Friday, April 8, 2016

Tramping in the Himalayas


In the tale of how my great grandmother's missionary third cousin Peachy Taliaferro Wilson came to be named in a story written by Rudyard Kipling, one more question lingered in my mind. Thankfully, one yet-undone item on my research to-do list led me straight to the answer.

I had been wondering just how it came to be that Rudyard Kipling's English friend in India would even have known the name of my American relative well enough to have it on the tip of his tongue when plied for suggestions for unusual character names. I had also intended to go back and check for any source documents to back up the story, which I originally found recounted in the hometown newspaper of this English friend's in-laws.

While I don't doubt the veracity of the Beaver County Times' report of the character-naming story, I recalled the newspaper had mentioned that, after Rudyard Kipling's death in 1936, his friend, the beautiful Edmonia Taylor Hill, had taken a collection of his letters to her and published them, coupled with some of her own journal excerpts from the Hills' years spent in Allahabad, India.

Having read that in the 2002 article in the Beaver County Times, I had envisioned that publication to have been a book but, searching in vain, I soon discovered the material had been printed in a magazine article—a timely one, too, for it was featured only three months after Rudyard Kipling's death, in the April 1936 issue of The Atlantic. Entitled, "The Young Kipling," the editorial subheading explained
In the latter part of the nineteenth century an American girl married an Englishman who had been appointed by Lord Salisbury to fill the chair of Science at the Muir Central College, Allahabad University, at Allahabad, India. The following are extracts from her diary and from letters written to her home people.

The article—with byline going to Edmonia Hill, the "American girl" to which the above paragraph referred—confirmed what we've already discussed: "Mr. Kipling's characters as a rule have some foundation in real life."

As to the moment at which Alec Hill snatched up the opportunity to provide as unusual a name as he could recall, Mrs. Hill explained in one of her letters,
When "The Man Who Would Be King" was germinating in R. K.'s mind, he was lunching with us. Suddenly he demanded names for his characters. A. [Edmonia's husband, the English college professor Alec Hill] promptly said, "Well, the queerest name I ever heard was that of a missionary I met in the Himalayas when we were both tramping—Peachey Taliaferro Wilson." Of course Rudyard seized that at once. I could think of no name to give, so R. said, "Well, who was the most prominent man in your home town?" Of course you know that I replied "Mr. Dravo," and sure enough he used these very names, adding a t to Dravo.

No sooner had I wondered just how Alec Hill would have known anything about the Reverend P. T. Wilson, the answer practically fell into my lap. Of course, I suppose I could wonder further just what it was that led the Reverend to be "tramping" about in the Himalayas at the time, but I doubt I'd find any answers to such a question. At least, not as quickly nor as conveniently.

6 comments:

  1. Tramping about on the Internet, we make acquaintances too. You never know whom you might stumble into. Look at the fine series you put together from tramping about.

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    Replies
    1. I suspect I'm much handier at "tramping" around the Internet than in high altitudes.

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  2. Replies
    1. https://books.google.com/books?id=DEYQAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA541&ots=fFpG7Me8nU&dq=%22p%20t%20wilson%22%20himalayas&pg=PA541#v=onepage&q=%22p%20t%20wilson%22%20himalayas&f=false Ranikhet is in the Himalayas in northern India.

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