by Alastair Wilson)
|notes on the text|
... a Rear-Admiral who had been in destroyers all his life. He said any information he could give, was at my service. I have already sent him a typed questionnaire of three pages. He happened to know and to have served in, one of the very type I am trying to describe.It is also known that the Duke was always very hospitable to the Royal Navy, of which the Mediterranean Fleet regularly made visits to French Riviera ports. (This Editor did the same in 1958/59.) Kipling notes, in the same letter to Bland-Sutton, that the other guests were: 'all Navy men and women except us'. [He meant officers and their wives – in those piping days of peace, senior officers’ wives would frequently “follow the fleet” – at their own expense – to help with the entertaining.] So we may assume that units of the Mediterranean Fleet were visiting the Riviera.
... one may note that no woman shares the laughter in Kipling’s farces. [But "A Sea Dog" is NOT a farce, though it does have its lighter-hearted moments.] It may be that he thought them incapable of this form of purgation, or that their presence would have introduced self-consciousness into the masculine riot.Bonamy Dobrée also commented on that particular phrase.
... Another feminine limitation is alluded to in "A Sea Dog". This is the tale of Malachi, the fastidiously clean little dog on the old destroyer, shepherding minesweepers in the North Sea, and of how a ‘Bolshie’ in the crew provided lying circumstantial evidence of a misdemeanour. In the end, Malachi’s master tells his friends the ‘name and rating’ the indignant crew bestowed on the intriguer, and they ‘laughed those gross laughs that women find incomprehensible’.
... One type of character appears all through Kipling’s work. This is the resourceful young officer, military or naval, carrying heavy responsibilities with a cheerful countenance, formidable in jest or earnest.In the same chapter Tompkins writes:
... There are no facile repetitions in his work. Even the young officers, of whom I have just spoken, function according to their circumstances, and the circumstances differ widely between ‘Judson and the Empire’ and ‘A Sea Dog’. In the latter tale, moreover, it is not the Skipper or even his dog that is the object of Kipling’s curiosity, but rather the mixed crew and ‘Cywil’, the Crystal-Palace-trained RNVR man, with his plans for ‘mowally delousing’ them'.
... The discipline of the last two collections ["Debits and Credits" and "Limits and Renewals"], especially, is very strict; the average length of the tales is shorter, and the material dense and closely-packed. In what have been called the enigmatic tales, as I have tried to show, every stroke is relevant. On the other hand, the natual hold of the born story-teller has been imperilled by – or perhaps consciously bartered for – investigating subtlety and depth of meaning. It does not seem to have been lost. "The Bull that Thought" is full of narrative force, and so are "The Church that was in Antioch" and "A Sea Dog".