Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay to his British colonial parents, John and Alice Kipling. His father was an artist and worked at the Jeejeebhoy School Of Art in Bombay, and young Rudyard and his sister enjoyed exploring local markets with their nanny.
When Kipling was six, his mother decided he needed an English education and sent him to live with a cruel foster family, the Holloways, while he attended school in Southsea. Mrs Holloway beat and bullied him and he struggled to fit in at school, finding comfort only in books.
At the age of 11, Kipling was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, so a family friend contacted his mother and she rushed over from India and removed him from the Holloways’ clutches.
After finishing his schooling in Devon, Kipling returned to India to work on a local newspaper. He also began to write short stories, and published a collection of them, entitled Plain Tales From The Hills, in 1888, just after his 22nd birthday.
As Kipling’s writing career burgeoned, he returned to England to great acclaim, having taken the scenic route to get there, via a long detour to North America.
In four years Kipling produced a series of Jungle Books, and a second daughter, Elsie, was born in 1896. His tales of and for children won huge acclaim, and by the age of 32, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the world
The author’s arrival in London was met with great acclaim, and he met and became friends with American agent and publisher Wolcott Balestier, at around the same time as he published The Light That Failed.
Kipling fell in love with Balestier’s sister Carrie, and married her in London in 1891. The newlyweds moved to America and had a baby girl, Josephine, shortly after settling in Vermont in a house called Bliss Cottage.
It was in this cottage that Kipling began work on what would become the Jungle Books – he had an idea about a boy who was brought up by wolves.
In four years Kipling produced a series of Jungle Books, and a second daughter, Elsie, was born in 1896. His tales of and for children won huge acclaim, and by the age of 32, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the world.
A legal scandal sent the Kiplings back to England, and another child, a son, John, was born in 1897. But tragedy struck when the Kiplings sailed back across the Atlantic to visit Carrie’s mother: Rudyard and his elder daughter became seriously ill with pneumonia, and the child died. It was said Kipling never got over the tragedy.
The Kiplings returned to England and the picaresque novel Kim was serialised in a magazine and then published in book form in 1901.
In 1902 Kipling bought Batemans, a house dating back to 1634. Here, the author began to find some happiness again, and published his Just So Stories, which he had crafted for his late daughter as he put her to bed. The name came from his daughter’s request for her father to repeat his stories for her just as he had first told them, or ‘Just So’.
In 1907 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature – the first English-language recipient – and in 1906 he published Puck Of Pook’s Hill and Rewards And Fairies, which contained the poem If, came in 1910.
In 1915 Kipling travelled to France to report on the First World War, and his son John, to whom he had become very close in the wake of Josephine’s death and for whom If was written, signed up with the Irish Guards thanks to his father pulling strings.
In October of that year the family heard John had gone missing in France but no trace of him was found. Kipling felt so guilty about encouraging his son to sign up, he went to France to search for him but no trace was ever found.
Kipling continued to write but, with two of his three children dead, had lost the will to write the children’s stories that had made his name. He died in 1936 and his ashes were buried at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.