Andrew Roberts writes on op-ed in the London Telegraph praising a biography of Kipling published last year (The Long Recessional) by David Gilmour. He thinks this is one form of revisionist history that is good. Gilmour’s book, according to Roberts, "triumphantly succeeds in rescuing Kipling’s reputation as a significant political thinker." Kipling has long been abused as an imperialist, racist, and so on. Not true, argues Gilmour and Roberts.
I admit to having been a Kipling fan for a long while and I can open Kim to any page with wide-eyed delight. The great friendship between the saintly Tibetan pilgrim and the thirteen year old white boy who "had known all evil since he could speak," and "was hand in glove with men who had led lives stranger than anything Haroun al Raschid dreamed of," is always full of wonder for me. And in awe I have seen and touched the great bronze cannon Zam-Zammah, that "capturer of strongholds", in Lahore. While my mind is on books about Kipling, let me also recommend Peter Hopkirk’s Quest for Kim (1999), also a great read in which Hopkirk (who also wrote The Great Game) tries to rediscover Kim by travelling across India and Pakistan, to all the places mentioned by Kipling in Kim; it is a kind of travel book and literary detective story. Even though Kim has never been out of print since its publication in 1901, Hopkirk recommends that you read it "before the ideologues and zealots of political correctness consign it to the flames, or insist on it being rewritten." With the publication of Gilmour’s biography (and the honor it has received by being awarded the Longford Historical Biography prize) perhaps Hopkirk will have proven to be wrong. I hope so. In case you have the time, here is a favorite Kipling story I must have read a thousand times to my four children, The Elephant’s Child. And here is his poem, Recessional.