Charles Kingsley, the son of a vicar of Holne in Devon, was born in 1819. Educated at King's College, London, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, he became curate of Eversley in Hampshire in 1842.
As a young man, Kingsley was influenced by The Kingdom of Christ (1838) by Frederick Denison Maurice. In the book Maurice argued that politics and religion are inseparable and that the church should be involved in addressing social questions. Maurice's book rejected individualism, with its competition and selfishness, and suggested a socialist alternative to the economic principles of laissez faire.
Kingsley became a supporter of Chartism and after the decision by the House of Commons to reject the Chartist Petition in 1848, he joined with Frederick Denison Maurice and Thomas Hughes to form the Christian Socialist movement. The men discussed how the Church could help to prevent revolution by tackling what they considered were the reasonable grievances of the working class.
The Christian Socialists published two journals, Politics of the People (1848-1849) and The Christian Socialist (1850-51). Kingsley contributed several articles for this journals under the pseudonym of Parson Lot. The group also produced a series of pamphlets under the title Tracts on Christian Socialism. Other initiatives included a night school in Little Ormond Yard and helping to form eight Working Men's Associations.
In 1850 Kingsley novel Alton Locke was published. The book attempted to expose the social injustice suffered by agricultural labourers and workers in the clothing trade. In Alton Locke Kingsley also describes the Chartist campaign that he was involved with in the 1840s.
Kingsley followed Alton Locke with the historical novel, Hypatia (1853). Based on the real-life story of Hypatia, a philosophy teacher in 5th century Alexandria, who was murdered by a group of fanatical Christians because they disapproved of her political and religious ideas. In 1857 Kingsley published Two Years Ago, a novel about how poor sanitary conditions and public apathy cause an outbreak of cholera.
In 1863 Kingsley published his most famous book, The Water Babies. The book, written for his youngest son, tells the story of a young chimney-sweep, who runs away from his brutal employer. In his flight he falls into a river and is transformed into a water baby. Thereafter, in the river and in the seas, he meets all sorts of creatures and learns a series of moral lessons.
Kingsley, who held the post of Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University between 1860-69, also wrote Westward Ho! (1855), The Heroes (1856), Hereward the Wake(1866) and At Last (1871). Charles Kingsleydied in 1875.
Charles Kingsley - History
The Reverend Charles Kingsley, writer of poetry novels historical works sermons religious tracts scientific treatises and political, social, and literary criticism, was one of the Victorian age's most prolific authors. His was by no means the stereotypical writer's ivory-tower existence, however, as his extensive practical activities in the public arena reveal. A parish priest for much of his life, Kingsley was also a prominent social reformer, political activist, and practical scientist, as well as the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, chaplain to Queen Victoria, the private tutor to the future Edward VII, and the canon of Westminster. Clearly, he led a varied and interesting life and was well known among his contemporaries, though few commentators would consider him in the front ranks of eminent Victorians. Kingsley's condition-of-England novels, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet (1850) and Yeast a Problem (1851), still find a small readership as do his novels for children The Water-Babies A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby (1863), and to a lesser extent Westward Ho! (1855). Moreover, scholars still study his involvement with Christian Socialism and "muscular Christianity," as well as Kingsley's great controversy with Cardinal Newman.
Charles Kingsley was born on 12 June 1819 at Holne Vicarage near Dartmoor, Devonshire. His father, Charles, though reared to be a country gentleman, had taken Holy Orders because of the financial mismanagement of his inheritance. Kingsley's mother, Mary, more worldly and practical than his father, was born in the West Indies and came from a line of Barbadian sugar-plantation owners. After a short stay at a small preparatory school in Clifton, Kingsley was sent to Helston Grammar School in Cornwall, where the Reverend Derwent Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's son, was headmaster. Kingsley was not academically outstanding, though he displayed great interest in art and natural science, especially botany and geology, and wrote much poetry. After the family moved to London in 1836 Kingsley entered King'sCollege as a day student. He did well and in the autumn of 1838 went to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first class in classics and a second in mathematics.
After taking holy orders Kingsley in July 1842 became curate in Eversley, Hampshire. At about this time, influenced by F. D. Maurice's Kingdom of Christ (1838), he became convinced that true religion could not remain distinct from social and political issues or the temporal needs of mankind. Accordingly, in addition to performing religious services, Kingsley worked feverishly to improve the appalling physical, social, and educational conditions of his Eversley parishioners. In January 1844 he married Fanny Grenfell, the daughter of a prosperous family and several years his senior. In May his extensive work as curate at Eversley was rewarded by his appointment as rector. In November 1844 Kingsley's first child, Rose, was born. His eldest son, Maurice, was born in 1847, and his third child, Mary St. Leger, who later wrote novels under the name of Lucas Malet, was born in 1852.
The year 1848 was extremely busy for Kingsley. He published the blank verse drama The Saint's Tragedy, a life of Saint Elizabeth, a married medieval saint. F. D. Maurice secured for him the professorship of English literature and composition at the then-recently established Queen's College, London, a post he was obliged to resign one year later due to pressure of work. Influenced by the political events in Europe that year, Kingsley attended the Chartist demonstration in London, at which he displayed a political poster signed "a Working Parson." Soon, together with Maurice and the barristers John Malcolm Ludlow and Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown's Schooldays (1856), Kingsley was fully committed to the Christian Socialist movement. He was never particularly radical, however, and as he grew older he increasingly became an establishment figure.
In 1848 Kingsley's long story Yeast a Problem, concerned with the deplorable living conditions of England's agricultural laboring families, began appearing in Fraser's Magazine. It was published in book form in 1851. Kingsley's political activities became more widely known, and adverse reaction by the establishment was probably responsible for his rejection for a professorship at King's College. Moreover, his hectic activity throughout 1848, combined with domestic financial worries, undoubtedly contributed to the severe breakdown in health that occurred in the autumn.
In 1849 a cholera epidemic started in Jacob's Island in London's Bermondsey district. Kingsley and his friends, manifesting the practical stress of the Christian Socialist movement, worked incessantly in the district to arrest the outbreak. Indeed, he later became so well known for his work in sanitary reform that he was asked in the spring of 1854 to speak before the House of Commons on the unhygienic conditions prevalent in urban areas and the low remuneration of parish medical officers. The following year he led a deputation on the issue of sanitary reform to the prime minister.
Kingsley's horror at the frequently atrocious sanitary conditions in Victorian cities accounts for some of the most striking episodes and passages in his novel Alton Locke (1859). This work, purporting to be the autobiography of a working-class Chartist poet, had as a principal aim the exposure of the dreadful working conditions, especially the shocking lack of hygiene, of tailors in London's West End. In 1853 Kingsley published his first historical novel, Hypatia: or, New Foes with an Old Face, in two volumes it had earlier appeared serially in Fraser's Magazine. Set in fifth-century Alexandria, Hypatia is the story of various conflicts of Greeks, Jews, Romans, Egyptians, and Goths, particularly the rival claims of Christianity, Judaism, and Neoplatonic thought, against the background of the collapsing Roman Empire.
In 1855 Kingsley published Glaucus or, The Wonders of the Shore (1855), an introduction to natural history and one of the first books of its kind to be written specifically for children. Manifest in Glaucus is the author's firm belief in evolution. Kingsley, uncommon among clerics battling with the religious and moral problems introduced by Darwinian theories, saw no conflict between the teachings of science and the teachings of religion. Indeed, he consistently emphasized that by studying science one was in effect studying the work of God and getting to know him better. Kingsley's knowledge of science was such that he became a fellow of both the Linnaean and Geological Societies and was even cited by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man (1871).
In the summer of 1854 the Kingsleys moved to Bideford on the north coast of Devon, where Kingsley wrote his historical romance Westward Ho!. It has probably been the most widely read of all his novels, with the notable exception of The Water-Babies. In 18?? appeared The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales, for My Children, a book of three Greek legends, intended specifically for children. Another novel for adults, Two Years Ago (1857), greatly helped the economy of the Kingsley household. Set in the contemporary age, it exhibits Kingsley's views on such topics as the role of the artist in society, the great need for sanitation, the importance of science, and the abolition of slavery.
Two Years Ago was also responsible for Kingsley's association in the public mind with the cult of "muscular Christianity," a phrase he detested. Weary of the controversies of the Oxford Movement and theological debates on what he considered to be mere niceties, Kingsley was indeed a muscular Christian, entering into social movements and helping the poor in a practical sense. He also consistently stressed the importance of strength, energy, and physical behavior in pleasing God -- one's physical activity must complement one's spirituality, a muscular Christian duality that Kingsley himself perfectly manifested.
The year 1859 was important for Kingsley's career and ascendance on the social ladder. On Palm Sunday he was invited to preach before Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace. Soon afterward Kingsley was appointed chaplain to the queen. In the autumn of 1859 he had the further honor of preaching before the court at Windsor Castle. The following year royal favor was responsible for the offer of the Regius Chair of Modern History at Cambridge, a post Kingsley held until his resignation in 1869. In 1861 Kingsley was appointed as private tutor to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.
In 1863 Kingsley's best-known work for children, The Water-Babies, came out in book form having earlier appeared serially in Macmillan's Magazine. This novel, a marvelous compendium of diverse material, tells the story of little Tom, the poor child chimney sweep who, reborn as a water-baby, experiences wonderful adventures in the company of real and imaginary creatures. Though it is an uneven novel, it is clearly Kingsley's masterpiece. In 1864 Kingsley, manifesting his anti-Catholic sentiments, made an unfortunate mistake by provoking an altercation in print with John Henry Newman, later cardinal. Kingsley was vanquished by a far more subtle and intellectual opponent, though posterity gained Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864) as a result of the debate. The controversy undoubtedly contributed to one of Kingsley's periodic health crises, a breakdown that endured for about a year. He recovered sufficiently to write his last novel, Hereward the Wake, "Last of the English" (1866), which appeared serially in 1865 in Good News.
Shortly after resigning from his Cambridge chair in 1869 Kingsley accepted the canonry of Chester. Before assuming his new duties at Chester, Kingsley and his daughter Rose visited the West Indies, a trip that resulted in At Last A Christmas in the West Indies (1871). At Chester, though increasingly a prey to ill health, Kingsley remained active in teaching, preaching, sanitary reform, and botanical and geological research. Further advancement came in 1873, when Kingsley was appointed the canon of Westminster Abbey. In the following year he undertook a long lecture tour throughout the United States for financial reasons. In ill health on his return, he contracted pneumonia and died at Eversley on 23 January 1875.
In the Dark
I’ve been aware since my schooldays that there has been (and still is) a significant tendency among the English (especially their governing classes) to regard the Irish as lawless barbarians, but this quote which I found in a book I’ve been reading really took my breath away. It’s from a letter written by Charles Kingsley to his wife in 1861, while he was travelling through an Ireland still reeling from the devastation of the Great Famine:
But I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hundred miles of horrible country. I don’t believe they are our fault, I believe that there are not only more of them than of old, but that they are happier, better, more comfortably fed and lodged under our rule than they ever were. But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful if they were black, one would not feel it so much, but their skins, except where tanned by exposure, are as white as ours.
This passage is revolting in so many ways that I don’t think it needs any further comment, but it is worth mentioning that Charles Kingsley was, by the standards of his time, regarded as something of a progressive. As well as being a Church of England priest, Professor of History and a novelist (I read The Water-Babies when I was a child), he was also a social reformer involved in such initiatives as the working men’s college and labour cooperatives. Clearly his concern for the poor and oppressed didn’t extend much beyond his own people.
P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that Charles Kingsley did his undergraduate studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, as did I (thought not at the same time).
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13 Responses to “Charles Kingsley on the Irish”
He was a strange man, who caused me to side with John Henry Newman (not something I often do) in their clash.
I too read The Water Babies as a child. It gave me nightmares and I think is still the most disturbing book I have ever read. I slept under the bedclothes for months afterwards.
On the Irish issue – in England we were (and I presume still are) taught almost nothing in school of Irish history. I strongly recommend the BBC radio series “A Short History of Ireland” (in about 100 minute episodes) available as an audiobook. I found it gripping and it explained a lot about the issues continuing to the present day. For example, the “chimpanzee” references are consistent with the “sport” at one time of going out hunting the indigenous poulation – as happened also in Australia.
Although I thought The Water Babies was a bit weird, I don’t think it really unsettled me. In fact I don’t even remember much about it, which suggests I wasn’t all that impressed at the time.
My O-level history course (I posted the exam here) covered some aspects of 19th Century Irish history, particularly the numerous failed attempts at Home Rule. I learnt a bit about major characters such as Parnell too, but it was a rather superficial treatment.
Can you document that claim about Australia, please?
I think it was the colonisation phase that shocked me the most – and I now understand why Cromwell is hated in Ireland…
Yes, the facts of Cromwell’s `pacification’ of Ireland and the cruel Penal Laws are for some reason not taught in British schools…but they most certainly are in Ireland.
The conquest of Ireland took place under the Tudor monarchs, Henry VIII and Elizabeth, and colonisation under Elizabeth and her successor James Stuart (King James VI of Scotland and I of England). Cromwell invaded Ireland a lifetime later to forestall the threat of imminent invasion of Britain from Ireland – he even broke off an urgent military campaign in Scotland for that reason – and pursued a scorched earth campaign mainly because the locals were uniformly hostile to him, unlike in divided Scotland and England. Were I Irish, I think I’d be more peeved at the Tudors than at Cromwell.
Colonization, with all its evils, has always been going on. How did English-speaking people get to Ireland in the first place? Cromwell’s deeds were part of a larger picture, true, but his scorched-Earth policy (“war crimes” in modern lingo) probably correctly earned him his infamy.
Cromwell’s Irish campaign actually abided by the conventions of the time regarding war in a hostile region. I was told this by an Irish friend (secular at the time he spoke) who served in the military. I am *not* exonerating the historical actions of the British in Ireland, but I consider that the Tudors (re conquest) and the Victorians (re the famine) have more to answer for.
As for the deeper history, Henry II of England invaded Ireland in the 12th century, after which London had control, via Dublin, of varying amounts of Ireland. Many English overlords ‘went native’ and by Henry VIII’s time little practical English power remained there. Henry VIII was determined to impose English law and centralised government throughout Ireland, extending from the relatively Anglicised parts to the areas under traditional Irish tribal law controlled by Gaelic chieftains. His armies, and then those of his daughter Elizabeth, accomplished that. King James I of England (Elizabeth’s successor) oversaw the ‘planting’ of confiscated land by English and, particularly in the north, Scottish protestant settlers. (James *was* a Scottish protestant.) Of course the native Irish ardently maintained their Catholic religious identity.
Henry II’s invasion was licensed by the Pope of the time, since Henry claimed to be furthering Catholicism by his invasion. Or was it? The papal document in question, Laudabiliter, is not found in papal archives where one might expect a master copy to reside. And the Pope in question was the only English one, Nicholas Brakspear of Hertfordshire (Pope Adrian IV). Was there a plot between Pope and King? On the other hand, plenty of important documents known to have existed are missing from papal archives. This is one of the more interesting uncertainties of history.
One day I should do a post about a famous historical figure from these parts called ‘Silken Thomas’ whose exploits led to his execution during the reign of Henry VIII.
P. S. The area of Ireland under direct control from England prior to the colonisation was called The Pale. Centred on Dublin, it extended as far West as Maynooth.
It’s depressing to see comments ssserting that Kingsley was correct. In line with my policy I have blocked them.
Charles Kingsley - History
riters about science tried to interest young readers by exploiting the attractions of imaginative romances and fairy tales. To explain scientific matters to the young, Granville Penn (1761-1844), Charles Kingsley (1819-75) and Arabella Buckley (1840-1929) aimed to forge an alliance of scientific logic and youthful imagination, in the hope that they could present the Natural Sciences as simple, interesting, wonderful, and, above all ‘magical’. Here Penn does not succeed, since despite the book’s title, his Conversations are one-sided and take the form of lectures rather than attempt to simplify difficult technical language and concepts. Penn aims for the target but misses. By contrast, Kingsley and a minor successor, Buckley, succeed remarkably, particularly in their emphasis on conveying knowledge of the facts by involving romance and imagination.
There can be no doubt how highly Kingsley values the role of the ‘imagination’ or ‘fancy’ in studying natural history: ‘Second only to the good effect of this study on the logical faculty, seems to me to be its effect on the imagination’ (1846, p.16). You might, for instance, take something like a pebble or ‘the tiniest piece of mould on a decayed fruit’ and your imagination will find ‘inexhaustible wonders’ and be stimulated to create ‘a fairy-land’ (pp. 16-17). Study and Imagination are then symbiotic.
However, Kingsley, who acknowledges ‘romance’ only as connoting things imaginative, does not acknowledge the potential contradiction in his suggestion that scientific study can create an imaginative ‘fairy-land’. An inductive scientist seeks to discover the laws that govern the physical workings of the universe, but the creatures and the events of fairy land defy scientific laws: a bird made of gold which can fly (‘The Golden Bird’) an old fairy who is an owl by day and a cat by night and whose castle can root any young man who enters to the spot and can turn a pretty young maid into a bird (‘Jorinda and Jorindel’) Tom Thumb so called because he is no bigger than a thumb when born and most relevantly in this context, the queen who is barren and sentenced to be denied food and water and kept in a tower till she dies. Her rescue requires a miracle: ‘God sent two angels from heaven in the shape of white doves, which flew to her twice a day, and carried her food until the seven years were over’ (‘The Pink’).
However, for two good reasons Kingsley can present science as not only verifying natural laws but also inspiring students to create a fairyland in which miracles defy natural laws. First, he regards the universe as immanent, and in Glaucus or, The Wonders of the Shore the Christian Kingsley uses ‘wonders’ in one its earliest meanings, given in the OED as ‘wunderlice’ (1154) - miracles created by a supernatural power, an idea very close to the German Wundermärchen (another term for a fairy tale) in which magical events necessitate the suspension of natural law. He will return to the concept of a natural law-defying fairy land in The Water Babies’ in 1863.
Second, he values the imagination and the idea of romance so highly that he is determined to rescue it both from the Enlightenment and, ironically, from the Romantic period as well. He therefore argues in ‘How to Study Natural History’ (1846):
Now, from fifty to five-and-twenty years ago, under the influence of the Franklin and Edgeworth school of education, imagination was at a discount. That school was a good school enough: but here was one of its faults. It taught people to look on imagination as quite a useless, dangerous, unpractical, bad thing, a sort of mental disease. And now, as is usual after an unfair depreciation of anything, has come a revolution and an equally unfair glorifying of the imagination the present generation have found out suddenly that the despised faculty is worth something, and therefore are ready to believe it worth everything so that nowadays, to judge from the praise heaped on some poets, the mere possession of imagination, however ill regulated, will atone for every error of false taste, bad English, carelessness for truth and even for coarseness, blasphemy, and want of common morality and it is no longer charity, but fancy, which is to cover the multitude of sins. [p. 18]
Characteristically Kingsley objects to the abuse of something valuable, whether that be rational capacity or imaginative power. In particular he asks his ‘elder readers’ not to devalue his estimation of imagination as ‘light praise’. Instead he reminds them of their duties. ‘Imagination is a valuable thing. a real thing. which everyone has. with which you must do something’. You cannot ignore it because it will assert itself as a quality which we all possess. Further, it occupies a special place in the life of the young, and the education of young imaginations is a perennial preoccupation on which he issues this most important caveat: ‘You will be wise not to neglect it in young children for if you do not provide wholesome food for it, it will find unwholesome food for itself’ p. 19). In The Water Babies the mind-numbing ‘educational’ activities administered in Laputa exemplify the most unwholesome educational diet adults could impose on young minds (p. 163).
Cultivating the Healthy Imagination
Kingsley is so very concerned about cultivating young imaginations healthily because he has no doubt that a healthy imagination will protect the young against moral degeneration. The older generation must not allow youth to become obsessed with a diet of ‘its own fancies, its own day dreams, its own morbid feelings, its likes and dislikes even if it do not take at last to viler food, to French novels, and lawless thoughts, which are but too common, alas! Though we will not speak of them here’ (pp. 18-19). Instead, it must offer the young a healthier diet, i.e. ‘a class of objects which may excite wonder, reverence, the love of novelty and of discovering, without heating the brain or exciting the passions’. The ‘objects’ are, of course, the proper study of the Natural Historian that elicit essentially selfless responses — the reason that Kingsley believes Natural History will play the major part in achieving the ‘great need of all men, to get rid of self’ (p. 19). Here Kingsley the Broad Church Anglican priest is speaking, and he glorifies in the extent to which his Christian beliefs determine his attitude to natural history. He suggests, for instance, that an hour’s summer walk will furnish the young walker with a month’s worth of scientific investigation of precisely the ‘class of objects’ that excite ‘wonder, reverence’, and ‘the love of novelty’ — that is, ‘plants, shells, and animalcules, on each of which a whole volume might be written’, all of which are ‘wonders’ and miraculous. But, as he explains in How to Study Natural History , a book already exists that celebrates the Divine gift of abundance studied by the natural historian (or what we would call a scientist):
Oh Lord, thy works are manifold thy ways are very deep. In wisdom hast thou made them all, the earth is full of thy riches. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest all things living with plenteousness they continue this day according to thine ordinance, for all things serve thee. Thou hast made them fast for ever and ever thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken. Let them praise the name of the Lord for he spake the word and they were made, he commanded, and they were thou made them all, the earth is full of thy riches. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest all things living with plenteousness they continue this day according to thine ordinance, for all things serve thee. Thou hast made them fast for ever and ever thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken. Let them praise the name of the Lord’. [pp. 10-11].
In The Ancien Régime , Kingsley explains that such divine immanence reinforces selflessness. ‘LECTURE III - THE EXPLOSIVE FORCES’, reminds his audience that in a previous lecture he had ‘said that the human race owed more to the eighteenth century than to any century since the Christian era’ (p.36). Following this model of historical inheritance but switching centuries, he has designed his lecture on ‘How to Study Natural History’ to enthuse the next generation by imitating his own predecessors and handing on to them ‘that great heirloom which the philosophers of the seventeenth century left for the use of future generations’ (p. 27). However, since he aims at the younger generation, he therefore cannot take too much for granted when dealing with as yet untutored minds, and so he concentrates on the ways in which his young readers will learn: ‘I appear here to-night not to teach you natural history for that you can only teach yourselves: but to set before you the subject and its value, and if possible, allure some of you to the study of it’ (p.7).
Kingsley’s lecture, ‘How to Study Natural History’, contains a masterly example of presenting complex evolutionary theory in the guise of a simple tale. He chooses as his narrator a ‘little black rounded pebble’. Many teachers of youngsters routinely set tasks such as to write ‘A Day in the Life of an Apple’. However, the pebble’s story, which is more than a junior pupil’s activity, implicitly demands from the young people a considerable scientific awareness. The pebble comes from the street outside, and Kingsley explains that if he has the requisite qualities needed — honesty and a patient and impartial approach — it will tell a tale ‘wilder and grander’ than any which he could have dreamed for himself, for even the lowliest thing in creation will ‘shame the meanness’ of his imagination by ‘the awful magnificence of God’s facts’. (p. 14 my emphasis). This proves to be a ‘scientific fairy tale’ nonpareil!
‘The Pebble’s Tale’ is too long to quote in full, a careful summary has to suffice. When it begins with a reference to ‘Ages and Æons since, thousands on thousands of years before there was a man to till the ground’, the word which would cause a youngster difficulty is ‘Æons’ so Kingsley provides first a synonym, ‘Ages’. This is a minor preparatory step in introducing adult language. The pebble then explains how it once existed as a living sponge in the depths of a large chalky ocean. The pebble’s history is straightforward until it speaks of ‘hundreds of living atomies, each more fantastic than a ghost-painter’s dreams’ which swam around it and multiplied as they began to grow on it so that it became ‘a tiny hive of wonders’. The word ‘atomies’ is such an archaic synonym for tiny creatures, or even skeletons, that a young audience would surely not immediately understand the word unless they had encountered it in the ever popular Romeo and Juliet.
Kingsley may be patronizing his young readers when he has the pebble say that it would take a lifetime for them to understand each of the wonders in the hive. But perhaps not. Through the pebble, Kingsley makes a remarkable concession. It tells its audience that they will never know how ‘the delicate flint-needles in my skin gathered other particles of flint to them, and I and all my inhabitants became a stone’, until it knows how, and that, until it can, it will never be able to tell them! (pp. 14-15). What may at first seem patronising turns out to be a recognition of the limits of scientific insight into events which the scientist has not actually observed.
Kingsley here has implicitly acknowledged the role of speculation about processes so ancient that the natural historian cannot have observed them. As Charles Gillispie points out in Genesis and Geology. (1969), ‘with geologists like Hutton, you can describe past events only by an inductive analogy with what you can see in the present and by the evidence of resulting formations’ (p. 47). Kingsley knows certain ‘facts’ about pebbles but he has to extrapolate a history of events, which he did not witness but which he ‘pretends’ to have witnessed through the pebble as his persona: ‘chalk-mud settled round the pebble’ it ‘lay for ages in the dark’ ‘it felt the glow of fires below’ ‘it was violently shaken about by earthquakes’ again and again it ‘became part of some island or other, which sank in to sea, and was heaved up again centuries later’. Finally it dropped from a cliff-side chalk face, fell into the sea which then tossed it ashore on Reading beach when Reading was no more than sandbank in the sea (p. 15).
This disarmingly, even covertly, simple account would make strenuous demands on an untutored young reader’s ability if challenged to decipher Kingsley’s geological references. Kingsley issues no such challenge but he has laid the basis for a more mature reading. For, in writing the pebble’s story, he refers at an appropriately young level to the state of geology as he sees it, and is particularly keen to disseminate in a simple form the ideas of William Hutton (1726-1797), who in his Theory of the Earth (1795) posited that sedimentary rocks were a combination of fossils and the products of erosion. The reference to ‘the glow of fires below’ is also decidedly Huttonian. When Hutton considered two possible explanations for the consolidation into rocks of the sediments on the ocean bottom, he rejected the Neptunist idea of deposition from solution, and since he was confident that heat under atmospheric pressure could fuse all the substances found in the different types of sediment, he adopted the Vulcanist theory of a fusion of the sediments by the great heat which they believed to exist beneath the lower regions of the earth’s Crust.
As the pebble continues its tale, Kingsley incorporates the Neptunist’s theories based on the idea of successive floods that wiped out ‘individuals, species and whole genera’, and modern life forms possibly being ‘distinct creations’ (Gillispie, 46). In the pebble’s tale, what happens is not explicitly attributed to a geological school of thought, but, to an informed reader it moves from Vulcanism to Neptunism, as ‘flood after flood’ passes over the pebble for ‘many a century’ and it gets swept along with ‘fresh flints from wasting chalk-hills’, ‘freestones from the Gloucestershire wolds’, ‘quartz-boulders from the mountains of Wales’, ‘the carcases of drowned elephants and bison, and many a monstrous beast’, ‘uprooted palms, and tropic fruits and seeds’ and ‘the wrecks of a dying world’. The result is ‘new earth’ with distinct creations (p.15).
Although the simplification of very complex geological processes may not necessarily distort the available material, it does involve loss. The final stage of the pebble’s history exemplifies this. The ‘new earth’ grew ‘wondrous cold’. The ice melted in the sun, the stones and the fine sand fell out of the melting icebergs and covered it up. Once again earthquakes tossed it around but it finally became part of ‘this brave English land’ (p.15). Kingsley here omits what happens in glacial ages when thick sheets of ice cover much of the land. Kingsley truncates geological history because he adopted the persona of a pebble to create accessibility for the young audience. Hence, whereas geologists were already conceiving of a glacial age taking thousands of years of preliminary formation and lasting several millions of years, Kinglsey skips many crucial effects of glaciers on the pebble, which, he tells us, ‘lay for ages in the dark’, and the island on which it lands is ‘heaved up again centuries later’. And, of course, the pebble’s explanation of how the ice age comes to an end is inevitably simplistic: his readers learn only that ‘the ice melted in the sun’.
The pebble’s evolution not only has a past but it also has a future in which it is very confident. Even though it may be ground under ‘the wheels of busy men’, no one will destroy it. Because the universe it inhabits is numinous, the pebble evolves in divinely pre-ordained ways. Like a character in a fairy tale, it changes shape, but such change does not defy natural law. Instead it fulfils the providential design that governs nature. The pebble is now a pebble, but next year ‘dust in the fields’, and then it will resurrect in a new life as a wheat harvest ready for human consumption. Even this will not kill it because it has to fulfil ‘the law which cannot be broken’. It has become ‘trampled and sodden straw’ ready to rot into a ‘new life’, and ready to ‘pass through a fresh cycle of strange adventures, age after age, till time shall be no more doing my work in my generation, and fulfilling to the last the will of God, as faithfully as when I was the water-breathing sponge in the abysses of the old chalk sea’ (p. 7). Kingsley’s tale is a remarkable tour de force.
Bacon, Francis. Distributio Operis ed. Thomas Moffett’. Dublin: Dublin University Press, 1847.
Buckley, Arabella. The Winners in Life's Race or the Great Backboned Family. New York: D. Appleton & ompany,1883.
Buckley, Arabella. The Fairy Land of Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1879.
Carlyle, Thomas. Translations from the Germans Volume 3. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd, 1827.
Gillispie, C. C. Genesis and Geology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
Kingsley, Charles. His Letters and Memoirs of His Life: Volume 1. edited by his wife. London: Henry S. King & Co, 1877.
Kingsley, Charles. The Water Babies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Kingsley, Charles. Town Geology. London: Henry S. King & Co, 1872.
Kingsley, Charles. How To Study Natural History . Great Britain: Amazon, 2016.
Kingsley, Charles. Glaucus or, The Wonders of the Shore. ed. Brian Alderson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Opie, Peter and Iona. The Classic Fairy Tales New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Penn, Granville. Conversations on Geology comprising a familiar exposition of the Huttonian and Wenerian System The Mosaic Geology, as explained by Mr. Granville Penn and the late discoveries of Professor Buckland, Humboldt. R. McCulloch, and others. London: Samuel Maunder, 1828.
In 1844, Kingsley married Frances Grenfell. The couple got four children.
Charles Kingsley died after a long battle with a series of illnesses on January 23, 1875, in Eversley, Hampshire. His two siblings followed him into novel writing. One of his children, Mary became a prolific writer in her adulthood.
In commemorating his input in the British academic and literary world, some locals in England named their town Westward Ho! They derived the name from his novel that was published in 1855.
Andromeda moves onwards
Quintin Beer (conductor), Julia Stutfield (Cantata Dramatica), Dan Rootham (grandson of the composer) with David Lister (chairman) at the site of the CK200 festival where the production of Andromeda will take place.
Hampshire County Council grants
9th July, Graham, Peter and I attended the decision day of the Cultural, Community and Activity Grants of Hampshire County Council – Peter had applied for funding in March this year. We were supported by Councillor David Simpson who also spoke on our behalf. The banners were used (photo attached) and helped us in our mission to get some funding from HCC. The decision on our application has been deferred and we have been invited to meet HCC and discuss further. However, the general view was that they are minded to help as much as funds permit.
The Charles Kingsley Society
The Committee has registered The Charles Kingsley Society as the formal name of the body that will run the Charles Kingsley 200 Festival in 2019 and in addition other activities beyond the festival, so that there may be an enduring legacy, centred in Eversley, to celebrate his life and work.
Never Lose an Opportunity of Seeing Anything Beautiful. Beauty is God’s Handwriting
Dear Quote Investigator: Extraordinary scenes of beauty can uplift one’s spirit. The following remark is often attributed to the philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting.
I searched in a database of Emerson’s writings and was unable to locate this quotation. The words are sometimes credited to the influential art critic John Ruskin. Would you please examine the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: In 1848 a new periodical called “Politics for the People” began to publish, and it included an article about the National Gallery in London. The authorship was cloaked by the pseudonym “Parson Lot”. Ultimately, the author was identified as Charles Kingsley, a member of the clergy who later became a Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge.
Kingsley believed that a gallery had the potential to brighten the lives of visitors by exposing them to lovely artworks: 1
Picture-galleries should be the workman’s paradise, and garden of pleasure, to which he goes to refresh his eyes and heart with beautiful shapes and sweet colouring, when they are wearied with dull bricks and mortar, and the ugly colourless things which fill the workshop and the factory.
Kingsley originated the quotation as a piece of advice to readers in this 1848 article. Boldface has been added to excerpts:
Those who live in towns should carefully remember this, for their own sakes, for their wives’ sakes, for their children’s sakes. Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s hand-writing—a way-side sacrament welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank for it Him, the fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing.
Over time this quotation has incorrectly been reassigned to other famous thinkers, e.g., Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Ruskin. These misattributions have been in circulation for more than one hundred years. Details are given further below.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Although the initial publication was under a pseudonym the passage was reprinted in later volumes collecting the works of Kingsley such as an 1873 edition titled “Selections from Some of the Writings of the Rev. C. Kingsley”. 2
In 1895 “A Nature Sermon” By Theodore F. Seward was printed in “The Outlook: A Family Paper”, and Seward attributed the remark about beauty to Ruskin. No first name was specified, but this was almost certainly a reference to John Ruskin, a prominent art critic of the 1800s: 3
Ruskin has given us one of his wise suggestions in the following words:
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s handwriting — a wayside sacrament: welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower…
In 1904 a teacher in New York City published a monograph about inspiring Manhattan children to love nature. She also attributed the remark about God’s handwriting to Ruskin: 4
Take this bit of advice from Ruskin: “Never lose an opportunity to see anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s handwriting.”
The linkage to Charles Kingsley was not forgotten. In 1905 a periodical called “School Work” published a collection of “Mottoes and Proverbs” that included an instance of the saying credited to Kingsley however, the phrase “God’s handwriting” was changed to “God’s handiwork”: 5
Never lose an opportunity to see anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s handiwork.
In 1908 “A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations” was published by Tryon Edwards who included a version of the quotation under examination. The phrasing was altered, the passage was condensed, and the words were reassigned to the famous transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson: 6
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.—Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.—Emerson.
In 1944 the compilation “What Is Truth” by Henry Powell Spring printed an instance in uppercase. The phrasing was comparable to that given in the 1908 citation, and the words were ascribed to Emerson: 7
NEVER LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY OF SEEING ANYTHING THAT IS BEAUTIFUL FOR BEAUTY IS GOD’S HANDWRITING-A WAYSIDE SACRAMENT. WELCOME IT IN EVERY FAIR FACE, IN EVERY FAIR SKY, IN EVERY FAIR FLOWER, AND THANK GOD FOR IT AS A CUP OF BLESSING. —EMERSON.
In 1955 the “Speaker’s Encyclopedia of Stories, Quotations, and Anecdotes” by Jacob M. Braude ascribed the saying to Kingsley: 8
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s handwriting.
In conclusion, this quotation should be credited to Charles Kingsley, and the accurate version was given in the 1848 publication. Later attributions to Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Ruskin have no substantive support and were mistaken.
Image Notes: Drawing of Charles Kingsley from Project Gutenberg via Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Mount Hood in Oregon from tpsdave at Pixabay. Handwriting/calligraphy image from ShirleyO at Pixabay.
Charles Kingsley was an English priest of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire.
Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon, the second son of the Reverend Charles Kingsley and his wife Mary. His brother, Henry Kingsley, also became a novelist. He spent his childhood in Clovelly, Devon and Barnack, Northamptonshire and was educated at Helston Grammar School before studying at King's College London, and the University of Cambridge. Charles entered Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1838, and graduated in 1842. He chose to pursue a ministry in the church. From 1844, he was rector of Eversley in Hampshire, and in 1860, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge.
In 1869 Kingsley resigned his professorship and, from 1870 to 1873, was a canon of Chester Cathedral. While in Chester he founded the Chester Society for Natural Science, Literature and Art, which played an important part in the establishment of the Grosvenor Museum. In 1872 he accepted the Presidency of the Birmingham and Midland Institute and became its 19th President. Kingsley died in 1875 and was buried in St Mary's Churchyard in Eversley.
Kingsley sat on the 1866 Edward Eyre Defence Committee along with Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens and Lord Tennyson, where he supported Jamaican Governor Edward Eyre's brutal suppression of the Morant Bay Rebellion against the Jamaica Committee.
One of his daughters, Mary St Leger Kingsley, became known as a novelist under the pseudonym of "Lucas Malet".
Kingsley's life was written by his widow in 1877, entitled Charles Kingsley, his Letters and Memories of his Life.
Kingsley also received letters from Thomas Huxley in 1860 and later in 1863, discussing Huxley's early ideas on agnosticism.
Kingsley's interest in history is shown in several of his writings, including The Heroes (1856), a children's book about Greek mythology, and several historical novels, of which the best known are Hypatia (1853), Hereward the Wake (1865) and Westward Ho! (1855).
He was sympathetic to the idea of evolution and was one of the first to praise Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species. He had been sent an advance review copy and in his response of 18 November 1859 (four days before the book went on sale) stated that he had "long since, from watching the crossing of domesticated animals and plants, learnt to disbelieve the dogma of the permanence of species." Darwin added an edited version of Kingsley's closing remarks to the next edition of his book, stating that "A celebrated author and divine has written to me that 'he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws'." When a heated dispute lasting three years developed over human evolution, Kingsley gently satirised the debate as the Great Hippocampus Question.
His concern for social reform is illustrated in his classic, The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby (1863), a tale about a chimney sweep, which retained its popularity well into the 20th century. The story mentions the main protagonists in the scientific debate over human origins, rearranging his earlier satire as the "great hippopotamus test". The book won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1963.
As a novelist his chief power lay in his descriptive faculties. The descriptions of South American scenery in Westward Ho!, of the Egyptian desert in Hypatia, of the North Devon scenery in Two Years Ago, are brilliant and the American scenery is even more vividly and more truthfully described when he had seen it only by the eye of his imagination than in his work At Last, which was written after he had visited the tropics. His sympathy with children taught him how to secure their interests. His version of the old Greek stories entitled The Heroes, and Water-babies and Madam How and Lady Why, in which he deals with popular natural history, take high rank among books for children. Kingsley was influenced by Frederick Denison Maurice, and was close to many Victorian thinkers and writers, including the Scottish writer George MacDonald.
Kingsley wrote poetry and political articles, as well as several volumes of sermons. His argument, in print, with John Henry Newman, accusing him of untruthfulness and deceit, prompted the latter to write his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. He also wrote a preface to the 1859 edition of Henry Brooke's book The Fool of Quality in which he defends their shared belief in universal salvation.
Kingsley coined the term pteridomania in his 1855 book Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore.
Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! led to the founding of a town by the same name (the only place name in England which contains an exclamation mark) and inspired the construction of the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. A hotel in Westward Ho! was named for him and it was opened by him.
A hotel opened in 1897 in Bloomsbury, London, was named after Kingsley. The hotel was founded by teetotallers who admired Kingsley for his political views and his ideas on social reform. It still exists, and is now known as The Kingsley by Thistle
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kingsley, Charles
KINGSLEY, CHARLES (1819–1875), author, son of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, first of Battramsley House in the New Forest, by his wife, daughter of Nathan Lucas of Barbadoes and Rushford Lodge, Norfolk, was born on 12 June 1819 at Holne Vicarage, Devonshire. His father, a descendant of an old family which had produced many soldiers, had been bred as a country gentleman but, from the carelessness of his guardians during a long minority, had been forced to adopt a profession, and had taken orders after thirty. He became acquainted, while studying at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, with Herbert Marsh [q. v.], then professor of divinity, and in 1819 bishop of Peterborough. He took a curacy in the fens, and afterwards at Holne, whence he moved to Burton-on-Trent and Clifton in Nottinghamshire. He held the valuable living of Barnack in Northamptonshire (between Peterborough and Stamford) from 1824 to 1830, until the son of Bishop Marsh could take orders. He caught ague in the fen country, and was advised to remove to Devonshire, where he was presented to Clovelly. He remained there till, in 1836, he became rector of St. Luke's, Chelsea. He died on 29 Feb. 1860 at the Chelsea rectory, in his seventy-eighth year.
Charles was a precocious child, writing sermons and poems at the age of four. He was delicate and sensitive, and retained through life the impressions made upon him by the scenery of the fens and of Clovelly. At Clovelly he learnt to boat, to ride, and to collect shells. In 1831 he was sent to a school at Clifton, and saw the Bristol riots of August 1831, which he says for some years made him a thorough aristocrat. In 1832 he was sent to the grammar school at Helston, Cornwall, then under Derwent Coleridge [q. v.], though it is said that E. C. Hawtrey [q. v.] wished him to go to Eton, from reports of his early promise. Kingsley was not a close student, though he showed great intellectual activity. He was not popular, rather despising his fellows, caring little for the regular games, although fond of feats of agility and of long excursions in search of plants and geological specimens. He wrote a good deal of poetry and poetical prose. In 1836 he went with his family to London, and became a student at King's College, London, walking in and out from Chelsea. He worked hard, but found London life dismal, and was not a little bored by the parish work in which his father and mother were absorbed. He describes the district visitors as ugly and splay-footed beings, ‘three-fourths of whom can't sing, and the other quarter sing miles out of tune, with voices like love-sick parrots.’ In October 1838 he entered Magdalene College, Cambridge, and at the end of his first year gained a scholarship. In the following vacation, while staying with his father in the country, he met, on 6 July 1839, his future wife, Fanny, daughter of Pascoe Grenfell. That, he said afterwards, was ‘my real wedding-day.’ They began an occasional correspondence, in which Kingsley confessed very fully to the religious doubts by which he, like others, was tormented at the time of the Oxford movement. He was occasionally so much depressed by these thoughts, and by the uncertainty of any fulfilment of his hopes, that he sometimes thought of leaving Cambridge to ‘become a wild prairie hunter.’ His attachment to Miss Grenfell operated as an invaluable restraint. He read Coleridge, Carlyle, and Maurice with great interest. Meanwhile, though his studies seem to have been rather desultory, he was popular at college, and threw himself into every kind of sport to distract his mind. He rowed, though he did not attain to the first boat, but specially delighted in fishing expeditions into the fens and elsewhere, rode out to Sedgwick's equestrian lectures on geology, and learnt boxing under a negro prize-fighter. He was a good pedestrian, and once walked to London in a day. His distractions, intellectual, emotional, and athletic, made him regard the regular course of study as a painful drudgery. He read classics with W. H. Bateson [q. v.], afterwards master of St. John's, during his first and third years, but could not be induced to work hard till his last six months. He then by great effort succeeded in obtaining the last place in the first class of the classical tripos of 1842. He was a ‘senior optime’ in the previous mathematical tripos. He had by this time decided to take orders, and in July 1842 was ordained by the Bishop of Winchester to the curacy of Eversley, Hampshire. Eversley is on the borders of Windsor Forest, a wild heather-covered country, with a then neglected population of ‘broom squires’ and deerstealers, and with a considerable infusion of gipsies. Kingsley disliked the Oxford school, which to him represented sacerdotalism, asceticism, and Manichæism, and was eagerly reading Maurice's ‘Kingdom of Christ.’ Carlyle and Arnold were also among his prophets. He soon became popular by hard work in his parish and genuine sympathy with the poor, but lived a secluded life, with little society beyond that of a few friends in the Military College at Sandhurst. A year's interruption in the correspondence with his future wife implies a cause for depression. In September 1843, however, he obtained through one of her relations, Lord Sidney Godolphin Osborne, a promise of a living from Lord Portman, and was advised to apply in the meantime for the curacy of Pimperne, near Blandford. The curacy was promised, and the correspondence was renewed. Early in 1844 he married. The living of Eversley fell vacant at the time, and the parishioners were anxious that he should succeed to it. In May 1844 he was accordingly presented to it by Sir John Cope, the patron, and settled there as rector soon afterwards.
Heavy dilapidations and arrears of poor-rate fell upon the new incumbent the house was unwholesome, and much drainage was required. The church was empty no grown-up labourers in the parish could read or write, and everything was in a state of neglect. Kingsley set to work vigorously, and in time successfully, to remedy this state of things. His only recreation was an occasional day's fishing, and sometimes a day with the hounds on an old horse ‘picked up cheap for parson's work.’ In 1844 he made acquaintance with Maurice, to whom he had written for advice upon some of his difficulties. Maurice soon became a revered friend, whom he delighted to call his ‘master.’ In 1845 he was appointed a canon of Middleham by Dean Wood, father of an old college friend, a post which was merely honorary, though historically interesting.
In 1842, just after taking his degree, he had begun to write the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. He finally changed his original prose into a drama, which was accepted, after some refusals from publishers, by Messrs. Parker, and appeared at the beginning of 1848 with a preface by Maurice. The book excited interest both in Oxford and in Germany. It was much admired by Bunsen, and a review by Conington, though not very favourable, led to a friendship with the critic. While showing high poetical promise, and indeed containing some of his best work, it is also an exposition of his sentiments upon the social and religious movements of the day. Though expressing sympathy with mediæval life, it is a characteristic protest against the ascetic theories which, as he thought, tended to degrade the doctrine of the marriage bond. The events of 1848 led to a more direct utterance. His admiration for Maurice brought about a close association with the group who, with Maurice for leader, were attempting to give a Christian direction to the socialist movement then becoming conspicuous. Among others he came to know A. P. Stanley, Mr. Froude, Mr. Ludlow, and especially Mr. Thomas Hughes, afterwards his most intimate friend. He was appointed professor of English literature in Queen's College, Harley Street, just founded, with Maurice as president, and gave a course of weekly lectures, though ill-health forced him to give up the post a year later. His work at Eversley prevented him from taking so active a part as some of his friends, but he heartily sympathised with their aims, and was a trusted adviser in their schemes for promoting co-operation and ‘Christian socialism.’ His literary gifts were especially valuable, and his writings were marked by a fervid and genuine enthusiasm on behalf of the poor. He contributed papers to the ‘Politics for the People,’ of which the first number (of seventeen published) appeared on 6 May 1848. He took the signature ‘Parson Lot,’ on account of a discussion with his friends, in which, being in a minority of one, he had said that he felt like Lot, ‘when he seemed as one that mocked to his sons-in-law.’ Under the same name he published a pamphlet called ‘Cheap Clothes and Nasty’ in 1850, and a good many contributions to the ‘Christian Socialist: a Journal of Association,’ which appeared from 2 Nov. 1850 to 28 June 1851. The pamphlet was reprinted with ‘Alton Locke’ and a preface by Mr. Thomas Hughes in 1881. He produced his first two novels under the same influence. ‘Yeast’ was published in ‘Fraser's Magazine’ in the autumn of 1848. He had been greatly excited by the events of the previous months, and wrote it at night, after days spent in hard parish work. A complete breakdown of health followed. He went for rest to Bournemouth in October, and after a second collapse spent the winter in North Devon. A further holiday, also spent in Devonshire, became necessary in 1849. The expenses of sickness and the heavy rates at Eversley tried his finances. He resigned the office of clerk-in-orders at St. Luke's, Chelsea, which he had held since his marriage, but which he now felt to be a sinecure. To make up his income he resolved to take pupils, and by a great effort finished ‘Alton Locke’ in the winter of 1849–50. Messrs. Parker declined it, thinking that they had suffered in reputation by the publication of ‘Yeast.’ It was, however, accepted by Messrs. Chapman & Hall on the recommendation of Carlyle, and appears to have brought the author 150l. (Kingsley, i. 277). It was published in August 1850, and was described by Carlyle as a ‘fervid creation still left half chaotic.’
Kingsley's writings exposed him at this time to many and often grossly unfair attacks. In 1851 he preached a sermon in a London church which, with the full knowledge of the incumbent, was to give the views of the Christian socialists, and was called ‘The Message of the Church to the Labouring Man.’ At the end of the sermon, however, the incumbent rose and protested against its teaching. The press took the matter up, and the Bishop of London (Blomfield) forbade Kingsley to preach in his diocese. A meeting of working-men was held on Kennington Common to support Kingsley. The sermon was printed, and the bishop, after seeing Kingsley, withdrew the prohibition.
The fear of anything called socialism was natural at the time but Kingsley never adopted the socialist creed in a sense which could now shock the most conservative. In politics he was in later life rather a tory than a radical. He fervently believed in the House of Lords (see e.g. Kingsley, ii. 241–3), detested the Manchester school, and was opposed to most of the radical platform. ‘Yeast’ and ‘Alton Locke’ indeed show an even passionate sympathy for the sufferings of the agricultural labourer and of the London artisan. The ballad of the ‘poacher's widow’ in ‘Yeast’ is a denunciation of game-preservers vigorous enough to satisfy the most thoroughgoing chartist. But Kingsley's sentiment was thoroughly in harmony with the class of squires and country clergymen, who required in his opinion to be roused to their duties, not deprived of their privileges. He therefore did not sympathise with the truly revolutionary movement, but looked for a remedy of admitted evils to the promotion of co-operation, and to sound sanitary legislation (in which he was always strongly interested). He strove above all to direct popular aspirations by Christian principles, which alone, as he held, could produce true liberty and equality. Thus, when the passions roused in 1848 had cooled down, he ceased to be an active agitator, and became tolerably reconciled to the existing order.
In 1851 he was attacked with gross unfairness or stupidity for the supposed immorality of ‘Yeast,’ and replied in a letter to the ‘Guardian’ by a mentiris impudentissime, which showed how deeply he had been stung. He sought relief from worry and work in the autumn of 1851 by his first tour abroad, bringing back from the Rhine impressions afterwards used in ‘Two Years Ago.’ One of his private pupils, Mr. John Martineau, has given a very vivid account of his home life at Eversley during this period (Kingsley, i. 297–308). He had brought things into better order, and after his holiday in 1851 was able for some time to work without a curate. Not being able to get another pupil, he was compelled to continue his work single-handed, and again became over-exhausted. His remarkable novel, ‘Hypatia,’ certainly one of the most successful attempts in a very difficult literary style, appeared in 1853, after passing through ‘Fraser's Magazine.’ It was well received in Germany as well as England, and highly praised by Bunsen (Memoirs, ii. 309). Maurice took a part in criticising it during its progress, and gave suggestions which Kingsley turned to account. Like his previous books, it is intended to convey a lesson for the day, dealing with an analogous period of intellectual fermentation. It shows his brilliant power of constructing a vivid, if not too accurate, picture of a past social state. The winter of 1853–4 was passed at Torquay for the sake of his wife, whose health had suffered from the damp of Eversley. Here his strong love of natural history led him to a study of seashore objects and to an article on the ‘Wonders of the Shore’ in the ‘North British Review,’ afterwards developed into ‘Glaucus.’ In February he gave some lectures at Edinburgh on the ‘Schools of Alexandria,’ and in the spring settled with his family at Bideford, his wife being still unable to return to Eversley. Here he wrote ‘Westward Ho!’ It was dedicated to Bishop Selwyn and Rajah Brooke. Brooke was a hero after his own heart, whom he knew per sonally and had heartily endeavoured to support (Kingsley, i. 222, 369–70, 444–5). It is in some ways his most characteristic book, and the descriptions of Devonshire scenery, his hearty sympathy with the Elizabethan heroes, and the unflagging spirit of the story, make the reader indifferent to its obviously one-sided view of history.
While staying at Bideford Kingsley displayed one of his many gifts by getting up and teaching a drawing class for young men. In the course of 1855 he again settled at Eversley, spending the winter at a house on Farley Hill, for the benefit of his wife's health. Besides frequent lectures, sermons, and articles, he was now writing ‘Two Years Ago,’ which appeared in 1857. Kingsley had been deeply interested in the Crimean war. Some thousands of copies of a tract by him called ‘Brave Words to Brave Soldiers,’ had been distributed to the army. He always had keen military tastes he studied military history with especial interest many of the officers from Sandhurst and Aldershot became his warm friends and he delighted in lecturing, preaching, or blessing new colours for the regiments in camp. Such tastes help to explain the view expressed in ‘Two Years Ago,’ which was then less startling than may now seem possible, that the war was to exercise the great regenerating influence. The novel is much weaker than its predecessors, and shows clearly that if his desire for social reform was not lessened, he had no longer so strong a sense that the times were out of joint. His health and prospects had improved, a result which he naturally attributed to a general improvement of the world.
The Crimean pamphlet had been published anonymously, on account of the prejudices against him in the religious world. The prejudices rapidly diminished from this time. In 1859 he became one of the queen's chaplains in ordinary. He was presented to the queen and to the prince consort, for whom he entertained a specially warm admiration. He still felt the strain of overwork, having no curate, and shrank from London bustle, confining himself chiefly to Eversley. In May 1860 he was appointed to the professorship of modern history at Cambridge, vacant by the death in the previous autumn of Sir James Stephen. He took a house at Cambridge, but after three years found that the expense of a double establishment was beyond his means, and from 1863 resided at Eversley, only going to Cambridge twice a year to deliver his lectures. During the first period his duties at Eversley were undertaken by the Rev. Septimus Hansard. The salary of the professorship was 371l., and the preparation of lectures interfered with other literary work. During the residence of the Prince of Wales at Cambridge a special class under Kingsley was formed for his benefit, and the prince won the affectionate regard of his teacher. The prince recommended him for an honorary degree at Oxford on the commemoration of 1863, but the threatened opposition of the high church party under Pusey induced Kingsley to retire, with the advice of his friends. Kingsley's tenure of the professorship can hardly be described as successful. The difficulties were great. The attempt to restore the professorial system had at that time only succeeded in filling the class-rooms with candidates for the ordinary degree. History formed no part of the course of serious students, and the lectures were in the main merely ornamental. Kingsley's geniality, however, won many friends both among the authorities and the undergraduates. Some young men expressed sincere gratitude for the intellectual and moral impulse which they received from him. Professor Max Müller says (Kingsley, ii. 266) ‘history was but his text,’ and his lectures gave the thoughts of ‘a poet and a moralist, a politician and a theologian, and, above all, a friend and counsellor of young men.’ They roused interest, but they did not lead to a serious study of history or an elevation of the position held by the study at the university. Kingsley's versatile mind, distracted by a great variety of interests, had caught brilliant glimpses, but had not been practised in systematic study. His lectures, when published, were severely criticised by writers of authority as savouring more of the historical novelist than of the trained inquirer. He was sensible of this weakness, and towards the end of his tenure of office became anxious to resign. His inability to reside prevented him from keeping up the intimacies with young men which, at the beginning of his course, he had rightly regarded as of great value.
In the beginning of 1864 Kingsley had an unfortunate controversy with John Henry Newman [q. v.] He had asserted in a review of Mr. Froude's ‘History’ in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ for January 1864 that ‘Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman catholic clergy,’ and attributed this opinion to Newman in particular. Upon Newman's protest, a correspondence followed, which was published by Newman (dated 31 Jan. 1864), with a brief, but cutting, comment. Kingsley replied in a pamphlet called ‘What, then, does Dr. Newman mean?’ which produced Newman's famous ‘Apologia.’ Kingsley was clearly both rash in his first statement and unsatisfactory in the apology which he published in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ (this is given in the correspondence). That Newman triumphantly vindicated his personal character is also beyond doubt. The best that can be said for Kingsley is that he was aiming at a real blot on the philosophical system of his opponent but, if so, it must be also allowed that he contrived to confuse the issue, and by obvious misunderstandings to give a complete victory to a powerful antagonist. With all his merits as an imaginative writer, Kingsley never showed any genuine dialectical ability.
Kingsley's health was now showing symptoms of decline. The ‘Water Babies,’ published in 1863, was, says Mrs. Kingsley, ‘perhaps the last book, except his West Indian one, that he wrote with any real ease.’ Rest and change of air had been strongly advised, and in the spring of 1864 he made a short tour in France with Mr. Froude. In 1865 he was forced by further illness to retire for three months to the coast of Norfolk. From 1868 the Rev. William Harrison was his curate, and lightened his work at Eversley. Mr. Harrison contributed some interesting reminiscences to the memoir (Kingsley, ii. 281–8). In 1869 Kingsley resigned his professorship at Cambridge, stating that his brains as well as his purse rendered the step necessary (ib. ii. 293). Relieved from the strain, he gave many lectures and addresses he was president of the education section at the Social Science Congress held in October 1869 at Bristol, and delivered an inaugural address, which was printed by the Education League about 100,000 copies were distributed. He had joined the league, which was generally opposed by the clergy, in despair of otherwise obtaining a national system of education, but withdrew to become a supporter of W. E. Forster's Education Bill. At the end of the year he sailed to the West Indies on the invitation of his friend Sir Arthur Gordon, then governor of Trinidad. His ‘At Last,’ a graphic description of his travels, appeared in 1870. In August 1869 Kingsley was appointed canon of Chester, and was installed in November. Next year he began his residence on 1 May, and found congenial society among the cathedral clergy. He started a botany class, which developed into the Chester Natural History Society. He gave some excellent lectures, published in 1872 as ‘Town Geology,’ and acted as guide to excursions into the country for botanical and geological purposes. A lecture delivered at Sion College upon the ‘Theology of the Future’ (published in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’) stated his views of the relations between scientific theories and theological doctrine, and for the later part of his life his interest in natural history determined a large part of his energy. He came to believe in Darwinism, holding that it was in full accordance with theology. Sanitary science also occupied much of his attention, and an address delivered by him in Birmingham in 1872, as president of the Midland Institute, led to the foundation of classes at the institute and at Saltley College (a place of training for schoolmasters) for the study of the laws of health.
In 1873 he was appointed canon of Westminster, and left Chester, to the general regret of his colleagues and the people. His son, Maurice, had gone to America in 1870, and was there employed as a railway engineer. Returning in 1873, he found his father much changed, and urged a sea-voyage and rest. At the beginning of 1874 Kingsley sailed for America, was received with the usual American hospitality in the chief cities, and gave some lectures. After a visit to Canada, he went to the west, saw Salt Lake city, San Francisco, the Yosemite valley, and had a severe attack of pleurisy, during which he stayed at Colorado Springs. It weakened him seriously, and after his return in August 1874 he had an attack at Westminster, by which he was further shaken. His wife had a dangerous illness soon afterwards. He was able to preach at Westminster in November, but was painfully changed in appearance. On 3 Dec. he went with his wife to Eversley, catching fresh cold just before. At Eversley he soon became dangerously ill. His wife was at the same time confined to her room with an illness supposed to be mortal, and he could only send messages for a time. He died peacefully on 23 Jan. 1875. He was buried at Eversley on 28 Jan., amid a great concourse of friends, including men of political and military distinction, villagers, and the huntsmen of the pack, with the horses and hounds outside the churchyard. Dean Stanley took part in the service, and preached a funeral sermon in Westminster Abbey (published) on 31 Jan. A cross was erected by his wife in Eversley churchyard. A Kingsley Memorial Fund provided a restoration of the church and a bust (by Mr. Woolner) in Westminster Abbey. A portrait is prefixed to the first volume of the ‘Memoirs,’ and an engraving from Mr. Woolner's bust to the second.
A civil list pension was granted to Mrs. Kingsley upon her husband's death, but she declined the queen's offer of rooms in Hampton Court Palace. She died at her residence at Bishop's Tachbrook, near Leamington, on Saturday, 12 Dec. 1891, aged 77. Kingsley's four children, all born at Eversley, were: 1. Rose Georgina (b. 1845) 2. Maurice (b. 1847), now of New Rochelle in the state of New York 3. Mary St. Leger (b. 1852), widow of William Harrison, formerly rector of Clovelly and 4. Grenville Arthur (b. 1857), now resident in Queensland. Mrs. Harrison has written some well-known novels under the pseudonym ‘Lucas Malet.’
Kingsley was above middle height, of spare but muscular and vigorous frame, with a strongly marked face, to which the deep lines between the brows gave an expression of sternness. He was troubled by a stammer. He prescribed and practised rules for its cure, but never overcame it in conversation, although in public speaking he could avoid it. The name of ‘muscular Christianity,’ first given in the ‘Saturday Review,’ and some of his verses suggested the tough athlete but he had a highly nervous temperament, and his characteristic restlessness made it difficult for him to sit still through a meal (Martineau in Kingsley, i. 300). He had taken to smoking at college to soothe his nerves, and, finding the practice beneficial, acquired the love of tobacco which he expresses in ‘Westward Ho!’ His impetuous and excitable temper led him to overwork himself from the first, and his early writings gave promise of still higher achievements than he ever produced. The excessive fervour of his emotions caused early exhaustion, and was connected with his obvious weaknesses. He neither thought nor studied systematically, and his beliefs were more matters of instinct than of reason. He was distracted by the wide range and quickness of his sympathy. He had great powers of enjoyment. He had a passion for the beautiful in art and nature. No one surpassed him in first-hand descriptions of the scenery that he loved. He was enthusiastic in natural history, recognised every country sight and sound, and studied birds, beasts, fishes, and geology with the keenest interest. In theology he was a disciple of Maurice, attracted by the generous feeling and catholic spirit of his master. He called himself a ‘Platonist’ in philosophy, and had a taste for the mystics, liking to recognise a divine symbolism in nature. At the same time his scientific enthusiasm led him to admire Darwin, Professor Huxley, and Lyell without reserve. He corresponded with J. S. Mill, expressed the strongest admiration of his books, and shared in his desire for the emancipation of women. Certain tendencies of the advocates of women's rights caused him to draw back but he was always anxious to see women admitted to medical studies. His domestic character was admirable, and he was a most energetic country parson. He loved and respected the poor, and did his utmost to raise their standard of life. ‘He was,’ said Matthew Arnold in a letter of condolence to his family, ‘the most generous man I have ever known the most forward to praise what he thought good, the most willing to admire, the most free from all thought of himself, in praising and in admiring, and the most incapable of being made ill-natured or even indifferent by having to support ill-natured attacks himself.’ This quality made him attractive to all who met him personally, however averse to some of his views. It went along with a distaste for creeds embodying a narrow and distorted ideal of life—a distaste which biassed his judgment of ecclesiastical matters, and gives the impression that the ancient Greeks or Teutons had more of his real sympathies than the early Christians. He was a genuine poet, if not of the very highest kind. Some of his stirring lyrics are likely to last long, and his beautiful poem, ‘Andromeda,’ is perhaps the best example of the English hexameter.
- ‘The Saint's Tragedy,’ 1848.
- ‘Twenty-five Village Sermons,’ 1849.
- ‘Alton Locke,’ 1850.
- ‘Yeast, a Problem,’ 1851 (published in ‘Fraser's Magazine’ in 1848, and cut short to please the proprietors for intended conclusion see Kingsley, i. 219).
- ‘Phaethon, or Loose Thoughts for Loose Thinkers,’ 1852.
- ‘Sermons on National Subjects,’ 1st ser. 1852, 2nd ser. 1854.
- ‘Hypatia,’ 1853 (from ‘Fraser's Magazine’).
- ‘Alexandria and her Schools’ (lectures at Edinburgh), 1854.
- ‘Who causes Pestilence?’ (four sermons), 1854.
- ‘Sermons for the Times,’ 1855.
- ‘Westward Ho!’ 1855.
- ‘Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore,’ 1855.
- ‘The Heroes, or Greek Fairy Tales,’ 1856.
- ‘Two Years Ago,’ 1857.
- ‘Andromeda, and other Poems,’ 1858 ‘Poems’ (1875) includes these and ‘The Saint's Tragedy.’
- ‘The Good News of God,’ a volume of sermons, 1859.
- ‘Miscellanies,’ 1859.
- ‘Limits of Exact Science, as applied to History’ (inaugural lecture at Cambridge), 1860.
- ‘Town and Country Sermons,’ 1861.
- ‘Sermons on the Pentateuch,’ 1863.
- ‘The Water Babies,’ 1863.
- ‘David’ (four sermons before the university), 1865.
- ‘Hereward the Wake,’ 1866.
- ‘The Ancien Régime’ (three lectures at the Royal Institution), 1867.
- ‘The Water of Life, and other Sermons,’ 1867.
- ‘The Hermits’ (Sunday Library, vol. ii.), 1868.
- ‘Discipline, and other Sermons,’ 1868.
- ‘Madam How and Lady Why’ (from ‘Good Words for Children’), 1869.
- ‘At Last: a Christmas in the West Indies,’ 1871.
- ‘Town Geology’ (lectures at Chester), 1872.
- ‘Prose Idylls,’ 1873.
- ‘Plays and Puritans,’ 1873.
- ‘Health and Education,’ 1874.
- ‘Westminster Sermons,’ 1874.
- ‘Lectures delivered in America,’ 1875.
- ‘All Saints' Day, and other Sermons’ (edited by W. Harrison), 1878.
Kingsley also published some single sermons and pamphlets besides those mentioned in the text. Various selections have also been published. He wrote prefaces to Miss Winkworth's translation of ‘Tauler’ and the ‘Theologia Germanica,’ and to Brooke's ‘Fool of Quality.’
[Charles Kingsley: his Letters and Memories of his Life, by his Wife, 2 vols. 8vo, 1877 see also A. P. Stanley's Funeral Sermon T. Hughes's Memoir prefixed to Alton Locke, 1881 Dr. Rigg's Memoir in Modern Anglican Theology, 3rd edit. Life of F. D. Maurice, by his Son.]
Biography of Charles Kingsley
Parish Priest. If Charles Kingsley had been born in Scandinavia a thousand years earlier, one more valiant Viking would have sailed westward from the deep fiords of his native home to risk his fortunes in a new world, one who by his courage, his foresight, and his leadership of men was well fitted to be captain of his bark. The lover of the open-air life, the searcher after knowledge, the fighter that he was, he would have been in his element, foremost in the fray, most eager in the quest. But it was given to him to live in quieter times, to graft on the Old Norse stock the graces of modern culture and the virtues of a Christian and in a peaceful parish of rural England he found full scope for his gifts. There he taught his own and succeeding generations how full and beneficent the life of a parish priest can be. Our villages and towns produced many notable types of rector in the nineteenth century, Keble, Hawker, Hook, Robertson, Dolling, and scores of others but none touched life at more points, none became so truly national a figure as Charles Kingsley in his Eversley home.
His father was of an old squire family like his son he was a clergyman, a naturalist, and a sportsman. His mother, a Miss Lucas, came from Barbados and while she wrote poetry with feeling and skill, she had also a practical gift of management. His father’s calling involved several changes of residence. Those, which had most influence on his son, were his removal in 1824 to Barnack, on the edge of the fens, still untamed and full of wild life, and in 1830 to Clovelly in North Devon. More than thirty years later, when asked to fill up the usual questions in a lady’s album, he wrote that his favorite scenery was ‘wide flats and open sea’. He was precocious as a child and perpetrated poems and sermons at the age of four but very early he developed a habit of observation and a healthy interest in things outside himself. Such a nature could not be indifferent to the beauty of Clovelly, to the coming and going of its fishermen, and to the romance and danger of their lives. The steep village-street nestling among the woods, the little harbor sheltered by the sandstone cliffs, the wide view over the blue water, won his lifelong affection.
His parents talked of sending him to Eton or Rugby, but in the end they decided to put him with Derwent Coleridge, the poet’s son, at the Grammar School of Helston. Here he had the scenery, which he loved, and masters who developed his strong bent towards natural science and here he laid the foundations of his knowledge of botany, which remained all his life his favorite recreation. He was an eager reader, but not a close student of books fond of outdoor life, but not skilled in athletic games capable of much effort and much endurance, but rather irregular in his spurts of energy. A more methodical training might have saved him some mistakes, but it might also have taken the edge off that fresh enthusiasm which made intercourse with him at all times seem like a breath of moorland air. Here he developed an independence of mind and a fearlessness of opinion, which is rarely to be found in the atmosphere of a big public school.
At the age of seventeen, when his father was appointed to St. Luke’s, Chelsea, he left Helston and spent two years attending lectures at King’s College, London, and preparing for Cambridge. These were by no means among his happier years. He disliked London and he rebelled against the dullness of life in a vicarage overrun with district visitors and mothers’ meetings. His father, a strong evangelical, objected to various forms of public amusement, and Charles, though loyal and affectionate to his parents, fretted to find no outlet for his energies. He made a few friends and devoured many books, but his chief delight was to get away from town to old west-country haunts. Nor was his life at Cambridge entirely happy. His excitability was great: his self-control was not yet developed. Rowing did not exhaust his physical energy, which broke out from time to time in midnight fishing raids and walks from Cambridge to London. He wasted so much of his time that he nearly imperiled his chance of taking a good degree, and might perhaps count himself lucky when, thanks to a heroic effort at the eleventh hour, his excellent abilities won him a first class in classics. At this time he was terribly shaken by religious doubts. But in one of his vacations in 1839 he met Fanny Grenfell, his future wife, and soon he was on such a footing that he could open to her his inmost thoughts. It was she who helped him in his wavering decision to take Holy Orders and, when he went down in 1842, he set himself to read seriously and thoroughly for Ordination. Early in 1844 he was admitted to deacon’s orders at Farnham.
His first office marked out his path through life. With a short interval between his holding the curacy and the rectory of Eversley, he had his home for thirty-three years at this Hampshire village so intimately connected with his name. Eversley lies on the borders of Berkshire and Hampshire, in the diocese of Winchester, near the famous house of Bramshill, on the edge of the sandy fir-covered waste, which stretches across Surrey. To understand the charm of its rough commons and self-sown woods one must read Kingsley’s Prose Idylls, especially the sketch called ‘My Winter Garden’. There he served for a year as curate, living in bachelor quarters on the green, learning to love the place and its people: there, when Sir John Cope offered him the living in 1844, he returned a married man to live in the Rectory House beside the church, which may still be seen little altered to-day. A breakdown from overwork, an illness of his wife’s, a higher appointment in the Church, might be the cause of his passing a few weeks or even months away but year in, year out, he gave of his very best to Eversley for thirty-three years, and to it he returned from his journeys with all the more ardor to resume his work among his own people. The church was dilapidated, the Rectory was badly drained, the parish had been neglected by an absentee rector. For long periods together Kingsley was too poor to afford a curate: when he had one, the luxury was paid for by extra labor in taking private pupils. He had disappointments and anxieties, but his courage never faltered. He concentrated his energies on steady progress in things material and moral, and whatever his hand found to do, he did it with his might.
The church and its services called for instant attention. The Holy Communion had been celebrated only three times a year the other services were few and irregular on Sundays the church was empty and the alehouse was full. The building was badly kept, the churchyard let out for grazing, the whole place destitute of reverence. What the service came to be under the new Rector we can read on the testimony of many visitors. The intensity of his devotion at all times, the inspiration, which the great festivals of the Church particularly roused in him, changed all this rapidly. He did all he could to draw his parishioners to church but he had no rigid Puritanical views about the Sabbath. A Staff-College officer, who frequently visited him on Sundays, tells us of ‘the genial, happy, unreserved intercourse of those Sunday afternoons spent at the Rectory, and how the villagers were free to play their cricket-“Paason he do’ant objec’-not ‘e-as loik as not, ‘e’ll come and look on”.’ All his life he supported the movement for opening museums to the public on Sundays, and this at a time when few of the clergy were bold enough to speak on his side. The Church was not his only organ for teaching. He started schools and informal classes. In winter he would sometimes give up his leisure to such work every evening of the week. The Rectory, for all its books and bottles, its fishing-rods and curious specimens, was not a mere refuge for his own work and his own hobbies, but a centre of light and warmth where all his parishioners might come and find a welcome. He was one of the first to start ‘Penny Readings’ in his parish, to lighten the monotony of winter evenings with music, poetry, stories, and lectures and though his parish was so wide and scattered, he tried to rally support for a village reading-room, and kept it alive for some years.
His afternoons were regularly given to parish visiting, except when there were other definite calls upon his time. He soon came to know every man, woman, and child in his parish. His sympathies were so wide that he could make himself at home with every one, with none more so than the gipsies and poachers, who shared his intimate knowledge of the neighboring heaths and of the practices, lawful and unlawful, by which they could be made to supply food. He would listen to their stories, sympathize with their troubles and speak frankly in return. There was no condescension. One of his pupils speaks of ‘the simple, delicate, deep respect for the poor’, which could be seen in his manner and his talk among the cottagers. He could be severe enough when severity was needed, as when he compelled a cruel farmer to kill ‘a miserable horse which was rotting alive in front of his house’ and he could deal no less drastically with hypocrisy. When a professional beggar fell on his knees at the Rectory gate and pretended to pray, he was at once ejected by the Rector with every mark of indignation and contumely. But the weak and suffering always made a special appeal to him. Though it was easy to vex and exasperate him, he could always put away his own troubles in presence of his own children or of any who needed his help. He had that intense power of sympathy, which enabled him to understand and reach the heart.
From a letter to his greatest friend, Tom Hughes, written in 1851, we get a glimpse of a day in his life-‘a sorter kinder sample day’. He was up at five to see a dying man and stayed with him till eight. He then went out for air and exercise, fished all the morning and killed eight fish. He went back to his invalid at three. Later he spent three hours attending a meeting convoked by his Archdeacon about Sunday schools, and at 10.30 he was back in his study writing to his friends.
But though he himself calls this a ‘sample day’, it does no justice to one form of his activities. Most days in the year he would put away all thought of fishing, shut himself up in his study morning and evening, and devote himself to reading and writing. Great care was taken over his weekly sermons. Monday was, if possible, given to rest but from Tuesday till Friday evening they took up the chief share of his thoughts. And then there were the books that he wrote, novels, pamphlets, history lectures, scientific essays, on which he largely depended to support his wife and family. Besides this he kept up an extensive correspondence with friends and acquaintances. Many wrote to consult him about political and religious questions from many he was himself trying to draw information on the phenomena of the science, which he was trying to study at the time. Among the latter were Geikie, Lyell, Wallace, and Darwin himself, giants among scientific men, to whom he wrote with genuine humility, even when his name was a household word throughout England. His books can sometimes be associated with visits to definite places, which supplied him with material. It is not difficult to connect Westward Ho! with his winter at Bideford in 1854, and Two Years Ago with his Pen-y-gwryd fishing in 1856. Memories of Hereward the Wake go back to his early childhood in the Fens, of Alton Locke to his undergraduate days at Cambridge. But he had not the time for the laborious search after ‘local color’ with which we are familiar today. The bulk of the work was done in his study at Eversley, executed rapidly, some of it too rapidly but the subjects were those of which his mind was full, and the thoughts must have been pursued in many a quiet hour on the heathery commons or beside the streams of his own neighbourhood.
About his books, his own judgment agreed with that of his friends. ‘What you say about my “Ergon” being poetry is quite true. I could not write Uncle Tom’s Cabin and I can write poetry: there is no denying it: I do feel a different being when I get into metre: I feel like an otter in the water instead of an otter ashore.’ The value of his novels is in their spirit rather than in their artistic form or truth but it is foolish to disparage their worth, since they have exercised so marked an influence on the characters and lives of so many Englishmen, especially our soldiers and sailors, inspiring them to higher courage and more unselfish virtue. Perhaps the best example of his prose is the Prose Idylls, sketches of fen-land, trout streams, and moors, which combine his gifts so happily, his observation of natural objects, and the poetic imagination with which he transfuses these objects and brings them near to the heart of man. There were very few men who could draw such joy from familiar English landscapes, and could communicate it to others. The cult of sport, of science, and of beauty has here become one and has found its true high priest. In poetry his more ambitious efforts were The Saint’s Tragedy, a drama in blank verse on the story of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and Andromeda, a revival of the old Greek legend in the old hexameter measure. But what are most sure to live are his lyrics, ‘Airlie Beacon’, ‘The Three Fishers’, ‘The Sands of Dee’, with their simplicity and true note of song.
The combination of this poetic gift with a strong interest in science and a wide knowledge of it is most unusual but there can be no mistaking the genuine feeling which Charles Kingsley had for the latter. It took one very practical form in his zeal for sanitation. In 1854 when the public, so irrational in its moments of excitement, was calling for a national fast day on account of the spread of cholera, he heartily supported Lord Palmerston, who refused to grant it. He held it impious and wrong to attribute to a special visitation from God what was due to the blindness, laziness, and selfishness of our governing classes. His article in Fraser’s Magazine entitled ‘Who causes pestilence?’ roused much criticism: it said things that comfortable people did not like to hear, and said them frankly it was far in advance of the public opinion of that time, but its truth no one would dispute to-day. And what his pen did for the nation, his example did for the parish. He drained unwholesome pools in his own garden, and he persuaded his neighbors to do the same. He taught them daily lessons about the value of fresh air and clean water: no details were too dull and wearisome in the cause. To many people his novels, like those of Dickens and Charles Reade, are spoilt by the advocacy of social reforms. The novel with a purpose was characteristic of the early Victorian Age, and both in Alton Locke and in Two Years Ago he makes little disguise of the zeal with which he preaches sanitary reform. Of the more attractive sciences, which he pursued with equal intensity, there is little room to speak. Botany was his first love and it remained first to the end. Zoology at times ran it close, and his letters from seaside places are full of the names of marine creatures, which he stored in tanks and examined with his microscope. A dull day on the coast was inconceivable to him. Geology, too, thrilled him with its wonders, and was the subject of many letters.
Side by side with his hobby of natural history went his love of sport: it was impossible for him to separate the one from the other. Fishing was his chief delight he pursued it with equal keenness in the chalk streams of Hampshire, in the salmon rivers of Ireland, in the desolate tarns on the Welsh mountains. In the visitors’ book of the inn at Pen-y-gwryd, Tom Hughes, Tom Taylor, and he left alternate quatrains of doggerel to celebrate their stay, written currente calamo, as the spirit prompted them. This is Charles Kingsley’s first quatrain:
I came to Pen-y-gwryd in frantic hopes of slaying
Grilse, salmon, three-pound red-fleshed trout and what else there’s no saying:
But bitter cold and lashing rain and black nor’-eastern skies, sir,
Drove me from fish to botany, a sadder man and wiser.
Each had his disappointment through the weather, which each expressed in verse but it took more than bad weather to damp the spirits of three such ardent open-air enthusiasts. Hunting was another favorite sport, though he rarely indulged himself in this luxury, and only when he could do so without much expense. But whenever a friend gave him a mount, Kingsley was ready to follow the Berkshire hounds, and with his knowledge of the country he was able to hold his own with the best.
Let us try to imagine him then as he walked about the lanes and commons of Eversley in middle life, a spare upright figure, above the middle height, with alert step, informal but not slovenly in dress, with no white tie or special mark of his profession. His head was one to attract notice anywhere with the grand hawk-like nose, firm mouth, and flashing eye. The deep lines furrowed between the brows gave his face an almost stern expression, which his cheery conversation soon belied. He might be carrying a fishing rod or a bottle of medicine for a sick parishioner, or sometimes both: his faithful Dandie Dinmont would be in attendance and perhaps one of his children walking at his side. His walk would be swift and eager, with his eye wandering restlessly around to observe all that he passed: ‘it seemed as if no bird or beast or insect, scarcely a cloud in the sky, passed by him unnoticed, unwelcomed.’ So too with humanity-in breadth of sympathy he resembled ‘the Shirra’, who became known to every wayfarer between Teviot and Tweed. Gipsy boy, farm-hand, old grandmother, each would be sure of a greeting and a few words of talk when they met the Rector on his rounds. In society he might at times be too impetuous or insistent, when questions were stirred in which he was deeply interested. Tennyson tells us how he ‘walked hard up and down the study for hours, smoking furiously and affirming that tobacco was the only thing that kept his nerves quiet’. Green compares him to a restless animal, and Stopford Brooke speaks of his quick-rushing walk, his keen face like a sword, and his body thinned out to a lath, and complains that he ‘often screams when he ought to speak’. But this excitability was soothed by the country, and in his own parish he was at his best. He would never have been so beloved by his parishioners, if they had not found him willing to listen as well as to advise and to instruct.
His first venture into public life met with less general favour. The year 1848 saw many upheavals in Europe. On the Continent thrones tottered and fell, republics started up for a moment and faded away. In England it was the year of the Chartist riots, and political and social problems gave plenty of matter for thought. Monster meetings were held in London, which were not free from disorder. The wealthier classes and the Government were alarmed, troops were brought up to London and the Duke of Wellington put in command. Events seemed to point to outbreaks of violence and the starting of a class-war. Frederick Denison Maurice, whom above all men living Kingsley revered, was the leader of a group of men who were greatly stirred by the movement. They saw that more than political reform and political charters were needed and, while full of sympathy for the working classes, they were not minded to say smooth things and prophesy Utopias in which they had no belief. Filled with the desire to help his fellow men, indignant at abuses, which he had seen with his own eyes, Kingsley came at once to their side. He went to London to see for himself, attended meetings, wrote pamphlets, and seemed to be promoting agitation. The tone in which he wrote can best be seen by a few words from the pamphlet addressed to the ‘Workmen of England’, which was posted up in London. ‘The Charter is not bad, if the men who use it are not bad. But will the Charter make you free? Will it free you from slavery to ten-pound bribes? Slavery to gin and beer? Slavery to every spouter who flatters your self-conceit and stirs up bitterness and headlong rage in you? That I guess is real slavery, to be a slave to one’s own stomach, one’s pocket, one’s own temper.’ This is hardly the tone of the agitator as known to us today. With his friends Kingsley brought out a periodical, Politics for the People, in which he wrote in the same tone. ‘My only quarrel with the Charter is that it does not go far enough in reform…. I think you have fallen into the same mistake as the rich of whom you complain, I mean the mistake of fancying that legislative reform is social reform, or that men’s hearts can be changed by Act of Parliament.’ He did not limit himself to denouncing such errors. He encouraged the working man to educate himself and to find rational pleasures in life, contributing papers on the National Gallery and bringing out the human interest of the pictures. ‘Parson Lot’, the nom de guerre, which Kingsley adopted, became widely known for warm-hearted exhortations, for practical and sagacious counsels.
Two years later he published Alton Locke, describing the life of a young tailor whose mind and whose fortunes are profoundly influenced by the Chartist movement. From a literary point of view it is far from being his best work and the critics agreed to belittle it at the time and to pass it over with apology at his death. But it received a warm welcome from others. While it roused the imagination of many young men and set them thinking, the veteran Carlyle could speak of ‘the snatches of excellent poetical description, occasional sunbursts of noble insight, everywhere a certain wild intensity which holds the reader fast as by a spell’.
Should any one ask why a rector of a country parish mixed himself up in London agitation, many answers could be given. His help was sought by Maurice, who worked among the London poor. Many of the questions at issue affected also the agricultural laborer. Only one who was giving his life to serve the poor could effectively expose the mistakes of their champions. The upper classes, squires and merchants and politicians, had shut their eyes and missed their chances. So when the ship is on fire, no one blames the chaplain or the ship’s doctor for lending a hand with the buckets.
That his efforts in London met with success can be seen from many sources besides the popularity of Alton Locke. He wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Cheap Clothes and Nasty’, denouncing the sweaters’ shops and supporting the co-operative movement, which was beginning to arise out of the ashes of Chartism. Of this pamphlet a friend told him that he saw three copies on the table in the Guards’ Club, and that he heard that captains in the Guards were going to the co-operative shop in Castle Street and buying coats there. A success of a different kind and one more valued by Kingsley himself was the conversion of Thomas Cooper, the popular writer in Socialist magazines, who preached atheistical doctrines weekly to many thousand working men. Kingsley found him to be sincerely honest, spent infinite time in writing him friendly letters, discussing their differences of opinion, and some years later had the joy of inducing him to become an active preacher of the Gospel. But most of the well-to-do people, including the clergy, were prejudiced against Kingsley by his Radical views. On one occasion he had to face a painful scene in a London church, when the vicar who had invited him to preach rose after the sermon and formally protested against the views to which his congregation had been listening. Bishop Blomfield at first sided with the vicar but in the end he did full justice to the sincerity and charity of Kingsley’s views and sanctioned his continuing to preach in the Diocese.
It was his literary successes, which helped most to break down the prejudice existing against him in society. Hypatia, published in 1853, had a mixed reception but Westward Ho! appearing two years later, was universally popular. His eloquence in the pulpit was becoming known to a wider circle, largely owing to officers who came over from Aldershot and Sandhurst to hear him and early in 1859 he was asked to preach before the Queen and Prince Consort. His appointment as chaplain to the Queen followed before the year was out and this made a great difference in his position and prospects. What he valued equally was the hearty friendship, which he formed with the Prince Consort. They had the same tastes, the same interests, the same serious outlook on life. A year later came a still higher distinction when Kingsley was appointed Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. His history lectures, it is generally agreed, are not of permanent value as a contribution to the knowledge of the subject. With his parish work and other interests he had no time for profound study. But his eloquence and descriptive powers were such as to attract a large class of students, and many can still read with pleasure his lectures on The Roman and the Teuton, in which he was fired by the moral lessons involved in the decay of the Roman empire and the coming of the vigorous young northern races. Apart from his lectures he had made his mark in Cambridge by the friendly relations, which he established with many of the undergraduates and the personal influence which he exercised. But he knew better than any one else his shortcomings as an historian, the preparation of his lectures gave him great anxiety and labor, and in 1869 he resigned the office.
The next honor which fell to him was a canonry at Chester, and in 1873, less than two years before his death, he exchanged it for a stall at Westminster. These historic cities with their old buildings and associations attracted him very strongly: preaching in the Abbey was even dangerously exciting to a man of his temperament. But while he gave his services generously during his months of office, as at Chester in founding a Natural History Society, he never deserted his old work and his old parish. Eversley continued to be his home, and during the greater part of each year to engross his thoughts.
Literature, science, and sport were, as we have seen, the three interests, which absorbed his leisure hours. A fourth, partaking in some measure of all three, was travel, a hobby which the strenuous pursuit of duty rarely permitted him to indulge. Ill health or a complete breakdown sometimes sent him away perforce, and it is to this that he chiefly owed his knowledge of other climes. He has left us some fascinating pictures of the south of France, the rocks of Biarritz, the terrace at Pau, the blue waters of the Mediterranean, and the golden arches of the Pont du Gard but the voyages that thrilled him most were those that he took to America, when he sailed the Spanish main in the track of Drake and Raleigh and Richard Grenville. The first journey in 1870 was to the West Indies the second and longer one took him to New York and Quebec, and across the continent to the Yosemite and San Francisco. This was in 1874, the last year of his life, and he was received everywhere with the utmost respect and goodwill. His name was now famous on both sides of the Atlantic, and the voice of opposition was stilled. The public had changed its attitude to him, but he himself was unchanged. He had the same readiness to gather up new knowledge, and to get into friendly touch with every kind of man, the same reluctance to talk about himself. Only the yearning towards the unseen was growing stronger. The poet Whittier, who met him at Boston, found him unwilling to talk about his own books or even about the new cities, which he was visiting, but longing for counsel from his brother poet on the high themes of a future life and the final destiny of the human race.
While he was in California he was taken ill with pleurisy and when he came back to England he had so serious a relapse in the autumn that he could hardly perform his duties at Westminster. He had never wished for long life, his strength was exhausted the ardent soul had worn out its sheath. A dangerous illness of his wife’s, threatening to leave him solitary, hastened the end. For her sake he fought a while against the pneumonia which set in, but the effort was in vain, and on January 23, in his own room at Eversley, he met his death contented and serene. Twenty years before he had said, ‘God forgive me if I am wrong, but I look forward to it with an intense and reverent curiosity’.
These words of his sum up some of his most marked characteristics. Of his ‘curiosity’ there is no need to say more: all his life he was pursuing eager researches into rocks, flowers, animals, and his fellow men. ‘Intensity’ has been picked out by many of his friends as the word which, more than any other, expresses the peculiar quality of his nature. This does not mean a weak excitability. His letters to J. S. Mill on the women-suffrage movement show that this hysterical element, which was often to be found in the women supporting it, was what most he feared. He himself defines it well-‘my blessed habit of intensity. I go at what I am about as if there was nothing else in the world for the time being.’ This quality, which many great men put into their work, Kingsley put both into his work and into his playtime. Critics will say that he paid for it: it is easy to quote the familiar line: ‘Neque semper arcum tendit Apollo.’ But Horace is not the poet to whom Charles Kingsley would go for counsel: he would only say that he got full value in both, and that he never regretted the bargain.
But it would be no less true to say that ‘Reverence’ is the keynote of his character. This fact was impressed on all who saw him take the services in his parish church, and it was an exaltation of reverence, which uplifted his congregation and stamped itself on their memories. It is seen, too, in his political views. The Radical Parson, the upholder of Chartism, was in many ways a strong Tory. He had a great belief in the land-owning classes, and an admiration for what remained of the Feudal System. He believed that the old relation between squire and villagers, if each did his duty, worked far better than the modern pretence of Equality and Independence. Like Disraeli, like Ruskin, and like many other men of high imagination, he distrusted the Manchester School and the policy that in the labor market each class should be left to fend for itself. Radical as he was, he defended the House of Lords and the hereditary system. So, too, in Church questions, though he was an anti-Tractarian, he had a great reverence for the Athanasian Creed and in general was a High Churchman. He had none of the fads which we associate with the Radical party. Total abstinence he condemned as a rigid rule, though there was no man more severe in his attitude to drunkenness. He believed that God’s gifts were for man’s enjoyment, and he set his face against asceticism. He trained his own body to vigorous manhood and he had remarkable self-control and he wished to help each man to do this for himself and not to be driven to it by what he considered a false system. Logically it may be easy to find contradictions in the views, which he expressed at different times but his life shows an essential unity in aim and practice.
It has been the fashion to label Charles Kingsley and his teaching with the nickname of ‘Muscular Christianity’, a name that he detested and disclaimed. It implied that he and his school were of the full-blooded robust order of men, who had no sympathy for weakness, and no message for those who could not follow the same strenuous course as themselves. As a fact Kingsley had his full share of bodily illnesses and suffered at all times from a highly-wrought nervous organization when pain to others was involved, he was as tender and sympathetic as a woman. He was a born fighter, too reckless in attack, as we see in his famous dispute with Cardinal Newman about the honesty of the Tractarians. But he was not bitter or resentful. He owned himself that in this case he had met a better logician than himself: later he expressed his admiration for Newman’s poem, ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, and in his letters he praises the tone in which the Tractarians write-‘a solemn and gentle earnestness which is most beautiful and which I wish I may ever attain’. The point which Matthew Arnold singles out in estimating his character is the width of his sympathies. ‘I think’, he says, ‘he was the most generous man I have ever known, the most forward to praise what he thought good, the most willing to admire, the most incapable of being made ill-natured or even indifferent by having to support ill-natured attacks himself. Among men of letters I know nothing so rare as this.’ To the gibe about ‘Muscular Christianity’ Kingsley had his own answer. He said that with his tastes and gifts he had a special power of appealing to the wild rough natures which were more at home in the country than the town, who were too self-forgetful, and too heedless of the need for culture and for making use of their opportunities. Jacob, the man of intellect, had many spiritual guides, and the poor outcast, Esau, was too often overlooked. As he said, ‘The one idea of my life was to tell Esau that he has a birthright as well as Jacob’. When he was laid to his rest in Eversley churchyard, there were many mourners who represented the cultured classes of the day but what gave its special character to the occasion was the presence of keepers and poachers, of gipsies, country rustics, and huntsmen, the Esaus of the Hampshire village, which was the fit resting-place for one who above all was the ideal of a parish priest.