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Stalky & Co.

Rudyard Kipling

Book Overview: 

Stalky & Co. is a book set at an English boarding school in a seaside town on the North Devon coast. (The town, Westward Ho!, is not only unusual in having an exclamation mark, but also in being itself named after a novel, by Charles Kingsley.)

The book is a collection of linked short stories, with some information about the eponymous Stalky’s later life. Beetle, one of the main trio, is said to be based on Kipling himself, while Stalky may be based on Lionel Dunsterville.

The stories have elements of the macabre (dead cats), bullying and violence, and hints about sex, making them far from the childish or idealised world of the typical school story. Edmund Wilson, critic, in The Wound and the Bow, was both shocked and uncomprehending.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Bravo, McTurk," said Tertius; "I thought he was only a beast."

"He's that, too, of course, but he's worse. He has a china basket with blue ribbons and a pink kitten on it, hung up in his window to grow musk in. You know when I got all that old oak carvin' out of Bideford Church, when they were restoring it (Ruskin says that any man who'll restore a church is an unmitigated sweep), and stuck it up here with glue? Well, King came in and wanted to know whether we'd done it with a fret-saw! Yah! He is the King of basket-hangers!"

Down went McTurk's inky thumb over an imaginary arena full of bleeding Kings. "Placete, child of a generous race!" he cried to Beetle.

"Well," began Beetle, doubtfully, "he comes from Balliol, but I'm going to give the beast a chance. You see I can always make him hop with some more poetry. He can't report me to the Head, because it makes him ridiculous. (Stalky's quite right.) But he shall have his chance."

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Community Reviews

Re-read 2018

I must’ve read this countless time.. each time it’s still very entertaining. Though each time darker thought creeps deeper into it. I need to read it sparingly to not break it.


Stalky & co is the ultimate boy's boarding school book for me. If Enid Blyton's numerous school stori...more

Victorian schoolboys (at least, the ones in Victorian school stories) seem to have been tougher customers that their twentieth-century equivalents.

The three heroes of this famous book, aged fifteen or sixteen when we first meet them, all smoke like chimneys, quaff substantial amounts of beer (som...more

Reread because YT reminded me it existed. I loved it when I was eight (apparently it did not bother me that entire conversations were incomprehensible on account of French, Latin, 19th century slang or all three) and enjoyed actually understanding the French, Latin and historical references (well...more

Originally published on my blog here in July 2001.

Few of Kipling's fictional stories contain much of an autobiographical element, despite his frequent use of the first person. In this collection of stories, the school and some of the characters are based on his own experiences; Beetle, in particu...more

People have tried to talk me out of liking this book since before I actually read it. There's something less than subtly discouraging about opening your book on a quote by a George Sampson that says "an unpleasant book about unpleasant boys at an unpleasant school". But I don't know who George Sa...more

"Unluckily, all Mr. Prout's imagination leaned to the darker side of life, and he looked on those young-eyed cherubim most sourly. Boys that he understood attended house-matches and could be accounted for at any moment. But he had hear M'Turk openly deride cricket--even house-matches; Beetle's vi...more

Η σοφη ιδιοκτήτρια των Πλειαδων όταν της ειπα οτι δε μπορώ να συγκεντρωθώ να διαβάσω βιβλιο λόγω πένθους, μου πρότεινε να ξαναδιαβασω κάποιο πολυ αγαπημένο μου και καπως έτσι κατέληξα στο λατρεμένο- χωρις υπερβολή- παιδικό μου ανάγνωσμα (μόνη μας πατρίδα η παιδική μας ηλικια κτλ κτλ). Πιθανόν πια...more

DNF. I tried, believe me, I did it. My friend loves the book and I'm also a fan of boarding-school stories. But I just couldn't get through this one. The students were a**holes, the teachers were abusive and overall it was too "boys will be boys"-ish for my liking. Every chapter I managed to fini...more

I have read this book so many times that it has become dog eared and stained and creased along all the best pages - the mark of a favourite.

Even if the imperialism of the British Empire and the undisguised brutality of the Victorian school boy doesn't appeal, the sheer deliciousness of excerpts f...more

As a kid I dreamed of going to boarding school; dunno why, as I probably would have been bullied and mocked there even more than I was in a small rural public school. But I did; maybe I just wanted to leave home for 9 months out of every year.

I first heard of Stalky and Co about 25 years or so ag...more

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