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'My darling baby': Charles Kingsley's letters to his wife

C. J. Wright


A FEW days before his marriage on 10 January 1844 to Frances Grenfell, 'Fanny' as she was called by her family, Charles Kingsley wrote to his bride-to-be about their honeymoon, 'shall I bring down all our letters to Cheddar?-I think so. -My baby, we will classify them, & put the answers with them, & keep a box on purpose for them, & often look at them in after years & at last leave them as an heir-loom to our children, to be studied often-but never published!' As is usually the case, this injunction against publication was to be disregarded but in this instance by someone with a moral right to do so. When in January 1875 Kingsley died, aged only fifty-five, his heart-broken widow set to work to compile a 'Life and Letters'. She thought that in her husband's case his correspondence was particularly important. The memorial volume was, indeed, eventually titled Charles Kingsley: his letters and memories of his life (London, 1877). Fanny was convinced that in his lifetime Charles's letters had helped to save men's souls and the thought that they might continue to do so in future was her consolation for 'giving out of my treasure-house what naturally I should wish to keep private'." After her death, however, her husband's papers vanished from sight until they were used by Susan Chitty in her biography of Kingsley, The Beast and The Monk (London, 1974), published to mark the centenary of his death. It is part of this collection which has been acquired by the British Library and, with some other family letters, now forms Add. MSS. 62552-62557.

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