Some letters about

(from Rudyard Kipling to Pierre Menanteau)


M. Pierre Menanteau wrote to Mrs Elsie Bambridge on 22 May 1967 :

A long time ago, when I was at Cahors—Cahors-en-Quercy (Lot), I heard that Rudyard Kipling was looking for a “documentation” about the training of truffle-
dogs. Then, I wrote to him; he replied; I wrote to him again. So, I
received four letters of his own writing. Later on he sent me “Teem, a
treasure-hunter” . . .’

The letters were addressed to Monsieur Pierre
Menanteau, L’Ecole Normale d’Instituteurs, 43 Rue Saint Germain,
Evreux (Eure), France. The four in Kipling’s handwriting bear the
printed heading: ‘Californie Palace, Cannes.’

March 5, 1935
Dear Monsieur Menanteau.

I am indebted to you for your kind letter of March 3rd (from Paris).

Yes. I should be very grateful for any details as to the dressage of
the truffle-hunting dogs. At what stage of their life does the training begin?
Is there any sign by which a man can judge of the ability of the dog, while
yet a puppy, to undertake that metier? Or, is the young animal introduced
to ground that is full of truffles and left to follow his own instincts? Also
is a small dog—not of the sheep-dog type—as effective as a larger one?
I have been told that some of the truffle-dogs are very small : and, for
my purposes, I would much prefer that the dog should be small.

I shall be very grateful for any photographs that you may send me
of such dogs.

With renewed thanks believe me.
Very sincerely yours, Rudyard Kipling
Mar 12 1935

Dear Monsieur Menanteau

‘I have to acknowledge with many thanks your letter of the 9th
March which brings me the very full and complete account of the training
of the Truffle-dog. It is as clear as a military report, and will be of great
value to me. I am specially glad to learn that the Pig is not an artist in
the search for Truffles but only an appetite at the end of a rope. That is
what I aways thought was the fact. I observe from your notes that the Dog
is supposed to find “amusement” in his work. Myself, I prefer to believe
that he is an Artist, properly concerned for the honour of his Art ! The
point that interests me most is the very early age at which his training
begins. I have never imagined that a puppy of three months old could be
taught anything except the more elementary forms of decency.

With renewed and grateful thanks, believe me

Very sincerely yours, Rudyard Kipling.
Mar 18 1935

Dear Monsieur Menanteau

All the “documents” have arrived safely—the two varieties of oak—
the petit tête rouge of the truffle—and the truffles themselves—and, most
important, the acorns which I hope to plant in my own fields when I
return to England this Spring.

Thanks to you and to Cahors, I am archi-documenté (if there is such
a word ! ) and my little tale is now consolidated. If I make any error in it,
it will be entirely my own fault.

For my own purposes I have eliminated the Pig as a truffier and con-
fined myself wholly to the Dog; and what you tell me in your last letter,
as to their légèreté joyeuse while engaged in their Art, confirms the
wisdom of my choice. I wish only that it were possible for me to come
to Cahors and meet and thank personally you and all the people of good
will who have so frankly and so charmingly aided me in this little
experiment of mine.

‘Believe me
Most sincerely yours, Rudyard Kipling.
April 25 1935

Dear Monsieur Menanteau

I have delayed answering your last letters till I was sure that my story was finished. It has been a great pleasure to me to write it—not the less so, since it has shown me with what kindness and interest my demands for information (and they were not few) have been met by my friends in Cahors. Unhappily we have to go back to England in a few days which makes a visit to Cahors impossible for the present—but only, I hope, for the present.

My first care when I am again on my farm, will be to plant those
truffle-oak acorns. We shall see !

Please tell “Fauvette”—your neighbours’ little truffle-dog—that I
have—out of respect for her art—eliminated the Pig as a character in my
story. He is not artistic. I confine myself rigorously to the Dog who has
at least sensibility and enthusiasm. I do not know when the tale will
appear but it shall be sent to the Haut-Quercy to which I am so indebted.

Most sincerely yours, Rudyard Kipling.

The correspondence concludes with two typed notes from Bateman’s. The first is dated ‘Jan. 4/36’ and runs:

Dear Monsieur Menanteau,

I am sending you with this a copy of the tale which, you may re-
member, I was engaged upon last year at Cannes, in which you so very
kindly assisted me with the “documentation.”

Very sincerely yours, Rudyard Kipling.’

This is corrected and signed by Kipling.

The second, also typed, is from Kipling’s secretary. It is dated ’15
January 1936,’ and runs: ‘Dear Sir, I have to acknowledge your letter to Mr. Kipling of 13th January as, owing to his illness, he is unable to answer it himself . . .’

Kipling died three days later.

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