Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge (#WQWC50): forgotten (24 November)

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would not be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling

As an historian, and a story-teller, I thought my creativity would be overflowing based upon the Kipling quote. So far, it’s not. Probably trying too hard, or not hard enough? I am a study in contradictions.

Choosing a Kipling quote is a rather “loaded” decision given his prose and poetry is hyper/toxic colonialism and masculinity. ** Lines from his poem “If” are often quoted, strangely and somewhat ironically, in this political and pandemic fraught society/climate. Lines like:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, . . .

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, . . .

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools . . .

Sage words, but blown apart by the last few:

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Although Kipling had someone else in mind when he first penned “If” in 1895, by the date of publication in 1910, his son John, aged 13, was the recipient of his “wisdom.”

So, I had to check: Did Kipling have daughters, too? Yes, two. Josephine (29 December 1892 to 6 March 1899) and Elsie (2 February 1896 – 24 May 1976).

As usual, I get “led astray” by my searches. What about the daughters? (An often-asked question! What about/where are the girls/women?) scored me a remembory of the TimesMachine (pun intended, I’m sure)– a subscription link into the New York Times archive. The 7 March 1899 article chronicles her illness and death. Despite recognized desire of his public to grieve with him, her mother’s wish is to be granted “family privacy.” Her father remained unaware of her death; information being withheld as he had only begun to recover from the same pneumonia which took his daughter’s life. His recovery marked by his ability to eat a meal of “stewed oysters.”  (NYT, 7 March 1899, accessed through the TimesMachine, 29 November 2021.)

Once recovered, in memory of his daughter, Kipling began collecting the tales which would be published as Just So Stories for Children, in 1902. The Jungle Book was written during his wife’s pregnancy with Josephine while they lived in the “backwoods” of Vermont.

One of the many ironies at work in Kipling’s life: when poor eyesight kept John/Jack out of military service (failed several times to qualify), his father pulled strings which enabled the son to join the Irish Guards as an officer. In September 1915, at age 18, John/Jack went missing. His body, like thousands of others in No Man’s Land, was never found/identified.

Elise died in 1976. Her obit in The Times (Great Britain) stated “she had two missions in life, ‘to maintain the traditions of her husband Captain George Bambridge (married in 1924) and her father Rudyard Kipling’.” She left her property to the National Trust (of Great Britain). The Trust later donated her father’s manuscripts to the University of Sussex, to “ensure better public access.” (Wikipedia)

** Note: Kipling’s 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” codified Victorian-era thought; “a genuine sense of a civilizing mission that required every Englishman, or, more broadly, every white man, to bring European culture to those he considered the heathen natives of the uncivilized world.” (Britannica.com). The poem was addressed to Americans as they “successfully” ended the Spanish-American War, and now “possessed” the Philippines and the Filipino peoples. Kipling wanted the US to assume the same mantle as previous and current European “civilized” nations.