Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

While reading about the lives of Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I noticed that they had a few elements in common in addition to having lived in Southsea.

Artistic fathers
Both men had fathers who illustrated their books.

Conan Doyle’s father Charles Altamont Doyle was one of the first artists to depict Sherlock Holmes. His drawings were used for the 1888 edition of A Study in Scarlet.

John Lockwood Kipling illustrated his son’s Jungle Books.

Here is an example of each man’s work:


Sherlock Holmes is the tall man in the middle. I much prefer Sidney Paget’s depiction of the great detective!


Bereaved wives
Both Rudyard Kipling and Conan Doyle married women they met through the women’s brothers, brothers who both died young.

Conan Doyle met fellow Southsea resident Louise Hawkins when her brother Jack became a patient of his. He took the young man into his care at his house in Elm Grove, but the patient soon died. He was only 25 years old. Dr Doyle and Louise soon became engaged and then married. Unfortunately, she too died young and Conan Doyle remarried.

Rudyard Kipling met American-born Caroline Starr Balestier when her brother Wolcott, a writer and publisher who wrote a book jointly with Kipling, introduced her to his famous friend. Wolcott died two years later at the age of 29, and Kipling proposed to Caroline soon afterwards.

Sacrificed sons
Both men were devastated by the loss of their sons during the First World War.

Conan Doyle’s son Alleyne Kingsley was 25 when he died. An earlier injury had reduced his resistance to the flu epidemic that killed millions.

Kipling’s son John was 18 years old when he was killed.

Central London lodgings
Both men lived for a while in a very central area of London, near Charing Cross Station.

Conan Doyle spent some time in the now demolished Morley’s Hotel, where South Africa House now stands; he worked on The Hound of the Baskervilles while he was staying there.

Kipling took rooms over a music hall in what is now called Kipling House in nearby Villiers Street. He wrote The Light that Failed while he was staying there.

Both Conan Doyle’s house in Southsea and his central London hotel have been demolished; both Rudyard Kipling’s House of Desolation in Southsea and his central London lodgings are still standing.

Morley’s Hotel before it was demolished:



Kipling House today:



Houses in East Sussex
Both men moved many times in their lives until they finally settled down, and just as they both found lodgings in central London, both men found their forever homes in East Sussex.

Conan Doyle moved into a house called Windlesham on the outskirts of Crowborough, East Sussex in 1907, shortly after his second marriage. He died in this house in 1930.

Rudyard Kipling moved into Batemans in Burwash in 1902. He died there in 1936.

Crowborough and Burwash are just 11 miles apart.

Windlesham on 11th July 1930, a few days after Conan Doyle’s death:





Batemans today:


The Brethren
Both men were Freemasons.

Conan Doyle became a Mason in 1887, when he was 27 years old.

Rudyard Kipling became a Mason in India at the age of 20.

Conan Doyle doesn’t mention Freemasons in his autobiographical work Memories and Adventures.

Kipling writes about becoming a Mason in Something of Myself.

Conan Doyle’s works contain a few, incidental references to Masons and Masonry.

Masonic Lodges are featured in some of Kipling’s stories and his works in general are full of Masonic allusions.

Boer War propaganda
Both men publicly declared their support for the British government in the Boer War of 1899 to 1902. They thought that the war between Britain and the Boer republics was justified and expressed the wishes of the British people.

While they respected the Boers, they defended Britain’s conduct in South Africa and the treatment of the captives in various jingoistic works. They both highlighted the sufferings of British troops.

Conan Doyle served in South Africa as a volunteer doctor to the troops, so had first-hand experience of the conflict. He received his knighthood for a pamphlet he wrote defending British actions during the war, actions that included burning the Boers’ farms and creating ‘concentration camps’ for Boer women, children and the elderly where many died. He sent this pamphlet to every man in Europe whose opinion counted.

Kipling became intensely involved in the war. He was unquestioning, not to say fanatical, in his support of British policies in southern Africa. He travelled out to South Africa every year from 1900 to 1908. He visited hospitals and worked on a newspaper for the troops.

First World War propaganda
Both men were enlisted to write in support of the Government’s views and policies in the 1914 – 1918 war in Europe.

When the First World War broke out, Conan Doyle was one of a number of famous authors who were secretly recruited by the War Propaganda Bureau to write pro-war propaganda and to promote Britain’s interests at home and abroad. However, Conan Doyle also used his fame to campaign on behalf of British soldiers who were “fighting for the freedom of the world”.

When the British government asked Kipling to write propaganda in support of the war effort, he jumped at the chance. His pamphlets and stories painted the British military as the place to become a hero, fighting for the cause of good against evil, civilization against barbarism.

It all ended in personal tragedy for both of them.