M. Kaufmann on Rev Canon Kingsley’s Birthplace

In Notes on Slips connected to Devonshire. Trans. Devon. Assoc., 1882, Vol XIV, pp. 596-597.


W. Pengelly, FRS, FGS etc. (Ed.)

Prepared by Michael Steer

Charles Kingsley, (1819–1875), author, son of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, first of Battramsley House in the New Forest, by his wife, daughter of Nathan Lucas of Barbadoes and Rushford Lodge, Norfolk, was born on 12 June 1819 at Holne Vicarage,. His father had taken orders after thirty and had then taken a curacy in the fens, and afterwards at Holne, whence he moved to Burton-on-Trent and Clifton in Nottinghamshire. He held the valuable living of Barnack in Northamptonshire (between Peterborough and Stamford) from 1824 to 1830. He caught ague in the fen country, and was advised to remove to Devonshire, where he was presented to Clovelly. He remained there until 1836. Kingsley’s early association with the Fens and Nottinghamshire seems to have generated uncertainty by members of the literate public about the actual location of his son, the famous author Kingsley’s birth. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

The Contemporary Review for April, 1882 (xli. 627-644), contains an article by M. Kaufmann entitled Lamennais and Kingsley, in which the following statement occurs: - "Kingsley, on the other hand, receiving the early impressions of extended freedom from 'the shining meres and golden reed-beds’ of the great Fen, where he was born." (p. 629.)

Devonshire, though very rich in Worthies, will scarcely be willing to part with the distinction of being the native county of the late Canon Kingsley, of whom, as every reader of the article is aware, the author was writing. With regard to his birthplace, we learn from His Letters and Memoirs of his Life, edited by his Wife (10th ed., 1878) that "Charles Kingsley . . . was born on the 12th of June, 1819, at Holne Vicarage, Devonshire." (i. 8.)

It is easy to understand, however, how a writer at no great pains to verify every statement might make the Slip the author has made, inasmuch as Canon Kingsley's parents resided in the Fen country before Charles was born, remained in Devonshire no more than six weeks after his birth, and. having lived at Burton-on-Trent and Clifton in Nottinghamshire in the meantime, were in the Fens again from 1824 to 1830, when they returned to Devonshire, and remained there until 1836. (i. 4, 6, 7, 12, 18.).

M. Kaufmann was not the first to believe that Mr. Kingsley was born in the Fens, or, more definitely, at Barnack, near Stamford, in Lincolnshire; for in 1864 he replied to a lady, who had put the question, that he "was not born'' there. (i.7.)