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Triumph and Disaster: The Life of Rudyard Kipling

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 28, 2023 3:02 am

Triumph and Disaster: The Life of Rudyard Kipling

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 28, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the life of the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Rudyard Kipling, was filled with tragedy. He survived a difficult childhood to go on to become one of the most celebrated authors of his day, penning such classics as "The Jungle Book" and "Just So Stories.” Here’s The History Guy with the story of Rudyard Kipling.

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Equal housing lender. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your stories.

Send them to They're some of our favorites. And now on to the History Guy. His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages on YouTube. The History Guy is also heard here at Our American Stories. The life of the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Rudyard Kipling, was filled with tragedy. He survived a difficult childhood to go on to become one of the most celebrated authors of his day, penning such classics as The Jungle Book and Just So Stories. Here's the History Guy with the story of Rudyard Kipling. Written in 1890, the poem Gunged In was one of the most famous poems in the world in its time. Chronicles the life of a British soldier in India and offers an unlikely hero in the person of Gunged In, the regimental water bearer who represents an idea, perhaps surprising to the soldier-narrator, that a person's worth is not defined by their race.

The poem has inspired films and songs and its famous last line, you're a better man than I am, Gunged In, is an oft quoted bit of praise. But the author of the poem, the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, lived a tragic life. Rudyard Kipling, the author of such beloved classics as The Jungle Book and Captain's Courageous, suffered an abusive and difficult childhood, went on to become one of the most famous authors of his time, but lived a life of tragedy.

The father of three, only one of his children would survive him. Rudyard Kipling was born to Lockwood Kipling who was the head of an art school and his wife Alice in Bombay, India on December 30th 1865. They entrusted the early care of their son to an Indian nurse who carried the young Kipling with her during her daily duties to the bazaar. He was with her so much that Kipling's first language and the one that he said he spoke in his dreams was Hindi, but the nurse always reminded Kipling to speak only English to his parents so that they didn't necessarily know the extent of his fluency. Kipling's parents were concerned about the health of their amiable son, he was nicknamed the little friend of the world because of his friendly attitude, and their second child a daughter named Alice whom everyone called Trix who was born a few years later.

Typhoid, cholera and other epidemics were common, partially because the causes of the disease were unknown and the Kiplings believed their children would be safer from potential illness back in England. They found a boarding house in the south of England that seemed like the perfect place, but they apparently didn't check all the appropriate references and it was an unfortunate decision for Rudyard and Trix. The family that ran the boarding house called the Holloways told the children that their parents had left them behind in England because they had been bad. There never seemed to be enough to eat, Kipling recalled the lady the house quizzing him about his daily activities and then picking apart his every answer in an effort to catch him in a lie. The Holloway's son cruelly beat the five-year-old Kipling with his fists, if the children cried after receiving a letter from their parents they were locked in the basement for an entire day.

The word help was carved into the house's walls by one of the children kept by the Holloway's, it was bleak. Kipling forever after called the place the house of desolation. Later in life Kipling wrote a semi-autobiographical novel entitled Baa Baa Black Sheep that detailed the lives of a six and three year old who were left in the care of an abusive family in the south of England. Kipling's readers didn't know that he modeled the story after his own life. For when young lips have drunk deep of the bitter waters of hate suspicion and despair all the love in the world will not wholly take away that knowledge though it may turn darkened eyes for a while to the light and teach faith where no faith was Baa Baa Black Sheep 1889. After Rudyard's mother came to take care of children home six years later she was putting Kipling to bed and went to give him a kiss goodnight.

He automatically threw up his hands as if to ward off an attack. It was then that she realized how awful the boarding house life had been to her children, emotional scars ran deep. Trix would struggle with what might be now labeled as bipolar disorder for her entire life. Rudyard on the other hand had intermittent periods of what he called depression and according to some historians an inability to form a close relationship with his wife. Kipling said he dealt with his variable moods by working long hours, sometimes as much as 16 hours in a day. He would later write to a friend, my head is all queer and I'm going to have to have it mended someday, but that someday never seemed to come. Kipling received his formal education at United Services College in Devon. It was another boarding school and one at which he didn't necessarily thrive.

He recalled being terrified as his fellow students hung him by his ankles out of the window on the fifth floor of a dormitory. Never particularly athletic, the dreamy and bookish Kipling was described as an indifferent student. Yet there be certain times in a young man's life when through great sorrow or sin all the boy in him is burnt and seared away so he passes it one step to the more sorrowful state of manhood. The dream of Duncan Perrinus, 1884. But there were echoes of Kipling's earlier amiable attitude towards the world.

One of his classmates remembered him as a capering pudgy little fellow, as precocious as ever could be. When he finished his time at United Services College Kipling took a job at a newspaper near his parents in Lahore, India which is now in Pakistan. Kipling began publishing his poetry which was incredibly well received by the public almost from the beginning of his career. He formed a close relationship with an American publicist in London named Walcott Ballester and when Ballester unexpectedly died Kipling married the deceased man's sister Carrie in January 1892.

The rush wedding was small with only four people in attendance because London had virtually come to a standstill. There was a crippling influenza epidemic sweeping the city. Kipling described the atmosphere in his biography as it was in the thick of an influenza epidemic when the undertakers had run out of black horses and the dead had to be content with brown ones. And you're listening to the history guy tell the story of the youngest winner in the history of the Nobel Prize for Literature Rudyard Kipling and what a childhood he suffered at the hands of my goodness monsters the house of desolation the story of the boarding house he grew up in.

An indifferent student you hear that a lot about really talented folks they're indifferent students because they just haven't been tapped for their potential and their talent. We capture that often on the stories we tell here when we continue more of the remarkable life of poet and writer Rudyard Kipling here on Our American Stories. Folks if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country please make a donation. A monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to our American stories dot com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Let's return to the history guy. The couple honeymooned in the United States for a time and went on to Japan where they received news that their bank had collapsed and taken much of their fortune with it. They returned to the States, Kerry's home country, purchased a home near her family in Brattleboro Vermont. Kerry Kipling discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to the couple's first child Josephine on December 29th 1892. In his biography Kipling wrote that his daughter was born in three foot of snow on the night of 29 December 1892, her mother's birthday being the 31st and mine the 30th on the same month. We congratulated her on her sense of the fitness of things. Kipling described this period of his life as the happiest and most productive as his career.

He loved living in the countryside of Vermont away from the noisy cities or temptations like alcohol or opium. He wrote such classics as The Jungle Book, Captain's Courageous, both of which would later be made into films and other books filled with short stories and poetry. Now this is the law of the jungle as old and as true as the sky and the wolf that shall keep it may prosper but the wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk the law runneth forward and back for the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack. The Second Jungle Book, 1895.

In 1896 Kerry gave birth to the couple's second child, a daughter named Elsie and a son quickly followed in 1897 whom they named John. Kipling began telling his eldest daughter Josephine whom he called Effie, versions of his now beloved just so stories for little children every night before bed. He said, in the evening there were stories meant to put Effie to sleep and you were not allowed to alter those by one single little word that would be told just so or Effie would wake up and put back the missing sentence. So at last they came to be like charms, all three of them, the whale tale, the camel tale, and the rhinoceros tale. The just so stories are imaginative stories about how animals begin to look and act the way they do in nature. The titles detail each story, there's how the whale got his throat and how the camel got his hump. The enduring popularity of these stories speaks to the love and care with which Kipling wrote them for his children.

I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew, their names are what and where and when and how and why and who. The Elephant's Child, 1902. The Kipling's idyllic existence in the United States ended when Kipling had a public run-in with Kerry's brother, Beatty Ballester. Ballester struggled with addiction to alcohol and money troubles. After publicly threatening to blow off Kipling's head, Ballester was arrested and a trial followed which drew quite a lot of attention from the press because of Kipling's popularity as an author. As for his part, Kipling seemed to mourn the loss of his privacy and eventually moved his family back to England in an effort to reclaim it.

We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding. The Light That Failed, 1891. Unfortunately he suffered one of the largest losses of his life. The Kipling's eldest daughter, Josephine, age six, succumbed to pneumonia on March 6, 1899. Kipling had been ill at the same time and at first the family feared that they would lose them both, however Kipling survived to discover that his daughter had not.

The world is very lovely and it is very horrible and it doesn't care about your life or mine or anything else. The Light That Failed, 1891. When the Just So Stories for Children was first published in 1902, Kipling illustrated the stories himself. The timing of the publication, so soon after the loss of Josephine, was particularly poignant. The loss forever after changed the author according to those close to him. The man who had once been described as a friend of the world smiled and laughed a little less often. Kipling's sister, Trix, said he became a sadder and a harder man.

Kipling received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 and remains the youngest person ever to have obtained the honor, but his star seemed already to be fading. He espoused imperialistic political ideas and encouraged countries to pursue imperialistic policies. Kipling wrote the poem The White Man's Burden in an effort to encourage the United States to take a more active role in the Philippines. Take up the white man's burden, send forth the best you breed, go bind your sons to exile to serve your captives need.

The White Man's Burden, 1899. He was also in support of the Great War, World War One, encouraged his son John to serve the conflict. At first John failed a medical examination to join the Royal Navy because of his weak eyesight. He attempted to list two more times that was rejected both times, and then using his father's connections Kipling joined the Irish Guards to part in the bloody Battle of Loos, the largest British assault of 1915. John Kipling, age 18, was assumed to have been blown apart by shells and no piece of his corpse was ever recovered for his family to mourn over. In 2015 the Commonwealth Grave Commission announced it located the grave of John Kipling whose remains had been buried in a French cemetery.

If any question why we died tell them, because our fathers lied. Epitests of War, 1918. This second last hit Kipling and his wife incredibly hard.

Kipling said he read the novels of Jane Austen to his wife and remaining daughter over and over again in an effort to shake the grief he felt at John's death. He also joined the group that would later become the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in honor of his lost son. Kipling suggested some of the biblical verses the Commission put on the stones of the war dead. He also wrote a regimental history of the Irish Guards which was published in 1923.

It has been considered by some to be one of the best examples of a regimental history ever pinned. And there were too many, almost children of whom no record remains. They came out of Worley with the constant renewed drafts, lived the span of a second lieutenant's life, and were spent.

The Irish Guards in the Great War, 1923. While mourning his lost children, Kipling's health began a steady decline. Kipling suffered from duodenal ulcers which it is believed eventually killed him at age 70.

The writer's ashes are interred at Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner, lives forever in the remains of Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens. Kipling's only surviving child, Elsie, married George Bambridge, a diplomat, in 1924. She never had any children so Kipling's bloodline ended. She died on April 24th, 1976. Like some celebrities today, Kipling's death was reported ahead of its time. Reading about it in a magazine he wrote to the magazine, I've just read that I died.

Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers. Many of his political viewpoints, notably about imperialism, no longer held sway in the international world as he grew older and he did receive much criticism for that. George Orwell described him as a jingo imperialist who was morally insensitive and a gutter patriot. His literary career had a meteoric rise but then seemed to stagnate and he often spoke to friends about the foibles of early fame. Like his idyllic views of empire, in many ways Rudyard Kipling seemed to become history even before his days had passed, especially in the way that the loss of his children affected him.

But what is left of Rudyard Kipling when everything else has turned to dust, are his writings. Like perhaps his most famous poem, If, penned in 1895 which seems to represent his tragic life but exhorts us all to be the best that we can be, even in the face of terrible loss. If you can make one heap of all your winnings, risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, lose, start again at your beginnings, never say one word about your loss. If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your term long after they are gone and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will that tells them all hold on. If you can talk to crowds that keep your virtue, walk with kings nor lose the common touch. If neither foe nor loving friend can hurt you, if all men matter to you, but none too much.

If you can fill the everlasting minute with 60 seconds of distance run, then yours is the earth and everything that's in it. And what's more, you'll be a man my son. And great job as always by Greg Hengler bringing us the story and a special thanks as always to the History Guy. History deserves to be remembered. That's where you can find him and his work on the YouTube channel. History Guy, history deserves to be remembered.

Just do that Google search and you'll enjoy what you see. Poet's Corner is remarkable all by itself with memorials, but the very few who actually got buried there include the poet, the poet, the poet, and the poet who got buried there include as was indicated not just Dickens and Chaucer and Tennyson, but in the end Kipling too joining this august breed. And in addition there are memorials for R. Jane Austen and Blake the poet and Auden and Lewis Carroll and C.S.

Lewis and T.S. Eliot and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the list goes on and on. There was something special about the literature, poetry, and all else. It may be one of the great special gifts that the British gave us was a shared and common language.

Not just the laws, but the common language. The story of Rudyard Kipling. A story of loss and tragedy and beauty here on Our American Stories. Wanna wow your guests and add something special to your place? Get Aroma 360's Luxury Scents. Our luxury scents come through your HVAC giving you not only a fragrant relaxing space, but a kid and pet friendly wow factor for visitors. Through the magic of cold air diffusion, Aroma 360 can scent any size of home or business. Create a space that smells like you at today and you'll get up to 50% off. That's Aroma 360.

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