A Book of Words – IX

Selections from speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927

“The Ritual of Government”

Mayor’s Inaugural Dinner, Royal Pavilion, Brighton, Sussex, 9 November 1910

Notes by Leonee Ormond


Printed, in part, in The Times on 10 November 1910, page 8. Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.


The elected Mayor of Brighton was Councillor Charles Thomas Stanford (1858-1932). Lord Curzon (1859-1925), the former Viceroy of India (1898-1905), and Sir Edward Carson (1854-1935), later Lord Carson, a leading lawyer and the implacable leader of the Ulster Unionist M.P.s, were among the guests.

In November 1910 Britain was in the throes of a constitutional crisis. The Budget presented in Parliament by the Liberal Government, which Kipling strongly disapproved of, had been passed by the House of Commons but rejected by the House of Lords. The Government had then introduced a Parliament Bill, which proposed that the Lords’ veto on finance bills be abolished, and that in future they would be able to delay, but ultimately not to block, the will of the Commons. The Bill passed through the Commons but was unlikely to be accepted by the Lords. The Govenment had threatened to create enough new peers to ensure its passage, but at the time of Kipling’s speech there was deadlock. In the later resolution of the crisis, Curzon was to play an important conciliatory role.

In his speech, Kipling referred to Britain’s vast overseas possessions. Might we be excused, he said, if we had so far ‘avoided trouble within these limits? May we not be forgiven if we had not exercised our imagination on our fellow-subjects.’ Kipling praised the calibre of the members of the House of Lords and stated that the rituals and procedures of the House of Commons were important as a defence against the unrestricted powers of legislators. He noted the extent of the Empire governed from Westminster and contended that Parliament had the strength to carry this responsibility.

Notes on the Text

(the page and line numbers below refer to the Uniform Edition of A Book of Words Macmillan, London 1928)

[Page 61, line 1] Paracatathecus the testator, one who makes a will.

[Page 63, line 11] Lewes town in Sussex close to Brighton.

[Page 63, line 13] Brighthelmstone old name for Brighton.

[Page 64, line 30] Thames pilot guide for those navigating the passage of the River Thames.

[Page 65, line 25] Rottingdean coastal town in Sussex. The country home of Kipling’s uncle and aunt, Edward and Georgiana Burne Jones, from 1880. The Kiplings lived there from 1897 to 1902.

[Page 65, line 27] Mr Kemp Thomas Read Kemp (1781?-1844), Member of Parliament for Lewes, 1812-16; founded the Kemp Town area of Brighton, 1826-37.

[Page 67, lines 31-2] Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth Matthew 5,5, Christ’s words to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.


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