The Smith Administration XVII

What it comes to

(notes by David Page)

First Publication

Published 5th November 1888 in the Civil and Military Gazette, and in Turnovers vol.IV.

The Story

Talking together at ease in the canteen, some British soldiers in India give their views on some of the provisions of new German Drill described in the Pioneer.

The heading is a quotation on the Regulations from the Pioneer, the newspaper in Allahabad for which Kipling was currently working.

This story should not be confused with the 1890 story “What it Came To” in the St. James’s Gazette on 30th January, 1890. [University of Sussex, Special Collections, bound volume 28/3].

Nicknames used in the Story

For the Private Soldiers these are:

  • Chew (Chumer)
  • Shukky (Shuckbrugh)
  • ’Ook (Hookey)

Various Battalion and Company Officers were called:

  • Old Pompey
  • Little Mildred
  • Squeaky Jim
  • Sugartongs
  • Jemima (Hackerstone)

No attempt has been made to translate all the vernacular used in this story since it appears to be not too difficult.

Notes on the Text

[Page 427, line 9] Tyneside Tailtwisters there are a number of references to this Regiment in Kipling’s early stories with various spellings including ‘Tailtwisters’, ‘Tail-Twisters’, and ‘Tail Twisters’. (See also “Only a Subaltern” (Under the Deodars), “The Army of a Dream—Part I” (Traffics and Discoveries), and “Letters of Marque” Chapter XV (From Sea to Sea).

Charles Carrington writes (p.110):

The regiment of the line that Kipling knew best was the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers who were stationed at Mian Mir from 1886 to 1888; he calls them ‘The Tyneside Tail-Twisters’. They had fought in the Afghan War, though not in any action that can be identified in a Kipling story.

[Page 427, line 9] the Pioneer the newspaper in Allahabad for which Kipling was currently working.

[Page 427, line 14] Jack the Ripper The alias of the perpetrator of a series of murders in the East End of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter sent to the London Central News Agency by someone claiming to be the murderer. No one was apprehended.

[Page 427, line 28] Rooshian Russian.

[Page 427, line 29] Prooshian Prussian (German).

[Page 427, line 31] school-ticket for certain regimental promotions a private soldier had to attend the Regimental School and, perhaps, acquire a certificate. [ORG]

[Page 428, line 7] fascilitude facility. An invented word. [ORG]

[Page 428, line 16] Afghan War the second Afghan War of 1880-82. The 2nd Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers fought in this campaign. [ORG]

[Page 428, line 29] clobber uniform. Cockney slang for clothes.

[Page 429, lines 1 to 4] … pipe … ’baccy-paper … pewter. . . items on the canteen table being used to illustrate the positions of men in battle.

The pewter is a metal tankard of beer.

[Page 429, line 5] Old Pompey the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Battalion. [ORG]

[Page 429, line 6] Little Mildred one of the ‘E’ Company officers – the same name was used by Kipling for an officer in the White Hussars in the story “The Man Who Was”.

[Page 429, line 11 ] chello hurry up. [ORG]

[Page 429, line 15] Sir Garnet Field Marshal Viscount Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913). “All Sir Garnet” was an expression which originated in the army, but became well known in civil life. It came to mean “all is in good order”.

[Page 429, line 29] Skipper Little Mildred’s superior officer – the commander of B Company.

[Page 429, line 30] Ho de Kolone (Eau de Cologne) a perfume originally made in Cologne, Germany.

[Page 430, lines 6 & 7] club the company an’ damn the Sargints the officer in command doesn’t make a shambles of the company drill and then blame the N.C.O.s. Roger Ayers comments that:

Very few officers could be trusted not to make a mess of company drill occasionally, so I think the implication is that, whatever happens, he would not blame someone else. [R.A.]

[Page 431, lines 16 & 17] ‘e don’t know nor care a brass farden about you A brass farthing was a coin worth a quarter of an old penny, i.e. virtually nothing. Originally made from silver, from the 1600s they were minted from copper, and at one time had a small plug of brass inserted in the coin to deter forgers. The use of the term in this story is to ask what happens ‘if your officer cares nothing about you’.

[Page 431, line 23] weppings weapons.

[Page 431, line 26] swipes are beer dregs, or inferior weak beer. The dilution ratio is given in lines 27-29. See also “Their Lawful Occasions—Part I”, and the poem “‘Follow me ’Ome’”. ‘Chumer’ gives his opinion on the quality of the beer in his reply.

©David Page 2009 All rights reserved