Charles Kingsley

1819-1875

Charles Kingsley was one of the most popular novelists of Victorian Britain. But despite his fame among contemporaries (his contacts included Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin) Kingsley is not a popular author among 21st Century readers.

Fame

Kingsley’s writings made him one of the most popular authors of his day. Some of his books were initially released in newspaper segments and some were adapted into plays. His novel Westward Ho! was released in 1855 – within ten years a village in his native Devon was named after it. Seventy years later, the BBC chose Westward Ho! for its first radio production based on a novel.

Influence

Aside from his popularity as an author, Kinglsey had other positions of influence upon public life in Victorian England. As a professor of modern history at Cambridge University he delivered opinionated and strongly argued lectures on a broad range of topics and issues. His audience was not limited to students as Kingsley encouraged the general public to attend his lectures too.

This was only Kingsley’s second highest appointment; from 1859 he served as Chaplain to Queen Victoria, providing her spiritual advice and guidance.

After his ten-year professorship at Cambridge, Kingsley became canon of Chester Cathedral in 1870. Again, Kingsley took measures to ensure his sphere of influence was not limited to one audience and founded a society for sciences and art.