A Book of Words – XXV

Selections from speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927

“The Classics and the Sciences”

Luncheon at University College, Dundee 12 October 1923

Notes edited by Leonee Ormond


Published in the Dundee Evening Telegraph 12 October 1923, p. 8. Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.


Kipling was speaking at a luncheon given by the Council of University College, Dundee. On the previous day he had reopened the Men’s Student Union, and given a short address. At this date, University College, Dundee was a constituent element of the University of St Andrews.

The Times (13 October 1923, page 14) reports that the student welcome given to Kipling in Dundee was ‘even more exuberant’ than that which he had enjoyed in St Andrews (two days before). Andrew Lycett (p. 518) explains that the students ‘appreciated his support for their campaign for full university status’.

Kipling told his hearers that, having celebrated the virtues of independence in St Andrews, he was now about to stress the virtues of interdependence. He spoke of the union of the two institutions, and of the importance of co-operation between them, noting that Dundee was best known for science. He expressed his respect for Dundee as a city and concluded with encouraging words for those looking into the future. ‘And as surely as Science is real and Faith is true, so surely much is required of us’.

Notes on the Text

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

[Page 251 lines 1-2] Miss Strachan the President of the Students’ Representative Council in Dundee. She was the first woman student to propose a toast to the Rector. The Times reported that her speech was humorous and aptly illustrated with quotations from Kipling’s writings as she welcomed him ‘to this city of smoking chimney-stacks and clattering looms’. (13 October, page 14)

[Page 252 line 22] Prometheus the Greek hero whom Zeus punished for bringing fire to earth by exposing him upon a rock where a vulture continually devoured his liver. In one version of the story, Prometheus made man and woman out of clay and stole fire from heaven in order to give them life. In ancient times he was honoured for his gifts to humanity.

[Page 252 line 23] Epimetheus brother of Prometheus, he married Pandora and opened her box, thus releasing many evils upon the human race.

[Page 253 line 10] men are subdued to what they work in Shakespeare’s sonnet CXI: ‘My nature is subdued /To what it works in’.

[Page 253 line 16] Swammerdam Jan Swammerdam (1637–80) Dutch naturalist and microscopist, particularly famous for his work on insects.

[Page 254 line 7] Ancient University St Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1413.

[Page 255, line 26] It may also be that the name and line of some of you must now die out for lack of succession… In this passage Kipling is clearly thinking of the death of his only son, John, killed in the Great War in 1915 at the age of eighteen.



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