Born at Barnack, Northamptonshire. A troubled writer, born of middle class parents, and the youngest of five sons, Henry was fond of mixing in literary circles with Aldous Huxley, Matthew Arnold, George Meredith and Lewis Carroll and his brother, Charles Kingsley, also a novelist. Henry, although talented, was a spendthrift and of considerable mixed fortunes.
After spending time at Oxford more on social activities than study he went to Australia for five years, accepting a legacy as a way of removing his debts, and cutting himself off from his family. It was here he based Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859) to popular success, using his first hand experience to depict life in the new colony of Australia, illustrating the perils of the life in the bush, with bushrangers, forest fires and drought. His next novel Ravenshoe (1862), set against the Crimean War, was also well received.
On returning to England he married his cousin Sarah Haselwood, who suffered from ill health throughout their marriage. During this time Henry's financial fortunes also declined. He continued to entertain his literary friends which drained his finite resources and in 1869 he moved to Edinburgh, and taking over editorship of the Daily Review - a voice of the Free Church party. It was during this time he wrote Stretton (1869).
Stretton is an absorbing Victorian novel which moves between Church Stretton and Church Pulverbatch in Shropshire to the borders of the British Empire in India. Kingsley wrote about events in England and India to contrast peace and war situations, but the novel mainly focuses on Eleanor, a feisty, kind-hearted woman with a biting wit and a "radiant beauty". However, despite her beauty she believes that being married to her 800 acre farm in Church Pulverbatch is more desirable than marriage to a man.
His later novels did not achieve the earlier success and he had to approach his brother Charles for money - a temporary solution as his brother soon lost patience with his requests.
In 1873 he moved to a semi-rural dwelling in Kentish town, but personal misfortune followed him. His mother and his brother Charles died in quick succession. This was followed by the news that Henry, himself, had throat cancer. He made a final move to a cottage in Cuckfield, Sussex until his death in 1876.
His works are recognised for description, narration and a love of language.
The following works marked with an asterisk (*) are available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection
The recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859)*
Austin Elliot (1863)
The Hillyars and the Burtons (1865)
Leighton court (1866)
Silcotes of Silcote (1867)
Madmoiselle Mathilde (1868)
Old Margaret (1871)
The Harveys (1872)
Oakshott castle (1873)
The Grange garden (1876)
The mystery of the island (1877)
Tales of old travel re-narrated (1869)
Hetty and other Stories (1872)
Fireside studies (1876)
The boy in grey (1871)
Valentin - A French boy's story of Sedan (1872)
A sample chapter and the complete text of Stretton is available on this website.
On the Project Gutenberg website you may read or download The recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859).
Page created 9 February 2001 and last
updated 28 October 2002
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