A Book of Words

Selections from thirty-seven speeches

(notes by Leonee Ormond)

I Literature Royal Academy Dinner 5 May 1906
II The Claims of Art Artists’ General Benevolent Institution: 9 May 1907
III Values in Life McGill University, Montreal: 12 Oct 1907
IV Imperial Relations Canadian Club, Toronto: 18 Oct 1907
V Growth and Responsibility Canadian Club, Winnipeg: 2 Oct 1907
VI The Handicaps of Letters Royal Literary Fund: 21 May 1908
VII A Doctor’s Work Middlesex Hospital: 1 Oct 1908
VIII The Spirit of the Navy A Naval Club: 21 Oct 1908
IX The Ritual of Government Brighton, Mayor’s Inaugural Dinner 9 Nov 1910
X The Verdict of Equals Royal Geographical Society: May 1912
XI The Uses of Reading Wellington College: 25 May 1912
XII Some Aspects of Travel Royal Geographical Society: Feb 1914
XIII The War and the Schools Winchester College: Dec 1915
XIV The Magic Square Household Brigade O.C.C., Bushey: 1917
XV The First Sailor East Coast Patrol: 1918
XVI England and the English< Royal Society of St. George: April 1920
XVII The Scot and the War Edinburgh University: July 1920
XVIII The Virtue of France Sorbonne, Paris: Nov 1921
XIX A Thesis Banquet at the Sorbonne Nov 1921
XX A Return to Civilisation Strasbourg University: Nov 1921
XXI The Trees and the Wall Banquet, Strasbourg University: Nov 1921
XXII Waking from Dreams High Commissioner’s Lunch, Strasbourg: Nov 1921
XXIII Surgeons and the Soul Royal College of Surgeons: Feb 1923
XXIV Independence Rectorial Address, St. Andrews: Oct 1923
XXV The Classics and the Sciences University College, Dundee: Oct 1923
XXVI Work in the Future Rhodes Scholars, Oxford: June 1924
XXVII Shipping U.K. Chamber of Shipping Feb 1925
XXVIII Stationery Stationers’ Company: July 1925
XXIX Fiction Royal Literary Society July 1926
XXX The Spirit of the Latin Brazilian Academy of Letters, Rio: March 192’7
XXXI Our Indian Troops in France La Bassée Oct 1927
XXXII Passengers at Sea Liverpool Shipbrokers’ Benevolent Society 26 Oct 1928
XXXIII Healing by the Stars Royal Society of Medicine 15 Nov 1928
XXXIV School Experiences King’s School Junior School, Canterbury 5 Oct 1929
XXXV France and Britain Association France-Grande Bretagne 2 July 1931
XXXVI Speech to Canadian Authors Canadian Authors’ Association 12 Jul 1933
XXXVII An Undefended Island The Royal Society of St George 6 May 1935


Publication History

This collection, with thirty-one speeches, was published by Macmillan in 1928. The last six speeches, making thirty-seven in all, were published in the Sussex Edition, volume XXV, in 1938.

Angus Wilson (p. 255) comments:

… one of the paradoxes about Kipling is that for a man who disliked public appearances and speaking, he put some of his most deeply personal and revealing statements into his speeches. As a result, A Book of Words, that incorporates them, makes splendid reading. His speech to McGill University is no exception. It is his most direct and fierce attack upon materialism.

See also 48 further speeches identified and annotated by Thomas Pinney, and published by ELT Press North Carolina at  Greensboro in 2008 as A Second Book of Words. 

The Title Page

The collection carries this heading:

To Demeter the Winnower Heronax dedicates these.
And if there be any of them serviceable to a
wayfarer, let him share.

Demeter was the earth goddess of the Greeks, equivalent to Ceres in Roman mythology. This is an adaptation by Kipling of a dedicatory epigram by Diodoros Zonas (perhaps born 125 BC) in the Greek Anthology (VI.98), translated by William Roger Paton (1857-1921) and published by William Heinemann in the Loeb Classical Library. Kipling has taken the name of ‘Heronax’ to refer to himself as writer:

To Demeter the Winnower and the Seasons that tread in the furrows
Heronax from his scanty tilth offers a portion of the corn from his threshing-floor
and these various vegetables on a wooden tripod – very little from a small store;
for he owns but this little glebe on the barren hill-side.


©Leonee Ormond 2011 All rights reserved