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Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley Charles Kingsley[1†]

Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist, and poet[1†][2†]. He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men’s college, and forming labour cooperatives, which failed, but encouraged later working reforms[1†][2†]. Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon, the elder son of the Reverend Charles Kingsley and his wife, Mary Lucas Kingsley[1†]. His brother Henry Kingsley(1830–1876) and sister Charlotte Chanter(1828–1882) also became writers[1†]. He was the father of the novelist Lucas Malet(Mary St. Leger Kingsley, 1852–1931) and the uncle of the traveller and scientist Mary Kingsley(1862–1900)[1†].

Early Years and Education

Charles Kingsley was born on June 12, 1819, in Holne, Devon, England[3†][2†]. He was the elder of two sons of Mary Lucas Kingsley and the Reverend Charles Kingsley[3†][2†]. His sister, Charlotte Chanter, also became a writer[3†][2†]. Kingsley spent his childhood in small towns like Clovelly, Devon, and Barnack[3†][4†][5†].

Kingsley’s education began at Bristol Grammar School and later at Helston Grammar School[3†][4†][5†]. Even as a student, he showed a keen interest in arts, natural sciences, and poetry[3†][4†][5†]. After school, his family moved to London, where he studied at King’s College[3†][4†]. In 1838, he joined Magdalene College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1842[3†][4†].

During his time at Cambridge, Kingsley met Frances Grenfell and fell in love with her[3†]. In July of 1842, Charles became curate of Eversley Church in Hampshire, where he served for the rest of his life[3†]. In early January 1844, Charles married Fanny[3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Charles Kingsley’s career was marked by his diverse roles as a clergyman, university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist, and poet[2†][1†]. After graduating from Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1842, Kingsley chose to pursue priesthood in the Anglican Church[2†][1†]. In 1844, he became Rector of Eversley in Hampshire, a position he held for the rest of his life[2†][1†][4†].

Kingsley was much influenced by the theologian Frederick Denison Maurice and became a founding member of the Christian Socialist movement in 1848[2†]. This movement sought to correct the evils of industrialism through measures based on Christian ethics[2†]. His first novel, “Yeast” (1851), deals with the relations of the landed gentry to the rural poor[2†]. His second novel, “Alton Locke” (1850), tells the story of a tailor-poet who rebels against the ignominy of sweated labour and becomes a leader of the Chartist movement[2†]. Kingsley advocated for adult education, improved sanitation, and the growth of the cooperative movement for the amelioration of social problems[2†].

In 1859, Kingsley was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria[2†][4†]. The following year, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge[2†][4†]. His fear of the trend within the church toward Roman Catholicism, growing out of the Oxford Movement, led to a notorious controversy with John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman[2†].

Kingsley soon turned to writing popular historical novels. “Hypatia” (1853) is a luridly erotic story set in early Christian Egypt[2†]. “Westward Ho!” (1855) is an imperialist and anti-Roman Catholic adventure set in the Elizabethan period[2†]. “Hereward the Wake” (1866) is about Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest, also with an anti-Catholic slant[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Charles Kingsley was a prolific writer, and his works spanned various genres, including historical novels, children’s books, and social commentaries. Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works reflects Kingsley’s diverse interests and his commitment to addressing social issues through his writing. His works have had a significant impact on English literature and continue to be studied and enjoyed today[6†][1†][7†][6†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Charles Kingsley’s works have been analyzed and evaluated by many scholars over the years. His writings, particularly his novels, reflect his deep concern for social issues and his commitment to addressing these issues through his writing[8†][9†][10†].

Kingsley’s novel “The Water-Babies” is considered a politically anxious text. It reflects Kingsley’s concerns about the Irish Famine, U.S. slavery, and the condition of the British working classes[8†]. Despite its seemingly chaotic structure, the novel provides a logical framework that reveals Kingsley’s disquietude[8†].

“Alton Locke” is another novel that showcases Kingsley’s social concerns. The novel’s scheme for dispossessed British workers to emigrate to the southern states of the United States is deeply ironic, considering that Britain had established a system of slavery far worse than anything in America[8†][11†].

His first novel, “Yeast”, deals with the relations of the landed gentry to the rural poor[8†][12†]. This novel, along with “Alton Locke”, reflects Kingsley’s interest in social reform[8†][9†][11†].

Kingsley’s works, including his historical fiction and his appointment as Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University, have aroused considerable scholarly interest[8†][9†]. His writings are strongly gendered and, although heteronormative, Kingsley’s enthusiastic embrace of the sexual body within companionate marriage was unusual for the times[8†][9†].

In conclusion, Charles Kingsley’s works provide a rich field for analysis and evaluation. His writings not only reflect his social concerns but also offer insight into the social and political climate of his time[8†][9†][11†][12†][10†].

Personal Life

Charles Kingsley met his future wife, Frances “Fanny” Grenfell, during his college days and they married in 1844[4†]. The couple had four children[4†]. His daughter, Mary St Leger Kingsley, also became a novelist under the pen name “Lucas Malet”[4†]. Kingsley suffered from many health problems during his later years and succumbed to poor health in 1875[4†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Charles Kingsley, an Anglican clergyman and writer, left a significant legacy through his diverse body of work, which ranged from social-problem novels to historical romances and children’s literature[2†]. His novels, often attributed to the “muscular” school of fiction, combined his concern for sanitary reform with his interest in natural history and the theory of evolution[2†]. His writings reflect his broad church views and his commitment to social reform, particularly in the areas of education, sanitation, and labor rights[2†].

Kingsley’s fear of the trend within the church toward Roman Catholicism, growing out of the Oxford Movement, led to a notorious controversy with John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman[2†]. In response to an attack by Kingsley, Newman wrote his Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864), the history of his religious development[2†].

Kingsley’s work continues to be studied and appreciated for its historical and social insights, as well as its literary merit. His legacy is a testament to his commitment to social reform and his ability to combine this with his literary talents[2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Charles Kingsley [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Charles Kingsley: British clergyman and writer [website] - link
  3. Victorian Era - Charles Kingsley Biography [website] - link
  4. The Famous People - Charles Kingsley Biography [website] - link
  5. SunSigns - Charles Kingsley Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  6. Wikisource (English) - Charles Kingsley [website] - link
  7. Goodreads - Author: Books by Charles Kingsley (Author of The Water Babies) [website] - link
  8. Cambridge Core Journals - CHARLES KINGSLEY'S THE WATER-BABIES: INDUSTRIAL ENGLAND, THE IRISH FAMINE, AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR [website] - link
  9. Oxford Bibliographies - Charles Kingsley - Victorian Literature [website] - link
  10. Poem Analysis - Biography of Charles Kingsley [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Alton Locke Analysis [website] - link
  12. Britannica - Yeast: work by Kingsley [website] - link
  13. Encyclopedia.com - Charles Kingsley [website] - link
  14. Britannica Kids - Charles Kingsley [website] - link
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