At a Dinner for Lord Roberts

at Bloemfontein Railway Station


On the imitation of Lord Roberts, the army commander in South Africa, Kipling joined the staff of the paper (19 March-3 April 1900), called The Friend, that Roberts had established for the troops at Bloemfontein. Kipling greatly enjoyed the experience and formed enduring friendships with three of the journalists who had come together on The Friend: the American Julian Ralph, Perceval Landon of The Times, and Howell Arthur Gwynne of Reuters. Before leasing Bloemfontein Kipling and his friends organized a banquet for Lord Roberts at which Alfred Milner, the High Commissioner, was also a guest.

In introducing Kipling, Julian Ralph evidently made some references to Shakespeare that gave Kipling his opening. The speech appears in the English edition of Ralph’s War’s Brighter Side, London, 1901, but for some reason does not in the American edition, New York, 1901. Perhaps Kipling had objected to its appearance?


GENTLEMEN, you can remember the story of the artist Whistler in Paris. An admirer came to him and said: “Master, you and Velasquez are the greatest exponents of the art of painting.”
“True, true,” said Mr. Whistler, “but why drag in Velasquez?” …. (a pause). In all sincerity I ask you why need you drag in Shakespeare? There is not a name in all literature more disheartening to those who try to do a bit of earnest work at writing. There is not a thought, an emotion, a picture, a bit of description that has not been written before—and written much better than we can write it—by William. We found a volume of his works in the office of The Friend. Take war. In Henry V you will find all that can be written—all the glory and all the shame, all the valour and the sordidness, the excitement and the pomp—you will find it all in Henry V better than one can write it now. In all sincerity, then, I ask you, why drag in Shakespeare?

1 propose to you tonight, gentlemen, the health of the man who has taught the British Empire its responsibilities and the rest of the world its power, who has filled the sea with transports, and the earth with the tramp of armed men, who has made Cape Town see in Table Bay such a sight as she never
saw before and, please God, will never see again; who has turned the loafer of the London Streets into a man, and called out him who led our fathers to Kandahar, and who knew not what he did; who has made the Uitlander of South Africa stand shoulder to shoulder with the boundary rider of New Zealand and taught the men of New South Wales to pick up the wounded men who wear the maple leaf—and all in support of the mother-country. Gentlemen, I give you the name of the Empire-builder—Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger.”
—Julian Ralph, War’s Brighter Side. London: 1901, pp. 206-207.