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

Plain Tales From the Hills (1886-1887): Digital Edition


General Introduction to this Digital Edition

        Today, Plain Tales from the Hills is best known as a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1888. However, before Rudyard published forty stories as Plain Tales From the Hills under his own signature, he and Alice Kipling published the stories without signature in the Civil & Military Gazette in the fall of 1886 and throughout 1887. The collaboration followed a series of successful collaborations between brother and sister, on Echoes (1884) and Quartette (1885).   
        The version of Plain Tales published here follows the order and text of the first published version of the stories in the Civil & Military Gazette. We are including three stories authored by Alice Kipling in the order in which they appeared, as well as additional stories where we speculate she may have collaborated with Rudyard, or at the very least provided subject matter or details.  For more information on the contested authorship of some of these stories, see the editorial note below. Finally, stories appearing for the first time in the edition published in 1888 have been added to the bottom of the Table of Contents path.

—Amardeep Singh


On the Contested Authorship of These Stories: 

        As mentioned above, the book, Plain Tales from the Hills, was published in 1888 with Rudyard Kipling indicated as sole author. Most of the stories included in the collection were originally published in The Civil & Military Gazette  during the years 1886 and 1887, with Rudyard electing not to publish eight of those earlier stories in the collected Plain Tales from the Hills; he also added ten new stories that had not previously appeared in the CMG.  Calculating the pieces published in the CMG  and not reprinted in Plain Tales, those published in both the CMG and Plain Tales, and the pieces unpublished in the CMG but appearing for the first time in Plain Tales yields, as far as we can estimate, a total of 50 stories included in what we could call the "Plain Tales from the Hills Project."  
        These redactions, additions, and reprints are significant for determining questions of authorship and collaboration between Rudyard Kipling and his younger sister, Alice "Trix" Kipling, in the "Plain Hills Project."  As is widely acknowledged by Kipling scholars, Alice was a prime contributor to previous Kipling collections, among them Echoes (1884) and Quartette  (1885). The collaboration, in our opinion, did not end there, although Alice's official author attributions ceased.  As we conjecture, approximately 20-25% of the "Plain Hills Project" bears the sensibility and influence of Alice, whether in stories attributed to her in the CMG or in other stories attributed to Rudyard, in which a growing number of Kipling scholars see traces of Alice's aesthetic and themes. 
        In "Trix—The Other Kipling" (Kipling Journal, September 2014), Barbara Fisher compelling details the presence of Alice in the "Plain Hills Project."  Drawing on the work of previous scholars—for instance Harry Ricketts, Lord Birkenhead, and Hilton Brown— observations about the styles and themes present in Alice's previously published work, and conjectures about the convergence between her residences and locations depicted repeatedly in Plain Hills—for instance, Simla—Fisher opens new avenues of inquiry for a fresh generation of Kipling scholars. 
        Although not published (or attributed) in Plain Hills, Alice Kipling published at least three well-regarded stories in the CMG: "Love-in-a-Mist," "How it Happened," and "The Pinchbeck Goddess," which of course she would later expand into a novel in 1897.  "Love (A Miss)," another of the unprinted (and anonymous) CMG pieces, also bears her strong interest in lost, or deferred, love, a subject that Rudyard increasingly moved away from as he became more interested in Indian politics, culture, the occupying British Army.  Fisher also speculates that  "Signs of Trix’s sensibility can be found in 'Lispeth', 'Three– and an Extra', 'Miss Youghal’s Sais', 'Bitters Neat', 'Yoked to an Unbeliever', 'False Dawn' and 'Cupid’s Arrow'" (48).  In all of these stories, Fisher locates central narrative strands concerning unrequited love, unhappy marriages, star-crossed lovers, and unhappy maidens—themes, as noted above, that concerned the eighteen-year old Alice more as they concerned Rudyard less.  As Hilton Brown sums it up, "In the early Indian days, Ruddy and Trix [Alice] worked closely together. It would be interesting to know how much...of the recondite femininity of Plain Tales sprung from that shrewd judgement and delicate observation" (Rudyard Kipling: A New Appreciation ). Our intention in this archive is, by exploring primary materials from the 1880s, to provide new facts that may settle, or at least engender alternative explanations for, these ambiguous issues.  

—James McAdams 

 

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