Kipling Papers - Wimpole Archive

Scope and Content

The main collection contains papers of Rudyard Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling (letters, drawings, press-cuttings), papers of Kipling himself (business documents, correspondence, verses, press-cuttings, etc.), and a few papers of Kipling's children Josephine, Elsie and John. Kipling's own papers are numerous, and among them is to be found evidence illustrating every period of his life.

Forty additions have, down to July 2002, been made to the collection; some of these are strays reunited with the collections, some are letters (or copies of letters) from Rudyard Kipling and others are secondary material relating to the study of Kipling and his work.

Administrative / Biographical History

(Joseph) Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), author, was born on 30 December 1865 at Bombay, India, where his father, John Lockwood Kipling (1865-1911), taught architectural sculpture at the Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry. His mother, born Alice Macdonald (1837-1910), had three sisters who married Edward Burne-Jones, the eminent pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Poynter, a President of the Royal Academy of Arts, and Alfred Baldwin, businessman father of Stanley Baldwin, later a Conservative Prime Minister - family connections which were to be of great importance to Kipling. In 1871 the Kipling family visited England on leave, and placed Rudyard and his younger sister as boarders with a family in Southsea. During his five years in this foster home he was bullied and physically mistreated. Between 1878 and 1882 he attended the United Services College at Westward Ho! in north Devon, a new and tough boarding school where he was again teased and bullied.

In 1882 Kipling returned to India, where he spent the next seven years working as a journalist and newspaper editor and where he began to write about India and Anglo-Indian society. His first volume of poetry, Departmental Ditties, was published in 1886, and between 1887 and 1889 he published six volumes of short stories. When he returned to England in 1889 via the United States he found himself already acclaimed as a brilliant young writer. By the time Barrack-Room Ballads had appeared in 1892, Kipling was an enormous popular and critical success.

In 1891 he travelled to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India, which he would never visit again. In the following year Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier (1862-1939), an American. Their honeymoon took them as far as Japan, but they returned, not altogether to Kipling's satisfaction, to live at his wife's home in Vermont, where they remained until 1896. They then returned to England, living first at Rottingdean, East Sussex. During the American years, however, Kipling wrote Captains Courageous, Many Inventions, the famous poem Recessional , and most of Kim, as well as the greater portion of the two Jungle Books, all of which were very successful.

Stalky & Co., which drew heavily upon his experiences at the United Services College, was published as a collection in 1899. That year Kipling made his last visit to the United States, and was deeply affected by the death there of his eldest child, Josephine (1892-1899). Frequently in poor health himself, Kipling wintered in South Africa every year between 1900 and 1908. In 1902 he bought the house, Bateman s, in Burwash, East Sussex which remained his home in England until his death: Sussex itself lies at the centre of his books for children Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies. In 1907 Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He declined honours from the (British) Crown.

Kipling's verse and fiction revealed values that were intensely patriotic, paternalistic, and imperialist. By 1910, his popularity had already passed its zenith, for there was already growing a reaction against high Victorian imperialism. The catastrophe of World War I shocked and altered the national consciousness in a way to which Kipling never seemed to adapt - even though his only son, John (1897-1915), had died in action and Kipling became very active on the Imperial War Graves Commission. After the war Kipling became an increasingly isolated and politically marginal figure; he was angrily anti-democratic, energetically opposing women's suffrage, for example. He was also in ill-health, inducing constant and often acute pain. Between 1919 and 1932 he travelled intermittently, and continued to publish stories, poems, sketches and historical works. He died in London on 18 January 1936, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His widow survived until 1939 and bequeathed Bateman's to the National Trust. With the wealth inherited from her parents their one surviving child, Elsie (1896-1976), bought Wimpole Hall, a large estate near Cambridge which her husband George Bambridge (1892-1943) had known in childhood and which they had briefly rented in 1933. This too passed, with the Kiplings papers, by bequest to the National Trust, on Elsie's death in 1976.

The most recent biography, making much use of this collection, is by Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999).

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, by deposit, 1978


Prepared by John Farrant, July 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner. The National Trust is the owner of the copyright in the works of the Kipling family.

Custodial History

The papers in the collection were accumulated by Rudyard Kipling, his wife Caroline Balestier, and his daughter Elsie Bambridge. Elsie, Kipling's only surviving descendant, took the papers at Bateman's to Wimpole Hall. With the help of her secretary Cecily Nicholson, the last of the secretaries who had been employed by Kipling, Mrs Bainbridge began to sort and list the documents which she had inherited. The greater part of the collection consisted of correspondence. To enlarge it, Mrs Bambridge regained possession of further letters in the sale-room, and later, to ease the task of the official biographer (first Frederick Smith, 2nd Earl of Birkenhead, and then Charles Carrington), she sought out others in private possession and had copies made. When she died in 1976, a childless widow, Wimpole Hall and its archive passed to the National Trust. In 1978 the Trust deposited the archive in the University of Sussex Library.

It is not now possible to be sure of the principles on which papers were chosen for preservation in the collection, nor to say what papers were added or withdrawn by its different owners. Very few people outside the family were admitted to inspect the contents of the collection. The archive does appear to include those papers seen by Charles Carrington (see SxMs 41, the Carrington Papers) in 1952-54 (see Times Literary Supplement 25 June 1976, p.782).

Forty additions have, down to July 2002, been made to the collection; some of these are strays reunited with the collections, some are letters (or copies of letters) from Rudyard Kipling and others are secondary material relating to the study of Kipling and his work.

Related Material

This collection is supplemented by the following collections, all of which relate to Rudyard Kipling and his family:

SxMs 40 Baldwin Papers

SxMs 41 Carrington Papers

SxMs 46 Lewis Collection

SxMs 49 Kipling-Lewin Letters

SxMs 51 Kipling-Courtauld Letters

SxMs 53 MacDonald Papers

SxMs 54 Tyler Gift

SxMs 64 Dunscombe Colt Papers

SxMs 65 Kipling-Lewis Letters

SxMs 66 Kipling-Parker Papers

SxMs 67 Kipling-Dunsterville Papers

SxMs 68 Kipling-Balestier-Dunham Papers

SxMs 69 Kipling-Beresford Papers


Some items are published in Thomas Pinney (ed.), The letters of Rudyard Kipling, in progress (London: Macmillan, 1990-).