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Lazarushian leather

Posted by Baceseras on December 30, 2009 at 21:25

In Reply to: Lazarushian leather posted by Baceseras on December 19, 2009 at 20:21:

: : : : In 2007 Jon had asked what the meaning of Lazarushian leather in the final stanza of Gunga Din meant. To which Baceseras replied "The speaker is referring to Lazarus, who came back from the dead, so something like well-worn leather is being attributed to Din's appearance or character."
: : : : My ancestors the Lazarus family had a furniture company, C Lazurus and Co, in Calcutta India. They were friends of Kipling's. They were well respected in the community and the products that they produced were extremely high quality. One of the products that the produced was a leather called Lazarushian leather.

: : : Can you actually substantiate that? I don't want to be rude but it's the commonest thing in the world for a family, a town or a trade to seize on a word or phrase that resembles something in their history, and dream up a story about how the word derives from them. Has your family got any record of this leather being called by that name? Or is it just a tale told in the family? I searchde the net for any mention of C Lazarus & Co, who are consistently described as cabinet-makers, and there is no mention of Lazarushian leather, or any kind of leather, in connection with them. (VSD)

: : In Hinduism, the tanning and manufacture of leather goods is only suitable for Untouchables so that might conflict a bit with "well respected in the community".

: [I find this suggestion very interesting but like Victoria I'd have to see some evidence of the cabinet-maker's leathers being called "Lazarushian" earlier than the use of that word in Kipling's poem. If Woman_in_shoe will write in again, I'd also like to know whether the Lazarus family was Anglo-Indian, and if the Anglo-Indian community was the one in which they were well-respected - an answer to this question could clear up RRC's astute objection. -Baceseras.]

[There's no mention of a Lazarus family or the Lazarus Co. in Kipling's collected correspondence (_The Letters of Rudyard Kipling_, edited by Thomas Pinney; University of Iowa Press, 1990- ; in six volumes); so the assertion that they were friends of the author appears unfounded. Also, Kipling seems to have disliked Calcutta and spent next to no time there. Much of his Indian career was passed at Lahore in the Punjab (which in later years became part of the country of Pakistan); for the last part of his career in India he was based at Allahabad. An early letter of his to his friend Margaret Burne-Jones proposed a tour he would design for her, listing many Indian sites some famous and some remote, but passing over "Calcutta which isn't interesting." likewise in a letter to his aunt he thought his cousin should see India, naming a great many places worth visiting, but with Calcutta at the end only as a place to catch the ferry-boat to Madras or Ceylon.

[Of course there were still other places he could have become acquainted with some of the Lazarus family, but no traces of such acquaintance have come to light yet. I repeat my wish that Woman_in_shoe would write in again with information, memories, hints, anything.

[Like Victoria I have found mention of the Lazarus Co. as cabinet makers but nothing about a leather made or used by them. Used for what, can anyone tell? Upholstery?

[The poem "Gunga Din," like the other "Barrack-room Ballads" of which it forms a part, is represented as being spoken by one Thomas Atkins, that is, a common British soldier, whose frame of reference may be expected to include the more colorful of Bible stories and legends, but probably not high-end home furnishings from a fine Calcutta shop. There are two characters called Lazarus in the Gospels, but popular usage has often conflated them into one person. In chapter 11 of John you may read of the Lazarus who, having died untimely, is called back to life by his friend Jesus; in chapter 16 of Luke you may read how Jesus tells the story of a beggar, also called Lazarus, a man covered with sores, who can get no relief when he b egs at the rich man's door, and how in afterlife the favor is reversed and the rich man discomfited. The images, the actions, and the moralities of both these narratives have some bearing on the portrait of Gunga Din, and on the imagined scene of Gunga in the afterlife "Givin' drink to poor damned souls."

["Lazarus," following the bible stories, has also been a name for one suffering from leprosy - so too Gunga Din's overworked skin, leathery, covered with sores .... - Bacerseras.]