Kipling's father

It is very exciting that the V&A are mounting an exhibition around the theme of Rudyard Kipling's father, Lockwood Kipling. The exhibition runs until 2 April 2017. Lockwood was a very important figure in Rudyard's life: as the young writer grew older so their relationship became more that of fellow collaborators. Lockwood's low relief sculptures of scenes from the Jungle Books provided illustrations in the early editions, and we know that at some point Lockwood advised his son that the book Kim was now complete and he should allow it to be published as it stood: a brilliant piece of advice, especially in light of the fact that Kim is Rudyard Kipling's finest piece of prose writing.

Lockwood was a man who rejoiced in the making and crafting of things. He was trained in the Staffordshire Potteries as a sculptor, and immediately after his wedding he moved with his new wife, Alice, to Bombay, where Rudyard and his sister Trix were born.

We may stray into the whole question of Empire, and some reviewers have challenged the V&A's avoidance of that thorny topic. I think we can also rejoice in the opening up of the subject of Lockwood's work. My estimation of him is that he was a good and generous man. When he was the director of the Lahore Museum, an old Tibetan Lama arrived to see the magnificent Buddhist images (many from Taxila). The curator could see that the old man was struggling to see anything through very scratched and battered spectacles, and simply offered him his own to keep. The story is re-told in Kim, but is apparently based on an actual event. I'm not sure that notions of Empire had anything to do with that act of kindness.