of the Passage"
Notes on the text
These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG, with information on medical matters from Dr Gillian Sheehan. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Life's Handicap, as published and frequently reprinted between 1891 and 1950.
And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.[Page 196, lines 11, 12] Jorrocks, where I dines, I sleeps the London grocer and Master of Foxhounds (M.F.H.) in the novels by Robert Smith Surtees (1803-1864) This misquotation from Chapter 7 of Handley Cross should read: …where the M.F.H. dines he sleeps, and where the M.F.H. sleeps he breakfasts. See KJ 75, and Notes to “The Propagation of Knowledge” (Debits & Credits>.
[I Samuel, 16,23,]
Then a Face came, blind and weeping[Page 204, line 15] a touch of the sun see Dr. Sheehan’s Notes on Kipling and Medicine. .
And It couldn’t wipe it’s eyes,
Kipling would have us believe he died of fright also that the negative showed something so horrible that his friends (sic) at once destroyed it. Presumably it showed an image of the man ‘with the blind weeping eyes.’'A.S.P.' quotes the case of a policeman who was killed by two crooks who also shot him in each eye so that there would be no images to give them away. The letter continues:
All this is, no doubt, quite ridiculous, but it is interesting to remember that there is an ago-old superstition that an image of the last thing seen during life is preserved in the eye of the dead person. No one knows where in the eye.
There is no possibility whatever either in life or death of taking a photograph of the retina and seeing in it what the retina was ‘seeing.’
This fiction is a product of the lay mind and the development of photography, the argument being – if a film cam be taken out of a camera and ‘developed,’ why not do something the same to the ‘Film’ (retina) in the eye ? There are so many reasons why the idea is impossible that one hardly knows where to begin.
Images of things seen are formed in the brain, not really in the retina. It will be sufficient to say that photographing a retinal image never has been possible and there is no indication that it will become so in the future. (A.S.P.)
[The full text of the letter can be seen at p. 975 of Volume 2. of ORG]
[Page 207, line 13] at least three hours There is some incertainty as to both the cause and the time of Hummil’s death. This passage suggests that it was at least three hours before Mottram, Lowndes and Spurstow found him, early on Sunday morning
[Page 209, lines 24-25] he must have died at midnight ORG suggests that for Hummil to have died of heat apoplexy at 5 a.m. when it would have been marginally cooler, seems somewhat unlikely, On the other hand Kipling also suggests fright and hypertension which might have brought on cerebral haemorrhage.
It seems that Kipling was, for some reason, unable to write a convincing finish to this otherwise gripping horror-story which this reader occasionally forgets is a work of fiction. Edward Shanks in his Rudyard Kipling (Macmillan, 1930, cited in ORG pp.976-977.) reminds us that it is indeed impossible to photograph images in a dead man’s eyes, and observes:
However, if we assume the story to have been straightforward supernatural, with a picture of something gruesome appearing on the negative, the doctor could well have smashed the Kodak in a fit of revulsion.He presumably means that against all scientific evidence the Doctor does photograph something horrible and manages to see it without developing the film. It is uncharacteristic of Kipling to expect his readers to suspend their disbelief to such an extent, but we believe that for once we should not allow mundane things like facts to spoil a ripping yarn ! [Ed.]
[Page 210, line 26] the tremendous words:
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.[Page 211, line 8] a Kodak camera the trade-name of the Eastman Kodak Company.
John 11, 25-26, from The Order for the Burial of the Dead in the Book of Common Prayer.
[Page 211, line 14] I’ve torn up the films the negatives are difficult to tear and were not developed anyway.
[Page 212, lines 3 – 4] There may be Heaven…. etc a misquotation from “Time’s Revenge” by Robert Browning (1812-1889):
There may be heaven; there must be hell;
Meantime, there is our earth here – well !
[J H McG]
©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved