Three pages (three of four sides of one folded leaf), on stationery headed "Burwash | Etchingham" and "Bateman's | Burwash | Sussex". Dated September 4, 1917.
The text of this letter reads:
Thank you ever so much for the letters and still more for the good news about Gerald. The little won [?] has been on my mind a good deal. When a child isn't well the trouble shows in his eyes.
Edinburgh has a climate which is beyond words! Mrs Kipling has been ill with a sharp attack of tonsillitis (it really is spelt with two l's) -- the result of wet and damp. She is better now and is chomping to attend to the farms. Three days fine weather -- the oats laid as flat as a carpet -- a couple of hundred sheep, a certain amount of fly and foot-rot, a hill-calf who has to be weaned and doesn't like it, an outgoing tenant and seventeen million thistles in the pastures are a few of our diversions. But it's better than town.
Please convey my most respectful greetings to the three Bombardiers, and the much-endearing Gerald. Next time he shall have a bombardment all to himself.
With all our best wishes, Very sincerely yours, [signed] Rudyard Kipling
(Kipling knew from personal experience that "when a child isn't well the trouble shows in his eyes": his and Carrie's eldest child Josephine had died of pneumonia at age six in 1899.)
"Mrs Cuthbert," née Kathleen Alice Coppin-Straker, married James Harold Cuthbert in 1908; they had three children (or "Bombardiers") -- Harold born in 1909, Vida born in 1910, and Gerald born in 1912. What connection would have led Kipling to write her this "feel-good" letter, asking about the kids and generally making conversation? We think we have discovered the answer. Two year earlier, specifically on September 27, 1915, Kathleen Cuthbert and Rudyard Kipling shared an unspeakable tragedy: her husband Captain James Cuthbert (of the Scots Guards), and his son Lieutenant John Kipling (of the Irish Guards) were both killed in action (or declared missing) that same day, at the Battle of Loos. Kipling was wracked by guilt for the loss of his son: John had been rejected for service because of his poor eyesight, but, for the glory of patriotic duty, his father pulled strings among military friends to get his son a commission. Thus Kipling, grieving for his son, was here writing to a war widow, grieving for the father of their three children aged eight and under.
After the war, in 1920, Kathleen became a baroness as she would marry Robert Strutt, 4th Baron Rayleigh, who was so renowned as a physicist that today there is a "unit of photon flux" called a "rayleigh"; sadly, little Gerald, referred to in this letter, would die young (28) in the next war -- as an RAF pilot over Belgium, in May 1940 -- making Kipling's last sentence of this letter sadly prophetic.
The letter is in fine condition (inside pages slightly browned, as if a newspaper clipping once resided there). Item #14485