In an issue of the London World in April, 1890, there appeared
the following paragraph: "Two small rooms connected by a tiny
hall afford sufficient space to contain Mr. Rudyard Kipling, the
literary hero of the present hour, 'the man who came from
nowhere,' as he says himself, and who a year ago was consciously
nothing in the literary world."
Six months previous to this Mr. Kipling, then but twenty-four
years old, had arrived in England from India to find that fame
had preceded him. He had already gained fame in India, where
scores of cultured and critical people, after reading
"Departmental Ditties," "Plain Tales from the Hills," and various
other stories and verses, had stamped him for a genius.
Fortunately for everybody who reads, London interested and
stimulated Mr. Kipling, and he settled down to writing. "The
Record of Badalia Herodsfoot," and his first novel, "The Light
that Failed," appeared in 1890 and 1891; then a collection of
verse, "Life's Handicap, being stories of Mine Own People," was
published simultaneously in London and New York City; then
followed more verse, and so on through an unending series.
In 1891 Mr. Kipling met the young author Wolcott Balestier, at
that time connected with a London publishing house. A strong
attachment grew between the two, and several months after their
first meeting they came to Mr. Balestier's Vermont home, where
they collaborated on "The Naulahka: A Story of West and East,"
for which The Century paid the largest price ever given by an
American magazine for a story. The following year Mr. Kipling
married Mr. Balestier's sister in London and brought her to
The Balestiers were of an aristocratic New York family; the
grandfather of Mrs. Kipling was J. M. Balestier, a prominent
lawyer in New York City and Chicago, who died in 1888, leaving a
fortune of about a million. Her maternal grandfather was E.
Peshine Smith of Rochester, N. Y., a noted author and jurist, who
was selected in 1871 by Secretary Hamilton Fish to go to Japan as
the Mikado's adviser in international law. The ancestral home of
the Balestiers was near Brattleboro', Vt., and here Mr. Kipling
brought his bride. The young Englishman was so impressed by the
Vermont scenery that he rented for a time the cottage on the
"Bliss Farm," in which Steele Mackaye the playwright wrote the
well known drama "Hazel Kirke."
The next spring Mr. Kipling purchased from his brother-in-law,
Beatty Balestier, a tract of land about three miles north of
Brattleboro', Vt., and on this erected a house at a cost of
nearly $50,000, which he named "The Naulahka." This was his home
during his sojourn in America. Here he wrote when in the mood,
and for recreation tramped abroad over the hills. His social
duties at this period were not arduous, for to his home he
refused admittance to all but tried friends. He made a study of
the Yankee country dialect and character for "The Walking
Delegate," and while "Captains Courageous," the story of New
England fisher life, was before him he spent some time among the
Gloucester fishermen with an acquaintance who had access to the
household gods of these people.
He returned to England in August, 1896, and did not visit America
again till 1899, when he came with his wife and three children
for a limited time.
It is hardly fair to Mr. Kipling to call "American Notes" first
impressions, for one reading them will readily see that the
impressions are superficial, little thought being put upon the
writing. They seem super-sarcastic, and would lead one to
believe that Mr. Kipling is antagonistic to America in every
respect. This, however, is not true. These "Notes" aroused much
protest and severe criticism when they appeared in 1891, and are
considered so far beneath Mr. Kipling's real work that they have
been nearly suppressed and are rarely found in a list of his
writings. Their very caustic style is of interest to a student
and lover of Kipling, and for this reason the publishers believe
them worthy of a good binding.
G. P. T.