Rudyard Kipling’s Naulakha: Kipling Road, Dummerston, VT
“There are only two places in the world where I want to live—Bombay and Brattleboro. And I can’t live at either.”
— Rudyard Kipling
On a hillside in north Brattleboro, around the bend from Black Mountain and not far from Scott Farm, a green manor house enjoys a twenty-mile view of the mountain ridges that rise across the Connecticut River. Built in the late 1890’s, this house is called “Naulakha,” and it belonged to one of the world’s most famous authors: Rudyard Kipling.
Kipling designed and built Naulakha as a home for himself and his new wife, Brattleboro-born Caroline (Carrie) Balestier. It boasted sunken gardens, a pool, and a full tennis court—a first in Vermont history. Kipling named the house after the Naulakha Pavilion, an ancient structure in India’s famous Lahore Fort. He and Carrie lived in the house from 1893 until 1896, and in its rooms he wrote some of his most beloved works including the Jungle Books, Captain Courageous, and some of the Just So Stories.
Kipling the Writer
Listen to in-progress audio being produced for the Brattleboro Words Trail.
Kipling the Writer
A version of this audio story will be released as part of The Brattleboro Words Trail at the end of 2020. Speaking is Christopher Benfey, author of the new book, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years (2019, Penguin Press).
Kipling’s time in Brattleboro had both highs and lows. At Naulakha he entertained guests from the governor to Arthur Conan Doyle, but he had few kind things to say about the locals. He and Carrie might have stayed if not for a bitter dispute with Carrie’s brother, Beatty Balestier—in 1896 Kipling became tangled up in court proceedings and unwanted publicity, and he and Carrie left Naulakha and Brattleboro for good.
Charles Fish, a Brattleboro writer and Kipling scholar, describes the author’s social life at Naulakha in a chapter devoted to Kipling in Brattleboro: A Print Town, the Words Project’s forthcoming book on Brattleboro printing and publishing history:
Kipling was a cheerful, entertaining host and guest with his personal friends in Brattleboro, including Mary Cabot, her brother William, former Governor Frederick Holbrook, the Rev. Charles O. Day, and his best friend, Dr. James Conland. He became angry, however, when Mary challenged his assumption of England’s military superiority to the United States. His opinions of Vermonters and Americans generally varied from time to time but were often condescending or caustic. As in small towns everywhere, Brattleboro suffered from “harmful gossip” and “terrifying intimacy.” Compared with farm women, however, Brattleboro women at least had “literary circles to give them the illusion of real learning,” they had “something to do that seems as if they were doing something,” but life was still “cramped and narrow.“
Much more deplorable was life on Vermont farms, from which many men had fled to seek their fortunes in the West, the women left behind with no one to love. Or perhaps the old man and the old woman remained, the work and monotony eventually driving the woman mad. “More often, let us hope, she only dies.” Elsewhere, by contrast, he spoke of the Vermont farmer as laconic, steady, unhurried, “as impenetrable as that other Eastern [Indian] farmer who is the bedrock of another land.”
— Charles Fish in Brattleboro: A Print Town
Brattleboro Students on Kipling
A podcast on Kipling and the feud with his brother-in-law by Brattleboro Area Middle School students taught by Joe Rivers, President of the Brattleboro Historical Society and Words Project Leadership Committee member.
These student podcasts are not included in the final Brattleboro Words Trail audio stories.
Heaven & Hell
A Roundtable Discussion on Kipling
In July 2018 the Words Project’s monthly Roundtable Discussion series was held at Dummerston’s Scott Farm, where community members and local scholars gathered to discuss Kipling and the legacy he left Brattleboro. Read more about the event in the Brattleboro Reformer, and view video clips below:
Above: Danny Deever by Rudyard Kipling, read by Thomas Ragle at the July, Brattleboro Words Project Roundtable, at Scott Farm.
On The Map
Naulakha, 481 Kipling Rd, Dummerston, VT 05301
About the Research sites
The Brattleboro Words Project is working with the community to identify specific sites and themes significant to the study of words in Brattleboro and surrounding towns. Research Teams – classrooms/teachers, amateur historians, veterans, writers, artists and other community members — will produce audio segments and other work to be incorporated into audio walking, biking and driving tours tours.