During his 1907 visit to Victoria, BC, Rudyard Kipling stayed at the Oak Bay Hotel. Built in 1905, and subsequently called the Old Charming Inn, the building was demolished in 1962 to make way for Oak Bay's then most luxurious apartment block, the Rudyard Kipling.
The poem is widely claimed1 to have been written by Kipling after a night on the town in November 1907, and presented to John A. Virtue (d. 1929/07/12), proprietor of the Oak Bay Hotel at the time. C.f.: "An Inside Light on Kipling", Victoria Colony, Sunday, 7 November 1907, p. 18 makes no mention of the poem.
Bro. Virtue had been initiated into Mount Royal Lodge No. 32 in Quebec before relocating to Victoria and affiliating with Vancouver & Quadra Lodge No. 2.
An article in the Vancouver Daily Province in 1945 2 reported that, "Kipling reputedly wrote the poem before ending his vacation in Victoria and presented it to Mr. Virtue, who framed the original and allowed some of his friends to have copies." The article also claimed the poem was previously unpublished although it has elsewhere been claimed to have been published in the Victoria Colonist in 19073 and can be found in a 1922 edition of The Pittsburgh Press.4
Although found in some lists of Kipling's work,5 its inclusion is controversial.6
1. Peter Grant, Wish You Were Here: Life on Vancouver Island in Historical Postcards. Victoria : TouchWood Editions, 2001. ISBN-10: 092066380X p. 110.
2. B. A. McKelvic, "Virtue", Vancouver Daily Province Saturday, 22 December 1945, p. 4. [Robert Ratcliffe Taylor mistakenly claimed 12 December 1945: Imperial Eden: Victoria BC in Verse c. 1858-1920.]
3. Sports Illustrated, "Scorecard", Martin Kane. 6 April 1970: "Now the U.S. Golf Association's Golf Journal has rediscovered an effect of that meeting, a hitherto forgotten poem by Kipling written in commemoration of the event. The poem was recalled by Joshua Green, 100-year-old member of the Seattle Golf Club, when the Golf Journal asked him for an account of the historic Seattle-Victoria interclub series. It was published in the Victoria Colonist in 1907 and described the morning after of what appears to have been a most convivial PNWGA affair and, so far as we know, never has been included in a Kipling anthology, or any other."
4. The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 27 June 1922. p. 2.
5. Reginald Engledow Harbord, The Readers' Guide To Rudyard Kipling's Work R. E. Harbord, 1967. Noted as "Disputed". (8 vols. 1961-1972, 100 sets, privately printed)
6. "Pride of the large lobby of Oak Bay's new luxury apartment block is an old inlaid desk. The desk carries a bit of Victoria's history and gives the block its name. For it was at that desk, when it was in the lobby of what was then known as the Oak Bay Hotel, that Rudyard Kipling sat to write his oft-quoted words about the city. But he didn't write only praise. He wrote some rollicking sad verses too. John Virtue who had built the Oak Bay Hotel (it became the Old Charming Inn much later) was known as a convivial host. Kipling was a special guest. At the desk Kipling wrote a poem. 'A gilded mirror and a polished bar,' he began, 'That's my recollection of last night.' And ended : 'Did I swear off? I got drunk again!'" The Victoria Daily Times. 13 January 1964, reprinted in The Kipling Journal vol. XXXIV. no. 161, March 1967. Cf. "It could not possibly have been written by him at any stage in his career." "Let us forget this disgusting doggerel written by some ignorant
gutter-snipe." C. E. Carrington, London. vol. XXXVII, no. 176, The Kipling Journal, London : The Kipling Society, December 1970, p. 24. Also see The Result: This has, in fact, frequently been quoted, and claimed wholly or in part as Kipling's. [See Kipling Journal No. 93, p. 11 (April 1950) and No. 161, p. 2 (March 1967]. It was, for example, printed as by Kipling in the Island Motorist and Georgian Orient Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 10, April 1932where it was discovered by E. W. Martindell, who notes: 'Kipling was a guest of the late John Virtus [sic] at the Oak Bay Hotel, Victoria, B.C. in 1907, and committed to verse some of his recollections of the visit to Victoria. Date of visit, 5 October to 17 October 1907.' Mr. R. E. Harbord adds an interesting note on the verses: 'Kipling was certainly in B.C. in 1907, as the story persistsfor members still write in about such lines or verses." The Kipling Journal, London : The Kipling Society, September 1970, p. 4.
A gilded mirror, and a polished bar,|
Myriads of glasses strewn ajar;
A kind faced man all dressed in white,
That's my recollection of last night.
The streets were narrow and far too long,
Sidewalks slippery, policemen strong;
The slamming door, the sea-going hack,
That's my recollection of getting back.
A rickety staircase and hard to climb,
But I rested often, I'd lots of time;
An awkward keyhole and a misplaced chair,
Informed my wife that I was there.
A heated interior and a revolving bed,
A sea-sick man with an awful head;
Cocktails, Scotch and booze galore,
Were all introduced to the cuspidor.
And in the morning came that jug of ice,
Which is necessary to men of vice,
And when it stilled my aching brain,
Did I swear off?I got drunk again!