Notes on the text
These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. We are also indebted to Lisa Lewis for the Notes in her edition of Mrs Bathurst and Other Stories (OUP, 1991). The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of A Diversity of Creatures, as published and frequently reprinted between 1917 and 1950.
This story … is an excellent example of Kipling's use of 'layers of meaning — three or four overlaid tints and textures, which might or might not reveal themselves' [Something of Myself page 190 line 17]. The title itself has an obvious double-meaning: the events of the main story happen at sunset, and in 1913 our whole World was at the point of sunset, night was at hand for the ancient empires, kingdoms, dynasties, and aristocracies. What appears at first to be a fairly light-hearted spy-story is in fact a picture by a pessimistic Tory of a doomed and disintergrating society.[Heading] This consists of two verses from "The Benefactors". [This should not be confused with an uncollected prose item of the same name in Volume 30 of the Sussex Edition where hell is depicted as a boiler-room in a coal-burning ship.]
Peter Peter pumpkin eater,[Page 281 line 16] Abraham Lincoln (1800-1865) lawyer, became sixteenth President of the United States in 1861, elected for a further term in 1864, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth the following year. His anti-slavery programme brought about the War between the States; he was, naturally, very unpopular in the South.
Had a wife and couldn't keep her!
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!
[First recorded in Mother Goose’s Quarto, 1825]
Ring-a-ring-o’rosesThe theory has it that the 'ring' is the ring of sores around the mouths of plague victims, who subsequently sneeze and fall down dead.
A pocket full of posies.
We all fall down.
a grimmer piece , part Hardy, part Henley. It begins by imagining the world as it might be if a loving God chose to restore it, but ends by insisting that ‘we are what we are’...Mallett then quotes the last three lines of Verse 4 which indicate that we have become so accustomed to Death that we hardly notice it.