by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
He spoilt the grim farce of “The Mutiny of the Mavericks” by an (to me) incredible episode with the regimental colours; but the tale is not an important one. Changing social habits throw an unsympathetic light on some passages.Roger Ayers comments:
Kipling's description of Dan leading the other soldiers into the (officers') mess in order to show them the battle honours on the colours does not ring true. For the cased colours to have been kept in the mess was normal practice, generally in a special stand in the mess entrance hall, an anteroom or behind the Mess President's seat at the dinner table. Much less probable is that a group of soldiers, on the sudden impulse of one of their number, would have entered the mess and uncased the regimental colour which bore the battle honours. The colours were and are held in very special esteem, so much so that it is most unlikely that any soldier would have behaved in this way. However, long serving members of the regiment would almost certainly have been able to have repeated the list of inscribed honours from memory.Knowles (p. 150) quotes a rather unlikely review in an undated Athenæum:
I think that Kipling has introduced the honours displayed on the colour as a more dramatic way of going through this list of battles, a record of the regiment's service venerated by its members, which would be totally dishonoured by Mulcahy's proposed mutiny. Kipling seems to have been aware of the improbability of the action which he described since the scene setting is deliberately vague, the men suddenly moving from an uncertain and undescribed location into the 'mess-room' and as quickly leaving it on the approach of the mess-sergeant. The use of 'mess-room' itself is imprecise, since a regimental officers' mess in a permanent station would at least have anterooms and a dining room, wherever possible in a building of its own. 'Mess-room' smacks of a sub-unit mess in a fort or minor station.
It should also be remembered that this story was first published in the authorised Mine Own People, (US Book Co., New York, 1891) and Kipling may well have introduced the colours just to give the American public some idea of the significance of the battle honours. He may subsequently have felt that such a treatment was equally necessary for the British public and left it in. [R.A.]
... this story and “Namgay Doola” ( later in this volume) are pure comedy …. Charmingly good-natured satires upon the inhabitants of the sister isle …Francis Adams writing in The Fortnightly Review of November,1891 sees this story as:
[The latter is indeed a happier story with an Irish flavour but we would not look upon the former as anything but rather sinister; Ed.]
… for the most part a worthless piece of special pleading , but which ends with the admirable portrayal of the madness of a coward … and quotes the text from page 236, line 12 onwards.
[Quoted in Green, Kipling, the Critical Heritage, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971, p. 148]