Was Rudyard Kipling a plagiarist?

A letter, written by British author Rudyard Kipling in 1895, is up for auction by Anderson Autographs, the Telegraph reported. In it, Kipling confesses to it being “extremely possible” that he “promiscuously” borrowed from the work of others while writing “The Law of the Jungle,” which includes his well-loved story “The Jungle Book.”

Addressed to an unidentified woman, the short letter, which is signed by Kipling, reads, in its entirety:

“I have been absent from home for some days. Hence the delay in answering yours of no date, in regard to my account of the Law of the Jungle."I am afraid that all that code in its outlines has been manufactured to meet ‘the necessities of the case’: though a little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils."In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen.”


According to the letter’s dealer, Adam Andrusier, Kipling rarely mentioned his work in letters. The price for the 1895 letter has been set at about $3,760.

“The Jungle Book,” written in 1894, is among Kipling’s most famous short stories. It was dedicated to his daughter Josephine, who later died of pneumonia.

This isn’t the first time Kipling has been in the news this year: In February, 50 of his unpublished poems were discovered by English professor Thomas Pinney in, among other places, a renovated Manhattan home and in the papers of the head of a cruise ship line.

Pinney’s collection, “The Cambridge Edition of the Poems of Rudyard Kipling,” was published in March.


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