Charles Kingsley: A 200 year timeline

12th June 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Kingsley’s birth. This is a timeline of Kingsley’s life and later influence.

Birth & Childhood: 1819-1838


Charles Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon.

As the eldest son, he was named after his father, the Reverend Charles Kingsley.

(Birth. Age 0.)


Kingsley’s brother George was born in Barnack, Northamptonshire.

(Family. Age 7.)


Kingsley’s sister, Charlotte, was born in Devon.

(Family. Age 9.)


Kingsley’s brother, Henry, was born in Barnack, Northamptonshire.

(Family. Age 11.)

Young Adulthood: 1838-1848


Kingsley begins studying a Bachelor’s degree in Classics at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

(Education. Age 19.)


Kingsley graduated from Cambridge with a first class degree.

(Education. Age 23.)


Kingsley’s first novel, Yeast, was published.

(Book published. Age 29.)

Heyday: 1848-1875


Kingsley’s novel Hypatia was published.

Set in ancient Egypt during the Christian era, Hypatia caused a political stir for its glaring anti-Catholic undertones. It was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite novels.

(Book published. Age 34.)


Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho! was published. It became popular enough that a town in Devon was named after it.

(Book published. Age 36.)


Kingsley’s novel Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore was published. In it, he invented a new word: ‘pteridomania’, which literally means fern obsession.

The word is rarely used today, but in Kingsley’s time there was a genuine public interest in ferns (a year after Glaucus‘s publication Charles’ sister Charlotte would publish Ferny Combes, a book about rare ferns in Devon).

(Book published. Age 36.)


While visiting Ireland, Kingsley wrote a derogatory letter describing the Irish people, particularly working-class Catholics, as ‘human chimpanzees’.

(Letter. Age 41.)


Kingsley’s novel The Water-Babies was published. The book was originally released bit-by-bit in the periodical Macmillan’s Magazine.

Despite being a children’s book, it contains negative political and racial undertones, like Kingsley’s other novels.

(Book published. Age 44.)


The Edward Eyre Defence Committee was set up with the aim of preventing the Governor of Jamaica from being put on trial for his brutal suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion. Kingsley was a member of the committee, along with Charles Dickens and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

(Political dispute. Age 47.)


Charles Kingsley died in Eversley, Hampshire, leaving Frances a widow.

(Death. Age 56.)

After Life: 1875-2019


Kingsley’s wife Frances published a biography of her late husband titled Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life.

This is one of the most encompassing sources about Kingsley’s life and ran to 1,000 pages.



Frances died at the age of 77. She outlived her husband by 16 years.



A hotel named after Kingsley was opened on Bloomsbury Way in Holborn, London.



A musical performance of Kingsley’s poem Andromeda was delivered at the Bristol Music Festival. The poem was adapted for this purpose by Cyril Rootham.

(Creative arts.)


In an article celebrating 150 years of The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby published in The Irish Times, Irish academic Denis Donoghue criticised Kingsley for his invective against Catholics, Irishmen, Jews and, in particular, John Henry Newman.

Donoghue also praised Kinglsey’s ‘good work’ in raising attention for two common issues in Victorian society: environmental pollution and juvenile chimney-sweeps.

(Literary criticism.)

Learn more about Kingsley – the upcoming historical fiction novel based on Charles Kingsley’s life.