Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India in December of 1865. His parents were Alice Kipling and John Lockwood Kipling and his father worked as an artist and Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay.
Early Life and Education
The couple had moved to India in 1865 after marrying in Staffordshire, England. As a child Kipling was close to his mother and his younger sister, Alice. The siblings would spend time exploring the markets of Bombay and were exposed to a variety of different cultures and ways of life. When he was six years old he was sent to England to receive a proper education. He lived with a foster family, the matriarch of which was a brutal and cruel woman. She was unkind to the young boy and often beat him.
During this difficult period of his life he found temporary relief in the books he came into contact with. These included the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Wilkie Colins. At eleven years old, due to his living conditions, he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His mother was informed and she removed him from the household and place him in a school in Devon. It was there that he first discovered his writing talent. He would eventually find work with the school newspaper.
It was in 1882 that Kipling returned to India. He was deeply moved by this change in his circumstances and made his home in Lahore. Kipling worked for a local newspaper while spending his free time exploring the city. It was in 1886 that Kipling published his first collection titled, Departmental Ditties and he began contributing short stories to the Civil and Military Gazette.
Throughout the later months of 1886 and early months of 1887, around thirty-nine stories appeared in the newspaper. A number of these were compiled in Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888. It was his first prose collection and was published when he was 22. It was over the next year that he journeyed back to England with the hopes of working off the successes of his previous publications.
His next collections, Wee Willie Winkie and American Notes were published in the late 1880s and early 1890s. These volumes were inspired by time he spent in America alongside his friend Wolcott Balestier. It was in 1891 that Kipling grew close with Balestier’s sister, Carrie. The two married, soon after Balestier’s death from typhoid fever.
After marrying, Kipling and his wife traveled to Canada and Japan. It was during these years that Kipling lost his entire fortune due to the failure of his bank. The young couple moved to Brattleboro and settled down in a small, economical cottage. It was here that they had their first child, Josephine. She was followed by Elsie and later, John, born in 1897 after the couple moved to Devon.
It was also around this time period that Kipling published his best-known work, The Jungle Book. This novel, along with its sequel, were produced alongside a number of volumes of poetry and another collection of short stories, in a four-year period. The works, The Jungle Book as well as The Second Jungle Book, were extremely popular with children, a fact which deeply pleased Kipling.
In 1899, after a disastrous journey back to the United States for a visit with Carrie’s parents, their daughter Josephine died of pneumonia. Kipling had contracted the illness as well and was spared from the news of her death until he had recovered. He was never the same again.
During the following years Kipling published the popular novel, Kim, and the Kiplings were able to buy an estate in Sussex known as Bateman’s. It was in the same year the Kiplings purchased the estate that Rudyard published Just So Stories, another work which was received well by the public.
In the early years of the first world war Kipling traveled to France to report on activity from the trenches. He also helped his son John in his quest to enlist in the army. He had been turned down a number of times due to problems with his eyesight. John Kipling eventually became a member of the Irish Guard and went missing in October of 1915. Kipling searched for his son in France but never recovered his body.
The death of a second child proved to be the beginning of a darker period of time for Kipling. Over the last two decades of his life he stopped writing literature for children and suffered from health issues. He had developed an ulcer which eventually caused him to take his own life in January of 1936. His ashes were buried at Westminster Abbey in Poet’s Corner.