Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Ingelow, Jean

INGELOW, JEAN (1820–1897), poetess, born on 17 March 1820 at Boston, Lincolnshire, was the eldest child of William Ingelow, a banker, and his wife, Jean Kilgour, a member of an Aberdeenshire family. The early years of her life were spent in Lincolnshire, and the effect of the fen scenery is apparent in her verse. She then lived at Ipswich, and before 1863 came to London, where she spent the rest of her life. She was educated at home.

Her first volume, 'A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings,' published in 1850, attracted little attention, although Tennyson found some charming things in it (cf. Life of Tennyson, i. 286-7). It was not until the publication of the first series of 'Poems' in 1863 that the public recognised in Miss Ingelow a poet of high merit. It contained the verses entitled 'High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1571,' which for earnestness and technical excellence is one of the finest of modern ballads. The volume reached a fourth edition in the year of publication. In 1867 an illustrated edition, with drawings by various artists, among them Poynter, Pinwell, A. B. Houghton, and J. W. North, was brought out. By 1879 it was in a twenty-third edition. A second series of poems appeared in 1876, and both series were reprinted in 1879. A third series was added in 1885. She wrote much under the influence of Wordsworth and Tennyson. Her verse is mainly characterised by lyrical charm, graceful fancy, pathos, close and accurate observation of nature, and sympathy with the common interests of life. The language is invariably clear and simple. She is particularly successful in handling anapsestic measures. Her poetry is very popular in America, where some 200,000 copies of her various works have been sold.

As a novelist she does not rank so high. Her best long novel, 'Off the Skelligs,' appeared in 1872 in four volumes. The 'Studies for Stories,' published in 1864, are admirable short stories. She depicted child life with great effect, and her best work in that line will be found in 'Stories told to a Child,' published in 1865. Between that date and 1871 she wrote numerous children's stories. Her books brought her comparatively large sums of money, but her fame rests on two or three poems in the volume of 1863. She was acquainted with Tennyson, Ruskin, Froude, Browning, Christina Rossetti, and with most of the poets, painters, and writers of her time. She died at Kensington on 20 July 1897, and was buried at Brompton cemetery on the 24th.

A portrait of her when a child is in the possession of her brother, Mr. B. Ingelow.

Other works by Miss Ingelow are: 1. 'Allerton and Dreux; or the War of Opinion,' 2 vols. 1851. 2. 'Tales of Orris,' 1860. 3. 'Mopsa, the Fairy,' 1869. 4. 'Fated to be Free,' 3 vols. 1875; new edit. 1876. 6. 'Sarah de Berenger,' 3 vols. 1879; new edit. 1886. 6. 'Don John : a Story,' 3 vols. 1881. 7. 'John Jerome,' 1886. 8. 'The little Wonder-box,' 1887. 9. 'Very Young and Quite another Story,' 1890. A volume of selections from her poems appeared in 1886, and a complete edition in one volume in 1898.

[Allibone's Dict. Suppl. ii. 885; Athenæum, 24 July 1897; Times, 21 and 26 July 1897; Miles's Poets and Poetry of the Century, vol. vii.; private information.]

E. L.