upon the Sorbonne"
(notes edited by
John McGivering and John Radcliffe)
notes on the text
The Council of the University of Paris has decided to confer the degree of Doctor honoris causa on Mr. Rudyard Kiping and Sir James G. Frazer, author of The Golden Bough as eminent friends of France. The ceremony will take place at an extraordinary session to be held in the great amphitheatre of the Sorbonne on Saturday next in the presence of the President of the Republic and the Minister of Public Instruction. In the evening the Association France-Grand-Bretagne will jointly give a banquet in honour of the two new doctors.Elodie Raimbault, who is researching at the Sorbonne, writes: 'In L’Information Universitaire of Wednesday, 23 November 1921, there is a very precise and grandiloquent account of the ceremony during which Sir John Frazer and Kipling received their titles as Doctors Honoris Causa, in the presence of the Président de la République M. Millerand and his Ministre de l'Instruction Publique et des Beaux-Arts (Education and Culture), Léon Bérard. It seems that the distinction was given to Kipling more on account of his support of France during World War I than purely for his literary merits. No other person was honoured on that day. The ceremony was followed by a banquet of 200 persons.
... One cannot resume a broken world as easily as one can resume a broken sentence. But before long, our sons who have spent themselves in suffering and toiling to abolish the menace of barbarism, will recover also from the menace of moral lassitude; and will re-establish together the foundations of the peace of the world, not on pious dreams or amiable hopes, but on those ancient virtues of logic, sanity and laboriousness with which her history and her own indomitable genius have dowered France.This address is collected in A Book of Words under the title "A Thesis".
'... la Sorbonne n’a pas songé que je pouvais désirer voir M. Kipling sur le siège d’or où, grâce à moi, elle l’a fait asseoir (…). C’est moi, et bien moi, qui ai signalé Kipling à la France.'In the article by Blaise Wilfert-Portal, "Des bâtisseurs de frontières. Traduction et nationalisme culturel en France, 1880-1930" (in De la traduction et des transferts culturels., C. Lombez et R. von Kulessa eds. Paris : L’Harmattan, 2007), this incident with Louis Fabulet is explained in detail.' [E.R.]
['...The Sorbonne did not think that I might desire to see Mr Kipling seated on the golden throne where, thanks to me, they honored him. (...) I, and I only, brought Kipling to the attention of the French.']
Lockwood gave his son a free pass to the Exposition, which was not yet open to the public, and a franc or two daily to buy his lunch at a cheap restaurant. Rudyard ran wild in Paris, playing at paper-chases in the Tuileries Gardens with an English friend, a Christ’s Hospital boy in blue cassock and yellow stockings.Rudyard was in Paris again for the Exhibition of 1889-1890 by which time the Eiffel Tower had been built. As he recalled in Souvenirs of France (p. 12):
Mostly they prowled in the back premises of the Exposition, talking to the workmen in school-boy French, and exploring among curiosities and art treasures, all the more alluring when half-disengaged from their wrappings. How things were put together, and what they looked like in the workshop, interested Rudyard most of all... He did not learn how much France and the French way of life meant to him until, in middle age, these boyish memories of his first visit gained their significasnce.
I must have made other friendships also – else how did I come to assist at that moonlight pas de quatre in front of the Sorbonne ? A glance into the future would have shown me that I was to be a Doctor of that learned Institute, but I needed all my eyes to watch a gendarme who desired to attach himself to our company merely because we sang to him that Love was an infant of Bohemia ignorant of the Code Napoleon.Roger Lancelyn Green in ORG suggests that the story is a fantasy based in an actual incident, reminiscent of Francois Rabelais (1494-1553), the celebrated French writer, who was famous for his satire, and grotesque bawdy jokes and songs—hence 'Rabelaisian'. See Max Rives' notes on Souvenirs of France.