The Kiplings and India: A Collection of Writings from British India, 1870-1900

Echoes: Introduction

Echoes is a collection of forty poems by Rudyard and Alice "Trix" Kipling (later, Alice MacDonald Fleming) that appeared in the summer of 1884. It was printed on a modest scale using the Civil & Military Gazette Press in Lahore, and attributed only to "Two Writers." 

The poems by Rudyard Kipling in the collection were subsequently reprinted by Rudyard himself in various collections of verse, so there is a clear indication as to which Kipling authored which poem. Rudyard Kipling claimed 32 of the poems as his, leaving about 8 poems as presumably authored by his sister. Those poems by Trix Kipling have not, as far as we know, been reprinted since they first appeared in this collection in 1884; they are being presented here in digital format for the first time.  

Most of the poems in the collection invoke the style and form of more established British poets -- Tennyson, Browning, Cowper, Swinburne, Keats, etc. In subsequent reprintings, Rudyard Kipling would make that connection even more explicit. Here, we will print the poems as they appeared in Echoes, and describe the likely authorial intertext in a note where that intertext can be ascertained. 

In Kipling Sahib, Charles Allen describes the process by which the collection came together in July of 1884. Many of the more conventional poems by Rudyard and Trix had been composed earlier that spring in what Allen describes as the "communal vetting process of Bikaner House" (Bikaner House: the house in Lahore where the Kipling family lived). His mother and sister left for Dalhousie in May, and his father left at the end of June, leaving Rudyard on his own for two months. Allen indicates that Rudyard took advantage of his family's absence to write some of the more scandalous (and memorable) verses in the collection, including "Nursery Rhymes for Little Anglo-Indians" (Allen 2009, 161-162).   

Even though Echoes was modest in ambition and scale, it showed signs of the developing poetic voice and wit that would soon make Rudyard Kipling in particular famous. Poems like "Nursery Rhymes for Little Anglo-Indians" still sparkle with wit today. And readers in settings outside of Lahore took notice. Andrew Lycett mentions that Echoes was favorably reviewed in the London newspaper The World, and that plans were afoot to reprint the collection using a more established press in Calcutta (Lycett 1999, 154). Those plans fell through, and no second edition of Echoes appeared. The collection was less favorably reviewed in Indian Review, which states that some of the verses in Echoes "ought never to have been published at all" (cited in Allen 2009, 167). 

Acknowledgments: The print edition of Echoes used for this digital edition is at the University of Delaware's Morris Library, Special Collections. 

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