by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
There is a writer called Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, who makes most delicate inlay work in black and white, and files out to the fraction of a hair. He has written a story about a suicide club, wherein men gambled for Death because other amusements did not bite sufficiently. My friend Private Mulvaney knows nothing about Mr. Stevenson, but he once assisted informally at a meeting of almost such a club as that gentleman has described, and his words are true.Stevenson (1850-1894) and Kipling corresponded but they did not manage to meet. ( Lycett pp. 235/6) The story in question is “The Suicide Club” (1874) collected in The Latter-Day Arabian Nights (1878) and The New Arabian Nights (1882) Kipling paid Stevenson the compliment of parodying some of his verses – “A Child’s Garden.”
Here be no inanities of the Officers’ Mess, no apotheosis of the gilded and tawny-moustached dragoon, no languid and lisping lancer, no child-sweethearts, none, in fact, of the sentimental paraphernalia familiar to readers of modern military fiction.Philip Mallett (page 38) regards this story as the best in the volume. However, T R Henn (page 30) confesses to a certain impatience with the Soldiers Three stories, commenting rather dismissively that: No doubt they and the [Barrack Room] Ballads served a useful purpose in drawing attention to the British soldier of the i890s… Henn does not care for Mulvany’s accent or dialogue ('Irish people do not say these things') but apart from that, approves of Kipling’s treatment of the soldiers and their activities, quoting KJ no.13 for April 1930.