My Boy Jack Rudyard Kipling Biography

Joseph Rudyard Kipling, best known as the creator of enduring children's classics such as The Jungle Book, was also one of Great Britain's most influential and politically zealous citizens.

Born to British citizens in Bombay in 1865, Kipling spent the first several years of his life there entranced by its exotic beauty. Kipling's wonder years were abruptly interrupted when early in his childhood he and sister Alice were sent to England to live with a foster family. It was a traumatic experience for young Kipling that he later described as foundational to his future literary life.

At age sixteen, Kipling returned to Bombay for a writing job at a small newspaper, the Civil & Military Gazette. Apart from a busy career as a reporter, Kipling eagerly pursued his own writing, publishing works of verse and prose.

Ending up in London, Kipling met Wolcott Balestier, an American literary agent, and later became engaged to Balestier's sister Caroline (Carrie) after Wolcott's sudden death. The young couple settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, and had two children while there, Josephine and Elsie. In Vermont, Kipling enjoyed a fertile creative period, writing The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, among others.

By the time the family moved back to England, Kipling was a well-recognized public figure. During this period, the Kiplings experienced the birth of their son John (Jack), followed by the tragic death of daughter Josephine. Seeking solitude after Josephine's death, the Kiplings moved to Bateman's, a house in Sussex.

Becoming more recognized for his rousing patriotism, Kipling had the ear of King George V, and consulted on high-level strategies to manage World War 1 propaganda. Kipling's political fervor extended to his family as he maneuvered a commission for the severely myopic Jack who had been repeatedly turned down by medical boards.

In September 1915, Jack Kipling was killed in action after being in France for only three weeks. Jack remained on the list of soldiers "missing believed wounded" for two years. The Kiplings were devastated; the effect of losing another child was incalculable. In 1916, Kipling's Sea Warfare was published, which contained an emotional poem about his son Jack.

"Have you news of my boy Jack?"
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
"Has any one else had word of him?"
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.

"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he didn't shame his kind
Not even with that wind blowing and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide,
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

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