by CONRAD ASCHER
The Beast and the Monk: A Life of Charles Kingsley by Susan Chitty (Hodder & Stoughton £4.95).
Charles Kingsley could only just have escaped Lytton Strachey. The "Eminent Victorians" whom Strachey debunked were Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr Arnold and General Gordon, but with Charles Kingsley they would have made a splendid five-fold target.
When Kingsley delivered his inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge there was no faculty of the university in the subject nor were there students. He received the post as a mark of royal favour and was to have the future Edward VII as a student.
How Strachey would have liked the description of
Kingsley at the lecture: "Rather
tall, very angular, surprisingly awkward, with thin staggering legs, a hatchet face adorned with scraggy whiskers, a faculty for falling into the most ungain ly attitudes and making the most hideous contortions of visage and frame; with a rough provincial accent and an uncouth way of speaking which would be set down for caricature on the boards of a theatre."
But Kingsley needed constantly to reassure himself the lecture was a success and in his letters wrote: "Never spoke better in my life" . . . "Had a very successful lecture" . . . "Received 90 cards," But centenaries are powerful begetters of biographies and 1975 is the centenary of Kingsley's death, and Susan Chitty has stepped in where Strachey did not, Her biography The Beast and the Monk is interesting and well Written. It repeats much that is familiar regarding Kingsley's public life.
Kingsley was chaplain to Queen Victoria, a canon of Westminster, a Christian Socialist who founded three periodicals, and the author of some 19 books, nearly all of Which are now unread and one of which is a children's best seller today, available in numerous editions, "The Water Babies."
Lady Chitty has had access to new material which reveals much about Kingsley's private life. There are 300 letters by
Kingsley to his wife Fanny and a series of drawings which have been locked away for over a century. The drawings are revealed in this book. The Victorians would doubtless have been horrified.
Fanny is constantly to be seen, and Fanny is constantly naked. But most demure she looks throughout, and today not even Mary Whitehouse would be shocked. Kingsley's notoroious anti-Catholicism is said to be due in part to his almost psychopathic hang-up about the evils, of celibacy. He was equally concerned about the evils of the lusts of the flesh. Loyalty to Fanny was always in his mind.
It was Kingsley who led .Newman to write Apologia pro Vita sua, which was originally
in three parts. The first two were entitled "Mr Kingsley's Method of Disputation" and "True Mode of Meeting Mr Kingsley."
It was only the third part, the autobiography, which was published in book form where, as Lady Chitty describes it, Newman explained, with deep and moving sincerity, the whole course of his religious life and explained, step by step, how he
came to "the brink of the abyss from which the next logical step must be Rome."
The original dispute began when Kingsley reviewed his brother-in-law Froude's "History of England" dealing with the Elizabethan period and gratuitously slipped in a passage about Fr Newman apparently having written that cunning and craft rather than truth were the weapon of the Roman clergy. Newman denied this and won the ensuing debate hands down.
All Newman's sermon had in fact said, in Lady Chitty's words, was: "The weapons with which the Church defends herself, prayer, holiness and in nocence, are to the world of physical strength so incomprehensible that it must believe that the Church con quers by craft and hypocrisy." Halfway through the debate, Kingsley delivered himself of a pamphlet and then went on a
tong Mediterranean journey. On his return home the Apologia was on his table awaiting a reply.
An amusing sidelight is thrown on Kingsley's inconsistency and his love of royalty by a hilarious account in the biography of his welcome of Queen Emma of the Sandwich
Islands. The Queen black had come to England to make arrangements for an Anglican mission to her people. Kingsley did not like negroes, but knew that Queen Emma, whom he had met, wanted to visit an English public school.
He thought Queen Victoria would be pleased if he showed Wellington School to Queen Emma as the Prince Consort had connections with it. Fanny Kingsley told her sisters that the visit of Queen Emma was perfect and strange, perfect because everything was smooth and well, and strange because of "the feeling of having a Queen civilised and yet of savage, even cannibal ancestry, sleeping under one's roof in Charlie's and my room eating at one's table."
Queen Emma had even read "The Water Babies" to her little son! At Wellington, Queen Emma stood at the high table and in a low voice asked for a half holiday. The head boy loudly called for three cheers which were given very noisily. The din so frightened the Queen that tradition has it she made a rush for the window in an attempt to escape.
But despite all his kindness to the black queen, Kingsley was a strong believer in white supremacy. He strongly supported the Governor of Jamaica, General Eyre, in 1865 when he put to death 600 natives to quell a riot in which 20 Europeans had died. This led to a big scandal in England, with protagonists for and against the general. Kingsley was for.
During his Cambridge lectures on American history Kingsley told his audiences the wrong side had won the American Civil War, disparaged Lincoln and upheld slavery.