Charles Kingsley, 1819-1875

Portrait

Biographical note

Novelist and historian, son of a clergyman, was born at Holne Vicarage near Dartmoor, but passed most of his childhood at Barnack in the Fen country, and Clovelly in Devonshire, educated at King's College, London, and Cambridge Intended for the law, he entered the Church, and became, in 1842, curate, and two years later rector, of Eversley, Hampshire.

In the latter year he published The Saints' Tragedy, a drama, of which the heroine is St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Two novels followed, Yeast [1848] and Alton Locke [1850], in which he deals with social questions as affecting the agricultural labouring class, and the town worker respectively. He had become deeply interested in such questions, and threw himself heart and soul, in conjunction with F.D. Maurice and others, into the schemes of social amelioration, which they supported under the name of Christian socialism, contributing many tracts and articles under the signature of "Parson Lot." In 1853 appeared Hypatia, in which the conflict of the early Christians with the Greek philosophy of Alexandria is depicted; it was followed in 1855 by Westward Ho, perhaps his most popular work; in 1857 by Two Years Ago, and in 1866 by Hereward the Wake. At Last [1870], gave his impressions of a visit to the West Indies. His taste for natural history found expression in Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore [1855], and other works. The Water Babies is a story for children written to inspire love and reverence of Nature.

Kingsley was in 1860 appointed to the Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge, which he held until 1869. The literary fruit of this was Roman and Teuton [1864]. In the same year he was involved in a controversy with J.H. Newman, which resulted in the publication by the latter of his Apologia. Kingsley, who had in 1869 been made a Canon of Chester, became Canon of Westminster in 1873. Always of a highly nervous temperament, his over-exertion resulted in repeated failures of health, and he died in 1875. Though hot-tempered and combative, he was a man of singularly noble character. His type of religion, cheerful and robust, was described as "muscular Christianity." Strenuous, eager, and keen in feeling, he was not either a profoundly learned, or perhaps very impartial, historian, but all his writings are marked by a bracing and manly atmosphere, intense sympathy, and great descriptive power.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

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Works

Novels

Poetry

History

Essays

Lectures

Sermons, etc.

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