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Travels in Rajasthan with
Rudyard Kipling


Report of the lecture given by Elizabeth Merry MA BA (Hons)
on May 26th 2010

Elizabeth 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 as books.

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.

Hazel Vine







Elizabeth 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.



Photo: Elizabeth talking to two members.










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