Charles Kingsley was the son of an Anglican clergyman. Two of his siblings, George Henry and Henry, became well-known authors in Victorian England, but Charles attained the greatest fame. After an unimpressive record at school he entered King’s College in London when he was seventeen. Matriculation at King’s College was probably for the convenience of the family, for Charles’s father had become rector of a church in London. After two years, however, Charles Kingsley left to finish his education at Cambridge University. While there he met and fell in love with Fanny Grenfell, but her family was opposed to the match because Kingsley had already made for himself a reputation as a rather wild and radical young man who followed Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, and Frederick Denison Maurice in his thinking.
After graduating from Cambridge, Kingsley was ordained as an Anglican clergyman and sent as a curate to Eversley, Hampshire, on the edge of the New Forest. In 1844 he succeeded to the living at Eversley as rector and married Fanny Grenfell. In addition to his work as a clergyman he began to write, and in 1842 he started a biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, which eventually became the poetic drama The Saint’s Tragedy. During the early years of his marriage Kingsley augmented his slender income by teaching and lecturing. In 1848, however, the year when Kingsley’s first book was published, the young clergyman began to take an...
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