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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Famous men

Saturday, October 22nd., London

This is my idea of fame:

At an entertainment on board H.M.S. Majestic, Rudyard Kipling, one of the guests, read "Soldier and Sailor Too", and was encored. He then read "The Flag of England". At the conclusion a body of subalterns swept him off the stage, and chaired him round the quarter-deck, while "For he's a jolly good fellow" was played by the massed bands of the Fleet and sung by 200 officers assembled.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in Bombay, but educated in England at the United Services College, Westward Ho, Bideford. In 1882 he returned to India, where he worked for Anglo-Indian newspapers. His literary career began with Departmental Ditties (1886), but subsequently he became chiefly known as a writer of short stories. A prolific writer, he achieved fame quickly. Kipling was the poet of the British Empire and its yeoman, the common soldier, whom he glorified in many of his works, in particular Plain Tales from the Hills(1888) and Soldiers Three (1888), collections of short stories with roughly and affectionately drawn soldier portraits. His Barrack Room Ballads (1892) were written for, as much as about, the common soldier. In 1894 appeared his Jungle Book, which became a children's classic all over the world. Kim (1901), the story of Kimball O'Hara and his adventures in the Himalayas, is perhaps his most felicitous work. Other works include The Second Jungle Book (1895), The Seven Seas (1896), Captains Courageous (1897), The Day's Work (1898), Stalky and Co. (1899), Just So Stories (1902), Trafficks and Discoveries (1904), Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), Actions and Reactions (1909), Debits and Credits (1926), Thy Servant a Dog (1930), and Limits and Renewals (1932). During the First World War Kipling wrote some propaganda books. His collected poems appeared in 1933. Kipling was the recipient of many honorary degrees and other awards. In 1926 he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Literature, which only Scott, Meredith, and Hardy had been awarded before him.

Yesterday I was at Helpston, near Peterborough, the birthplace of John Clare. The cottage where the poet was born has been made into a museum. Walking around the area I tried to get some sense of the inspiration Clare found there, but without success. To me it seems pleasant enough but flat and rather featureless. Perhaps it had a different 'feel' before enclosure? Big skies of course, but yesterday was rather damp, grey, dismal and cold, so I didn't see it at its best! My sensibilities are more attuned to man-made than natural landscapes - beauty may take many forms.

John Clare 1793-1864 , our most remarkable poet of the English countryside, was born in the village of Helpston, Northamptonshire and raised as an agricultural labourer. Clare’s genius was his ability to observe and record the minutiae of English nature and every aspect rural life, at a time when enclosures were transforming the landscape and sweeping away centuries of traditional custom and labour. Following great success with his first published poems (outselling even John Keats) Clare quickly became unfashionable, falling quickly into literary obscurity. The magnitude of Clare’s achievement and poetic genius was not fully appreciated until the recent publication of a first complete edition of his poetry, much of which had remained neglected in manuscript archives for 150 years. Now scholars worldwide regard him as one of our leading poets gradually affording the same status as reputed poet contemporaries such as William Wordsworth and S.T.Coleridge. Clare’s birthplace and family home for many years was acquired by the John Clare Trust in 2005. Its transformation into an education and visiting centre celebrates Clare’s life and inspires visitors to share in his creativity, his passion for nature and the countryside and his environmental engagement. The cottage restoration used traditional building methods and tells the story of Clare’s life and work, recreating a number of rooms as Clare and his family would have known them, while also providing space for workshops and practical activities. 

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