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Rudyard Kipling

An East Indian-born Brit by the name of Joseph Rudyard Kipling stumbled onto the literary scene not many years following his birth on December 30, 1865.  Today, he is best known for his children's tales, The Jungle Book (1894) and Kim (1901).  He is the first British writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he accepted in 1907.

Kipling was raised by Indian nannies and he spoke "kitchen Hindi" every bit as well as he spoke English.  His father was an arts and crafts teacher at the Jeejeebhoy School of Arts, and his mother was related by marriage to painter Edward Burne-Jones.  At the age of six, his parents took him to England and placed him in a foster home at Southsea where he began his education.  He later wrote about the unhappiness he experienced as a result of the harsh treatment he received there in the short story, Baa Baa, Black Sheep, as well as in the novel The Light That Failed (1890) and in an autobiography (1937). 

In 1878, Kipling entered United Services College, a boarding school in North Devon, England.  It was an expensive school specializing in the training of young men for military academies.  But his poor eyesight and lackluster academic performance put an end to his plans for a military career.  Nevertheless, he recalled these years fondly in one of his most popular books, Stalky & Co (1899). 

Kipling returned to India in 1882, where he worked as a journalist in Lahore for the Civil and Military Gazette (1882-87) and as an assistant editor and overseas correspondent in Allahabad for the Pioneer (1887-89).  The stories he wrote during his last two years in India were collected in The Phantom Rickshaw (1888) and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888).  He said, "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

Kipling returned to England in 1889, where he was hailed as the literary heir to Charles Dickens.  Between the years 1889 and 1892, he lived in London and published Life's Handicap (1891), a collection of Indian stories, and Barrack-Room Ballads, a collection of poems that included the classic, "Gunga Din," which was later turned into a film starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Joan Fontaine. 

In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier, the sister of an American publisher and writer.  The two collaborated on a novel, The Naulakha(1892), and moved to Vermont in the United States.  There, Kipling fought constantly with his neighbor and brother-in-law, Beatty Balestier.  After the death of the Kiplings' daughter, the couple left Vermont for Burwash, Sussex, England. 

Although Kipling's marriage was less than idyllic, the author nevertheless managed to turn out Many Inventions (1893), The Jungle Book (1894), The Second Jungle Book (1895), The Seven Seas (1896), and Captains Courageous(1897) in short order.  "Borrow trouble for yourself, if that's your nature," Kipling once said, "but don't lend it to your neighbors."

In England, Kipling became politically active, backing many of the Conservative Party's most controversial programs.  He wrote about the dangers of entering into a war with Germany, and he opposed both women's suffrage and home rule for Ireland.  

Although he was mainly considered a poet in his lifetime, Kipling was offered both a knighthood and the post of British Poet Laureate.  He turned both down, preferring to live more anonymously.  "Take everything you like seriously," he said, "except yourselves."

In 1899, during the Boer War, Kipling spent several months in South Africa.  Afterwards, he wrote Kim (1901), which is widely considered to be his best novel.  The story, set in colonial India, depicts the adventures of an orphaned son of a sergeant in an Irish infantry regiment.  The children's historical work, Puck of Pook's Hill, appeared in 1906, and its sequel, Rewards and Fairies, in 1910.

Soon after Kipling had received the Nobel Prize, his output of fiction and poems began to dwindle.  His son was killed in World War I, and in 1923, he published The Irish Guards In The Great War, a history of his son's regiment. 

Rudyard Kipling died inLondon on January 18, 1936, and was buried in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.  Before he died, he did everything possible to recover and destroy all of the letters he had ever sent out in order to protect his private life.  His widow continued the quest after his death, although several letters survived and have since been published. 

Kipling once said, "I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble."  The author's autobiography, Something Of Myself, appeared posthumously in 1937.

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