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Essays exploring the impact of World War One on individual artists through the prism of a single work of art. 2: Janet Montefiore on Rudyard Kipling's 1922 collection, Epitaphs.

The final run of Essays in the long-running series which explores the impact of the First World War on individual artists through the prism of a single great work of art.

2.Janet Montefiore on Rudyard Kipling's 1922 collection, Epitaphs

On 27 September 1915, 8,000 out of the 10,000 British troops who took part in the disastrous Battle of Loos were killed or wounded. One of these, 2nd Lieutenant John Kipling, eighteen years old, the son of Rudyard Kipling, was reported ‘missing believed killed.’ His body was never found.

Four years later, Rudyard Kipling published his ‘Epitaphs of the War 1914-1918’: thirty-one brief poems giving voice to those who died in the Great War: soldiers, airmen, nurses, non-combatants, Canadians, Indians, sailors, politicians, cowards and heroes.

These days, Kipling is often criticised for his imperialist views on "the white man's burden", but in this Essay, Kipling scholar, Janet Montefiore uncovers a more sympathetic figure. She tells the story behind a poignant collection of poems which express Kipling's personal grief whilst giving voice to a wider sense of outrage about the victims of the war, including the famously succinct condemnation :
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Producer: Beaty Rubens

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14 minutes


The Book that Changed Me

The Book that Changed Me

Five figures from the arts and science introduce books that changed their lives and work.

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