Nearly forty years ago I used sometimes to encounter Rudyard Kipling’s only surviving child, Mrs Elsie Bambridge, while walking along the path in front of her stately home, Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge. A solid lady in tweeds, occasionally carrying a shotgun, she would emerge from the red-brick pile (which now belongs to the National Trust) and berate me and my friends for trespassing. Our answer was that we were on a clearly signed public footpath. But she would have none of this, insisting that there was no right of way and that our presence was an unwarrantable intrusion. In the end, as a Kipling fan, I offered to desist if she would show us over the house. She turned away abruptly, seemingly as much appalled by the prospect as by the impertinence. I never saw her again.
This is a trivial anecdote but it does reveal something of the Kipling family’s passion for privacy, which resulted in the destruction of nearly all the first-hand evidence about Rudyard’s life. Determined that no one was going to make a monkey out of him after his death, as he put