‘care-taker’. But in the traditional apartment blocks and lodging houses of Paris, the concierge is a more managerial figure, keeping a close eye on those who come and go.

[Page 6, line 11] Statue of Liberty. This Statue by Bartholdi was exhibited as a part of the Exhibition of 1878, later to be given to the American people, and erected on Liberty Island New York. A smaller size version is still standing on Ile des Cygnes in Paris.

[Page 6, line 14] looked out through the vacant eyeballs
At the price of a good story, it must be said that it is impossible to look through the eyes of either statue : their eye-sockets are closed by their metal back. [See KJ 313/27 by the Editor of these notes, as well as 215/45 and 217/6]

However, ‘Liberty’ wears a diadem, and one can look through between the rays of it, when, as explained in the text, one has ascended the staircase leading ‘to the dome of the skull’.

[Page 7, line 8] an Algerian exhibit of educational appliances education considered as a means to obtain submission, through ’emprise morale’ (‘moral ascendancy’), over the colonized populations. This was the pet theory of Gustave Le Bon; (see page 9, line 25). Unfortunately the distance is short between ’emprise morale’ and ‘political constraint’, and their tools are often the same.

[Page 7, line 17] war of ’70 stupidly declared on Prussia by the French Emperor Napoléon III, then lost by him at the cost of a penalty of
£200,000,000, at the battle of Sedan.

[Page 7, line 19] Boche derogatory slang for ‘German’ ; probably from Alboche = Allemand with the derogatory suffix ‘boche’. Probably an anachronism here, the word having become common only in 1914.

[Page 7, line 22] night-cap of Père Bugeaud Bugeaud was a général (thereafter made Maréchal), who contributed to the conquest of Algeria and Morocco by France. Casquette (the French for cap) cannot strictly be a ‘night-cap’, as it typically has a hard peak.
Philip Holberton adds: The origin of this title was related as follows in 1855 by the Duc d’Aumale
in his work, Les zouaves et les chasseurs à pied : esquisses historiques.:

One night, on just one night, their vigilance failed, and the Emir’s soldiers,
slipping into the middle of their positions, opened a murderous fire on the camp.
The fire was so fierce that our soldiers hesitated to get up; the officers had to
set the example. Marshal Bugeaud was among the first to arrive.
However, order was soon restored, the zouaves charged and repulsed the enemy.
When the fight was over, the marshal saw, by the light of the watch-fires, that
everyone who looked at him was smiling.
He put his hand up to his head and realised
that he was only wearing a plain cotton night-cap. He at once demanded his cap,
and a thousand voices replied:

The cap, the maréchal’s cap!

Next day, when the bugles sounded the march, the zouave battalion sang with them in chorus:

Have you seen the cap, the cap?
Have you seen Papa Bugeaud’s cap?

Since that time, the bugle-call to march has been known as nothing but “The Cap”, and the maréchal, who willingly told the story, often said to the buglers “Sound the Cap!”

[Page 7, line 23] Maréchal Lyautey builder of the French colonial empire. Governor of Morocco.

[Page 7, line 24] Madagascar, Tonquin, Indo-China and the rest These are parts of the French colonial empire of the day; Madagascar (now the independent Malagasy Republic) lies off the coast of East Africa, ‘Tonquin’ is what is now the northern part of Vietnam, ‘Indo-China’ included Canbodia and Laos in addition to Vietnam. Kipling is suggesting that the Germans had greatly underestimated the value to France of her colonies.

[Page 8, line16] Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea Famous novel by Jules Verne (1828-1905), prolific and well-known writer of novels (most of whose can be qualified as ‘science fiction’), in which Capitaine Nemo roams the seas in his submarine, appearing also in several other Jules Verne novels, as a righter of wrongs and supporter of the virtuous.

[Page 8, line 20] Dumas Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), most prolific author of cloak and dagger novels, best known for Les trois Mousquetaires, (The Three Musketeers).

[Page 9, line 6] the meticulous Gaul Refers to the obsessional care that the French take vis à vis the diacritic marks that dot a French text. (like the left-slanting ‘grave’ accent over the ‘à’ in the ‘vis à vis’ just used, or the right-slanting ‘acute’ accent ‘é’ thus) and the correct presence or absence of the final ‘e’ denoting the gender of a word.

[Page 9, line 14] Novoe Vremya a Russian weekly newspaper, written in French. In Something of Myself (page 49 line 2) Kipling refers to it as ‘an accursed Muscovite paper’ which published details of Russian war diaries that stayed in his head long after he thought he had forgotten them.

Kipling’s early stories often contain references to Russian attempts to penetrate the North West Frontier. (See for example Kim, “The Man who Was”, in Life’s Handicap and “The Man who Would be King” in Wee Willie Winkie.) It was part of his job as a journalist to survey the press for material, especially concerning the situation on the North West Frontier. While at USC Rudyard had learned from Cormell Price to read some Russian.

[Page 9, line 17] in my father’s house in Lahore, Punjab, now Pakistan. see also John 14, 2: ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions.’

[Page 9, line 25] Gustave Le Bon French writer (1841-1931), theoretician of colonialism, and ultra-nationalist, who believed in ‘crowd psychology’ and ’emprise morale’ (moral ascendancy) as tools to govern peoples.

[Page 10, line 8] Maxim a make of machine-gun named after its inventor; hence “talking rapidly”. Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), the French-born writer who became a Member of the British Parliament, in one of his humorous verses, wrote the lines:

Whatever happens we have got
The Maxim Gun – and they have not …

[Page 10, line 22] “out on the barricades in ’48” ie during the revolution of 1848, leading to the short-lived (1848-1852) French Second République, displaced by the Second Empire (up to 1871).

[Page 11, line 12] Scarron’s dreary Roman Comique best known novel of the noted writer Paul Scarron (1610-1660) and husband of the future Mme de Maintenon; after his death she became the second wife of Louis XIV.

[Page 11, line 13] Gyp pseudonym of Mme de Martre, author of many light comedies and novels.

[Page 11, line 21] Victor Hugo (1802-1885) a dominant figure in 19th century France, poet, novelist, writer, dramatist, artist, politician. He was exiled during the Second Empire, and reelected under the Third Républic.

[Page 12, line 1, epigraph]

Oh ! Demain c’est la grande chose
De quoi demain sera-t-il fait ?

(Oh ! Tomorrow: that is the big question
From what will tomorrow be made ?)

[Page 12, line 8] café au lait coffee with milk.

[Page 12, line 11] pas de quatre literally ‘step of four’, here referring to four people dancing together.

[Page 12, line 12] the Sorbonne Initially (1257) a theological college, holding a strong political and religious influence; from 1900, seat of the University of Paris. The ‘glance into the future’ proved true over forty years later (in 1921) when Kipling was made a of this University. See A Book of Words, “The Virtue of France” (p.195) and “A Thesis” (p.199).

[Page 12, line 22] Code Napoléon A unified code of Civil Law. Its formulation was ordered by Napoléon to end the diversity of French law as between different parts of France. Magnificently written, it still stands as a model of the French language.

[Page 14, lines 1-4] dragged out two or three Boer men See also Kipling’s story “A Sahib’s War” in Traffics and Discoveries.

[Page 14, line 6] Louvain and Fermonde two places where the Germans committed atrocities in 1914 as they sought to thrust their armies as swiftly as possible through Belgium towards Paris. See “Swept and Garnished” in A Diversity of Creatures.

[Page 14, line 9] à l’anglaise in the English fashion.

[Page 14, line 19] deep trenches, undercut on the shrapnel side As in the German Great War trenches.

Roger Ayers writes: ‘The most commonly used field gun ammunition against infantry or cavalry was shrapnel, in which the shell case carried a large number of lead balls that were ejected from the shell in flight to fly forward onto the target. The ejecting charge was initiated by a time fuze which could be adjusted so that it should burst in front of the target to cause maximum casualties. One result of this was that when used against infantry in trenches, anyone sheltering close up under the front edge of the trench was unlikely to be hit. By cutting back the bottom of this face to form small dugouts the protective effect could be even further enhanced.

In general, the armies of the Boer republics were true citizen armies but there were two areas which were strongly influenced by German methods and equipment from well before the outbreak of the second Boer War. The first was the almost universal adoption of the German Mauser rifle after the first Boer War, the second was the formation in the 1890s of the Orange Free State Artillery and the Transvaal Artillery, both principally equipped with Krupp 7.5cm breech-loading field guns, trained in German artillery techniques and with permanent cadres that included German ex-artillery officers and men. However, these were Germans who came to South Africa in the early 1890s and, having made their homes in the South African republics, were acceptable recruits.

After the outbreak of war there were some 500 non-Boer members of the Boer forces who were almost all immigrants of some years standing in their local communities. The largest contingent were German, most of whom would have gone through some form of compulsory military training as young men in Germany.

It was through the artillery units, in particular through the commander of the Orange Free State Artillery, Hauptman F.W.R. Albrecht, that many German methods were introduced into the Boer armies, even to the extent of wearing German style uniforms including the Pickelhaube, although this experiment was unpopular and short lived. Although the leavening of other German ex-soldiers amongst the citizen soldiery must have resulted in their experience rubbing off on their Boer comrades, most references in the British press to Germans in the Boer armies and the use of German techniques and equipment can be traced back to the two artillery units. See the notes on Kipling’s poem “Ubique”.

With reference to the battle of Paardeburg, February 1900, in which the German-officered Transvaal Artillery took part, a contemporary report states:

In spite of ten days’ bombardment by over fifty guns and howitzers, the number of Boer wounded was said to be only 160 – a fact which went to prove that the power of artillery can be broken by the ingenious use of the spade. The entrenchments, when examined, proved to be most skilfully contrived, with narrow mouths some eighteen inches wide, and wide bases, some quite three feet broad, which rendered them almost impregnable to shell fire.

[From page 75 of Volume two of South Africa and the Transvaal War, Louis Creswicke, T.C. & E.C. Jack, Edinburgh, 1900.]

I suspect that Kipling’s comment is based on the same source as the above report.

[Page 15, lines 10-15] a charming Frenchman … We have not yet traced his identity, but we are working on it.

[Page 15, line 20] Fashoda a nasty incident (July 1898) in East Africa between a French corps under Commandant Marchand, and an English one under Kitchener, competing to get control of the Sudan. The French were ordered to withdraw by their government. This may be thought of as the starting point of the reversal of the traditional rivalry between France and Great Britain, that led to ‘entente cordiale’ (friendly alliance). This bore fruit in the Agadir affair in 1911, when Britain and France, in concert, forced Germany to withdraw a warship from the coast of Morocco, and in 1914 in the participation of Great Britain in alliance with France in the Great War.

[Page 15, line 24] entente cordiale The political understanding of 1904 leading to a gradual progress in friendly relations between France and Britain, encouraged by a very successful visit of King Edward VII to Paris in the Spring of 1903

[Page 16, lines 2-8] And in 1915… this review is described at length in France at War (pp. 36-41), in which Kipling stresses the reversal of former feelings between the two men, showing Marchand and Kitchener talking at length and shaking hands in front of the troops.

[Page 16, line 4] “Seventy-Fives” famous French field guns with a calibre of 75 mm – light, mobile, fast, and with a longer range than the German “77”.

[Page 16, line 5] Joffre Maréchal, Commander in Chief of the French forces at the beginning of the First World War.

[Page 16, line 14-15] triple-screw cruiser Alastair Wilson writes: ”The Dupleix was a moderately sized – 7,500 tons –
armoured cruiser, laid down in 1897 and completed in 1903. When Kipling saw
her, she would have been quite new (this would have been 1903-07) If she was visiting the Cape, she might have been part of the French squadron which they kept in
the Indian Ocean for their responsibilities in respect of India (Pondichery etc.) and the island of Réunion.’ [A.W.]

frisson shiver.

[Page 17, line 26] training at Nancy the French “École Forestière” (Forestry School) a superior school of forestry, in eastern France, where Anglo-Indian and other foreign students were accommodated, providing specialists to India over a long period. See “In the Rukh” (Many Inventions).

[Page 18, line 24] Mount Canigou a prominant conical mountain raising to 2784 metres, only 25 km from the Mediterranean Sea near Perpignan.

[Page 21, line 1] young men linking hands The following paragraphs, down to page 23, line 7, give several well perceived perspectives of the compulsory military service in France and Italy as opposed to the exclusive life, largely devoted to sports, in Public Schools in England. However, Kipling does not insist on the salutary effect the military service system had in limiting the impact of whatever caste situation existed in both countries, in providing the opportunity for a melting pot.

[Page 21, line 10] young men drawn for service in the army for the next three years The “Conseil de Révision” (Examination Council) was a typical and important event of life in France. Each year, the young men who reached 21 had to appear stark naked in front of a panel including the mayor, officers from the army, medical doctors, etc) who pronounced whether each man was fit for military service (“service militaire”). This was the occasion for noisy and well irrigated feasts in villages.

[Page 22, line 5] Boats English Public Schools were, and are, organised into ‘houses’, like ‘Prout’s’ or ‘King’s’ at United Services College in Stalky & Co., which competed vigorously with each other on the games field or the river. To ‘get one’s house colours’ was to be recognised as a regular member of the House cricket or football team, to get one’s ‘Boats’ as a member of the rowing ‘eight’. This is a glimpse of the traditional system at Eton, one of the leading Public Schools, with the recognition by Kipling of its efficiency in turning out English-looking students.

[Page 23, line 13] before Lavandou had been exploited As a tourist resort on the French Riviera.

[Page 24, line 15] It will happen again Written in 1933, this shows that Kipling had grasped the seriousness of the threat represented by the Nazis, who came to power in Germany in that year.

[Page 24, line 26] pari passu at the same time.

[Page 25, line 7] douanier customs-officer.

[Page 25, line 9] the Nord the most northerly département in France, allegedly the most rainy one.

[Page 25, line 16] Boy of Villers-Bocage this young man, and several other people that appear in the following pages, can hardly be identified ; others are well-known figures like de Lesseps (line 18), 1805-1894, the builder of the Suez Canal, and Anatole France (line 21), 1844-1924, the famous French writer.

[Page 25, line 22] a Madagascar battalion of ’83-’86 reminiscences of a veteran from the French conquest of Madagascar (now the Malagasy Republic), in 1898-1905.

[Page 25, line 25] the late Mr Wilson Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. He took America into the Great War in 1917, and participated in a peace settlement that imposed heavy burdens on Germany, arguably to a dangerous extent.
However, he was unable to persuade Congress to let him take his country into the League of Nations, and from then on until 1941 the United States maintained an ‘isolationist’ stance. In the view of many historians this must bear a major burden of responsibility for the stupid decisions over the future organisation of Europe, that Kipling clear-sightedly saw as responsible for the evolution of Europe towards the outbreak of a second world war in 1939.


[Page 25, line 26] Bluebeard’s Castle The castle of Tiffauges near Nantes in Brittany, which was the seat of Gilles de Rais (1404-1441), a notable soldier who fought many campaigns against the English in the days of Jeanne d’Arc. In the traditional fairy-tale, retold by Perrault in 1697, ‘Bluebeard’ (‘Barbe-Bleue’) murdered boys and his first six wives, before being killed by the brothers of the seventh.

[Page 26, line 9] Béarnaise even Kipling had difficulties with the meticulousness of written French. Here “Béarnaise” mistakenly stands for “Béarnais”, that could be the name of a region. However, the region is Béarn (don’t pronounce the “n”). ‘Béarnais’ and ‘Béarnaise’ are the names of the citizens of Béarn.

[Page 26, lines 14-15] interested in beasts Kipling had cattle of his own at Bateman’s, and wrote affectionately of them in his poem “Alnaschar and the Oxen”

[Page 26, line 18] government loan this was a poster to promote the purchase of Government war bonds.

[Page 29, lines 16 and 17] seven varieties and … composites Kipling explains that these words mean that the dogs were of mixed blood.

©Max Rives 2008 All rights reserved