"Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." Henry James
"In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of the world famous author."The 1907 Pulitzer Prize citation
It seemed a perfect time to learn more about the author of Kim, The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, and the many poems including If.
Mary Hamer's book Kipling and Trix was published in England in 2012. She chose to novelize her story because she "wanted to make emotional sense of these lives". Hamer's extensive research in preparation for the book brings authenticity, and her ability to capture the inner lives of her characters allows the reader to forge a deep connection.
Family tragedy changes a person. Consider President Lincoln and his wife Mary after the loss of their son, or Teddy Roosevelt after the death of his wife Alice and his mother on the same day. Childhood trauma has a lasting effect. When a person has endured childhood trauma and mets personal loss in adulthood the outcome can be disabling.
Rudyard Kipling and his sister Trix (Beatrix), like the other children of British civil servants assigned to India, were sent "home" to England for their education. Rumer Godden awrote about the same experience: a childhood spent in India, separation when sent to England, homesickness for their childhood family, and idealization of that first home. Kipling and Trix were not just unhappy and stifled in England, their caretaker hated Kipling and manipulated Trix. The abuse of her brother was witnessed by Trix and left a deep psychic scar. Kipling never got over their parental abandonment or the sense of responsibility for, and failure to protect, his sister. Kipling's story Baa Baa Black Sheep gives insight into their experience.
The bright girl who dreamed of writing married too young, and married badly to a man who relentlessly pursued her then expected her to become a regular Stepford Wife. Trix was able to publish verses and several books. She suffered several nervous breakdowns and became obsessed with Spiritualism and 'automatic writing.'
Kipling was still a boy when his father secured him a position in India. A compulsive writer, he published his first collection of verse in 1886. He lived life at a frantic pace, suffered a nervous breakdown, married, and settled in Brattleboro, VT. An ugly court case involving his brother-in-law sent the Kiplings to England. A winter holiday to South Africa brought Kipling and Cecil Rhodes together, and the Boer War became Kipling's new cause. He became obsessed with the idea of raising children to be soldiers.
Kipling changed after the death of his daughter Jo. Trix spent most of her young adulthood under her parent's care, mentally distraught. During World War I Kipling's son John died fighting in the Battle of Loos. It was after that loss that Kipling wrote, "If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied."
Fame, success, marital happiness, and wealth could not drive out Kipling's demons or save Trix.
I received a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Kipling & Trix
by Mary Hamer
Aurora Metro Press