Notes by John McGivering
and John Radcliffe
My Bloemfontein trip was on Lord Roberts’ order to report and do what I was told. This was explained at the station by two strangers, H. A. Gwynne, then Head Correspondent of Reuters’ and Perceval Landon of The Times. ‘You’ve got to help us edit a paper for the troops,’ they said, and forthwith inducted me into the newly captured ‘office’, for Bloemfontein had fallen – Boer fashion – rather like an outraged Sunday School a few days before.Kipling had encountered Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, in his days in India, and wrote affectionately of him in “Bobs” as well as the valedictory “Lord Roberts”. See our notes on "The Three Musketeers".
The compositors and the plant were also captives of our bow and spear and rather cross about it...
Kipling spent part of May visiting the Italian Front. As on his trip to France in 1915, he was accompanied by his Boer War friend Perceval Landon, a Batemans’ regular in the Edwardian years and from 1912 a frequent user of Keylands, a cottage on the estate. The trip produced more articles for the Daily Telegraph under the title ‘The War in the Mountains’.Philip Mallett (p. 187) writes, in his Chapter 10, 'The Last Decade':
... 1927 began badly, with the death of Perceval Landon. He had been a friend since the early days of the war in South Africa, and one of the few people Carrie seemed to trust. Kipling’s commemorative poem, "A Song in the Desert", recalls him as an inveterate traveller ... an alter ego (second self) who had never forsaken ‘The Gipsy Trail’ ... even as the funeral was taking place he and Carrie were on their way to Brazil in search of warm weather.Andrew Lycett (p. 453) explains:
Since Bland-Sutton had impressed on Rudyard that, for his health's sake he needed to get out of Euope that winter, the Kiplings had booked a passage for Brazil on the s.s. Andes leaving Southampton on 27 January 1927. They refused to be delayed when only four days before their departure, Landon died in the nursing home which Rudyard had only recently prevailed on him to enter.See our notes on Brazilian Sketches.
With its echoes of Browning’s “A Death in the Desert”, Rudyard’s poem “A Song in the Desert” was a lament for a friend he had loved. He recalled Landon’s candid criticism of his writing (Verse 2). He also commemorated his friend’s gifts for travel and for story-telling and his generosity in bringing back treasures from distant places. (Verse 8) ... Within weeks he had inherited his friend’s letters and papers but, sadly, they did not survive the later brutal weeding out of Rudyard’s intimate correspondence by his widow Carrie and his daughter Elsie.