I’m reading Kipling’s Kim, where it mentions

Still more important than Wordsworth , or the eminent authors, Burke and Hare, was the art and science of mensurations.

I wonder, who are the Burke and Hare so mentioned?

  • Google suggests they were a pair of infamous Irish criminals although how that relates to Kipling's story, I have no idea. Maybe it's meant to be a joke? – Andrew Nov 18 '18 at 3:55
  • @Andrew no. In Kim it’s a suggestion given to a protégé from an experienced agent. – athos Nov 18 '18 at 3:58
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    Not necessarily. Kipling could be making a kind of 'inside joke' about a fictitious textbook that bears the names of what would have been well-known miscreants. It would be a little strange for two authors of the same name to have published a book together -- imagine how weird it would be if a "Hitler" and "Stalin" together published a children's English primer today. – Andrew Nov 18 '18 at 4:04
  • @Andrew what a surprise! – athos Nov 18 '18 at 4:06

For "Burke and Hare" Google returns the names of two infamous Irish criminals who would still have been common knowledge in Kipling's day. This seems a little strange in the context of the book, but on further research I found this:

After a huge meal at Kalka, [the Babu] spoke uninterruptedly. Was Kim going to school? Then he, an M A of Calcutta University, would explain the advantages of education. There were marks to be gained by due attention to Latin and Wordsworth's Excursion (all this was Greek to Kim). French, too was vital, and the best was to be picked up in Chandernagore a few miles from Calcutta. Also a man might go far, as he himself had done, by strict attention to plays called Lear and Julius Caesar, both much in demand by examiners. Lear was not so full of historical allusions as Julius Caesar; the book cost four annas, but could be bought second-hand in Bow Bazar for two. Still more important than Wordsworth, or the eminent authors, Burke and Hare, was the art and science of mensuration. A boy who had passed his examination in these branches—for which, by the way, there were no cram-books—could, by merely marching over a country with a compass and a level and a straight eye, carry away a picture of that country which might be sold for large sums in coined silver.

A lot of what the Babu says here about education clearly indicates that he is missing the point of his English studies—the Babu is struggling to absorb information that is culturally foreign to him, and Kim mercilessly makes fun of him for his difficulties. "KIM FOREIGNNESS AND "THE OTHER" QUOTES"

This is just a guess, but I would say it's probably a kind of inside joke that would have been funny to Kipling's readers. It's a reference to a fictitious textbook by two authors that bear the same name of two murderers and grave-robbers, and so it's another sly suggestion that Babu does not understand English culture and so does not know what he is talking about.

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    Hurree Babu is right about Burke and Hare; he just refers to them oddly. See Douglas Kerr's note in the 2004 Modern Library edition of Kim (page 300): 21. "Burke and Hare: Hurree Babu is presumably recommending the writings of Edmund Burke (1729-97), the statesman and philosopher, and Augustus Hare (1834-1903), the topographical writer, rather than the notorious partners Burke and Hare, body snatchers and serial murderers who terrorized Edinburgh in the 1820s. Kipling enjoys making fun of Hurree's displays of learning." Google Books – Michael Harvey Nov 18 '18 at 9:12
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    It is a bit like Babu referring to Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer using just their surnames. – Michael Harvey Nov 18 '18 at 10:00
  • @MichaelHarvey Still, I imagine it can't be a coincidence that the names Kipling juxtaposes are the same as the criminals. I'm sure the more knowledgeable English readers of his time would have chuckled at the subtle jibe. – Andrew Nov 18 '18 at 15:39
  • @MichaelHarvey where could i have a look at Kouglas Kerr's note? Google Books's page is empty to me. – athos Nov 22 '18 at 7:49
  • Apart from Google Books, you can purchase or borrow a physical copy of the 2004 Modern Library New York edition of Kim. – Michael Harvey Nov 22 '18 at 16:36

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