Rudyard Kipling gave this speech on ‘Truth in Writing’ on 12th July, 1933 at Claridge’s Hotel in London during a Royal Society of Literature luncheon held in honour of visiting members of the Canadian Authors’ Association. The text of the speech was published in a posthumous edition of ‘A Book of Words’. In the speech Kipling had this to say to those writers in the room:
STRICTLY BETWEEN OURSELVES, I think this is an occasion when we are justified in feeling a little proud of our calling. We know that, after all the men who do things have done them, and the men who say things about their doings have said them, it is only words—nothing but words—that live to show the present how, and in what moods, men lived and worked in the past.
And we do not know what words they will be. That is one of the reasons why there can be neither first nor last in the kingdom—for it is not a republic—of letters.
We who use words enjoy a peculiar advantage over our fellows. We cannot tell a lie. However much we may wish to do so, we only of educated men and women cannot tell a lie—in our working hours. The more subtly we attempt it, the more certainly do we betray some aspect of truth concerning the life of our age.
It is with us as with timber. Every knot and shake in a board reveals some disease or injury that overtook the log when it was growing. A gentleman named Jean Pigeon, who once built a frame house for me, put this in a nutshell. He said: `Everything which a tree she has experienced in the forest she takes with her into the house.’ That is the law for us all, each in his or her own land.
I’m sure most of you have read a Kipling story at one time or another, perhaps they were read to you when you were younger, perhaps not. Either way its never too late to read a classic or indeed re-read one so if you ever have the time, pick one up, read it to your kids, read it yourself, there are many such as; Kim, The Jungle Book, The Just So Stories, The Man Who Would Be King. Henry James said of him that:
Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known.
Via Open Culture
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