The British author and poet received royal treatment while visiting Toronto a century ago.
For its mid-1980s advertising campaign, the King Eddy highlighted its roster of esteemed guests. Whether Rudyard Kipling actually played with the title of one of his works to describe his stay is debatable, but he certainly received royal treatment elsewhere while visiting Toronto as part of a Canadian speaking tour in October 1907.
The British author began October 18, 1907 with an automobile tour of the city. Over three “most enjoyable” hours, Kipling wound through Rosedale, greeted students and faculty at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, and stopped at City Hall. Legend has it that he was supposed to make an appearance at the Woodbridge Fair, but cancelled at the last minute. Though there is no evident proof, it is suspected that the rural road running into Woodbridge was renamed Kipling Avenue soon after, despite his being a no-show.
That evening, he addressed nearly 800 members of the Canadian Club on imperial relations (there is a transcript), where he suggested that Canada should draw closer to Britain’s other large possessions (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa). “Endowed with a voice which, though not robust, is clear and penetrating,” the Globe noted, “Mr. Kipling, who was received with unbounded enthusiasm, spoke with the incisiveness and force which distinguish his writings, and with an earnestness and conviction which showed how deeply he cherishes the true unity of the empire.”
Sketch artists found Kipling a trying subject, as he was fidgety throughout the evening. His physical appearance struck the artists and other observers as more modest than regal. “The most striking about his looks,” the Star reported, “are his heavy dark brown eyebrows and moustache, the latter pointed like a modest sergeant-major’s. Meet Rudyard Kipling on the street as a perfect stranger and you would guess him to be a hardworking schoolmaster.”
Additional material from Toronto Street Names by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould (Toronto: Firefly, 2000), the October 19, 1907 edition of the Globe, and the October 19, 1907 edition of the Toronto Star.