Henry Kingsley Criticism - Essay

The Saturday Review (essay date 1859)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Big Brothers,” in The Saturday Review, Vol. 62, No. 794, August, 1859, pp. 446-48.

[In the following excerpted anonymous review, the critic connects Henry Kingsley's writing to that of his older brother Charles, sarcastically commenting on the virtues of familial similarities of mind.]

Mr. Kingsley has a brother, and this brother has just published a novel. Of its literary merits, its plot, characters, and general worth, we intend to speak elsewhere. At present we merely notice it as a curious specimen of the way in which the big brother's influence tells in a family, and how cordially and completely the smaller brothers fit themselves into his groove....

(The entire section is 1498 words.)

North American Review (essay date 1865)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Review of ‘The Hillyars and Burtons’,” in North American Review, Vol. 101, July, 1865, pp. 293–99.

[In the following anonymous review, the critic denounces The Hillyars and Burtons as illogical.]

“The old question between love and duty,” says the author in his Preface, “I have in this story used all my best art in putting before the reader.” A bad best, we are constrained to say, Mr. Kingsley's best art seems to be.

It is true that, like most other problems given us to solve in this world, the problem of love and duty is so difficult, and so overlaid by confusing circumstances, that we go wrong oftener than right, and...

(The entire section is 2741 words.)

The Critic (essay date 1895)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Henry Kingsley's Novels,” in The Critic, Vol. 26, March, 1895, p. 176.

[In the following anonymous review, the critic applauds a reprinting of Kingsley's novels and responds to negative criticism published in The Saturday Review.]

We heartily welcome this tasteful reprint of the best of Henry Kingsley's novels, which are certainly not inferior to those by his more famous brother, if, indeed, as some excellent critics have maintained, they be not superior to them. He might have been the more famous of the two if he had happened to come before the public first; but Charles, being the elder by eleven years, had the start in authorship by about that period. In...

(The entire section is 512 words.)

Michael Sadleir (essay date 1924)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Henry Kingsley: A Portrait,” in Edinburgh Review, Vol. CCXL, October, 1924, pp. 330-48.

[In the following essay, Sadleir offers a brief overview of Kingsley's life and explores reactions to his writing, linking Kingsley's personal struggles with his disappointing literary career.]


Henry Kingsley's life-story—at once vivid and melancholy—is just such a one as would have appealed to his own romantic imagination. No writer of the mid-Victorian age had so delicate a sympathy for splendour in decay, so sensitive an admiration for the forlorn present of a noble past. He is the prose laureate of wasted beauty and his name persists,...

(The entire section is 7359 words.)

William H. Scheuerle (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Editor's Introduction,” in Ravenshoe, by Henry Kingsley, edited by William H. Scheuerle, University of Nebraska Press, 1967, pp. vii-xxv.

[In the following introduction to Ravenshoe, Scheuerle recounts Kingsley's life and writings, and gives a generally positive assessment of the novel.]

One evening in the summer of 1961, my wife and I were enjoying dinner in a small restaurant in Bloomsbury, when an elderly lady at the next table said to her companion: “Do you remember Sam Buckley's ride on that wonderful horse Widderin?” As one who had just spent many days in the Bodleian Library reading nineteenth-century reviews of Henry Kingsley's novels, I...

(The entire section is 5213 words.)

N. G. Wellings (essay date 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Henry Kingsley: Ravenshoe,” in Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, October, 1969, pp. 115-29.

[In the following essay, Wellings studies critical reaction to Kingsley's novels, and responds to charges that the novel Ravenshoe is characterized by careless writing and lack of structure.]

Henry Kingsley is badly served by literary studies of the twentieth century. Mention, let alone critical recognition, is scarce. The Concise Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature gives Henry Kingsley four entries, one of which is a mistaken date of publication for Ravenshoe.1Introductions to English Literature Vol. IV...

(The entire section is 6312 words.)

John Barnes (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Henry Kingsley and Colonial Fiction, Oxford University Press, 1971, 48p.

[In the following excerpt, Barnes presents an introductory overview of Kingsley's life and fiction, followed by a largely thematic examination of his major Australian novels, particularly Geoffry Hamlyn.]

When Henry James wrote in 1865 that ‘Mr Henry Kingsley may be fairly described as a reduced copy of his brother’,1 few, if any, of his American and English readers are likely to have disagreed with him. Charles Kingsley was widely known as a clergyman and a man of letters when Henry's first novel, Geoffry Hamlyn, was published in 1859. Inevitably, comparisons were...

(The entire section is 13903 words.)

William H. Scheuerle (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Wargrave Novels,” in The Neglected Brother: A Study of Henry Kingsley, Florida State University Press, 1971, pp. 100-27.

[In the following essay, Scheuerle focuses on Kingsley's novels of the mid to late 1860s, arguing that these works exhibit a general decline into literary absurdity and carelessness, but occasionally demonstrate artistic merit, as in Leighton Court and The Hillyars and the Burtons.]

The Hillyars and the Burtons, Kingsley's fourth novel which had been partly written before his marriage, is a much tighter, more closely knit work than either of his two earlier major ones and could have been his best novel. Subtitled “A...

(The entire section is 11315 words.)

G. A. Wilkes (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Kingsley's Geoffry Hamlyn: A Study in Literary Survival,” in Southerly, Vol. 32, No. 4, December, 1972, pp. 243-54.

[In the following essay, Wilkes observes that the enduring quality of Geoffry Hamlyn lies in Kingsley's mythic treatment of the Australian landscape in the novel.]

Of all the Australian novels that have achieved a reputation, Henry Kingsley's The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn is among the least demanding. “He has his brother's power of describing”, Alexander Macmillan wrote in 1858, giving his impressions of the manuscript, “but he does not write in the same style at all; it is wonderfully quiet and yet...

(The entire section is 4625 words.)

Julian Croft (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Is Geoffry Hamlyn a Creole Novel?”, in Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, May, 1974, pp. 269-76.

[In the following essay, Croft perceives Geoffry Hamlyn as a study of English outsiders in Australia who, rather than adapting to their new environment, exert their own culture upon it.]

When Henry Kingsley wrote Geoffry Hamlyn1 he expressed in it a view of Australian society which was still valid until the Second World War. That view was of a society divided culturally between those who followed in speech, behaviour, and ideology the values of traditional English society, and those who had adopted the differing manners...

(The entire section is 3769 words.)

Robert Dixon (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Kingsley's Geoffry Hamlyn and the Art of Landscape,” in Southerly, Vol. 37, No. 3, September, 1977, pp. 274-99.

[In the following essay, Dixon interprets Geoffry Hamlyn within the symbolic and aesthetic contexts of landscape art, describing the work as a historical novel and a “sympathetic social document.”]

When writing on “Geoffry Hamlyn and its Australian Setting” in 1963, J. C. Horner was interested in explaining the quality of Kingsley's descriptions of the Australian landscape with reference to the demands of the novel's genre.1 He wished to correct the “surviving attitude” to the book as a “conventional...

(The entire section is 11172 words.)

Christopher Lee (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Representing Failure: Gender and Madness in Henry Kingsley's The Hillyars and the Burtons,” in AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature, Vol. 82, November, 1994, pp. 35-48.

[In the following essay, Lee analyzes the gendered discourse of insanity in The Hillyars and the Burtons.]

Henry Kingsley's status in Australian literary history rests primarily upon the formal success of his first Australian novel The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn (1859).1 The critical acclaim for his second Australian novel The Hillyars and the Burtons (1865)2 is scant. The attention which this latter...

(The entire section is 6208 words.)