Rudyard Kipling, born in Bombay, India on December 20th, 1865, is one of Britain's most famous writers, although his work never attracted the critical acclaim that writers like E.M. Forster, T.S. Eliot, and William Butler Yeats enjoyed. His reputation has suffered in contemporary times due to the sentimentality of his work as well as the themes of imperialism and cultural hegemony.
Kipling began his life with his family in India – his father a director of an art museum and his mother a socialite – until, at five years old, he and his sister Alice ("Trix") moved to Southsea, England. Kipling felt isolated and neglected in the shoddy care of a family who boarded the children of British nationals serving in India. Art became his refuge and he began to write short stories. Kipling credited frequent visits to the London home of his aunt Georgiana and her husband Edward Burne-Jones, a painter, with saving him. He was exposed to art, philosophy, and literature at a young age. When he was 13, he enrolled in the United Services College in Devon but could not enter the military because of poor eyesight.
In 1882 Kipling returned to India and took up journalism. He wrote for the Lahore Civil and Military Gazette, and published stories and poems. Many of these poems were compiled into Departmental Ditties. He became increasingly popular, and his work revealed the oftentimes problematic nature of British imperialism. In 1885 Kipling joined the Freemasons; this organization would be personally fulfilling for the writer as well as influential in his work. In 1889 he returned to England and encountered - and became lifelong friends with - writers Henry James and Henry Rider Haggard. His popularity was firmly rooted in his short stories and poems; he never had much luck with longer forms of prose. Barrack-Room Ballads (1890), a collection of poems and songs, brought him considerable attention.
Kipling married Caroline Balestier in 1892 and they moved to the United States to reside with Caroline's family in Vermont. They had their first child, Josephine, and Kipling began writing the famous Jungle Book (1894) and, a year later, its sequel. The romantic and sentimental nature of his tales appealed to contemporary audiences. In 1896 the couple returned to England and their son John was born. Kipling began to visit South Africa frequently and wrote of the Boer War with the Dutch. Sadly, Kipling's daughter died of pneumonia in 1899.
In 1902 Kipling and his family moved to Sussex following the publication of Kim (1901), the most popular of his works during his lifetime. More story collections followed, and he was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907. It is often wondered why he was not offered the post of Poet Laureate, and some claim that he was offered it but turned it down. Kipling continued to write throughout the 1910s. He supported Britain's efforts in WWI but was devastated when his son John died at the front not long after he joined the Army.
Kipling died of a perforated ulcer in January of 1936. He was 70 years old. His autobiography, Something Of Myself: And Other Autobiographical Writings, was published posthumously in 1937.
Study Guides on Works by Rudyard Kipling
Although Kipling is perhaps most famous for his short stories like "The Jungle Book," he was just as famed for his verse as his prose. His work, which is staggering in number, consists of such major poems as "If", "The White Man's Burden", "The...