Stalky & Co.

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Stalky & Co. is a novel by Rudyard Kipling about adolescent boys at a British boarding school. It is a collection of school stories whose juvenile protagonists display a know-it-all, cynical outlook on patriotism and authority. It was first published in 1899 (following serialisation in the Windsor Magazine). It is set at a school dubbed "the College" or "the Coll.", which is based on the actual United Services College that Kipling attended as a boy.[1] The character Beetle, one of the main trio, is partly based on Kipling himself, while the charismatic character Stalky is based on Lionel Dunsterville, M'Turk is based on George Charles Beresford, Mr King is based on William Carr Crofts,[2] and the school Head, Mr. Bates, is based on Cormell Price.

The stories have elements of revenge, the macabre, bullying and violence, and hints about sex, making them far from childish or idealised. For example, Beetle pokes fun at an earlier, more earnest, boys' book, Eric, or, Little by Little, thus flaunting his more worldly outlook. The final chapter recounts events in the lives of the boys when, as adults, they are in the armed forces in India. It is implied that the mischievous pranks of the boys in school were splendid training for their role as instruments of the British Empire.

Teddy Roosevelt disdained the novel, calling it "a story which ought never to have been written, for there is hardly a single form of meanness which it does not seem to extol, or of school mismanagement which it does not seem to applaud."[3]


The novel is a compilation of nine previously published stories,[4] with a prefatory untitled poem beginning "Let us now praise famous men".

Several of the stories appeared in more than one magazine before being collected in book form. The stories are listed below in the order in which they appeared in the book, along with the date and location of their magazine appearances:

Rare and missing materialsEdit

Kipling expert Flora Virginia Milner Livingston, of Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, wrote in a 1972 Kipling bibliography:

No. 1 of the Stalky & Co. series in the Windsor Magazine was entitled "Stalky" and appeared in the "December, 1898" number of that Magazine. It was not included in the book, nor has it ever been reproduced.

However, as the Kipling Society states, it was indeed collected in 1923, as one of the Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides.[8]

An expanded version of "Stalky & Co." called "The Complete Stalky and Co." was published by Doubleday and Company (New York) in 1946. It contains all of the 1899 stories plus five more. They appear in the following order:

  • "Stalky" (originally published 1898)
  • "In Ambush" (1898)
  • Slaves of the Lamp (Part I) (1897)
  • An Unsavory Interlude (1899)
  • The Impressionists (1899)
  • The Moral Reformers (1899)
  • The United Idolaters (1924)
  • Regulus (1917)
  • A Little Prep. (1899)
  • The Flag of Their Country (1899)
  • The Propagation of Knowledge (1926)
  • The Satisfaction of a Gentleman (1929)
  • The Last Term (1899)
  • Slaves of the Lamp (Part II) (1899)



  • "Stalky" (real name: Arthur Lionel Corkran[9]). He knows that he is destined for Sandhurst, so he does not care about many academic subjects. Stalky later turns out to be brilliant in battle.
  • Reginald (or Reggie) Beetle
  • William "Turkey" M'Turk (pronounced McTurk; he comes from a landed estate in Ireland)


  • Mr. Bates - the Headmaster
  • Mr. Prout – a housemaster in charge of Stalky's House
  • Mr. King – a housemaster who sometimes bedevils the boys; "generally held to be based on W. C. Crofts"[10]
  • Mr. Hartopp – a housemaster, President of the Natural History Society; a naive young man, he rather likes Stalky and his friends
  • Foxy – a "subtle red-haired school Sergeant"

Sources and allusionsEdit

Kipling portrays the boys as being widely read, at least in the literature available to them. Much of their casual talk is held in Latin, not unusual for schoolboys of the time, and they quote or purposefully misquote the classical authors such as Cicero and Horace. Other texts appearing in dialogue include:

The youths also discuss the painting "A Day With Puffington's Hounds", by caricaturist John Leech, which outrages them.

Further storiesEdit

More tales about Stalky & Co. appeared in magazines and later in collections:[12] "Regulus" and "The Honours of War" in A Diversity of Creatures (1917); "Stalky" in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides (1923); "The United Idolators" (first published in magazine form in 1924) and "The Propagation of Knowledge" in Debits and Credits (1926); and "The Satisfaction of a Gentleman" (with the others) in The Complete Stalky & Co (1929). Kipling describes "Stalky" as the first of the Stalky & Co tales to be written: it was originally published in The Windsor Magazine and McClure's Magazine in 1898.[13]

Posthumously published manuscriptEdit

Kipling wrote an additional story about Stalky and Co., "Scylla and Charybdis", that remained unpublished in his lifetime. It depicts Stalky and his friends catching a colonel cheating at golf near Appledore in North Devon. The story existed only in manuscript form, attached to the end of the original manuscript of Stalky & Co.: it may have been planned as the opening chapter. On his death in 1936 Kipling bequeathed the manuscript to the Imperial Service Trust, the body that administered the Imperial Service College (successor institution to the United Services College). That school merged with Haileybury in 1942 to form Haileybury and Imperial Service College. The manuscript was displayed at Haileybury in 1962, in an exhibition to mark the school's centenary; and in 1989, after spending many years in a bank vault, was transferred to the College archives.

While the story "Scylla and Charybdis" was known to exist, it had never been transcribed or widely discussed. It was "discovered" in 2004 by Jeremy Lewins, a former Kipling Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. The school subsequently decided to publish it, in association with the Kipling Society.[14][15]

Television adaptationEdit

The tales were adapted for television by the BBC in 1982. The six-part series starred Robert Addie as Stalky and David Parfitt as Beetle. It was directed by Rodney Bennett and produced by Barry Letts.


  1. ^ "Stalky & Co.: The general background", Roger Lancelyn Green
  2. ^ "Boy-Society in Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co.", Lynne M. Rosenthal, The Lion and the Unicorn (journal) Volume 2, Number 2, 1978 pp. 16–26
  3. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (May 1900). "What We Can Expect of the American Boy". St. Nicholas. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  4. ^ Livingston, Flora V. (1972). A Bibliography of the Works of Rudyard Kipling (1881–1921). 2. London: Haskell House. p. 48.
  5. ^ Green, Roger Lancelyn (April 2, 2003). "Slaves of the Lamp, Part I". Kipling Society. Retrieved January 21, 2016. This was the first 'Stalky' story to be published, and possibly the first to be written. It first appeared in Cosmopolis in April 1897, and was subsequently collected in Stalky & Co. (1899) It was later included in The Complete Stalky & Co. (1929) It is twinned with "Slaves of the Lamp" Part II, in which the tactics used by Stalky against his enemies at school are used again with great success on the North West Frontier of India.
  6. ^ Livingston, Flora V. (1972). A Bibliography of the Works of Rudyard Kipling (1881–1921). 2. London: Haskell House. p. 48. 'Slaves of the Lamp, Parts I & II,' McClure's Magazine, August, 1897).
  7. ^ Green, Roger Lancelyn (February 17, 2003). "Slaves of the Lamp, Part II". Kipling Society. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  8. ^ Green, Roger Lancelyn (February 24, 2003). "Stalky". Kipling Society. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  9. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "Land and Sea Tales: Stalky". Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  10. ^ Green, Roger Lancelyn (1961). "Some Notes on the Characters". Kipling Society. Retrieved January 19, 2016. ... or rather, like the essence of Crofts distilled with genius, with the perspective of more than thirty years to colour even Kipling's recollection of the real man. The first written of the stories, "Slaves of the Lamp", suggests that to begin with Kipling's "mixture" for King contained a large percentage of Crofts, but with a certain admixture of Mr. F. W. Haslam...
  11. ^ Rouse, John (1968). "Introduction". Stalky & Co. New York: Dell. p. 8. One of the most popular novels of school life in Kipling's time was Frederick Farrar's Eric, or Little by Little, a book that went through nearly fifty editions in as many years. It is a novel that Stalky & Co. know very well and constantly ridicule. Eric's troubles begin one night in the dormitory when he listens to boys swearing and fails to warn them about the dangers of foul language. From there on it's moral decay all the way.
  12. ^ List of Stories
  13. ^ "Stalky"
  14. ^ The Haileybury Connection, Andrew Hambling, 2004
  15. ^ Milner, Catherine (22 February 2004). "Kipling's 'missing Stalky and Co. chapter' found in school library". The Telegraph (online). London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 21 January 2016.

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