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Thread: Most misrepresented Victorian?

  1. #16
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    Greetings and salutations,

    I stumbled on to this forum while doing research for a book based on RK's "If". Glad to have found it and hope I can contribute something useful.

    Soupy, if you haven't yet, check out "The Village That Voted The Earth Was Flat." It is probably the funniest thing Kipling ever wrote. I've read about 90% of his work and this is easily in the top five of my favorites list.

    As to the "racist" charge: I wouldn't say Kipling was racist. He was very definately race proud and, given the accomplishments of the Empire in every field of human endeavor, he had some justification.

    Wildrose, you mentioned Kipling's account of his meeting with Mark Twain. (I love "From Sea to Sea") It is interesting to read Twain's account of the same meeting from his autobiography. (Charles Neider edition). Kipling was an unknown quantity then. About a year later a friend of Twain's gave him "Plain Tales" saying that the noise Kipling would make would be "loud and continuous".

    Twain would later say: "I am not aquainted with my own books but I know Kipling's"
    Can there be higher praise than that?

    Gotta run. My best to all

    US Beast
    Last edited by US Beast; 01-05-2006 at 10:37 PM.

  2. #17
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I've not read a lot of Kipling so my judgement is only based on the novel Kim and a handful of short stories, which have flown from memory at this point. By today's standards he might be deemed insensitive, but I don't get the impression he was a racist. He was race conscious, but I don't feel he tried segregate and keep non-whites down. I think he had lots of sympathies for the various groups in India. Yes, he thought in terms of group identity, but so did everyone, and I believe even native Indians think that way. It's only my impression, so I could be wrong. However, I must put in a good word for Kim. It is truly a magnificent novel. Finely written and so touching. I think it deserves to be with the highest of twenty century english novels, but because of the negative labels placed on Kipling it has kind of faded from critical consciousness. Perhaps we can read it one month in the book club and we can decide whether it's racist, especially since we have several Indians and Pakistani on the forum.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  3. #18
    Here here! I can hardly wait. I shall put out my Indian tapestries, wear my Indian clothes(compliments of my dear Kulvinder) and sip some Indian tea while I read and dream and sigh with contentment.
    Or in real life I will wrestle with baby Hasia trying to remove from her grasp our new dvd's and with the other hold the book up and glimpse it now and then as I watch over dinner cooking at the stove.

  4. #19
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    I was introduced to Kipling when I was 14 and in the ninth grade. Mrs. Lewis made us memorize "If." I hated her for it. Now, I'm amazed at how often I fall back on the contents of that poem in times of stress or difficulty. Old Mrs. Lewis wasn't so dumb after all.

    Kipling was a product of his time. If he was racist, it was no more than the rest of his generation and probably less than most. Pollitically correct he was not. But the politically correct insanity is part of our generation, not his.

    I think Gunga Din gives some insight into Kipling's true character. Though Din was cursed and reviled he was at the same time deeply appreciated and the last two lines show the true feelings of those he served.

  5. #20
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    I get so annoyed when anyone says that Kipling was racist. I don't think he was. His characters were from all walks of life and religions, yet he portrayed them all as having dignity and integrity. "Wee Willie Winkie" is a perfect example. The "bad men" turned to be not all that bad. He pretty much simply "reported" life as it was in the times and places he wrote about.

    I began reading Kipling when I was about 12, when my mother got me a two volume set of the Jungle Books, which included a few tales that were not Mowgli stories. 3 or 4 years later, she got me the Beecroft two-volume set mentioned elsewhere in this thread. Over the years and several moves, those books have disappeared (probably loaned out and not gotten back), but I recently replaced them at Alibris. I have read these books many many many times. Good literature bears rereading, and I almost always pick up on something I missed before. Several years ago, it finally occurred to me that "Kim" is a spy novel! When I first read it as a teenager, it was simply an adventure story.

    By the way, the term "racist" is a mid 20th century term, becoming popular when I was in high school. It probably wasn't even in use when Kipling was writiing. As far as "politically incorrect" writing, it wasn't politically incorrect at the time, and it still isn't because Kipling does not actually denigrate any of the social classes he writes about. He simply reports them, often sympathetically, and emphasizes the heroic actions of the "lower classes" as in "The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes" when, of all his servants, the lowly dog-boy is the only one who is moved to rescue Jukes.

    I got very annoyed at Disney for "The Jungle Book." It so misrepresents Baloo, and really doesn't finish the story adequately as far as I am concerned. It's cute, but there is so much more to the stories than one sees in that movie. I'm afraid that kids won't read the stories later because they think they're just children's tales. Kipling wrote for everyone, not just children, and there is a great deal more in the Mowgli stories than the movie shows.

    My reading plans over the next few years include tracking down and reading the Kipling I've missed.
    Carol Reese

    Kipling fan for 48 years, and counting.

  6. #21
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Carol, welcome to lit net. I hope you like this place. Anyone who's read Kipling has got to like it. Have you read Kim?
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  7. #22
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    Talking

    Of course! You must have missed that I finally decided it was a spy story, not just an adventure story about a teenaged boy. When my original copy of the Beecroft collection could not be found, and I couldn't replace it, I went and bought a copy of Kim just so I could reread it! I've probably read it at least a dozen times, and I'll probably read it several times more in the future, as I will most of the stories in the Beecroft collection. I've probably read Captain's Courageous 6 or 8 times, but only because I didn't read it as soon as I did Kim.
    Carol Reese

    Kipling fan for 48 years, and counting.

  8. #23
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Yes, Kim is a spy story, adventure story, friendship story, religious story all rolled into one.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mono
    Since Latin has never seemed very user-friendly (or speaker-friendly) to me, I turned to my Latin & English dictionary, and found the following results:

    In the Kipling book, it probably really depends on the context of the phrase "tertium quid," but I hope this makes it easier to understand. Perhaps the main character or narrator described this particular character as questioned for a third time - I have no idea without reading the whole sentence or paragraph myself.
    Good luck!

    Very late, but better late then never:

    "Tertium quid" means "a third entity".

    By the way, I think that maybe Kipling is a racist, but his best work is not racist at all. He looks ironically and naturally multicultural, much more pleasant than any sort of rhetorical menestrel of the multiculturalism.

  10. #25
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    I should have looked that up.

    Actually, the character is referred to throughout the story as "the tertium quid," as if that were his name or his job title. I don't recall offhand if it's capitalized. He would have been "a third party" because he was courting a married woman. I also have the impression that he was something like a "third lieutenant" in rank, the lowest officer rank, or the lowest ranking person in whatever civilian job he may have had, sort of third in command or something like that, or at least someone with little or no authority.

    If Kipling exhibited racist behavior, I think it was simply because of his personal social standing. He was from a higher middle class family, a family who could afford to send their children to boarding school in England while the parents continued in India. On a personal level, he respected all the people he came in contact with regardless of military rank or social status or caste. He was a keen observer of humankind, and a sympathetic one. I think he gives us a glimpse of just what life was like for a multitude of different subcultures and lets us see them from the point of view of each other.
    Carol Reese

    Kipling fan for 48 years, and counting.

  11. #26
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    A good article on Kipling. Worth reading, at least I enjoyed reading it, if you're interested:

    http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/...00/kipling.htm

    Another good one that I can't link to, but you may be able to find, was an article written by Malcolm Muggeridge called "Kipling Sahib". I read it in a collection of Muggeridge's writings called "Things Past".

    Both of those articles are very interesting and deal, among other things, with the theme of this thread. Was Kipling really racist, etc.

  12. #27
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    What a great find this site is! I too, have been trying to express my admiration for Kipling's writing and to share my views of a visionary who was not 'racist.' Although it may be difficult in this day and age to analyze his short stories and poems/ballads with an open mind, one must not let today's conditions and views cloud the brilliance of Kipling's writing. I have read 'Plain Tales From The Hills' and a few other short stories not included in that book, also a collection of poetry.
    He is a man for all time.
    Last edited by danar256; 11-01-2006 at 07:37 AM. Reason: Had to reread what I had written to see what I had omitted.

  13. #28
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    Just in case anyone still follows this thread!

    When I was 17 I decided to write one of my A Level English Lit. essays on Kipling. The details are hazay but it was the 'extended writing' piece or similar, so it had quite a bit of weight in my overall examination result. The title, which also escapes me (12 or 13 years on) was along the lines of this debate, about Kipling being criticised for being 'jingoistic' etc. My assertion was to the contrary that Kipling had a deep love and respect for India and all things Indian and fully understood the complexities of the imperial relationship. I quoted from many of his works to back up my arguments. I vividly remember my teacher asking me several times if I was sure I wanted to go ahead because he felt that the conservative English Lit external examiners might not look favourably on my choice and he had never known anyone of my age to take such an interest in Kipling in this way. He was fully supportive though, being a bit of a Kipling fan himself (as well as overly fond of Freud and psychoanalysis but that is getting off topic!)

    In the end I was awarded a B grade for English Lit., although was expected to gain an A. Whether this was in any part down to my subject matter I will never know. But I do wonder!

    A Kipling fan,
    Liz
    Just finished:
    The Heart of the Matter, Greene

    Currently reading:
    Catch-22, Heller (awesome)

    About to start:
    The Book Thief, Zusak

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    Kipling in perspective

    To evaluate RK's work from a modern perspective (2007) is wrongl Had today's perceptions of what may be currently construed as racism been common in Victorian times then many authors of that time might have constructed their work differently. To some extent RK is bound to reflect the mainstream social thinking of his time (The missionary, Dr Livingstone, for instance, wrote to the effect that the lot of the black Africans could be greatly improved as long as the Africans were supervised firmly by white men. I don't recall that anyone has labeled Livingstone as racist!) There is even a theory that if RK had not written about the Widow at Windsor in his Barrack Room Ballads then he might have been made poet laureate. The big dispute of that time was the row between the Little Englanders, like Hilaire Belloc, quote "Whatever happens we have got
    The Maxim gun and they have not!" who advocated giving up foreign colonies and the straight Imperialists who claimed that it was the Englishman's duty to rule over and give guidance to selected foreigners. Other European countries applied that same duty competitively to themselves. RK seems (as is natural in his society) to accept the Imperialistic view and that is why he was initially criticised in recent years, (viewpoints of the UK's destiny were revised as the British Empire crumbled) imputations of racism and gender discrimation as in "The female, thus accosted, rends the peasant tooth and nail" were added later when womens' rights became a social issue, I believe that within the framework imposed by Imperialism RK wrote of the native peoples that he knew with warmth and understanding rather than with contempt, which is as I understand it, the basis of racist comment.
    Last edited by leshy; 05-09-2007 at 07:03 AM. Reason: error

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