Rudyard Kipling's Sojourn in Vermont
DUMMERSTON, VT. — Bundled in hairy goatskin and buffalo lap robes, Rudyard Kipling got his first tour of Vermont in a horse-drawn sleigh on a snowy February night.
It took Kipling, fresh from England, by surprise. "Thirty below freezing! It was inconceivable till one stepped out into it at midnight, and the first shock of that clear, still air took away the breath as does a plunge into seawater," Kipling wrote of arriving in Vermont from New York City on Feb. 17, 1892.
But Kipling quickly came to love rural Brattleboro, winters and all. He had come planning to pay a short visit to his in-laws and to catch a glimpse of New Hampshire's Mt. Monadnock, which he had read about in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The visit turned into a four-year stay. Kipling did some of his best writing in Vermont, including "The Jungle Books."
The United States never really left Kipling, he wrote. "Those four years in America will be blessed unto me for all my life... " Kipling wrote in a letter to his friend Charles Eliot Norton. "It's an uncivilized land (I still maintain it) but how the deuce has it wound itself around my heartstrings in the way it has?"
Stuart Murray of East Chatham, N.Y., has chronicled Kipling's years in Vermont in "Rudyard Kipling in Vermont: Birthplace of the Jungle Books," published this fall by Images From the Past.
Mr. Murray uses letters, diaries, media reports and papers found a few years ago in a bank vault to create turn-of-the-century Brattleboro, a declining resort town of 6,000, as seen by a brilliant Victorian.
Born to English parents on Dec. 30, 1865, in Bombay, India, and educated in England, Kipling is best known for his writing about his two homelands. It is less well known that Kipling and his wife lived in Vermont from 1892 to1896, building a house in Dummerston, becoming part of the Brattleboro community, and giving birth to two daughters there.
In Vermont, hardly anyone knew Kipling was famous. "I've a host of things to do and I must have time to write 'em in - time, light and quiet - three things that are hard to come by in London," Kipling wrote in a letter to publisher William Heinemann.
He and his wife built a large stone house and named it Naulahka - a Hindi word for something of great value.