WHH Short Fiction: “Kind, Kind and Gentle Is She”

Review: “Kind, Kind and Gentle Is She”, William Hope Hodgson, 1913.

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Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This is a romance of the doomed variety.

Our “couple” is a Private Murphy of the British Army in India and a Lady Mary Worthington.

Of course, Hodgson depicts Murphy as an exceptionally muscular man whose physique and singing ability attract Worthington as they rehearse for a show at a hill fort. There’s even a scene where Murphy impulsively kisses Worthington, and she likes it, but she also remembers she’s engaged to an officer in the hill fort, and, of course, the two are from different social classes.

An unexpected uprising of the natives lures most of the troops away with Murphy in hospital. He is distraught over his love being rebuffed. He also won’t have anything to do with a maid who is in love with him.

When the attack on the fort does come, he fights off a great many attackers until the main force returns to the fort. However, he is killed in his heroic defense.

The story concludes with Worthington, now married to Captain Harrison, at a breakfast table. He notes that Murphy’s grave is still decorated with flowers by the men. She says, “I’m glad of that . . . He deserved it. Is your coffee right, dear?”

Sam Gafford sees this as one of Hodgson’s more cynical takes on women. Murphy expresses his love for Worthington, dies trying to save her, and she dismisses his memory with little care. He sees this story on a par with Hodgson’s Captain Gault stories with their cynicism about women. I’m not so sure. I think that last line may just signal domesticity and Worthington’s acceptance and place in a marriage she planned on all along.

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