A GREAT RARITY: FIRST EDITION OF KIPLING'S CAPTAIN'S COURAGEOUS, “A SAGA OF HARD PHYSICAL WORK IN CONFLICT WITH NATURAL FORCES,” SIGNED BY HIM ON THE TITLE PAGE AND DATED BY HIM ON THE LAST PAGE OF TEXT, ONE OF A VERY FEW KNOWN SIGNED COPIES
KIPLING, Rudyard. Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks. London: Macmillan, 1897. Octavo, original gilt-stamped pictorial blue cloth, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom chemise and morocco slipcase. $38,000.
First English edition of Kipling’s richly detailed tale of American deep-sea fishing and faith in hard work, with frontispiece and 21 illustrations by I.W. Taber, signed by Kipling on the title page with his name crossed out and dated "1922" by Kipling on the last page of text. One of the few copies of this work signed by Kipling that we are aware of.
There is "a little-known chapter in Kipling's life: the four years that this outspoken defender of the British Empire spent living just outside Brattleboro, Vermont, where he wrote some of his best work, including The Jungle Books, Captains Courageous, and the first draft of Kim… Kipling wound up in Brattleboro because, in January, 1892, when he was twenty-six and already famous for tales and poems he had published about India, he married a Vermonter named Carrie Balestier…On land bought from Carrie's other brother, Beatty, they built a house, Naulakha, named after the novel, though spelled differently. It was a long, narrow, green-shingled place that, with one end shaped like a bow, looked a little like an ark. For a while, Kipling, who never felt entirely at home either in India or in England, was as happy there as he had ever been… On settling in America… Kipling was determined to reinvent himself as a specifically American kind of writer, and for a while believed that his status as an outsider made him uniquely qualified to study American society. He was 'the only man living,' a friend recalls him boasting, 'who could write The Great American Novel.' He initially planned to write a series of local-color sketches in the manner of Sarah Orne Jewett, another author he admired, but abandoned that plan, probably wisely, and began working instead on what would become the first Jungle Book. The setting of those stories is hardly American, but even so, Kipling was partly inspired by his Vermont surroundings and his conviction that he was living in a lawless wilderness…[one] great theme of the Jungle Books is that of personal growth through manly, stressful adventure in the wild. This idea found a ready enthusiast in Theodore Roosevelt, then a civil-service commissioner in Washington. He and Kipling became friends and would visit the zoo together (where Roosevelt liked watching the bears, while Kipling preferred the beavers). Kipling also discussed his philosophy with William James, who visited Naulakha in 1895, and who drew on Kipling's thinking… to formulate his notion of a 'moral equivalent of war'—a proposed regimen of adventure and challenge designed to rid American youth of their growing softness. James, in turn, partly inspired Kipling's one truly American work, Captains Courageous, a 1897 novel about a bratty rich kid who falls off an ocean liner, is picked up by some fishermen sailing out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and learns from them the virtues of responsibility and hard work… Kipling's idea of the natural world as a testing ground, and of life itself as a sort of Darwinian struggle, greatly influenced later Americans writers such as Jack London, Stephen Crane, and Ernest Hemingway" (Charles McGrath).
"This is the only book of Kipling's which is set entirely in America. All the characters are American. Not only that, but the heart of the book—its moral in a single sentence—is one of Kipling's main beliefs of this period expressed in terms essentially American, or perhaps more particularly New England. He put it later in verse: 'And the Gods of the Copy-book Maxims said: 'If you don't work you will die!' It is a saga of hard physical work in conflict with natural forces. It is a book which could hardly have been written by anyone who did not admire Huckleberry Finn; it is a book whose claim to survival rests mainly on detail, and it is all American detail" (Mason, 119-20). Without scarce dust jacket. First serialized in Pearson's Magazine, December 1896 to April 1897. Although the American edition preceded the English by about a month, this English edition is preferred. Livingston 137. OCEL I:548.
Text generally fine, with occasional tiny shallow inkstain along top margin of a few pages, inner hinges expertly reinforced. Cloth with only minor rubbing to extremities, gilt quite bright. Very rare and desirable signed by Kipling.