The Lingering Clasp of the Hand Part 4
The Lingering Clasp of the Hand
It may be questioned whether this poem suggests that lies and prevarication are a part of the process of collaboration, and whether Balestier and Kipling had to engage in mendacity to protect the nature of their literary collaboration.
Set in India, a young woman, Kate, (she is not considered worthy of a surname) comes out to meet an expatriate, Nicholas Tarvin, but is appalled and repelled by the strangeness and difficulty of nineteenth-century India. However, with the usual American pluck she soon becomes the head of the Municipal hospital. The story as it unfolds has echoes of Kipling’s Kim where Kim is to be educated at the St Xavier’s Academy in Lucknow.
“Let me hear, little Pundit. Some day thou wilt become a scribe, and go to the English colleges, and wear a black gown.”
In Kim, St Xavier’s College is an academy “for the sons of Sahibs and half-Sahibs” that trains young men for the benefit of Empire. So, an education received at ‘Nucklao’ will benefit the boy for the rest of his life in soldiering in the whole of Empire.
The little prince in The Naulahka quotes the verse of William Blake that has been a coda to Empire since the late nineteenth century, and is also an elaborated passage that persists throughout this adventure romance. It speaks of a spiritual transcendence in empire that finds expression in the animal kingdom:
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could Frame thy fearful symmetry?
The colonialists are not particularly welcomed in India and as the novel progresses the antipathy towards them deepens, as Maharaj Kunwar says:
“I hate all the English…Their ways are not my ways, and they make such trouble over the killing of a man here and there.”
The civilising mission appears to have been unappreciated in that part of India. The fear of living in an alien East is highlighted by the poem prefacing Chapter 12. An uncomprehending East challenges those from the West who deigned to tread there.
This I saw when the rites were done,
And the lamps were dead and the Gods alone,
And the grey snake coiled on the altar stone -
Ere I fled from a Fear that I could not see,
And the Gods of the East made mouths at me.
The search for the Naulakha is tedious and long. Yet it is found to be worn on the gold cloth on the breast of Maharaj Kumar:
It blazed with the dull red of the ruby, the angry green of the emerald, the cold blue of the sapphire, and the white, hot glory of the diamond. But dulling all these glories was the superb radiance of one gem that lay above the great carved emerald on the central clasp. It was the black diamond – black as the pitch of the infernal lake, and lighted from below with the fires of hell.
Kipling and Balestier write with some passion about the rich jewelry of the Orient, of whose wealth they too may have been in awe, and the search for wealth is well documented in the novel.
The little prince in the story is poisoned by Sitabhai, and Tarvin attempts to track down the Naulakha on the throat of the Maharajah. The Queen attempts a night time seduction of Tarvin in a deserted place, but he is resolute, preferring to follow the pursuit of the Naulakha because “he was there for other things.” And the “other things”, it appears, are the material wealth and riches to be obtained from India. The two “foreigners”, Kipling and Balestier, are keen to possess a thing of value, arguably the proceeds from their joint adventure romance enterprise. The colonialist plot continues with its exploitative designs on the wealth and riches of India, yet this interpretation may well have been unavailable to their contemporary readers, unaccustomed to criticism of the established order.
The black diamond is more valuable to Tarvin than the results of any sexual conquest of him by the beautiful Indian princess, and he resolutely shuns her for the delight of the possession of the amazing Naulakha necklace:
It was a good moment for Tarvin. His life gathered into it. Topaz was safe.
And so, too, was Tarvin’s fortune and future with a priceless jewel in his pocket and a mere promise made to the Queen to return and be her paramour, in a further instance of colonial perfidy. Might the character of Kate be taken to represent Carrie Kipling and does this reflect at all Kipling’s relations with Carrie at this time, it might be asked, if the proceeds from The Naulahka sale were in Kipling’s pocket and he wished to return to England without her?
Morality catches up on colonialism at the end of the novel and Nick Tarvin is unable to go through with his colonialist plans. Nick is unable to proceed with the theft of the necklace and, due to his moral scruples, returns the Naulakha to the Queen, not without some regret for: “The great green emerald pierced him, he thought, with a reproachful gaze.” He achieves redemption and finds consolation in love: he is left with the realisation that “in his heart, the knowledge that he had lost the Naulahka and gained Kate” is final. An indication that the character Nick Tarvin could be taken to represent Wolcott Balestier is given by the fact that the protagonist is of American origin and that the war-cry of his State reechoes:
It is not wealth nor rank nor state,
But get-up-and-git that makes man great.
The identification of an all-American character who is an “Englishman who was not an Englishman and therefore doubly incomprehensible”, underlines the idea that the American, Walcott Balestier, could be the hero of the story. The female character, Kate, “had lived with her face to the West – and with her smouldering eyes fixed upon the wilderness since she could walk” is also American. She had gone to school in St Louis, and might be taken to represent Carrie Kipling.
At the end of the novel Nick remains in India until he can persuade Kate to marry him, leave the necklace and return to the United States with his fiancée who finally realised that she now possessed “nothing more than a woman’s complete contentment with the fact that there was a man in the world to do things for her, though she had not yet learned to lose her interest in how they were done.” It may be asked if the redoubtable, “bossy, censorious” Carrie would have held a similar opinion on the occasion of her marriage to Kipling. It is unlikely, to follow Adam Nicolson, that she would have been so quiescent. “She would never have been content, as late-Victorian London might have preferred, to submit to the decorative role the English still required of their women”, writes Nicolson. A heterosexual tale with its ingredients of patriarchy, misogyny and colonialism, it provided Walcott Balestier and Kipling with an amusing interlude to dream of the high points of empire, double writing and male bonding.
Mutual Admiration: Haggard and Kipling.
The relationship between Haggard and Kipling was based on a mutual admiration for each other's work. Their activities at the Savile Club in 1891, where Haggard was one of Kipling's supporters for membership, are reflected in their fictional activities where bonded males set out on adventures together. Haggard, according to a letter written by Henry James to Stevenson, was an "immortal" who had been "killed" by Kipling's arrival on the literary scene:
We'll tell you all about Rudyard Kipling - your nascent rival. He has killed one immortal Rider Haggard, the star of the hour, aged 24 and author of remarkable anglo-indian (sic) and extraordinarily observed barrack life -Tommy Atkins tales.
During the period in question, Haggard and Kipling frequently visited each other’s homes. Haggard and Kipling spending the day at Bateman's leads to the hypothesis that theirs was the literature of dual production with a penchant for seeing the “light” in each other. They reach for the higher aim of romance-writing whilst, paradoxically, by producing Allan and the Ice Gods as a bonding team, they engage in something that might be considered at that time by some prudish commentators such as J. K Stephen and Jerome K. Jerome to have been a dark activity. Haggard and Kipling admired each other's abilities as if the imagination of the one lighted up the sky of the other:
...for in Kipling there is more light than in any other living man I know, the same sort of light that distinguished Lang when he dropped the shield of persiflage with which he hid his heart. There is a suggestion here of the petty rivalries, objections and jealousies abounding in this group. And on another occasion, returning home from a visit to Bateman's, Haggard entered in his diary a further reference to the "light" which Kipling exuded and the possession of a faculty which was for Haggard the gift of intelligence:
"He has a marvellously fertile mind and I never knew anyone quite so quick at seizing and developing an idea. We spent a most amusing two hours over the plot and I have brought home the results in several sheets of MS. Written by him and myself." Diary Entry. 30. 01. 1922. D. S. Higgins (ed.) The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard (New York: Sein and Day, 1980) 236.
This Neville Chamberlain style discourse is symbolical and religious and also has resonances of Freemasonry where the light emanates from the all-seeing eye. Kipling stimulated Haggard artistically, and the "light" energised Haggard, perhaps causing the image of him to dance in its refracting rays. But the use of the word “light” implies more than just ideas. It suggests that they shared a cultural affinity in every aspect of their collaboration.
At their frequent meetings Kipling assisted in Haggard’s work-in-progress. Their relationship was close enough to allow for the exchange of houses as well as extended visits. Haggard was a guest at Bateman's on a number of occasions, where they worked on the drafts of Haggard's Red Eve (1911) to create the character of Murgh, whilst Kipling reciprocated with a visit paid by his family to Haggard's house in Suffolk. Haggard's notebooks show that Kipling often went over his work with the other writer. In one diary entry Haggard records: "We talked a great deal on many subjects, making plots for books etc. He read me some of his plays and we discussed others." This kind of collaborative method was also recorded by Ford in his account of collaboration with Conrad.
Kipling and Haggard became acquainted in London, a circle of friends having introduced Kipling to membership of the Savile Club where he and Haggard met. The cultural significance of this particular club lies in its membership of an artistic coterie of people including Haggard, Lang and James. "I took to him at once", Kipling remembered, "he being the stamp adored by children and trusted by men at sight." The Savile Club was in a state of heightened expectation when Kipling joined its ranks. John Addington Symonds recalled the rivalry and jealousy occasioned in Haggard by the arrival on the literary/social scene of Kipling, noticing that,
the Savile was all on the qui vive about him, when I lunched there with Gosse. Rider Haggard appeared really aggrieved at a man with a double-barrelled name, odder than his own, coming up. Literally.
There may well have been a class significance in the surnames of writers, such as Lockwood Kipling, in the period. The rivalries and pettinesses of literary cliques over such matters are part of the “objections” occasioned by jealous writers.
Kipling confessed that he took the idea for his Jungle Book from an inspiration which came to him on reading Haggard's Nada the Lily (1892):
It chanced that I had written a tale about Indian Forestry work which included a boy who had been brought up by wolves. In the stillness, and suspense, of the winter of '92 some memory of the Masonic Lions of my childhood's magazine, and a phrase in Haggard’s Nada the Lily combined with the echo of this tale. After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals, which later grew into the Jungle Books.
Kipling’s inspiration had come from tuning in to snatches of the sounds of Haggard’s adventure novel, and from listening for the echoes from a boys’ magazine, suggesting that the two authors were in tune with each other’s work to a feverish pitch. Also in a letter of 1909 from his mature period he asks: "Now let's have Murgh put in going order?" On one side of the Bateman's stationery can be seen an annotation from Haggard which confirms their collaboration, "Bateman's / Kipling's idea of Murgh, 5. 10. 08." It is certain that Kipling helped, at least, in the creation of the character, Murgh. Playing with names for Murgh through Murth, Murg and Morg appears as a ghoulish pastime for the two men who start with the idea of "Death" and end, by route of the morgue, in Murgh, the name eventually chosen. It is noteworthy that they should be toying with the dark side of life — death and corruption — when they were engaged in the high-flown literary activity of writing adventure romances. It reflects the nature of a project that cannot even be announced as coming from the pen of joint authors who wrote on dark subjects because of the potential for allegations of homosexuality.
Haggard collaborated with Kipling in the writing of Allan and the Ice Gods (1927) and documentary evidence of this collaboration, from February 1922, exists in the note which Haggard signed:
Synopsis of story drawn up by Rudyard K & myself at Batemans (sic) [Feb. 1922] H. Rider Haggard.
The intensity of their togetherness evokes a grateful compliment from Haggard:
I have just returned from spending a most interesting day with the Kiplings at Bateman's. As usual Kipling and I talked till we were tired about everything in heaven above and the earth beneath. Incidentally too, we hammered out the skeleton plot for a romance I propose to write under some such title as Allan and the Ice Gods.
These four manuscript sheets, listing the characters' names in regular block capitals and the note of their characteristics in longhand, also reveals Kipling's neat, compact handwriting reflecting his careful nature. Haggard’s hand is copperplate, methodical and regular indicating a composed and astute mind. The fact that there is more input in Kipling's hand than in Haggard's points to his (Kipling's) detailed involvement in the collaboration. Editing their work together and including names for their creations in the world of the Icelandic gods, the two operated as a pair outlining ideas for a novel covering the whole philosophy of the two worlds of earth and heaven. It deals in characters whose names — "Whaka, the Bird-of -Ill-Omen: one who howls", and "Pitokite, a churl" — suggest an unusual undertaking for one author, let alone two, who wish to write heavenly romances but turn to the lower world of witches and "churls”.
Haggard and Kipling turn to a form in Allan and the Ice Gods in which they can play out their fantasies. The use of hallucinatory drugs by the characters Allan Quatermain and his male friend, Captain Good, is a disturbing element in their final text. Allan cannot resist the silver box filled with Taduki leaves. It sends him on what the publicity for the novel describes as "a strange and thrilling adventure". The effects of the Taduki leaves can cause the user to transcend time, so that when Allan indulges he falls into a deep sleep and becomes Wi, the Hunter. Haggard ensures that, as Wi, he conquers the giant, Henga, and becomes the chief of the whole tribe in the land of the Ice gods; and Kipling, in the mantle of Moananga, captures the affections of Tana with whom he forms a relationship. Subsuming their passions for each other, they engage in a dream sequence where their fantasies can be played out at leisure. Allan wakes from the dream with a clear mind, having taking part in a vision of extraordinary range travelling to the ancient lands of the Ice Gods to meet Pag, Laleela, Aaka, Wini-Wini and many others from the mysterious ice world on a "vast central glacier, the house of the gods". It becomes a world of witches and she-gods and they appear in a text in which Haggard and Lang imagine a drug-induced adventure, with all the implications of lies and deceit that may be ascribed to the effects of drugs.
When Quatermain and Good recover after inhaling the opiate, they compare notes and find, to their amazement, that they have both taken part in the same adventure and can fill in gaps and explain its details to each other. In the adventure Allan also meets Moananga who is Captain Good's alter ego and interacts with him as Wi, the Hunter, to the extent that Good believes that he (Wi) was his brother. Coming round from the trance, Good exclaims:
Dash it all! Wi, you haven't forgotten your own brother, have you, who stuck to you through thick and thin - well, like a brother in a book.
Again, this is a reflection of bonding in real life resulting in partnership in the finished text. Haggard and Kipling create a scenario about which a late-Victorian audience would be apprehensive, since it was so drug-induced and far-removed from its conventional realities. The use of laudanum was a prevalent part of late-Victorian social culture creating great distress. It was exemplified by the “Confessions of a Young Lady Laudanum-Drinker” of 1889. Laudanum or opium-imbibing continued to be a source of inspiration to some artists, but its use was prohibited by law. Indeed, the use of opium was widespread in Victorian times and the drug may have been more freely available than the basic necessities of life, as Mathew Sweet has suggested.
As they recover from the effects of the drug, Allan cannot understand why Moananga (Good) did not want to know from him about the girl, Tana, rather than enquire about the whereabouts of Laleela. Good explains that one tall woman, possibly Laleela, had sacrificed herself to the others in the ill-fated canoe, as it sped away in a fierce current, by jumping out. But it may just as easily have been the other tall woman, Aaka, so the mystery remained as to both their fates in the dying moments of the drama to escape the break-up of the ice-floe.
It is strange that Haggard should acknowledge, in the finished text, that the envelope in which the letter he receives from Lady Ragnall should have been sealed with the ancient Egyptian ring that her husband, Lord Ragnall, had given her:
...the envelope, by the way, was sealed with the ancient Egyptian ring that my late friend Lord Ragnall had found and given to his wife just before his terrible fate overtook him.
This is too close to the actual giving of a lapis lazuli ring, as I revealed in Part 2, by Lang to Haggard to be mere coincidence. It is a permanent and deeply rooted feature of Haggard's relationship with his other collaborator, Lang, and has not been mentioned by previous commentators.
Haggard's diary shows an ability on his and Kipling's part to enjoy each other's presence without irritability or embarrassment. Haggard would sit and Kipling would write for days on end:
On Sunday and Monday I sat in his study while he worked and after a while he got up and remarked to me that my presence did not bother him a bit; he supposed because we were two of a trade.
A lengthy conversation with Kipling was seemingly all that was required to prove the depth of their sincerity, and their relationship could go ahead founded on discussions and musings in the study. Revealingly, Haggard owned to his diary: "...A long talk with Kipling is now one of the greatest pleasures I have left in life, but I don't think he talks like that with anyone else; indeed he said as much to me." This strength of emotion indicates a jealous preoccupation with Kipling on the part of Haggard. Their intimacy is indicated by Haggard’s possessive remarks about his closeness to Kipling.
Haggard appeared to be so fond of him that he dedicated The Way of the Spirit (1906) to Kipling with a note to the effect that they had both planned the outline of the novel together:
My dear Kipling, - Both of us believe that there are higher aims in life than the weaving of stories well or ill and according to our separate occasions strive to fulfil this faith. Still, when we talked together of the plan of this tale, and when you read the written book your judgement thereof was such as all of us hope for from an honest and instructed friend - generally in vain. So, as you found interest in it, I offer it to you, in token of much I cannot write. But you will understand.
Haggard's inability to write, and Kipling's alleged ability to understand the reasons why not, in this piece, arguably arise out of some inexpressible taboo or repression with reference to their relationship. Their reluctance to express matters openly arises either out of notions of gender difference current at the time, or, of course, Haggard is simply being modest, or realistic, about his abilities. There is a feeling that male writers were unable to express emotions to each other, with which artists working in a later period would have encountered no difficulty.
The bondings which took place were not only between the main six groups discussed in this dissertation – Haggard and Kipling, Kipling and Balestier, Haggard and Lang, and those between Henley and Stevenson, Conrad and Ford, and Stevenson and Osbourne were interconnected as well. I do not deal in any depth with collaboration between Haggard and Stevenson, which could have occurred theoretically, for Stevenson wrote to Haggard from Skerryvore, Bournemouth, in December 1885. Stevenson requested him to collaborate, asking at the end of his letter in a post script, "How about a deed of partnership?" suggesting that a formal partnership may have been envisaged. Nothing seems to have resulted from the request in this instance, however.