The two writers I’ve been thinking about this year are Rudyard Kipling and Arnold Bennett.
So I was delighted to come across a BBC web feature that links the two. It’s about Lake Rudyard, a popular beauty spot in the Potteries, and if you like Bennett’s novels you’ll enjoy the photos of pleasure seekers who came sightseeing, boating, and even skating on the lake.
John Lockwood Kipling and his wife Alice were so taken by the lake that they named their son after it. No – he wasn’t conceived there; he was born two years after their visit.
The BBC webpage is at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36153037
Arnold Bennett was ambivalent about Kipling. In 1917 he summed up his fluctuating reactions. He saw nothing of permanent value in Plain Tales from the Hills but
The Story of the Gadsbys impressed me. So did Barrack-room Ballads. So did pieces of Soldiers Three. So did Life’s Handicap and Many Inventions. So did The Jungle Book, despite its wild natural history. And I remember my eagerness for the publication of The Seven Seas. I remember going early in the morning to Denny’s bookshop to buy it. I remember the crimson piles of it in every bookshop in London. And I remember that I perused it, gulped it down, with deep joy. And I remember the personal anxiety which I felt when Kipling lay very dangerously ill in New York. For a fortnight, then, Kipling’s temperature was the most important news of the day. I remember giving a party with a programme of music, in that fortnight, and I began the proceedings by reading aloud the programme, and at the end of the programme instead of “God Save the Queen,” I read, “God Save Kipling,” and everybody cheered. Stalky and Co. cooled me, and Kim chilled me.
Bennett deeply disliked Kipling’s politics as they hardened towards the end of the nineteenth century.For Bennett, Kipling became ‘the shrill champion of things that are rightly doomed’:
His vogue among the hordes of the respectable was due to political reasons, and […] he retains his authority over the said hordes because he is the bard of their prejudices and of their clayey ideals. A democrat of ten times Kipling’s gift and power could never have charmed and held the governing classes as Kipling has done. Nevertheless, I for one cannot, except in anger, go back on a genuine admiration. I cannot forget a benefit. If in quick resentment I have ever written of Kipling with less than the respect which is eternally due to an artist who has once excited in the heart a generous and beautiful emotion, and has remained honest, I regret it. And this is to be said: at his worst Kipling is an honest and painstaking artist. No work of his but has obviously been lingered over with a craftsman’s devotion! He has never spoken when he had nothing to say—though probably no artist was ever more seductively tempted by publishers and editors to do so.
What did Kipling think of Bennett? Does anyone know?