Canon Charles Kingsley: A Biography

Canon Charles Kingsley: A Biography

Canon Charles Kingsley: A Biography

Canon Charles Kingsley: A Biography

Excerpt

As Manfred says, 'I am of an order of mortals who do become old in their youth and die in middle age.'

CHARLES KINGSLEY

FOR many English people the name of Charles Kingsley conjures up bright memories of water-babies, lays of buccaneers, refrains of sad songs, and a vision of Nature as a kind old nurse. Generations of children have shared the adventures of little Tom the chimney-sweep, and at least one of Kingsley's six novels must have been read by every English-speaking boy alive, for the school editions of Westward Ho! may not be numbered. Westward Ho! , a greater success than Hypatia , placed him for all time in the front rank of English historical novelists. It is not, however, as a novelist that Kingsley is memorialised in Westminster Abbey. His bust there stands on a high ledge in what is now called 'the chapel of the minor poets' near the west door. It is companioned by that of Matthew Arnold, a far richer versifier, and by that of Kingsley's mentor, Frederick Denison Maurice, who never wrote verse at all.

A man of country tastes, who in spite of a severe speech- impediment chose service in the Church of England as his profession, Charles Kingsley is more pleasingly approached in his instinctive role of naturalist and fisherman than in his adoptive role of social reformer, for as a naturalist he remained perennially young and happy, whereas as a reformer he became harassed, irritable, and frequently depressed in spirit. His zeal in the pursuit of flowers, ferns, insects and wild birds would have endeared him to Gilbert White, and his devotional praise of chalk-streams to Izaak Walton. One of the purest delights he ever enjoyed was a day's fishing at Bemerton, where saintly George Herbert had fished before him and, just possibly, John Donne.

Many clergymen of Kingsley's day were addicts of fly- fishing. Brought up in country rectories or on family estates . . .

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