Venus Annodomini

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Title] Venus Annodomini Anno Domini means The Year of Our Lord, but Kipling has mixed Roman with Greek mythology here, and is obviously thinking of statues of Aphrodite Anadyomene – The Goddess of Love Rising from the Sea – of which there are several examples in Rome.
Philip Holberton writes: Kipling is also making a pun here. Anno Domini is a colloquial phrase for advancing age, appropriate for the heroine of the story, who appears young enough to fascinate “Very Young” Gayerson while actually old enough to have known “Young” Gayerson, and to have a grown-up daughter. [P.H.]

[Heading] These six lines are from the 86-line poem “Diana of Ephesus” first published in Kipling’s third edition of Departmental Ditties and Other Verses of 1888. but omitted from later editions. It is not collected in the Definitive Verse or Inclusive Verse, but is to be found in the Burwash and Sussex Editions, and also in Early Verse (ed. Rutherford). In the Sussex Edition, blonde in the third line is changed to young; Diana in the second line is the Roman goddess of hunting, chastity and the moon, and aureate in the fourth line means gold or golden.

[Page 254, lines 1-6] Number Eighteen… this must refer to a statue or fragment in the New Gallery at the Vatican, presumably of Aphrodite Anadyomene. We are seeking to verify this reference. [Ed.]

[Page 255, line 4] her fame an echo of Zephaniah, 3, 19; praise and fame in every land.

[Page 255, line 5] a mere woman This is possibly the germ of the lines, ‘A woman is only a woman! / But a good cigar is a Smoke.’ (“The Betrothed” of 1888.)

[Page 255, line 14] fever probably malaria

[Page 255, line 24] a Bengal Civilian Each of the three Presidencies (Bengal, Madras, and Bombay) trained its own civilian administrators at their capitals. Central training began at Haileybury, the school founded by the East India Company in England in 1806, and the three Civil Services were later amalgamated. This makes ‘Young’ Gayerson a ‘pre-amalgamation’ man, otherwise he would be referred to as an Indian Civilian, or I.C.S

[Page 256, line 21] a Line regiment The Infantry – the backbone of the British Army. (See “The Courting of Dinah Shadd”, in Life’s Handicap, for the author’s musings on ‘the exact proportion of the ‘might, majesty, dominion, and power’ of the British Empire which stands on those feet.’ (the feet of one Private Soldier).

[Page 256, line 32] forded the Indus in flood A mighty river in ordinary times, in flood it was several miles wide.

[Page 257, line 4] Mrs Hauksbee and Mrs Reiver We have met Mrs Hauksbee and Mrs Reiver in earlier stories in this volume.

[Page 257, line 7] Ninon de l’Enclos sometimes known as Anne (1616-1706) – a Parisian courtesan celebrated for her grace, wisdom
and beauty. She was admired and consulted about their works by Molière, Voltaire and others and was intimate with Madame de Maintenon and Queen Christina of Sweden. (Harmsworth)

[Page 257, line 10] forced to adore A little strong, perhaps, but Kipling was very much aware that there were enchanting women whom everybody loved just because they were there – consider Vidal Benzaguen ( “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat in A Diversity of Creatures, Lalun (“On the City Wall” in Soldiers Three), “Mrs. Bathurst” in Traffics and Discoveries, and ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ in “Love o’ Women” in Many Inventions.

[Page 257, lines 11-12] Division…Collectorate The unit of British administration in India was the District, of which there were 258, excluding Calcutta, at that time the capital. The officer in charge of a District was a Collector or, in some Provinces, a Deputy Commissioner. In every province except Madras a group of Districts goes to form a Division, of which a Commissioner was the head, The head of a Province was a Governor, a Lieutenant-Governor or a Chief Commissioner. ‘Young’ Gayerson was a senior administrator.

[Page 257, line 13] Bengal the region of the Ganges Delta, the largest, the most populous and the richest part of India. It included Calcutta, then the capital of British India.

[Page 257, line 14] Babus educated Bengalis – the best-known being Hurree Chunder Mookerjee who plays such an important part in Kim; others appear in “His Chance in Life” and “The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows” in this volume and “The Ballad of Boh Da Thone”.

[Page 257, line 15] a ‘Nero’ Nero was Emperor of Rome from 37 to 68 A.D., and a notorious tyrant and murderer. ‘Young’ Gayerson, who would have exercised considerable authority as a senior administrator, was being compared to him by seditious newspapers.

[Page 257, line 15] a ‘Scylla’ and ‘Charybdis’ navigational hazards in the Straits of Messina between Italy and Sicily. In ancient Greek mythology Scylla was loved by Poseidon the God of the Sea, and so his jealous wife Amphirite changed her into a monster with dogs’ heads, and condemned her to live in a cave on the Italian side of the straits amongst very dangerous rocks. Charybdis, the daughter of Poseidon and Gaea, had been thrown into the sea by Zeus, the King of the Gods, and transformed into another monster in the guise of a whirlpool. Vessels attempting the passage of the straits were therefore liable to fall prey to one danger while attempting to avoid the other – reminiscent of the old English saying “Out of the frying-pan and into the fire.” See also
KJ 309 p. 8 for a hitherto unpublished golfing and Stalky story “Scylla and Charybdis.”

[Page 257, line 17] dysentery and cholera intestinal diseases rife in India. Cholera is discussed in “A Germ-Destroyer” in this volume, Dysentery is an infectious disease with a local lesion in the form of inflammation and ulceration of the lower portion of the bowels caused by infection from the sick carried by flies, contaminated water or carried in dust by the wind. There other causes associated with malaria etc. (Black).

[Page 257, line 21] Darjiling Town and health resort in the Himalayas at about 7,000 ft., the summer capital of the lieutenant-governor of Bengal. Produces excellent tea.

[Page 258, line 2] out In this instance, out in society – old enough to attend adult functions when properly chaperoned

[Page 258, line 9] her back to the curtained window An ‘older woman’ might endeavour to keep her back to the light so that the wrinkles do not show, and, as in this instance, keep the room darkened as well. ‘Very Young’ Gayerson must however, have seen her in broad daylight on many occasions and should have been in no doubt as to her real age.

[Page 258, line 19] Bengal … rate of Exchange a gibe at another Province, implying that they are a backward and mercenary lot. This would have amused his readers in the Punjab.

[Page 258, line 28] unfilial answer with a lack of the respect that a father of the time would have expected.

[Page 259, line 30] Sir the boy has got his manners back and addressed his father as well-bred young men did at the time; see the note to “Miss Youghal’s Sais” earlier in this volume for an unmarried girl’s dependence on her father. ‘Very Young’ Gayerson could well have needed an allowance from his father to supplement his pay as a junior officer.

[Page 259, line 29] going down back to the Plains.

[Page 260, line 4] Tom This is another lapse from protocol. The Venus Annodomini usually addresses him as “Mr. Gayerson” but this is farewell. Unless he forms an attachment with her daughter they are unlikely to meet again.

[J. McG.]