Sons Surpass Famous Fathers

THE OTHER DAY I WAS STRUCK by the fact that in music and literature one rarely comes across significant instances of a family wherein a famous father is outdone by his son. I know from an early age that as a budding pianist I thoroughly enjoyed playing and listening to the compositions of Johann Strauss II (b. October 25, 1825 , d. June 3, 1899) – pictured alongside.

Indeed, as a teenager I had the marvelous opportunity of visiting Vienna for a week: pictured below sporting a beret, I’m standing in front of my idol’s statue.

I thoroughly indulged myself in tracking down all things related to The Waltz King and his incomparable music.

It was only then that I learned that his father, Johann Strauss I was also famous as a composer of dance music and conductor of salon and popular music.

His son made his début as a conductor in a Viennese café on October 15, 1844. He soon became an idol of Vienna, the voice and symbol of Hapsburg Austria. In 1872 he appeared in these United States in mammoth performances of his works. The 50th anniversary of his début as a conductor was celebrated for an entire week in Vienna in 1894.

Of his many popular waltzes, the most famous are: Roses from the South; Tales from the Vienna Woods; and Wine, Women and Song, and of course The Beautiful Blue Danube:
it’s played here on YouTube by André Rieu & the Johann Strauss Orchestra recorded live at Empress Sisi’s castle, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria with dancers from the famous Austrian Elmayer Dancing School.

Be it noted that the elder Strauss was already an established composer in the Austrian capital.

Johann Strauss I
[March 14, 1804-September 25, 1849]

Perhaps the father’s most famous composition was the Radetzky March. Listen to it on YouTube performed here at The New Year Concert 2009 by the Vienna Philharmonic with Daniel Barenboim conducting.
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On the side of world literature, the Bombay-born writer Rudyard Kipling was a particular favorite of my father throughout his life and therefore as a young man I was familiar with such works of Kipling’s fiction as The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888).

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry James said: “Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius, as distinct from fine intelligence, that I have ever known.”

In 1907, at the age of 42, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient to date. He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.

Speaking of Jungle Book and Kim, few know that it was Rudyard’s father, Lockwood, who was the original illustrator of both books.

John Lockwood Kipling and Rudyard Kipling

Not only that, father and son worked together, discussing Kim, for instance, as it was being written. And indeed the first chapter of Kim features a portrait of Lockwood, that is in the form of the white-bearded curator of the Lahore Museum who receives the Tibetan lama in his office and shows him photographs of the very lamasery he has come from.

Afterword:  Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in Bombay, in the Bombay Presidency of British India, to Alice Kipling (née MacDonald) and John Lockwood Kipling. Alice (one of the four noted MacDonald sisters) was a vivacious woman, about whom Lord Dufferin would say, “Dullness and Mrs. Kipling cannot exist in the same room.” Lockwood Kipling, a sculptor and pottery designer, was the Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the newly founded Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay.

Lockwood and Alice had met in 1863 and courted at Rudyard Lake in Rudyard, Staffordshire, England. They married and moved to India in 1865. They had been so moved by the beauty of the Rudyard Lake area that when their first child was born they named him after it. Kipling’s most famous relative was his first cousin, Stanley Baldwin, who was Conservative Prime Minister three times in the 1920s and ’30s.

By the way, one might imagine that if Lockwood had not devoted so much time in India to educational administrative work, he could have easily made a living as a sculptor of note. He had a particular gift for working in relief, and sought new ways of using it. So the illustrations to his son’s Kim were modeled in plaster relief and  then photographed – an original combination of media. In the end, Lockwood will be remembered as an outstanding artist and illustrator, sculptor, designer, teacher, museum curator, and like his son, a journalist.

Postscript: A fascinating blog of August 23, 1984 by novelist and journalist Anthony Weller may be accessed here: Kipling’s Simla. It will help to put in perspective so many of Rudyard Kipling’s books, like Kim.

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen;  The New York Review of Books: John Lockwood Kipling by James Fenton

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