Kipling's America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895
edited by D. H. Stewart

Rudyard Kipling claimed that he never wrote "the bland drivel of the globetrotter." As a journalist for seven years in India, he watched tourists scurry across the land and then publish their superficial impressions. Ironically over the course of his life, Kipling too became a tourist, visiting and describing six continents.

Kipling was just twenty-three years old when he reached San Francisco in May 1889; he immediately began recording the sights and sounds of boom-town America. For four months he toured the United States, publishing accounts of his journey in the Pioneer, a major newspaper in western India. A few years later, when he lived in Vermont (1892-1896) with his American wife, Kipling wrote several syndicated articles published in both England and the U.S. Then in 1899 he revised and abridged the Pioneer versions and published them in From Sea to Sea. The second series of syndicated articles he collected in Letters of Travel (1920). Most of these travel writings are now out of print.

In Kipling's America, Professor D. H. Stewart brings all of these articles together and reproduces the original printed versions; he sets the context with an engaging introduction and helpful annotations. Readers are provided with the opportunity to hear again Kipling at his cocky and often opinionated best. From Kipling's perspective, America unleashed the chaotic energy latent in human beings, and he was uncertain whether this energy inevitably would be productive or destructive.

That some of his impressions were one-dimensional is undeniable, but equally undeniable is his gift of language—his access to a ready lexicon often composed of what he termed a "perpetual Pentecost" to describe the "talking in tongues" heard in British Overseas Clubs throughout the Empire. This hodgepodge of European languages (counter-pointed with pidgin English, Chinese, Hindi, American) produced a symphony (or cacophony) of bountiful word play deployed in his fiction and journalism. While some may see it as unsettling, a kind of "Kiplingo," most will enjoy the virtuoso prose performances.

The accounts in Kipling’s America: Travel Letters, 1889-1895, reminiscent of a photograph album from a century past and shrewdly prophetic of today’s America, will intrigue Kipling scholars, students of American history and general readers alike.

 

Kipling's America Cover

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$40.00    Original Paperback    xlii + 282 pp.
2003    0-944318-17-7    Acid-Free Paper

No. 17 in the 1880-1920 British Authors Series

Also an E-Book from UPCC MUSE Editions Johns Hopkins University Press

 

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