Through the years, many famous visitors have come to Victoria on Canada’s west coast. The history books and newspapers of the day describe their visits in detail.
For instance, although Queen Victoria herself never visited her namesake city, her daughter Princess Louise, came to the city in 1882. She apparently loved Victoria so much that some thought she would never leave! She was often spotted wandering along Government Street.
Another famous visitor was Winston Churchill, who came in 1929 and planted a tree in Beacon Hill Park.
Members of the British Monarchy are always visiting Victoria. In 1919 the then Prince of Wales came here after WWI and in 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited prior to WWII. In more recent years, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, Prince William, and the Duchess Cambridge with Prince George and Princess Charlotte have graced our shores.
But one man is seldom remembered when we discuss our famous visitors.
That man is Rudyard Kipling, who made three visits to Victoria (in 1889, 1892, and 1907) and included it in his poem “Song of the Cities”:
From East to West the circling word has passed,
Till West is East beside our land-locked blue;
From East to West the tested chain holds fast,
The well-forged link rings true!
Here’s more about the British poet and novelist:
Kipling loved to travel the world, but his time in Victoria, British Columbia, made a special impression on him.
For instance, while staying at the Oak Bay Hotel, he wrote a poem (unpublished) after a "night out" with John Virtue, the proprietor of the Oak Bay Hotel where he stayed in 1907. The first verse of that poem reads:
Judging from Kipling's description of coming back to his room later that night, he must have been a little the worse for wear after a good night out!
In 1908 he wrote his famous description of the city for Collier's weekly magazine in 1908 (vol. 41):
Kipling continued to travel the world for years and published many more books, poems, and short stories before his death in 1936 at age 70.
He received various honorary degrees and awards, some of which he declined, but he did accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He was the first English writer to receive this award.
The pallbearers at his funeral included UK Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, an admiral, and a general.
He is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in London. In Victoria, we still have an apartment building in Oak Bay named for him: the Rudyard Kipling.
Did you know about Kipling’s visits to Victoria? And do you agree with his description of our fine city?
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
If you enjoyed reading about Kipling, check out this post about another historical figure who chose a significantly different line of work.