by John McGivering)
notes on the text
...it is an attempt by Kipling to annexe for Mulvaney part of the territory of Leland’s cynical, hard-drinking, battered exile of ’48, who quarters his troop in a church, swills whisky in the aisle with grim indecency and listens ... to a fellow-exile playing on the organ the melodies of the fatherland.Hers, however, is the only objection discovered in the thirty or so biographers and commentators consulted, which is somewhat surprising when one considers the various literary and other crimes of which Kipling has been accused, although Charles Carrington (page134) notes that Kipling allowed Mowbray Morris, editor of Macmillan’s Magazine, in which the tale first appeared, to censor thirty lines of (this story)… which was ‘a little too drunken’ for English middle-class taste.
At his best, Mulvaney becomes larger than life. Tougher, stronger, more imaginative than any man could be, he takes on heroic size and enters a realm that is outside normal human experience; part of the greatness ... lies in the fact that he becomes, in some mysterious way, equivalent to Krishna, the legendary hero whom he impersonates.All that for a drunken soldier desecrating a temple!
It is the strength of this new story-teller that he reawakens in us the primitive emotions of curiosity, mystery, and romance in action. He is the master of a new kind of terrible and enchanting peepshow, and we crowd around him begging for “just one more peep.”Gosse also wonders how Dearsley got hold of the palanquin in the first place; that, alas, we shall never know ! [Ed.]
In common with soldiers of the day, Mulvaney would have been heavily moustached if not whiskered. Krishna is always clean-shaven. As a baby his milk was poisoned by the wicked fairy – Krishna did not die but turned a bright blue and is always shown painted that colour. Kipling was unsympathetic to Hinduism; indeed at the ruined fortress of Chitor he sits and gloomily meditatesORG has, on p. 931 onwards (Volume 2), a brief bibliography of these stories, and reprints of Introductions by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and Henry James (1843-1916). See also ORG Volume 1, pp. 7-16 for the origins of “Mulvaney” and the actions in which he might have been engaged.‘on the unholiness of Hindu art and what power a shadowland of lewd monstrosities had upon those who believed in it’.He clearly had not studied his Hindu gods very closely.
[Letters of Marque XI, From Sea to Sea vol 1. p. 99 line 12]