Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

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"I don't know - I've never kippled."
"What is the lesson of history?" asks the marginal note on the last substantive page of A History of England by C. R. L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling (1911). I received my copy a day or two back - a large-format first edition, twice the size of the school edition published at the same time, though the content is the same. Admittedly it's not mint: it has been read by children - specifically B. Eversley, into whose hands it passed on 25th September of that year - but it's still complete, and a definite bargain at £0.99 on Ebay. I particularly like this impression of the south-east coast in AD 43:

AD 43


The books ends with a comparison of the authors' own times and those of a century previously - which is naturally of interest to a reader from a century further on. I won't quote the whole thing, but I was struck by their comments on the cheap cost of modern postage: "Letters [in 1815] cost twopence apiece for the smallest weight and the smallest distance; a single-sheet letter from London to Edinburgh cost 1s. 1d." News to me, I must admit.

Also:

The first railway was opened in 1829 between Liverpool and Manchester; already people are wondering when the first service of passenger airships will begin to cut out railways for long journeys, as electric tramways and motor-cars have begun to cut out horses and railways alike for short ones. The first steamship began to ply the Clyde in 1812; it was of three horse-power and moved at five miles an hour; the Mauretania, of 30,000 horse-power, now crosses the Atlantic in five days. During the Great War [i.e. the Napoleonic Wars] a system of wooden signals from hill-top to hill-top, worked by hand, would carry a message from Dover to London in about an hour; now the electric telegraph flashes messages round the world in a few minutes.


Do we hear the accent of the eugenicist, or merely of the cynic, in this remark?

The discovery of chloroform in 1847 has reduced human suffering to a degree which we can hardly conceive; and the other improvements in medicine and surgery have saved and prolonged countless useful, as well as many useless, lives.


We end with this peroration, which made my mother scoff when she looked it over yesterday. But if we may have counterfactual histories, counterfactual futures should need no justification.

In the common sense of the word 'happy', these and and a thousand other inventions have no doubt made us happier than our great-grandfathers were. Have they made us better, braver, more self-denying, more manly men and boys, more tender, more affectionate, more home-loving women and girls? It is for you boys and girls, who are growing up, to resolve that you will be all these things, and to be true to your resolutions.
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Do we hear the accent of the eugenicist, or merely of the cynic, in this remark?

The discovery of chloroform in 1847 has reduced human suffering to a degree which we can hardly conceive; and the other improvements in medicine and surgery have saved and prolonged countless useful, as well as many useless, lives.


Sounds like a dig at elderly gouty squires.

Perhaps. It's not as if the latest medical techniques were being wasted on the poor in those pre-NHS times.

Thus the tense indicates.

I've never actually met this book outside of Kipling's contributory verses. It sounds like it's bring-the-popcorn level of entertainment.

---L.

I'd say that's about right. I'd very much like to know how much (if anything) Kipling contributed beyond the poems - and indeed how he came to be involved in writing such a book. (With luck I can answer both questions later today by consulting a biography.)

My understanding was just the poems, but I'm curious what you find out.

---L.

Unfortunately I got diverted from the library, but I will try again next week and report back!

Why are the Romans being attacked by 19th century African tribesmen?

Either they walked straight into a coachload of Ashanti tourists, or the Britons have gone overboard on woad.

Also at least one of the Romans is wearing tights.

The Kent coast can be quite nippy at that time of year.

(Deleted comment)
In the days of Claudius they apparently began not at Calais but in Richborough.

If you check out the spoof account "Elizabeth Fry" on twitter, she lists the same complaints about Churchill as you could list against Kipling. Imperialism, casual racism, ingrained sexism, and a redoubtable failure to "check their privilege". If we can extrapolate from n=2 to the whole population, it's good to see how far we've come as a nation, with regard to attitude and societal norms. Progress R Us!

And the picture? Huge LOLZ.

I'm not sure one can take Kipling and Churchill (or even Fletcher - who he?) as a random sample of the population, but there was certainly a lot of it about!

My understanding is that the invention of postage stamps in the 1840s was connected with a reform of postal rates, so that, for letters, domestic distance no longer mattered, and rates were much less expensive.

That makes sense. It occurs to me too that the coming of the train network must have introduced logstical economies into the transport of mail.

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