Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Cambridgeshire. Marshy fenland region around Cambridge, where most of the novel’s action takes place. Kingsley’s opening pages are a paean to the great beauty of this landscape, a site of historic importance because there the Saxons continued to fight the Norman forces of William I for seven years after the Norman Conquest in 1066. This expansive marshy area, now diked and cultivated, was forested in medieval times. On the low rolling uplands above the open flat lands that housed towns of the Danelaw and Christian monasteries at Crowland, Ramsey, and on the Isle of Ely, there Hereward builds his “Camp of Refuge.”

The novel was published on the eight hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and its subtitle identifies Hereward as the “Last of the English” because the race subsequently included a French strain, associated with the softening effects of civilization. In contrast, Kingsley regarded the preconquest invasions as a happy marriage, and he uses the imagery of gender to characterize them: the Anglo-Saxon woman impregnated by the Norse Viking, the “great male race.” Kingsley believed that such revitalization was urgent for a Victorian England weakened by effete indulgences. Hereward’s battle cry “A Wake!” proclaims his salient quality of alertness, and Kingsley called upon his nation to “awake” and rise from their decline.

Kingsley gives to England’s early Anglo-Danish nobility, who lived in a hard but “cheerful”...

(The entire section is 622 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Chitty, Susan. The Beast and the Monk: A Life of Charles Kingsley. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974. This biography, using correspondence previously closed to researchers, is the best available analysis of Kingsley’s personality, and especially of his relationship with his wife. A chapter is devoted to the writing of Hereward the Wake.

Collums, Brenda. Charles Kingsley: The Lion of Eversley. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1975. This good biography is a useful introduction to Kingsley’s public life. It includes an analysis of Hereward the Wake.

Sanders, Andrew. The Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-1880. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. Provides essential background to the Victorians’ interest in historical fiction. A chapter is devoted to Hereward the Wake, comparing the novel’s view of history with the views that Kingsley expressed in The Roman and the Teuton.

Uffelman, Larry K. Charles Kingsley. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A general survey of Kingsley’s literary reputation and an analysis of his works. It is the best beginning point for study of Kingsley.

Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. A comprehensive survey of Victorian attitudes toward Christian manliness, using Hereward as an example.