Willa Cather North by Northeast

Cather Related Site-Seeing North of New York City and East of Ohio


Naulakha: Rudyard Kipling's Vermont Home

Tour written by Sherrill Harbison

The Five Colleges, Amherst, Massachusetts

When Rudyard Kipling settled down "to live a respectable Puritan life in Vermont and be a full-fledged family man," Willa Cather wrote at age 21, his future as an artist was endangered. "Ah, Mr. Kipling," she mourned, matrimony "has shorn the wings of your freedom, and your freedom was your art." Entreating him to "go back to the east, flee out into the desert before it is too late," she lamented "Alas! There were so many men who could have married Mrs. Kipling, and there was only you who could write Soldiers Three" (The Kingdom of Art 318).

The young Cather seemed certain that a bohemian life was the only possible one for artists, but some years later she might have understood Kipling's choice better. As Edith Lewis eventually did for Cather, Caroline Balestier Kipling handled all the details of daily living for her famous husband—financial affairs, secretarial work, and supervising the farm, as well as raising the family. The house Kipling built in 1892-3, Naulakha (the Hindi word for "jewel beyond price," and the title of a novel he had written with his wife's brother), had a single corridor leading to Kipling's study in the south side, and Caroline fiercely guarded the door against newspapermen and other visitors. And despite Willa Cather's alarm, domestic life and the birth of two daughters did not slow Kipling's productivity or hinder its quality. In his four years in Vermont he wrote his book of poetry, The Seven Seas, as well as The Jungle Books, The Day's Work, and his novel of New England fishermen, Captains Courageous (published first in McClure's), as well as major parts of Kim and Just So Stories.

Kipling loved observing the local farmers in his wife's native stateand relished his anonymity among them, as most of them had no idea he was famous. He wrote his friend Charles Eliot Norton that his years there would be "blessed unto me for all my life…. It's an uncivilized land (I still maintain it), but how the deuce has it wound itself around my heartstrings in the way it has?"

Naulakha was an unusual structure for its time and place, part American shingle style, part Indian bungalow, built against a hillside, as Kipling described it, "like a boat on the flank of a distant wave." All rooms have a beautiful view across the Connecticut River valley to New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock, which breaks the horizon, he noted, "like a giant thumbnail pointing upward." This is the same Monadnock, of course, that Cather viewed from her room in the Shattuck Inn, across the river in Jaffrey. (See Joyce McDonald's Jaffrey, New Hampshire tour.)

Naulakha, 481 Kipling Road, Dummerston, VT 05301, ( map), (802) 254-6868. The property is owned by Britain's Landmark Trust, which restored it in its centennial year. All its original furnishings are intact. It is not open to the public (except on several summer weekends), but it can be seen from the road. The Landmark Trust funds restoration work by renting its properties, including this one, by the week. For information contact the Landmark Trust U.S.A., 28 Birge St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 254-6868. Reservations may be made only through The Landmark Trust, Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 3SW, England (44 1628) 825925; fax (44 1628) 825417. www.landmarktrust.co.uk

Sources

Ellen Perry Berkeley, "At Home with Kipling," The New York Times, April 30, 1995.

Emilie C. Harting, A Literary Tour Guide to the United States: Northeast (N.Y., 1978)

Bernice Slote, ed. The Kingdom of Art: Willa Cather's First Principles and Critical Statements, 1893-1896 (Lincoln, NE, 1966)

Getting There

Dummerston is three miles north of Brattleboro (map). Take Black Mt. Road off US 5 north of Brattleboro; Black Mt. Road becomes Kipling Rd. Take left at fork in the road; house is ½ mile from that point. Brattleboro is served by Amtrak.

Dining and Accommodations

The Artist's Loft B & B and Gallery, 103 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 257-5181 www.TheArtistsLoft.com

Latchis Hotel, 50 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 254-6300. www.brattleboro.com/latchis/ A beautifully restored Art Deco hotel which also houses the Latchis Grille (fish & chips, beer and ale from its own brewery), and a movie theater. Contintental breakfast with room.

TJ Buckley's Uptown Dining, 132 Elliot St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 257-4922 (Open Wed-Sun. from 6 p.m.) Fresh local food served in vintage 1927 Worcester Diner. Reservations, no credit cards.

The Common Ground, 25 Elliot Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 257-0855. Vegetarian/vegan restaurant with live music, dancing. Local institution since 1971.

Café Beyond, at the Collected Works Bookshop, 29 High St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 258-4900. Breakfast and lunch; book browsing encouraged.

Amy's Bakery Arts Café, 113 Main St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 257-5056. Pastries, coffees, artisan breads, lunch menu, river view and art gallery.

Peter Haven's, 32 Elliott St., Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 257-3333. Continental dining in intimate setting.


Tour written by Sherrill Harbison, The Five Colleges, Amherst, Massachusetts - 2003
Sponsored by the Cather Project - University of Nebraska-Lincoln - http://cather.unl.edu