Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist and poet. He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men’s college, and forming labour cooperatives, which failed, but encouraged later working reforms. He was a friend and correspondent of Charles Darwin.
Kingsley was a tall, thin, excitable man with a stammer. His enthusiasms pulled him in many directions, just as they drew famous people, including royalty, to him. In 1848, with Frederick Denison Maurice and J. M. Ludlow, he founded Christian Socialism. To support the movement he wrote many articles over the signature “Parson Lot” and two novels, Alton Locke (1850), about the plight of the urban worker, and Yeast (1851), about the ills of the rural poor. However, Kingsley’s opinions were far more Christian than socialist. Certainly he never wanted to upset the established social order.
Turning to history, Kingsley wrote two historical novels, Hypatia (1853) and Westward Ho! (1855). He grew interested in biology and wrote Glaucus (1855), a nonfictional description of the wonders of the shore. These books as well as his Christian Socialism fit the term “Muscular Christianity,” but Kingsley was a poet too. In Andromeda (1858) he wrote the “very best English hexameters ever produced,” according to George Saintsbury. However, perhaps his best-loved book was The Water-Babies (1863), a children’s story in which he combined his interests in natural science and religion.
Easter Week: Charles Kingsley
See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.
You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring-
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.