Both sides of a card, which bears the heading "The Elms | Rottingdean, | nr Brighton." Dated Dec 12, 1898. In its original envelope, which provides the recipent's address "The Cottage, Clifton," with both Rottingdean and Brighton postmarks. With accompanying sepia photographic portrait of Kipling standing on a sailing vessel (mounted on gilt-edged card).
This is a very intriguing, if not tantalizing, letter from Rudyard Kipling to a Mrs Darcy. It reads:
That is indeed a beautiful photograph. Of course _we_ know what it means; but to the average spectator it looks very much as if your sailing-master had "shanghaied" one of the inhabitants of Adrigole and the unhappy native was slowly reviving on the decks of the _Margharita_. And the worst of it is, I can't explain to anyone that they are your husband's clothes I'm wearing! I feel I never thanked you properly for the good times you gave me on the yacht that wonderful day ... [+ final long sentence hard to decipher] ... With best regards to your husband, Very sincerely yours [signed] Rudyard Kipling.
Accompanying the letter is a photo of Kipling standing on a sailing vessel, presumably the Margharita; Mrs Darcy must have sent it to Kipling, and with this letter he was returning it to her. We have not been able to learn who Mr & Mrs Richard Darcy were, in connection with Kipling. But we DO know (a) that Adrigole is a harbor village on the southwest corner of Ireland; (b) that the Darcys' hometown of Clifton is right by Bristol, on the southwest shore of England -- not all that far from Adrigole; and (c) that Kipling spent some time in Autumn 1898, including time in Adrigole's Bantry Bay, observing naval manoeuvres on board the Pelorus (the guest of Captain Bayly). At that time, Kipling must have spent a day on board the (Darcys'?) yacht, and subsequently (after each was back in England) she sent him a letter enclosing this photograph of Kipling.
It is tempting to jump to the conclusion that this was some sort of illicit rendezvous -- and in fact, whatever dealer previously wrote a description for this letter (several decades ago) did just that. However, the jocular tone of Kipling's letter, combined with the formality of both the greeting and the signature, leads us to suggest that they simply had "good times on the yacht that wonderful day" -- perhaps (for all we know) with numerous other people. The puzzle that Kipling is wearing her husband's clothes is most easily solved by the idea that his clothes got soaked, as often happens on a sailboat.
The letter/card is in very good condition (one corner has a few creases, with a couple of short pieces of tape, one of which encroaches on RK's signature; both the envelope and the photo are fine. Item #14484