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The Subaltern as Hero: Kipling and Frontier War

  • Andrew Rutherford

Abstract

Henry James confessed in print in 1891 to having ‘wept profusely’ over ‘The Drums of the Fore and Aft’—

the history of the ‘Dutch courage’ of two dreadful dirty little boys, who, in the face of Afghans scarcely more dreadful, saved the reputation of their regiment and perished, the least mawkishly in the world, in a squalor of battle incomparably expressed. People who know how peaceful they are themselves [he went on] and have no bloodshed to reproach themselves with needn’t scruple to mention the glamour that Mr Kipling’s intense militarism has for them and how astonishingly contagious they find it, in spite of the unromantic complexion of it—the way it bristles with all sorts of uglinesses and technicalities.1

The very novelty of Kipling’s subject-matter in such stories was a source of fascination for contemporary readers. Correlli Barnett has shown how strikingly detached the Army was, throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the mainstream of national life. 2 In Victorian England ‘Tommy Atkins’, and to a lesser extent his officers, were sociologically unfamiliar breeds; and literature had done little to illuminate their ways of life.

Keywords

Fictional Narrator Narrative Technique Great Novelist Civil Officer Early Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Introduction to Mine Own People (New York, 1891). Quoted here from Kipling: The Critical Heritage, ed. Roger Lancelyn Green (London, 1971), p. 166.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Correlli Barnett, Britain and Her Army 1509–1970. A Military, Political and Social Survey (London, 1970).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The Works of Rudyard Kipling, Sussex Edn. (London, 1937–9) [henceforth cited as Kipling, Works], vol. xxxi (Something of Myself), p. 99.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ibid., pp. 126–7.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    New Letters of Robert Southey, ed. Kenneth Curry (New York and London, 1965), vol. ii, p. 105.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    The Poems of Tennyson, ed. Christopher Ricks (London, 1969), p. 584.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Ibid., p. 1756.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (London, 1927), p. 16.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair, ed. Geoffrey and Kathleen Tillotson (London, 1963), p. 290.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    David Daiches, Literary Essays (Edinburgh and London, 1956), p. 88.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot, ed. Norman St. John-Stevas, vol. ii (London, 1965), p. 187.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    E. S. Creasy, Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, From Marathon to Waterloo (London, 1851), vol. i, pp. iii–iv.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Andrew Lang, Essays in Little (London, 1891), p. 4.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Andrew Lang, ‘Realism and Romance’, Contemporary Review, vol. lii (1887), p. 693. Cf. George Saintsbury, ‘The Present State of the Novel’, Fortnightly Review, New Series, vol. xlii (1887), pp. 410–7. Cf. also Edmund Gosse’s comment in 1891, quoted here from Kipling: The Critical Heritage, pp. 105–6: ‘The fiction of the Anglo-Saxon world, in its more intellectual provinces, had become curiously feminized…. People who were not content to pursue the soul of their next-door neighbour through all the burrows of self-consciousness had no choice but to take ship with Mr. Rider Haggard for the “Mountains of the Moon.” Between excess of psychological analysis and excess of superhuman romance, there was a great void in the world of Anglo-Saxon fiction. It is this void which Mr Kipling … has filled by his exotic realism and his vigorous rendering of unhackneyed experience.’Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Kipling, Works, vol. v (Many Inventions), p. 30.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Ibid., p. 33.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Ibid., p. 43.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Ibid., p. 45.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xxxi, p. 224.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Ibid., p. 132.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Rudyard Kipling’s Verse, Definitive Edition. (London, 1960), p. 290.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    L. C. Dunsterville, Stalky’s Reminiscences (London, 1929), pp. 110–12.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    Edmund Wilson, The Wound and the Bow (Cambridge: Mass., 1941), p. 114.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xxxi, pp. 162–3.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xvii (Stalky & Co.), pp. 406, 409, 414.Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Ibid., p. 404.Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    Ibid., pp. 422–3.Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Ibid., p. 417.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    Kipling, Works, vol. v, p. 37; vol. xiv (Puck of Pook’s Hill), pp. 146–7.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    J. M. S. Tompkins, The Art of Rudyard Kipling (London, 1959). pp. 72–3.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xiv, pp. 135–6.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    Ibid., p. 136.Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    Ibid., p. 164.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Ibid., p. 183.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Ibid., p. 161.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    Ibid., pp. 171–2.Google Scholar
  38. 40.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xxxi, p. 112.Google Scholar
  39. 42.
    Kipling, Works, vol. xxvii (The Irish Guards in the Great War), p. x.Google Scholar
  40. 43.
    Ibid., p. xiii.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrew Rutherford 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Rutherford
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths’ CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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