Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 - 18 January 1936) was an English poet (born in Bombay, British India, ) and writer of children's books. He spent some time living in Vermont. His unusual first name comes from Lake Rudyard where his parents spent many happy hours together. He authored Captains Courageous and The Jungle Book. He won an early Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1907. He made his home at Bateman's, near the prosperous village of Burwash in Sussex, England.
He wrote in the Ballad of East and West:
- "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
- Till earth and sky stand presently, at God's great Judgment Seat"
- But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
- When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!"
Kipling's other writings included Gunga Din (1890), Kim (1901) and the still-popular Just So Stories (1902). His poem If topped a BBC poll for the nation's (UK) favorite poem.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, drew on some of Kipling's ideas. His 1908 Scouting for Boys included a condensed version of Kim, and the memory training exercise "Kim's Game" was and remains part of Scouting. Also, the Cub Scouting program in America is largely influenced by Kipling's Jungle Book.
Kipling was identified with British imperialism, and for a time fell victim to a kind of political correctness. In a famous essay, George Orwell notes that "During five literary generations every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there." He said that Kipling "is the only English writer of our time who has added phrases to the language." Giving as an example Kipling's line "He travels the fastest who travels alone," Orwell notes "It may not be true, but at any rate you it is a thought that everyone thinks. Sooner or later you will have occasion to feel that he travels the fastest who travels alone, and there the thought is, ready made and, as it were, waiting for you. So the chances are that, having once heard this line, you will remember it."
Kipling wrote a number of stories about engineers and machines, topics unusual in literature at the time. His poem, "The Hymn of Breaking Strain" analogizes mechanical and human failure. A curious side-note is an 1897 story, ".007 The Story of an American Locomotive"(1897), by Kipling which anthropomorphizes railroad engines. It tells the story of how one particular young locomotive performs in a heroic way, wins the respect of his peers, and is inducted into a sort of fraternal organization, the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Locomotives. Fans of Ian Fleming have often speculated that this was the inspiration for fictional spy James Bond's code number, but it has never been proven.
He was also a Freemason, having been initiated into the "Hope and Perseverance Lodge, No. 782", at Lahore, at the age of twenty, for which he required special dispensation from Grand Lodge. In 1888, he joined the "Independence and Philanthropy Lodge, No. 391", which met at Allahabad, Bengal. Of his own Masonic experiences, he was later to write, "In 1885, I was made a Freemason by dispensation (being under age) in The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C. because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got Father to advise me in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of King Solomon's Temple. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jewish Tyler, who was a priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world was opened to me which I needed."
Kipling incorporated his Masonic experiences into several of his works, most notably "In the Interests of the Brethren", a story set during the Great War, which he wrote six months after agreeing to write the history of his dead son's regiment, and its role during World War I. Several poems also contained Masonic details, the best known of which are "The Mother Lodge", in which he describes some of the characters (or brethren) within the Hope and Perseverance Lodge, his "Mother Lodge"; as well as "Banquet Night", which deals with the building of King Solomon's Temple - a central theme in Masonic ritual.
President Ronald Reagan had this to say about Rudyard Kipling near the very end of Reagan's presidency, "As I prepare to lay down the mantle of office...I cannot help believe that what Rudyard Kipling said of another time and place is true today for America: 'We are at the opening verse of the opening page of the chapter of endless possibilities.' Thank you, and God bless you."
Kipling wrote his autobiography "Something of Myself for my Friends Known and Unknown" in 1935. However, he had been diagnosed with an ulcer in 1933, and following a haemorrhage, Kipling passed away on the 18th January, 1936. The book was published posthumously, in 1937, by his widow, Caroline with the help of his friend and surgeon, Lord Webb-Johnson.
- Orwell, George (1942), "Rudyard Kipling." The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, volume 2, pp. 184-197
- The English Masonic Illustrated (London, July 1901, volume 1, number 10)
- MWBro. Robert A. Gordon PGM, Kipling and Freemasonry