Kipling received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Edinburgh on 8 July at the summer graduation ceremonies ol the University. He spoke twice on the occasion, first at a dinner for the degree recipients in the Upper Library, 7 July, and then at a luncheon in the University Union on the next day, 8 July, following the degree ceremony. The first of these speeches appears in A Book of Words, 1928, as “The Scot and the War”; the second is now reprinted here. The allusions to noises in the speech refer to the behavior of the students at the degree-giving ceremony.
As Kipling wrote to his neighbor, Colonel Feilden: “They made rather a row when my turn came. They sang; thev shouted. They adjured me not to take any notice of what was said to me bv the Introducer. They called me by my lesser names and—I enjoyed it immensely”
(9 Julv 1920: ALS. Syracuse University).
Mrs. Kipling’s diary records of this second speech: “On to lunch at the Union where Rud makes a speech with great success”
Dr Rudyard Kipling, who responded to the Chairmans call to speak, said he hastened to dissociate himself at once from anything complimentary that might have been said about Scotland up to date. (Laughter.) This would be the first occasion on which he had ever called in Teutonic learning to assist him. What he was to speak about was a part of a thesis on comparative ethnology compiled by a Teuton about 1917. As a matter of fact, it was the report of a Prussian Colonel found in a dug-out, and some portion ol which he (the speaker) had the pleasure of perusing after a modified translation. This gentlemen graded the different races on perfectly sound principles of his own.
Dealing with the Scottish, he noted, for the benefit of the regiment which was relieving his own, first, their disgusting ignorance of civilised warfare. (Laughter.) He called them “the Jocks.” As regards their disgusting ignorance of civilised warfare, he was not, he thanked heaven, in a position to say anything—(laughter)—but all he could say was that no later ago than that morning, he heard the voice of, he presumed, one of these Jocks urging one Professor to chase another Professor with a knife. (Loud laughter.) This was a matter on which he felt somewhat deeply. (Laughter.)
Further, his Prussian friend went on to say that, in addition to this disgusting ignorance, they had a custom of uttering demoralising noises without any apparent provocation. (Laughter.) No later than that morning he (the speaker) was inclined to think that indictment was correct—(laughter)—but it was a subject that one handled with infinite delicacy. (Renewed laughter.) If that scathing revelation of national characteristics gave them any pleasure they were welcome to it. (Laughter.)
Personally he had only one other point with which he wished to deal, and that was the extraordinarily low level of medical education at the University. (Laughter.) One did not expect from the students of Law, Literature, Science, Engineering, or Forestry any knowledge of those deeper forces which moulded and swayed human nature, hut it seemed to him—and he spoke feelingly—a sad thing that medical science in the North was so primitive as not to know that after a middle-aged man had taken his mid-day meal he required a period of rest and reflection—(laughter)—during which any intellectual exercise of any kind militates against the process of digestion. (Laughter.) They would therefore understand how impossible it was for him to express his pride and gratitude at the honour the University’ had done him—(laughter)—by enrolling his name among those it delighted to honour. But, speaking sincerely, he thanked them from the bottom of his heart, and he wished all the members of the University Union who had newly graduated that day the best of good fortune in life. (Applause.)