Coles, Nicholas.  "Charles Kingsley," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 32: Victorian Poets Before 1850. Edited by William E. Fredeman (Detroit: Gale, 1984): 182-190.
In this DLB chapter Coles provides an overview of Kingsley’s life interspersed with a review of his writings, particularly his poetry.  There is a bibliography of Kingsley’s own works together with a short secondary bibliography.  There are also several illustrations.  Coles writes that “Kingsley’s literary career was marked by oscillation among genres rather than by steady development: his dominant themes, however, remained constant.  He was only occasionally a poet and, after a bout of experimentation, worked most successfully in simple established forms.  His longest-lasting pieces were the lyrics which John Hullah set to music” (189).

Overview; Poetry; Saint’s Tragedey, The.

Colloms, Brenda. “Charles Kingsley, Poet and Social Reformer,” RSV: Rivista di Studi Vittoriani Vol. 1, No. 2 ( July 1996): 23-47.
In a lengthy article Colloms provides a sketch of Kingsley’s life, character, and works, concentrating on his poetry.  She praises in particular the “disturbing and powerful” poem “St. Maura” but declares that Kinglsey will be remembered by the general public for his shorter poems (36).  She also lauds Kingsley for having added the topic of social problems to the scope of the popular novel.

Overview; Poetry; Social and Political Views.

Elton, Oliver.  A Survey of English Literature 1830-1880.  2 Vols. (London: Edward Arnold, 1932; first published 1920) Vol. II: 309-316.
Elton presents a broad overview of Kingsley’s life and works. Yeast is not really a novel but “a kind of pamphlet-fantasy” in which the authorial commentary renders Kingsley himself the most distinct character (310).  However, the work reveals promise of the future novelist.  The true power of Alton Locke lies in its pictures rather than its ideas. Hypatia is praised for its drama and the passion and action of the story. Westward Ho!, more “a saga than a novel with a plot” (311), is lauded for its action, its enthusiasm, and its fine scene painting.  Though Two Years Ago has excessive moralizing, “Kingsley is himself again whenever he gets back to landscape or to narrative” (312). Hereward the Wake suffers from a surfeit of the professor and a paucity of the artist. The Heroes receives high praise for its style, its descriptions, its appeal to children.  Elton also lauds Kingsley’s “fervid picturesqueness” in a number of his shorter works, particularly his naturalist depictions in At LastThe Water-Babies though popular “is a good book badly spoilt” (314).  Elton commends Kingsley’s poetic power, particularly his lyric and narrative poems.  “He is one of the few poets of the time who make us wish cordially that he had written more” (315).

Overview; Novels; Poetry.

Hearn, Lafcadio.  Appreciations of Poetry (London: William Heinemann, 1922).
In his examination of Kingsley’s poetry Hearn declares that he wrote the best hexameters and the best songs of the period and gives especial praise to “Sands of Dee”.  On the other hand, he is very critical of the dramatic work “The Saint’s Tragedy” and declares that instances of “rubbish” reside in Kingsley’s poetic oeuvre.  Still, “the jewels among that rubbish have a peculiar colour and splendour that distinguish them from everything else written during the same period” (297).


Hoagwood, Terence. “Kingsley's ‘Young and Old',” Explicator Vol. 46, No. 4 (Summer 1988): 18-21.
Hoagwood analyzes Kingsley’s ‘Young and Old,” the short poem sung by the kind schoolmistress at Vendale in The Water-Babies.  He shows that it is impossible for the song to be fully understood when first encountered in the book.  It is only later in the story that we recognize that the song is the old dame’s lament for her son Grimes who left her.  The realization at the end of the novel that Grimes is her son “enables us to revisit the lyric and to revise our understanding of its latent, private, and even secret significance for the grieving old dame” (19).

‘Young and Old’; Poetry; The Water-Babies.

Melville, Lewis.  “The Centenary of Charles Kingsley,” Contemporary Review Vol. 115 (June 1919): 670-674.
Melville’s appreciation of Kingsley’s life and works contains little that he did not write in his 1906 Victorian Novelists.  However, he is more certain this time that Westward Ho! is Kingsley’s best work.  “The deeds of derring–do in the South Seas and on the Spanish Main, and the story of the defeat of the great Armada are admirably told, and are comparable with similar episodes in the best works of any other author.  There Kingsley is at his best, and his best is very good indeed” (674).

Overview; Poetry; Characterization in Novels; Westward Ho!.

Melville, Lewis.  "Charles Kingsley," in his Victorian Novelists (London: Archibald Constable, 1906): 106-124.
Melville reviews Kingsley’s life and works.  He praises some of  Kingsley’s shorter poems though considering that his poetry in general is not up to the standard of his romances.  Yeast is more a pamphlet than a novel and is spoiled by Kingsley’s dissertations on his own views.  Though the story of Alton Locke is slight, the novel’s characterization is superior to that of Yeast.  Melville praises Hypatia for its “brilliant and forcible picture of life”, for its fine characterization, and its good planning.  It is, however, “sometimes stagey, and often melodramatic, and not infrequently grandiloquent” (114, 118).  Westward Ho! is Kingsley’s most successful novel though it does not quite reach the level of Hypatia.  Melville singles out Kingsley’s command of language and his scene-painting.  “. . . it is this power of description that distinguishes him above his contemporaries, with the exception, perhaps of Disraeli; indeed, places him in this respect above all writers since Scott, and even Scott’s landscape does not always seem so spontaneous” (124).

Overview; Novels; Poetry; Characterization in Novels.

Seaver, George.  Charles Kingsley: Poet (Folcroft Library Editions, 1973).
This is a short volume, about forty pages, examining Kingsley's poetry. Seaver declares that his poetic output cannot be considered great either for its output or for its quality.  Still, he praises much of his poetry and argues that "it has its own distinctive note: among the minor poets of our language he stands high" (3-4).  Seaver also lauds the poetic nature of Kingsley's prose; much is "prose-poetry".  In fact, his quality as a poet may be especially seen in his pen-pictures of nature and scenery in his Prose Idylls and in his novels.  However, Seaver concludes that the main interest will abide in Kingsley the man rather than Kingsley the poet.

Overview; Poetry; Prose Rhythm; Saint's Tragedy, The.

Uffelman, Larry K. Charles Kingsley (Boston: Twayne, 1979).
In this book length study Uffelman focuses on Kingsley's literary achievement.  Chapter I provides an overview in which Kingsley's works are presented chronologically.  In subsequent chapters they are grouped thematically.  Uffelman declares that Kingsley, though a writer of some attractive lyrics and ballads, was a minor poet.  His main claim was as a novelist.  Though much of what he wrote was literature with a purpose, Uffelman considers "that the impact of that literature is due not so much to its purpose as to its presentation" (136).

Overview; Full Book Treatment; Novels; Poetry.


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