Kimball on Kipling

Roger Kimball writes a wonderful review of Rudyard Kipling’s poetry, which concludes:

The key word is “civilization.” Kipling was above all the laureate not of Empire, but of civilization, especially civilization under siege. Henry James once sniffed that there was only one strain absent in Kipling: that of “the civilized man.” It’s a frequent refrain. But in a deeper sense, Kipling was about almost nothing else—not the civilization of elegant drawing rooms, but something more primeval and without which those drawing rooms would soon be smashed and occupied by weeds. Kipling, Evelyn Waugh wrote toward the end of his life, “believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.” Kipling endeavored to man those defenses partly through his political oratory, but more importantly through a literary corpus that taught the explicit lessons and the implicit rhythms of emotional continence and restraint.

One thought on “Kimball on Kipling

  1. For many people Kipling=colonialist and that is a canard that really doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. And let us not forget, he was one of Jorge Luis Borges’ favorite writers and Borges was a very discriminating reader indeed…

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