The Wandering Jew

(notes edited by John McGivering)


First published in the Civil and Military Gazette on 4 April 1889, and collected in Life’s Handicap later that year.

The story

This is a simple, and rather gruesome, tale. John Hay is a wealthy man, driven by the fear of dying. Someone tells him that he who travels eastwards round the world gains a day, and this becomes an obsession for him. He travels incessantly towards the rising sun, in the belief that he is extending his life. Eventually he begins to go crazy, and – to give him some rest – his doctor gives him the idea of swinging above the ground and letting the world rotate beneath him. The story ends with Hay sitting in a swinging chair on the coast of southern India, over a sheet of steel to cut him off from the attraction of the wheeling world, as his brain finally ceases to work.

Some critical comments

Lionel Johnson (in Kipling, The Critical Heritage, ed. Green, p. 93) is not impressed by this story and believes it should not have been published.
Bonamy Dobrée, (p. 147) however, in an interesting discussion of this and other stories, regards it as a ‘Half-fable’ and a Preface to “The Children of the Zodiac” (Many Inventions).
Norman Page (p. 134) says:

The story’s central idea is ingenious and even powerful, and it hardly deserves The Athenæum’s coupling of it with “The Lang Men o’ Larut” as “tawdry trifles.”

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved