The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 17. Henry Kingsley
It is only necessary to indicate wider territorial annexations, such as those made in Basil Hall’s Schloss Hainfeld (1836), a tale of Styria, and colonel Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839); Lytton, Reade and Trollope send their heroes—forerunners of imperialism—to the antipodes; the best use of this opportunity is made by Henry Kingsley in his Geoffrey Hamlyn (1859) and other Australian books, in which, in his meandering, anecdotal fashion, he paints the life of the new colony, its vast rolling plains, the industry of the sheep-run, perils from bushrangers, aborigines, drought, forest fires and other dangers, which he knew by first-hand experience. The strain of adventure appears again in the Crimean scenes of Ravenshoe (1862). This latter book and the Australian tales are all deeply scored by the influence of Arnold of Rugby; but Henry Kingsley was more devoted to an old aristocratic ideal. The intrigue in his stories is rather apt to depend upon mysterious villainies which result in acts of overstrained quixotry, the author too often intervenes to tell how sad a fat menaces his hero. Nevertheless, as in a medieval romance, the fine spirit of courtesy and chivalry shines out. Lord Charles Barty in Austin Elliot (1863) and lord Saltire in Ravenshoe are “very parfit gentle knights”; the latter especially illustrates Kingsley’s veneration for manners, whether they come of hereditary right, or whether they are the fine flower of character. A pleasing irresponsible humour, a mellow wisdom and an immense fund of affection for men and animals are other elements which blend in the individual quality of Henry Kingsley’s books.