Learoyd, Mulvaney and Ortheris

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"Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd are Privates in B Company of a Line regiment, and personal friends of mine." —(The Three Musketeers)

Thus Rudyard Kipling introduces, in the story The Three Musketeers (1888) three characters who were to reappear in many stories, and to give their name to his next collection Soldiers Three. Their characters are given in the sentence that follows: "Collectively, I think, but am not certain, they are the worst men in the regiment so far as genial blackguardism goes"—that is, they are 'trouble' to authority, and always on the lookout for petty gain; but Kipling is at pains never to suggest that they are evil or immoral. They are representative of the admiration he has for the British Army—which he never sought to idealise as in any way perfect—as in the poems collected in Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), and also show his interest in, and respect for the 'uneducated' classes. Kipling has great respect for the independence of mind, initiative and common sense of the three—and their cunning.

The three are distinguished by their accents, and by Kipling's skilful use of standard stereotyping. If money is to be discussed, it will be done by Learoyd, the caricature Yorkshireman always careful with "brass"; Mulvaney, the Irishman, is the most talkative; and the cockney Ortheris is the most 'street-wise'. But each is much more than a caricature or mere stereotype: that aspect of their construction is partly a question of the economy Kipling has to use in these short pieces, and partly an aspect of his presentation of himself as an ingenuous young reporter.


Private Terence Mulvaney (whose surname should be pronounced Mulvanny) is the leader of the three. He is an Irishman: his speech is distinguished by certain obvious dialect characteristics, even if the dialect is to some extent 'stage Irish'. His 't's and 'd's are often aspirated (indicated by a following 'h', as in 'dhrinkin''); the strength of his pronunciation of 'wh-' is often indicated by preceding it with 'f' ("fwhat" for 'what'); his 's' is often followed by an 'h' (as in 'pershuade' - or is this his drink talking?); the different quality of his vowels from the Received Pronunciation of his day is indicated by variant spellings. For example,

Thin I became a man, an' the divil of a man I was fifteen years ago. They called me Black Mulvaney in thim days, an', begad, I tuk a woman's eye. I did that! Ortheris, ye scrub, fwhat are ye sniggerin' at? Do you misdoubt me?

This shows not only the spelling of his speech, but indicates the articulate fluency with which he speaks (as an Irishman, of course, he has 'the gift of the gab') and also demonstrates, if read aloud, Kipling's feeling for the rhythms and 'swing' of Irish English. It also has the word 'misdoubt', which is more local than Standard English.

Mulvaney is also representative of the stereotypical Irishman in that he drinks, and has lost all his good conduct pay and badges; but he is less typical in that he is an exemplary soldier in what he (and Kipling) thinks is important: he may be regularly Confined to Barracks for his misdemeanours (mostly for being drunk and disorderly)—he thinks this is fair enough - but he supports army traditions (The Three Musketeers shows him defending the tradition of Thursday half day working, more successfully that the rest of the regiment) and resents some "cruel bad treatment" by the Colonel in The God from the Machine: "Me that have saved the repitation av a ten times better man than him".

"He was the tallest man in the regiment" (The God from the Machine)


According to John McGivering (notes on "The Three Musketeers" at the Kipling Society's website [1], "it has been suggested that when Kipling asked himself 'Who is to be the third Musketeer?' he answered himself 'The author is !' (Ortheris)."


The narrator[edit]

Opinions of others[edit]

Terence Mulvaney the Irishman, John Learoyd from Yorkshire, and the London cockney, Stanley Ortheris. Kipling's own persona.[clarification needed]