Friday, December 16, 2011

Kippling*, Kilping*, Kiplng* (for Kipling*)

Rudyard Kipling wrote:

We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe.

I've quoted this charming verse before, but please indulge me once again. Christopher Hitchens, who passed away late last night in a hospital in Houston, wrote about Rudyard Kipling for The Atlantic Monthly; he also once wrote about drinking tea. There wasn't very much that Hitchens didn't write about (see his 2011 book of essays, Arguably, for so many marvelous examples) and with his sudden, if not entirely unexpected, demise, it feels like the bottom's dropped out of the universe. I wanted to eulogize Hitchens today in this all too modest space, but it just felt too enormous, too difficult, too wrong somehow. In the midst of a furious flurry of blog postings in the wake of his death, Alexandra Petri warns against the tendency to wax lugubrious or try and get too personal. I have to confess that I too, like all the others, am feeling sort of stupidly sentimental at the moment and possessed of a precious little "how I once met Christopher Hitchens" story, but rest assured I shall restrain myself. Instead, I'll approach the subject obliquely, a little at a time. Sneak up on it, as it were. So today it's about Rudyard Kipling; in my heart, though, it's all about Hitchens. (The typo Kippling* turned up once in OhioLINK and 55 times in WorldCat—14 if combined with the correct spelling. We also found a handful of both Kilping* and Kiplng*.)

(Portrait of Rudyard Kipling from Current History of the War, vol. I, December 1914–March 1915, New York Times Company, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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