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My Life: Rudyard Kipling

rudyard-kiplingRudyard Kipling was born to English parents living in India towards the end of 1865.  He spent the first six years of his life in Bombay, where his love of this part of the world can be seen in some of his works, for example ‘Kim’.

Rudyard was sent to England, to undertake his education, initially attending Hope lodge in Southsea, which he disliked intently, but later attending the United Services College in Westward Ho in Devon.  A college he grew to love, and remained there until his return to India in 1882.  Upon his return, he started work at the civil and military Gazette in Lahore, as a member of the editorial staff, and later became a reporter for The Pioneer at Allahabad.

In 1889, he left India, to travel the world, and during his time visited London where he met Carrie an American girl, fell in love, and they were married in 1892.  They moved to America and settled in the state of Vermont, her home state, where he wrote Jungle Book and Captain Courageous.  In December of 1892, his daughter Josephine was born, followed by Elsie in 1895.  In early 1897 the family left America to settle in England at Rottingdean in Sussex, and during the summer of that year, their son John was born.

Their happiness wasn’t too last, for they took the children to visit their grandmother in America, and all three children caught whooping cough, and Rudyard and Carrie suffered respiratory problems.  Doctors treating Rudyard held out little hope of his recovery, and prayers were offered up in American Churches across the land for him and his family’s recovery.  The world press chronicled his progress as front-page news, of the man considered to be one of the world’s most popular authors at that time.  Following a long drawn out illness, he was to recover, but Josephine their first-born and his favourite little child died, and this tragic loss of life was always with him, one memory he would carry with him always.  Following, such a disastrous trip to America, he was never destined to travel there again, during his lifetime.

In 1902 the Kipling’s moved from Rottingdean, as the house carried too many memories of Josephine, to ‘Batemans’, a Jacobean house, of stone construction, close to the river Dudwell, dating back to 1634.  The property included a 13th century watermill, and 33 acres of land with it.  His love of the Sussex landscape took root during his time at Rottingdean, and blossomed when he moved to ‘Batemans’, in Burwash.  The area was included in many of his books.  Located behind the house and close to the river, stand the remains of an old forge, as featured in ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’.  Kipling’s love for the area has been summed up in a poem called ‘The Land’ written in 1916, which deals with English rustic life through the centuries.

The Sussex coast was notorious in years gone by for smugglers, with Pevensey Bay being used as a landing point by them.  The road from Pevensey to London, passed through the village of Burwash, and according to traditions and legends, many houses were associated with smugglers.

At the time Kipling lived in Sussex, the countryside was much isolated and self-supporting, than it is today, as the motor car at that time was new to the roads.  The invention of motorised transport, was much too kipling’s liking, and he used to refer to the dangers and delights of the early days of motoring in his stories.

He found an interest towards mechanical things, and he used water from the river to turn the mill wheel, thus generating electricity for the house, a rare thing in rural Sussex, causing much interest among the locals.

Tragedy befell the Kipling’s once again, when his son John, whilst serving as a Lieutenant with the Irish Guards, was killed in action at the ‘Battle of Loos’, during the First World War, at the age of 18.  A bronze tablet dedicated to his memory can be found in Burwash Church with a latin inscription (He died before his time).  His name can also be found on the Burwash War Memorial.  Kipling served on the War Graves Commission, after the war, inspecting cemeteries in Northern France.  Whilst there he visited the battlefield of Loos, where his son met his end, dying for his country, and in 1923 published the history of The Irish Guards in the Great War.

Rudyard Kipling, author of the best children stories, suffered much sadness in his life, loosing two of his three children, in their early years, and his remaining child, Elsie’s marriage in 1924 was childless, and was denied the joy of being a grandfather.  During a visit to London in 1936, he was taken ill, and rushed to Middlesex Hospital where he died four days later, aged 70.  His wife Carrie continued to live at the family home of ‘Bateman’s, until her death three years later.  Following her death, she bequeathed the house and land, along with much of the furniture and effects to the National Trust.  Her only individual request was that Rudyard’s study should remain as it was, where he created his best loved stories.

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