Rudyard Kipling biography
Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in Bombay, India. He was educated in England but returned to India in 1882. In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier and settled in Brattleboro, Vermont where he wrote The Jungle Book and "Gunga Din." Eventually becoming the highest paid writer in the world, Kipling was recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He died in 1936.
Considered one of the great English writers, Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay (now called Mumbai), India. At the time of his birth, his parents, John and Alice, were recent arrivals in India. They had come, like so many of their countrymen, with plans to start new lives and to help the British government run the continent. The family lived well, and Kipling was especially close to his mother. His father, an artist, was the head of the Department of Architectural Sculpture at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay.
For Kipling, India was a wondrous place. Along with his younger sister, Alice, he reveled in exploring the local markets with his nanny. He learned the language, and in this bustling city of Anglos, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, Kipling fell in love with the country and its culture.
However, at the age of 6, Kipling's life was torn apart when his mother, wanting her son to receive a formal British education, sent him to Southsea, England, where he attended school and lived with a foster family named the Holloways.
These were hard years for Kipling. Mrs. Holloway was a brutal woman, who quickly grew to despise her young foster son. She beat and bullied Kipling, who also struggled to fit in at school. His only break from the Holloways came in December, when Kipling, who told nobody of his problems at school or with his foster parents, traveled to London, where he stayed with relatives for the month.
Kipling's solace came in books and stories. With few friends, he devoted himself to reading. He particularly adored the work of Daniel Defoe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Wilkie Collins. When Mrs. Holloway took away his books, Kipling snuck around her, pretending to play in his room by moving furniture along the floor while he read.
By the age of 11, Kipling was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A visitor to his home saw his condition and immediately contacted his mother, who rushed back to England and rescued her son from the Holloways. To help relax his mind, Alice took her son on an extended vacation and then placed him in a new school in Devon. There, Kipling flourished and discovered his talent for writing, eventually becoming editor of the school newspaper.
The Young Writer
In 1882, Kipling was told by his parents that they didn't have enough money to send him to college. Instead, they had him return to India. It was a powerful moment in the young writer's life. The sights and sounds, even the language, which he'd believed he'd forgotten, rushed back to him upon his arrival.
Kipling made his home with his parents in Lahore and, with his father's help, found a job with a local newspaper.
The job offered Kipling a good excuse to discover his surroundings. Nighttime, especially, proved to be valuable for the young writer. Kipling was a man of two worlds, somebody who was accepted by both his British counterparts and the local population. Suffering from insomnia, he roamed the city streets and gained access to the brothels and opium dens that rarely opened their doors to common Englishmen.
Kipling's experiences during this time formed the backbone for a series of stories he began to write and publish. They were eventually assembled into a collection of 40 short stories called Plain Tales from the Hills, which gained wide popularity in England.
In 1889, seven years after he had left England, Kipling returned to its shores in hopes of leveraging the modest amount of celebrity his book of short stories had earned him. In London, he met Wolcott Balestier, an American agent and publisher who quickly became one of Kipling's great friends and supporters. The two men grew incredibly close, and even traveled together to the United States, where Balestier introduced his fellow writer to his childhood home of Brattleboro, Vermont.
Around this time, Kipling's star power started to grow. In addition to Plain Tales from the Hills, Kipling also published a second collection of short stories, Wee Willie Winkie (1888), and American Notes (1891), which chronicled his early impressions of America. In 1892, he also published his first major poetry success, Barrack-Room Ballads.
Kipling's friendship with Balestier changed the young writer's life. He soon got to know Balestier's family, in particular his sister, Carrie. The two appeared to be just friends, but during the Christmas holiday in 1891, Kipling, who had traveled back to India to see his family, received an urgent cable from Carrie. Wolcott had died suddenly of typhoid fever and Carrie needed Kipling to be with her.
Kipling rushed back to England, and within eight days of his return, the two married at a small ceremony, attended by American writer Henry James.
Life in America
Following their wedding, the Kiplings set off on an adventurous honeymoon that took them to Canada and then on to Japan. But like so much of Kipling's life, good fortune was accompanied by hard luck. During the Japanese leg of the journey, Kipling learned that the New Oriental Banking Corporation had failed. The Kiplings were broke.
Left only with what they had with them, the young couple decided to travel to Brattleboro, Vermont, where much of Carrie's family still resided. Kipling fell in love with life in the States, and the two decided to settle there. In the spring of 1891, the Kiplings purchased from Carrie's brother, Beatty, a piece of land just north of Brattleboro and had a large home constructed, which they called "The Naulahka."
Kipling seemed to adore his new life, which soon saw the Kiplings welcome their first child, a daughter named Josephine (born in 1893), and a second daughter, Elsie (born in 1896). A third child, John, was born in 1897, after the Kiplings had left America.
As a writer, too, Kipling flourished. His work during this time included The Jungle Book (1894), The Naulahka: A Story of the West and East (1892) and The Second Jungle Book (1895), among others. Kipling was delighted to be around children—a characteristic that was apparent in his writing. His tales enchanted boys and girls all over the English-speaking world. By the age of 32, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the world.
But life again took a dramatic turn for the family when Kipling had a major falling out with Carrie's brother, Beatty. The two men quarreled, and when Kipling made noise about taking his brother-in-law to court because of threats Beatty had made to his life, newspapers across America broadcast the spat on their front pages.
The gentle Kipling was embarrassed by the attention, and about how his celebrity had turned against him. As a result, he and his family left Vermont for a new life back in England.
In the winter of 1899, Carrie, who was homesick, decided that the whole family needed to travel back to New York to see her mother. But the journey across the Atlantic was brutal, and New York was frigid. Both Kipling and young Josephine arrived in the States gravely, ill with pneumonia. For days, the world kept careful watch on the state of Kipling's health as newspapers reported on his condition. The New York Times reported a front-page story on his health.
Kipling did recover, but his beloved Josephine did not. The family waited until Kipling was strong enough to hear the news, and even then, Carrie could not bear to break it to him, asking his publisher, Frank Doubleday, to do so. To those who knew him, it was clear that Kipling never recovered from her death. He vowed never to return to America.
Life in England
In 1902, the Kiplings bought a large estate in Sussex known as Bateman's. The property had been erected in 1634, and for the private Kiplings, it offered the kind of isolation they now cherished. With its lush gardens and classic details, Kipling revered the new home.
"Behold us," he wrote in November 1902, "lawful owners of a grey stone, lichened house —A.D. 1634 over the door—beamed, paneled, with old oak staircase and all untouched and unfaked."
Here, Kipling found some of the happiness he thought he had forever lost, following the death of Josephine. He was dedicated as ever to his writing, something Carrie helped ensure. Adopting the role of the head of the household, she held reporters at bay when they came calling and was the person in the family who issued directions to both staff and children.
Kipling's books during his years at Bateman's included Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), Actions and Reactions (1909), Debts and Credits (1926), Thy Servant a Dog (1930) and Limits and Renewals (1932).
The same year he purchased Bateman's, Kipling published his Just So Stories, which were greeted with wide acclaim. The book itself was a in part a tribute to his late daughter, for whom Kipling had originally crafted the stories as he put her to bed.
The book's name had in fact come from Josephine, who told her father he had to repeat each tale as he always had, or "just so," as Josephine often said.
World War I
As much of Europe braced for war with Germany, Kipling proved to be an ardent supporter of the fight. In 1915, he even traveled to France to report on the war from the trenches. He also encouraged his son John to enlist. Since Josephine's death, Kipling and his boy had grown tremendously close. It was for John that Kipling wrote one of his famous poems, "If."
Wanting to help his son enlist, Kipling drove John to several different military recruiters. But plagued with the same eyesight problems his father had, John was repeatedly turned down. Finally, Kipling made use of his connections and managed to get John enlisted with the Irish Guard as a second lieutenant.
In October of 1915, the Kiplings received word that John had gone missing in France. The news devastated the couple. Kipling, perhaps feeling guilty about his push to make his son a soldier, set off for France to find John. But nothing ever came of the search, and John's body was never recovered. A distraught and drained Kipling returned to England to once again mourn the loss of another child.
While the last two decades continued to see Kipling write, he never again returned to the bright, cheery children's tales he had once so delighted in crafting. Health issues eventually caught up to both Kipling and Carrie, the result of age, but also of grief.
Over his last few years, Kipling suffered from a painful ulcer, which eventually took his life on January 18, 1936. Kipling's ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey in Poets' Corner next to the graves of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.