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Title: Stalky  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Robert Smith Surtees, Lionel Dunsterville
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Stalky & Co. is a book published in 1899 (following serialisation in the Windsor Magazine) by Rudyard Kipling, about adolescent boys at a British boarding school. It is a collection of linked short stories in format, with some information about the charismatic Stalky character in later life. The character Beetle, one of the main trio, is partly based on Kipling himself. Stalky is based on Lionel Dunsterville, M'Turk is based on George Charles Beresford, Mr King is based on William Carr Crofts. The school, which is referred to as the College or the Coll. is based on the United Services College in Devon which Kipling attended.

The stories have elements of revenge, the macabre (dead cats), bullying and violence, and hints about sex, making them far from childish or idealised, unlike the typical school story. The critic Edmund Wilson, in The Wound and the Bow, was both shocked and uncomprehending about them. For example, Beetle pokes fun at an earlier, more earnest, boys' book, Eric, or, Little by Little, thus flaunting his more worldly outlook.

Further stories

More Stalky & Co tales appeared in magazines and later in collections:[1] "Regulus" 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.[2]

Unpublished manuscript

An additional story was written by Kipling, but never published; named "Scylla and Charybdis", it saw Stalky and his friends catch 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 Stalky & Co manuscript to the Imperial Service Trust, the body which 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 finally was displayed at Haileybury in 1962, in an exhibition to mark the school's centenary; in 1989 it moved permanently to the College archives after spending many years in a bank vault.

Whilst the story was known to exist in the volume, it had never been transcribed, or widely discussed; the school eventually decided to publish it in association with the Kipling Society, and it was published to the world in 2004.[3]

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.

  • Internet Movie Database

Texts of Stalky & Co.

  • e-text
  • Kipling Journal backnumber archive


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