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Rudyard Kipling’s Vermont Jewel

Marc Wortman
From the Print Edition:
Jeremy Irons, March/April 2013

For more than a century now, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, with its crackling tales of adventure and life lessons, featuring such indelible characters as the heroic mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, has reigned as one of the world’s most beloved works of children’s literature. While so much of his writing drew on his childhood in exotic India, it comes as a surprise to many that Kipling lived in America when he wrote them. Thanks to preservationist efforts, fans can spend nights in the very house—Naulakha—and jot down their own musings in the same study where he penned many of his best-known works.

In 1892, the inveterate smoker, who once wrote “a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke,” found a bride, Caroline Balestier, who would indulge his love of the leaf, and he followed her to her native America. While on their honeymoon, he fell in love with the rolling Green Mountain foothills and farm landscape overlooking the Connecticut River near Brattleboro, Vermont. On a hillside he built a gem-like, jade-color shingle, four-bedroom house he appropriately named Naulakha, Hindi for “jewel beyond price.” He likened Naulakha to a ship with his study in the forward bridge and a big porch for its bow. Guest parties rent the house in its entirety ($275.00–$425.00 a night, sleeps eight) for a minimum three-night stay.

Kipling was inspired enough to write some of his most famous books here. He loved life in Vermont—though his popularity was such that he had to fend off intruders even as he welcomed such literary and intellectual lights as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and American philosopher William James.

Today’s overnight guests sleep where Kipling and his family and friends slept, dine on the very table where they dined, and can feel the spirit that moved him to write Captains Courageous, Kim and the beginnings of the Just So Stories while here. Smoking is not allowed inside the house, but sitting in what he called his Summer House, a stone pavilion overlooking his sloping fields and up to an endless starry night sky, guests can light up and share his imaginative wonder before nature’s spirits and creatures. In warm months, the house sits amid more than 600 acres of woods and meadows laced with trails and includes gardens and a tennis court; in snowy times, nearby groomed cross-country centers and downhill ski resorts are there for the active, but a gas-log fireplace, a billiards room and private museum of Kipling in Vermont are available for the more sedentary.

Whatever you choose the writer will be there at your shoulder.

Visit landmarktrustusa.org/properties/naulakha/.

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