William the Conqueror – part 1

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by Alastair Wilson, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Day’s Work, as published and frequently reprinted between 1898 and 1950.

[Heading] This is a four line verse from The Undertaking by John Donne (1571-1631)

[Page 181, line 6] rolling-stock railway wagons for the conveyance of grain.

[Page 181, line 7] the Big Famine This was the 1876-78 Famine in Bombay, Madras and Mysore in which relief was insufficient and 5,000,000 people perished. See the head note .

[Page 181, line 10] fifteen anna this expression means fifteen-sixteenths of anything; in this case, a good crop (of basic staple foodstuffs, understood). An anna was one sixteenth of a rupee, and ‘fifteen anna’ could thus mean roughly 95% in our parlance.

[Page 181, line 11] the north here is means the Punjab, which with Bombay, Bengal and Madras formed the four great main divisions in British India at that time. Today, it lies largely within the borders of Pakistan.

[Page 181, line 14] the Pioneer (also referred to as the Pi on page 183, line 33) the famous English-language newspaper published in Allahabad. It was owned by the same firm as the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, on the staff of which Kipling served for about five years, and later, about eighteen months on the Pioneer. (See further notes on page 183 below.)

[Page 181, line 15] the telegrams the latest “stop press” news.

[Page 182, line 2] newly-watered Mall in those days, before all such roads were macadamised, the important roads were watered twice a day, to keep the dust down. The Mall was the usual name for the road leading to the main Club maintained by the British officers, civil and military. Here, this may be taken as referring to Lahore, where Kipling lived from 1882 to 1887.

[Page 182, line 29] Kubber-kargaz meaning the newspaper. Ki yektraaa extra (edition).

[Page 183, line 4] ek dum at once, without delay.

[Page 183, lines 8 and 11] Punjabi these lines mean that Sir James Hawkins, a civil servant who had started and seen most of his service in the Punjab and had been knighted in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, had been put in charge of the Special Famine Relief Organisation in the Madras Presidency. (As an aside, his knighthood would probably have been a K.C.I.E. (Knight Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, the junior of the two orders of Chivalry established by the British in the Indian Empire – it was instituted in 1886).)

[Page 183, line 10] bundobust power, or gift, of organisation and administration.

[Page 183, lines 12-13] thrice-born civilian in Vedic literature, the Brahman is represented as the incontestable head of society. Later in the Laws of Manu, the four cardinal varnas, or complexions, of Indian society are specified as the Bramans, Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas, these three being twice-born, and the Sudras, whose duty is to serve the twice-born; above all, the Brahmans.

The term “thrice-born civilian”, jestingly derived from the above classification, refers to the members of the Indian Civil Service, the chief of the Indian services under the Raj, which was limited to about a thousand members. (It may be suggested that they approximated to the ‘First Division’ of the Home Civil Service as it is constituted today (2009).) Entrants to the service were drawn chiefly from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, a good honours degree being a prime necessity. Their pre-eminent place in the official hierarchy led inevitably to the extravagant parallel between them and the Brahman caste; in fact they often called ‘Brahmins’ in jest, as are the higher ranks of the Home Civil Service.

[Page 183, line 13] Benighted Presidency a facetious name for Madras, distinguishing it from the other presidencies, and from the provinces, the Punjab, and the United and Central Provinces.

In Kipling’s day, British India was divided into twelve or fourteen ‘provinces’. It is unnecessary to give full and exact details, but here is a list of the main divisions:

  • Madras Presidency, South, Capital: Madras
  • Bombay Presidency, West, Capital: Bombay (now Mumbai)
  • Bengal Presidency, East, Capital: Calcutta (now Kolkata)
  • Punjab Province, North, Capital: Lahore (now in Pakistan)
  • United Provinces, Agra and Oudh.
  • Central Province , Centre, Capital: Nagpur.

[Page 183, line 15] all ungas or rungas or pillays or polliums these are the word-endings for place names in the south of India: it is as though Kipling might have said, of Sussex and Kent, “all -hams or -hursts or -endens”.

[Page 183, line 17] Editor of the one daily paper . . . . this may be accepted as proof that we are in Lahore, where the only daily English-language paper in the Punjab was published. Kipling himself was sub-editor from 1882 to 1887. The Editor would have been his immediate Chief, and he the “one assistant” referred to in line 21, if this famine was intended by the author to have taken place during these years.

[Page 183, line 27] telephone The first telephone exchanges in India were opened in 1882, at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.

[Page 183, line 28] left my cub to fill it out the ‘cub’ was the one assistant.

[Page 184, line 2] from the North-West the North-West Frontier Province.

[Page 184, line 3] pukka meaning, in this context, genuine, authentic. The original meaning of the Hindi word pakka (spelling from
‘Hobson-Jobson’, the standard dictionary of Anglo-Indian usage) is ‘ripe, mature, cooked’; and hence ‘substantial, permanent’. (The opposite is cutcha.)

[Page 184, line 11] Marryat Captain Frederick Marryat, Royal Navy (1792-1848). He was the author of a large number of sea-stories, now regarded as classics of their kind: Peter Simple (1834), Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) Masterman Ready are notable examples. (Along with Surtees, these were part of the staple reading for No. 5 study in Stalky and Co. and Kipling makes Stalky quote from Peter Simple). Marryat, although a professional Naval officer, spent much time on half-pay in the much reduced Royal Navy of the peaceful early Victorian years, and so was able to be the Editor of the Metropolitan Magazine from 1832-1835 and in this periodical some of his best stories appeared. He also wrote children’s stories which are still in publication.

[Page 184, line 15] habit riding dress. However tomboyish she may later appear, William would have ridden side-saddle, and would have dressed appropriately.

[Page 184, line 25] cummerbund from the Hindi and Persian Kamar-band , a loin-band. Usually a long piece of folded silk worn round the waist, often in regimental, etc., colours; thereby dispensing with a waistcoat in hot weather.

[Page 184, line 29] not afford to send his sister to the Hills nearly all Europeans who could afford it sent their families to a hill-station for the hot weather, and followed themselves for some portion of the time.. A station such as Simla, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, would be, in round terms, some 28ºF (nearly 16ºC) cooler than a town on the same latitude on the plain below it.

The Royal Navy used to send crews of ships on the East Indies station, from the base at Trincomalee, on the east coast of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) up to Diyatalawa, in the midst of the tea gardens in the hills. It was little more than 3000 feet in altitude, but the difference was still some 10ºF, and appreciable.

[Page 184, line 31] six hundred depreciated silver rupees at that time, the Indian rupee was worth 16 old pence (1s. 4d.). This meant that, at that value, that salary was equal to £480 per annum. 600 rupees was a fair salary at that time, although the Police was not the best paid service in India. However, the rupee was not linked to the gold standard in the way that sterling then was, so its value against the pound fluctuated in precisely the same way that currencies do today. This did not matter too much to Anglo-Indians while they were in India, but had an effect when they went on home leave, or paid for the education of their children in England, and later, when they retired to England to draw an Indian pension. At the time the tale was written, the Rupee was exchanged at about 15 old pence.

[Page 185, line 3] Amritzar phulkaris a type of curtains made at Amritzar (Amritsar) in the Punjab.

[Page 185, line 7] the leather punkah-thong the normal means of inducing a current of air to produce an illusion of some coolth was by a punkah, a flap of cloth suspended from the ceiling, and made to wave backwards and forwards, like an oversize ladies’ fan, by means of a leather thong, which was alternately pulled and released by a servant (‘punkah-wallah’) outside the room.

[Page 185, lines 15-17] in a land where each man’s pay, age, and position are printed in a book in a manner similar to that by which it is still possible to determine the pay, rank, and position of an officer in the armed forces by reference to the various Navy, Army and Air Force Lists and their Appendices, which are available in most public libraries, so it was with all officers in the various Indian Government departments.

[Page 185, line 20] eight hundred rupees a month equalled £640 per annum.

[Page 185, line 30] coined silver the rupee was made of silver. There can be precious few coins left circulating in the world’s money systems yoday (2009) which are made with any precious metal!

[Page 185, line 32] Mohsul Canal cannot be traced: doubtless fictional.

[Page 186, line 4] the capital of the Province Lahore in the Punjab.

[Page 186, line 5] William unless this is intended purely as a nickname, it is probably a shortened form of Wilhelmina. See the comments of Carrington and Wilson in the headnote on Mrs. Edmonia (‘Ted’) Hill’s possible role as a model for ‘William’.

[Page 186, lines 21] the size of a shilling about 15mm, or 0.6 inches in diameter.

[Page 186, lines 22-23] Delhi sore: Bagdad (sic) date the exact medical synonym for these names of tropical skin affections is not known to this Editor, but actinic rays of light have been shown to be an important factor in causing inflammation of the skin in countries where the sun’s rays are intense, as in India. These rays are responsible for an eruption on face and hands which recurs in summer in persons sensitive to light, and for the more serious freckled affliction which goes on to cutaneous cancer or rodent ulcer.

[Page 186, line 32] Urdu One of the classical languages of the Indian sub-continent, the language of the later Moguls, and the national literary language of Pakistan today (2009).

Punjabi the chief spoken language of the people of the Punjab.

[Page 186, line 13] who wore her hair cropped and curling all over her head; it is dangerous for a mere male to pontificate on ladies’ hair styles; but it is probably safe to observe that in late Victorian days, women very rarely wore their hair short: young maidens usually left it unbound, rather like the illustrations by Tenniel to Alice in Wonderland, until they were sixteen or so, when they “put their hair up” for the first time, wearing it variously braided round their head, or in a chignon, etc., involving the use of that almost vanished fashion accessory, the hair pin. So short, curly hair on a lady would have been unusual.

[Page 186, line 17] play on the banjo the banjo, originally an instrument introduced to England by such groups as the Virginia Minstrels, who first appeared in 1844, became fashionable again in the mid 1880s in England (cf. Three Men in a Boat (1888) by Jerome K. Jerome: Chapter VIII “No, said George, with a strange, wild look glittering in his eyes; “they are all the rage this season; everybody has got them up the river. It’s a banjo.”) And Kipling wrote The Song of the Banjo (collected in The Seven Seas) in 1894.

[Page 186, line 25] Wordsworth’s “Excursion” one of the major poems of this English poet (1770-1850). Kipling is having a ‘dig’ at the work of educationalists who were trying to teach English culture to the Indian middle-class.

[Page 188, line 25] Luni Protective Canal System the Luni River runs from Ajmer to Rajputanja in the Rann of Cutch.

[Page 189, line 3] two bungalows there are illustrations of the offices of the Civil and Military Gazette, in which Kipling worked, in Kipling Journals No. 6, page 9, and No. 16, page 112.

[Page 189, line 7] stripped to the waist like a sailor at a gun a very out-of-date simile, even when Kipling wrote it. Illustrations of gun’s crews in the navy of Nelson have shown sailors working their guns so undressed – in tropical climates. But throughout the 20th century, sailors have manned their guns wearing anti-flash hoods and gloves at the least. [In the 21st century, guns of all sizes are so automated that there is no human being in the gunhouse.]

[Page 189, line 19] if you could do us a letter once a week from the south it was quite usual for non-journalists to become ‘our special correspondent’ for the duration of whatever excitement might be in the offing. Naval and military officers quite often were so accredited – Winston Churchill was an example in the 1898 campaign in the Sudan. As will be seen, Scott was wise to turn down the request – he could never have fulfilled it, except at the expense of his duties.

[Page 190, line 13] Murree a hill station and sanatorium in the Punjab.

[Page 190, line 28} famine was sore in the land (see Genesis 12,10: ‘famine was grievous in the land’, and Jeremiah 52,6: “famine was sore in the city’)

[Page 191, line 11] loop-holed and bastioned railway station the passenger hardly realised that the station was built like this (a post-Mutiny precaution). It was not nearly so noticeable as, say, Darghi station on the line between Nowshera and the Malakand Pass (where there was a more immediate likelihood of the defensive precautions being necessary)

[Page 191, line 14] five nights and four days Scott was ordered to report to a place 1,500 miles from Lahore (page 190, line 27). It is difficult to realise that trains in, say, 1890 took so long. In an uncollected article entitled ‘Home’ written by Kipling for the Christmas Day edition of the CMG of 1891, we shall find that he took only about five days to travel from Ceylon to Lahore, a much greater distance. This latter journey took him from Colombo to Bombay by steamer – say 36 hours – and thence by train. Scott’s journey would have involved at least four changes of train, and many lengthy stops for water, change of engines, etc., with a not very high speed when in motion, so the overall average speed of 15 miles an hour, or thereabouts, is both realistic and unsurprising.

[Page 191, line 19] set away this may be regarded as a colloquialism for “prepared for occupation with his belongings set forth in due order”. Indian railways were equipped and run very much on British lines, and so the superior coaches at least were British in style, with several separate compartments in each coach. Scott and Martyn (and, it turns out, William as well) would naturally travel first class, while Faiz Ullah and Martyn’s bearer would travel in an adjacent second class compartment.

[Page 191, line 22] Afreedee or Afridi. An Afghan clan living to the south and west of Peshawar (now in Pakistan).

[Page 192, line 8] it’s a bender of a night a slang expression which may be taken to mean that it is so hot that if it does not break the spirit it will at least bend (damage) it badly.

[Page 192, line 16] shouldn’t wonder if it wouldn’t be a good thing that is, if they performed well, their reputations would be enhanced and they might earn accelerated promotion, or some other form of official recognition.

[Page 192, line 26] Tarn-Taran although it is irrelevant to the tale, this bit of circumstantial evidence is somewhat misleading, and the whole sequence is a prime example of Kipling’s compression: we have had about two minutes-worth of dialogue since Martyn entered the compartment “at the last minute” while they were still in Lahore station. Yet we are now some 30 miles, or about an hour’s travelling from Lahore. And for anyone whose curiosity is aroused by wondering why mention is made of Tarn Taran (as this Editor is) it is curious that the town of Tarn-Taran lies some ten miles south and a touch east of Amritsar, which itself lies more-or-less due east of Lahore: surely the railway did not make a dog-leg from Lahore to Tarn-Taran to Amritsar?

The answer is that it did not, but Kipling was using short-hand again – the station past which “the train jolted” was Tarn-Taran Junction, about a mile or so west of Amritsar, where a line to Tarn-Taran swung away to the south and east. [The Editor has just spent about an hour with an atlas and Google Earth trying to fathom this out.]

[Page 193, line 15] subchiz (Hindustani). The business, in this case of arranging the move.

[Page 193, line 31] Jaloo a village near Lahore.

[Page 194, line 17] hot tea …. saves the veins of the neck from swelling a statement which is probably just as true as that hot tea cools the body down.

[Page 194, line 25] beautiful in their travels Cf. Isaiah 52, 7 and Romans 10, 15 – “How beautiful are the feet …”

[Page 196, line 1] Little Henry and his Bearer the story of Little Henry and his Bearer Boosy, a Tale of Dinapore. It was first published in 1832.

Its author, Mary Martha Sherwood (née Butt, 1775-1851) was famous for one of the most notorious of children’s books, The History of the Fairchild Family (1818, etc.) – the story in which the small boy who has told some childish fib is solemnly taken to see a corpse hanging on the gallows and warned that he is likely to come to such an end if he does not repent and mend his ways immediately. Little Henry was her second-best-known book (she wrote about 50) and was not so extreme – though it managed to be both a ‘tear-jerker’ and pious at the same time.

[Page 197, line 9] the Madras Presidency was divided into nine Divisions and eight of these were sub-divided into Districts. The famine extended over eight of these districts, perhaps 2,500 square miles.

[That is the note from the ORG: but to this Editor that does not sound very large – it is no more than, say, the area of the county of Sussex, which is in the roundest of terms 2,400 square miles in extent. All the indications in the story are that the famine is extended over a larger area.]

[Page 198, line 9] the little babies they are selling during such times, the unhappy mothers sold their baby girls (chiefly) to save them from starvation (but see page 205, line 9, about reclaiming them).

[Page 198, line 16] Saunders an English name: at this date most of the drivers on the railways in India were still English or Eurasian (see line 22 below), so there was a preponderance of English (or European) surnames among drivers (cf. “The Bold ‘Prentice” in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides).

[Page 198, line 19] Anundrapillay not to be found in the gazetteer.

[Page 198, line 20] without attempting a strict interpretation of these initials, they may be taken to mean that the wagon came from one of the Bombay Presidency lines.

[Page 198, line 22] Eurasian a person of mixed racial background: a sensitive subject in many quarters in the 21st century. However, race was a defining parameter in the Raj (as was caste among the Hindu population). Eurasians were mostly the offspring of a European father and an Indian mother: some may have been illegitimate, but most were the children of legal marriages.

[Page 199, line 15] Muhammedan’s contempt with uncomfortable prescience the ORG noted: almost all Moslems despise those who are not followers of Islam.

[Page 199, line 33] puggaree the Oxford English Dictionary definition is: A scarf, usually of thin muslin, wound round the crown of a sun helmet or hat and originally fastened so that the ends hung down at the back to shade the neck.’

[Page 200, line 10] Cabuli a breed of horse from the Kabul district of Afghanistan.

[Page 200, line 30] Gehenna (Hebrew) the place of eternal torment (Hell). Strictly speaking it is the Valley of Hinnom, where sacrifices to Baal and Moloch were offered (Jeremiah 19,6) and where refuse was cast to be consumed by the constantly burning fires.


©Alastair Wilson 2009 All rights reserved