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Famous Like Me > Writer > K > Charles Kingsley

Profile of Charles Kingsley on Famous Like Me

Name: Charles Kingsley  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 12th July 1819
Place of Birth: Holne Vicarage, Devon, England, UK
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley (July 12, 1819 – January 23, 1875) was an English novelist, particularly associated with the West Country.

He was born in Devon, the son of a vicar. His brother, Henry Kingsley, also became a novelist. Charles spent his childhood in Clovelly, Devon and was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, before himself going in for 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. His interest in history spilled over into his writings, which include 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). Kingsley's concern for social reform is illustrated in his great classic, The Water-Babies (1863), a kind of fairytale about a boy chimney-sweep, which retained its popularity well into the 20th century. Furthermore in The Water Babies he develops in this literary form something as a purgatory, which is very intersting for somebody who understood himself as a rather "Anti-Roman" theologian.

Kingsley also wrote poetry and political articles, as well as several volumes of sermons. His argument, in print, with John Henry Newman is said to have prompted the latter to produce his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Kingsley himself was influenced — as far as such an independent mind can be influenced — by Frederick Denison Maurice. He was in close contact to many Victorian thinkers and writers, e.g. to George MacDonald. Kingsley died in 1875, a widely respected figure.

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 among the most brilliant pieces of wordpainting in English prose-writing; 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 for 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.

In person Charles Kingsley was tall and spare, sinewy rather than powerful, and of a restless excitable temperament. His complexion was swarthy, his hair dark, and his eye bright and piercing. His temper was hot, kept under rigid control; his disposition tender, gentle and loving, with flashing scorn and indignation against all that was ignoble and impure; he was a good husband, father and friend. One of his daughters, Mary St Leger Kingsley (Mrs Harrison), became well 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, and presents a very touching and beautiful picture of her husband, but perhaps hardly does justice to his humour, his wit, his overflowing vitality and boyish fun.

On the other hand: Kingsley was guided by the Black Legend in his popular historical romance of 1855, Westward Ho!: the hero grows up in the reign of Elizabeth I to become a West Country buccaneer and takes on and defeats the Spanish at sea and on land. Throughout this piece of fiction, the Spanish characters are drawn as vain, arrogant and cruel; the Irish too receive hostile treatment. Interestingly, many articles in the early-20th century Dictionary of National Biography (heavily drawn upon by academic historians in Britain and America) cite Westward Ho! as a factual source when dealing with Elizabethan figures.

John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua shows the distress that Kingsley's invective could induce.

Kingsley's humour has escaped many; perhaps it can be found in another of his historical romances, named after its heroine, Hypatia, in which the arch neo-Platonist of end-of-empire Alexandria converts to Christianity at the moment of her obscene murder.


  • Saint's Tragedy, a drama (1848)
  • Alton Locke, a novel (1849)
  • Yeast, a novel (1849)
  • Twenty-five Village Sermons (1849)
  • Phaeton, or Loose Thoughts for Loose Thinkers (1852)
  • Sermons on National Subjects (1st series, 1852)
  • Hypatia, a novel (1853)
  • Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore (1855)
  • Sermons on National Subjects (2nd series, 1854)
  • Alexandria and her Schools (I854)
  • Westward Ho!, a novel (1855)
  • Sermons for the Times (1855)
  • The Heroes, Greek fairy tales (1856)
  • Two Years Ago, a novel (1857)
  • Andromeda and other Poems (1858)
  • The Good News of God, sermons (1859)
  • Miscellanies (1859)
  • Limits of Exact Science applied to History (Inaugural Lectures, 1860)
  • Town and Country Sermons (1861)
  • Sermons on the Pentateuch (1863)
  • The Water-Babies (1863)
  • The Roman and the Teuton (1864)
  • David and other Sermons (1866)
  • Hereward the Wake, a novel (1866)
  • The Ancient Régime (Lectures at the Royal Institution, 1867)
  • Water of Life and other Sermons (1867)
  • The Hermits (1869)
  • Madam How and Lady Why (1869)
  • At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies (1871)
  • Town Geology (1872)
  • Discipline and other Sermons (1872)
  • Prose Idylls (1873)
  • Plays and Puritans (1873)
  • Health and Education (1874)
  • Westminster Sermons (1874)
  • Lectures delivered in America (1875)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Charles Kingsley