Kipling for old and new audience; The Portable Kipling, edited and with an introduction by Irving Howe. New York: The Viking Press. 687 pp. $6.95.

Kipling has been dismissed by recent generations as a simplistic and racist spokesman-apologist for British imperialism. Helping to correct that latter opinion is this new collection, introduced by an essay in which editor Howe argues persuasively that Kipling's seemingly effortless literary skill has blinded many readers to ''the anxiety at the center of his work'' - that ''the white man's burden'' to civilize and regulate primitive cultures is the only weapon against encroaching chaos.

The works gathered here attest to Kipling's variety and complexity. The 200 pages of poetry display Kipling's advocacy of national purpose, his genius for reproducing vernacular dialect, and his mastery of rhythm and meter. The 28 stories included give about equal weight to ''Stories of India'' and ''Soldiers' Tales'' and analyses of the effects of world war on disappointed idealists and activists.

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