The Immortal Woe of Life: Bereavement

  • William B. Dillingham


For Kipling bereavement was the woe that never seemed to end, “the immortal woe.”1 Unquestionably one of the major causes of the Great Darkness in his life was the painful sense of loss that repeatedly afflicted him with rare intensity even from an early age. Angus Wilson argues that Kipling’s experience with the devastating impact of grief can be traced as far back as the death of a younger brother at birth in 1870 and to that of Captain Holloway in 1874. Of the former, Wilson comments: “It is hard to think that this unmentioned event and his parents’ grief would not have been a mysterious introduction to a terrible time. It was the first death of his life.”2 Captain Holloway, or “Uncle Harry,” had been the young Kipling’s only source of humane treatment while at Lorne Lodge; his death ushered in the boy’s bleakest period at Southsea. As time went on, the deaths of loved ones cast an ineradicable shadow over his life. Death was not the only cause of his painful sense of loss, however. Other forms of loss so worked on his emotions as to mimic closely the effects of bereavement. He must have felt something closely akin to bereavement, for example, when his parents left him at Lorne Lodge and for a time disappeared from his life.


Dead Child Creative Imagination Mental Medium White Whale Unwed Mother 
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© William B. Dillingham 2005

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