Kipling and the Craft

Harry Carr

THE centenary year of Kipling’s birth would seem to be justification for adding yet one more to the vast number of papers that have already been written on this subject.

The need for this further essay was first made apparent to me when—in my capacity as Secretary of the Lodge and Editor of the Transactions—I began to receive inquiries from Brethren as far away as Vancouver and Singapore, asking for materials and information which might help them to complete their own papers on Kipling, and I found, to my surprise, that while our library contains a great deal of relevant material, there has never been a paper on Kipling in our Transactions.

I approached four Brethren in turn, each with vastly better qualifications for this task than any that I could muster—but without success; and eventually the work fell to me. My diffidence was increased when one of the Brethren with whom I discussed the project said: “What, another paper on Kipling and Freemasonry! Let’s hope it will be the paper to end all papers on that subject!” Coming from a middle-aged man who had been a lover of Kipling’s works since childhood, this remark puzzled me, but he would not enlarge on it.

When I started to read the papers that had already been written, I began to understand, and, although he may not have so intended, he had indeed provided the best of reasons for yet another piece. On the subject of Kipling’s Masonic writings, each of the earlier papers had covered the ground more or less thoroughly, with suitable quotations, comment and interpretation. But on Kipling’s Masonic career and background. there was a kind of uniform haziness, a screen of uncertainty and inaccuracy as to dates and details, which could hardly have been more effective if he had been born 500 years ago; here, seemed to me, was the real justification.

In regard to Kipling’s Masonic writings, it is hoped that the brief selections quoted will suffice to point the way towards the pleasures that are in store for the would-be reader of the tales and verses from which they are drawn. So far as the main events of Kipling’s Masonic career are concerned, I will only say that every effort has been made to check the facts and to quote the proper authority for the statements that are made here. I have been fortunate enough to find useful pieces of hitherto unpublished material, and these, with original minutes and records, are quoted wherever possible. Where sundry details still remain unconfirmed, the absence of confirmation will be properly noted.


I must acknowledge my indebtedness first and mainly to Charles Carrington’s famous work, Rudyard Kipling, His Life and Work (London, Macmillan, 1955), which has furnished the principal biographical data in my paper. [1] Next, to Bro. R. E. Harbord, President of the Kipling Society of England, for the loan of valuable papers and for furnishing the two Kipling portraits reproduced in the paper. In addition, I owe him my special thanks for his kindness in reading the proofs of the paper and the corrections and data he supplied in the course of that task. My thanks likewise to another member of the Kipling Society, Bro. Capt. D. M. Penrose, Secretary of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, who provided the details of Kipling’s admission that body, with permission to reproduce the autographed Application Form.

Finally, my thanks are due to Bro. Col. R. J. Wilkinson, Librarian of Mark Grand Lodge, and to the numerous Secretaries of Craft Lodges who added to—or confirmed—information already known; to Bro. A. R. Hewitt, Librarian and Curator to the Grand Lodge, for unstinted help; and to the Board of General Purposes for their permission to reproduce a portion of Kipling’s work as Secretary of his Mother Lodge.


John Lockwood Kipling was born on 6th July, 1837, the eldest son of a Methodist minister. Despite an unhappy schooling at a boarding school near Leeds, he grew up to be a man of wide reading and he early developed a deep interest in the Arts and Crafts movement, one of the results of the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1861 he was employed as a sculptor during the building of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but his interest in the arts expressed itself equally well in painting, in prose, and in a craftsman’s skill with tools. At the age of 22 he settled in Burslem to gain experience in pottery-designing, and there he met his future wife, Alice Macdonald, daughter of the local Methodist minister. They were married in London in 1865.

The Macdonalds were a large and remarkable family, five sisters and two brothers, who, by their own talents and by marriage, had established themselves as an artistic and literary circle in London. The Rosettis, Swinburne and William Morris were among their friends. One sister married Edward Burne Jones; another married Edward Poynter. Both men became members of the Royal Academy and Baronets; Poynter was later a President of the R.A.

At the time of his marriage, John Lockwood Kipling was very poor, but he had managed to obtain an appointment as principal of a new art school at Bombay, and the couple left for India soon after their wedding. It was a country where they had neither friends nor influence. Hope, health and a zest for his work were John Lockwood Kipling’s principal assets, but he was a good-humoured and very likeable man.


Joseph Rudyard Kipling [2] was born at Bombay on 30th December, 1865, and in that bustling, thriving city he spent the first five years of his childhood, his world bounded by the limits of his parents’ bungalow garden, where he played with modelling-clay and the sculptor’s chips from his father’s studio.

His most frequent companion was Meeta, a Hindu servant, from whom he acquired such a competent knowledge of the vernacular that he often had to be reminded to speak English when with his parents.

In March, 1868, the family visited England for a brief spell, and there, three months later, Kipling’s sister “Trix” (Alice) was born. In 1871 they came to England again for a six-month furlough, and before the parents returned to India they made arrangements—customary with Anglo-Indian families—to leave the children in England for their education.

Rudyard, aged nearly six, and Trix, aged three, were boarded at the home of a retired sea captain at Southsea. Their new guardians, automatically promoted to the status of “Uncle and Aunty”, were total strangers; indeed, John Kipling had chosen the couple from a newspaper advertisement. There is some speculation as to why the children were not boarded with any of their relatives, and it seems possible that the reason was partly because John Kipling’s independent spirit would not let him seek favours from his wealthier “in-laws”; but it may simply have been because the latter were fully occupied with their own families.

The five years that Rudyard and Trix spent at Southsea, though they appeared to be living in modest comfort, were a period of wretchedness and misery that left their mark, on the lad especially. “Aunt Rosa” was doubtless a good woman, but harsh, tyrannical and unsympathetic. At the age of six, Rudyard had not yet learned to read or write, and in the years that followed he became a restless, clumsy, unruly and unresponsive lad. When he did learn to read, a whole new world must have opened for him, and he read everything that came within his reach. He talked constantly about the characters in his books and suffered the worst of all punishments when deprived of his reading.

His eyesight became affected, resulting in a series of bad monthly reports from the day school which he attended, followed by further punishments. But a long time passed before it was realized that the lad’s eyes were so weak. Glasses were ordered and he was forbidden to risk further eyestrain by reading. The next few months were the worst of all for the boy. The story, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” (published later in Wee Willie Winkie), is a wholly biographical piece, and it describes this period of their lives as Kipling remembered it, with pitiable effect. If it was in any way exaggerated, that may be readily explained as a child’s-eye view, but it must have been a fearful experience for him to have recalled it as he did.

There came, at last, a happy day in March, 1877, when his mother arrived from India and the two children were taken off to a farm at Loughton, Essex, where they had a wonderful holiday under their mother’s care—in preparation for Rudyard’s admission to a public school.


The United Services’ College at Westward Ho! in Bideford Bay, North Devon, was founded in 1874 by a group of Army officers who sought to give their sons a gentleman’s education at fees within their means. It was chosen by John Kipling because its headmaster, Cormell Price, was a friend of his—and he was already Uncle “Crom” to the young Rudyard.

The school was in its fifth year when Kipling joined it, its discipline stern, if not harsh. Most of his fellows were soldiers’ sons, and both they and their environment were distinctly rough and ready. Kipling’s defective sight rendered him unfit for most of the school sports or for holding his own against heavy-handed or quarrelsome boys—and he soon learned to avoid trouble by his tact and friendliness. But there is good evidence that he found his fellows tough, and the settling-in period was not a happy time, as we see in a letter from the boy’s mother to Cormell Price, dated 24 January, 1878:—

“This morning I had no letter from Ruddy—yesterday I had four. It is the roughness of the lads he seems to feel most; he doesn’t grumble to me—but he is lonely and down. I was his chum, you know, and he hasn’t found another yet. I don’t encourage the rain of letters; I discourage it—at the same time knowing that both his father and I have really an unusual twist for scribbling, and think no more of it than of talking…

The lad has a great deal that is feminine in his nature, and a little sympathy from any quarter will reconcile him to his changed life more than anything.…” [3]

Despite the lad’s facility with his pen, his mother was clearly ready to believe it was an hereditary trait rather than a native skill!

Very gradually, the separation from his mother and sister were compensated for by the friends he found in this new male society.

At twelve he was short for his age, chubby, with an aggressive chin, the heavy black eyebrows which so distinguished him in later life, and bright blue eyes behind thick glasses which he wore only when he was not reading.

In 1878, John Lockwood Kipling was in charge of the India section of the Paris Exhibition, and Rudyard was taken over to Paris for a memorable holiday with an English friend from another school. John Kipling was quick to realize his son’s good qualities, but he was still unable to refrain from judging him by adult standards, although “Ruddy” was not yet thirteen years old. On 15th June, 1878, John Lockwood Kipling wrote to Cormell Price:

“I find Ruddy a delightfully amiable and companionable little chap, but the way in which he only half apprehends the common facts and necessities of daily life is surprising. Vagueness and inaccuracy, I fear, will always bother him & they take curious forms…

If there is anything in him at all, the steady stress of daily work in which exactness is required should pull his mind together a little. But I should think he will always be inclined to shirk the collar and to interest himself in out of the way things….”

But the boy’s interests were widening, greatly encouraged by “Uncle Crom”, in whose company, during the holidays, be met and was thoroughly at home with artists and writers. His own reading had become diversified and adult, and he had the useful faculty of digesting the essence of a book in a matter of miutes.

When the opportunity came for him to share a study with two other boys, George Beresford and Lionel Dunsterville (M’Turk & Stalky) joined him and unwittingly became the pattern for the adventures enshrined in Stalky & Co.

A particular influence on Kipling at this time was William Crofts, his teacher for Latin and English Literature, who helped to broaden his reading, which now ranged very widely indeed. Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Dickens and Thackeray had been the basis of his early reading at Southsea. At Westward Ho!, Milton, Tennyson, Longfellow, Emerson, Mark Twain and Bret Harte, Carlyle, Ruskin and Browning, and Landor’s Imaginary Conversations were all studied and discussed to the point where Kipling was able to write verse and tales in the style of any of his favourites. In the last two years of his schooling, “Uncle Crom” gave Kipling the run of his library without pressure or prohibition, leaving him free to range over hundreds of volumes of verse, drama and prose in English and French. Now “the Head” began to take a close personal interest in Kipling’s studies. In 1881 his parents had arranged for the publication of a collection of his verses under the title, Schoolboy Lyrics—all unknown to their author. Kipling, absorbed in his reading and writing, was clearly destined for some kind of literary career. Whether this first publication was a simple piece of family pride, or whether they foresaw a successful literary career for their son, it is certain that before the end of that year they had made their decision, and this is shown in a letter from John Lockwood Kipling to Cormell Price:

Lahore, 23rd October, 1881.

“… Now a boy living in India has curiously few chances of going wrong—and especially living with his own people. I must confess from what I have seen of Ruddy it is the moral side I dread a breakout on. I don’t think he is the stuff to resist temptation.

It has occurred to us that the regular daily work of a newspaper would furnish by no means a bad occupation and I doubt not I could get him engaged on the Civil & Military Gazette here. And on the whole I am inclined to think that the easy-going general interest he is ready to take in all sorts of things, though the plague of his masters, who think he could do so much better if he would only work—is after all one of those affairs of temperament & constitution which nothing can change, and must be made the best of. Journalism seems to be specially invented for such desultory souls….”

A few weeks later John Kipling wrote to another friend that he proposed to

“bring Rudyard out to India next year, and get him some newspaper work. Oxford we can’t afford. Ruddy thirsts for a man’s life and a man’s work.”

Nevertheless, his last year at school was a happy time for Rudyard. Beresford and Dunsterville were his inseparable companions and they were the leaders of taste in the school. Their exploits included all sorts of pranks in breach of school regulations, smoking, poaching and excursions out of bounds; but they never blundered into serious mischief, and Kipling found time—in addition to his studies—to write several poems for the College Chronicle and some articles for a local newspaper.

John Kipling was still troubled about his son’s character and abilities, as may be seen in the following extracts from his letters:—

Lahore, 17th June, 1882.

“…And if Ruddy does not learn conciseness, and the way to begin to consider a question—the mere fluency & facility of yarning he possesses will be of but little use. I am inclined to think he will learn his work in harness better than anywhere else….”

Simla, 1st September, 1882.

“…It is impossible of course not to see the faults of the boy’s qualities—with others more serious … Alice says I am unduly harsh in saying, Ruddy must be a journalist because he won’t fit himself for anything else … But though far from triumphant about him, we cannot but see that he has some of the qualities necessary for his craft….”

Rudyard’s last “school” summer holiday was spent at Rottingdean with a host of Macdonald cousins, and partly at Skipton with his Kipling grandmother. He sailed for India on September 20th, 1882, alone, in drizzling rain and seasick.


After four weeks at sea, with an exciting stop at Port Said which made a deep impression on Kipling’s imaginative mind, he arrived at Lahore in October, 1882, happy to be back in the atmosphere of his childhood.

Lahore, a low-lying, ancient walled city full of the sights, sounds and smells of Asia, was connected by a broad boulevard to its newer European quarter, which housed some seventy British residents. Outside the city, at a distance of some four miles, was Mian Mir, a military cantonment housing a Battalion of British Infantry and a Battery or more of Artillery. John Kipling was Principal of the Mayo School of Art and Curator of the Lahore Museum, and for the first few days after his return Rudyard helped in the Museum, where his father had established a notable collection, relating to Indian arts and archaeology, that was much used by the students.

In November, 1882, Rudyard, nearly 17 years of age, started work as “Assistant Editor” on the Civil & Military Gazette, a local newspaper owned by two Englishmen, who were also the proprietors of the Pioneer at Allahabad—a journal of national status. Both of them were close friends to John and Alice Kipling, who were frequent contributors to the Pioneer, and there can be no doubt that this friendship had helped in procuring Rudyard’s appointment.

The editor, Stephen Wheeler, was the only other European member of the staff, and, as he was often sick with fever, Kipling frequently carried the responsibility of overseeing the 170 Indian printing hands. Wheeler kept him hard at work on news-agency telegrams, preparing their contents as copy for each edition which went to press at midnight. Kipling mastered the technical work without difficulty and his schooling had already prepared him for the strictly controlled style of his literary work, which must have involved a severe restriction on his own native exuberance.

In 1883, aged 18, he already had his own quarters in his parents’ bungalow, a personal servant, a bay pony and a trap in which he drove to the office, which consisted of two wooden sheds near to the city. John Lockwood Kipling wrote to a friend in 1883:

“Ruddy is getting on well, having mastered the details of his work in a very short time. His chief, Mr. Wheeler, is very tetchy and irritable, and by dint of his exertions in patience and forbearance, the boy is training for heaven as well as for editorship. I am sure he is better here where there are no music-hall ditties to pick up, no young persons to philander with … All that makes Lahore profoundly dull makes it safe for young persons….” (C.C., p. 50, quoting from the Kipling Papers, the property of Mrs. George Bambridge, Kipling’s daughter.)

During the hot weather of 1883 his parents went for several weeks into the Hills, and Kipling was unbearably alone in the house with the Indian servants. Then he stayed for 30 days at Simla with James Walker, one of his employers.

Simla was virtually the centre of government from May to October, housing the Viceroy and his staff, with the best and gayest of Anglo-Indian society, as well as the place-seekers and fortune-hunters. It was, according to John Kipling, “full of pretty girls” and, of course, the wealthier matrons, who stayed there for several months, though their husbands had to be satisfied with only their month or sixty days of leave. Simla was a hill-town whose steep slopes left no room for good roads. All the houses were built on the slopes and in constant danger of slipping down the hillsides during the rainy months of July and August. Yet that was the brightest time for Simla, when the Europeans most needed refuge from the fever-ridden plains.

In August, Kipling was back at work in deserted Lahore, where a dozen men represented the whole European community, the remainder being away in the Hills with their families.

He was a none-too-popular honorary member of the Punjab Club (doubtless because he was too young for full membership) and there he dined and spent most of his evenings. After the paper had gone to press he wandered for hours through the alleys of the old city until the cool of dawn brought some relief.

In January, 1884, his mother brought Trix back to India from England, and the next four years were Kipling’s happiest years in India. Trix, an attractive and intelligent girl, made up the devoted and close-knit “Family Square”, as Alice Kipling called it, which was perhaps the best formative influence on Rudyard’s character.

Soon he was commissioned as special reporter on pubic events, and in March, 1884, he went to Patiala State, in the train of Lord Ripon, the Viceroy, where he greatly enjoyed princely hospitality and turned in some very successful newspaper work. Here, incidentally, he had his first experience of Indian bribery when he rejected a choice of banknotes, a concubine, or an Arab horse, which were offered him if he would use his newspaper’s influence on behalf of one of the Indian princes. Wherever he went, people, scenes, objects, actions and behaviour were noted, observed and stored in his extraordinarily receptive memory, as always, to reappear at some future date in his stories and verses.

His one unhappy moment during this year was the end of his first love affair. At the age of 16, while in England, he had met Flo Garrard, a lovely, sophisticated girl, who was another paying guest with Trix at “Aunty Rosa’s”. Their meetings must have been infrequent and secret, but, when Rudyard left England in 1882, the attachment was so far advanced that they considered themselves engaged. She was a year or two older than Rudyard, and when, in July, 1884, she wrote breaking off their “understanding”, he must have been deeply hurt, though undoubtedly it was the best thing that could have happened. Eighteen months later he wrote to one of his English aunts asking her to find out if Flo Garrard was happy, and she held her place in his memory for many years. This theme of a young man in India and his girl at home was frequently repeated in his later stories.

The year 1884 brought cholera to Lahore, where the European community had eleven cases and four deaths out of the population of seventy. The family were at Dalhousie, a more economical hill-station than Simla, and Rudyard joined them for a month, during which he and Trix together wrote a volume of verse parodies, Echoes, published later by the Civil & Military Gazette. The book had a fairly good reception and Rudyard’s articles were also beginning to attract attention, though he used different pen-names for his contributions to the down-country journals.

In March, 1885, he was at Rawalpindi for the first big event under Lord Dufferin, the new Viceroy, when his political articles and reportage began to win him credit as a well-informed journalist.

Lord Dufferin’s first summer at Simla, 1885, was a turning-point in the social life of the Kiplings. He was a traveller, scholar and wit, his wife a great lady who strengthened her husband’s hand, and their daughter was a pupil in John Kipling’s sketching class. Lady Dufferin soon brought the Kiplings into the Viceregal circle of friends, and in no time their son, Lord Clandeboye, had become attached to Trix, now an acknowledged beauty and an accomplished actress and dancer. The young man was packed off to England before matters could become too involved, but the two families remained good friends. Rudyard was at Simla as a journalist on duty, and his employers insisted that he must learn to dance and partake fully in the social life, a hint which he accepted wholeheartedly.

In 1885 the family produced a “magazine” which was subsequently published in the Gazette under the title Quartette, and it contained the first two stories which Rudyard, in later time, thought worthy of preservation in his collected editions—one, Phantom Rickshaw, a Poe-like study of hallucination; the other, Morrowbie Jukes, a venture into the unknown world of Indian life, far removed from his normal journalistic world. About this time, too, he fell in love again, with a daughter of the military chaplain at Mian Mir, but this time the affair had no depth or duration and he came through it unharmed.

Kipling was now nearly 21 years old, an untidy, abrupt fellow, cheerful, exuberant and with abounding energy, quick in repartee and witty. He had a great zeal for his chosen profession, working hard enough for three, and he was singularly happy within the “family-square”, but he still had an uneasy social manner. Some of these traits are manifestly irreconcilable, and it seems that they were born of a natural shyness or diffidence which disappeared on close acquaintance. Everyone who knew him well found him a likeable and even a lovable character

In April, 1886, aged 20 years and 3 months, Kipling entered the Craft.


One of the many papers on Kipling, “Bro. Rudyard Kipling and His Masonic Verse”,[4] speaks of Kipling’s father as Bro. John Lockwood Kipling, and this is the only case I have found which suggests that Rudyard may have had a family connection with the Craft. It is extremely doubtful if there was any such link. Kipling never mentioned it, and, allowing for the deep affection he had for his father, it is certain that he would have noted the fact either in his letters or his writings. There is likewise no mention of any kind of family link to be found. Kipling was proposed for initiation into Lodge Hope and Perseverance, No. 782 (E.C.), by a military friend, Col. Oswald Menzies, at that time President of the Punjab Dist. Bd. of General Purposes; he was seconded by another member of the Lodge, Bro. C. Brown.

In his little autobiography, Something of Myself, pp. 52–3, written towards the end of his life, he gives his own modest account of his admission:—

“In ‘85 I was made a Freemason by dispensation (Lodge Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C.) being under age, because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got the Father to advise, in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of Solomon’s Temple.

Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jew Tyler,[5] who was priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world opened to me which I needed.”

Kipling was wrong in his dates. The following is a transcript of all the minutes relating to his admission in the records of the Lodge Hope and Perseverance, 1886-1887:—[6]


MINUTES of the Proceedings of the Regular Meeting of Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, E.C., Held at The Masonic Hall (Anarkali), Lahore, India, on Monday, the 5th April 1886.

Worshipful Master: W. Brother G. B. Wolseley.

Item on Agenda

3 The Ballot was taken for Mr. Joseph Rudyard Kipling, aged 20 years 2 1/2 months, Assistant Editor, “Civil & Military Gazette”, and residing at Lahore, a candidate for Initiation.

PROPOSED by W.Bro. Col. Menezes

SECONDED by Bro. C. Brown

which proved unanimously favourable.

DISPENSATION from District Grand Master authorising his Initiation as a minor was then read.

4 THE CANDIDATE, Mr. Joseph Rudyard Kipling, was then admitted and initiated in due form into the Mysteries and Secrets of Ancient Freemasonry, The Worshipful Master giving the Degree.

(Signed) O. Menezes, P.M.


At the Regular meeting on Monday, 3rd May 1886.

Worshipful Master: W.Bro. Col. O. Menezes.

3 BRO. KIPLING being a Candidate for the Second, or Fellowcraft, Degree, was duly examined in the First, or Entered Apprentice, Degree and being found proficient, was allowed to retire for preparation.

4 THE LODGE was then opened in the Second Degree.

5 THE Candidate was then re-admitted and passed to the Second Degree in due and ancient form.


At the Regular Meeting on Monday, 6th December 1886 [the Lodge having been in vacation in the interim].

Worshipful Master: W.Bro. Col. G. B. Wolseley.

3 BROTHER RUDYARD KIPLING being a Candidate for the High and Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, was then examined by the Worshipful Master according to ancient custom, and having proved proficient, was allowed to retire, while

4 THE LODGE was opened in the Third Degree.

5 ON the Candidate being re-admitted, he was raised to the Third Degree in due and ancient form.

“The Minutes recording his raising are actually entered in the Minute Book in Kipling’s own handwriting, he having acted as Secretary to the meeting at which he was raised—perhaps a unique position.” (MB/N.)

Entered in April, 1886; Passed in May; Raised in December, the Lodge having been closed in the interim period, which included the hot months. It is perhaps typical of Kipling that within a few months of his Raising he gave a Lecture in his Mother Lodge on the “Origin of the Craft First Degree”, and four months later he lectured again on “Popular Views on Freemasonry”. (The first Lecture was on 4th April, 1887; the second on 4th July, 1887.) (MB/N.) What a great pity that the texts of both talks have disappeared!

There is no record of the source of Kipling’s Masonic knowledge and it is extremely doubtful if his Lodge possessed a Masonic library. The military Lodge at Mian Mir was an even less likely source. The only Masonic journal then published in the Punjab was the Masonic Record of Western India,[7] a monthly magazine of some 40 pages octavo, printed at Allahabad, which gave brief items of Masonic news from all parts of the world, with fuller details from the English Quarterly Communications and fairly full reports of Indian Masonic matters, all these being interspersed with brief articles, poems and stories more or less related to the Craft. Some of the earlier volumes of this little journal may have furnished Kipling with his material, but that is pure speculation. Yet, if Kipling at 21 was anything like the successful author of later years, betraying in his tales a full grasp of all the technical information belonging to his subject and eagerly inserting the odd details that show how he delighted in his mastery of them, it is certain that he did not undertake his Masonic Lectures without a good grounding.

He was recorded as Secretary, duly elected,[8] at the regular meeting on January 10th, 1887. He was invested with his collar of office at the February meeting and was “appointed P.M. Steward” at that meeting, and he attended every monthly meeting up to and including August 1st, 1887.[9] He pursued every branch of the Craft that was within his reach with his customary zeal. He was advanced in the Mark Degree in Fidelity Mark Lodge, No. 98, at Lahore, on 14th April, 1887, and was elevated in Mt. Ararat Ark Mariners’ Lodge, No. 98, on the same day.[10]

Of his love for Freemasonry there can be no doubt, especially when we see how often it crept into his later writings, yet it is strange that he left practically no personal records of his Lodges, or of his friendships in the Craft.

The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, was constituted in 1858 (as No. 1084), meeting in the “Lodge Rooms”, Lahore. At the time of Kipling’s Initiation it had some 25 or 30 members, largely made up—as one might expect in the India of that time—of soldiers, civil engineers, civil servants, doctors, men attached to various branches of the post and telegraph services and to the police. The total Masonic population of the Punjab State, under the Dist. Grand Lodge. English Constitution, was 650 (approx.) in some 20 Lodges, an average of 30 members per Lodge. These low numbers, combined with the high incidence of illness, home furlough and unavoidable long-distance travel in a large and developing country, must have caused all sorts of difficulties in the continuity of management of the Lodges. This was remedied in No. 782 in 1887, a year after Kipling’s Initiation, when the Lodge amalgamated with Lodge Ravee, No. 1215, which was in difficulties owing to insufficient membership; No. 782, the stronger Lodge, absorbed the weaker. The Grand Lodge Register shows that 21 members joined 782 in that year from No. 1215, and Lodge Ravee returned its Warrant.

The well-known passage in Something of Myself (quoted above), in which Kipling wrote, “Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brabmo Samaj …”, may be true in substance, but it tends to create the impression that Hope and Perseverance was a heavily “mixed” Lodge, with a high proportion of members from the native population. This was probably quite unintentional, but one of Kipling’s letters to The Times in 1925 (forty years after his Initiation) seems to support the suggestion, and it contains, incidentally, a notable error of fact:—

“… I was Secretary for some years of Hope and Perseverance Lodge, No. 782, Lahore, which included Brethren of at least four creeds. I was entered by a member of Bramo Samaj, a Hindu, passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew.

We met, of course, on the level, and the only difference anyone would notice was that at our banquets some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste rules from eating food not ceremonially prepared, sat over empty plates.”[11]

The Lodge minutes prove that the details of Entry are certainly incorrect, and those of Passing are probably wrong, too. A reference to the Initiation minute, above, will show that it ends with the words “… the Worshipful Master giving the Degree”. The W.M. on the night in question was W.Bro. Col. G. B. Wolseley, C.B., P.Dist.Dep.G.M., certainly not a Hindu, and he presided at Kipling’s Raising, too. The W.M. at the Passing was Col. Oswald Menzies, who had proposed him. There is no record in the Minutes of any other Brother taking the Chair for the 2° and 3° ceremonies, and it seems very likely that the “… Hindu and … Mohammedan …” were either the results of faulty memory or the creatures of a fertile imagination.

It is certain that the ability of Europeans and Asiatics to meet “on the Level” in the Lodge Room, without distinction of class or colour, race or creed, had made a very deep impression on Kipling, as witness his poem The Mother Lodge, which was founded on that theme, and this may well explain the momentary lapse in the accuracy of his memoirs. The records show that there were, in fact, at least four non-European Brethren in the Lodge at that time, as follows:—

Bikrama Singh[12] Profession not stated
Mohammed Hayat Khan Assistant Commissioner[13]
Protal C. Chatterjee, M.A. Pleader In the Law Courts (?)
Gopal Das U.C.S. (?)

The Kipling file in the Grand Lodge archives contains the Annual Return made to the Dist. G. Lodge of the Punjab by the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance on December 31st, 1886. The Lodge had evidently been suffering from Secretarial troubles at that time,[14] and this particular Return is especially interesting, because it was compiled and signed by Kipling himself, as Acting-Secretary, only eight months after his Initiation and less than four weeks after his Raising!

Kipling’s Return shows a total of twenty-four members in the Lodge, including the four named above, but his Return is certainly incomplete. B. C. Jussawalla, a merchant, joined the Lodge in 1884, and was still on the Roll five years later, but he does not appear in Kipling’s Return. Dr. Brij Lal Ghose, R.B., Assistant Surgeon, joined the Lodge in 1879 and there is no record of his resignation, but he, too, is omitted from Kipling’s Return, though he is regularly shown in high office at meetings of the Dist. Grand Lodge and its Committees during the period of Kipling’s association with the Lodge.

It is strange that Kipling left practically no record of his personal impressions and recollections within his own Lodge. Stranger still, perhaps, that none of the Masonic allusions in his verse and prose can be deemed strictly autobiographical. In later years, after he had achieved world fame, he avoided all discussion of his private affairs with strangers and shunned that kind of publicity like the plague. This facet of his character arose directly from the success which made him a target for all who could profit from his words. But that was not the case in his youth, when he was still shy, ill-at-ease and finding it very difficult to settle into the adult society of Lahore. For a youngster in that frame of mind, to be received as an equal in the Lodge was indeed an unforgettable experience, and when, towards the end of his life, he wrote about his Initiation: “So yet another world opened to me, which I needed”, he was referring not so much to Freemasonry, the Craft itself, but to the little group of Brethren who had opened their doors to him.

He made it his business to learn about the Craft, because, as a writer, that kind of approach was second nature to him. That he found it in every way admirable is constantly revealed in his writings; but his zeal for the Craft was not centred in its organization or its ritual, and one may doubt if he would ever have reached the Chair, even if he had had an opportunity to do so. There seems to be no doubt, and his subsequent record confirms the fact, that his real love for the Craft was based on the welcome that he found in it and upon the rich variety of characters whom he met in the Lodge.

On January 10th, 1887, a few days after his election as Secretary, he is recorded as “J. Rudyard Kipling, Secy. of No. 782”, a visitor at the meeting of the Dist. Grand Lodge at Lahore (M.R.W.I., vol. xxiii, p. 450) ; a month later he served in that capacity at a meeting of the Permanent Committee of his Lodge. It is reasonably certain that he found time to visit the Lodge at Mian Mir (St. John the Evangelist, No. 1483), where two of the members were Surgeon Capt. Terence Mulvaney and Lieut. Learoyd, R.A., whose names are immortalized in Soldiers Three.[15] The remainder of his career in the Craft was sadly interrupted by the calls of his profession—but that is another story.


In the summer of 1886, Kipling joined his family at Simla, where (by reason of Lord Clandeboye’s attachment to “Trix”) he moved into the Viceregal circle and found numerous friends among the rising young men of the Viceroy’s staff, which led to a natural and noticeable increase in his status as a journalist.

On his return to Lahore, in the cool months of 1886–7, he began to write the verse and stories that brought him to fame. Wheeler, his chief at the Gazette, had allowed him no scope for the imaginative writing that he wanted to do; but now, broken in health, the editor was retiring, and Kay Robinson, assistant editor of the Pioneer at Allahabad and a good friend to Kipling, was to take over Wheeler’s position. Kipling was delighted and the new arrangement began to show immediate results. Copying a journalistic feature that had proved very successful during his time on the London Globe, Robinson set Kipling to write a series of regular weekly articles for the Gazette. They were to be short topical pieces of high local interest and limited to 2,000 words, an ideal discipline for Kipling and one that he greatly enjoyed. The best of them are preserved today in his Plain Tales from the Hills.

In the course of his journalistic duties he was ready to take all sorts of risks in the lowest quarters of the town, and he had already developed an uncanny skill in quickly absorbing local colour, a skill which became one of his principal assets as a writer. It was said that he knew more about the shady side of life in Lahore than the police, more about the regiments and the life at Mian Mir than the Officers themselves; but his curiosity ranged over every field.

In 1887 he sold a collection of his verse, of local and topical interest, under the title Departmental Ditties, to a Calcutta publisher, for 500 Rupees. They were inclined to be shocking and cynical, attracting considerable attention in India, but the only review in the London Press found them merely “quaint and amusing”, perhaps because they were too closely related to the narrow themes of civil service and military life in India. His friends, and Robinson especially, were beginning to urge him to spread his wings and seek a wider public in London, but he was happy in his Lahore-Simla surroundings, treating his employment on the Gazette as a kind of seven-year apprenticeship to his profession.

During the summer of 1887, Kipling’s employers were arranging to transfer him to the staff of the Pioneer at Allahabad, and the minutes of the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782 (in Kipling’s own handwriting), record the following:—

3. The Secretary having announced his impending departure to Allahabad as a reason why he should be relieved of his office, W.Bro. J. J. Davies rose and said:—

“Worshipful Sir and Brethren,

We have all heard with deep regret the intimation made by our Bro. Secretary that we are soon to lose his services as Secretary of this Lodge. Those of us who have watched his conduct since his initiation feel sure that he has before him a successful Masonic career, for the thoroughness with which he conducted his duties was prompted by a lively interest in his work and by a keen desire for a deeper insight into the hidden truths of Masonry.

“Bro. Kipling has also contributed towards the welfare of the Lodge by the series of Lectures which he delivered to the Brethren, which was of a nature both interesting and instructive, while his courteous disposition has won for him the general esteem of the Brethren. He has been all that a Secretary should be, and it is with regret that I hear the Lodge is about to lose the services of one whom I feel sure will yet be an ornament to his Lodge and a bright light in the Masonic Circle.

“I feel sure that all the Brethren will join me in wishing Bro. Kipling success in his future life and to express a hope that circumstances will permit him to occasionally visit the meetings of his Mother Lodge.”

Bro. Kipling returned thanks for the kind allusions made to his success as Secretary and for the good wishes expressed by the Brethren present. He said he would always remember with pride and affection the meetings he had attended at Lodge Hope and Perseverance whereby he had formed friendships which would leave a lasting impression on his memory. He would take every opportunity that offered of attending the meetings of his Mother Lodge.

(Signed) E. C. Jussawallab[16]

At this stage Kipling cannot have had any idea that his departure would be anything more than a temporary break in his Masonic career, and until that time he had certainly discharged all his duties, and more, with a praiseworthy zeal.

He lived a bachelor life at the Allahabad Club, but he soon found good and interesting friends, notably Prof. S. A. Hill, a Government meteorologist, and his wife. In a letter to her sister in Pennsylvania, she described Kipling as short, dark-haired, balding and fortyish (he was only twenty-two), with a heavy moustache and thick glasses, a scintillating and animated storyteller, and equally interesting in more sober conversation.

The Plain Tales met with immediate success in India, where many of their thinly-disguised characters were readily recognized. A French edition[17] was also well received, but the work remained unnoticed in London. For the Pioneer, Kipling was now travelling a good deal and was writing a series of articles, the Letters of Marque, afterwards issued as the first part of Vol. 1 of From Sea to Sea. He began to write fiction for the Week’s News and for other journals—work which was all too quickly written and accepted by undiscriminating publishers and public. Six volumes of short stories were issued in 1888 (later contained in Soldiers Three and Wee Willie Winkie). They brought him, for the first time, a bank balance of £200 in advance royalties, and established his reputation as a writer whose works ranged over civil service, military, native and society life. They were sketches and impressions as much as stories, in which character-studies and local colour were as important as the tales themselves.

Busy though he was, Kipling still found time for his Freemasonry, and there is a record of his attendance at the Installation meeting of Lodge Independence with Philanthropy, No. 391, at Allahabad, on 22nd December, 1887, when Sir John Edge, Chief Justice of the N.W. Provinces, was installed before an enormous assembly. (M.R.W.I., vol. xxiv, p. 345.) In March, 1888, when he believed that he was permanently settled in Allahabad, he wrote to his Lodge at Lahore:—

At the Regular Meeting on Monday, 2nd April, 1888. Worshipful Master: W.Bro. Koenig.

9. Read the following letter from Bro. RUDYARD KIPLING dated Allahabad, 22nd March 1888:

Dear Sir and Worshipful Master,

“It is with great regret I have to inform you that I am now permanently transferred to Allahabad and therefore forced to abandon any active connection with my Mother Lodge. I write to ask you to forward a Clearance Certificate to enable me to join ‘Lodge Independence with Philanthropy’ at this Station, and also to send my Grand Lodge Certificate to the Master of that Lodge when it arrives. I have of course no intention of withdrawing my name from the Lodge Roll and shall be obliged if you would have me put down as an Absent Brother.

“I send herewith Rs. 24 P.M., subscription and shall always look back with keen pleasure to my Masonic life in ‘Lodge Hope and Perseverance’, and, if at any time, I can do anything to further its aims and objects, am entirely at your disposal. Convey my warmest and most fraternal regards to the Brethren and

Believe me
Yours faithfully and fraternally,


10. THE SECRETARY was directed to comply with Bro. Kipling’s request and to reply to his letter thanking him warmly for his kind offer and expressing regret that his altered circumstances has deprived us of his valuable assistance and genial companionship.

(Sgd.) F. Koenig, W.M. (M.B.)

It seems certain that Kipling fully intended to pursue his Masonic career in his new environment, while remaining on the Roll of No. 782 as an “Absent Brother” (probably a status equal to “country-membership”), but that was not to be. He was recalled to duty at the Civil & Military Gazette and there followed a brief spell at Lahore, deputizing for Robinson, who was absent on sick-leave. It is recorded that he attended, for the last time, at his Mother Lodge, No. 782, in May, 1888, acting as Inner Guard[18] (MB/N.) The heat of the summer months became intolerable and Kipling went off for a three-week stay at Simla, which was doubly enjoyable because he had already made up his mind to go to England. He returned to Allahabad, where his pleasure in the company of the Hills (he had been living with them during most of 1888) was marred by Mrs. Hill’s sudden and serious illness. On her recovery she decided to convalesce at her home in Pennsylvania, and, on hearing this, Kipling resolved to travel east-about to England, going with them to America, en route. Introductions to friends in the U.S.A. were showered on him.

He joined the Lodge Independence with Philanthropy, No. 391, at Allahabad, on April 17th, 1888. At that time it was the fourth largest Lodge under the District Grand Lodge of Bengal, with 35 members. The largest Lodge had only 50 members, and the records show that several Bengal Lodges were in abeyance and others were having great difficulty because of their small memberships. (M.R.W.I., vol. xxiv, p. 449.) No. 391 was a “mixed” Lodge with a substantial proportion of non-European members,[19] and it is fairly certain that Kipling would have been very happy there, but his active participation in the work of the Lodge lasted, in fact, less than a year, because of his projected trip to England. (He never returned to Allahabad, and resigned from the Lodge on 31st December, 1895).

In February, 1889, he went home to Lahore for a farewell visit, and soon afterwards went down to Calcutta. The March, 1889, minutes of Hope and Perseverance record:—

At the Regular Meeting of the Lodge held on Monday, 4th March 1889. Worshipful Master: W.Bro. F. Koenig.

8. THE WORSHIPFUL MASTER stated that he had received a card from Bro. RUDYARD KIPLING stating that he was leaving the Province permanently and wished to resign. Directed that it be acknowledged with regret. (M.B.)

Kipling resigned from his Mark and Ark Mariner Lodges three months later, on 30th June, 1889.[20]

On March 9th, 1889, he went aboard the S.S. Madura with Prof. and Mrs. Hill for the beginning of a happy holiday, enlivened by the society of his friends. His time was filled by his unending interest in the mechanism of the ship and in the men who kept it moving, as well as the yarns of the variegated travellers in the bars and smoking-rooms. They passed through Rangoon, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, and stayed a whole month in Japan, each halt making an indelible impression on his photographic mind and leaving a store of colour, sights and sounds that enriched so much of his later work. They left Japan for San Francisco, and there, in the course of newspaper interviews, Kipling carelessly let fall various items of too-ready and immature criticism of American affairs, which made him an unpopular target in the American press.

The Hills left him at San Francisco to finish their journey by train, and Kipling remained in the care of Mrs. Carr, a friend of his mother, who introduced him into wealthy and influential society, and to professional men, journalists and writers, who found him a boon companion. After a few days he went off for a fishing holiday to Portland, Oregon, and then into British Columbia, where a smart piece of salesmanship left him owning a plot of land in Vancouver City which was certainly not worth what he had paid for it.

Writing articles all the while for his paper, he travelled leisurely across America until he arrived eventually at the little town of Beaver Falls, Pa., where Mrs. Hill was living with her parents. Kipling stayed with the family for two months, and there he met Mrs. Hill’s young sister, Caroline Taylor, a plump and cheerful girl. Continuing his travels in the Eastern States, his closer acquaintance with the country and its people brought him to a real liking for what he saw and a somewhat jingoist view of the importance of the “Anglo-Saxon all round the world”. The appearance of several favourable reviews of his works must have pleased him greatly, but at this period a pirated version of Plain Tales was published in the U.S.A., the first of a whole series of similar outrages, which, allowing for his poverty at the time and his inability to obtain legal redress, was an understandable source of exasperation.[21] An introduction to Henry Harper, head of the New York publishing house, led to an interview which was quickly ended by Harper’s brutal rudeness. Happily, “He never had to ask a favour of an American publisher again.” (C.C., p. 132.)

Meanwhile, Carrie Taylor had decided to go to India with her sister, and at the end of September, 1889, all four, the Hills, Carrie and Kipling, took ship for England, arriving in London in early October. There, Kipling left his friends to take a short holiday in Paris. On his return to London he moved into two rooms at the foot of Villiers Street, overlooking the embankment, only a few doors from the London office of the Pioneer. Mrs. Hill and Carrie helped him to settle in before they went off to India.

Kipling had few friends in London, and he was lonely, short of money and too proud to ask for help. His letters to Mrs. Hill at this time betray his loneliness and nostalgia for India, which persisted long after he had won his place in London literary circles. His letters to Carrie show that he was falling in love with her, not surprising, perhaps, in view of his lack of young feminine company during those important years. Andrew Lang, who had reviewed some of Kipling’s earlier work, took him to the Savile Club, the haunt of editors and writers, and this resulted in an introduction to Sampson Low, who arranged to publish an English edition of his six volumes, but on rather unfavourable terms. More useful introductions came to him through Wheeler, his former chief at Lahore, now on the staff of the St. James’s Gazette, and from Mowbray Morris, editor of Macmillan’s Magazine. Wheeler took him to Sidney Low, who later described his first evening with Kipling, at Sweeting’s in Fleet Street, where, with very little persuasion, Kipling began to talk of India and his travels, and soon had half the room as his audience. Two of his poems, both under pseudonyms, were published by Macmillan, and soon he counted the best of literary London among his friends.

Trix, now married, visited him in London in February, 1890, and was shocked to find him in poor health and low spirits. He had met his first love, Flo Garrard, by chance in London, and had realized that she still meant a great deal to him. Perhaps his attachment to Carrie was of too rapid a growth to withstand their separation, or its roots may have been too shallow. Whatever the reasons, his estrangement from her was complete by this time. He resumed his courtship of Flo Garrard, without hope of success, because she was interested in nothing but her own career as an artist. He confided all this to Trix, but his only refuge was in his work, which he pursued “… with a sort of fury”.

His visits to his aunts and cousins were rare and pleasurable interludes, though they introduced him into good society where—as usual—he was made much of. Publishers’ doors were being opened to him and he had enough commissioned work in hand to be assured of a modest livelihood. A splendid review of his works in the London Times in March, 1890, described him as a writer who had “tapped a new vein, and … worked it out with real originality”. It led to a Kipling boom in London, while the re-issue of his early works in America went on more strongly than ever. Kipling had arrived! He was twenty-five years old, with a collection of prose and verse behind him, including Plain Tales from the Hills and the Departmental Ditties, which had made his reputation from India to America.

He sent a cryptic telegram to his parents announcing his success and inviting them to come to England. The message was a gem of its kind; it ran: “Genesis xlv, 9, 10, 13.” The first of those verses reads; “Haste ye and go up to my father and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph; God hath made me lord of all Egypt; come down unto me, tarry not.”

Nothing could have been more apposite, and his choice of the quotation reveals a very useful knowledge of the Bible.

In May, 1890, his parents came to London and the “family square” was happily re-united. It is strange that this—the period of his first real taste of success—was the time when he published The Light That Failed, which contained the story of his involvement with Flo Garrard, and much autobiographical material, yet tinged with occasional bitterness and cruelty, wholly out of keeping with his character.


Around 1890, Kipling met Wolcott Balestier, a charming and talented young journalist—turned publisher—who had captured literary London. Balestier, an American, with a sure foresight of the young author’s potentialities, set himself to make friends with Kipling, and he succeeded, despite Rudyard’s justifiable distrust of publishers—especially American. Soon there was talk of their collaborating in a novel, which appeared about two years later as The Naulahka—a book based on America and India—which gave them both good opportunity for their individual talents. As agent for an American publishing house, Balestier actually persuaded Kipling to write a happy ending to The Light That Failed—a commercial move which nobody else in Rudyard’s circle could have achieved.

Balestier’s family visited England to share in his success and Kipling visited them often; but it was in Wolcott’s office that he first met Caroline Balestier, Wolcott’s sister—a quiet, competent and forceful young woman, who made such an impression on Kipling’s mother that she instantly predicted, without enthusiasm, but correctly, as it transpired, “That young woman is going to marry our Ruddy.”

Kipling’s health was very bad at this time and he was troubled with constant recurrence of malaria and dysentery, with mental exhaustion resulting from the great pressure of work since his arrival in England. On medical advice he took a short voyage to America with one of his Macdonald uncles, Kipling travelling under the name of J. Macdonald for the sake of privacy. The stratagem failed; his eyebrows and moustache made him too easily recognizable, and when he found that his arrival was already publicized in New York—knowing he was not fit to face the intrusion of reporters—he returned immediately to England.

In July, 1891, he stayed with the Balestiers at their home in the Isle of Wight, and it is fairly certain that by this time he and Carrie had come to an understanding—which was not made public, however. In August, still in pursuit of health, he set out on a voyage round the world. He made a brief and pleasant stay in Cape Town, where he met Cecil Rhodes, who ultimately became a great friend. On to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia and back to Colombo, with a train journey of four days and nights through India to Lahore, where he arrived for a Christmas reunion with his parents.

But soon after his arrival he received a cable from Caroline to say that Wolcott had died of typhoid while on a business trip to Dresden. Kipling did not stay for Christmas and managed to get back to England in 14 days, a notable feat at that time. Meanwhile, Carrie had taken charge; “… a little person of extraordinary capacity who will float them all successfully home”, said Henry James in one of his letters, paying tribute to her “. . force, acuteness . . and courage”.

Kipling arrived in London in January, 1892, and they immediately arranged to marry within eight days, by special licence. An influenza epidemic was raging, and only one cousin, “Ambo” Poynter, attended (as best man), with Henry James, Edmund Gosse and William Heinemann as the only friends present at the ceremony at All Souls’, Langham Place. The newly-weds parted at the church door, because Carrie had to nurse her mother. Their wedding party was a small family lunch he’d two days later.

From this time on, Kipling’s story cannot be told or read without the constant reminder of this masterful and devoted woman in the background. She watched his health, shielded him from intruders, kept his accounts, managed their homes and their many moves, and bore him three children. All that was, of course, in the future, but it is noteworthy that the majority of writers on the Kiplings are agreed that it was he who got the best of the bargain.

Rudyard was now comfortably off, with £2,000 in the bank and with many publishers’ contracts in his pocket, and the couple set off for a honeymoon voyage round the world, Kipling taking the final chapters of The Naulahka[22] to prepare them for the press en route.

As part of their tour they stopped off at Brattleboro’, Vermont, headquarters and home of the Balestier family, staying a few days with Carrie’s younger brother, Beatty Balestier, and his wife. Beatty conveyed a 10-acre plot of the family land to them for a nominal sum, and they continued their trip through Chicago to Canada, Kipling paying his way by his travel sketches, which were now far more profitable than on his first American visit. Reporters sought him constantly and were kept at bay by Carrie, now his business manager. And so, on to Japan and Yokohama, where their joyous holiday was rudely interrupted by the failure of Kipling’s bank, with the loss of his life’s savings, nearly £2,000.[23] They were stranded in Japan with only their return tickets, some £10 sterling and 100 dollars in a New York bank. Lack of cash was no longer a serious worry, because there was a ready and constant demand for everything Kipling wrote, and hospitality was showered on the young couple everywhere. They stayed another three weeks in Japan, but cancelled the remainder of their honeymoon.

Back to Vermont, where, in a house rented at 10 dollars a month, with a Swedish maid at 18 dollars per month, they lived in spartan simplicity for a year.

In April, 1892, the Barrack-Room Ballads were published; they were three times reprinted in that year and fifty times more in the next thirty years. As usual, a pirated edition had appeared in the U.S.A. before the authorized English edition came out in 1892! But Kipling did very little new writing in their honeymoon year. The Naulahka began to bring in a useful and rapidly-growing income and money was flowing in rapidly from Kipling’s earlier work. Now much of their time was spent in planning, with a New York architect friend, a new house that was to be built on their 10-acre plot.

The Kiplings visited the Balestier family often and they were much attached to Beatty’s little daughter, but Beatty himself, a gay, extravagant and intemperate fellow, did not get on well with his sister Carrie, who treated him as an irresponsible boy, doling out his share of Naulahka dividends in petty sums, as a deliberate means of controlling his extravagance.

Before the new house was ready, their first child, Josephine, was born in December, 1892. That year was also made happy for them by a visit from John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father, now retired, and the two men went off for a trip into Canada, leaving Carrie to prepare and supervise the removal into their new home, “Naulhakha”.

Father and son got on famously together, and Rudyard, as always, was ready and glad to have his father’s help, which was quite invaluable in artistic and certain technical matters. This was the period which gave rise to the Jungle Books—the best-sellers of all Kipling’s works. Now, after a period of comparative rest and with the assurance of real prosperity, Kipling had again got into his stride with the “return of a feeling of great strength”. At this time he wrote some of his most notable verse and ballads—work which would have brought him fame if he had not achieved it already. He could now command $100 per thousand words, a very high rate in those days, and Scribner’s paid him $500 for his dramatic poem, M’Andrew’s Hymn.

After a brief holiday in Bermuda, Rudyard and Carrie crossed to England in 1894, moving into a house at Tisbury, Wiltshire, where Rudyard’s parents had settled in retirement. In their frequent visits to London, the Kiplings were lionized and fêted. Back to the light, quiet and peace of Naulakha, they lived comfortably with their little daughter, enjoying the society of a few close friends. Rudyard noted in Carrie’s diary, in December, 1894, that he had earned $25,000 (£5,000), a great sum in those days.

The interminable intrusions of summer-visitors, sightseers and journalists eventually drove Carrie to sell her husband’s autographs at $2.50 each for charity, in the hope of avoiding the nuisance—but that was misinterpreted as a publicity device, and it attracted abusive comment.

Early in 1896 the Kiplings took a six-week holiday in Washington, D.C., while Carrie recuperated after a furnace accident. There they were made welcome in the very best of American society, but Kipling, on a visit to the White House, was disgusted by the company he met among President Cleveland’s associates. This disenchantment was largely compensated for by the close friendship he formed with “Teddy” Roosevelt.

On their return home, a serious money quarrel arose between Carrie and her brother over his careless stewardship of the house during their absence, and the two families were no longer on speaking terms—a real discomfort because they were such close neighbours. Meanwhile, the Anglo-American dispute over the Venezuela-British Guiana borders led to a great deal of bad feeling on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Kiplings began to plan a return to England; but that had to be deferred, as Carrie was expecting the birth of her second child. Their daughter, Elsie, was born in February, 1896.

Kipling was busy meanwhile on Captains Courageous, an all-American story in characters and setting, which grew largely out of his friendship with Dr. Conland, their family physician. The rift with the Balestiers had widened and about this time Beatty was made bankrupt. The newsmen swooped, scenting a story, but Kipling refused to be interviewed. “American reviewing is brutal and immoral … Is it not enough to steal my books without intruding on my private life?”

During the winter he played golf in the snow, with red balls, and learned to ski—on the first skis in Vermont—sent to him by Conan Doyle. Later in the year he took up the fashionable sport of cycling, and in May, 1896, an accidental spill on a road near his home led to a face-to-face meeting with Beatty, who, in an ungovernable rage, threatened to shoot Kipling. Very unwisely, Kipling laid information against his brother-in-law for threatening to kill him, and Beatty was arrested next day. The ensuing court proceedings brought the Kiplings the most frantic and unwelcome publicity, which was aggravated by Rudyard’s impulsive and ill-advised behaviour throughout the whole of this trying period. The case was adjourned for trial, but nothing came of it because they left the U.S.A. before it came up for hearing. They had had four happy years in Vermont, but the miseries of the family quarrel finally drove them back to England, where they arrived in September, 1896, staying at a rented house near Torquay.


It was a barrack of a house after the beauty and comfort of Naulakha, but there was compensation in the visits they had from their family and friends. John Lockwood Kipling set up a studio in their coach-house, moving over from Tisbury to help his son with a projected illustrated edition of his works. Living not far from Dartmouth, Rudyard was invited to cruise with the Channel Squadron, and—always an avid collector of the data that might form the background to his stories—he began zealously to master naval and engine-room techniques.

Kipling had maintained his membership of Lodge Independence with Philanthropy, No. 391, Allahabad, since 1888, but he resigned on 31st December, 1895. It had been his only Lodge during those years, and, so far as all known records go, he became an unattached Brother, remaining in that status for the next four years. The details of his subsequent Masonic affiliations are given below.

In the winter of 1896 he did not do very much work, although he was now feeling much better (doubtless because of his distance from the troublesome Beatty). He was elected to the Athenaeum at the age of 31, their youngest member, and on the night of his admission he dined there with Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner and the Editor of The Times. Two months later, with Carrie expecting the birth of their third child, Rudyard began to look around in Kent and Sussex for a new home, and in June, 1897, they moved into North End House, Rottingdean, at the centre of a large group of relatives—and accessible to their friends. It was Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year and the publication in the Times of his Recessional attracted admiration far surpassing Kipling’s earlier triumphs. Now his name was being voiced as a possible Poet Laureate.

Their third child, a son, John, was born in August, 1897, and, at Christmas, Kipling wrote in Carrie’s diary that this year was “In all ways the richest to us two personally”. In January the happy pair embarked for a winter holiday in South Africa, which opened a new sphere of interest for Kipling. It was followed soon afterwards by a summer cruise for Rudyard with the Channel Squadron, which proved a great personal triumph for him.

This year saw the publication of his poem, The White Man’s Burden, another triumph. It was the first appearance in print of that now-famous phrase, one of a whole series of verses with a strong imperialistic tone, typical of some earlier Indian verse, but always urging the sense of responsibility and duty that ought to over-ride all tangible reward.

In February, 1899, they set off on a visit to New York — Carrie to see her mother, and Rudyard to deal with a copyright dispute which led to a long, expensive and fruitless lawsuit. Unwisely, they had decided to take the three children with them and, after a fearful crossing, arrived at their New York hotel with all the children ill from whooping-cough. Carrie herself fell ill, but she shook it off for the sake of the children. Dr. Conland arrived from Vermont, bringing the news that Beatty was threatening to sue Kipling for $50,000 for malicious arrest. Josephine, the eldest child, developed pneumonia and was sent off to Long Island in the care of Conland; Elsie also showed symptoms, but soon recovered; while John, the baby, became ill with bronchitis. Family and business worries proved too much for Kipling, and he, too, succumbed with an inflammation of the lungs which rapidly deteriorated—so that he became delirious and dangerously ill. The news could not be kept from the press and traffic outside their hotel was blocked by crowds of sympathizers. Letters and messages flowed in from all parts of the world and the hotel lobby was crowded with reporters. Prayers were said for Kipling in the churches and people were seen to kneel before the hotel doors to pray for him. Never—even for Royalty—had there been such a spontaneous proof of affection and admiration. Carrie, despite all her courage and competence, was desperate, and Frank Doubleday, the New York publisher and their dear friend, neglected his own affairs to act as secretary and manager for Carrie while she looked after the children.

On March 4th, Kipling was at last declared out of danger, though still very ill, but two days later Josephine died. Many months passed before Kipling was fully restored to health—but neither he nor Carrie ever recovered from the shock of Josephine’s death. In May, Kipling was fit to return to England under orders to take a six-months’ rest, and Doubleday, with his wife, made the journey with them and did not leave them until they were settled back in their own home. Andrew Carnegie wrote offering them the use of a small house in the Scottish Highlands, and there Rudyard mended slowly and settled down gradually to work again.

On October 4th, 1899, doubtless as a result of his residence in Scotland, Kipling was elected an Honorary Member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2 (S.C.), and—rare honour—he was made Poet Laureate of the Lodge (1905–8), thereby joining a distinguished band of Brethren of whom Robert Burns was the first, in 1787–1796. There is no evidence, unfortunately, of his visiting the Lodge, but ill-health and family troubles would explain that.

In October, 1899, Stalky & Co. was published, adding a new facet to his fame because it was so obviously autobiographical, but it met with a mixed reception and, as a picture of school life, many critics found it distasteful. Kipling was now at the height of his fame; social invitations were showered upon him—and mainly refused. It had been a sad and bitter year for them, and they needed quiet and seclusion.


In September, 1899, on the eve of the Boer War, Kipling published a poem, The Old Issue, in which he urged that the quarrel with Kruger was a fight for liberty and against tyranny. Some part of this must have had it roots in a native imperialism which was an inherent part of his background; but there is no doubt that it was also inspired by his unbounded admiration for the Empire-builders, the men with the machines and tools, the road-makers, the bridge-builders and the engineers.

When war was declared he started the Soldiers’ Families’ Fund, and his poem, The Absent-Minded Beggar, set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, helped to raise nearly a quarter-of-a-million pounds for the fund. Never a seeker after limelight, he now shunned publicity, and when Harmsworth, of the Daily Mail, wanted to give the poem and its author publicity in aid of the fund, Kipling wrote asking that his name should be kept out.

“The verses are fetching money in a wonderful way—thanks to your management—but don’t make so much of their author.”[24]

In January, 1900, he left with Carrie for a trip to South Africa, including a tour of the Military Hospitals, and he was there just in time to welcome Rhodes on his release after the raising of the siege of Kimberley. Rhodes spoke of his plan to build a house at Groote Schoor for artists and writers who would stay there as his guests, and offered them the house when ready. Carrie accepted enthusiastically and went off with the architect to select a site.

At the Battle of Paardeberg, Kipling went up to the Modder River rail-head on an ambulance train, returning with a trainload of wounded men, his first direct experience of the horrors of war. There is an interesting note regarding Kipling’s visit to Bloemfontein in the Transactions of the Authors’ Lodge, vol. v, p. 226. It speaks of Conan Doyle’s services during the South African War, when he was Medical Officer to the Langham Field Hospital. He was “… one of the brethren who formed the never-to-be-forgotten Emergency Lodge held at Bloemfontein in company with Bro. Rudyard Kipling and other notable Masons.” It has proved impossible to trace any further details of this particular Lodge meeting. With the gradual success of the campaign, Lord Roberts resolved to start an Army newspaper and he wired Kipling inviting him to join the staff of the new journal. Kipling accepted a temporary post as sub-editor for the few weeks that remained of his stay in South Africa and wrote a number of pieces for the paper, The Friend, enjoying himself enormously in the company of his congenial colleagues. The dry, warm climate suited him and he flourished.

Back at Rottingdean, his writings at this period had a strong political flavour, but towards the end of 1900 he was preparing to publish Kim, his last work on India, a task which had engaged him intermittently for some years. It is an adventure story in which the plot is of minor importance, but it furnished the opportunity for a study of an enormous variety of people in circumstances which enabled Kipling to depict the life, colour and atmosphere of his beloved India, and something of the mysticism and the complexities of character of its population.

At the end of 1900 the Kiplings were back in South Africa and moved into “The Woolsack”, the dream-cottage that Rhodes had placed at their disposal, their happiest environment for many years.[25] Meanwhile, the war dragged on, bringing many unpleasant shocks, despite the general success of Lord Roberts’ campaign after the opening disasters. Kipling, deeply touched by the losses that had been suffered through the inexperience of the soldiers and the inefficiency of their officers, wrote The Army of a Dream, a vision of England trained and prepared for war, with an awakening at the end reminding the readers that the men who might have made this possible had thrown away their lives in the recent holocausts.

A year later, in December, 1901, his poem, The Islanders, pursued the theme still further, as a plea for less interest in sport and more in national service and defence. His reference in that poem to “flannelled fools and muddied oafs” aroused great criticism and antipathy, but Kipling was never afraid to say what he thought.

In March, 1902, Rhodes died, and Kipling wrote the verses which are inscribed on his tomb. Rudyard had lost a great friend, more especially one whose hopes for the outcome of the war coincided with his own, of a land settled by the men who would bring a new prosperity. His war poems, soldier ballads and stories of this period often reflect this feeling.

Later in 1902 the Kiplings settled in at their best and happiest home in England, “Bateman’s,” at Burwash, in Sussex. By this time they had bought their second car, and motoring adventures and misadventures appear frequently in some of Rudyard’s stories of this period.

The war ended, and the inevitable reaction that followed it enabled Kipling to relax at “Bateman’s”. After the publication, in 1903, of his book of South African verse, The Five Nations, he began to apply himself to his writing in a new and more controlled style. There was no longer any hurry to publish and he held his work back, cutting and revising until he was fully satisfied. His genius ranged from far-seeing science fiction to children’s tales and his work took on an even wider variety—occasionally with a kind of obscurity—yet with a breadth of vision and appeal that kept him high on the list of the world’s story-tellers.

The Conservative landslide in the General Election of 1906 and the subsequent elections in South Africa were a great blow to the Kiplings, and they made their last stay at the “Woolsack” in April, 1908.


It seems strange that Kipling, whose conscientious mastery of intricate technical matters enabled him to write with facility on all sorts of subjects, could never bring himself to “write to order”. This may have been one of the reasons why he never became Poet Laureate; it certainly prevented him from taking any kind of public office that might limit his freedom to write and say what he thought. He refused Parliamentary constituencies, and he refused two invitations to travel in the Royal entourage on State visits to India. A Knighthood (K.C.B.) had been offered him, and refused, in 1899. The K.C.M.G. was similarly refused in 1904.

He did, however, accept academic honours, and in 1907–8 he and Carrie spent much time in travelling to ceremonial occasions at the Universities, including a trip to Canada to accept a doctorate at McGill. That trip was combined with a lecture-tour to Canadian Clubs, in which he continued to expound a facet of his Imperialist ideas—exhorting them to understand and accept their responsibilities.

In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, a great honour which carried, in those days, a grant of some £7,700.

In July, 1909, Kipling joined the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, a purely Christian society, open to Master Masons “… of high moral character … [and] … of sufficient ability to be capable of understanding the revelations of philosophy, theosophy and science, possessing a mind free from prejudice and anxious for instruction …” This brief quotation sufficiently demonstrates the range of studies which fall within the Society’s nine grades and it shows that Kipling was ready to explore far beyond the normal range of Masonic study.

One of the conditions of entry is that the Candidate must be “a subscribing member of a Regular Lodge under the Grand Lodge of England or under a jurisdiction in amity therewith …” This poses a problem because, so far as all known records go, Kipling was not a subscribing member of a Lodge at that time. By courtesy of the Secretary of S.R.I.A. (himself a member of the Kipling Society), we are able to reproduce Kipling’s autographed Application Form, and it will be noted that he described himself as a member of Lodge Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, although he had resigned from that Lodge in 1889!

Kipling’s Declaration Form on joining Societas Rosicrucians
Reproduced by kind permission of the Supreme Magus. S.R.I.A.

The Application Form also contains the motto, chosen by Kipling for that occasion, “Fortuna non virtute”, a modest note which may be freely translated, “By good Fortune, not by Merit”.

The Authors’ Lodge, No. 3456, was founded in 1910, and apparently Kipling was invited either to be a founder or to attend the Consecration. He was unable to be present, and the report of the Consecration (Freemasons’ Chronicle, November, 1910) records that letters were received from Kipling and many other prominent authors of that period, sending their greetings and good wishes[26]

A careful check of the Transactions of the Authors’ Lodge reveals that he made no contributions to their work, but he is listed as an Honorary Member of the Lodge in the Transactions, vol. iv, which cover the period 1918 to 1928. There is no record of the precise date of election.

His mother died at Tisbury in 1910, followed early in 1911 by his father. Though he was devoted to his parents, he had seen less of them in recent years, being fully occupied with his work and in the tight circle of his own family. One wonders if this may have been due to a possible coldness between Carrie and her mother-in-law.

From 1909 to 1914 his active interest in right-wing Conservative politics kept him fully occupied. His dislike of Liberal policies, strikes and the troubles in Ireland provided him with ample ammunition, and he wrote no longer as a spokesman for the “little man” or the “underdog”, but as a propagandist for the Tory Party. He was a friend of Baden-Powell, and became a Commissioner and an active supporter of the Boy Scout movement, as well as of the National Service League, the latter an unpopular cause in those days. In May, 1914, a wild and intemperate anti-Liberal speech to 10,000 people at Tunbridge Wells brought him a great deal of adverse publicity, bringing embarrassment to himself and to his own party.

When war was declared, young John Kipling, not yet 17, went up to London to offer himself for a Commission, but his weak sight prevented this. Kipling thereupon wrote to Lord Roberts, and with his influence the lad was nominated to their friend’s own regiment, the Irish Guards. The Kiplings, with their daughter Elsie, were busy meanwhile at “Bateman’s” on work for the Red Cross and for the Belgian Refugees. Rudyard now began a tour of the Military Hospitals and Training Camps in England, writing articles for the Daily Telegraph and stories based on incidents of the war.

The family made frequent trips to London, where John could come in from his barracks to meet them.

In August, 1915, Rudyard was invited to visit the French Armies in the field. He met Clemenceau, Briand and General Nivelle, and had a warm reception everywhere, being easily recognized, because his works were as well known in France as in England. On his return there was an invitation from the Admiralty to Kipling to write about the Royal Navy—apparently in the hope of satisfying the Allies of the activities of the “Silent Service”. He made visits to the Dover Patrol and the Harwich Flotilla, and, on returning home, fell ill with gastritis.

On October 2nd, 1915, a telegram arrived from the War Office reporting that John was wounded and missing after the Battle of Loos. After a few days, Kipling returned to his work, the only anodyne, while awaiting further information. Two years passed before they had the full story. The lad had been shot through the head in action when his Company forced its way into a gap between Hill Seventy and Hulluch. After the agonized years of waiting and incessant inquiries, the parents, numbed and broken, sought refuge more than ever within themselves, with Elsie as the only comfort left to them.

Kipling made several visits to quiet sections of the Front, to the Grand Fleet in Scottish waters, and to the Naval establishments at Dover and Harwich. Apart from his war journalism, his best work of this period consisted of Naval songs and ballads. In 1917 he began work on a history of the Irish Guards, his son’s regiment, and, in the same year, made a visit to Italy to collect material for the story of the Italian campaign, The War in the Mountains. In this year, too, he wrote “In the Interests of the Brethren”, by far the best of his Masonic writings, rich in sympathy and full of understanding of the needs of the men who were actually fighting in the war.[27] Following the confirmation of the death of his own son, one may imagine his anguish when he wrote of the principal character, L. H. Burges, of Burges and Son, “… but Son had been killed in Egypt”.

In September, 1917, he was invited to join the Imperial War Graves Commission, of which he was a diligent member for the last 18 years of his life; indeed, it was he who chose for them the inscription, “Their Name Liveth for Evermore.”

“… never before had war exacted such a terrible toll of death never before had a permanent organization for the care of their graves been needed in peace-time … among the graves under its care were those of men and women of many nations and of many religions … and by the nature of its task it [had to be] free from religious partiality.” [28]

The newly-formed Commission made its Headquarters just outside St. Omer, and in January, 1922, a Lodge was consecrated at St. Omer as No. 12 on the Register of the Grande Loge Nationale Indépendante et Régulière pour la France et les Colonies Françaises (now the G.L.N.F.). Among the founders of the Lodge was Rudyard Kipling, and it was to his inspiration that the Lodge owes its name, “The Builders of the Silent Cities”, which so beautifully expresses the vocation of its members, “whose sympathetic labour it is to construct and maintain permanent resting places for … the valiant dead of the British Empire who fell in the Great War”.

The first two Initiates of the Lodge were Major-General Sir Fabian Ware, Vice-Chairman and Chief Horticultural Officer of the Commission, and Captain J. S. Parker (from whose son’s work these notes have been reproduced). As a tribute to Kipling, the Lodge adopted a modified form of the “Sussex Working” of the Third Degree; Kipling was then a Sussex man and it was believed to be his favourite “working”,[29] but, in fact, his interest was in the Commission itself, rather than the Lodge, though he retained his membership of No. 12 until his death.[30]

He was invited to become one of the Rhodes Trustees (for the Rhodes Scholarships at Oxford), an honour which he accepted willingly because both he and Carrie had taken a deep interest with Rhodes in the scheme when he was planning it. On June 28th, 1918, the Motherland Lodge, No. 3861, was consecrated at Freemasons’ Hall, London, “… to signalise … the coming together of the English speaking family of nations to fight side by side on behalf of liberty and right, against wrong and oppression”. Kipling had been invited to attend, but he is listed among the Brethren who sent letters of apology. According to custom, the Consecrating Officers were made Honorary Members of the Lodge and presented with Founders’ Jewels. “A similar honour was conferred on” [various distinguished visitors, as well as] “Bro. Rudyard Kipling (who had personally selected for inclusion in the souvenir of the meeting a verse from his ‘Song of the Native-born’).” (Freemasons’ Chronicle, 20th July, 1918, pp. 28–30.) The Secretary of the Lodge reports that, despite the Honorary Membership, there is no record of Kipling ever visiting the Lodge, or of his taking any practical interest in it thereafter.

War work and war journalism kept Kipling busy, leaving him little time for his ordinary literary work, and his best work of this period is in verse, especially those pieces which were highly critical of the errors and mismanagements of the war. When it was ended, Carrie wrote in her diary, “a world to be remade … without a son”.


The family returned to “Bateman’s” as to a refuge—Rudyard in poor health, and Carrie a diligent guardian and a constant shield against intruders. But theirs was not a hermit existence. There was a constant stream of visits from their closest intimates; John’s army colleagues came, and the children of their relatives and friends. Airmen came to visit and to discuss the world air-routes that Kipling had predicted so long before. Stanley Baldwin, his cousin, serving under Bonar Law’s Government, came to offer him “any honour he will accept”, but he steadfastly refused.

In December, 1921, he was offered the Order of Merit, an honour in the King’s personal gift, tendered in a charming letter from Lord Stamfordham. Refused, it was offered again in 1924 and refused again, but the King’s admiration for Kipling and his work was not harmed by this stubborn independence.

In 1920 the family resumed their motor-tours in France, giving Kipling an opportunity to make personal inspection of more than 30 cemeteries under the War Graves Commission, on which he reported and advised. They also paid a visit to Loos to identify the spot where John had died.

In 1921 they went to Paris, where Kipling accepted a Doctorate of the University of Paris, and was fêted as a national hero by the social and political leaders of France. In 1922 they accompanied the King and Queen on their pilgrimage to the War Cemeteries, and Rudyard had the opportunity of a long private conversation with the King. Thereafter, his work on the Irish Guards being finished, the customary exhaustion followed and he was troubled again with gastric illness, which had been an intermittent source of discomfort for many years. He settled down at “Batemans”, a listless and bedridden invalid—with no interest, even in politics.

During this period the New York World published details of a supposed interview with Clare Sheridan, reporting Kipling’s views on Anglo-American relations, and that he had charged that America had come into the war too late and withdrawn too soon, with other observations equally unpalatable to the friends of both countries. It is possible that Kipling had indeed aired his views during an informal and private tea-time visit by Clare Sheridan to Burwash. If so, his words were certainly “off-the-record” ; but they became front-page news in the world Press, to Carrie’s great distress, because her husband was too ill to deal with the matter. It was also a great embarrassment to the Government, at a time when relations with the U.S.A. were delicate. Eventually, Kipling sent a notice to the Press saying that he had not given an interview and denying that he had said the words attributed to him.

A severe recurrence of his illness led to a surgical operation, followed by several months of convalescence and a sea trip to Cannes, where he gradually recovered his health and began work again. At this period he wrote The Janeites, another “Stalky” story, and several war stories, published in 1926 as Debits and Credits. Fashions had changed since his last book had been published some nine years before, and the new book had small success at first, though it steadily moved into favour afterwards. His zeal for compression, generally a virtue in a story-writer, when carried to extremes often made his work obscure and cryptic. Another volume of stories (published in 1932) was clearly the work of a tired and ageing invalid.

In 1926 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Literature—an honour shared only with Scott, Meredith and Hardy. A year later, somewhat to Kipling’s displeasure, the Kipling Society was formed, with General Dunsterville, “Stalky” himself, as its first President. Much of the family’s time in the next years was spent in motor-tours and voyages in search of sunshine.

In 1925 the War Graves Commission opened a new Head Office in London and many of the senior members of No. 12 (France) found themselves transferred to England. This led to the formation of a London Lodge under the same title as its sister Lodge in France. Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4948, was consecrated in December, 1927, and Kipling, still deeply interested in the work of the Commission, was one of its founders. But there is no evidence that he attended the Consecration or that he ever attended or took active part in the work of the Lodge. (He resigned in 1935, shortly before his death.)

Rudyard’s last serious work was done in the early months of 1932, and now, as though he knew that the sands were running out for him, he began to tidy up, arranging a new volume of Collected Verse, as well as A Pageant of Kipling, a collection of verse and prose selected for the American market.

He supervised the preparation of the sumptuous Sussex Edition of his works,[31] and then began to write Something of Myself, the bare framework of an autobiography, which tantalizingly omitted many of the most important people and incidents in his career.

In the summer of 1935 the Kiplings went off together to Marienbad (for Carrie’s sake), and in the autumn Rudyard was busy with Hollywood agents, arranging for the filming of several of his stories.

In January, 1936, Kipling replied to an invitation from the Secretary of the Authors’ Lodge:

Burwash, Sussex.
January 2, 1936.

Dear Brother Spalding,

Thank you very much indeed for the Lodge invitation for the 15th, but I’m sorry to say that each year I pass from the labour of fighting the English climate to the refreshment, more or less, of the South of France, and by the 15th I ought to be there in whatever sunshine this mad world has to offer.

Please convey my regrets to the Brethren, and Believe me,

Fraternally yours,


(Transactions of Authors’ Lodge, vol. vii, p. 162.)

Early in January, 1936, they were spending a few days at Brown’s Hotel in London, prior to a projected trip to Cannes. On the night of January 13th, Rudyard suffered a violent haemorrhage; he lingered a few days and died on January 18th, 1936, soon after his 70th birthday.

He lies buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Is it fair—or even possible—to sum up in a few lines the Masonic character of a man who had led such a full, busy and successful life? The constant interruptions in his career, his necessary mobility as a journalist, his travels, his early marriage and his subsequent wanderings, all contributed towards his inability to make “progress” in the Craft. Yet his zeal for Freemasonry was proclaimed in his writings time and time again. It has been suggested that as a creator of word-images his was not the kind of temperament to be troubled with the learning of ready-made ritual, but his writings show, constantly, that he had mastered a great deal of Masonic ritual during the bare three years of his Masonry in India.

When he wrote his wonderful Masonic tale, “In the Interests of the Brethren”, he was, indeed, an Honorary Member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, but he had been a nonsubscribing Mason for some 20 years, yet nothing could better display his affection for the Craft or his knowledge of its background, and, perhaps most important of all, his love for humanity.

There was in his character a kind of native vehemence which prompted him occasionally to express himself in hasty words—that he must have regretted—yet it was that same vehemence which brought the blazing light of sympathy into all his writings, which taught him how to defend the under-dog, which helped him to write with insight and understanding for children, as well as adults, over fields of literature unequalled by anyone before or since his day.

Generally—and all his Masonic writings seem to support this view—he was a “practical” Mason, keenly aware of the practical usefulness of the Craft in bringing men together in service and good deeds; yet in Kim—and in some of his poems—he showed a genuine awareness of the spiritual aspects of the Craft.



The extracts that follow do not pretend to be a complete catalogue or collection of all the Masonic allusions in Kipling’s prose and verse. Indeed, it is doubtful if such a comprehensive collection would be possible, because many of them hinge on a mere turn of phrase, or association of ideas, where it is difficult to be certain of the writer’s intentions. Nor is there any attempt here to make a study of Kipling’s qualities as a writer. The extracts are presented, primarily, to show the many and various ways in which he expressed his ideas about the Craft, to indicate the diversity of purpose with which they were written, and to give some idea of the fascinating items of high Masonic interest which await the reader who has not already discovered them for himself.

Occasionally the allusions are wholly Masonic in character, so that the background, the story and the theme (or moral) are all centred on some aspect of the Craft. Often the Masonic references are bold and clear, yet without any particular relevance to the story, which would have been equally complete without them. In such cases the allusions seem to have slipped into the text almost involuntarily, as though Kipling could find no better way of expressing himself, even though he must have known that their full significance might only be apparent to a tiny fraction of his readers. These references reflect an inner compulsion which is, itself, a measure of his love for the Craft.

In contrast to the direct allusions, relevant or not, the most difficult items of all to trace are the tricks of phrasing—the odd word or two which have their origins or parallels in Masonic ideas and lines of thought—although the words themselves do not belong to any specific Ritual or Lodge procedure.

All the extracts presented here fall into one or other of the categories outlined above. Previous writers have presented the same material more or less at random, usually on the basis of personal preference. They are reproduced below, as far as possible in chronological order, with only enough comment to enable the reader to grasp their implications, but with larger notes on matters that deserve special attention.

The extracts have been divided, however, into two separate collections—so that the items of minor interest, which might have marred the more important ones, are shown separately, under the heading of TRIVIA.

Many of the pieces appeared originally in newspapers, etc., but it would be extremely difficult for the reader to locate them in that form. The dates and book titles that are given in each case represent the main work in which the items were first collected and published.

* * * *

“The Man Who Would Be King” (Indian Railway Series, 1888) (Wee Willie Winkie, 1895) is generally accounted one of the best of Kipling’s stories. It is told by a journalist (presumably Kipling himself) who falls into conversation, on a train journey, with an entertaining vagabond, Peachey Carnehan, who is planning a blackmailing visit to a native ruler. Warned off by the journalist, Carnehan asks him to deliver a message to another loafer at a railway-junction at some distance. The conversation runs:

“I ask you as a stranger—going to the West”, he said, with emphasis.
“Where have you come from?” said I.
“From the East “, said he, “and I am hoping that you will give him the message on the Square—for the sake of my Mother, as well as your own.”
Englishmen are not usually softened by appeals to the memory of their mothers, but for certain reasons, which will be fully apparent, I saw fit to agree.

The journalist delivers the message—which is only the arrangement for a rendezvous—and he puts the matter out of mind. Several months later the two scamps walk into his office and introduce themselves as “Brother Peachey Carnehan and Brother Daniel Dravot”, and they unfold a plan to go into Kafiristan, in North-West Afghanistan, where they propose to drill the natives and set themselves up as Kings. The night is spent in studying maps and perfecting plans for the journey, which is full of danger on every hand, and the two soldiers of fortune go off.

Two years later Carnehan, the unrecognizable and crippled wreck of a man, crawls into the narrator’s office and tells the story of their journey. The two adventurers did reach Kafiristan, where the natives believed them to be gods.

Now the story takes a curious twist, based on the idea—commonly held among Masonic travellers and students of folk-lore during the past hundred years or so—that many primitive and civilized tribes in the Near and Far East use signs and symbols which are known and used in Speculative Masonry. Dravot, by some accident, makes this discovery, and the rest of their story, apart from its tragic end, is almost pure Masonry:—

“Peachey”, says Dravot, “we don’t want to fight no more. The Craft’s the trick, so help me!” and he brings forward that same Chief … Billy Fish, we called him … “Shake hands with him”, says Dravot, and I shook hands and nearly dropped, for Billy Fish gave me the Grip. I said nothing, but tried him with the Fellow Craft Grip. He answers all right, and I tried the Master’s Grip, but that was a slip. “A Fellow Craft he is!” I says to Dan. “Does he know the Word?” “He does”, says Dan, “and all the priests know. It’s a miracle! The Chiefs and the priests can work a Fellow Craft Lodge in a way that’s very like ours, and they’ve cut the marks on the rocks, but they don’t know the Third Degree, and they’ve come to find out. It’s Gord’s Truth! I’ve known these long years that the Afghans knew up to the Fellow Craft Degree, but this is a miracle. A God and a Grand-Master of the Craft am I, and a Lodge in the Third Degree I will open, and we’ll raise the Head Priests and the Chiefs of the villages.”

“It’s against all the Law “, I says, “holding a Lodge without warrant …”

“It’s a master-stroke o’ policy”, says Dravot. “It means running the country as easy as a fourwheeled bogie on a down grade. We can’t stop to inquire now, or they’ll turn against us. I’ve forty Chiefs at my heel, and passed and raised … they shall be … The temple of Imbra will do for the Lodge-room. The women must make aprons as you show them …”

The most amazing miracles was at Lodge next night … I felt uneasy, for I knew we’d have to fudge the Ritual … The minute Dravot puts on the Master’s apron … the priest fetches a whoop and a howl, and tries to overturn the stone that Dravot was sitting on. “It’s all up now”. I says … Dravot never winked an eye, not when ten priests took and tilted over the Grand-Master’s Chair … The priest begins rubbing the bottom end of it to clear away the black dirt, and … he shows all the other priests the Master’s Mark, same as was on Dravot’s apron, cut into the stone. The old chap falls flat on his face at Dravot’s feet … “Luck again”, says Dravot … “they say it’s the missing Mark that no one could understand the why of. We’re more than safe now.”

Using the butt of his gun as a gavel, Dravot declares himself “Grand Master of all Freemasonry in Kafiristan in this the Mother Lodge o’ the country, and King of Kafiristan equally with Peachey!”

Overwhelmed by their success, Dravot decides to take a wife from among the tribe and the transition from the status of gods to mere mortals proves to be their undoing. The tribe revolts, with results that are dreadful to read, but splendidly told.

* * * *

In a very different vein is “The Rout of the White Hussars” (Plain Tales from the Hills, 1888). It is a light-hearted and slightly cynical tale of a very proud Cavalry Regiment in India, whose Colonel, a new man, self-willed and bumptious, decides to “cast” the Drum-Horse, the idol of the Regiment. One of the Subalterns buys the horse against the Colonel’s wish, on the pretext that he would not want the beast ill-treated by a future owner, and mollifies him by a promise that the horse will be shot. A different horse is substituted, shot and buried with suitable honours.

The Colonel, aware that his obstinate action has aroused great resentment in the regiment, decides to make the men “sweat for their … insolence”, and orders a Brigade field-day.

At the end of a gruelling day the White Hussars are preparing their horses for stables to the traditional accompaniment of the regimental band. Suddenly, silhouetted against the sunset, the men see a lone horse, with a sort of grid-iron mounted on its back, approaching the band. There is a neigh, and the piebald is immediately recognized as the dead Drum-Horse of the White Hussars; the grid-iron is, in fact, a skeleton, riding between kettle-drums draped in black! Panic seizes the men and their horses ; the regiment—for the first time in its history—breaks and runs. The Drum-Horse, disgusted by the behaviour of his old friends, trots up to the steps of the Mess, where the Colonel discovers that the whole affair is a practical joke—and the skeleton has been fastened into the saddle with wire.

The regiment gradually filters back, and the Masonic sting of the story is in its tail. A week later the Subaltern who had bought the Drum-Horse

… received an extraordinary letter from someone who signed himself “Secretary, Charity and Zeal, 3709, E.C.”, and asked for the return of our skeleton which we have reason to believe is in your possession” … “Beg your pardon, Sir”, said the Band-Sergeant, “but the skeleton is with me, an’ I’ll return it if you’ll pay the carriage into the Civil Lines. There’s a coffin with it, Sir.”

Need we ask what the Lodge was doing with a skeleton and a coffin?

* * * *

One of Kipling’s many military tales of this period is “With the Main Guard” (Soldiers Three, 1890). The story is told by Mulvaney, the wild Irishman, of an adventure with his first regiment, the blackguardly Black Tyrones. They are ordered out on a punitive expedition against Pathan tribesmen, and the regiment, attacking, is jammed into a narrow defile. Some fierce hand-to-hand fighting ensues.

“Knee to knee!” sings out Crook, wid a laugh whin the rush av our comin’ into the gut shtopped, an’ he was huggin’ a hairy great Paythan, neither bein’ able to do anything to the other, tho’ both was wishful.

“Breast to breast!” he says, as the Tyrone was pushin’ us forward closer an’ closer.

“An’ hand over back!” sez a Sargint that was behin’. I saw a sword lick out past Crook’s ear like a snake’s tongue, an’ the Paythan was took in the apple av his throat like a pig at Dromeen fair.

“Thank ye, Brother Inner Guard “, sez Crook, cool as a cucumber, widout salt … I wanted that room.”

Masonry was strong in all ranks of the Indian military Lodges, but here the Masonic crosstalk is a gratuitous introduction born of Kipling’s own enthusiasm; the tale would have read just as well without it. He used the same theme, in verse, a few years later, in “With Scindia to Delhi” (Barrack-Room Ballads, 1893), to describe another battle :—

“… There was no room to clear a sword—no power to strike a blow, For foot to foot, ay, breast to breast, the battle held us fast …”

* * * *

A Masonic poem, beautiful in its theme as in its clear simplicity, is “My New-Cut Ashlar” (Life’s Handicap, 1891). It is the prayer of a craftsman who hopes that his work may be found worthy in the eyes of the Great Overseer. But the symbolism is not for Masons alone, and the two last lines are a plea and a promise of dedication:

MY NEW-CUT ASHLAR (Life’s Handicap, 1891)

My new-cut ashlar takes the light
Where crimson-blank the windows flare.
By my own work before the night,
Great Overseer, I make my prayer.

If there be good in that I wrought,
Thy Hand compelled it, Master, Thine—
Where I have failed to meet Thy Thought
I know, through Thee, the blame was mine.

One stone the more swings into place
In that dread Temple of Thy worth.
It is enough that, through Thy Grace,
I saw nought common on Thy Earth.

Take not that vision from my ken—
Or whatsoe’er may spoil or speed.
Help rue to need no aid from men
That I may help such men as need!

* * *

THE WIDOW AT WINDSOR (Barrack-Room Ballads, 1892)

An early poem which used Masonic phrases to express Kipling’s ideas on a non-Masonic subject was “The Widow at Windsor”. It describes the soldier’s views of the might and power of Queen Victoria, but in none-too-respectful language. Yet, to the trooper, the British Empire is “the Lodge” that stretches from the Tropics to the Pole:—

Hands off o’ the sons o’ the Widow,
Hands off o’ the goods in ‘er shop,
For the Kings must come down an’ the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says “Stop “!
(Poor beggars! — we’re sent to say “ Stop”!)

Then ‘ere’s to the Lodge o’ the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an’ the file,
An’ open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! — it’s always they guns!)

The poem ends with a play on the Tyler’s Toast: —

Then ‘ere’s to the sons o’ the Widow,
Wherever, ‘owever they roam.
‘Ere’s all they desire, an’ if they require
A speedy return to their ‘ome.
(Poor beggars! —they’ll never see ‘ome!)

In the same collection, Barrack-Room Ballads, 1892, one of Kipling’s poems which achieved great fame was “The Ballad of East and West”, the story of an Afghan raid on a Border fort, in which the Colonel’s valuable mare is stolen—and recovered. Despite the opening line of the poem

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

It tells the tale of worthy foemen and the story is told at a rollicking pace—one can almost hear the clatter of hooves. Towards the end of the poem, the narrator, realizing the bravery of the enemy, finds that they, too, are men of quality:

They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.

In the last lines, the Colonel’s son rides back to the fort with the son of the Afghan chief at his side, as friends, and the whole theme of the poem is enshrined in the one line,

And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.

No strong Masonic allusions here, but an expression of Kipling’s views on the infinite possibilities of the Brotherhood of Man.

* * * *

Perhaps the best known and best loved of Kipling’s Masonic poems, also produced at this period, was “The Mother-Lodge” (The Seven Seas, 1896), “which he wrote in a single morning”.[32] Nothing could better express the profound impression that the universality of the Craft had made on Kipling’s mind. The poem is no mere catalogue of the men of different Asiatic races who sat side-by-side in Lodge. There is a special emphasis on the Aden Jew and the Roman Catholic, with a proper respect for the problems of caste; and Kipling shows the unique atmosphere of the Lodge when he says that each man could talk of the God he knew best in an environment of brotherhood and understanding. It is the picture of an Indian Lodge of Kipling’s day, and it is good to know that the characteristics that he admired so much have remained to this day.

THE MOTHER-LODGE (The Seven Seas, 1896)

There was Rundle, Station Master,
An’ Beazeley of the Rail,
An’ ‘Ackman, Commissariat,
An’ Donkin’ o’ the Jail;
An’ Blake, Conductor-Sergeant,
Our Master twice was ‘e,
With ‘im that kept the Europe-shop,
Old Framjee Eduljee.

Outside — Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!
Inside — Brother, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

We’d Bola Nath, Accountant,
An’ Saul the Aden Jew,
An’ Din Mohammed, draughtsman
Of the Survey Office, too;
There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
An’ Amir Singh the Sikh,
An’ Castro from the fittin’-sheds,
The Roman Catholick!

We ‘adn’t good regalia,
An’ our Lodge was old an’ bare,
But we knew the Ancient Landmarks,
An’ we kep’ ‘em to a hair;
An’, lookin’ on it backwards
It often strikes me thus,
There ain’t such things as infidels,
Excep’, per’aps, it’s us.

For monthly, after Labour,
We’d all sit down and smoke
(We dursn’t give no banquits,
Lest a Brother’s caste were broke),
An’ man on man got talkin’
Religion an’ the rest,
An’ every man comparin’
Of the God ‘e knew the best.

Full oft on Guv’ment service
This rovin’ foot ‘ath pressed,
An’ bore fraternal greetin’s
To the Lodges east an’ west,
Accordin’ as commanded
From Kohat to Singapore,
But I wish that I might see them
In my Mother-Lodge once more!

* * * *

KIM (1901)

Kim, one of Kipling’s few full-length novels, is the story of the orphan son of Kimball O’Hara, colour-sergeant and afterwards a railway gang-foreman in India. After the death of his wife he took to drink and opium, and within three years he died, “a poor white”, leaving the infant Kim to be brought up by a half-caste woman. The child’s only legacy from his father

…consisted of three papers—one he called his ne varietur because those words were written below his signature thereon, and another his “clearance-certificate”. The third was Kim’s birth-certificate.

These the half-caste woman had sewn into a leather amulet-case, which the lad wore about his neck. In moments of opium exaltation the father used to prophesy that those papers would make a man of the youngster, and that he would one day join his father’s regiment. But Kim grew up a waif, fending for himself, the “Little Friend of all the World”, and far more at home in native dress and the iniquity and filth of the native quarters than among white folk.

At the age of 13, Kim, already a keen-eyed, intelligent adult, meets an old man—formerly the Abbot of a Tibetan monastery—now a wandering lama or Holy Man, who is making a mystical pilgrimage to see the “Four Holy places” before he dies. Kim befriends him, becoming his servant, guardian and devoted slave, begging food and alms for him on their journeyings.

Their many adventures are told against the teeming background of Indian native life. One night Kim blunders on a military camp, an advance party of his father’s old regiment. He does not know their name, but recognizes the regimental flags, “a red bull on a green ground”, which his father had described to him. Wandering through the camp, he is seen by the Padre, who grabs him, believing he is a native thief. In the struggle the cord of Kim’s amulet-case is broken and the Padre discovers the three papers. He calls Father Victor, the Catholic priest, and during the interrogation that follows they discover that Kim is the son of a former soldier of the regiment, and that the priest had actually attended at O’Hara’s wedding.

The Padre, who is Secretary of the Regimental Lodge, recognizes the ne varietur.

“We cannot allow an English boy—Assuming that he is the son of a Mason, the sooner he goes to the Masonic Orphanage the better.”

Father Victor urges that they must consult with the lama. A long argument ensues, with Kim all eager for instant flight, but the Churchmen want him to be brought up and educated as a Sahib. English education in India costs money, and the lama—to Kim’s dismay—is anxious to know how much. Father Victor answers:

Well … the regiment would pay for you all the time you are at the Military Orphanage; or you might go on the Punjab Masonic Orphanage’s list … but the best schooling a boy can get in India is, of course, St. Xavier’s in Partibus at Lucknow … Two or three hundred rupees a year.”

The lama asks for the name of the school and the amount to be written down for him—and, through his monastery, he arranges to provide the necessary funds. Kim goes off to St. Xavier’s for three years, much against his own will at first, and suffering the “exile” only out of affection for the Holy Man.

Kim, who had already shown a natural aptitude, is to be groomed for the Indian Secret Service, but at the end of his three years he rejoins the lama, so that they can complete their former pilgrimage.

The story, rich in adventure and colour, contains several Masonic references, too numerous to be quoted at length. But it is not merely an adventure tale. The theme of the holy pilgrimage, which runs through the book from start to finish, is certainly of greater Masonic significance than the actual references to the Craft. It has its origins in Asiatic religion and mysticism, but no thoughtful Mason can read the book without feeling that this theme of a spiritual search and purpose—though couched in unfamiliar phrases—is the very stuff of Masonic ideology and symbolism. Nowhere, in all his Masonic writings, did Kipling approach more closely or more effectively to those aspects of Freemasonry.

* * * *

A poem, “The Palace” (1903), is purely Masonic in character, but it contains an element of mysticism and is, for that reason, open to wide interpretation. Its principal theme is, perhaps, the lesson that even in decay a craftsman’s work, done to the best of his ability, will hold a message of faith and encouragement to unborn generations— “After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known”.

THE PALACE (The Five Nations, 1903)

When I was a King and a Mason—a Master proven and skilled—
I cleared me ground for a palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a palace such as a King had built.

There was no worth in the fashion—there was no wit in the plan—
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.” …

When I was a King and a Mason—in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness—They whispered and called me aside.
They said— “The end is forbidden.” They said— “Thy use is fulfilled,
“And thy palace shall stand as that other’s—the spoil of a King who shall build.”

I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves and my shears.
All I had wrought I had abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber, only I carved on the stone:
After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!

* * * *

By far the best tale that Kipling ever told—from a Mason’s point of view—is “In the Interests of the Brethren” (Debits and Credits, 1926). The story is set in London, towards the end of World War I, where the anonymous narrator—after a couple of accidental meetings—runs into the principal character for the third time, behind the counter of a tobacconist’s shop of which he is the proprietor: “Lewis Holroyd Burges, of ‘Burges and Son’ … but Son had been killed in Egypt”. For men fond of pipes, cigars or snuff, the shop is a collector’s paradise, and Burges is quite a character, too. He is one of a small group of Brethren, leaders in a Lodge of Instruction (attached to Lodge Faith and Works, No. 5837) which, because London is the hub of the war-time worlds has now opened its doors on its regular evening and for two afternoon sessions each week, the latter mainly for the benefit of the maimed and wounded Brethren in the nearby hospitals.

The fame of this Lodge of Instruction—in a converted garage—has spread, so that it has become a wayside halt for soldiers and seamen passing through London—and for any who can “prove themselves”.

The narrator arranges to accompany Burges that evening. The examination of Visiting Brethren is conducted with charity; most of them have no “papers”, and some lack arms or hands, or even the ability to speak coherently. The officers for the ceremony are chosen from amongst the visitors and they are encouraged to “work” without correction or interference. Later, a team of “regulars” demonstrate the same work while the guests relax.

There is no story—just a picture of worn and weary men withdrawn for a few brief moments, from the terrors of a world in chaos, into a haven of peace and sanity, where the teachings of Brotherhood acquire a new and poignant meaning against the background of their sufferings.

A simple banquet follows each evening meeting, provided by the leaders, and no visitor is allowed to pay. The table-talk gives Kipling the opportunity to point the moral and to show what Freemasonry could really mean to men under stress—for this is no ordinary Lodge of Instruction, but an ideal; it is an appeal to the Craft to awaken to its responsibilities.

“A man’s Lodge means more to him than people imagine … When I think of the possibilities of the Craft at this juncture, I wonder … There ought to be a dozen—twenty—other Lodges in London every night; conferring degrees too, as well as instruction. Why shouldn’t the young men join? They practise what we’re always preaching … We must all do what we can. What’s the use of old Masons if they can’t give a little help along their own lines?”

No brief summary could possibly do justice to this evocative and fascinating piece, told with a real economy of words and yet with such profound sympathy and perception. For anyone who lived in those troubled days it is a sad reminder; but for the Mason reader this simple tale has a special fascination. It breathes the true spirit of Freemasonry in every line, and it is a piece of inspired craftsmanship that will never become dated and never go out of fashion.

Every writer about Kipling has perforce commented on the massive grasp of technical and background detail displayed so readily in his writings. “In the Interests of the Brethren” is the one piece that shows to the full his background knowledge of Masonry, and, although he has condensed his remarks in a few brief words, we can read his attainments between the lines.

“…a carefully decorated ante-room hung round with Masonic prints. I noticed Peter Gilkes and Barton Wilson, fathers of ‘Emulation’ working, in the place of honour; Kneller’s Christopher Wren; Dunkerley, with his own Fitz-George book-plate below and the bend sinister on the Royal Arms; Hogarth’s caricature of Wilkes, also his disreputable ‘Night’; and a beautifully framed set of Grand Masters, from Anthony Sayer down.”

One wonders how many Masons there are—even among those who practise “Emulation” who know that Gilkes and Barton Wilson were among their great leaders, or how many had ever heard of Dunckerley? Only a student who had read his life story could possibly know that he was an illegitimate son of George II, and that he affected the Royal Arms with a bar sinister. Kneller’s “Christopher Wren” and Hogarth’s “Night” are known to the world at large, but how many Brethren—even if they know Hogarth’s leering caricature of John Wilkes—would know that he, too, was a Freemason; and how many are there who could name Anthony Sayer as the first Grand Master?

Here, in one paragraph, Kipling demonstrates a basic knowledge of Craft history far beyond the average—but perhaps the most interesting piece comes a few lines later:—

“There are some more in the Lodge Room. Come and look. We’ve got the big Desaguliers there that nearly went to Iowa.”

It would be difficult, perhaps, to determine which precise portrait of Desaguliers is mentioned here, but the reference to Iowa betrays specialist knowledge. The Grand Lodge of Iowa was founded in 1840, and around 1850 it began to collect rare items, of Masonic books especially, which have made their library into one of the best collections of its kind in the English-speaking world. Not one English Mason in ten thousand would be expected to know this, yet Kipling threw in this little detail simply to emphasize the importance of the picture in question. How he got his information is a puzzle, but there is a possible clue. When the Kiplings left Vermont after the trouble with Balestier (ante, p. 229), they settled in Torquay, Devon, for some two years, 1896–7. Torquay was the home of that great Masonic scholar and bibliophile, W. J. Hughan, a founder of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, who served the Grand Lodge of Iowa for a number of years as adviser in the acquisition of their collections. He was made Senior Grand Warden of the G.L. of Iowa in recognition of his services. It is more than likely that he met Kipling and discussed matters of mutual interest with him. This is, of course, pure speculation, but, wherever Kipling got his information, he was one of only a handful of men in the whole world who could speak on the subject with knowledge.

* * * *

The poem, “Banquet Night “, is simply a colourful piece of Masonic high spirits, urging the Brethren to “Forget these things”, i.e., the troubles of the world outside, and rejoice in fraternal fellowship.

BANQUET NIGHT (Debits and Credits, 1926)

“Once in so often”, King Solomon said,
Watching his quarrymen drill the stone,
“We will club our garlic and wine and bread
And banquet together beneath my Throne.
And all the Brethren shall come to that mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen—no more and no less.

“Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre,
Felling and floating our beautiful trees,
Say that the Brethren and I desire
Talk with our Brethren who use the seas.
And we shall be happy to meet them at mess
As Fellow-Craftsmen—no more and no less.

Carry this message to Hiram Abif
Excellent Master of forge and mine:
I and the Brethren would like it if
He and the Brethren will come to dine
(Garments from Bozrah or morning-dress)
As FellowCraftsmen—no more and no less.

The Quarries are hotter than Hiram’s forge,
No one is safe from the dog-whip’s reach.
It’s mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge,
And it’s always blowing off Joppa beach;
But once in so often, the messenger brings Solomon’s mandate:
“Forget these things! Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings,
Companion of Princes—forget these things!
Fellow-Craftsman, forget these things!”

* * * *

Something of Myself (1937)

The whole quotation relating to Kipling’s admission into the Craft has been given above (ante, p. 218). One sentence is repeated here, for two reasons:

“…Here I met Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Sama, and a Jew Tyler, who was priest and butcher to his little community in the city.”

These words—quite apart from their autobiographical interest—help to focus attention on two aspects of Kipling’s quality, both as an author and as a Freemason.

He speaks of the Jew, who was priest and butcher to the Jewish community of Lahore, and in that sentence he reveals his searching nature as a writer who made it his business to study every facet of his subject before putting pen to paper. Soldiers, guns, horses, sailing ships, lighthouses, engines, railways—all these and a hundred other themes were his stock-in-trade, described and characterized with the same infinite care which he devoted to his individual heroes and heroines. So, too, with the Jew Tyler!

The Jews have been wanderers for 2,000 years, and whenever they begin to settle in a new place their first concern (which arises primarily out of their religious needs) is to congregate. They need a “priest” to lead them in prayer—often a difficult task because there are relatively few who can read the ancient Hebrew. They need a “shochet” (i.e., a slaughterer) who can prepare poultry and animals according to the forms prescribed in Jewish law; and the “shochet” is usually a “mohel” too, and thereby qualified to perform circumcision, as prescribed in Holy Writ. These three are the first “officers” in every Jewish community, and if the congregation consists of only a few souls, invariably one man has to double-up for all duties. So the slaughterer is also the “butcher and priest” ; and since his income from those duties is always very small, he usually has to find some sort of additional employment too. He might become dues-collector or secretary to some little charitable organization, or, if the opportunity offered, he might become Tyler to several Lodges. This little sentence is a near-perfect example of Kipling’s insight.

It also draws attention to another and less attractive aspect of Kipling’s character, since it is almost the only case in which he wrote of a Jew (or “the Jews”) without betraying his rooted aversion. This was the one “blind-spot” in Kipling’s Freemasonry, and the reader who delves will find that his ideas on the “Brotherhood of Man” could comprehend all of humanity, except the Jews and the Chinese!

* * * *



“Letters of Marque”, 1887 (From Sea to Sea, 1887)

“… the Museum in the centre of the Gardens [at Jeypore] … a wonder of carven white stone of the Indo-Saracenic style … on a stone plinth … rich in stone-tracery, green marble columns, red marble, white marble colonnades, courts with fountains, richly carved wooden doors, frescoes, inlay, and colour … The building in essence, if not in the fact of today, is the work of Freemasons …”

“Remembering that all beasts by the palaces of Kings or the temples of priests in this country [Jeypore, India] would answer to the name of ‘Brother’, the Englishman [Kipling] cried with the voice of faith across the water. And the mysterious freemasonry did not fail. At the far end of the tank rose a ripple that grew and grew like a thing in a nightmare, and became presently an aged mugger.” [An Indian broad-nosed crocodile.]

Inspecting the Maharaja of Rajputana’s stables:

“So you see a horse can go through all three degrees sometimes before he gets sold, and be a good horse at the end of it.”

* * * *

A little-known item may be added here, from “The Last of the Stories”, which appeared in a pirated edition of early stories published only in the U.S.A., under the title Abaft the Funnel. Briefly, a new author, greatly worried over the publication of his first book, goes on a dream-journey to the “Limbo of Lost Endeavour”. Entering through a coffin-shaped doorway, he makes a sign which is duly answered and he is announced:

“An Entered Apprentice in difficulties with his Rough Ashlar, Worshipful Sir,” explained the Devil …

Kipling disarmed the “pirate” immediately, by authorizing a cut-price edition of the book!

“To Be Filed for Reference” (Plain Tales from the Hills, 1888)

McIntosh Jellaludin, former graduate of Oxford, a scholar and a drunkard gone native, who, at the point of death, gives away the book which is his life’s work. His mind wanders as he says:

“… I abominate indebtedness. For this reason I bequeath you now ... my one book . It is a gift more honourable than … Bah! where is my brain rambling to?”

* * * *

From Sea to Sea, 1889

Kipling, en route from India to the U.S.A., was much impressed by the hard-working Chinese, and their industry—even in the most appalling climate—frightened him. At Penang:

“… the faces of the Chinese frightened me more than ever, so I ran away to the outskirts of the town and saw a windowless house that carried the Square and Compass in gold and teakwood above the door. I took heart at meeting these familiar things again, and knowing that where they were was good fellowship and much charity, in spite of all the secret societies in the world. Penang is to be congratulated on one of the prettiest little lodges in the East.”

It seems likely that he only inspected the building. Had he attended a Lodge meeting, he would surely have mentioned it—and he might have seen more Chinese!

* * * *

“The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P.” (The Pioneer, Sept., 1890)

One sentence only, but it may have had its origin in autobiography, for it exhibits a qualm of conscience: —

“Here is Edwards, the Master of the Lodge I neglect so diligently. Come to talk about accounts, I suppose.”

* * * *

“On the City Wall” (Soldiers Three, 1890)

The scene is the home, “On the City Wall”, of Lalun, a woman of the oldest profession

“… Lalun’s salon ... is eclectic. Outside of a Freemasons’ Lodge I have never seen such gatherings. There [i.e., at a Lodge] I dined once with a Yahoudi! He spat ‘Though I have lost every belief in the world … I cannot help hating a Jew. Lalun admits no Jews here.’”

This is the only Masonic reference in an otherwise good story; how sad that Kipling’s particular brand of Freemasonry still admitted distinctions of race and creed!

* * * *

“The Sending of Dana Da” (Soldiers Three, 1890)

The storyteller introduces an Indian “Religion” which

“… was too elastic for ordinary use. It stretched itself and embraced pieces ot everything that the medicine-men of all ages have manufactured. It approved of, and stole from, Freemasonry; locted the Latter-day Rosicrucians of half their pet words … the Vedas … the Zend Avesta; encouraged White, Grey, and Black Magic …”

The story is of Dana Da, a native fortune-teller, inspired by whisky and opium, who is eager to repay the kindness shown to him by an Englishman.

“‘Is there anyone you hate?’ said Dana Da. I will dispatch a Sending to them and kill them.’”

A “Sending” is a kind of telepathic magic used for purposes of vengeance and much feared by the natives. The Englishman asks for a “modified Sending” to be directed against a man who has annoyed him—

“… such a Sending as should make a man’s life a burden to him, and yet do him no harm…”

Dana Da sends a plague of cats and kittens, and, later, a letter signed by him, with the addition of

“… pentacles and pentagrams, and a crux ansata, and half-a-dozen swastikas, and a Triple Tau …”

It is an excellent story, but the dying Dana Da confesses that there was no magic in it.

* * * *

From “A Matter of Fact” (Many Inventions, 1893)

[Opening lines]

“Once a priest, always a priest ; once a mason, always a mason ; but once a journalist, always and for ever a journalist …”

The story is of a weird adventure of a group of journalists at sea ; it contains no other references to the Craft.

* * * *

“The Native Born” (The Seven Seas, 1896)

A piece of pure patriotism, but the final chorus speaks of the cable-tow and possibly the apron:—

A health to the Native-born (Stand up !),
We’re six white men arow,
All bound to sing a’ the little things we care about

All bound to fight for the little things we care about
With the weight of a six-fold blow!
By the might of our cable-tow (Take hands !),
From Orkneys to the Horn
All round the world (and a little loop to pull it by),
All round the world (and a little strap to buckle it).
A health to the Native-born!

* * * *

Kipling frequently likened the British Empire to a Masonic Lodge. In his poem, “The Song of the Dead”, he wrote of the birth of the Empire:—

“The Song of the Dead” (The Seven Seas, 1896)

When Drake went down to the Horn
And England was crowned thereby,
‘Twixt seas unsailed and shores unhailed
Our Lodge—our Lodge was born
(And England was crowned thereby!)

* * * *

“The Merchantmen” (The Seven Seas, 1896)

A song of the cargo-boats that sail the seven seas, but it begins with King Solomon:—

King Solomon drew merchantmen,
Because of his desire
For peacocks, apes, and ivory,
From Tarshish unto Tyre:
With cedars out of Lebanon
Which Hiram rafted down,
But we be only sailormen
That use in London town.

* * * *

Captains Courageous, 1897

Harvey, the spoiled son of wealthy parents, is picked up at sea by a fishing schooner—and the rough life and good company aboard ship make a man of him.

The schooner meets a French fishing-boat, and Harvey, with Tom Platt, a fisherman, go aboard to arrange a little barter in exchange for much-needed tobacco. Harvey’s school French is useless, but Platt’s sign language is far more effective.

“How was it my French didn’t go, and your sign-talk did?”
“Sign-talk!” Platt guffawed. “Well, yes, ‘twas sign-talk, but a heap older’n your French . . Them French boats are chockfull o’ Freemasons, an’ that’s why.”
“Are you a Freemason, then?”
“Looks that way don’t it?”

Later, Platt visits the French ship to attend the funeral of one of her men.

“… the dead man was his brother as a Freemason.”

* * * *

From “.007” (The Day’s Work, 1898)

The story of a new American locomotive, told as though all railway engines are living creatures, talking, thinking and feeling like human beings, and it begins in a railway shed immediately after the new engine has passed his trials. The different types of engines are talking to each other and passing disparaging remarks about the new model, in Kipling’s whimsical style and with the wealth of technical and local railway knowledge which one grows to expect in his writings.

Later, “.007”, in the course of his duties, sees “Purple Emperor”, the millionaires’ express, roaring by, and “Poney “, a friendly little shunting-engine, says:

“He’s the Master of our Lodge ... I’ll introduce you some day …”

The introduction takes place next evening when “.007” has finished a good job of work in assisting after a train-wreck:

“ Let me make you two gen’lmen acquainted”, said Poney. “This is our Purple Emperor, kid, whom you were admirin’ … last night. This is a new brother, worshipful sir, with most of his mileage ahead of him, but so far as a serving-brother can, I’ll answer for him.”

“Happy to meet you”, said the Purple Emperor ... “I guess there are enough of us here to form a full meetin’. Ahem! By virtue of the authority vested in me as Head of the Road, I hereby declare and pronounce No. .007 a full and accepted Brother of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Locomotives, and as such entitled to all shop, switch, track, tank and roundhouse privileges … in the Degree of Superior Flier, it bein’ well known … that our Brother has covered forty-one miles in thirty-nine minutes and a half on an errand of mercy to the afflicted. At a convenient time, I will myself communicate to you the Song and Signal of this Degree whereby you may be recognized in the darkest night. Take your stall, newly-entered Brother among Locomotives!”

Not Masonry; simply an amusing use of Masonic terminology.

* * * *

“The Flag of Their Country” (Stalky & Co., 1899)

In a story of the school Cadet Corps, the boys are holding a drill parade in secret behind the locked doors of the gymnasium. “Foxy”, the Sergeant Drill-instructor, complains:

“I never come across such nonsense in my life. They’ve tiled the lodge, inner and outer guard all complete, and then they get to work, keen as mustard.”

* * * *

From Sea to Sea (vol. ii, 1900)

On hearing (from India) news of sickness (cholera? smallpox?) and of the death of two friends:—

“... we of India are US all the world over, knowing the mysteries of each other’s lives and sorrowing for the death of a brother … O excellent and toil worn public of mine—men of the brotherhood … and gentlemen waiting for your off-reckonings—take care of yourselves and keep well!! It hurts so when any die …”

Discussing the origins of the Mormon creed, while on a visit to Salt Lake City:—

“… that amazing creed and fantastic jumble of Mahometanism, the Mosaical law, and imperfectly comprehended fragments of Freemasonry, calls to its aid”, etc., etc.

One wonders—in vain—which “fragments of Freemasonry” Kipling had in mind as a possible and partial foundation for Mormonism, but later on, in the same chapter, he repeated the suggestion:

“The tawdry mysticism and the borrowings from Freemasonry serve the low-caste Swede and the Dane, the Welshman and the Cornish cottar, just as well as a highly-organized Heaven.”

Discussing the American Army:—

“That Regular Army, which is a dear little army, should be kept to itself, blooded on detachment duty, turned into the paths of science, and now and again assembled at feasts of Freemasons and so forth …”

[Salt Lake City]

The first thing to be seen was, of course, the Mormon Temple, the outward exponent of a creed … There is, over the main door, some pitiful scratching in stone representing the all-seeing eye, the Masonic grip, the sun, moon and stars, and, perhaps, other skittles.”

* * * *

“Among the Railway Folk” (From Sea to Sea, vol. ii, 1900)

Kipling describes Jamalpur (the Swindon of India):—

One of the most flourishing Lodges in the Bengal jurisdiction— ‘St. George in the East’ —lives at Jamalpur, and meets twice a month. Its members point out with justifiable pride that all the fittings were made by their own hands; and the Lodge, in its accoutrements and the energy of the craftsmen, can compare with any in India.”

* * * *

“The Butterfly that Stamped” (Just So Stories, 1902)

The illustrated initial letter with which the story begins shows King Solomon wearing a Collar lettered H.T.W.S.S.T.K.S.—initials which have a bearing on the Mark Degree—and he wears a bracelet on his wrist which is clearly based on a Masonic Jewel. (The illustration was by Kipling himself.)

* * * *

“The Feet of the Young Men” (The Five Nations, 1903)

The spring call to youth—to adventure in the wide, wild world:—

“Now the Four-way Lodge is opened …
And we go-go-go away from here!
On the other side the world we’re overdue! …”

* * * *

“The Captive” (Traffic and Discoveries, 1904)

A group of Boer prisoners-of-war are enjoying a bathe at Simonstown, while one of their comrades—an American volunteer and also a prisoner—keeps watch over their clothes. A visitor carrying a package of mail is passed into the enclosure by the sentry and starts to read his papers. The American, Laughton O. Zigler, notices that he has some American newspapers, including the American Tyler, a Masonic journal, and the visitor gives it to him with other papers.

“[Zigler] extended his blue-tanned hand ... and met the visitor’s grasp expertly. ‘I can only say that you have treated me like a Brother …’”

He tells the visitor how he got into the war on the Boer side—because they were the only people interested in a gun he had invented. Later, describing the fighting, which had fallen into such a regular routine that it had become almost a ritual:—

“The way we worked our Lodge was this way …”

A three-hour bombardment started regularly at 8.42 a.m., finishing at 11.45 a.m. or at noon.

“Then we’d go from labour to refreshment, resooming at 2 p.m. and battling till tea-time.”

It was a nice, friendly war!

* * * *

“The Winged Hats” (Puck of Pook’s Hill, 1906)

Parnesius, a Roman soldier in Britain, stoops over a captive.

“As I stooped, I saw he wore such a medal as I wear.” He raised his hand to his neck. “Therefore … I addressed him a certain Question which can only be answered in a certain manner. He answered with the necessary Word—the Word that belongs to the Degree of Gryphons in the science of Mithras my God. He said: ‘What now?’ I said: ‘At your pleasure, my brother, to stay or go.’”

Who but Kipling would have traced similarities between the Craft and the cult of Mithra, in a children’s tale?

* * * *

“The Treasure and the Law” (Puck of Pook’s Hill, 1906)

Dan and Una meet Kadmiel—a Jew from the days of the King John—who sealed Magna Charta. He tells them that the King was compelled to do this only because he could not borrow more money from the Jews. Later, in the course of the tale of his wanderings, he says:—

“… I have been a brother to Princes and a companion to beggars, and I have walked between the living and the dead …”

“Brother to Princes”, etc., is a variation on a Masonic phrase which Kipling used several times in his writings.

* * * *

Letters of Travel, 1907 (publ. 1920)

In a chapter on “Newspapers and Democracy” written in 1907, Kipling speaks of the newspaper editor as a Tribal Herald, and the reporter as the “Tribal Outer Guard”.

“…Outside the [Canadian] cities are still the long distances, the ‘vast, unoccupied areas’ of the advertisements; and the men who come and go yearn to keep touch with, and report themselves as of old to their lodges.”

* * * *

In a speech on “Imperial Relations”, 1907 (collected in A Book of Words, 1928), Kipling said, to a Canadian audience:—

“They face the five great problems—I prefer to call them Points of Fellowship—

* * * *

“Jubal and Tubal Cain” (The Morning Post, London. March, 1908)

Jubal sang of the Wrath of God
And the curse of thistle and thorn
But Tubal got him a pointed rod.
And scrabbled the earth for corn.
Old-old as that early mould,
Young as the sprouting grain
Yearly green is the strife between
Jubal and Tubal Cain!

* * * *

Two sets of verses, which are only remotely connected with the Mason Craft and with the Ark Mariner Degree, may perhaps deserve inclusion in this collection of trivia.

A TRUTHFUL SONG (Rewards and Fairies, 1910)

The Bricklayer:—

I tell this tale which is strictly true,
Just by way of convincing you
How very little since things were made
Things have altered in the building trade

A year ago, come the middle o’ March,
We was building flats near the Marble Arch,
When a thin young man with coal-black hair
Came up to watch us working there.

Now there wasn’t a trick in brick or stone
That this young man hadn’t seen or known
Nor there wasn’t a tool from trowel to maul
But this young man could use ‘em all!

Then up and spoke the plumbyers bold,
Which was laying the pipes for the hot and cold.
“Since you with us have made so free,
Will you kindly say what your name might be?

The young man kindly answered them:
“It might be Lot or Methusalem,
Or it might be Moses (a man I hate),
Whereas it is Pharoah surnamed the Great.” …


The Sailor:

I tell this tale which is stricter true,
Just by way of convincing you
How very little since things was made
Things have altered in the shipwright’s trade.

In Blackwall Basin yesterday
A China barque re-fitting lay,
When a fat old man with snow-white hair
Came up to watch us working there.

Now there wasn’t a knot which the riggers knew
But the old man made it—and better too
Nor there wasn’t a sheet, or a lift, or a brace,
But the old man knew its lead and place.

Then up and spake the caulkyers bold,
Which was packing the pump in the after-hold:
Since you with us have made so free,
Will you kindly tell what your name might be?”

The old man kindly answered them:
“It might be Japhet, it might be Shem,
Or it might be Ham (though his skin was dark),
Whereas it is Noah, commanding the Ark.” …

* * * *

“The Thousandth Man” (Rewards and Fairies, 1910)

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.…

* * * *

“The Wrong Thing” (Rewards and Fairies, 1910)

“Hal”, the “Draft” (who appears in Puck of Pook’s Hill) comes to look at the new village hall, built by the ancient Mr. Springett, who remembers when railways were first being laid in Southern England. They meet, and Hal tells the builder:—

“… being born hereabouts, and being reckoned a master among masons, and accepted as a master mason, I made bold to pay my brotherly respects to the builder … Mr. Springett looked important. ‘I be a bit rusty, but I’ll try ye!’”

Their conversation ranges from the medieval masonry of Hal’s memories to Mr. Springett’s memories of more recent times:

“I’ve seen ... lay a ‘prentice down with one buffet and raise him with another—to make a mason of him …”

“I pledge you my Mark I never guessed it was the King …”

* * * *

“Brother Square Foes” (Rewards and Fairies, 1910, pp. 171–2)

Big Hand ( = Washington) meets two Indian chiefs, and the narrator says:—

“I saw my chief’s war-bonnets sinking together down and down. Then they made this sign which no Indian makes outside of the Medecine Lodges—a sweep of the right hand just clear of the dust and an inbend of the left knee at the same time, and those proud eagle feathers almost touched his boot-top.

‘What did it mean?’ said Dan.

‘Mean! … Oh, it’s a piece of Indian compliment really, and it signifies that you are a very big chief.’”

There must be some doubt whether the sign described here is based on any Masonic experience of Kipling’s, since it is certain that he never attained any degree or grade which made use of such a sign.

* * * *

Letters of Travel, 1913 (publ. 1920)

“Canada possesses two pillars of strength and beauty in Quebec and Vancouver.”

* * * *

“The Dog Hervey” (A Diversity of Creatures, 1917)

The dog Hervey, a peaceful creature, likes to sit and stare. But he has a nearly-hypnotic squint—in each eye, separately—and Shend, one of his victims, a whisky-loving bachelor, begins to believe, with good reason, that he is “seeing things”. In sheer terror he confides in the story-teller, who knows the dog but does not say so, and Shend tries to convince him that the dog is there.

“‘… I’ll prove it. What’s that dog doing? Come on! You know.’ A tremor shook him, and he put his hand on my knee and whispered with great meaning: ‘I’ll letter or halve it with you. There! You begin.’

‘S’, said I to humour him
‘Q’, he went on, and I could feel the heat of his shaking hand.
‘U’, said I … I was shaking, too.
‘T-i-n-g’, he ran out ...”

A moment later the dog disappears.

* * * *

“The Press” (A Diversity of Creatures, 1917

The Soldier may forget his sword,
The Sailorman the sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his litany:

The maid may forget both jewel and gem.
And the bride her wedding-dress
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press! …

* * * *

“The Bold ‘Prentice” (Land and Sea Tales, 1923)

An Indian railway story:—

Olaf was an important person, for besides being the best of the maildrivers, he was Past Master of the big railway Masonic Lodge, “St. Duncan’s in the East”. Secretary of the Drivers’ Provident Association … [etc.]

A Lodge rank as evidence of professional status!

* * * *

“A Madonna of the Trenches” (Debits and Credits, 1926)

A grim but interesting piece of family history, told against the awful background of life in the trenches during the first world war. The man who tells the tale is Strangwick, a shell-shocked and nerve-wracked soldier, who sits in the Lodge of Instruction of Faith and Works listening to a lecture on “The Orientation of King Solomon’s Temple”. A few minutes of the dreary performance is more than enough for him—and he makes a hurried exit, followed by Bro. Dr. Keede, who knows him and knows something of his mental state. The story emerges gradually and the last few words (in the manner of O. Henry) provide a surprise with the promise of a happy ending. Here, as in other cases, the Lodge of Instruction of Faith and Works is mainly used as a means of bringing the characters together; it plays no major part in the story.

* * * *

“A Friend of the Family” (Debits and Credits, 1926)

This tale also opens in the same Lodge of Instruction, after an unusually long session:

“Three initiations and two raisings, each conducted with the spaciousness and particularity that our Lodge prides itself upon …”

The talk ranges over anything but Masonry, and the story has nothing to do with the Craft

* * * *

In the same volume, Debits and Credits, there is another story, “The Janeites”, which uses the Lodge of Instruction attached to Faith and Works, No. 5837, E.C., as its background, but again the story is not Masonic. It is set on a Saturday afternoon in 1920, when a group of the regulars have come in to clean up and polish the furniture and equipment. We meet another assorted group of characters who are talking as they work, and the talk veers round to a so-called “secret society” based on a certain lady called “Jane”.

“She was the only woman I ever ‘eard ‘em say a good word for.”

This “secret society” is simply an ad hoc collection of admirers of Jane Austen who are so well versed in her works that they recognize each other by the use of an odd word or phrase chosen more or less aptly from her writings; and recognition brings instant rewards in little services such as the sharing of cigarettes. It is a light-hearted and pleasant tale, but it has no particular Masonic interest, apart from its being set inside the Lodge of Instruction of Faith and Works. Kipling used the same background in two other stories, “A Madonna of the Trenches” and “A Friend of the Family” (all in Debits and Credits), but those stories also have no Masonic significance; technically, the background was important to the author as a useful means of bringing various characters together.

* * * *

“Fairy Kist” (Limits and Renewals, 1932)

Kipling’s only detective story, told at one of the summer meetings of the “Eclectic but Comprehensive Fraternity for the Perpetuation of Gratitude Towards Lesser Lights”, hardly a society, but rather an occasional gathering of old cronies from the Lodge of Instruction of Faith and Works, No. 5836, E.C. Several of the old characters meet at the Berkshire home of one of the founders, and, in the course of conversation, Bro. Robert Keede, M.R.C.P., tells his story of a nerve-shattered ex-Army man—a lover of flowers and plants—who is suspected of murder. The only Masonic reference is to one of the group “… who nodded back as mysteriously as a Freemason or a gardener”.

* * * *

“The Tender Achilles” (Limits and Renewals, 1932)

A discussion on the relative merits of surgeons and G.P.s leads to the story of “Wilks” the bacteriologist, wounded and mentally sick after a bad time in the war. The surgeon, on his rounds, draws a nice distinction between their respective professions:—

“He said he was an operative mason, not a speculative one.”

But the story has no other Masonic references.


[1] Subsequent references to this book are marked CC.

[2] Rudyard, the name of the place where his parents had first met.

[3] Extracts from a collection of 18 autograph letters from 3rd July, 1874, to 3rd March, 1899, all addressed to Cormell Price, Kipling’s headmaster and friend. They were sold at Sotheby’s auction rooms on December 1st, 1964, by Price’s son. At the time of writing the purchaser is unknown. The extracts here are from the Sotheby sale catalogue.

[4] By Bro. Marcus Lewis, P.A.G.D.C. (Eng.), P.D.G.W. (Natal).

[5] The Tyler of the District Grand Lodge of the Punjab, and of the Lodge of Industry, No. 1485, meeting at Lahore, was a Bro. E. I. Manasseh, almost certainly a Jew. I have been unable to trace the name of the Tyler of No. 782, but it is extremely likely that it was this same Bro. Manasseh.

[6] From a copy made of the original Minutes prepared by Bro. W. L. Murray-Brooks, of Lodge de Loraine, No. 541, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a member of the Kipling Society. Subsequent quotations from his transcripts of the minutes are marked (M.B.). Reproductions of his notes are marked (MB/N)

[7] Subsequent references to this journal are marked M.R.W.I.

[8] Secretaries are not elected nowadays.

[9] MB/N.

[10] Dates and details confirmed by Mark Grand Lodge.

[11] This letter was also printed in the Freemason (London), 28th March, 1925, and our transcript is from that journal. The Grand Lodge Kipling file contains a copy of another letter from Kipling to a correspondent in S. Africa, which repeats these details almost word for word. The letter was offered for sale to the Grand Lodge library, but was not purchased, as there was reason to suspect it as a forgery. For that reason, we do not reproduce it here.

[12] Names recorded in the Annual Return to the Dist. Grand Lodge.

[13] Professions as recorded in the Grand Lodge Register.

[14] A Minute of the Bd. of G.P. of the Dist. G.L. of the Punjab, dated 25th August, 1886, shows that the Lodge had not yet made its Return for the preceding June 30th. (M.R.W.I., vol. xxiii, p. 305.)

[15] Another Lodge at Lahore at this period was No. 1485, the Lodge of Industry, but there is no evidence that Kipling attended there.

[16] Reproduced from M.B. The minutes are signed by Bro. Jussawallah, whose name had been omitted from Kipling’s Annual Return to the Dist. Grand Lodge. Kipling is entered as Secretary in the Records of the Regular Meeting of November 7th, 1887, but the minutes are not in Kipling’s handwriting. (MB/N.)

[17] The French edition appeared later.

[18] This was apparently his first and last “floor-office”.

[19] Information confirmed by Mark Grand Lodge.

[20] From the Grand Lodge Registers.

[21] It is interesting to read in the Masonic Record of Western India for October, 1887 (vol. xxiv, pp. 272–5), a bitter article by Bro. R. F. Gould, the great historian, and a Founder of the Q.C. Lodge, protesting that his life work, The History of Freemasonry, had been similarly treated by unscrupulous American publishers.

[22] This was the title of the book, but when, a little later, the Kiplings built their own home in Vermont, they named it correctly, Naulakha.

[23] The bank eventually paid all its depositors.

[24] C.C., p. 304.

[25] They wintered there regularly with the children from 1901 to 1908.

[26] Confirmed in Trans. of Authors’ Lodge, No. 3456, vol. i.

[27] Published in Debits and Credits in 1926.

[28] From Thirty-five Masters. The Story of the Builders of the Silent Cities Lodge, No. 4984, by W.Bro. C. G. Wyndham Parker, L.G.R.

[29] One may wonder, indeed, when R.K. found time to acquire a “favourite working”, for there is virtually no evidence of his attendances at Lodges after his first departure from India.

[30] Confirmed by the Secretary of the Lodge.

[31] A perfect set was catalogued in February. 1965. at £550, at Sotheran’s, London.

[32] This reference to the Names of God has been used as the flimsy basis for the suggestion that Kipling was a member of the Royal Arch. There is, in fact, no evidence of any kind in support of this argument. C.C., p. 213.

Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge 213