Kipling on the Press

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) – poet, short-story writer, and novelist – was also a journalist and editor. When he became famous, his fellow journalists constantly badgered him. His recently rediscovered poem “The Press,” written in 1899, perfectly describes the sort of journalism often seen in Pulitzer’s New York World: I used it as a reading on one of my Central Park walking tours, at the Pulitzer Fountain near the Plaza Hotel.

Note: Writing a play ca. 1900 was today’s equivalent of writing a movie script. It was one of the most attention-getting things an author could do.

Why don’t you write a play –
Why don’t you cut your hair?
Do you trim your toe-nails round
Or do you trim them square?
Tell it to the papers,
Tell it every day.
But, en passant, may I ask
Why don’t you write a play?

What’s your last religion?
Have you got a creed?
Do you dress in Jaeger-wool
Sackcloth, silk or tweed?
Name the books that helped you
On the path you’ve trod.
Do you use a little g
When you write of God?

Do you hope to enter
Fame’s immortal dome?
Do you put the washing out
Or have it done at home?
Have you any morals?
Does your genius burn?
Was you wife a what’s its name?
How much did she earn?

Had your friend a secret
Sorrow, shame or vice –
Have you promised not to tell
What’s your lowest price?
All the housemaid fancied
All the butler guessed
Tell it to the public press
And we will do the rest.

Why don’t you write a play?

Rudyard Kipling, 1914. Photo: Wikimedia

Rudyard Kipling, 1914. Photo: Wikimedia

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About Dianne L. Durante

I’m an independent scholar and freelance writer /lecturer on art and art history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are *Innovators in Sculpture¸* a survey of 5,000 years of art in two hours, and *Monuments of Manhattan,* a videoguide app by Guides Who Know that’s based on my book *Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide.*

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