Historian Allen (God’s Terrorists, 2005, etc.) chronicles the British author’s early years.
Allen is a particularly apt Kipling biographer—“I was born to write this book,” he writes—because his great-grandfather, George Allen, was one of the joint owners of the Indian newspapers Pioneer and Civil and Military Gazette (CMG), where the young Kipling was first employed as a journalist. Moreover, Allen’s formative years were spent amid a rich Anglo-Indian heritage and “Kiplingiana.” Here, Allen explores and illuminates the sources of Kipling’s early books, such as Plain Tales from the Hills (1888), Soldiers Three (1888) and Life’s Handicap (1891). Born in Bombay to an impecunious émigré couple—noted illustrator and teacher John Lockwood Kipling and his artistic wife, Alice Macdonald—Kipling and his younger sister Trix enjoyed a princely early childhood under the lax supervision of parents and servants. However, in 1871, the family returned to England for furlough, and the siblings were deposited with a foster family in Southsea for what stretched into a five years’ abandonment at the dreaded place they would later call “House of Desolation.” Back in India, with Lockwood now relocated to Lahore, “Ruddy” spent ages 11 to 23 between there, Simla and Allahabad. During this time he absorbed and recorded the Islamic and Hindu cultures, caste system, Hot Weather imagery and follies of the British government and military hierarchy in hundreds of short stories, sketches and poems, many published in the Pioneer and CMG, where he worked from age 16 until his decision, in 1889, to return to England to further his career. All this material would later be refined beautifully in Kim (1901). Allen shares his intimate knowledge of this “man of permanent contradictions,” and fans of Kipling’s fiction will appreciate the loving attention Allen gives his work.
A deeply sympathetic look at the young author and his milieu.