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American Notes

Rudyard Kipling

Book Overview: 

In American Notes, Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel Prize-winning author of the Jungle Book, visits the USA. As the travel-diary of an Anglo-Indian Imperialist visiting the USA, these American Notes offer an interesting view of America in the 1880s.

Kipling affects a wide-eyed innocence, and expresses astonishment at features of American life that differ from his own, not least the freedom (and attraction) of American women. However, he scorns the political machines that made a mockery of American democracy, and while exhibiting the racist attitudes that made him controversial in the 20th century concludes β€œIt is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . in this country is an amazingly elastic affair, followed from the lips of a judge. Forgive me for recording one tale that struck me as new. It may interest the up-country Bar in India.

Once upon a time there was Samuelson, a young lawyer, who feared not God, neither regarded the Bench. (Name, age, and town of the man were given at great length.) To him no case had ever come as a client, partly because he lived in a district where lynch law prevailed, and partly because the most desperate prisoner shrunk from intrusting himself to the mercies of a phenomenal stammerer. But in time there happened an aggravated murder—so bad, indeed, that by common consent the citizens decided, as a prelude to lynching, to give the real law a chance. They could, in fact, gambol round that murder. They met—the court in its shirt-sleeves—and against the raw square of the Court House window a temptingly suggestive branch of a tree fretted the sky. No one appeared . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This can be thought of as an early Bill Bryson, but with sharper penetration. Kipling at his best is a great writer and although this is a youthful example of his work it clearly shows immense potential. He cut his teeth on Indian (as in India not native Americans) journalism and he compares many...more

This book is an absolute delight. Kipling traveled across America and Canada from West to East, recording his impressions along the way of a big, busy, beautiful country of which he had only read. I own an 1899 edition, part of my collection of pre-World War I hardcovers. I'm reading it again, be...more

Quick, humorous read. Published in 1891, before most of his well-known works, this is a series of seven essays. Kipling's shares generally unflattering observations of Americans during his visits to San Francisco, Chicago and Buffalo. He has a way of describing people he encountersand their custo...more

An interesting account of Kipling's travels in the USA and his reflections on what he found in 19th century America.

Interesting.

A very politically incorrect travelogue like what Mark Twain wrote.

Mark Twain was making his living off travel memoirs in the Gilded Age -- a name he came up with in a novel of the same name. He made fun of the world making fun of Americans.

The young Rudyard Kipling returns the favor here, observing that same "gilded age" Twain wrote of. Some reviews call it bi...more

Kipling is usually delightful, if somewhat unpredictable, and his wit and grip are as anticipated here. However, this book reads like a bitter rant, rambling, vitriolic, and abrupt. He clearly thought himself superior to this people who were barely a united civilization even yet, ironically lampo...more

I love Kipling, usually. But here, he's writing from a position of white, powerful, privilege and British superiority, and was soon turned off.

Kipling looks at Gilded Age America.

Kipling's biased rant on how America is an uncivilized wasteland that has fallen far from it's former motherland.

Th...more

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