31 Days in Europe: Rudyard Kipling’s Batemans

Image via ageofuncertainty.blogspot.com

A controversial British imperialist and patriot even in his own time, Rudyard Kipling nevertheless remains a respected author and poet. In 1907, at age 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and he is still its youngest recipient. Kipling’s home in Burwash, East Sussex, is proof positive of his popularity and fame. Rudyard Kipling and his family moved to East Sussex, England, in 1897, and in 1902, purchased a 1634 manor house with extensive surrounding lands.

The view from the "backyard."

Image credit: Got My Reservations

Image via amazon.com

It was here that Kipling lived during the height of his popularity and fame. As an American visitor who sadly really only knows Kipling through Disney’s version of The Jungle Book, I have been influenced by the charges of racism and condescension leveled at Kipling. I was surprised by the amount of fame and fortune that Kipling received during his time at Batemans.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Batemans, and thankfully, like many English stately homes and castles, it has become a shrine to the memory of its last owner. After the death of Kipling’s wife in 1939, his house was given to the National Trust and is now a public museum dedicated to the author. Elsie, his only child who lived to maturity, died childless in 1976, and bequeathed her Kipling copyrights to the National Trust.

We visited Batemans with English friends, and upon our return home, received a copy of a movie about the Kiplings as a gift from our friends. My Boy Jack, a BBC movie about Kipling’s only son who was killed in WWI, starring Daniel Radcliffe in the middle of his Harry Potter run (he had bodyguards on the Jack set), is a poignant look at Kipling’s patriotism and his subsequent behavior when he experienced personally the consequences of war.

Several scenes from the movie were filmed at Batemans, and it was fun to see rooms we remembered and photographed when we toured the estate.

Main entrance hall -- Image credit: Got My Reservations

One of the most touching scenes in the movie occurs in the Kipling bedroom, when he and his wife Carrie (Sex and the City‘s Kim Cattrall in a quietly moving performance) realize that they must regroup and move on. The guide in this room told us that the bed hangings and spread were meticulously copied and remade exactly like the original embroidered linens. This bed was very recognizable in the movie.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

If you are ever in East Sussex, do plan to visit Batemans. Our visit was kind of spur-of-the-moment, as we had pretty much run out of castles to visit at that point in our vacation. Easily overlooked and skipped in a frantic tour of the wonders of southeast England, Batemans is a very personal look at a literary legend, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to visit.

Kipling wrote a poem when his son went missing in France during the Battle of Loos, which has become a classic along with the rest of his work. Entitled “My Boy Jack” it asks the question that every parent fears.

Have you news of my boy Jack?’

Not this tide.
‘When d’you think that he’ll come back?’
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

‘Has any one else had word of him?’
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

‘Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?’
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind–
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

This post is linked up with hundreds of other 31 Day-ers. Join the fun and visit other bloggers as they share a piece of themselves. I’m number 574, by the way.

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6 responses

  1. beautiful pics…and a lot more fun with the story!

  2. I don’t know if I’ll be able to manage a story with all 31 posts, but you know me. I can’t resist an opportunity to give the history of anything. It’s a genetic thing…

  3. How fascinating! I wish I could say I’ve been to all the places in my Europe series, but sadly for the most part it will just be daydreaming!

  4. I absolutely love your topic!!! 🙂 Thank you for letting me travel along with you 🙂

    I blog at ‘Only A Breath’, and I’d love for you to stop by when you have time. I’m writing about “31 Days to Love Your Neighbor”. 🙂
    Have a great day!
    Melanie 🙂

  5. This is so beautiful. I am a huge Kipling fan and love reading his stories to my children. Our fave so far is Kim. Thank you for such history!! I want to download your posts and turn it into a book!!

    xoxo michele

  6. I’m thinking of revisiting Kipling now that I have some background information that will put him in perspective.

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