In Sussex last week, I took the chance of visiting Bateman’s, Kipling’s home near Burwash. It’s a splendid house, and Kipling’s study is especially worth seeing, with its crowded bookshelves and the large table (by a big window looking out onto the grounds and the spread of unspoilt Sussex) at which he wrote in longhand. The secretary’s typewriter is perched at the end of the table.
What struck me most was that Kipling had made enough money to create this vision of Englishness purely by the use of his pen. After about sixteen years of writing, he returned to England in 1902 rich enough to spend the then very sizeable sum of £9000 on the house and the surrounding 33 acres, and to complete it with period furniture, of a quality that seems remarkable. The whole effect is of timeless Englishness (plus a few Oriental touches, of course). In 1906 he spent his Nobel Prize money on expanding the land and planting the gardens, which are superb.
Has any writer since then amassed such a fortune so quickly, while at the same time being recognised as a unique an important literary voice?