Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kingsley, George Henry

KINGSLEY, GEORGE HENRY (1827–1892), traveller and author, son of the Rev. Charles Kingsley of Battramsley House in the New Forest, was born at Barnack, Northamptonshire, 14 Feb. 1827. Charles Kingsley [q. v.] and Henry Kingsley [q. v.] were his brothers. He was educated at King's College School, London, at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.D. in 1846, and at Paris, where he was slightly wounded during the barricades of 1848. Later in 1848 his activity in combating the outbreak of cholera in England was commemorated by his brother Charles in the portrait of Tom Thurnall in ‘Two Years Ago.’ He completed his medical education at Heidelberg, and returning to England about 1850, devoted himself from the commencement of his career to a special line of practice, the charge of individual patients. He adopted foreign travel as his method of treatment, and either in the capacity of medical adviser, or merely as travelling companion, he explored most of the countries of the world. Travelling in Polynesia between 1867 and 1870 with the young Earl of Pembroke, he recorded his experiences in the volume by which he is chiefly remembered, ‘South Sea Bubbles by the Earl and the Doctor,’ London, 1872, 8vo. Frank and unconventional in style, graphic and humorous in its descriptions, this book of travel and adventure won great and instant success, reaching a fifth edition by 1873.

Travelling subsequently with Lord Dunraven and other noblemen, Kingsley did much work as a field naturalist, and made numerous communications to the ‘Field’ under the signature of ‘The Doctor.’ A large amount of his manuscript on subjects connected with folklore and ethnology is now in the possession of his son. While acting as medical adviser to the Earl of Ellesmere's family, he had the partial care of the library at Bridgewater House, and in 1865 he edited, from a manuscript preserved there, Francis Thynne's ‘Animadversions uppon the Annotacions and Corrections of some Imperfections of Impressiones of Chaucer's Workes … reprinted in 1598,’ which was re-edited, with additions by Dr. Furnivall, for the Chaucer Society, in 1876.

Kingsley's genial manners, versatility, and store of picturesque information rendered him extremely popular in society. He was a keen and experienced sportsman, an excellent linguist, and a brilliant talker. Dying on Friday, 5 Feb. 1892, at his house, 7 Mortimer Road, Cambridge, he was buried on 15 Feb. in Highgate cemetery. He married in 1860 Mary Bailey (d. April 1892), having a son, Charles, and a daughter.

Besides the works mentioned above Kingsley published:

  1. ‘Four Phases of Love. Translated from the German of Heyse,’ 1857, 8vo.
  2. ‘A Gossip on a Sutherland Hillside,’ 1861, 8vo: a descriptive sketch of a stalking expedition in Sutherland, included by Francis Galton in his ‘Vacation Tourists and Notes of Travel.’

[Athenæum, 13 Feb. 1892; Cambridge Chron. 12 and 19 Feb.; Manchester Guardian, 8 Feb.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

T. S.