Charles Kingsley was a priest of the Church of England, a university professor, historian and novelist. He is particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire. He was a friend and correspondent with Charles Darwin.
Kingsley was born in Holne, Devon, the first of two sons from the Reverend Charles Kingsley and his wife Mary Lucas Kingsley. His brother, Henry Kingsley, also became a novelist. He spent his childhood in Clovelly, Devon and Barnack, Northamptonshire and was educated at Bristol Grammar School and Helston Grammar School before studying atKing's College London, and the University of Cambridge. Charles entered Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1838, and graduated in 1842. He chose to pursue a ministry in the church. From 1844, he was rector of Eversley in Hampshire. In 1859 he was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria. In 1860, he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. In 1861 he became a private tutor to the Prince of Wales.
As a novelist his chief power lay in his descriptive faculties. The descriptions of South American scenery in Westward Ho!, of the Egyptian desert in Hypatia, of theNorth Devon scenery in Two Years Ago, are brilliant; and the American scenery is even more vividly and more truthfully described when he had seen it only by the eye of his imagination than in his work At Last, which was written after he had visited the tropics. His sympathy with children taught him how to secure their interests. His version of the old Greek stories entitled The Heroes, and Water-babies and Madam How and Lady Why, in which he deals with popular natural history, take high rank among books for children. Kingsley was influenced by Frederick Denison Maurice, and was close to many Victorian thinkers and writers, including the Scottishwriter George MacDonald.
Kingsley was highly critical of Roman Catholicism and his argument, in print, with John Henry Newman, accusing him of untruthfulness and deceit, prompted the latter to write his Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Kingsley also wrote poetry and political articles, as well as several volumes of sermons.
Kingsley coined the term pteridomania in his 1855 book Glaucus, or the Wonders of the Shore.