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KIPLING may be best known as a commentator on the British Empire, but he was also a vivid observer and chronicler of the sea - and of ships and all who sailed in them. For him the sea was the glue which bound the British Empire together. To reach distant lands, you needed to sail. So Kipling wrote copiously about his own voyages - to India, across the Pacific and Atlantic, down to South Africa and Australia - and about the voyages of others. Sailors were particular heroes of his, as adventurers who braved every kind of element and danger in order to reach distant lands. In writing about them, he was enthralled by the romance of the sea, touching on everything from pirates to technical changes in ships. His output reflected his deep historical understanding, so he could write equally about three sailors reminiscing about their shipwreck with St Paul off Malta in 66ad and a ship on fire in the Indian Ocean. He was also a great advocate of the navy. He wrote about its exploits, customs, history and contemporary role in a variety of different forms. At all stages of his life Kipling peppered his many letters with observations about the sea, encompassing his own voyages and his other nautical interests. Edited and with a commentary by Kipling expert and author of the much praised Kipling Abroad, Kipling and the Sea illuminates a side of Kipling's work that has for too long languished in the shadows.
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