The Dust of Combat

Robert Bernard
Date Published
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Charles Kingsley was born, appropriately enough, in the same year as Queen Victoria: appropriately, for he embodies so many of the positive aspects of that epoch. Into a comparatively short life he packed an almost incredible amount of work and activity: as parish priest, Canon of Chester and Westminster, Chaplain to the Queen, tutor to the Prince of Wales, Professor of History at Cambridge, poet, novelist, critic, translator, political pamphleteer, sanitary reformer, popularizer of geology and zoology. Round his head raged some of the great controversies of the time, in particular those evoked by the Christian Socialist movement and by his disastrous crossing of swords with Cardinal Newman. But for us today his chief interest lies, perhaps, in his own contradictory personality; and in the understanding of his age which we gain by studying the impetuous workings of his heart and mind, at once so individual and so representative of the times in which he lived.

This is a scholarly, readable, civilized and sympathetic biography by a writer, as this book and those on Tennyson and Gerard Manley Hopkins testify, who was pre-eminent in this field.