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

Quartette: Introduction

Quartette is a collaboration between all four of the Kiplings living in Lahore, including poems by Alice MacDonald Kipling (two poems), Lockwood Kipling (four stories*), Alice Kipling (poems and a short story), and Rudyard Kipling (five poems and three stories*). The book was printed in December 1885 using the printing press of the Civil & Military Gazette, and was distributed as a Christmas supplement to the Civil & Military Gazette newspaper, which circulated widely around northern Indian cities in the Punjab province. Rudyard took the lead on the project, and had permission from the owners of the CMG, but no involvement from the head editor of the newspaper at the time, Stephen Wheeler. As a result, the young reporter (Rudyard was only twenty years old at the time) was in charge of copy-editing, proofing, and supervising the printing of a quite sizable book project. 

Quartette was actually the second collaborative book Rudyard printed with the CMG press. The first, Echoes, was a collection of poems by Trix and himself that had appeared in 1884. 

Availability. A few hundred copies of Quartette were printed in Lahore in 1885; to our knowledge, the book has not been subsequently reprinted, nor have many of the stories appeared online. There is a "page image" version of the text at the University of Virginia's digital repository, but no readable or searchable Ebook version is presently available at Google Books or Thus, the present digital edition represents the first full edition of Quartette to have appeared since its initial printing. In addition to presenting a clean, textual edition, our goal has been to annotate the texts as richly as possible, with an extensive glossary as well as summaries and commentary.

Authorship. The individual contributions are not marked and authorship is not indicated. The book as a whole is attributed to "Four Anglo-Indian Writers." There is widespread consensus about the authorship of most of the stories in the collection, with the one exception being "My Christmas at the Ajaibgaum Exhibition." While some biographers and critics attribute this story to Rudyard, it seems to be more directly connected to Lockwood's scholarly interests and temperament. 

The full Table of Contents of "Quartette" is as follows:

The Mirror of Two Worlds (LOCKWOOD KIPLING)
Divided Allegiance (poem by RUDYARD KIPLING)
An Anglo-Indian Episode (LOCKWOOD KIPLING)
At the Distance (poem by RUDYARD KIPLING)
The Unlimited 'Draw' of 'Tick' Boileau (RUDYARD KIPLING)
A Tragedy of Teeth (poem by RUDYARD KIPLING)
The Haunted Cabin (ALICE "TRIX" KIPLING / A. M. FLEMING)
The Second Wooing (poem by RUDYARD KIPLING)
The Strange ride of Morrowbie Jukes, C.E. (RUDYARD KIPLING)
My Christmas at the Ajaibgaum Exhibition (Debated Authorship: some sources suggest LOCKWOOD KIPLING, while others suggest RUDYARD)
The Phantom 'Rickshaw (RUDYARD KIPLING)
From the Hills (poem by RUDYARD KIPLING)
Mofussil Jurisdiction (LOCKWOOD KIPLING)



Not surprisingly, with a twenty year old cub reporter as the head manager of this project, the actual printing of Quartette at the CMG printing press in December 1885 turned out to be a bit chaotic. There were many typesetting errors that Rudyard had to aggressively work to correct, and the actual labor of printing the book took much longer than anticipated. Charles Allen describes the process as follows: 

The printing of Quartette consumed Ruddy's every spare moment for the better part of six weeks. Set after set of the 124 pages of proofs came back from the CMG's typesetters riddled with errors, and time after time the head printer, Ram Das, had to be cajoled into resetting them. [...] The printing of Quartette was finally completed at five in the morning on 18 December. At ten the previous evening ruddy had gone home, leaving the paper's Scottish foreman, Chalmers, to supervise the final print run and the binding. He had returned at midnight to find the workmen on the verge of mutiny. By allowing them to bring in their hookahs and smoke ten at a time, and supplying the tobacco himself, ruddy brought the men back to work. (Allen 100-101)

And Rudyard himself wrote about the process at length in a letter to Margaret Burne-Jones (postmarked January 11 1886; but Rudyard treated the letter as a kind of diary, written over more than two weeks). Here is one section where Rudyard details the difficulties he is having with the copy-editing of the book: 

Ram Das, excellent Hindu that he is, brings me pages on pages each viler than the first: - 'Sar I cannot understand' says he; and I have to go through it all again. If Quartette comes out without a howling misprint in every other line it will be by the blessing of Providence alone. I never met such awful proofs in my life. Thank Heaven that Quartette only comes once a year. Otherwise my eyes (what's left of 'em) would shrivel out. Imagine 513 mistakes in one galley of five pages! (Pinney 102)

After the book was printed, Rudyard took time to read through the finished version and discovered approximately twenty printer's errors. 

What are these stories about?  Charles Allen describes two contributions by Rudyard Kipling, "The Phantom 'Rickshaw" and "The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes" as signs of the future potential of Rudyard Kipling as a fiction writer. And indeed, those two stories do stand out in this collection as Anglo-Indian ghost stories that hold up both as portraits of the fears and ideologies undergirding Anglo-Indian society in India in the late 19th century, and as fairly impressive ghost stories in the tradition of Poe. Both Rudyard and Trix seem to have been strongly under the influence of Poe at the time of the writing of these stories; Trix's own contribution, "A Haunted Cabin," is a Poe-like ghost story. In contrast to Rudyard and Lockwood's respective contributions, Trix's story refers to no Indian characters (indeed, it's set on a ship that is on its way to India). 

In his comments on Quartette in Kipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling, Charles Allen describes the four stories authored by John Lockwood Kipling as "feeble," (Allen, 198) which seems unfair. Lockwood's contributions are certainly uneven—Allen indicates Lockwood had apparently first drafted them a decade earlier, when he was bedridden from typhoid—but there is much of interest in them, particularly the dense interest in Indian folk culture we see in stories like "The Mirror of Two Worlds." And there is a thought-provoking account of the complexity of working as a museum curator in "My Christmas at the Ajaibgaum Exhibition," which reflects a large extracurricular curatorial project Lockwood Kipling had been commissioned for that same year. 

The stories by Lockwood Kipling might also be interesting because they demonstrate Lockwood's influence over Rudyard's emerging style and thematic interests (the interest in collecting artifacts related to Indian culture would be one that Rudyard would come back to often in his own writing). 


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