A Book of Words – VII

Selections from speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927

“A Doctor’s Work”

Middlesex Hospital 1st October 1908

Notes by Leonee Ormond


Published in The Times, 2 October 1908, page 4, and in the Standard on the same day. Published in The Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1909 as ‘The Doctor and the Patient’ Published in pamphlet form as ‘Doctors’, Macmillan, London, 1908 and by D. Appleton and Company, St. Louis,1910 as ‘Kipling and the Doctors’ Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.


The Middlesex Hospital, originally founded in 1745, was in Mortimer Street in central London. Kipling spoke after Dr. A.M.Kellar and the Dean. He distributed the prizes, and was thanked by Kellar. He wrote to Edmonia Hill:

Last Thursday I had to deliver prizes at the Middlesex hospital and to make some sort of speech … It was in a lecture room with benches tiering away up to the ceiling and lighted from above by a round skylight. Also it was a fervently hot day.
(Letters, Ed. Pinney vol. 3, p. 340)

His friend and doctor, Sir John Bland-Sutton, Surgeon to the hospital and President of the Royal College of Surgeons, had persuaded Kipling to speak. Bland-Sutton was the original for Sir James Belton in Kipling’s story, “The Tender Achilles”, first published in 1929, and collected in Limits and Renewals (1932). Three years after giving the speech, Kipling donated a poem, ‘The Spies’ March’, to The Literary Pageant, sold in aid of the hospital.

Kipling stresses the importance of doctors in the world and describes the weight of responsibility which lies upon them. He then, with some humour, outlines their privileges and the inconveniences of their position.

Notes on the Text

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

[Page 45, line 1] Pausanias a physician in the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC).

[Page 45, line 3] Hades the kingdom of the dead in Greek mythology.

[Page 49, line 24] yellow flag indication of fever.

[Page 49, line 26] Red Cross flag flag of the International Red Cross, founded in 1864 for the medical treatment of those wounded during military operations. Flown here to show that the place was a hospital.


©Leonee Ormond 2011 All rights reserved