The seventh of the first group of fourteen in The Muse among the Motors, published in the Daily Mail 13 February 1904. Collected in the Sussex Edition vol. 35 p. 131. (ORG Verse No. 843).
“Byron” George Gordon Noel, 1788-1824, 6th Baron Byron, one of the great Romantic poets of the 19th Century. He was famously attractive to women, and a great champion of Greek independence from the Turks.
After Harrow and Cambridge and an unsuccessful marriage he went abroad on a Grand Tour until he died in 1824.
His extensive works include the poem “Don Juan” which explains the alternative title of this poem: “Juan Before J.P.s”. (See Canto 2.)
Ann Weygandt (p. 81) comments:
He certainly seems to have read Byron in all his moods … his attempt in the style of “Don Juan” is so good that we must admit the fact of his familiarity with its source. Its title “The Tour” is suggestive of both “Childe
Harold” and “Don Juan,” as well as suited to the subject
of motor-cars, and the details of the writing are equally well
Byron would have appreciated the rhyming of “Police” with “J.P.’s,” the alliterative swiftness of “At practically any pace you please,” and the half-resigned finality of “And Juan paid!” Kipling has caught perfectly Byron’s mocking tone; evidently he studied “Don Juan” to some purpose both before and after the day that “King” collared him
Harry Ricketts in KJ 305 comments:
How deftly this catches Byron’s lordly but worldly tone, the oh-so-
knowing aside (‘He was a publisher’) and even Byron’s use of the
odd insouciant poeticism (‘placid nook’). How neatly Juan’s speeding
is captured in the deliberately anachronism of the Dogberry/Waterbury
Notes on the text
[Title] The Tour The Grand Tour was the expression used for the travels of wealthy young men to Italy and beyond to taste the delights of Classical and Renaissance culture.
[Line 1] my Murray This is how Byron addresses John Murray in the two poems entitled ‘To Mr Murray’ The poems banter with Murray’s way as a profit-seeking publisher, and Kipling is pastiching that in ll. 1-2 [D.H.].
Thirteen as twelve John Murray, and the British publishing trade generally, during the nineteenth century had the normal practice of offering an additional discount to the trade when they bought in bulk. This was often 13 copies for the price of 12 (normally expressed as “13 as 12”); varying discounts, i.e. 25 for 24, were also sometimes given. [Information by courtesy of David McClay, John Murray Curator at the National Library of Scotland ].
The point here is that the authorities tended to insist on exaggerating a car’s speed, taking twenty miles per hour as thirty, or thirty as forty, at the motorist’s expense.
[Line 1] Murray John Murray Publishers was founded in 1768, and is now part of the French company, Hachette. They have published the work of many distinguished writers, including Byron, Jane Austen, and Charles Darwin. (See their web-site.) .
[Line 4] Juan Byron’s “Don Juan”, an epic satire in sixteen cantos, was published by Murray between 1819 and 1824.
[Line 7] the Dogberry and the Waterbury Dogberry is a comic and frequently muddled constable in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, a figure of fun. Waterbury is a city in Connecticut, U.S.A. famous for the manufacture of clocks and watches. The constable was evidently equipped with one.
[Line 8] fifty mile—five pounds Fifty miles an hour was a most unlikely speed in 1904 for a car passing through a village, and five pounds a heavy fine. However, motorists, without speedometers or any other way of judging their speed, had no way of contesting the evidence of the constabulary, and fining motorists was a useful source of revenue, to Kipling’s evident indignation.
See “Steam Tactics” Traffics and Discoveries, page 191, line 23, and, for another police speed trap, “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” (A Diversity of Creatures), in which Sir Thomas Ingell, M.P. boasts of his local speed-trap to his brother magistrates, after fining a group of motorists and holding them up to ridicule:
‘It falls away from my lodge-gates, dead straight, three-quarters of a mile. I’d defy any one to resist it. We rooked seventy pounds out of ’em last month. No car can resist the temptation. You ought to have one your side the county, Mike. They simply can’t resist it.’
The rest of the story tells how the victims get their revenge on the magistrate and his village.
©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2020 All rights reserved