June 7, 2010

John Kipling

"Then hold This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!"

Joseph Rudyard Kipling, son of John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald, was born 30 Dec 1865 in Bombay, British India and died 18 Jan 1936. His father was a sculptor, pottery designer and principal and professor of architectural sculpture at the newly-founded Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in Bombay. One of four remarkable Victorian sisters, his mother was a vivacious woman about whom a future Viceroy of India would say, "Dullness and Mrs. Kipling cannot exist in the same room."

Rudyard married Caroline Star “Carrie” Balestier, the daughter of a prominent New England family, who was born 31 Dec 1862 in Rochester, NY. She was 27 when her brother Wolcott, a writer and publisher, introduced her to the 24-year-old Kipling who was already a celebrity in 1889. He was to become best known for his works of fiction and poems, including: The Man Who Would Be King (1888), Gunga Din (1890), The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901) and If (1910).

Although Carrie described herself as “plain” and notably lacked her brother’s charisma and easy grace, Kipling immediately proposed to her by telegram. The couple married in London on 16 Jan 1892 in the thick of an influenza epidemic. By year’s end, they were living in “Bliss Cottage” in Brattleboro, VT. It was here that the first dawnings of the Jungle Books came to him.

After Josie’s birth, the couple purchased land overlooking the Connecticut River in Dummerston, VT and built their own house which Kipling named “Naulakha”. But it wasn’t long before a family dispute resulted in the family leaving the U.S. for good. For some time, relations between Carrie and her brother Beatty had been strained on account of his drinking and insolvency. In May 1896, an inebriated Beatty ran into Kipling on the street and threatened him with physical harm. The incident led to Beatty’s eventual arrest, but in the subsequent hearing and resulting publicity, Kipling’s privacy was completely destroyed and left him feeling miserable and exhausted. In July 1896, a week before the hearing was to resume, the Kiplings hurriedly packed their belongings and left for England.

Children of Rudyard and Carrie Kipling:

Josephine “Josie” Kipling was born 29 Dec 1893 Brattleboro, VT. During a family visit to New York in 1899, Kipling, Josephine and Elsie fell ill. As both father and daughters’ illness advanced to pneumonia, Josephine was removed from the hotel where her father and sister were and accommodated in the home of family friend, Julie De Forest, where her condition rapidly worsened until she died 6 Mar 1899. Her father was not told of her passing for weeks due to fears the loss of his beloved “Josie” might cause a relapse. Friends and family claimed he was never the same after her death. Elsie’s memoir later stated, “There is no doubt that little Josephine had been his greatest joy during her short life. His life was never the same after her death; a light had gone out that could never be rekindled.”

Elsie Kipling was born 2 Feb 1896 in Dummerston, VT and died 27 May 1976 in Cambridge, England. In Oct 1924 she married Captain George Bambridge who had served in the Irish Guards, but was a British diplomatic attache’ in Madrid. The couple lived abroad for some years and had no children. In 1938 she purchased the 17th century derelict, Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, and spent many years restoring the estate to its former glory.

Lieut. John “Jack” Kipling was born Aug 1897 in Torquay, England and died 27 Sep 1915 during the Battle of Loos in France. He was the inspiration for Kiplings poem, My Boy Jack, which eventually became the basis for the play by the same name, its subsequent television adaptation and the documentary Rudyard Kipling: A Remembrance Tale.

Jack was plagued with severe near sightedness and was deemed medically unfit for military service during WWI. He managed to secure a commission in the Irish Guards with the weight of his father’s influence behind him and, on his 18th birthday, was posted to France. Within 6 weeks, the Battle of Loos, part of a joint allied offensive on the Western Front, engaged 54 French and 13 British divisions. Eyewitnesses reported seeing Jack fall with a neck wound, but intense machine gun and shellfire made retrieval impossible. At the battle’s end he was reported wounded and missing and it wasn’t until 1919 that his death was finally accepted by his parents.

Jack's death was particularly harrowing and Kipling never recovered from his loss. Carrie remained by his side throughout his subsequent decline. After his death in 1936, she spent the remaining years of her life at “Bateman’s”, the Kipling estate in Burwash, East Sussex, which she bequeathed to the National Trust. She died in December 1939, on the eve of her 77th birthday.

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