A Book of Words – XXVI

Selections from speeches and addresses delivered between 1906 and 1927

“Work in the Future”

Annual Dinner for Rhodes Scholars, Town Hall, Oxford, 6 June 1924

Notes edited by Leonee Ormond


Published in The Times 7 June 1924, page 14. Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.


Kipling was speaking at the annual dinner in honour of Cecil Rhodes and the Rhodes Scholarships. Rhodes was a highly successful business-man and industrialist, who had made his fortune in South Africa, largely from diamond-mining. He was also for a time Prime-Minister of Cape Colony, and was a committed empire-builder, much admired by Kipling. He provided for the Rhodes Scholarships, which enabled students from territories currently or formerly under British rule, and from Germany, to study at Oxford University. He died in 1902.

See our notes on “A Burgher of the Free State”, and on Kipling’s poem “The Burial”.

Kipling and his wife had discussed the plan for the scholarships with Rhodes who had been a good friend. Lord Milner (1854-1925) was in the chair at the dinner, and there were about four hundred guests.

In his speech, Milner noted that, in October 1924, the scholarships would have been awarded for twenty-one years.

The Chancellor of the University, Lord Grey (1862-1933), in response, spoke of the importance of the relationship between Britain and America. Mr F.J.Wylie, Secretary to the Rhodes Trustees, proposed a toast to Oxford University.

A former Rhodes Scholar, Mr A. Watt, representing British Dominions beyond the seas, spoke of their gratitude to the founder. Kipling, proposing a toast of prosperity to the Rhodes Scholars, quoted Cecil Rhodes: ‘The game is to get them to knock up against each other’.

In his speech, Kipling expressed his own enthusiasm for Rhodes’ plan to bring together young people from disparate backgrounds to study together in Oxford and so learn to respect other nations and beliefs. Kipling foretold considerable success in life for the Rhodes Scholars among his hearers.

Notes on the Text

(the page and line numbers below refer to the Uniform Edition of A Book of Words.)

[Page 257] The Dedication this has very direct reference to Cecil Rhodes (see note on page 259, line 10), for it speaks of his burial place in the Matoppo Hills in what was then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

The second of the ‘two hearts’ is that of Rhodes’ great friend and associate, Dr Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917) whose name is largely remembered for the ‘Jameson Raid’. See our notes on “A Burgher of the Free State”.

On Kipling’s own authority we know that he had ‘Dr Jim’ in mind when writing his poem ‘If’. (See Something of Myself p. 191). Jameson’s identity in this dedication is clear, for the word ‘Star’ in the third line has an upper case ‘S’ and Jameson was known as ‘Sir Starr’, not as ‘Sir Leander’.

[Page 259 line 10] Mr. Rhodes Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902). With a successful mining career behind him, Rhodes entered politics and became a champion of British commercial and imperial interests.

He was Prime Minister of the Cape in South Africa from 1890-96. After the fiasco of the Jameson Raid in 1895 (see note below for page 260, line 17), Rhodes resigned and devoted the rest of his career to developing Rhodesia. Kipling was a friend of Rhodes and an admirer of his work and attitudes.

[Page 259 line 11] scholarships through his will Rhodes set up 170 scholarships at his own university, Oxford, for students from current and former British Dominions, the United States, and Germany.

[Page 259 line 17] that side of his head an echo of Kipling’s poem, “The Two-Sided Man”, published in Kim in 1901, where he thanks Allah for giving him ‘two Separate sides to my head’.

[Page 260 line 17] Jameson In 1895 Jameson crossed into the Transvaal in the famous ‘Jameson raid’ to try to launch an uprising in Johannesburg to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger (1825-1904), and gain control of the recently discovered goldfields. They were captured by the Boers and Jameson was tried in Britain and imprisoned for a time.

He later relaunched his career, became Prime Minister of Cape Colony (1904-08) and was leader of the opposition in the first Union parliament. See also our notes on “A Burgher of the Free State”.

[Page 260 line 21] Kimberley Club Kimberley, in the north-east of Cape Province near the border with the Orange Free State, is famous for its diamond mines.

In 1880 Rhodes had launched the De Beers Mining Company, which dominated the industry. During the Second South African War he was trapped in the town for a time during its siege by Boer commandos.

[Page 261, line 19] South and Middle West of the United States of America.

[Page 261 line 24] the Cape the Cape is the area of South Africa around the Cape of Good Hope. (See this map.)

[Page 261 line 27] Balliol one of the colleges of Oxford University. Rhodes was at Oriel College, but only stayed for one term.

[Page 261 lines 27-28] plum-and-apple jam refers to a soldier’s joke of the early years of the First World War (1914-1918) when that particular jam was, for a time, the only certain thing of the kind available for the British troops in France.

[Page 263 line 22] Demos the population, or the general public.



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