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filled in, as it now is, by his familiar letters, cannot but increase and perfect that love for his character, that admiration for his work, which so many have already felt; nor will the interest be less real, because the book, being written and edited by his widow under the deep feeling of a still recent loss, bears evident marks of restraint, and of a natural disinclination to enter into matters of personal detail.
Of a family belonging originally to Cheshire, but settled for many generations in Hampshire; the son of a country gentleman who had in early life spent his small inheritance, and, at a comparatively late period, had taken to the Church as a profession; Charles Kingsley was born in the vicarage of Holne,
l on the borders of Dartmoor, on June 12, 1819. His father, after holding two or three curacies for short periods, was, in 1824, temporarily appointed to the living of Barnack, in Northamptonshire; but six years later was moved back into Devonshire, where he held the living of Clovelly, till, in 1836, he was transferred to the rectory of St. Luke's, Chelsea.
The scenery amidst which the early boyhood of Charles Kingsley was passed, alike the wildness of the Great Fen and the richness of North Devon, has left its own mark on all the writings of his mature years. Not only that; but living from
. his childhood in a country peculiarly rich in wild life, and brought up with a familiar knowledge of it, with a habit of observing it, which was cultivated by his father-himself an able naturalist and an accomplished scholar—the love of nature and of nature's works grew with him rather as an instinct than a science, and continued through life the passion and delight of his less busy hours. The fen country is not, in common opinion, one of the beauties of England, more particularly now that so much of it has been wholly or in part drained; but fifty years ago, when it still was, as in the days of Hereward or Richard of Ely, a vast inland sea, extending from Cambridge to Peterborough on the south-west, from Lynn to Tattershall on the north-east, some forty miles or more each way, it had a beauty and grandeur of its own which could appeal to the hearts and affections of those who knew it well; and how deeply this beauty had impressed the childish mind of Kingsley appears over and over again in the pages of even his later writings, in · Hereward,' and, above all, in that most poetic of prose idylls, · The Fens. But the impress of the rich and wild coast scenery of North Devon and the West of England would seem to have been even deeper: his life there was that of a boy, not of a mere child; and whether in his father's house at Ilfracombe or Clovelly, or at school at
Helston, the 'west country' became to him that dearest of all memories, the home of a happy boyhood.
He was at this period, as we are told by Mr. Derwent Coleridge, the then headmaster of Helston Grammar School, 'a
tall, slight boy, of great bodily activity, high-spirited, earnest and energetic; not a close student, but an eager reader and • inquirer, sometimes in very out of the way quarters.' And his schoolfellow and life-long friend, Mr. Powles, afterwards tutor of Exeter College, Oxford, tells us that the vehement • spirit, the adventurous courage, the quick and tender sym'pathy that distinguished the man's entrance on public life,
were all in the boy.' Nevertheless, he was not, says Mr. Powles, popular as a school-boy: 'He knew too much, and his * mind was, generally, on a higher level than ours. He did • not consciously snub those who knew less, but a good deal of ' unconscious snubbing went on, all the more resented perhaps • because it was unconscious.' This, written so long afterwards, is probably a conception of what may have been, rather than a memory of what really was. Kingsley's boyhood seems to have been peaceful enough; but certainly, forty-five or fifty years ago, such snubbing, conscious or unconscious, would at most schools have caused an appeal, if not to arms, at least to fists. And then, as now, boys were not too apt to recognise intellectual superiority that did not show itself in an easy mastery of the routine work of the school. But neither in classics, nor in mathematics, had Kingsley, as a boy, any such superiority. His passion, even then, was for natural science; he was fond of studying all objects of the natural world, but for botany and geology he had an absolute enthusiasm. Though strong and active, he was not expert at games; to escape from the playground was almost more of a holiday than to escape from the school-room. 'He liked nothing better * than to sally out, hammer in hand, and his botanical tin • slung round his neck, on some long expedition in quest of ' new plants, and to investigate the cliffs within a few miles of · Helston. Nothing more is needed to explain Mr. Powles's
' statement. The cultivation of such exceptional studies, and the eccentricity of behaviour necessarily accompanying it, the avoiding school-boy games in favour of stupid walks, would be but little appreciated by the average school-boy, and would prevent the zealous young student of natural science from being at all popular amongst his schoolfellows; though they would be far from lessening the enthusiastic love of the more capable among
them who became his friends. This love of nature, and of nature's studies, which Mr.
Powles speaks of as so characteristic of Kingsley's boyhood, attests itself eagerly, sometimes almost comically, in many of his boyish letters and scraps of verse. To his mother he writes, ' Dry me as much spurge as you can-as much bird'snest orchis, and plenty of tway-blade. .. Give
love to Emily Wellesley, and ask her to dry me some Adoxa. .. "When I go to Brighton I shall cut away by myself for miles, 6 and be out the whole day. I will have most noble fun... • Ask Tom Moore if he can get me a woodpecker's nest.' In a set of verses which Mr. Powles has preserved, unpolished, unconnected as they are, some very beautiful fancies of natureworship bubble up through the uncouth vigour of the language; and in ‘Psyche, a Rhapsody,' perhaps the earliest of his prose compositions—as distinct from mere letters, which has escaped the waste-paper basket of after days, there is throughout the clearest intimation of that descriptive power, though yet imperfect, which has left us so many gorgeous pictures of scenery and nature.
In 1836, when his father moved up to London, Charles Kingsley was entered as a day student at King's College, London, and continued there for two years, when
he went into residence at Magdalene College, Cambridge. The outward side of his life during his undergraduate course is comparatively devoid of interest : the interest which really belongs to that epoch in a young man's career is the inward development of mind, the growth of character, the reception and adoption of ideas, and the formation of that tone of thought which is thenceforth to direct and constrain his words and actions.
The period was one of much religious and political excitement; the agitation in favour of the Charter was in full swing. Frost and his fellows were tried and condemned in 1839; but the Charter agitation lasted for ten long anxious years; strange views, too, were put forward, wild fancies were fermenting in the minds of all, and in the minds of the young with a force which was afterwards compared, aptly enough, by Kingsley himself, to that of yeast. The Oxford Tracts were in course of publication; Tract XC. was published in 1811, and at the Universities--at Cambridge little less than at Oxford -gave rise to much discussion, self-examination, and moral disturbance. It is not to be supposed that, in such a time, Kingsley could escape the doubts and unbelief which beset, perhaps, every thinking man, as he emerges from boyhood and a state of unreasoning credulity. That he felt the bitterness of the struggle appears in many of his letters; but his wife certainly attaches more importance to it than a masculine
biographer would have done ; such a phase in mental development, and more especially in the mental development of a man of a nervous and intellectual organisation, is not by any means the remarkable thing which Mrs. Kingsley appears to consider it : that, whilst it lasted, it should unsettle him in every way --lead him into idleness, recklessness, perhaps dissipation; prompt him to throw up his studies, leave Cambridge, seek freedom in America, and become a wild hunter on the prairies of the Far West—it all seems the natural course of the disease, as much as the red rash in scarlet fever, or the pustular eruption in small-pox.
During the year 1841, however, he was guided to a solution of the difficulties attendiug religious belief; in great measure, as we are allowed to infer, by the influence of Miss Grenfell, whom he had first met on July 6, 1839, and who, a few years later, became his wife. His letters at this time all imply the power which Miss Grenfell exercised over him; and to that is apparently due not only the establishment of his convictions, but perhaps also the form of faith to which he held, and the profession which he now resolved to adopt. That the impress of Miss Grenfell's mind was definitely stamped on his, is beyond doubt; it is to be seen on almost every page of these volumes; it is to be seen on almost every page that he ever gave to the world, where, amid the virile strength with which his language abounds, there is a continual underflow of gentleness and sweetness, which tells its own tale of a womanly source. Nor indeed does Kingsley make any secret of it; in 1842 he writes that the woman's part is to cultivate the affections and the imagination; that hers is the nobler task to teach the man how to apply his knowledge to men's hearts; and in 1873, as his life was drawing to a close, he repeats in public his testimony to the inspiration which we derive from woman's virtue, woman's counsel, woman's tenderness.
After taking his degree with some distinction, in January 1842, Kingsley went down into Devonshire to read divinity, and a few months afterwards, on July 10, he was ordained to the curacy of Eversley, in Hampshire, where he at once settled down to his work with the energy which through life he brought to bear on whatever work came before him. And the work of the curacy was not light; the parish had for years past been much neglected, and its state, from a clerical or educational point of view, was scandalous; the church and the rectory were fallen into a ruinous condition. There was not a grown-up man or woman of the labouring class who could read or write; and the school-room was a stifling den, ten feet square,
where cobbling shoes, teaching, and caning went on together, from which the boys and girls naturally escaped to field work as soon as they could.
In the spring of 1844 he married, and was appointed, shortly after, to the rectory of this same parish. The work which he had begun as curate was continued as rector; and for thirty-three years, till the end of his life, he remained there amongst the same people; and amongst these people his influence—born from the sympathetic feeling of a common humanity-was extraordinary. It was strictly amongst them that he laboured; he was daily with them, in their cottages
1 and in the fields; he became personally intimate with every soul in the parish—with the men at their fieldwork, with the women at their wash-tubs, with the babies in their cradles. It was by social rather than by theological teaching that he endeavoured to reform them, to civilise them, to Christianise them. His sermons, his conversation, and his example all went to the same point. His sermons, many volumes of which have been published, his village sermons more particularly, show how practical this teaching was; there is nothing abstract about them, nothing which the clod-crushing mind could not readily lay hold of and understand. When he went up for his priest's orders, Dr. Sumner, the then Bishop of Winchester, objected to the sermons which he showed him, that they were too colloquial. · It was this very peculiarity,' says Mrs. Kingsley, which arrested and attracted his hearers, and - helped to fill a very empty church. To some, no doubt,
' this colloquialism may seem to verge on profanity; with Kingsley, it was strictly the expression of an intensity of religious feeling, which considered no work of God too small to be spoken of, and no work of the devil too homely to be denounced. Every object, every circumstance, had, to him, a spiritual import. He scouted that half-faith which makes religion a thing apart. Where all is full of God, he could see no inconsistency in making sermons whilst cutting wood; nor in talking one moment to one man about the points of a horse, and the next moment to another about the mercy of God. He tried, he says, to catch men by their leading ideas, and so to draw them off insensibly to his own; to win the respect of the wild young fellows so often considered hopeless, by showing them that he was neither 'a spooney Methodist' nor an effemi• nate ascetic, but their superior in physical as well as in intellectual skill. The blood of generations of soldiers ran in Kingsley's veins ; though a clergyman he was still a warrior, as much so as the major-general who fought at Minden ; and