KINGSLEY, Henry (1830-1876)

KINGSLEY, Henry (1830-1876)
was born at Barnack rectory, Northamptonshire, on 2 January 1830, the youngest brother of Charles Kingsley, novelist and poet. Their father, the Rev. Charles Kingsley the elder, who came of a long line of clergymen and soldiers, married Mary Lucas and in addition to the two well-known novelists, their family included Dr George Kingsley the traveller and writer, and a daughter who also wrote fiction. Henry Kingsley's boyhood was spent at Clovelly and Chelsea, and at the age of 14 he began to attend King's College School, London. He entered Worcester College, Oxford, in March 1850, where he became a good athlete but entirely neglected his studies. An opportune legacy from a relation enabled him to leave Oxford free of debt and pay his passage to Australia, where he arrived in 1853. There is much obscurity about Kingsley's stay in Australia. He worked as a digger, an agricultural labourer, as a stock drover, and he also had a term in the mounted police. For some time he had little or no money and carried his swag from station to station. Mr Philip Russell stated in 1887 that he employed Kingsley at his station Langa-Willi, and that Geoffrey Hamlyn was begun there. Miss Rose Browne the daughter of "Rolf Boldrewood" has stated that it was on her father's suggestion that Kingsley began to write. Mr Russell's story is confirmed by her further statement that her father gave Kingsley a letter to Mr Mitchell of Langa-Willi station, that he stayed with Mitchell, and there wrote Geoffrey Hamlyn. Kingsley returned to England about the end of 1857. His father and mother were now living at a cottage near Eversley, Hampshire, and there they welcomed him on his return. Kingsley took a cottage next door and in these peaceful surroundings finished Geoffrey Halyn, which immediately became popular when it was published in 1859. It was followed by Ravenshoe in 1862, Austin Elliott (1863), and the Hillyars and the Burtons (1865). He married in 1864 Miss S. M. K. Haselwood and during the next 12 years he wrote and published 15 novels and collections of short stories which gradually declined in merit. The public lost interest in them and Kingsley's financial difficulties became constant. In 1869 he was appointed editor of the Daily Review, a paper representing the Free Church party at Edinburgh. He was, however, unfitted for the routine of editorial work, and in the middle of 1870 resigned to go as a war-correspondent at the Franco-Prussian war. On his return he resumed novel-writing which, however, now yielded but little money. In 1873 a legacy lightened the position, but his health was failing and he died of cancer on 24 May 1876. His wife survived him for many years.
The decline in Henry Kingsley's later work led to his real merits being overlooked for a long time. In Australia Geoffrey Hamlyn has always been looked upon as an Australian classic, and the Hillyars and the Burtons, partly set in Australia, is also an excellent piece of work. Ravenshoe may fairly be ranked as one of the best romances of its period. In addition to those already mentioned Kingsley published Leighton Court (1866), Mademoiselle Mathilde (1868), Tales of Old Travel re-narrated (1869), Stretton (1869), The Boy in Grey (1871), Hetty and other Stories (1871), Old Margaret (1871), Hornby Mills and other Stories (1872), Valentine (1872), The Harveys (1872), Oakshott Castle (1873), Reginald Hetherege (1874), Number Seventeen (1875), The Grange Garden (1876), Fireside Studies (Essays) (1876), The Mystery of the Island (1877).
S. M. Ellis, Henry Kingsley; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; Desmond Byrne, Australian Writers; H. M. Green, An Outline of Australian Literature.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.