I hid in between two logs as near to the company as I be to that old windlass there. I didn't need anybody to show me Big Hand. He stood up, very still, his legs a little apart, listening to Genet, that French Ambassador, which never had more manners than a Bosham tinker. Genet was as good as ordering him to declare war on England at once. I had heard that clack before on the Embuscade. He said he'd stir up the whole United States to have war with England, whether Big Hand liked it or not.

This is from "Rewards and Fairies" "Brother Square-Toe" by Kipling. http://pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/digi300.pdf

Bosham tinker http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_squaretoes1.htm

What is the meaning of "which never had more manners than a Bosham tinker. "?

Does it mean "Big Hand had not good mannaers" ?

I am glad if some one kindly teach me.

2 Answers 2


The full sentence is 'Genet, that French Ambassador, which never had more manners than a Bosham tinker', which changes the meaning from the post title somewhat.

The first consideration that needs to be made is that the expression is used to describe Genet, the French Ambassador. Not Big Hand, who is listening to Genet at the time.

As for the expression itself, a tinker was originally an itinerant tinsmith, who traveled from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living. Considering the time the story is set in, tinkers would be considered low-class people, not of good breeding, nor would they have the upbringing that would have lent them anything approximating the maners expected of a French Ambassador. Bosham, incidentally, is a village near Chichester in Sussex, and is used, presumably, to add a further level of disconnect from the upbringing a French Ambassador would be expected to have.

Therefore, in your example, the 'never had more manners than' clause is stating that the French Ambassador had about the same manners as an itinerant tinsmith, i.e. hardly any manners at all.

  • Thank you for your kind and detailed answer. It is a big help to me! Dec 26, 2016 at 6:50
  • @HiroshiInagaki You might just for fun GoogleMap the locations in the opening pages of this story: you'll see that all the places named lie very close to each other. The children are summering on the Channel coast near Birling Gap, probably at East Dean, just 20-something miles south of Kipling's home at Burwash. The Lees keep their vessel 24 miles west, beyond Newhaven and Brighton, and Bosham is another 30 miles west of that. And the Lees live as 'honest cottagers' a few miles inland from Shoreham at Washington--Kipling's little joke, since 'Big Hand' is of course George Washington. Dec 26, 2016 at 12:53

The narrator is saying Genet has no manners. Earlier in the story, the narrator describes Genet as

"Monsieur Genet said he'd justabout make the United States fight for France.
He was a rude common man."

Why Kipling is specifically making a reference to Bosham may have something to do with it being a port town and parts of the story taking place at sea. Bosham is also a town of note, the Romans built a basilica there, it is listed in the Doomsday Book, and was one of the wealthiest areas for its time.

A tinker is a traveling metalsmith and so not well educated nor possibly well paid, in contrast to Bosham which was an ecclesiastical center since the Middle Ages. The tinker might have been thought of as a lower class.


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