Stalky & Co.

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Stalky & Co. is a novel by Rudyard Kipling, about adolescent boys at a British boarding school. It was first published in 1899 (following serialisation in the Windsor Magazine). Reflecting its origins, the novel is episodic in nature, with self-contained chapters. It is set at an unnamed school referred to as the College or the Coll., which is based on the United Services College in Devon, which Kipling attended. The character Beetle, one of the main trio, is partly based on Kipling himself, while the charismatic character Stalky is based on Lionel Dunsterville, M'Turk is based on George Charles Beresford and Mr King is based on William Carr Crofts.[1]

The stories have elements of revenge, the macabre, bullying and violence, and hints about sex, making them far from childish or idealised. For example, Beetle pokes fun at an earlier, more earnest, boys' book, Eric, or, Little by Little, thus flaunting his more worldly outlook. There is also some information about Stalky in later life.

Further stories[edit]

More tales about Stalky & Co. appeared in magazines and later in collections:[2] "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.[3]

Posthumously published manuscript[edit]

Kipling wrote an additional story about Stalky and Co., "Scylla and Charybdis", but it was never published in his lifetime. It depicts Stalky and his friends catching 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 manuscript of Stalky & Co to the Imperial Service Trust, the body that 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 was displayed at Haileybury in 1962, in an exhibition to mark the school's centenary, and in 1989 it was moved permanently to the College archives after spending many years in a bank vault.

While the story "Scylla and Charybdis" was known to exist, it had never been transcribed or widely discussed. The school eventually decided to publish it, in association with the Kipling Society, in 2004.[4]

Television adaptation[edit]

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.

Texts of Stalky & Co.[edit]


  1. ^ "Boy-Society in Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co.", Lynne M. Rosenthal, The Lion and the Unicorn (journal) Volume 2, Number 2, 1978 pp. 16-26
  2. ^ List of Stories
  3. ^ "Stalky"
  4. ^ The Haileybury Connection, Andrew Hambling, 2004