Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Getting to know Mr. Kipling - Visiting Rudyard Kipling's family home

While staying with Janette and Martyn in Sussex at the end of April it was suggested we visit Bateman's which was Rudyard Kipling's family home in nearby Burwash.  I had never heard of it to be honest but thought "why not"?  The four of us which included my German friend Claudia set off for what turned out to be a very enjoyable few hours learning more about Mr. Kipling, the family man.

Bateman's is now a property of the National Trust which is an organization dedicated to the preservation and conservation of historic homes, properties and countryside.

Bateman's was built in 1634 by a local ironmaster. Mr. Kipling, his American wife Caroline and their two children moved into Bateman's in 1902.   It was said that both he and Caroline fell in love with the house at first sight.  I can see why!

Whimsical cartoons of the children.

One of the beautiful pieces of art in the house.

Some first editions of his books

What a gorgeous view!

Rudyard Kipling's study  - above and below.   My kind of room!

Rudyard's Kipling desk!

It was a cozy family home and it seemed like they had just stepped out for the afternoon and would be back soon.

We attended an information session on the family as well.  It's a tragic story.  

Of course we all know Rudyard Kipling was the famous author of such classics as "Kim" and"The Jungle Book".   Rudyard was born in Bombay, India on December 30, 1865 to British parents John and Alice Kipling.   One of the interesting facts about him is that his first name (which you have to admit is quite unusual),came from the name of the lake where his parents had their first date.  How romantic is that?  Little Rudyard was sent to Southsea, England in 1871 to be educated.  This was a dark time in the young lad's life as his foster mother, Mrs. Holloway beat and bullied him.  He also had terrible problems fitting in at school. His only reprieve was a month with relatives in London at term break.  For whatever reason he kept the problems of his foster home and school to himself; not sharing with any of his family. Young Rudyard took solace in reading until Mrs. Holloway took away his books. He managed to sneak a few books into his room and read them while deviously moving the furniture around at the same time so it appeared he was playing! At the age of 11 he was close to a nervous breakdown but luckily a family friend noticed his desperate state while visiting him at his foster home and contacted his parents. His mother rushed to England, took him out of the foster home and together they went on an extended vacation.  She then registered him at a school in Devon where he flourished.

After completing his education he returned to India to live in Lahore (now in Pakistan) with his parents where he became a copy editor.  From there he expanded into writing and well...the rest is history.  He returned to England in 1889 and then journeyed across the Atlantic to America. It was here that he met his wife Caroline (Carrie) Balestier whom he married in 1891.  The young couple settled in Vermont and welcomed two daughters: Josephine born in 1893 and Elsie born in 1896. Later in 1896 the family moved back to England.  In 1897 their first son and last child John was born. In 1899 a journey back to New York changed their lives forever.  On the frigid winter crossing both Kipling and Josephine contracted pneumonia.  By this time Kipling was well known and the world kept watch on his condition via daily newspaper reports.  While he recovered, sadly his adored first child did not.  Rudyard was not informed of his daughter's death for a few weeks as it was feared he would suffer a relapse. His wife could not bear to tell him so his publisher told him the tragic news.  It was said that he never recovered from Josephine's death as she was the light of his life.  In 1902, a year after "Kim" was published the family moved into Bateman's.

I loved this house!  I can only imagine how beautiful the gardens would be in the summer.

At Bateman's Kipling thought he had found the happiness he had lost with the death of Josephine and continued to write.  The year he moved into Bateman's he completed his "Just So" stories which were a tribute to Josephine.  In fact the title came from Josephine who always asked him to tell her his stories like he had before or "just so" as she called it.

In 1907 Rudyard Kipling won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sadly there was one more great loss...his only son John was killed in the First World War in 1915.   John went missing in France and Kipling went there to try to find him.  Kipling no doubt felt guilty as he had encouraged his son to enlist.  His body was never recovered which devastated Kipling. The remaining child Elsie was known to say that both her parents mourned the loss of these children for the rest of their lives.

Rudyard Kipling died at Bateman's of a haemorrhage on January 18, 1936 and his ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey, London.   Upon her death in 1939 Caroline Kipling bequeathed the house to the National Trust.

Image Credit

What an interesting visit it was and fascinating to learn more about this talented writer.  Thanks to Janette and Martyn for taking me there!

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