Professor Harry Ricketts
Harry is a poet, biographer, academic and literary scholar who has had a lifelong interest in Rudyard Kipling and his work. His biography of Kipling – The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling – is considered to be one of the definitive works on this master storyteller.
An end-of-Empire kid, Harry grew up in the 1950s in England, Malaysia and Hong Kong, wherever his British Army father was posted. His interest in Kipling began as a child with the Jungle Books and developed as a teenager with the Barrack-Room Ballads. He went to Oxford University and stayed on as a post-graduate to write a thesis on the range of Kipling’s short stories. It was working on the thesis that started to show him just how compelling, complex and simply memorable a writer Kipling is.
Taking up a position in the English Programme at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand in the early 1980s, Harry began to teach Kipling, give talks about him and publish articles on his work. This led to the well-known London publisher Chatto & Windus commissioning him to write his Kipling biography. The biography received a front-page review in The Times Literary Supplement and went into an American edition. It has been much praised for its insight into the relationship between Kipling and his work. Since then, Harry has published widely on different aspects of Kipling’s writing, including chapters on Kim, Kipling’s poetry and his influence on First World War poetry.
Harry has delivered keynote addresses at a number of Kipling conferences. In 2016, Harry with fellow Kipling scholars, attended a conference held in what had been the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla, India. The papers, and the experience as a whole, requickened his fascination with the early, Indian Kipling and the worlds the young journalist and writer inhabited and explored. In 2018, Harry, his wife and their half-Indian niece travelled in Rajasthan, loosely following the two-month trip that Kipling recorded in his Letters of Marque (1887-88).
Harry has published around thirty books, including a group-biography of a dozen British First World War Poets (Strange Meetings: The Poets of the Great War, 2010), two extended personal essays, and eleven collections of poetry (most recently Winter Eyes, 2018). He is a lifelong cricket addict, an addiction he shares with many Indians, but not with Kipling who dismissed cricketers as “flannelled fools at the wicket”.