Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is perhaps best known for his children's literature and their exotic settings. Born in Bombay, British India, he never quite forgot his eastern roots, though he spent much of his life in England. He also lived for a while in the U.S. and travelled to South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. As typical, an author's experience influences his writings, and Kipling's experiences were maybe a bit more adventurous than other authors.
As one might surmise, Wikipedia offers a lengthy article on the man and his works, which are prolific. Obviously, I won't cover much of it here, but just a few important points. Kipling's mother, Alice, is described as "remarkable" and "vivacious." His father, John Lockwood Kipling was an artist—a sculptor and pottery designer, and was the Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the newly founded Sir Jamsettjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay. Kipling was named after the beautiful Rudyard Lake area in Rudyard, Staffordshire, England, where his parents met and courted. In 1871, Rudyard, age five, and his sister Alice, age three, were sent to England for their education. They lived with the family from hell. About that, he said, "I have known a certain amount of bullying, but this was calculated torture. . . ." Fortunately, the children had an wonderful aunt whom they visited on holidays, and who later often asked why she was never told of the way they were treated at the Holloways. Their mother returned to England and removed the children from this prison in 1877. Late in life, upon writing his autobiography, Kipling "wondered ironically if the combination of cruelty and neglect which he experienced there at the hands of Mrs. Holloway might not have hastened the onset of his literary life."
Kipling returned to Lahore, Punjab, (which is now Pakistan), and where his father was now curator of the Lahore Museum, and also where the beginning of Kipling's novel, Kim, takes place. The curator in the novel was modeled after his father. Lockwood got Rudyard a job as assistant editor of a small local newspaper. Here he started publishing his stories—thirty-nine of them between 1886-87. In 1889, Kipling began traveling the Far East, to San Franciso, through the rest of the U.S., (where he met Mark Twain), then on to London. He had a nervous breakdown, then met the American publisher, Wolcott Balestier, and traveled some more. Balestier died suddenly of typhoid fever. Kipling later married his sister, Carrie.
After the Kiplings were married, they visited the Balestier estate in Vermont, then went on to Japan, where they learned their bank had crashed. They returned to Vermont, poor and expecting a child. Josephine was born December 29, 1892. It is she who is the "Best Beloved" that Kipling addresses in his Just So Stories. She died at age six.
Inner and outer forces began to erode the Kipling marriage and life in New England. They returned to England in 1896, shortly after the birth of their second child, Elsie, the only one to survive past adolescence. John was born in 1897, and died in WWI. The Kiplings continued to travel and it was on a trip back to the U.S. that both he and Josephine contracted pneumonia, from which she died. All of this information, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Kipling was extremely prolific as a journalist, poet, and writer of novels and short stories. He was the youngest recipient, ever, of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1907. He also declined several offers of Knighthood. And as for his historic reputation, Wikipedia quotes literary critic Douglas Kerr:
[Kipling] is still an author who can inspire passionate disagreement and his place in literary and cultural history is far from settled. But as the age of the European empires recedes, he is recognised as an incomparable, if controversial, interpreter of how empire was experienced. That, and an increasing recognition of his extraordinary narrative gifts, make him a force to be reckoned with.
I absolutely love his works, and many have become household names, even without realizing it, for instance The Jungle Book made popular by Disney. I strongly recommend his works, even more so if you have children and grandchildren with whom to share. Enjoy this Index, and expect it to grow.