Rudyard Kipling was both a writer and an important public figure, as likely to be seen in the company of his friend King George V or speaking at a recruitment rally as among his fellow writers. During his lifetime – in progressive circles, at least–he came to be regarded as no more than a crude and vulgar Imperialist, a kind of literary Cecil Rhodes. But there was always more to him than that – as George Orwell made clear in a pioneering essay of 1941. Since Orwell’s time, there have been many reassessments and Kipling’s literary reputation now stands as high as it has ever done.
By nature, Kipling was an outsider, turning down a knighthood, the Laureateship and even the O M. His daughter, Mrs George Bambridge, who died in 1976, guarded his posthumous reputation fiercely. Having given the second Lord Birkenhead permission to write a biography shortly after World War II, she was so