David Gilmour’s witty and elegant, original and useful book chronicles “Kipling’s political life, his early role as apostle of the Empire, the embodiment of imperial aspiration, and his later one as the prophet of national decline.” Sympathetic yet aware of Kipling’s faults, Gilmour shows that his ideas were more subtle than those of a crude imperialist. Kipling’s political causes included
British rule in India, Imperial Federation, Tariff Reform, the survival of France, compulsory military service, the preservation of Ulster from home-ruled Ireland, the protection of Britain from the dangers of Germany . . . and the cause of British supremacy in southern Africa.
Always a good hater and man of strong words, Kipling’s range of loathing
stretched from the Germans to the Québécois, and from the Irish to the Indian National Congress. In England it encompassed trade unions, democracy, liberalism, Free Trade, socialism, [suffragettes,] and bungalows.
His bêtes noires included prime ministers H.H. Asquith, Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill, as well as Lord Ripon, the viceroy of India. His pantheon of heroes consisted of Cecil Rhodes, proconsul Alfred Milner, colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain, and Teddy Roosevelt, who warned Kipling that a war with England...