The Woman in his Life

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by John McGivering and John Radcliffe, are partly new, and partly based on the work for ORG of Roger Lancelyn Green. We have also been grateful for critical comments and suggestions from Peter Havholm. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Limits and Renewals, as published and frequently reprinted between 1932 and 1950.

[Page 41, Heading] These are lines from “Dinah Doe”, a ‘plantation-song’ of the 1850s. Plantation songs were based on the songs of black workers on the cotton, sugar, and tobacco plantations of the southern states of America in the days of slavery. “Dinah Doe” consists of six ten-line verses by Silas Sexton Steele (b. around 1812) with music by Antony F Winnemore (1816-1851).

A young man sees an enchanting slave-girl. It is love at first sight and they elope, but she is shot dead by their owner’s ‘driver’. He would have been shot as well had the driver been his owner’s employee.

[Page 41 line 6] the Engineers The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually known as the Royal Engineers (RE), or ‘Sappers’, originated in the military engineers brought to England by William the Conqueror in 1066. See the Verse “Sappers”.

[Page 41 line 7] Messines a battle on the Western Front launched in 1917 near the village of Mesen (Messines) by the British Second Army under General Herbert Plumer. The target was a ridge running north from the village of Messines past Wytschaete, a natural stronghold southeast of Ypres.

Over a year before the attack, Canadian, Australian, and British Engineers tunnelled under the German trenches and laid 21 mines totaling 455 tonnes of explosives in the layer of blue clay, 80 to 120 feet (some 25 to 35 m.) below the surface.

The galleries containing the mines totalled over 8,000 yards (7,300 m) in length, and had been constructed in the face of German counter-mining. See The Irish Guards in the Great War vol. 1, p. 217.

For a modern account of the terrors of mining in the war see Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (Vintage, 1994).

Detonation of the mines disrupted German defences and allowed the British troops to secure their objectives fairly rapidly. This action was a prelude to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele, which began on 31 July 1917.

[Page 41 line 9] Cockney Strictly someone born within the sound of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in the City of London, like Ortheris in the soldier stories, but the expression often refers more generally to a Londoner.

[Page 41 line 14] four thousand pounds worth over £200,000 in 2011. [Historical UK Inflation And Price Conversion]

[Page 41 line 21] four shillings and sevenpence about 23 ‘new’ pence in today’s decimal currency; there were twelve ‘old’ pence to the shilling and twenty shillings to the pound.

[Page 42 line 5] one shilling and tenpence about 9 ‘new’ pence in today’s decimal currency.

[Page 42 line 12] Orinoco a river in Venezuela in South America.

[Page 42 line 13] auriferous sludge mud containing gold.

[Page 42 line 14] wild-cat operation in this context reckless financial or other activities. A wild-cat oil well is one drilled outside known oil fields.

New Guinea a large island in the Pacific, North of Australia. Now divided between Indonesia and the independent nation of Papua New Guinea.

[Page 42 line 25] pulmonary trouble, a by-product of gas-poison Gas poisoning could cause paralysis of nerve-tissues and irritation of the bronchial tubes. Men who survived an attack by poison-gas were often left with scar tissue in their lungs, and were susceptible to tuberculosis. See Black’s Medical Dictionary, page 328 ,“The Tie” (later in this volume, page 77 line 6), and “Fairy-Kist” (page 164).

[Page 42 line 27] thirty-six thousand pounds The equivalent of some £1.8m. in 2011.
[Historical UK Inflation And Price Conversion]

[Page 42 line 31] fourteen hours a day Rudyard knew the perils of overwork both from his days on the Civil and Military Gazette and from his breakdown in London in 1890. (See Andrew Lycett 200-01, 208-9.)

[Page 43 line 1] meek rate of interest a very small return on capital deposited.

[Page 43 line 7] surpassed his dreams of avarice an echo of Samuel Johnson’s observation at the sale of Thrale’s Brewery: ‘ …growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.’ Also attributed to various others.

[Page 43 line 11] Sappers see page 41 line 6 above

eighteen pounds a week The equivalent of some £900 in 2011. [Historical UK Inflation And Price Conversion]

[Page 43 line 22] repetition-work Bodelsen (p. 108) observing that this phrase is used three times in the story, maintains that, although a little odd, it helps to prepare the way for the realisation that Marden’s victory over the repressed fears behind his trauma is achieved by re-enacting (‘repeating’) the experience under the Messiness Ridge from which it originated.

[Page 43 line 25] Brough a town in eastern Cumbria in the North of England, scene of a fair since 1330.

[Page 43 line 32] got the hump depression, emotional slump.

[Page 44 line 9] renal calculi from renes, the kidneys; calculi are hard deposits, like stone, produced by solid substances in the urinary passages. [Black’s Medical Dictionary].

[Page 45 line 6] the Ridge Messines Ridge – see the note on page 41 line 7 above.

a dud in this context an unexploded shell, grenade, etc or equipment that does not work and so by analogy a very sick man.

[Page 45 line 15] ex-batman a ‘batman’ was an enlisted man assigned as a commissioned officer’s personal servant.

[Page 45 line 21] Bailleul a small commune of the Nord Département, in French Flanders near Lille.

[Page 45 line 26] gas poison gas, used by both sides in the 1914-18 War. See the note on page 42 line 25 above.

[Page 46 line 12] repetition-work see the note on page 43 line 22 above.

[Page 46 line 17] I’m standin’ to ‘standing-to’, the army equivalent of ‘action-stations’ in the Royal Navy; soldiers manning their posts in case of attack, ready for anything.

[Page 46 line 29] opera-glasses Small binoculars for use in the theatre. Some theatres had them available for their audiences.

[Page 46 line 30] pips in this context the symbols on playing cards: hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs.

[Page 46 line 33] repetition-work see the note on p. 43 line 22 above.

[Page 47 line 7] red and white bullock … reminiscent of the famous posters of the time advertising Bovril, beef extract.

[Page 48 line 4] Two bottles is ‘is week’s whack‘whack’ in this context is slang for a share, portion or ration.- two bottles of whisky a week for one man would be regarded as somewhat excessive today; however, Shingle and his friends account for some of it (pages 47, line 28, and 63 line 20)

Robert Graves, in his memoir of the war Goodbye to All That (New York: Octagon, 1980, p. 172) comments on officers in the trenches on the Western Front, in 1915

I knew three or four who had worked up to the point of two bottles of whiskey a day before being lucky enough to get wounded or sent home in some other way.

[Page 48 line 21] ‘Air o‘ the dog that bit ‘im ‘A hair of the dog that bit him’ is slang for a drink in the morning in an attempt to cure a ‘hangover’ from excessive drinking the previous night. This idea is based on the mistaken belief that ‘like cures like’; thus a hair placed in the wound would cure a dog-bite. (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable). This belief goes back to Hippocrates in ancient Greece. See also “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies).

[Page 50 line 9] oak-parquet high-class flooring made of blocks of oak, laid in a herring-bone pattern.

[Page 50 line 14] shovel – steel—nickel-handled—one an echo of an alphabetical list of stores, as used by Quartermasters and storemen in the armed services. In normal English parlance this would be ‘one nickle-handled steel shovel.’

[Page 51 line 7] fifteen guineas A guinea was 21 shillings, so 15 guineas was £15 and 15 shillings, £15.75 in today’s currency; worth some £800 in 2011. [Historical UK Inflation And Price Conversion]

[Page 51 line 8] black Aberdeen In his Bateman’s years Kipling had a series of Black Aberdeens.

[Page 52 line 21] distemper see “The Great Play Hunt” (Thy Servant a Dog page 51 line 8 and Collected Dog Stories). The disease is infectious and endemic in the United Kingdom.

[Page 54 line 26] squab in this context a thick cushion lining the basket.

[Page 54 line 28] alterative substances which alter the composition of the tissues more rapidly so their functions are better discharged. A vague term, not much used. (Black’s Medical Dictionary)

antithelmintic medication for expelling or destroying parasitic worms. [The word is actually anthelmintic; Philip Holberton]

[Page 55 line 6] the Mall the tree-lined avenue in central London from Admiralty Arch to Buckingham Palace, flanked by St. James’s Park to the South and Green Park and Pall Mall (with one of Kipling’s clubs) to the North. It is also the scene of Zigler’s meeting with the narrator of “The Captive” (Traffics and Discoveries) If Marden’s flat is within walking distance it is not surprising that he pays the large sum of £800 a year in rent in the 1920s. (page 61 line 15)

[Page 55 line 8] Richmond Park a large and beautiful area of parkland bordered by Richmond, Sheen and Kingston-on-Thames, south-west of London.

[Page 55 lines 16-18] infectious Pekes… Air Service the Royal Air Force was established in 1918 from the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. Pilots occasionally smuggled dogs into the United Kingdom without the six months quarantine then required to keep rabies out of the country. The Pekinese, of Chinese origin, have a flat skull, a characteristic long coat and tails that curl over the back They were much favoured as lap-dogs by ladies.

[Page 55 line 30] Women and Song An echo of the lines:

Who loves not woman, wine and song
Remains a fool his whole life long

This is attributed (perhaps without much foundation) to the great Protestant theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546), and was quoted by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) in his “Credo”. A world-wide saying in many languages, it is also used in “Aunt Ellen” at page 125, line 4 below.

[Page 55 line 32] Hizzer-Swizzer La Hispano-Suiza Fábrica de Automóviles, a notable Spanish engineering company created in Barcelona in 1898, produced trucks, aviation engines and buses, as well as racing and luxury cars of the highest quality. In the 1920s Hispano Suiza cars ranked with those of Rolls Royce, Bentley, or Bugatti. (Kipling had a Rolls Royce.)

[Page 56 line 8] Eton Wall Game played at Eton College (founded in 1440) on the Thames opposite Windsor. It is not disssimilar to Rugby Union and Association football, played on a strip of ground 5 metres wide and 110 metres long next to a slightly curved brick wall. It is also mentioned in “A Serpent of Old Nile” (Letters of Travel, p. 232, line 31).

[Page 57 line 5] Bokhara (the spelling varies) a city in Uzbekistan, once part of the Persian empire and famous for beautiful (and expensive) rugs and carpets.

[Page 57 line 23] Oh, show me a liddle where to find a rose not traced, though the dialect suggests a selection from or an imitation of the genre of “Dinah Doe”; (see Page 41 Heading, above). It has an echo of Kipling’s “The Scholars”:

‘Oh show me how a rose can shut, and be a bud again…’

[Page 58 line 4] Green Park between Piccadilly and Constitution Hill, by Buckingham Palace; see page 55 line 6 above .

[Page 58 line 25] cop it get hit, get killed—or, in this case, be overcome by the stress of mining and counter-mining underground.

[Page 58 line 27] ‘is cup might pass (his) an echo of Matthew 26, 39: ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…’ . See also the poem “Gethsemane”.

[Page 59 line 2] Weepin’ Agnes (weeping) perhaps a reference to “Raymond and Agnes, or the Bleeding Nun” by Matthew Gregory Lewis, (J. Clements, London, 1841), or to St Agnes, the patron saint of virgins, who died a martyr in 4th century Rome.

[Page 59 line 9] Turkish baths In Turkish hamam, from the Arabic. A traditional steam bath, similar to a sauna but on a larger scale.

[Page 59 line 13] Our Fatherin’ (Fathering): ‘Our Father, which art in heaven …’ The beginning of The Lord’s Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer.

[Page 60 line 3] pukka a word of many meanings in India and elsewhre – permanent, proper, ripe, splendid, etc. See Hobson-Jobson under ‘Puka’.

[Page 60 line 7] you do not drink when you drive Kipling was all in favour of motorists staying sober – see his verses under The Muse Among the Motors 1900-1930, particularly “The Four Points”. Couplet no. 4 reads:

Drink as thou canst hold, but after is best
For Drink with men’s driving makes Crowners to Quest.

[A ‘Crowner’s Quest’ is a Coroner’s Inquest, a legal enquiry into a death; Ed.]

[Page 60 line 32] on the dole the ‘dole’ is now called ‘Unemployment Benefit’ to which he would probably not have been entitled; but the expression means ‘out of work.’

[Page 61 line 15] eight hundred a year The equivalent of £40,800 in 2011.
[Historical UK Inflation And Price Conversion]

[Page 61 line 28] dug-out underground shelter in the front-line trenches, giving some protection from shelling and weather. See “The Janeites” in Debits and Credits, page 153, line 15.

[Page 62 line 13] Fairy Anne ! (or Ann) the Cockney soldier’s pronunciation of the French ça ne fait rien – ‘it doesn’t matter’ – which became a British Army catchphrase in the 1914-18 War and spread into civilian life thereafter. See “Toby Dog” (Thy Servant a Dog, page 98 line 3. and Collected Dog Stories.)

[Page 62 line 14] Keatings a well-known insect-powder for killing fleas, etc.

[Page 64 line 1] wired in this context as indicated below, caught in a wire noose set for rabbits.

[Page 64 line 14] foot-washin’s Bath-night ? See the note on Page 67 line 13 below.

[Page 64 line 15] graf’ (graft, graff, graffing-tool etc.) Sussex dialect for a narrow-bladed curved spade used for digging drains etc. (Rev. W. D. Parrish, A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect, augmented by Helena Hall, (A. C. Acford Ltd, 1957.)

[Page 64 line 33] coils of half-buried wire between the lines he is harking back to France, with barbed wire in the ‘no man’s land’ between the British and German trenches

[Page 65 line 3] why a church-spire should be standing most buildings, including churches, in or near the front line in France were destroyed – see the first verse of “The Clerks and the Bells”:

The merry clerks of Oxenford, they stretch themselves at ease
Unhelmeted on unbleached sward beneath unshrivelled trees…
(Men’s houses doored and glazed and floored and whole at every turn!)

[On the Western Front men wore helmets, the grass was bleached by explosions, the trees shrivelled, and the houses ruined; Ed.]

[Page 66 line 2] backwards six feet like a prawn Prawns are members of the sub-order Natantia, order Decapoda somewhat similar to the shrimps, and capable of very rapid movement.

[Page 67 line 2] holt the lair of the badger (also known as a set) or otter.

[Page 67 line 5] raffle in this context, rubbish.

[Page 67 line 13] wash-house a small building adjoining the house where the laundry was done. In the days before universal bathrooms, people usually bathed in a portable tin bath before the fire in the kitchen or bedroom. See “My Son’s Wife” page 340 line 19 onwards, in A Diversity of Creatures.

copper a large bowl set in brickwork with a fire under it – usually the only way of heating water apart from a kettle, or a tank incorporated in the kitchen-range.

[Page 67 line 26] Aint ‘arf sweated either ‘ain’t ‘alf’ means ‘is not half’, a Cockney expression; here it means that he sweated a lot.

[Page 68 line 33] boil his long hot bath the previous night.

[Page 69 line 4] scarecrow it was the custom to dress a dummy stuffed with straw in old clothes and put it in a cornfield to scare off crows and other birds from damaging the crops.

[Page 69 line 15] strop his razor the open razors of the time were sharpened on a leather strap, a ‘strop’.

[Page 69 line 19] Death-duties a tax payable on the estate of a deceased person. As the Works is his personal property and tax would be paid on everything he owned at the time of death, the liability would be reduced if it were a Limited Company, to his real and personal estate. See the text at page 43, line 2 onwards and page 60 line 15 onwards

[Page 69 line 27] road-scraper A machine for levelling roads. See “An Habitation Enforced” (Actions and Reactions, page 36, line 1).

[Page 70 line 16] ‘er come-uppance ‘what is due to her’. The dog has taught Marden how to love and will obviously be jealous when he meets the right woman, see line 22 below.

Dinah in Heaven