Charles Kingsley

British clergyman, historian and novelist

Charles Kingsley (June 12 1819January 23 1875) was a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian and novelist. He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men's college, and forming labour cooperatives that failed but led to the working reforms of the progressive era.

Charles Kingsley, English novelist


  • If you wish to be like a little child, study what a little child could understand — nature; and do what a little child could do — love.
    • Notes of August 1842, published in Charles Kingsley : His Letters and Memories of His Life (1883) edited by Frances Eliza Grenfell Kingsley, p. 65.
  • So give me the political economist, the sanitary reformer, the engineer; and take your saints and virgins, relics and miracles. The spinning-jenny and the railroad, Cunard's liners and the electric telegraph, are to me, if not to you, signs that we are, on some points at least, in harmony with the universe; that there is a mighty spirit working among us, who cannot be your anarchic and destroying Devil, and therefore may be the Ordering and Creating God.
  • Science frees us in many ways...from the bodily terror which the savage feels. But she replaces that, in the minds of many, by a moral terror which is far more overwhelming.
  • Tell us not that the world is governed by universal law; the news is not comfortable, but simply horrible, unless you can tell us, or allow others to tell us, that there is a loving giver, and a just administrator of that law.
    • Sermon, The Meteor Shower.
  • Don't holla till you are out of the wood. This is a night for praying rather than boasting.
    • Hereward the Wake (1866)
  • I have fought my fight, I have lived my life,
    I have drunk my share of wine;
    From Trier to Coln there was never a knight
    Led a merrier life than mine.
    • "The Knight's Leap", st. 3, in Poems: Collected Edition (London: Macmillan and Co., 1872), p. 287.
    • Quoted in Albert Jay Nock's Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943), p. 54.
  • For to be discontented with the divine discontent, and to be ashamed with the noble shame, is the very germ and first upgrowth of all virtue.
  • I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] . . . I don't believe they are our fault. . . . But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . ."

The Saint's Tragedy (1848)

The Saint's Tragedy (London: John W. Parker, 1848)
  • All but God is changing day by day.
    • Proem (Prometheus); p. 28.
  • Toil is the true knight's pastime.
    • Act i, scene ii; p. 47.
  • Changeless march the stars above,
    Changeless morn succeeds to even;
    And the everlasting hills,
    Changeless watch the changeless heaven.
    • Act II, scene iii; p. 73.
  • Oh! that we two were Maying.
    • Act ii, scene x; p. 125.
  • Oh! that we two lay sleeping,
    Under the churchyard sod;
    With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth's breast,
    And our souls at home with God!
    • Act ii, scene x; p. 125.
    • In the second (1851) and third (1859) editions the second line is: "In our nest in the churchyard sod".

Andromeda and Other Poems (1858)

Andromeda and Other Poems (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1858)
  • Are gods more ruthless than mortals?
    Have they no mercy for youth? no love for the souls who have loved them?
    • "Andromeda", p. 12.
  • 'O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
    And call the cattle home,
    And call the cattle home
    Across the sands of Dee;'
    The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
    And all alone went she.
  • They rowed her in across the rolling foam,
    The cruel crawling foam,
    The cruel hungry foam,
    To her grave beside the sea:
    But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home
    Across the sands of Dee.
    • "The Sands of Dee", st. 4, p. 54.
  • For men must work, and women must weep,
    And there's little to earn, and many to keep,
    Though the harbor bar be moaning.
  • And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep—
    And good-bye to the bar and its moaning.
    • The Three Fishers, st. 3, p. 56
  • Sad, sad to think that the year is all but done.
    • "The Starlings", st. 1, p. 60.
  • Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
    Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
    And so make life, death, and that vast for-ever
    One grand, sweet song.
  • The world goes up and the world goes down,
    And the sunshine follows the rain;
    And yesterday's sneer and yesterday's frown
    Can never come over again.
    • "Dolcino to Margaret", st. 1, p. 71..
  • Pain is no evil,
    Unless it conquers us.
    • "St. Maura", p. 115.
  • Fools! who fancy Christ mistaken;
    Man a tool to buy and sell;
    Earth a failure, God-forsaken,
    Anteroom of Hell.
    • "The World's Age", st. 1, p. 122.
  • In the light of fuller day,
    Of purer science, holier laws.
    • "On the Death of a Certain Journal", st. 5, p. 138.
    • Note in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919):— Compare: "Ring in the nobler modes of life / with sweeter manners, purer laws", Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam, cvi, Stanza 4.

Online text

  • Clear and cool, clear and cool,
    By laughing shallow, and dreaming pool.
    • Song I, st. 1.
  • When all the world is young, lad,
    And all the trees are green;
    And every goose a swan, lad,
    And every lass a queen;
    Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
    And round the world away;
    Young blood must have its course, lad,
    And every dog his day.
    • Song II, st. 1.
  • When all the world is old, lad,
    And all the trees are brown;
    And all the sport is stale, lad,
    And all the wheels run down;
    Creep home, and take your place there,
    The spent and maimed among:—
    God grant you find one face there,
    You loved when all was young.
    • Song II, st. 2.
  • [A] man may learn from his Bible to be a more thorough gentleman than if he had been brought up in all the drawing-rooms in London.
    • Ch. 3.
  • And I am very ugly. I am the ugliest fairy in the world; and I shall be, till people behave themselves as they ought to do. And then I shall grow as handsome as my sister, who is the loveliest fairy in the world; and her name is Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby. So she begins where I end, and I begin where she ends; and those who will not listen to her must listen to me, as you will see.
    • Ch. 5.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Nothing like one honest look, one honest thought of Christ upon His cross. That tells us how much He has been through, how much He endured, how much He conquered, how much God loved us, who spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for us. Dare we doubt such a God? Dare we murmur against such a God?
    • P. 72.
  • And what is the joy of Christ? The joy and delight which springs forever in His great heart, from feeling that He is forever doing good; from loving all, and living for all; from knowing that if not all, yet millions on millions are grateful to Him, and will be forever.
    • P. 78.
  • Never trample on any soul though it may be lying in the veriest mire; for that last spark of self-respect is its only hope, its only chance; the last seed of a new and better life: — the voice of God that whispers to it: "You are not what you ought to be, and you are not what you can be. You are still God's child, still an immortal soul. You may rise yet. and fight a good fight yet, and be a man once more, after the likeness of God who made you, and Christ who died for you!"
    • P. 84.
  • The health of a church depends not merely on the creed which it professes, not even on the wisdom and holiness of a few great ecclesiastics, but on the faith and virtue of its individual members.
    • P. 147.
  • And how high is Christ's cross? As high as the highest heaven, and the throne of God, and the bosom of the Father — that bosom out of which forever proceed all created things. Ay, as high as the highest heaven! for — if you will receive it — when Christ hung upon the cross, heaven came down on earth, and earth ascended into heaven.
    • P. 171.
  • This is eternal life; a life of everlasting love, showing itself in everlasting good works; and whosoever lives that life, he lives the life of God, and hath eternal life.
    • P. 209.
  • The righteousness which is by faith in Christ is a loving heart and a loving life, which every man will long to lead who believes really in Jesus Christ.
    • P. 230.
  • Ah, my friends, we must look out and around to see what God is like. It is when we persist in turning our eyes inward, and prying curiously over our own imperfections, that we learn to make God after our own image, and fancy that our own darkness and hardness of heart are the patterns of His light and love.
    • P. 257.
  • Whatever may be the mysteries of life and death, there is one mystery which the cross of Christ reveals to us, and that is the infinite and absolute goodness of God. Let all the rest remain a mystery so long as the mystery of the cross of Christ gives us faith for all the rest.
    • P. 262.
  • If thou art fighting against thy sins, so is God. On thy side is God who made all, and Christ who died for all and the Spirit who alone gives wisdom, purity, and nobleness.
    • P. 263.
  • Do you feel that you have lost your way in life? Then God Himself will show you your way. Are you utterly helpless, worn out, body and soul? Then God's eternal love is ready and willing to help you up, and revive you. Are you wearied with doubts and terrors? Then God's eternal light is ready to show you your way; God's eternal peace ready to give you peace. Do you feel yourself full of sins and faults? Then take heart; for God's unchangeable will is, to take away those sins, and purge you from those faults.
    • P. 265.
  • Let us ask ourselves seriously and honestly, " What do I believe after all? What manner of man am I after all? What sort of show would I make after all, if the people around me knew my heart and all my secret thoughts?" What sort of show then do I already make in the sight of Almighty God, who sees every man exactly as he is?
    • P. 276.
  • Take comfort, and recollect however little you and I may know, God knows; He knows Himself and you and me and all things; and His mercy is over all His works.
    • P. 276.
  • I believe not only in "special providences," but in the whole universe as one infinite complexity of "special providences."
    • P. 279.
  • Let us be content to do little, if God sets us at little tasks. It is but pride and self-will which says, "Give me something huge to fight, — and I should enjoy that — but why make me sweep the dust?"
    • P. 388.
  • Do not fancy, as too many do, that thou canst praise God by singing hymns to Him in church once a week, and disobeying Him all the week long. He asks of thee works as well as words; and more, He asks of thee works first and words after.
    • P. 456.
  • And therefore let us say, in utter faith, "Come as Thou seest best — but in whatsoever way Thou comest — even so come, Lord Jesus."
    • P. 593.

Quotes about Charles Kingsley

  • Born in the same year as the Queen, Kingsley typifies the Victorian man as closely as she presents the Victorian woman. He shared most of her fundamental principles. He believed in England, in the the Empire, in the Established Church; in the ennobling influence of womanhood and the sanctity of the home; in a good God guiding the universe and each of its individual inhabitants; in the spiritual brotherhood of men within a benevolent aristocracy; in evolutionary progress and the compatibility of science and religion.
  • Every one who is fond of reading books of travel in the tropics must know what it is like to long for an hour or two of real life in a virgin forest, or in the boundless expanses of the pampas, or even in the depths of a mangrove swamp. We would willingly put up with mosquitoes and "piums" and poisonous ants, if we could but see that world for ourselves which Darwin and Bates and Wallace and Belt have made almost, but not quite, a reality for us. Charles Kingsley had this ambition all his life, and was able in the end to indulge it. His enthusiastic delight at what he saw in the West Indies made him more than usually eloquent, and his chapter on the "High Woods" marks perhaps the highest point which a traveller's descriptive power can reach.
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