British author Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on December 30, 1865, to British parents John Lockwood Kipling and Alice (née MacDonald) Kipling, who had settled there, India being a colony of Great Britain at the time. John Kipling was an artist and head of the architectural sculpture department of the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay.
As was common in that day, Kipling and his sister Alice were sent to England to be educated. They stayed with foster parents, the Holloways, from 1871 to 1877. Kipling later wrote about his mistreatment at the hands of the Holloways. His parents finally removed him and placed him in a boarding school in Devon, where he flourished, and first began to find his voice as a writer.
Academically, he was not brilliant enough to go to Oxford or Cambridge on scholarship, and his parents could not afford to send him otherwise. Therefore in 1882 (at age 17) he returned to India and became a reporter on a local English-language newspaper. Kipling loved the Indian culture and people, and his first published book of short stories, Plain Tales From the Hills, was inspired by these years.
In 1889 Kipling returned to England, where his writing was becoming very popular. He met an American publisher, Wolcott Balestier, who became a dear friend, and introduced Kipling to his family in Vermont—particularly his sister, Carrie. Balestier died suddenly of typhoid fever at Christmas 1891. Kipling and Carrie Balestier were married in January of 1892.
They settled in Vermont, and for the next four years Kipling was even more prolific, publishing Barracks-Room Ballads (which includes “Gunga Din”); the two Jungle Books, Captains Courageous, and another volume of poetry. While in Vermont, their first child was born, a daughter named Josephine (1893). Three years later, Elsie was born (1896). The Kiplings then moved to England, where their son, John, was born. By this time, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the English language!
In 1899, during the difficult trans-Atlantic crossing on their last visit to America, Kipling and his daughter Josephine became very ill with pneumonia. Kipling eventually recovered, but Josephine did not. Kipling vowed never to return to America.
He published Just So Stories in 1902, a collection of fanciful “origins” stories he wrote as a tribute to Josephine. He had first invented them for her as bedtime stories, and she would beg him to repeat them “just so” (e.g., just the way he told them the first time).
In 1907 Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature–the first English-language writer to receive it, and still the youngest. Among his other well-known works are the poems “Mandalay” (1890) and “If” and the novels Kim (1901) and Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906).
Kipling was a strong supporter of England’s role in World War I, and encouraged his son, John, to enlist. However, plagued by the same eye problems his father suffered, John was turned down for British service. Kipling was finally able to use his connections to get his son enlisted as a 2nd lieutenant in the Irish Guards. Sadly, John went missing in action in October 1915 and his body was never recovered.