“The United Idolaters” has the same characters as the tales in Stalky & Co., and like them was set in a fantasy version of Kipling’s own school, the United Services College, Westward Ho!, Devon.
The Roman poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.E.) published three books of Odes in 23 B.C.E. There was later a fourth book, of which the date is controversial, but which was probably circulated before he died. No Fifth Book of Odes has been recorded; this is one of a series of parodies of Horace’s work that Kipling wrote. Others in Debits and Credits are “The Portent”, “The Survival” and “The Last Ode.” In 1920, Kipling and a group of friends had published a book of such parodies in English and Latin (Q. Horatii Flacci Carminum Liber Quintus). For further information see Charles Carrington, ed. Kipling’s Horace (London: Methuen, 1978).
The Horace parodies in Debits and Credits were greatly admired by the American critic Christopher Morley, who quotes “To the Companions” in full [Saturday Review of Literature (New York), vol. III, p. 155 (2 October 1926); reprinted in Roger Lancelyn Green, ed., Kipling: the Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1971) pp. 333-6].
Notes on the text
[Page 83, line 5] Venus and Liber Goddess of Love and God of Wine in Roman mythology.
[Page 84, line 3] Charon the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades. His boat is mentioned in Horace’s Book II, Ode 3, lines 27-8.