Decapod Latin, from the Greek for ten-legged. In “Steam Tactics”, one of the motor cars (probably also a Lanchester) is given the name “Octopod” – for no valid reason so far as we know at this distance of time – here Kipling is indicating that he has moved on to a more powerful car.
steam-pinnace a 40 to 56-foot steamboat used for communication with the shore – see ORG Volume 4, p. 1866 for warships’ boats) (not yet republished in the NRG). This refers to the steam car in “Steam Tactics”.
Navy-coloured naval vessels were beginning to be painted grey instead of having black hulls with a red water-line, white upper-works and buff funnels. The former H.M.S. President, moored at Blackfriars in London is one of the last survivors of this colour-scheme: HMS Warrior in the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth is also so painted. The point is that the car’s body is “lead-painted”, or grey, as the modern ships were.
That’s only a body that the makers have sent down in the days when each car was individually produced, it was quite usual for the car to be road-tested with a plain, and pretty Spartan, body fitted, before the owner’s own, coach-built, body was installed.
One of Dornford Yates’ stories, “Beggar on Horseback”, collected in Period Stuff, Ward, Lock, London, 1942, features a hero who is down on his luck, and takes a job as a car tester for a car manufacturer: the description of the job is rather overlaid by the romance, but it does describe the requirements and procedures pretty well.
For expensive cars, this practice continued until the late 1930s, and for the occasional commercial vehicle, the bare chassis was often delivered, by road, to the purchaser, with the delivery driver perched up in the open, until the late 1950s.
ratcatcher wearing somewhat disreputable garments (cf. also “dog-robbers”). In the hunting world, “ratcatcher” meant tweed coat, breeches, boots or gaiters (usually brown) and a bowler hat, instead of ‘hunting pink’. See “A Flight of Fact” (‘Land and Sea Tales, page 106 line 13).
periscope an optical device enabling a submariner to observe events on the surface. In early photographs of submarines running on the surface, the officer of the watch stands on the conning tower (which was little more than a shallow dustbin tacked on to the top of the pressure hull), clutching the periscope. Pyecroft is likening himself to the officer of the watch in these conditions.
the days before the numbering of the cars The Motor Car Act 1903, which came into force on 1 January 1904, required all motor vehicles to be entered in the Government’s vehicle register, and to carry number plates.
Country Life a magazine established in 1898. Right from the beginning, it featured a land-owner’s country-house as a main article in the centre of the magazine: it was, and is, also noted for a portrait of a pretty girl “in twin-set and pearls” as a frontispiece.
Times have changed; in the early 1900s the girl was a debutante, photographed in Court dress, prior to her Presentation, now it is more usually a case of Miss So-and-so, daughter of Colonel Such-and-Such of Dotheboys Hall and Mrs. Somebody else of Somewhere else, who runs her own boutique in Kensington.
the new naval reforms this is a remarkably prescient comment. The Royal Navy was about to undergo a most remarkable shaking-up by Kipling’s acquaintance, Sir John Fisher. At the time of the tale’s composition, Fisher was Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth, having previously been Second Sea Lord for fifteen months, 1902-03. In that time, he had introduced a new scheme of entry and training for officers, and had started to initiate reforms to the conditions of service for the lower deck.
His appointment as First Sea Lord was announced during the time the tale was in gestation, and he took office on 21 October 1904. His changes were far-reaching. In organisation he brought home from foreign stations many ships “that could neither fight nor run away”, and used their crews to man the new dreadnoughts which were going to be the winners of the war with Germany which he was sure would come. In technology he introduced the ‘dreadnought’m the all-big-gun battleship. In personnel, in addition to officer training, he greatly improved the living conditions of sailors.
And one of Pyecroft’s wishes, “a free gangway from the lower deck to the admiral’s stern walk” —the career open to the talents, did indeed come about as a result of Fisher’s work, though it was his protegé, Winston Churchill, who, in 1912, introduced a proper scheme whereby men of talent on the lower deck could become commissioned officers, with the path to flag rank open to them.
a free gangway from the lower deck to the admiral’s stern-walk promotion from the ranks where possible. ‘Free gangway’ is a reference to sailors going on leave (leaf). Normally, when libertymen were going ashore, they were fallen in at a specific time, inspected as to their appearance, and sent back if the inspecting petty officer thought it wasn’t up to standard.
However, if there was a free gangway, they could come and go without inspection, and at any time they wished (within the overall limits of leave granted). So, Pyecroft is inferring that, in promoting men from the lower deck, there should be the minimum amount of obstacles.
The second half of the sentence refers to an exterior walkway outside the admiral’s day-cabin round the stern of the ship. In the 18th century, ships designed as flagships had a gallery across the stern, so that the admiral could take the air without being exposed to the eyes of lesser mortals on the quarter-deck. They had been a feature of wooden sailing line-of-battleships up to 1800: HMS Victory was built with pne in the 1760s with open galleries on two decks for her admiral and her captain, but these were enclosed in 1802-4. However, open stern-walks were re-introduced at the end of the 19th century, and both Kipling and Pyecroft would have been familiar with them.
to this complexion will it come… a garbled version of the epitaph on James Quinn by David Garrick
(1717-1779) ‘ To this complexion thou must come at last’ , with, perhaps, an echo of ‘let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come.’ from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (Act v Sc.1).
Three weeks after war breaks out … the Admirals will have collapsed Kipling is putting what might have been his own views into Pyecroft’s mouth. Kipling had no great opinion of the current crop of Victorian admirals – he inferred criticism of Sir Henry Stephenson who had been C-in-C of the Channel Squadron when Kipling had gone to sea in the Pelorus in 1897 and 1898 (See our note on “Their Lawful Occasions”, Part I, Page 107, line 20-22, citing a Kipling letter recorded in Pinney’s Letters of Rudyard Kipling).
Nonetheless, there were changes in the Naval high command at the outbreak of war in 1914, though not under the circumstances which Kipling is here suggesting. And it is interesting to speculate on what Fisher might have said to Kipling when they met in Portsmouth in July and August 1904 (See Thomas Pinney (Ed.) p. 157, footnote 5; also Charles Carrington’s notes on Carrie’s diaries).
Some three years later, Fisher correctly forecast the month in which World War 1 would break out, and by the time his appointment as First Sea Lord ended in 1910, he had earmarked Rear-Admiral (as he was then) Jellicoe as the potential commander of the Grand Fleet. Despite two further changes of First Sea Lord after Fisher’s departure, when war came Sir George Callaghan (who in any case would have stepped down three months later) was relieved by Jellicoe within 12 hours of the declaration of war. And following public pressure, the then First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was forced to resign, to be replaced by Fisher.
Although there is nothing to suggest it in Fisher’s published correspondence, it is not impossible that ten years before the war, Fisher already had some generalised idea about the Naval command structure for the war which he saw coming, and that he might have discussed it with Kipling during their meetings – Fisher used anyone he thought might be influential to disseminate his ideas.
At the same time, Pyecroft’s words are a not untypical reflection of what the lower deck may think about their superiors – and this, in turn, was the later opinion of Winston Churchill, who was First Lord (the political head of the Admiralty, as opposed to the First Sea Lord) at the outbreak of World War 1, who later wrote that we could produce captains of ships, but not captains of war.
similar petty and warrant officers Kipling never quite grasped the relative ranks and ratings – the gunner and the boatswain were indeed ‘similar warrant officers’, but petty officers were a junior rate altogether.
Kipling also puts into Pyecroft’s mouth a rather strange idea of how the war would be fought: clearly both envisaged one enormous battle along the lines of Trafalgar taking place in the North Sea, but with more destructive weapons, and with all the officers exposing themselves to danger, to be mown down by enemy fire, leaving the finally victorious ships to be brought back by the senior ratings.
To be fair to both, this idea that any coming war be ended swiftly by a second Trafalgar was widely held in 1914. So, as has been remarked above, and with our twenty-twenty hindsight, Kipling was remarkably prescient expressing ideas which were not generally accepted until much closer to the time of war – even though they did not, in fact, come to pass. But then, very few foresaw the grinding, mud-spattered war of attrition on the Western Front, either.
Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
The darling of our crew;
No more he’ll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broach’d him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty,
His heart was kind and soft;
Faithful below, he did his duty,
And now he’s gone aloft…
and so on for two more verses. Kipling’s reference here is to the last line but one – ‘Faithful below, he did his duty’.
A map-like stretch of marsh … canals This is clearly Romney Marsh, if for no other reason than there is a reference shortly to Lydd, the only town of any size actually on the Marsh. Kipling knew the Marsh well, and relished the strangeness of its landscape. See “Dymchurch Flit” in Rewards and Fairies.
From “Steam Tactics”, we know that Agg’s cottage was somewhere in West Sussex, and they have been travelling for “an easy hour”, and no mention has been made of crossing into any other county.
Therefore they must be in Kipling’s home country, East Sussex, close to the Sussex/Kent border. 90% or so of Romney Marsh lies in Kent, so Kipling has placed them in his mind’s eye on the road that runs along a ridge through Icklesham, three miles west of Rye. The western end of the Royal Military Canal, dug 1804-09 as a defensive line against a possible Napoleonic invasion, would have been almost immediately below it.
Wapshare probably a conflation of the Sussex towns of Winchelsea and Rye. Winchelsea is an ancient town some 7 miles (11 •3 km.) from Hastings, formerly one of the cinque ports, but now one of “our ports of stranded pride” (see “Sussex”, verse 9). Rye is a beautiful old town in East Sussex – some three miles further east of Winchelsea. Further clues suggest that Kipling had Rye firmly in mind
martello-towers fortifications built during the Napoleonic wars. Kipling had a mind to rent one as a summer residence; see KJ 056/21 and 148/20.
Lydd a town on Romney Marsh in Kent. Lydd was, at one time, a garrison and important artillery practice camp. Experiments with high explosives carried out on the shingle wastes of Dungeness, in around 1888, led to the invention of the explosive Lyddite.
mirage an optical phenomenon caused by the refraction and reflection of light when air is extremely hot or cold. It could result in a target appearing to be elsewhere than its true position, and so result in inaccurate gunfire.
Three points on the port bow The use of ‘points’ was a method then employed to indicate objects in sight by reference to the ship’s head – a (compass) point is 11¼º: so, in this case, about 34 ° to the left.
Some big Admiralty works probably Dover Harbour. From 1894-1909, Dover’s harbour was being improved by the construction of a major harbour of refuge, in the form which it is today. Inside the harbour was the Admiralty Pier.
Dover was a naval base of considerable importance in both world wars. The shingle from Dungeness would have made good concrete, and Rye was the nearest convenient port to bring in quantities of cement for the blocks. One of our members, Frank Noah, has been able to confirm for us that there was indeed a concrete works at Rye harbour at this time, and that they did make concrete blocks for the Dover harbour works. Today’s large-scale OS map still shows a number of ‘works’ along the road from Rye to Rye Harbour, exactly as Kipling described..
a doubtful-minded tidal river Rye stands on the coast at the confluence of two rivers, the Rother and the Brede – see also “Sussex”, verse 9:
And east till doubling Rother crawls
To meet the fickle tide.
Let’s go down the river. There’s a sort of road on one side. This again points to Rye as Kipling’s fictional setting – Rye Harbour now lies about a mile-and-a-half from the town, at the seaward end of the Rother’s channel where it debouches into Rye Bay through shallow mudflats, and there is indeed such a road along the west side of the river.
a bosky beano in the slang of the period, a drunken spree. (Kipling used the expression later, in “The Janeites” in Debits and Credits: there the words used are ‘bosko absoluto’, meaning drunk, but beyond ordinary drunkenness: see “The Janeites” (page 149, line 14).)
cells confinement in cells was a punishment used in the Navy. For petty misdemeanours, ‘absent from place of duty’, etc., extra work or drill was the standard punishment: cell punishment was reserved for drunkenness (particularly if on board), or disobedience, and for repetition of offences. At this time, offenders were locked in their cell for 23 hours out of the 24, and had to ‘pick oakum’ – taking old rope apart, fibre by fibre.
“..,you’d exceed the legal limit—” Kipling and his motoring friends found the police to be officious, and on occasion, less than accurate or less than 100% honest, in the matter of speeding. Kipling’s following remark: “That isn’t necessary, is it?” implies the latter; while the policeman’s reply indicates that he recognises Kipling’s complaint, but that he “has a conscience”.
What’s it like at “The Fuggle Hop” an enquiry as to the quality of the beer at a public house named after the hop (Humulus Lupulus) once an essential ingredient in giving English beer its bitter flavour, grown in Kent and Sussex. However,European regulations have virtually killed off the growing of hops in Britain. (See “The Wish House” (Debits and Credits p. 127) for lively times during the hop-picking.)
zebras and kangaroos see “Steam Tactics”.
Here’s to beefsteak when you’re hungry,
Whiskey when you’re dry,
All the women you’ll ever want,
And heaven when you die.
ORG believed it was an American ballad – Irish emigrants may well have taken it with them to the United States.
Baptist Baptists belong to a non-conforming Christian church, the members of which are baptised by immersion in water as a public display of their faith. Consequently, most adherents reject infant baptism.
The Welsh ‘appened at the change of watch a curious and quite unfounded observation. Kipling is putting all an Anglo-Saxon’s anti-Welsh prejudice into the mouth of the mariner – who, it appears, is the Master of the Esther Grant.
Kipling makes reference to ‘the change of watch’ in the uncollected story “The Benefactors”, where he implies that untoward things may happen then. The story opens thus:
It was change of the morning watch in Hades—the hour when, despite all precaution, fires die down, pressures drop, and the merciless dynamos that have been torturing poor souls all night slack a few revolutions, ere they picked up again for the long day’s load.
passive-resistin’ nonconformist parts of the Education Act 1902 so enraged members of some sects that they withheld their local taxes and passively resisted attempts by bailiffs to distrain (confiscate) their goods.
a non-commercial language Welsh: again, a prejudiced remark, although, as a matter of practical business, the Welsh language is limited in its usefulness, because only a quarter or so of the Welsh people speak it.
frock-coat a very smart coat, double-breasted, and cut square at the bottom, which was just below the knee. It was formal wear in the late morning and afternoon for a gentleman: see “In the Same Boat” A Diversity of Creatures page 75 line 28.
The skipper of the Brixham trawler Agatha (see “Their Lawful Occasions”) wears one at sea. This was presumably somebody else’s hand-me-down – but see the mate of “The Lowestoft Boat”; he was ‘ … skipper of a Chapel in Wales, so he always fights in topper and tails’..
gardenia a member of the genus Rubiaceae, a beautiful sub-tropical flower with a delightful perfume: in this case, worn as a button-hole . It is often associated with weddings (see the 1946 musical show “Annie Get your Gun” (Irving Berlin) and its song “The Girl that I Marry”: ‘and in her hair, she’ll wear a gardenia, and I’ll be there.’
both funnels smoking gently coal-burning ships produce a lot of smoke. . See A Fleet in Being, page 71. Pyecroft is implying that they have gone out innocently, for a pleasant motoring ‘cruise’, to enjoy the countryside (‘smoking gently’ implies that they are not forcing their boilers – but not to be taken literally: the decapod is a normal internal combustion motor, so Leggatt has been driving at a moderate pace).
Johannes … Kruger Properly Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (1825-1904), better known as Paul Kruger and affectionately known in southern Africa as Oom Paul (Afrikaans: “Uncle Paul”). He was State President of the South African Republic (Transvaal) and leader of Boer resistance against the British during the second South African war of 1899-1902. See “The Comprehension of Private Copper” Headnote and page 161 line 21, (Traffics and Discoveries>.
as the bottom checks the roaring anchor-chain When an anchor is let go, the noise of iron on iron as it rushes out of the hawsepipe is considerable, but as soon as the anchor hits the bottom, the chain will cease to run out in an uncontrolled fashion, and the noise will cease.
Hark the tramp of Saxon foeman from “The March of the Men of Harlech”, a rousing Welsh anthem commemorating several sieges of Harlech Castle in the fifteeenth century. Its opening lines sound a ringing note of patriotism:
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
ostrich eggs laid in hot sand to incubate.
It is used in the mining, quarrying, and construction industries and has been used in warfare, but its unstable nature, especially if subjected to freezing, makes it unsuitable for military use. Nobel became extremely wealthy, and established several Prizes, including one for Literature which as awarded to Kipling in 1907. (see Charles Carrington, page 399.) And, on a lighter note, see the last verse of “Et dona ferentes”;
Build on the flanks of Etna where the sullen smoke-puffs float –
Or bathe in tropic waters where the lean fin dogs the boat –
Cock the gun that is not loaded, cook the frozen dynamite –
But oh, beware my Country, when my Country grows polite!
Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
See also Kiplings verses The Last of the Light Brigade”.
The charge of the Light Brigade, at the battle of Balaclava in the Crimea, in 1854, took place because Captain Nolan, the staff officer who delivered Lord Raglan’s orders to Lord Cardigan, commanding the Light Brigade, transmitted an unclear order. Cardigan, schooled not to question orders, took it at face value, and launched the Light Brigade at the wrong target – hence “Someone had blundered”. The Light Brigade advanced, heroically but disastrously, straight towards the Russian guns.
the horrors delirium tremens – commonly known as the ‘blue devils’ – caused by acute alcoholism – with hallucinations, trembling and homicidal or suicidal tendencies [Black’s Medical Dictionary]. See “The Dog Hervey” (A Diversity of Creatures, page 149 line 24.)
Mr Voss had a top hat, not normal wear in the country, but then, nor would a frock-coat have been: however he was dressed for his wedding, and had his tall hat. It seems likely that Kipling has invented a ‘Pyecroft-ism’ – a Scot might have called such a hat ‘a lum hat’ – meaning like a chimney – and Kipling is making Pyecroft liken the hat to a gun barrel.
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled…
The poem recounted the true(ish) tale of the teen-age son of the French Commodore on board Admiral Bruey’s flagship L’Orient at the battle of the Nile (1798), who stayed at his post, and was killed when her magazine exploded.
I will have him preached of in chapel in some non-conformist chapels it was not uncommon for moral backsliders in the congregation to be ‘named and shamed’. Llewellyn is threatening to have this done for Captain Dudeney.
Boaz Island formerly known as Gate’s or Yates Island, one of the six main islands of Bermuda, part of a chain of islands in the west of the country including Ireland Island and Somerset Island. It was part of the Naval Base, which included HM Dockyard on Ireland Island. See ‘A Naval Mutiny’ (Limits and Renewals), “A Sea Dog” (Collected Dog Stories) and “The Coiner.”.
towin’ piece an unfamiliar name for what is probably better known as a towing-bollard, strong-back or samson-post, a stout timber firmly incorporated in the fabric of the vessel for securing a tow-line.
P. and O. speeds The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, dating from 1822, is mentioned many times in the Indian stories. The passage between India and England usually took a month or so; Kipling refers to the line as “Dear and Slow” but here he probably means ‘faster than one would expect of a barge.’
brought up with so round a turn usually ‘brought up with a round turn’, to stop suddenly: it means to put one complete turn of a rope, which is secured to the moving object, to some fixed object – such as a bitt, or towing bollard, etc. This has the effect, if the rope doesn’t break, of stopping the moving object dead.
Man of ‘Arlech see the note above.
clawing off a verdant lee shore an attempt to tack a sailing-vessel off the leeward beach mentioned in the third verse of “Poseidon’s Law”:
Ye shall not clear by Greekly speech, nor cozen from your path
The twinkling shoal, the leeward beach, or Hadria’s white-lipped wrath;
It matters not if the beach is verdant (green) or any other colour: it is still a dangerous position to be in.
I’ll come tomorrow incognito an’ ‘elp pick up the pieces. One may wonder how Pyecroft would do this – they are on their way home, a good hour’s run across Sussex, and if it is to Agg’s cottage that he is being returned, then on the morrow he would have a long and tedious journey by train, involving at least two changes. But then, Pyecroft was undoubtedly a mariner ‘of infinite resource and sagacity’, like the sailorman in “How the Whale got his Throat” in the Just So Stories.
To come incognito is to assume a disguise or travel under another name.