Edited by Thomas Pinney
22.9 x 15.3 cm. 160 pp. 2008
A Book of Words, Kipling’s own selection of his speeches published in 1928, reflects a variety of topics and audiences. He spoke to schoolboys about literature, to Brazilians about “the spirit of the Latin,” to the Royal Geographical Society about travel, to navy men about sailors, to ship owners about shipping, to university students about independence. The list goes on, revealing interests and activities far more various than most men of letters would ever think of undertaking. Before the end of his life Kipling added a few more speeches to the version of the book that appeared, posthumously, in the splendid Sussex Edition of his collected works. Even so, many of his speeches have remained uncollected and virtually unknown.
A Second Book of Words collects what Kipling left uncollected. The speeches in this new book date from 1884 to 1935. We see Kipling at different moments before different audiences. We hear how he talked to his Sussex neighbours, or how he addressed a parliamentary committee, or a South African election meeting, or a club of London doctors, or his fellow honorary degree recipients at Cambridge. The more substantial, formal speeches are equally various, marked by Kipling’s mastery of language, a few passing over into a violent extravagance of feeling – the attack on the Liberal government in the speech of 16 May 1914 or the speech on war aims of 15 February 1918. Usually, however, the tone is urbane, the artistic aim to instruct through delight. Kipling knew that the maker of speeches and the poet were subject to the same law: “Unless they please they are not heard at all.”
A Second Book of Words adds another forty-eight speeches to the thirty-eight that Kipling chose to make public, printing all the known uncollected speeches – long or short, carefully meditated or spontaneous, tendentious or diplomatic. Another twenty-five for which no text has so far been found are identified, as are the speeches that he is known to have written for members of the royal family.
Professor Pinney, editor of the six-volume The Letters of Rudyard Kipling (Palgrave Macmillan, 1990–2004), brings his extensive knowledge of Kipling’s life and writings to the volume with an informative introduction, headnotes to contextualise each speech, and a complete checklist of all the speeches. Altogether, the edition is a considerable contribution to Kipling’s canon and to an important but neglected area of the Kipling bibliography.
"Once again we must thank Prof Pinney for making available Kipling material of which most of us were completely unaware. The results of his meticulous researches presented in this Second Book of Words now give us a further 48 speeches to add to the 31 which Kipling himself made available in his 1928 collection, A Book of Words. All that are thought to be missing from these two books are the seven collected in the Sussex Edition and about 25 for which no texts have been found.
"For each speech, Prof Pinney has provided a headnote describing the occasion, the audience and the source of the text. They span the years from 1884 to 1935, with audience numbers ranging from about 40 up to 10,000. When Kipling refers to the occasion in a letter, then this is noted as well, whilst the Rees extracts from Mrs Kipling’s diaries also yield confirmatory evidence.
"The texts of many of the speeches are taken from newspaper reports of the event, frequently from The Times, rather than from Kipling’s own scripts. The audience’s interjections such as (Cheers), (Laughter), and (Loud applause) give the reader a sense of inclusion in the occasion and demonstrate just how much Kipling throughout his life was in tune with his audiences, whether at a Club dinner, a political meeting, a recruiting drive, an academic event, or some other the occasion.
"The speeches also show that Kipling was happy to “recycle” his ideas. At a banquet of the Automobile Club of South Africa in March 1905, he tried out the motto ‘Transportation is Civilisation’ to cries of “hear, hear” – Mrs Kipling had noted on 11 August 1904 that Kipling was working on “With the Night Mail” eventually published in November 1905. On another occasion (22 May 1922) speaking to the Associated Franco-British Societies, he repeated the anecdotal letter from an Indian soldier to his mother that was first included in “The Fumes of the Heart” in May 1917, and again in his speech at La Bassée in October 1927.
"The checklist of speeches, which includes descriptions of those for which no text has yet been found, and the Appendix of speeches written for Members of the Royal Family round out this excellent publication, which I am sure members will find as interesting as I do."