A Kipling bargain

I can’t believe my luck. Some years ago, the Cambridge University Press published Thomas Pinney’s three-volume edition of Kipling’s collected poems. I blogged about the publication at the time, but the price of the set was £225 -beyond the budget of an ageing pensioner such as myself.

A few weeks ago, loitering on Bookfinder.com, as I often do, I came across an offer of the whole set for £25. I couldn’t believe it. Was this for one volume only, perhaps? No – the listing definitely said three volumes, and, I triple-checked, not of any old Kipling collection, but of Professor Pinney’s magisterial Cambridge job.

I had to wait a while. It came from America, by sea (the postage was very cheap, as well as the books). But today it arrived, Three volumes, complete, in excellent condition. And when I look at the Bookfinder site today, I find that the cheapest set on offer there is priced at £197…

The volumes are going to be a joy. I’ve jumped straight in with Volume III, the uncollected poems. One of the best of these, ‘The Sons of the Suburbs’, I have mentioned here before, but there are a mass of them. I’m especially enjoying the little squibs. I wrote a while back about some of these, the very short poems based on Horace.

There are quite a few Great War poms I’d not come across before, including some that seem like drafts for ‘Epitaphs of the War’:

The Gambler

I a gambler bid you know
Nine is not a lucky throw.
Three times wounded, three times gassed
Three times wrecked – I lost at last!

Some other war poems I may write about next week. But here’s one that’s sort-of topical. In these statue-toppling days, Woodrow Wilson is coming in for a lot of criticism. Princeton has taken his name off a building. Well-deserved, I think, since he combined his racism with lofty self-righteousness. Here is Kipling’s 1924 epitaph for him:

President Wilson

He rests beneath the Earth
He made his own
And, once more, God
Is running things alone.

That’s enough. I’m going to get back to reading.


  1. ana maria sobral
    Posted July 2, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Lucky you ! Such a pleasant sensation when that happens, isnt’it !

  2. Jean
    Posted July 2, 2020 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    You deserved your luck, old top! Perhaps RK wanted you to have them.

  3. Tom Deveson
    Posted July 2, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Good to hear!

    Posted July 2, 2020 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Obviously when I wasn’t browsing on Bookfinder or I’d have jumped in first.
    Enjoy them and report back.

    It;s odd: CUP seem to issue their books only in large and expensive scholarly editions, whereas OUP usually bring out a reading version soon after. Is there any reason why CUP don’t do that too?

    • Posted July 3, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      The state of academic publishing has long been a mystery to me. There seems to be an assumption: hardly anyone will buy this book, so we’ll price it very high. Which means that even fewer people buy the book.
      In these days of print-on demand, there must be a better way – perhaps a cooperative one. A group of Victorianists, for example, might form a consortium that advertised for manuscripts on Victorian literature. Members of the group could do the peer-reviewing, and books could be published through a print-on-demand service at low price. They could be publicised through networking.
      Preparation of publication-ready manuscripts is not too tricky these days, and gets easier once you’ve had practice.
      My book on Rose Allatini is published through Lulu, a firm that makes the process very simple. I really enjoyed putting the book together, despite occasional crises.
      It wasn’t a book that I thought would interest any publisher who would do it at anything like an affordable price, so the sensible thing was to issue it myself. Sales have not been high, but the book has reached specialists in the field, and the feedback has been very positive, even though the book has not made me a fortune.
      As for the Kipling poems, it is daft of CUP not to have made these more easily available. Kipling may be anathema to a certain sort of literary academic, but he has readers who would snap this up if reasonably priced. CUP might have followed the example of Faber, who, a few years after the publication of the revelatory Ricks/McCue edition of the complete Eliot, followed it up with a far cheaper paperback.

  5. Posted July 3, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    What a bargain!

    I had the one volume edition of 100 poems from NetGalley and wrote about it here. It was very worth reading.

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