So a literary day out; on a beautifully warm and sunny Wednesday we headed to Kipling’s home in East Sussex and it was a lovely experience. The house, Bateman’s, is, as you can hopefully see from the really not terribly good picture attached, is a genuinely beautiful building, full of wonderful things relating to the great man himself.
And that’s the interesting thing – I’m really rather fond of Kipling. When I was growing up, and especially when I was a student, reading Kipling was not the done thing – he was reactionary, imperialist, war-mongering and lots of other unpleasant things, usually said by people who had never read anything that he’s written. The most you could hope for was that people my age liked the Disney version of The Jungle Book.
I quietly hid my deep affection for the Just So Stories, but the more I read about Kipling the more interested I became, and although like all great artists he was probably a pain to live with, I came to see him as rather a lovely man. So it was a real thrill to visit his house, see his things (the Book God was particularly taken with the Rolls Royce), and come home determined to pull together a Kiplingesque reading list:
- Just So Stories – in a Penguin paperback with the author’s own illustrations; I do love these, especially How the Alphabet was Made
- Puck of Pook’s Hill – am appalled that I’ve never read this
- The Mark of the Beast – with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, this is a collection of Kipling’s dark and fantastic tales
- O Beloved Kids – Kipling’s letters to his children between 1906 and 1915, the year his son was killed in the Great War
- Something of Myself – Kipling’s memoir of his life as an author, written the year before he died
- The Hated Wife – a short life of Carrie Kipling, not a woman who seems to have attracted much warmth
- A Circle of Sisters – the story of Kiping’s mother Alice, and her remarkable sisters who all became the wives or mothers of equally remarkable men