A Book of Words – X

Selections from speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927

“The Verdict of Equals”

Royal Geographical Society Whitehall Rooms, 20 May 1912

Notes by Leonee Ormond


Published in the Geographical Journal, XL, 1912, 108-09 Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.


Lord Curzon (1859-1925), the President of the Society, was in the Chair, and the other speakers were Sir George Darwin (1845-1912), the mathematician and astronomer; the Prime Minister, Henry Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), later First Earl of Oxford, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson (1848-1930). Kipling told Frank Doubleday: ‘I’ve had to make a speech (me and the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Royal Geographical dinner’.} (Letters, Ed. Thomas Pinney (vol 4) 113-14)

Kipling was proposing a toast to the Society and its President. He argued that travellers and explorers referred their achievements to the Society and praised the work of the organisation, paying tribute to Curzon’s achievements as President.

Notes on the Text

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

[Page 72, line 2] all he had done availed little till … passed by your geographers Kipling read the Voyages of Richard Hakluyt (1553?-1616) in the headmaster’s library during his schooldays. Ann Weygandt (pp. 25-26) shows that this passage is a paraphrase from the preface to the first edition of The Principall Navigations Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation of 1589. For later references to Hakluyt see page 74, line 8 below and page 116, lines 20-21.

[Page 72, line 24] His Excellency Lord Curzon.

[Page 73, lines 4-5] on the road to house yourselves in April 1913 the Society opened new premises at Lowther Lodge, in Kensington Gore, designed in 1874 by Richard Norman Shaw.

[Page 73, line 9] Valhalla in Scandinavian mythology the hall assigned to those who have died in battle, in which they feast with Odin.

[Page 73, lines 11-12] Lodge of Instruction the organisation where Freemasons and their officers learn rituals and practices.

[Page 73, line 14] history of travel Kipling coined the phrase TRANSPORTATION IS CIVILISATION, frequently in use as a motto in 1912. See the heading to the story “As Easy as A.B.C.” (February 1912) collected in A Diversity of Creatures:

The A/B.C., that semi-elected semi-nominated body of a few score persons, controls the Planet, Transportation is Civilisation, our motto runs…

[Page 73, line 23] it has been his fortune Curzon was Viceroy of India from 1898-1905.

[Page 74, line 8] Richard Hakluyt Archdeacon of Westminster 1603; first published Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation in 1589 and an enlarged edition in three volumes from 1598 to 1600. Kipling is quoting here from the Epistle to the second edition. He has made a few small changes, ‘commonwealth’ for ‘commonweal’, ‘light’ for ‘easy’.


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