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Charles Kingsley

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Title: Charles Kingsley  
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Subject: Westward Ho! (novel), Great Hippocampus Question, Hereward the Wake, John Henry Newman, 1930 in tennis
Collection: 1819 Births, 1875 Deaths, 19Th-Century Christian Universalists, 19Th-Century English Anglican Priests, 19Th-Century English Writers, Academics of the University of Cambridge, Alumni of King's College London, Alumni of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Anglican Universalists, Anglican Writers, Burials in Hampshire, Canons of Westminster, Christian Universalist Clergy, English Anglican Priests, English Christian Universalists, English Historians, English Historical Novelists, English Male Novelists, English Novelists, English Sermon Writers, People Educated at Bristol Grammar School, People from Devon, Victorian Novelists, Writers of Historical Fiction Set in the Middle Ages
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Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley
Born (1819-06-12)12 June 1819
Holne, Devon, England
Died 23 January 1875(1875-01-23) (aged 55)
Eversley, Hampshire, England
Occupation Clergyman, University professor, Historian, Writer (novelist)
Nationality English
Alma mater King's College London
Cambridge University
Period 19th century
Genre Children's Literature

Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, historian and novelist. He is particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire. He was a friend and correspondent with Charles Darwin.[1]


  • Life and character 1
  • Influences and works 2
  • Legacy 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Life and character

Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon, the elder of two sons of the Reverend Charles Kingsley and his wife Mary Lucas Kingsley. His brother, Henry Kingsley, also became a novelist. He spent his childhood in Clovelly, Devon, where his father was Curate 1826–1832 and Rector 1832–1836,[2] and at Barnack, Northamptonshire and was educated at Bristol Grammar School and Helston Grammar School[3] before studying at King's College London, and the University of Cambridge. Charles entered Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1838, and graduated in 1842.[4] He chose to pursue a ministry in the church. From 1844, he was rector of Eversley in Hampshire. In 1859 he was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria.[5] In 1860, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge.[5] In 1861 he became a private tutor to the Prince of Wales.[5]

In 1869 Kingsley resigned his Cambridge 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.[6] In 1872 he accepted the Presidency of the Birmingham and Midland Institute and became its 19th President.[7] In 1873 he was made a canon of Westminster Abbey.[5] 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 Alfred 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 "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.

Influences and works

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 welcome 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."[8] 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'."[9] When a heated dispute lasting three years developed over human evolution, Kingsley gently satirised the debate, known as the Great Hippocampus Question, as the "Great Hippopotamus Question".

Kingsley's 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.

His chief power as a novelist lay in his descriptive faculties. The descriptions of South American scenery in Westward Ho!, of the George MacDonald.

Kingsley was highly critical of Roman Catholicism and his argument, in print, with John Henry Newman, accusing him of untruthfulness and deceit, prompted the latter to write his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Kingsley was racist towards the Irish and wrote in a letter to his wife from Ireland, 1860 "I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hundred miles of horrible country [Ireland] see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black one would not see it so much, but their skins, except where tanned by exposure, are as white as ours." Kingsley also wrote poetry and political articles, as well as several volumes of sermons.

Kingsley coined the term pteridomania in his 1855 book Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore.[10]


A statue of Charles Kingsley at Bideford, Devon (UK)

Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! led to the founding of a village by the same name (the only place name in England with an exclamation mark) and inspired the construction of the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. A hotel in Westward Ho! was named for and 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.[11]


  • Yeast, a novel (1848)
  • Saint's Tragedy, a drama
  • Alton Locke, a novel (1849)
  • Twenty-five Village Sermons (1849)
  • Cheap Clothes and Nasty (1850)
  • 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: "Last of the English", a novel (London: Macmillan, 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)


  1. ^ Hale, Piers. "Darwin's Other Bulldog: Charles Kingsley and the Popularisation of Evolution in Victorian England." Science & Education 21, no. 7 (2012): 979. URL-'S%20OTHER%20BULLDOG%202011.pdf 3rd page of the PDF.
  2. ^ Griggs, William, A Guide to All Saints Church, Clovelly, first published 1980, Revised Version 2010, p.7
  3. ^ ODNB article by Norman Vance, ‘Kingsley, Charles (1819–1875)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [2], accessed 13 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Kingsley, Charles (KNGY838C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  5. ^ a b c d Christine L. Krueger, (2009), Encyclopedia of British writers, 19th century, page 194. ISBN 1438108702
  6. ^ "Information Sheet: Charles Kingsley".  
  7. ^ Presidents of the BMI, BMI, nd (c.2005)
  8. ^ Darwin 1887, p. 287.
  9. ^ Darwin 1860, p. 481.
  10. ^ Peter D. A. Boyd's Pteridomania
  11. ^ The Kingsley by Thistle


  • 2nd edition. Retrieved on 20 July 2007  
  • ) Retrieved on 20 July 2007 The Autobiography of Charles Darwin ( 
  • Dawson, William James. "Charles Kingsley", in Dawson's The Makers of English Fiction, 2nd ed., (New York: F.H. Revell Co., 1905), on p. 179-190.
  • Kingsley, Charles. Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life, ed. by his wife. Tenth ed. Longon: C. Kegan, Paul & Co., 1878. 2 vol.

External links

  • Works by Charles Kingsley at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Charles Kingsley at Internet Archive
  • Works by Charles Kingsley at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Famous Quotes by Charles Kingsley
  • A painted bollard based on a water fairy unveiled in Whitchurch, Hampshire (photo within article)
  • Charles Kingsley at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Index entry for Charles Kingsley at Poets' Corner
  • Anonymous (1873). Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day. Illustrated by Frederick Waddy. London: Tinsley Brothers. pp. 90–92. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
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