Stalky & Co.

Stalky & Co. is a novel by Rudyard Kipling, about adolescent boys at a British boarding school. It was first published in 1899 (following serialisation in the Windsor Magazine). Reflecting its origins, the novel is episodic in nature, with self-contained chapters. It is set at an unnamed school referred to as the College or the Coll., which is based on the United Services College in Devon, which Kipling attended. 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 and Mr King is based on William Carr Crofts.[1]

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. There is also some information about Stalky in later life. In his essay entitled “What We Can Expect of the American Boy,” Teddy Roosevelt disdained this 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.”[2]


The novel is a "fix-up" compilation of eight previously published stories,[3] with a prefatory untitled poem beginning "Let us now praise famous men".

Different sources give conflicting information, unfortunately. It is unlikely, for example, that "Slaves of the Lamp, Part II" preceded "Part I." At times, both citations are given.

Rare and missing materials

A Stalky story manuscript, believed to have been written in 1897, was found in an English school library in 2004:

The "missing chapter" of Rudyard Kipling's celebrated book Stalky and Co has been found in a school library.
The manuscript, believed to have been written in 1897 - two years before the book's publication - was found in the archives of Haileybury, a private school in Hertfordshire, by Jeremy Lewins, a former Kipling Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
The work tells the "entirely new" story of three schoolboys who taunt an elderly major who cheats at golf near Appledore in North Devon, Dr Lewins said.
Kipling intended it to be the first chapter of Stalky and Co ...
The manuscript was given by the Kipling Estate to the United Services College after he died in January 1936. It was acquired by Haileybury School in 1962 when it merged with the United Services College and lodged in the archives, where it remained unnoticed.[7]

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, the Kipling Society states that 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:



School administrators

The Dean, Mr. Bates

Sources and allusions

Kipling portrays the students as being widely read, at least in the literature available to them. Much of their casual talk is held in Latin, not unusual for school boys 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 stories

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" 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 manuscript

Kipling wrote an additional story about Stalky and Co., "Scylla and Charybdis", but it was never published in his lifetime. It depicts Stalky and his friends catching a colonel cheating at golf. The story existed only in manuscript form, attached to the end of the original manuscript copy of Stalky & Co..

On his death in 1936 Kipling bequeathed the manuscript of Stalky & Co to the Imperial Service Trust, the body that operated his old school, the Imperial Service College (formerly the United Services College). It passed into the possession of Haileybury and Imperial Service College when that school absorbed the Imperial Service College in 1942. The manuscript was displayed at Haileybury in 1962, in an exhibition to mark the school's centenary, and in 1989 it was moved permanently to the College archives after spending many years in a bank vault.

While the story "Scylla and Charybdis" was known to exist, it had never been transcribed or widely discussed. The school eventually decided to publish it, in association with the Kipling Society, in 2004.[14]

Television adaptation

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.

Texts of Stalky & Co.

Wikisource has original text related to this article:


  1. "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
  2. Roosevelt, Theodore (May 1900). "What We Can Expect of the American Boy". St. Nicholas. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  3. Livingston, Flora V. (1972). A Bibliography of the Works of Rudyard Kipling (1881-1921). 2. London: Haskell House. p. 48.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Green, Roger Lancelyn (February 17, 2003). "Slaves of the Lamp, Part II.". Kipling Society. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  7. Milner, Catherine (22 February 2004). "Kipling's 'missing Stalky and Co chapter' found in school library". The Telegraph (online). London: Telegraph Media Group. p. UK News. Retrieved January 21, 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
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