Cranleigh Arts Centre
West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
in Rajasthan with
Report of the lecture given by Elizabeth Merry MA BA (Hons)
on May 26th 2010
Merry gave a most interesting talk about Rudyard Kipling's early life and the
reasons for his affinity for India. She had read the Jungle book and Just So
stories as a small child and loved them all.
Rudyard was born in
Bombay, the eldest child of John Lockwood Kipling and his wife Alice; both were
accomplished artists and John was a teacher of architectural sculpture. We
learnt that Rudyard was named after a lake/reservoir in Staffordshire where his
parents first met.
He was brought up in traditional Victorian
middle/upper class ways where nannies had greater influence on their upbringing
than their parents and as a result his Ayah (Indian house maid) taught him Hindu
as his first language. His parents seemed very distant not spending much time
with him, he was brought in to see them for tea and spoke in halting English.
For Rudyard it was an idyllic life spent with the servants of the house.
Like many English children living in India, when he was five he came to England
with his mother and younger sister to study and he was put in the care of foster
parents since he was considered too unruly to be left with relatives! He had a
torrid time with these people who did not like him and were cruel to him; he
spent much time alone reading and writing. When he was 11 he was sent to United
Services College boarding school in Westward Ho where he was much happier and
developed his writing skills.
On completion of his studies he returned to India to live with his
parents at the age of 161/2 because he was not considered clever enough to go to
Oxford University. His parents were living in Lahore and he began writing for
the United Civil Gazette as a trainee journalist, it was hard work reporting on
events nevertheless he managed to find time for writing. He later joined their
sister paper The Pioneer in Allahabad and published some of his poems and short
stories alongside his reports. These were later collected together and published
Elizabeth gave us a brief account of the Hindu and Mogul rulers of India during
the 15th - 17th Century and their importance in Rajasthan; the construction of
beautiful buildings and Palaces such as Taj Mahal in Agra and the Fort of
Jodhpur. In 1888 Rudyard Kipling travelled by train across Rajasthan, to Agra,
Jodhpur and Udaipur - the City of Lakes and Palaces. On completion of his
travels he returned to England to widen his writing. All the time he was writing
and illustrating his works in India; he found on his return that he was already
a well known author.
Elizabeth's talk included many quotes from his poems and books and in
addition our trip to Bateman's emphasised his importance in English literature
and the life in Victorian times. No doubt things have changed in Rajasthan since
Kipling's time but having seen the items on display at his home and the
magnificent illustrations we were shown it would be interesting to follow in
Rudyard's footsteps across Rajasthan.
Merry has over 20 years experience lecturing to adults in the UK and Germany on
various subjects including literature and poetry, classical art and
architecture, and aspects of the visual arts.
Elizabeth talking to two members.