1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kinglake, Alexander William

KINGLAKE, ALEXANDER WILLIAM (1809–1891), English historian and traveller, was born at Taunton on the 5th of August 1809. His father, a successful solicitor, intended his son for a legal career. Kinglake went to Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1828, being a contemporary and friend of Tennyson and Thackeray. After leaving Cambridge he joined Lincoln’s Inn, and was called to the bar in 1837. While still a student he travelled, in 1835, throughout the East, and the impression made upon him by his experiences was so powerful that he was seized with a desire to record them in literature. Eothen, a sensitive and witty record of impressions keenly felt and remembered, was published in 1844, and enjoyed considerable reputation. In 1854 he went to the Crimea, and was present at the battle of the Alma. During the campaign he made the acquaintance of Lord Raglan, who was so much attracted by his talents that he suggested to Kinglake the plan for an elaborate History of the Crimean War, and placed his private papers at the writer’s disposal. For the rest of his life Kinglake was engaged upon the task of completing this monumental history. Thirty-two years elapsed between its commencement and the publication of the last volume, and eight volumes in all appeared at intervals between 1863 and 1887. Kinglake lived principally in London, and sat in parliament for Bridgwater from 1857 until the disfranchisement of the borough in 1868. He died on the 2nd of January 1891. Kinglake’s life-work, The History of the Crimean War, is in scheme and execution too minute and conscientious to be altogether in proportion, but it is a wonderful example of painstaking and talented industry. It is not without errors of partisanship, but it shows remarkable skill in the moulding of vast masses of despatches and technical details into an absorbingly interesting narrative; it is illumined by natural descriptions and character-sketches of great fidelity and acumen; and, despite its length, it remains one of the most picturesque, most vivid and most actual pieces of historical narrative in the English language.