Poetess, novelist and author of charming
"A healthful hunger
for a great idea is the
blessedness of life."
"Why, if the swarms in the weaving and the spinning world are to be
thinned, who will bring a
revenue to the cotton-lord? If the crowded alley is to be deserted, who
will make our shirts and our gowns? and if at the parish school we bring
up all the children to fly like nestlings as soon as they are fledged,
where are our housemaids and nursemaids and cookmaids to come from?. . . . No; truly God made my
servant what he is; God placed me over him: let him work — it is his duty;
let me play — it is my birthright; and let none of us presume to wish
that God had placed us otherwise! That is what people say — at
least a great many of them."
Jean Ingelow on the
generally accepted need for the lower classes.
Photo by Barrauds.
"At her Kensington home she gives what she calls
her "copyright dinners" — because they are paid for from the proceeds of
her books — at which she gathers poor people, old and young, to share her
There's no such
thing as a 'free meal', except at Jean Ingelow's . . . Harper's Magazine, May 1888.
"Some of our writers have taken lately to ill-using our neat
and compact verb by ramming an adverb into its midst. They will
say, — 'To appreciatively drink bottled stout'; 'To energetically walk to
Paddington'; 'To incessantly think'; 'To ably reason'. Where was
this dog-English whelped? You should say, 'to think incessantly',
'to reason ably'. Let us suppose that 'bow-wow' means to drink.
Do you ever hear your dog say 'Bow — wagging my tail —wow'? . . .
Writing vulgar or ugly English is not
an indictable offence. I only wish it was . . ."
Jean Ingelow on the split infinitive.
"She was a
kind-looking, pleasant, middle-aged lady, with a fresh complexion
and brown hair, who cannot be better described than by saying that
she was very like her own writings. She looked a thoroughly
wholesome, practical person. Dr. Japp said to me long
afterwards that she had always seemed to him the very type of a
country banker's maiden sister."
"A lady writer in an American paper thus described Jean Ingelow the
poetess:―"Miss Ingelow is a buxom,
fine-looking woman, somewhere near her forties. She has an
abundance of soft brown hair, which she winds in a graceful fashion
of her own about her well-shaped head; bright dark eyes, and a
lovely changing colour, which comes and goes in her cheeks at the
slightest provocation. She is shy, delicate, and reserved, and
has a true English aversion to being looked at, and a still greater
horror of being written about. Miss Ingelow is a thorough
Conservative in ideas as well as tastes."
(8th May, 1872)
Born at Boston,
Lincolnshire, JEAN INGELOW
was the eldest of the ten children of William Ingelow, a banker and
shipping merchant, and his
Scots wife, Jean. Following the failure of his banking business, the
family moved to Ipswich and then to London, where Jean spent the rest of
"My father’s house stood in a quiet country town,
through which a tidal river flowed. The banks of the river
were flanked by wooden wharves, which were supported on timbers, and
projected over the water. They had granaries behind them, and
one of my earliest pleasures was to watch the gangs of men who at
high tide towed vessels up the river, where, being moored before
these granaries, cargoes of corn were shot down from the upper
stories into their holds, through wooden troughs not unlike
fire-escapes. The back of my father’s house was on a level
with the wharves, and overlooked a long reach of the river.
Our nursery was a low room in the roof, having a large bow window,
in the old-fashioned seat of which I spent many a happy hour with my
brother, sometimes listening to the soft hissing sound made by the
wheat in its descent, sometimes admiring the figure-heads of the
vessels, or laboriously spelling out the letters of their names."
A description of childhood, from
. . . .
Educated at home by her mother and an aunt, while still a
girl Jean contributed poetry and tales to magazines under the pseudonym of
Orris. However, her first volume, A Rhyming Chronicle of
Incidents and Feelings, published anonymously, did not appear until
she was thirty. It impressed another Lincolnshire poet, Tennyson, with whom she was to become friends
(see letter). She followed this book of verse
with a novel, Allerton and Dreux [Vol. I;
Vol. II], published anonymously
in 1851. A reviewer described this work as "essentially religious, with a
spirit of earnest piety and serious feeling pervading throughout":
"essentially religious", I think, only sufficient to be remarked
upon in the early chapters,
and the story evolves
slowly at times
(likewise in Off the Skelligs and Fated to be Free)
interesting romance cum adventure, in which the personalities of two of its principals, Messrs
Dreux and Hewley, bearing some slight resemblance to Trollope's better
known divines (then yet to appear), Messrs Crawley and Slope.
"He was about the middle height,
extremely slender, had deep-set eyes, very smooth black
hair, and used to walk with an air of deep humility, his
eyes generally fixed on the ground. He seldom looked
any one in the face, spoke in a low, internal voice, and
often sighed deeply. He was not by any means without
his admirers, but most even of these were afraid of him.
He generally conveyed his wishes by insinuation, and
exercised his influence in an underhand way" . . . .
"Oh the annoyance of
being with one's superiors! thought Mr. Hewly, as the
conviction became more strong in his mind than ever, that
this man [Mr. Dreux], his own curate, was so far above him,
that he actually could not feel at ease with him, even in
his own house, unless he treated him with proper respect. .
. . When a man, remarkable for uprightness and honesty of
purpose, gets into contact with one of sinister disposition,
not at all straightforward, and conscious of defective
motives, he is sure to make him feel extremely
uncomfortable; he feels acutely that he is not honest, and
fancies the other feels it too."
Messrs Hewly and Dreux, from . . . .
Allerton and Dreux.
contributed regularly to the evangelical Youth Magazine under her
pseudonym and was for a short time its editor. A compilation of these children's stories,
of Orris, illustrated by the eminent Pre-Raphaelite
artist, John Everett Millais,
appeared in 1860 and was well received (mostly repeated in Stories told
to a Child). However, major success was
to come in 1863 with Poems, a work that
ran through thirty editions in Jean's lifetime and met with wide acclaim in
the United States.
Poems commences with "Divided",
a tale in which two lovers walk happily hand-in-hand along opposite sides of a
rivulet. The rivulet broadens gradually into a stream as
it flows seaward and their handhold eventually breaks
across the widening gap. But they continue on regardless; they call to each other to come across,
but neither does. The
stream widens slowly into a river,
then into an estuary
and eventually the lovers lose sight of each other across the broad expanse, thus becoming
. . . .
Sing on! we sing in the glorious weather
Till one steps over the tiny strand,
So narrow, in sooth, that still together
On either brink we go hand in hand.
The beck grown wider, the hands must sever,
On either margin, our songs all done,
We move apart, while she singeth ever,
Taking the course of the stooping sun.
He prays "Come over"— I may not follow;
I cry "Return"—but he cannot come:
We speak, we laugh, but with voices hollow;
Our hands are hanging, our hearts are
A little pain when the beck grows wider;
"Cross to me now—for her wavelets swell:"
"I may not cross "—and the voice beside her
Faintly reacheth, tho' heeded well.
No backward path; ah! no returning;
No second crossing that ripple's flow
"Come to me now, for the West is burning;
Come ere it darkens;"—"Ah, no! ah, no!"
Then cries of pain, and arms outreaching—
The beck grows wider and swift and deep:
Passionate words as of one beseeching—
The loud beck drowns them; we walk, we
A braver swell, a swifter sliding;
The River hasteth, her banks recede:
Wing-like sails on her bosom gliding
Bear down the lily and drown the reed.
Stately prows are rising and bowing
(Shouts of mariners winnow the air),
And level sands for banks endowing
The tiny green ribbon that showed so fair.
While, O my heart! as white sails shiver,
And crowds are passing, and banks stretch
How hard to follow, with lips that quiver,
That moving speck on the far-off side.
Farther, farther—I see it—I know it—
My eyes brim over, it melts away;
Only my heart to my heart shall show it
As I walk desolate day by day . . . .
The Cambridge History of English and American
Literature . . . . .
" . . . . if we had nothing of Jean Ingelow’s but the most
remarkable poem entitled Divided, it would be permissible to suppose
the loss, in fact or in might-have-been, of a poetess of almost the
highest rank. Absolutely faultless it is not; a very harsh critic
might urge even here a little of the diffuseness which has been
sometimes charged against the author’s work generally; a less stern
judge might not quite pardon a few affectations and “gushes,”
something like those of Tennyson’s early work. It might be
called sentimental by those who confound true and false sentiment in
one condemnation. But the theme and the allegorical imagery by
which it is carried out are true; the description, not merely
plastered on, but arising out of the necessary treatment of the
theme itself, is admirable; the pathos never becomes mawkish; and,
to crown all, the metrical appropriateness of the measure chosen and
the virtuosity with which it is worked out leave nothing to desire.
Jean Ingelow wrote some other good things, but nothing at all
equalling this; while she also wrote too much and too long.
If, as has been suggested above, this disappointingness is even
commoner with poetesses than with poets, there is a possible
explanation of it in the lives, more unoccupied until recently, of
women. Unless a man is an extraordinary coxcomb, a person of
private means, or both, he seldom has the time and opportunity of
committing, or the wish to commit, bad or indifferent verse for a
long series of years; but it is otherwise with woman.
. . . . but true love cannot divide . . . .
And yet I know past all doubting, truly—
A knowledge greater than grief can dim—
I know, as he loved, he will love me duly—
Yea better—e'en better than I love him.
And as I walk by the vast calm river,
The awful river so dread to see,
I say, "Thy breadth and thy depth for ever
Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me."
There has been much speculation over Jean's affaires
du coeur ― of which more below
― and one cannot help but feel that
an autobiographical theme underpins this pensive lyric.
"I have never been inside a
theatre in my life. I always say on such occasions,
that although our parents never took us, and I never go
myself out of habit and affectionate respect for their
memory, I do not wish to give an opinion or to say that
others are wrong to go. We must each act according to
our own convictions, and must ever use all tolerance towards
those who differ from us. We had many pleasures and
advantages. There was no dullness or gloom about our
home, and everything seemed to give occasion for mirth.
We had many trips abroad too, indeed, we spent most winters
on the Continent. I made an excursion with a brother
who was an ecclesiastical architect, and in this way I
visited every cathedral in France. Heidelberg is very
picturesque, and suggested many poetical ideas, but all
travelling enlarges one's mind and is an education."
Jean Ingelow, from . . .
Authors of the Day, by Helen C. Black (1906).
Photo by Barrauds.
"Against her ankles as she trod
The lucky buttercups did nod.
I leaned upon the gate to see:
The sweet thing looked, but did not speak;
A dimple came in either cheek,
And all my heart was gone from me."
In his review of Jean
Ingelow's Poems for the Athenæum,
Gerald Massey aptly described her ballad
"The High Tide on the Coast of
Lincolnshire (1571)" thus: ". . . . a poem full of power and
tenderness. The story is related by an old mother, whose son's
wife and babes were drowned. It is done with such a sweet,
Quakerly precision of manner, and such subtle touches of unconscious
self-portraiture, that the old lady lives before us"; indeed, the
heart-felt recounting of her tragic tale, worded in the style of her
time, is among the very best of Jean Ingelow's output and is poetry of a
high order. [See also Lafcadio Hearn on
Massey's review is generally acknowledged to have launched
both Jean's literary career and, through its success, that of the
Massachusetts publishing house of Roberts Brothers. To establish some control of copyright in the American market, Massey
suggested to Jean that she contact his American publisher, Ticknor and
Fields. This she did, but for some unknown reason Poems went
to Roberts Brothers—also of Boston, Massachusetts—who were later to
publish others of Jean Ingelow's titles in great numbers.
Jean's first poetry collection was followed in 1867 by
A Story of
Doom and other Poems, in which the long
principal poem recounts the days immediately preceding Noah's
flood, concluding on the eve of the deluge—
And Niloiya said,
'My sons, if one of you will hear my words,
Go now, look out, and tell me of the day,
How fares it?'
And the fateful darkness grew.
But Shem went up to do his mother's will;
And all was one as though the frighted earth
Quivered and fell a-trembling; then they hid
Their faces every one, till he returned,
And spake not. 'Nay,' they cried, 'what hast thou seen?
Oh, is it come to this?' He answered them,
'The door is shut.'
. . . . and the Ark is soon afloat.
Dragon, serpent, demons and
Satan feature among the cast, while in the romantic subplot appears a handsome
prince, who having eventually overcome his reservations on crossing
the social divide, marries a beautiful slave girl—
And now thyself
Art loveliest in mine eyes; I look, and lo!
Thou art of beauty more than any thought
I had concerning thee. Let, then, this robe,
Wrought on with imagery of fruitful bough,
And graceful leaf, and birds with tender eyes,
Cover the ripples of thy tawny hair.'
So when she held her peace, he brought her nigh
To hear the speech of wedlock; ay, he took
The golden cup of wine to drink with her,
And laid the sheaf upon her arms. He said,
'Like as my fathers in the older days
Led home the daughters whom they chose, do I;
Like as they said, "Mine honour have I set
Upon thy head!" do I. Eat of my bread,
Rule in my house, be mistress of my slaves,
And mother of my children.'
DEAR MISS FYVIE,
"I have just received your note and the little tale called 'Janet
Campbell.' You asked to have it noticed on the cover of the
magazine, but as I could only mention it there, I prefer to write to
"At your early age, my dear, it is better that you should be
cultivating your own mind than that you should attempt to interest
and amuse others. You are not able at present to write from your own
observation, but must
draw your characters and scenes from books. This is not good for
you, and if you ever wish to write really well, you must wait till
you have made your own observations on human nature. I think your
tale very much
better than most girls of your age would have written, but I do not
consider it worthy of a place in the magazine (which I only began
this month to edit), but I feel interested in your account of
yourself. If you like to write
to me, and tell me what is your condition in life, whether you are
at school, and what you are doing to improve yourself, I should be
happy to answer your letter, and if I can give you any advice, shall
be glad to do so.
"I would not advise you to write any more till you are sixteen, and
in the meantime I would take particular notice how books and papers
which interest you are written. Say to yourself when you read of
children: 'Do the
children that I know talk in this way, or act in this way?' If they
do, then consider the book well written. If they do not, then notice
in what the difference consists. You should do the same in reference
people, though the most useful studies for you are girls of your own
age, because you can understand their motives best.
"You are at present not mistress of your own language. In your nice
little note to me you say: 'It is MORE the wish of learning your
opinion concerning it rather than the hope of its being inserted,'
etc. You must not use
more than one of these words; the other is superfluous. Again, in
the tale you say: 'I do not dare do what is wrong,' 'You must be
made reveal your secret.' 'I do not dare to do what is wrong,' 'You
must be made to
reveal your secret,' would be more correct; or, better still, 'I
dare not do what is wrong.'
"And now I have not time to write more. I give you my address and
name, and if you like you can write to me.
3 January, 1857
Fifty Years, by
Isabella Fyvie Mayo.
Monitions of the Unseen, and Poems of Love and
Childhood appeared in 1870. One critic,
perhaps suffering a surfeit of Coleridge,
while recognising that the poems in the collection were highly
individual, detected in them "dreamful quiet, of folding of the hands to
sleep, as if they had been inspired of poppy rather than of Hippocrene."
Another, while saying of the principal poem that "We have read nothing
from her pen which we like better", went on to conclude that "It may be
a question with some readers whether Jean Ingelow’s poems repay study.
They certainly require it." Yes, true—sometimes
. . . .
'A lame black beetle preaching like a fish;
A squinting planet in a gravy-dish;
Amorphous masses cooing to a monk;
Two fine old crusty problems, very drunk;
A pert parabola flirting with the Don;
And two Greek two Greek grammars, with on.'
'Off the Skelligs',
Amorphous masses cooing to a monk? . . . but
then again much of Miss Ingelow's verse speaks quite
plainly. Take for example this delightful sonnet,
topical in our age in which there is much concern for the well-being of our natural
environment . . . .
ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK CHASE.
A COTTAGER leaned
whispering by her hives,
Telling the bees some news, as they lit down,
And entered one by one their waxen town.
Larks passioning hung o'er their brooding wives,
And all the sunny hills where heather thrives
Lay satisfied with peace. A stately crown
Of trees enringed the upper headland brown,
And reedy pools, wherein the moor-hen dives,
Glittered and gleamed.
A resting-place for light,
They that were bred here love it; but they say,
"We shall not have it long; in three years' time
A hundred pits will cast out fires by night,
Down yon still glen their smoke shall trail its way,
And the white ash lie thick in lieu of rime."
From . . . .Monitions
of the Unseen,
and Poems of Love and Childhood.
In 1878, Jean's UK publisher, Longmans, Green & Co.,
brought out, unattributed, One
Hundred Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads: Original, and Suitable
for Music. I find it curious that a collection of
verse by an established poet—and, as such, likely to sell well—should be published
in this way. Here one might speculate
that this was, perhaps, an early work that Longmans considered good enough to bring to market,
but not to attribute to their distinguished client. But if so, one
wonders whether the proud, principled and solvent Miss Ingelow would
have been content to disown her published verse or its inherent
religious beliefs? While I feel uneasy about attribution, the
poems are listed in COPAC
(not infallible) and other sources
among Jean Ingelow's output, and some do find their way into "Poems by
Jean Ingelow; Author's Complete Edition" published in 1896 by
Jean's American publisher, Roberts Brothers of Boston.
Regardless of speculation, contemporary reviewers
gave this anonymous collection their qualified
blessing. This from the Graphic . . . .
The author of 'One Hundred Holy Songs,
Carols and Sacred Ballads,' original, and suitable for music
(Longmans), has evident fervour, and a good deal of sound
taste, joined to mechanical skill. Strictly speaking, there
is not a carol nor a ballad in the book; the nearest
approach to the latter is 'When Children are Sick,' and the
next best is 'Service.' But perhaps the most successful
essay, amongst many which are pleasing, is 'All in the city
whose gates are gold,' although it should be 'streets' for
Graphic, 31 Aug., 1878
In the view of the Pall Mall Gazette (2nd Sept., 1878) the poems
"are very unequal in quality. In some taste, grammar, and rhythm
are lacking; but in others — not many
perhaps, in number — the author rises
to a level of our good Hymn writers." And the Gazette's
verdict? "The modest-looking little volume is one that the
compilers of hymn-books . . . cannot afford to neglect." This from
"One Hundred Holy Songs" (with a particularly attractive opening
stanza) . . . .
Thick Orchards All In White
"The time of the singing of birds is
Thick orchards, all in white,
Stand 'neath blue voids of light,
And birds among the branches blithely sing,
For they have all they know;
There is no more, but so,
All perfectness of living, fair delight of spring.
Only the cushat dove
Makes answer as for love
To the deep yearning of man's yearning breast;
And mourneth, to his thought,
As in her notes were wrought
Fulfill'd in her sweet having, sense of his
Not with possession, not
With fairest earthly lot,
Cometh the peace assured, his spirit's quest;
With much it looks before,
With most it yearns for more;
And 'this is not our rest,' and 'this is not
Give Thou us more. We
For more. The heart that
All spring-time for itself were empty still;
Its yearning is not spent
Nor silenced in content,
Till He that all things filleth doth it sweetly fill.
Give us Thyself. The May
Dureth so short a day;
Youth and the spring are over all too soon;
Content us while they last,
Console us for them past,
Thou with whom bides for ever life, and love,
(The unusual abbreviation "'dureth" in the final stanza also appears in "Afternoon
at a Parsonage" — O perfect love
that 'dureth long!)
Jean's muse departed public view for some years, to return in 1885 with her
collection. But Poems of the Old Days and the New (published
in the U.K. as Poems by Jean Ingelow, Third Series) was even
less well received
than its predecessor, for her popularity as a poet was now in decline,
overshadowed by younger talents with new ideas. Thus the New York
Times (16 August, 1885) "Those who enjoyed the first offerings of
Jean Ingelow will do well to reserve their judgement if the present
volume appears to lack the originality and grace that they once admired":
or, as Jean Ingelow the novelist put it,. . . .
"Oh, what a curious place the world is,
and what a number of things are found out afresh in it! What
faded old facts stand forth in startling colours, as wonderful and
new, when youthful genius gets a chance of sitting still while it
passes, and making unnoticed studies of it."
From . . . .
Sarah De Berenger.
Nonetheless, when Tennyson—himself an admirer of Jean's verse—died
in 1892, a group of Americans petitioned Queen Victoria to appoint Jean
Ingelow the first woman Poet Laureate. In the opinion of Christina Rossetti,
whose name was also linked to
the vacant laureateship, Jean Ingelow
"would be a formidable rival to most men, and to any woman," a
sentiment echoed by Gerald Massey in his review of
Poems for the Athenæum (1863), that "some
of the poetry has the strength of man's heart, the sweetness of woman's
mouth;" but Alfred Austin got the job—no
doubt to the relief of the Misses Ingelow and Rosetti—thought by some to
have been based more on political influence than poetic merit.
It was to be over a century before a woman (and also the first Scot),
Carol Ann Duffy, acquired
the (dubious) distinction of becoming the Laureate.
"I went out at five o'clock this morning,
before the dew was off, and walked to the edge of my friend
F.'s spinney to delight myself with the sight of a delicate
reach of wood-mellick, a grass of surpassing beauty.
There was no wind. The air only just moved enough to
make it tremble slightly, as if some ecstasy had overtaken
it and was moving it to part with a diamond drop here and
there from its purple panicles to the lush green of its
leaves. It was all shot in and out with sunshine, and
had an effect as of a bloom hanging over low green leaves
which stood up swordlike and still; or rather as of a mirage
or a mist, adorned here and there with butterflies newly
waked. I could have gazed on it longer, but the wild
hemlock, growing breast-high and crowned with a milky-way of
flowers, tempted me farther on."
A picture of early morning, from . . . John
A number of Jean's poems were set to music by among
others, Sir Arthur Sullivan, and as
songs they became popular
Victorian/Edwardian salon pieces in an age when home music-making was
much more common than today ― indeed,
Schirmers were still publishing song setting of Jean's verse into the
Sparrows Build seems to have been particularly popular and no doubt its
royalties, with those from the others, contributed to her "pleasant
bounty". Some examples of song settings of
Jean's verse are available to download
under Sheet Music (I. &
In addition to her poetry, Jean published a handful of novels. Off the Skelligs
was published in 1872 (vide résumé
and review) followed in 1873 by Fated to be Free
, a sequel that spans the earlier story chronologically (vide résumé
and review). Judging from the comparatively large number of copies
that remain available on the
antiquarian book market, both books were very popular, especially in
America. They are not, however, up to the standard of Jean's next
Sarah de Berenger and
Don John. In
Skelligs, the fire at sea and the rescue are particularly well
done but extended passages of dialogue elsewhere can prove dull, while
some of Jean's characters are
unconvincing; that of Valentine, particularly as he appears in the
sequel (Fated to be Free) is especially so (and would the eminently sensible Miss Graham
really consent to marry a consumptive nincompoop such as he?)
"Some people appear to feel that they are much wiser,
much nearer to the truth and to realities than they were when they
were children. They think of childhood as immeasurably beneath
and behind them. I have never been able to join in such a
notion. It often seems to me that we lose quite as much as we
gain by our lengthened sojourn here. I should not at all
wonder if the thoughts of our childhood, when we look back on it
after the rending of this vail of our humanity, should prove less
unlike what we were intended to derive from the teaching of life,
nature, and revelation, than the thoughts of our more sophisticated
Sarah de Berenger, which
appeared in 1879 is a more convincing tale than the previous two.
A more tightly constructed and faster moving
story, the outcomes of Sarah de Berenger's
scheming, while forming an essential role
in the development of the ingenious plot,
play second fiddle to the trials of its long-suffering, stalwart, taciturn
heroine, Hannah Dill, who might more appropriately have lent her
name to the novel (vide
"Up and down the long hills they moved till the
crescent moon rose, and then till it grew dark and the great
horn-lantern was lighted, and the old man carried it, sometimes flashing
its light on his horse, sometimes on the green hedges, and into fields,
whose crops they could guess only by the smell of clover, or fresh-cut
hay, or beans that loaded the warm night air; anon, on whitewashed
cottages, whose inhabitants had long been asleep, and again upon the
faces of great cliff-like rocks, where cuttings had been made for the
road into the steep hills, and where strange curly ammonites and peaked
shells and ancient bones high up showed themselves for an instant in the
moving disk of light that rose and sank as the lantern swayed in the
A night-time journey, from . . . .
Sarah De Berenger.
a story (1881 ―
résumé & review) and
John Jerome (1886
& review) followed. In Don John (Donald Johnstone), the
author exploits in an equally ingenious manner a theme similar to its
predecessor, Sarah de Berenger, that being a puzzle concerning the true parentage of
children. The story ends with a twist, although an imaginative
reader might suspect the outcome as the plot later develops. But
John Jerome is nothing like its
predecessors, and at the outset requires perseverance, for in the
first four chapters of the book it seems as if the author is setting
down on paper her private musings ―
indeed, ramblings; it is almost as if Jean's
'Rossettians' had suddenly taken to painting in the style of
Picasso. There is no clue or hint as to what the story
― if indeed there is to be one
― might concern, or where it might
lead. As the New York Times reviewer put it, "Precise
readers, accustomed to the cut and dried ways of romance, may not
appreciate the introduction to 'John Jerome,' for it is rather
intangible at best and uncertain." But at Chapter V., a
conventional Miss Ingelow returns and
to further quote the NYT reviewer,
"Miss Ingelow's book, when you have done a little
plodding at the beginning, opens up briskly and pleasantly, and the
jaunt through the story is a delightful one." Those
interested in women's rights might find Jean's views on the subject (Chapter VII)
woman! you are in this transgression. I am sick of
hearing of Woman's Rights, while her faults are so many and
her foolishness is so great. Your star is already in the ascendant, and man is a
minority. How long will it be before you take heart and perceive
that, if you would but combine, nothing in the world could be done
'without the leave of you'"?
On women's rights, from . . . .
John Jerome, c. vii.
I have yet to acquire a copy
of Jean Ingelow's last, and now apparently rare novel, A Motto
Changed (1893), but see some sketchy
"A man's world, but woman bides her time.
'The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding
small.' As a man, I have my forebodings. I think
we shall catch it soon, when they find out, when they
combine and put us into our original places again, — when,
in short, their Maker turns again their captivity, and
removes the veil which hangs before their eyes . . . . It
may be partly on this account that I never omit a chance of
being obliging and helpful to a woman . . . . I hope this
will be remembered in my favour when her time comes."
On women's rights, from . . .
John Jerome, c.
Among Jean's children's stories are
Stories (1864—also illustrated by Millais),
Stories told to a Child (1865),
A Sister's Bye-Hours (1868), the
delightful and ever popular Mopsa
the Fairy (1869—and still in print) and The Little Wonder-horn
(1877), five of its fourteen stories later being published as
. . . .
About that time I had it in my power to make a slight return to Jean
Ingelow for the trouble she had bestowed on me. She had been a
celebrated woman for some time, and I told Mr. [Alexander] Strahan of some short
hers, which he at once desired to reprint. But she had kept no
copies, either in print or in manuscript. I persuaded my mother to
make a sacrifice of seven of her treasured volumes of the Youth's
Magazine. From them
were reprinted most, if not all, of the "Studies for Stories" and
"Stories told to a Child."
Fifty Years, by
Isabella Fyvie Mayo.
The long narrative poem Gladys
and Her Island might also be considered a children's story
in verse ― the author describes it as a fable,
its final section being The
Moral ― for on the
exhibits much the character of a fantasy-adventure from a 'Girl's
Own Paper' of the period. In it, Gladys, having been granted the
exceptional boon of a day's holiday, sails to an unreal island world in
which she explores such exotic locations as the Garden of Eden and the
ruins of ancient Egypt. But the tale has no happy ending, for
Gladys must eventually return from her island of dreams to the real
world and to her lowly role as an unloved teaching assistant . . . .
"Who wind the robes of ideality
About the bareness of their lives, and hang
Comforting curtains, knit of fancy's yarn,
Nightly betwixt them and the frosty world."
The biting social commentary that underpins Gladys must have given
contemporary readers pause for thought.
Isa Craig's The Schoolmistress
(from Good Words, 1878)
paints a similar picture.
"It is not reason which makes faith
hard, but life."
Jean Ingelow spent her later life
at No. 6 Holland
Villas Road. . . .
". . . . in Kensington, a suburb of London, in a
two-story-and-a-half stone house, cream-colored, . . . . .
Tasteful grounds are in front of the home, and in the rear a large
lawn bordered with many flowers, and conservatories; a real English
garden, soft as velvet, and fragrant as new-mown hay. The
house is fit for a poet; roomy, cheerful, and filled with flowers.
One end of the large, double parlors seemed a bank of azalias and
honeysuckles, while great bunches of yellow primrose and blue
forget-me-not were on the tables and in the bay-windows."
From. . . .Lives of
Girls Who became Famous.
"Jean Ingelow thinks that women are entitled to either rights or
privileges and usually have one at the expense of the other.
For herself she has decided to waive the rights and cling to the
Deseret News (Utah, U.S.A.), 18 March 1893.
Two illustrious women who celebrate this year the
seventy-fifth anniversary of their birth are Florence Nightingale
and Jean Ingelow.
Salt Lake Tribune (U.S.A.), 13 June, 1895.
JEAN INGELOW'S HOME.
But a few moment's ride from London is the Kensington
home of Jean Ingelow, whose poetry is so familiar to American
readers. This house is an old one, of cream colored stone, and
one scarcely knows whether it has two or three stories.
Liberal grounds surround the house, and even in Winter show a
gardener's care. In Summer the entire lawn is bordered and
dotted with flowers, for the poet is a pronounced horticulturalist.
Jean Ingelow's home is that of a poet, with books on every hand and
always within reach wherever you may chance to sit down. The
poet is now in middle life, but her face shows not the slightest
traces of years. Her manner is most friendly, her conversation
charming and she has a very musical voice. She enjoys a
remarkably correct knowledge of American literature, and titles of
all the latest American books being spoken by her with wonderful
fluency. Her character is eminently practical, without a touch
of sentimentality. All her literary writing is done in the
forenoon; her pen is never put to paper by gaslight. She
composes slowly, and her verses are often kept by her for a few
months before they are allowed to go out for publication. She
shuns society, and the most severe part of the winter is spent in
the south of France.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle (U.S.A.), May 30, 1889.
Jean Ingelow's home.
"I have lived to thank God that
prayers have not been
. . . ."A few
words must be said in description of the pretty house in
Kensington where Miss Ingelow lives with her brother, and
into which, some thirteen years ago, they removed from Upper
Kensington to be further out and away from so much building.
Since this removal she says, "three cities have sprung up
"The handsome square detached house
stands back in a fine, broad road, with carriage drive and
garden in front filled with shrubs, and half a dozen
chestnut and almond trees, which in this bright spring
weather are bursting out into leaf and flower. Broad stone
steps lead up to the hall door, which is in the middle of
"The entrance hall where hangs a portrait of the
author's maternal great-grandfather, the Primus of Scotland,
i.e., Bishop of Aberdeen opens into a spacious,
old-fashioned drawing-room of Italian style on the right. Large and lofty is this bright, cheerful room. A harp, on
which Miss Ingelow and her mother before her played right
well, stands in one corner. There is a grand pianoforte
opposite, for she was a good musician, and had a remarkably
fine voice in earlier years. On the round table in the deep
bay windows in front are many books, various specimens of
Tangiers pottery, and some tall plants of arum lilies in
"The great glass doors draped with curtains at the
further end, open into a large conservatory where Miss
Ingelow often sits in summer. It is laid down with matting
and rugs, and standing here and there are flowering plants
and two fine araucarias. The verandah steps on the left lead
into a large and well-kept garden with bright green lawn, at
the end of which through the trees may be discerned a large
stretch of green-houses, and a view beyond of the great
trees in the grounds of Holland Park.
"On the corresponding
side of the house at the back is the billiard-room, which is
Mr. Ingelow's study, leading into an ante-room, and in the
front is the dining-room, where the author's literary
labours are carried on. "I write in a common-place, prosaic
manner," she says; "I am afraid I am rather idle, for I only
work during two or three of the morning hours, with my
papers spread all about the table." Over the fireplace hangs
a painting on ivory of her father, and above it a portrait
of her mother, taken in her early married life. This
portrait, together with one of the poet herself when an
infant, is in pastels, and they were originally done as door
panels for her father's room; the colouring is yet unfaded."
From . . . "Notable Women
Authors of the Day", by Helen C. Black (1906)
Holland Villas Road remains a smart area of
West London, its high Victorian residences well maintained and
mostly unspoiled by modern architectural tampering; and looking at her former
home, one cannot avoid the impression that Miss Ingelow prospered on the
products of her pen. But the
neighbourhood has changed. It's now a part of London's embassy belt,
and armed officers of the Diplomatic Protection Group loiter, their
distinctive red vehicles adding a hint of menace to the neighbourhood's
There's no English Heritage "blue plaque" to
commemorate Jean's achievement among the poets and authors of her era,
but maybe that's as well, for as
Betjeman put it . . . "approval
of what is approved of . . . "
". . . . What think you of Jean
Ingelow, the wonderful poet? I have not yet read the
volume, but reviews with copious extracts have made me aware
of a new eminent name having arisen among us. I want
to know who she is, what she is like, where she lives.
All I have heard is an uncertain rumour that she is aged
twenty-one, and is one of three sisters resident with their
mother. A proud mother, I should think."
Christina Rossetti to Dora Greenwell, 31 Dec.
". . . . My acquaintance with Jean
Ingelow's poems to which you kindly introduced me, has been
followed by a very slight acquaintance with herself She
appears as unaffected as her verses, though not their equal
in regular beauty: however I fancy hers is one of those
variable faces in which the variety is not the least charm.'
Christina Rossetti to Anne Gilchrist, 1864.
". . . . I have lugged down with me a
six-volume Plato, and this promises me a prolonged mental
feast. Jean Ingelow's 8th edition is also here, to
impart to my complexion a becoming green tinge."
Christina to Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
Hastings, 23 Dec. 1864.
Among the many writers that Jean knew were Tennyson (who remarked, "Miss
Ingelow, I do declare you do the trick better than I do"), Browning (to
whom, for a period following the death of his wife, it was rumoured
that she was romantically attached),
Massey (rumoured to have proposed marriage to her), Longfellow, Christina Rossetti, Adelaide Procter and Dora
She also knew the composer Virginia Gabriel ―
see Miss Gabriel's setting of
When sparrows build
the leaves break forth
(also, of Adelaide Procter's
fires). John Ruskin became a close
friend . . .
"Mr. Ruskin presently came up to me,
and entered into a charming conversation. He gathered
some of the flowers and gave them to me
― I kept them for a long
time ― then we walked round
a meadow close at hand which was just fit for the scythe,
and afterwards he took me to see a number of the curiosities
that he had collected. We soon became loving friends
and his friendship has been one of the great pleasures of my
From . . .
Authors of the Day, by Helen C. Black (1906).
Jean's political and religious
views were conservative, as is illustrated both in her writing and by
this contemporary account . . . .
". . . .
Later I heard that Miss Ingelow was extremely conservative, and was
very indignant when a petition for women's rights to vote was
offered for her signature. A rampant Radical told me this, and
shook her handsome head pathetically over Jean's narrowness; but
when I heard that once a week several poor souls dined comfortably
in the pleasant home of the poetess, I forgave her conservatism, and
regretted that an unconquerable aversion to dinner parties made me
decline her invitation."
From . . . .Jean
Ingelow, the Poetess.
She was generous, routinely spending part of her royalties to
entertain at her home poor people identified by the local clergy to what she described
as her "copyright dinners" . . . .
". . . . I have set up a dinner-table for the sick poor, or
rather, for such persons as are just out of the hospitals, and are
hungry, and yet not strong enough to work. We have about
twelve to dinner three times a week, and hope to continue the plan.
It is such a comfort to see the good it does. I find it one of
the great pleasures of writing, that it gives me more command of
money for such purposes than falls to the lot of most women."
From. . . .Lives of
Girls Who became Famous.
Jean Ingelow never married, but she is known to have
received at least one proposal, while for a number of years her name
was linked to that of the poet Robert Browning. In her
autobiography Recollections of Fifty Years,
Isabella Fyvie Mayo
". . . .not even all Jean Ingelow's dignity and reserve
could save her from intrusive gossip. Some may remember that once it
was freely whispered that she was likely to become the second wife of
Robert Browning. There were absolutely no grounds for this rumour,
which, if it reached her, doubtless gave her pain, and is conceivably the
reason why, as her biographer puts it, 'the acquaintance between the two
poets never ripened into intimacy.' While the rumour was current
Mrs. S. C. Hall told me that Gerald Massey, who had felt as much
admiration for the poet as for her poems, had offered her his hand, he
being then a widower with a young family. He confided to Mrs. Hall
that Jean Ingelow had replied most kindly, but had assured him that her
acceptance of his offer was 'quite impossible.' 'Now nothing could
make my offer impossible,' said he naïvely,
'save the existence of an already-accepted lover. Who is visiting
the Ingelows' house just now? Why, Robert Browning has been seen
here! It must be he.' And so the rumour rose―an
inference transformed into an assertion."
In her biography of Jean Ingelow (Jean Ingelow, Victorian Poetess
― Rowan and Littlefield, 1972), Maureen Peters
refers to the 'Browning rumour' thus. . . .
"From time to time her name was linked
with various gentlemen, but the most persistent of the rumours concerned
her 'romance' with Robert Browning.
"Jean met the widowed poet in 1867 at a musical party
given by Virginia Gabriel. . . . Jean had evidently taken a liking to
Robert Browning, in which sentiment she was not alone. Most ladies
found a great deal to admire in the dapper little man with the beautiful
eyes. . . .A few days after that meeting with Robert Browning, Jean sent
him a copy of A Story of Doom.
"Four years later, Robert Browning was still denying .
. . . that there was any romance between Jean and himself―'I
never saw Miss Ingelow but once, at least four years ago, at a musical
party, where I said half a dozen words to her: only heard of her, as I
told you, by her writing a note to accompany her new book, a day or two
before I left London.' . . . . The persistence of the rumour does
suggest that a closer friendship existed between the two than he was
willing to admit."
So perhaps Massey was not wide of the mark in his
The 'Browning rumour' apart, some commentators speculate on
the existence of a personal tragedy in Jean's life, this being suggested by a theme prominent
in much of her poetry, that of loved ones lost at sea. But an
alternative and, perhaps, more plausible explanation for this recurring theme
of death at sea is put forward by Jennette Attwater Street in her
appraisal written shortly after
Jean Ingelow's death: "Her nurse was a sailor's widow, and as she talked
constantly in the children's presence of storms and wrecks, their
earliest sense of tragedy came to be connected with the sea." For
example, from When
Sparrows Build we have . . . .
O my lost love, and my own, own love,
And my love that loved me so!
Is there never a chink in the world above
Where they listen for words from below?
Nay, I spoke once, and I grieved thee sore,
I remember all that I said,
And now thou wilt hear me no more—no more
Till the sea gives up her dead. . . . .
a poem that appears to have been a popular subject for the salon
composers of the age (see song
settings by Maria Lindsay and Virginia Gabriel). And other
references to death at sea include. . . .
. . . . the "Grace of Sunderland" was wrecked. . . .
And ne'er a one was saved.
They're lying now,
With two small children, in a row; the church
And yard are full of seamen's graves, and few
Have any names. . . .
From. . . 'Brothers and a Sermon'
. . . . and one could not hear
A word the other said for wind and sea
That raged and beat and thundered in the night—
The awfullest, the longest, lightest night
That ever parents had to spend. A moon
That shone like daylight on the breaking wave.
Ah, me! and other men have lost their lads,
And other women wiped their poor dead mouths,
And got them home and dried them in the house,
And seen the drift-wood lie along the coast,
That was a tidy boat but one day back, . . . .
From. . . 'Brothers and a Sermon'
She drave at the rock with sternsails set
Crash went the masts in twain;
She staggered back with her mortal blow,
Then leaped at it again.
There rose a great cry, bitter and strong,
The misty moon looked out!
And the water swarmed with seamen's heads,
And the wreck was strewed about.
I saw her mainsail lash the sea
As I clung to the rock alone;
Then she heeled over, and down she went,
And sank like any stone.
From. . . 'Winstanley'
. . . . My boat, you shall find none fairer afloat,
In river or port.
Long I looked out for the lad she bore,
On the open desolate sea,
And I think he sailed to the heavenly shore,
For he came not back to me—Ah me! . . . .
From. . . .'Songs of
. . . . and a more substantial extract. . . .
The wrecking of the Grace of Sunderland
. . . .
An old fisherman recounts the story of the parson.
. . .
" . . . . when he was a younger man
He went out in the lifeboat very oft,
Before the "Grace of Sunderland" was wrecked.
He's never been his own man since that hour;
For there were thirty men aboard of her,
Anigh as close as you are now to me,
And ne'er a one was saved.
They're lying now,
With two small children, in a row: the church
And yard are full of seamen's graves, and few
Have any names.
She bumped upon the reef;
Our parson, my young son, and several more
Were lashed together with a two-inch rope,
And crept along to her; their mates ashore
Ready to haul them in. The gale was high,
The sea was all a boiling seething froth,
And God Almighty's guns were going off,
And the land trembled.
When she took the ground,
She went to pieces like a lock of hay
Tossed from a pitchfork. Ere it came to that,
The captain reeled on deck with two small things,
One in each arm—his little lad and lass,
Their hair was long, and blew before his face,
Or else we thought he had been saved; he fell,
But held them fast. The crew, poor luckless souls.
The breakers licked them off; and some were crushed,
Some swallowed in the yeast, some flung up dead,
The dear breath beaten out of them: not one
Jumped from the wreck upon the reef to catch
The hands that strained to reach, but tumbled back
With eyes wide open. But the captain lay
And clung—the only man alive. They prayed
"For God's sake, captain, throw the children here!"
"Throw them!" our parson cried; and then she struck:
And he threw one, a pretty two-years child;
But the gale dashed him on the slippery verge,
And down he went. They say they heard him cry.
'Then he rose up and took the other one,
And all our men reached out their hungry arms,
And cried out, "Throw her, throw her!" and he did;
He threw her right against, the parson's breast,
And all at once a sea broke over them,
And they that saw it from the shore have said
It struck the wreck and piecemeal scattered it,
Just as a woman might the lump of salt
That 'twixt her hands into the kneading-pan
She breaks and crumbles on her rising bread.
'We hauled our men in: two of them were dead—
The sea had beaten them, their heads hung down;
Our parson's arms were empty, for the wave
Had torn away the pretty, pretty lamb;
We often see him stand beside her grave:
But 't was no fault of his, no fault of his. . . ."
From. . . 'Brothers and a Sermon'
And Jean's muse often captures more relaxing
maritime scenes in both verse and in prose. The following is probably based on Jean's childhood
recollections of coastal trading
vessels being hauled manually, by a gang of 'towers', upriver to a
THE DAYS WITHOUT ALLOY.
"When I sit on market-days amid the comers and the
Oh! full oft I have a vision of the days without alloy,
And a ship comes up the river with a jolly gang of towers,
And a 'pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!'
"There is busy talk around me, all about mine ears it hummeth,
But the wooden wharves I look on, and a dancing, heaving buoy,
For 'tis tidetime in the river, and she cometh—oh, she cometh !
With a 'pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!'
"Then I hear the water washing, never golden waves were brighter,
And I hear the capstan creaking—'tis a sound that cannot cloy.
Bring her to, to ship her lading, brig or schooner, sloop or lighter,
With a 'pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!'
"'Will ye step aboard, my dearest? for the high seas lie before us.'
So I sailed adown the river in those days without alloy.
We are launched! But when, I wonder, shall a sweeter sound
float o'er us
Than yon 'pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave hoy!'"
From . . . .Monitions
of the Unseen, and Poems of Love and Childhood.
― and from
The First Watch, the
second poem from the cycle Songs of
the Night Watches . . . .
Rock, and rock, and rock,
Over the falling, rising watery world,
Sail, beautiful ship, along the leaping main;
The chirping land-birds follow flock on flock
To light on a warmer plain.
White as weaned lambs the little wavelets curled,
Fall over in harmless play,
As these do far away;
Sail, bird of doom, along the shimmering sea,
All under thy broad wings that overshadow thee.
― and some other evocative seaside cameos
". . . . It was a still, warm day. A
great bulging cloud, black and low, was riding slowly up from the
south. The cliffs had gone into the brooding darkness of this
cloud, which had stooped to take them in. The water was
spotted with flights of thistledown, floated from the meadows behind
the church, and riding out to sea. Suddenly a hole was blown
in the advancing and lowering cloud; the sun glared through it, and
all the water where his light fell was green as grass, and the black
hulls of the crowded vessels glittered; while under the cliff a long
reach of peaked red roofs looked warmer and more homelike than ever,
and on the top of them the wide old church seemed to crouch, like a
great sea-beast at rest, and the ruined abbey, well up on the hill,
stood gaunt and pale, like the skeleton ribs and arms of a dead
thing in sore need of burial."
The harbour at Whitby, from. . . .
Sarah De Berenger
" . . . . a thin mist would be hanging
across the entrance of the bay, like a curtain drawn from
cliff to cliff; presently this snowy curtain would turn of
an amber colour, and glow towards the centre; once I
wondered if that sudden glow could be a ship on fire, and
watched it in fear, but I soon saw the gigantic sun thrust
himself up, so near, as it seemed, that the farthest cliffs
as they melted into the mist appeared farther off than he—so
near, that it was surprising to count the number of little
fishing-boats that crossed between me and his great disc;
still more surprising to watch how fast he receded, growing
so refulgent that he dazzled my eyes, while the mist began
to waver up and down, curl itself, and roll away to sea,
till on a sudden up sprang a little breeze, and the water,
which had been white, streaked here and there with a line of
yellow, was blue almost before I could mark the change . . .
'The Lonely Rock', from . . . .
Stories Told to a Child.
July 21, 1897.
Miss Jean Ingelow, who died yesterday at her residence in
Kensington, at the age of 77, was one of those writers who, without
being among the greatest of their age, yet appeal strongly to the
taste of the public of their day and win for their works a large, if
not a lasting, meed of popularity. One may hazard a guess that
Miss Ingelow's poems and stories are not much read by the younger
generation of today, whose taste lies in the direction of more
strenuous talent; but in the sixties and seventies her volumes were
sold in enormous numbers both in this country and in the United
States. One of them at least has gone through more than 20
editions, and the others were bought up in thousands and must have
bought in down to a fairly recent date a large income for books of
Miss Ingelow came, like Tennyson, of a Lincolnshire family, and the
poetry of the great Poet Laureate had a considerable influence on
hers. Her stories in blank verse—"Laurance," "Brothers and a
Sermon," and "Gladys and her Island" for instance—had a strong
Tennysonian ring, and the dainty sketches, "Supper at the Mill" and
"Afternoon at a Parsonage" might almost have been the early efforts
of the Laureate himself, though in the lyrics Miss Ingelow scarcely
succeeded so well in her blank verse, which was smooth and graceful
and only lacked higher qualities in being too obvious an echo of a
greater style. The poems by which she is, perhaps, best known
is one connected with her native county—"High Tide on the Coast of
Lincolnshire." These fine dramatic lines, with their haunting
rhythm and refrain have long been a favourite with public reciters,
and will live when their author's longer and more elaborate
works—such as "Story of Doom," a tale of the world before the
Flood—have been forgotten. Others that were very popular in
their day were "The Song of Seven," a kind of "Seven Ages of Women,"
and "Divided," which is more subjective in character than most of
All Miss Ingelow's poetry has qualities that showed her to
possess a genuine gift of expressing herself in melodious verse, and
her powers were always devoted to worthy and to noble themes.
She never succumbed to what Matthew Arnold called "the strange
disease of modern life," and if there be one dominant note in her
song it is quiet joyfulness in the beauties of nature that forbids
anything like querulousness or morbidity. Her appreciation of
the sounds and sights of the country was constantly evident.
In her pages we hear the birds in full song, see the flowers in
bloom, and seem to be brought close to Nature by the thousand vivid
touches that build up the scenes brought before us. In the
poem "Honours" it was one of the lessons she taught that in this
love of natural beauty in its everyday form lay man's truest
"For me the freshness in the morning hours,
For me the water's clear tranquillity,
For me the soft descent of chestnut flowers,
The cushant's cry for me.
. . .
. . .
"For me the bounding-in of tides; for me
The laying-bare of sands when they retreat,
The purple flush of calm, the sparkling glee
When waves and sunshine meet."
Besides her poems Miss Ingelow wrote a number of prose
works—fairy stories for children, related with much charm, and
novels appealing mainly to young people. The delicate fancy
and strong sense of character that marked her narrative poems were
also shown in these. But it is as a poet that she will be
remembered, a poet whose gifts were turned to high account, whose
works gave sincere pleasure to very many and offence or pain to
21st July, 1897.
DEATH OF JEAN INGELOW.
death occurred yesterday, at her residence in Kensington, of Miss
Jean Ingelow, the poet and novelist.
To the younger generation her name is perhaps mainly associated with
the best of her lyrics which have found their way into the
anthologies, and by the many charming songs which Sullivan and other
musicians have enshrined in music. But in her day she achieved
a widespread popularity by her poems and by her novels, and she must
be ranked among those women writers who, while not attaining to
actual greatness, have nevertheless contributed much to the
sweetness and purity of Victorian letters. Miss Ingelow was
born about 1830 at Ipswich, and was thus a mere girl when the Queen
came to the throne. She began to attract public notice about
the time when Mrs Browning's song was failing. Her first book
of poems, entitled "A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings"
appeared anonymously in 1850, and she soon became a busy and popular
writer. Between 1860 and 1870 she produced abundantly, and to
this period belong "Deborah's Book and the Lonely Rock," "The
Suspicious Jackdaw," "The Minnows with Silver Tails," "Studies for
Stories," "A Story of Doom," "A Sister's Bye-hours," "The High Tide
on the Coast of Lincolnshire." She tried her hand at
novel-writing, and won considerable success with "Off the Skelligs"
(1872) and "Fated to be Free" (1875.) Miss Ingelow's verse
belongs essentially to the class of minor poetry; but it stands high
in its class, and will always find representation in any worthy
anthology of Victorian verse. The prominent note in her verse
was its simple spontaneity. Not that she could evade the
influence of Tennyson, the music of whose verse compelled imitation.
But the emotion, whether it take the shape of joy in the sunshine
and singing of the woods and meadows of England, or of a tender
feminine sympathy with human aspiration and suffering, proceeds from
the heart. In many of her shorter pieces she follows a
tendency of the age, to dream dreams and muse upon the things behind
this veil; but as she does not go too deep she is easily understood.
It is not difficult to point to places where prolixity, hasty work,
and lack of self-criticism may be charged against her; but in "The
High Tide upon the Coast of Lincolnshire," which, with its antique
dialect, won widespread popularity; "Winstanley," "The Long White
Seam," and elsewhere we have manifestations of the poetic gift
sufficient to entitle the writer to a high place among the singers
who have brightened the Victorian era. It is probably by her
shorter lyrical pieces that her name will be preserved. Many
of these are of exceeding beauty of phrase and feeling.
7th August ,1897.
In its obituary notice of Miss Jean Ingelow, the "Athenæum"
gives the following interesting details of her first collection of
poems:— It is, we believe, not generally known that although this
book was highly spoken of and admired, and the first edition was
exhausted with reasonable promptitude, its publishers (Messrs
Longman & Co.) were not prepared to follow it up by a second; and
when Miss Ingelow, accompanied by her mother, went to propose that
they should do so, they said that they did not consider it would be
prudent to incur the risk. As Miss Ingelow, who was much
disappointed, was leaving their establishment, she passed in the
doorway a man with a slip of paper in his hand, and two or three
minutes afterwards was overtaken by a clerk, who came to say that Mr
Longman would be much obliged if she would return to his office.
She went back, and was told that the man whom she had met had come
with an order for 500 copies of her book. This, of course,
necessitated the publication of a new edition, to be followed by
many more editions, and henceforth Miss Ingelow had no more
difficulties with publishers.
21 July 1897
DEATH OF JEAN INGELOW.
If Jean Ingelow had died thirty years ago instead of yesterday her
loss would have called forth copious and heartfelt public lament
wherever the English language was read. To-day the younger
generation of readers feels an uneasy consciousness at the sight of
her name in the newspapers and wonders vaguely what she wrote.
So brief is fame. There is hardly an educated woman in America
over 30 years old who in her childhood did not recite the "Songs of
Seven" or "High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire." Those
poems were literally in everybody's mouth, yet a careful paper this
morning printed one of them as "The Song of the Siren," a title
which would have been as strange to gentle Jean Ingelow as
would one of Laura Jean Libber's perfervid romances.
And all of her one time popularity was deserved. For she was a
true poet, thought her range was narrow. Not the depths of
life, but its sweeter side was it given her to voice; the love of
children, of flowers, and all gentle themes were hers, and her note
if not deep was true and highly individual. Her quality was
deeply, truly womanly, and for that a generation of readers loved
her. She was a true poet also, in that when she had sung her
song she stopped. She has written little if anything for some
years now and her public was spared the pain of seeing its favorite
trying to trade on the reputation of her early successes.
After her volumes of poems, some twenty or more years ago, she wrote
four novels of which two at least, "Off the Skelligs" and "Fated to
Be Free," have great charm, but not those qualities which make a
story teller remembered beyond his own generation. They lack
that grip on all sides of life which ordains a man or woman to be a
novelist. Although they pleased a large circle of readers when
they were new they have now passed to the limbo of forgotten books.
Miss Ingelow will be remembered by her poems and by her life, which
like her writing was womanly and beyond reproach. Like her
fellow worker, Mrs. Oliphant, she has gone to her reward with the
record that she has written nothing base.
The New York Times
July 25, 1897.
BURIAL OF JEAN INGELOW.
Many American Women Present at
the Poet's Internment.
LONDON, July 24.―The remains of Miss
Jean Ingelow, the distinguished poet and novelist, rest in the West
Brompton Cemetery, in the grave where she had buried her father,
mother, and brother. Many Americans were present at the
interment to-day, most of them women, some of whom brought baskets of
daisies because of Miss Ingelow's fondness for them, and her reference
to them in the "Songs of Seven."
John Ruskin sent a cross of roses, and Mme. Antoinette
Stirling, the singer, and Maxwell Gray and other well-known literary
people sent other flowers.
The Bishop of Wakefield officiated, and Mme. Stirling sang
"The Lord is My Shepherd" at the graveside.
Jean died at her Kensington home on 20th July, 1897 and
was buried in the Ingelow family grave in Brompton Cemetery, West
London, where she lies with her parents and two of her
brothers, and sharing the company of many other notables down to the present
day. The cemetery ― the main
entrance of which is immediately adjacent to West Brompton tube
station ― is both a tribute to
the art of the monumental mason and an island of repose within the
turbulence of West London's busy streets ―
well worth a
(A woman speaks.)
O SLEEP, we are
beholden to thee, sleep,
Thou bearest angels to us in the night,
Saints out of heaven with palms. Seen by thy
Sorrow is some old tale that goeth not deep;
Love is a pouting child. Once I did sweep
Through space with thee, and lo, a dazzling sight—
Stars! They came on, I felt their drawing and
And some had dark companions. Once (I weep
When I remember that) we sailed the tide,
And found fair isles, where no isles used to bide,
And met there my lost love, who said to me,
That 'twas a long mistake: he had not died.
Sleep, in the world to come how strange 'twill be
Never to want, never to wish for thee!
It's difficult now to imagine the group of
distinguished mourners, including John Ruskin and led by the Bishop of
Wakefield who gathered around Jean's grave on the 24th July 1897 to hear
the operatic contralto
Antoinette Stirling sing "The Lord is my
Shepherd", for this simple unassuming grave is now overgrown and forgotten, yet here lies one of our
Jean shares the grave with her parents, William and Jean,
and her brothers William Frederick and Benjamin.
SHE thought by
heaven's high wall that she did stray
Till she beheld the everlasting gate:
And she climbed up to it to long, and wait,
Feel with her hands (for it was night), and lay
Her lips to it with kisses; thus to pray
That it might open to her desolate.
And lo! it trembled, lo! her passionate
Crying prevailed. A little little way
It opened: there fell out a thread of light,
And she saw wingèd wonders
Also she heard sweet talking as they meant
To comfort her. They said, 'Who comes to-night
Shall one day certainly an entrance win;'
Then the gate closed and she awoke content.
Should any reader wish to visit, enter the cemetery through the main gate
(West Brompton tube station entrance); then, following the main (central) pathway, turn into the
third pathway on your left; continue along it, taking the second
pathway on your left. Continue along that pathway, counting 26 graves
along the burial plot on your right-hand side; at the 26th grave, turn into the
burial plot and move away from the pathway for five rows. You will
approach the Ingelow family grave from behind the headstone shown
above. Careful how you go ― the ground is very
WHEN I reflect
how little I have done,
And add to that how little I have seen,
Then furthermore how little I have won
Of joy, or good, how little known, or been:
I long for other life more full, more keen,
And yearn to change with such as well have run—
Yet reason mocks me—nay, the soul, I weep,
Granted her choice would dare to change with none;
No,—not to feel, as Blondel when his lay
Pierced the strong tower, and Richard answered it—
No,—not to do, as Eustace on the day
He left fair Calais to her weeping fit—
No,—not to be Columbus, waked from sleep
When his new world rose from the charmèd
26th July, 1897.
FUNERAL OF MISS INGELOW.
The funeral of Miss Jean Ingelow took place on Saturday at
West Brompton Cemetery, her remains being laid in the grave
where her father, mother and brother lie buried. The
funeral service was conducted by the Bishop of Wakefield,
assisted by the Rev. G. Thornton, vicar of St. Barnabus,
Kensington. Among those who gathered at the graveside
were Madam Antoinette Sterling, Sir T. Weymss Reid, Sir
Reginald Palgrave, Mr. Mackenzie Bell, Mr. H. S. F. Jebb,
Mrs. Merriman, Mrs. Bassett, and Mr. and Mrs. W. C.
Alexander. The coffin, which was of polished oak, with
brass mountings, bore upon the breast-plate the words, "Jean
Ingelow. Born March 17, 1820; died July 20, 1897."
Above this there was fastened a magnificent cross of roses,
and on the card attached to it, "Mr. Ruskin. In sorrow
and affectionate memory." A bouquet of mignonette was
inscribed, "Antoinette Sterling. With dear love.
There is no death; there is no beginning or end to life."
There were numerous other floral tributes from friends and
admirers. After the Bishop of Wakefield had pronounced
the Benediction, Madame Antoinette Sterling sand, "The Lord
is my Shepherd," all present remaining uncovered until she
From an early photograph by
Elliott & Fry, London.
"A girl and a guinea are both alike. You
never know how good they are till you ring them."
Jean Ingelow's 'Copyright Dinners.'
It was during the Holland Street days that Jean gave
her 'copyright dinners'—for so it appears they were called.
These dinners were of a very unostentatious description, and were
given twice a week to twelve convalescents, chosen by the Kensington
clergy. On one occasion I was present at the meal. The
dinners were served in a rather shabby, good sized room on what we
should call the drawing-room floor, in a street approached by an
archway close to the old churchyard, perhaps pulled down by this
time. A certain Mrs. Hulford, who owned the house, cooked the
dinners. They never varied: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding
one day, with roast potatoes and plenty of gravy (the function
lubricated by each convalescent being allowed a glass of small
beer); boiled mutton and suet puddings the other day. Mrs.
Ingelow said grace the day I was there, and carved the large joint
(she was a capital carver). I suppose Jean, who always liked
to keep in the background, handed the vegetables. The viands
disappeared with surprising celerity, and when all had eaten as much
as they liked or could, the convalescents trooped down the narrow
stairs with smiling faces.
From. . . 'Some Recollections of Jean Ingelow'
A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings, 1850;
Allerton and Dreux, 1851;
Tales of Orris, 1860 (mostly repeated in Stories Told to a Child -
Poems, with 4th edition in same year, 1863 (illustrated by Pinwell,
Studies for Stories, 1864 (5th edition, 1868);
Stories Told to a Child, 1865; another edition, 1892;
A Story of Doom, and other Poems, 1867;
A Sister's Bye-Hours, 1868;
Mopsa the Fairy, 1869 (another edition, 1871);
The Monitions of the Unseen and Poems of Love and Childhood (1870)
Off the Skelligs, 1872 (2nd edition, 1879);
Fated to be Free, 1873 (2nd edition, 1875; other editions, 1876, 1879);
Poems, 2nd series, 1876;
Hundred Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads: Original, and Suitable
Music (Longmans, Green & Co.,
London, 1878—published unattributed);
Poems, new edition in 2 vols. (Vol. I, from 23rd edition, Vol. II. from
Sarah de Berenger, 1879 (other editions, 1880
- also in Good Words, 1886);
Don John: a story, 1881 (another edition, 1881);
High-Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire (1571), 1883;
Poems of the Old Days and the New, 1885;
John Jerome, 1886;
Lyrical and other Poems selected from the Writings of J. I., 1886;
The Little Wonder-Box, 1887;
Very Young, and Quite Another Story, 1890;
Selections, edited by Mackenzie Bell (Poets and Poetry of the Century),
A Motto Changed; or, a Little Less than Kin and more of Kind. A Novel. New-York:
Harper & Brothers, 1893.
The Old Man's Prayer, 1895;
Poetical Works of Jean Ingelow, 1898
Poems (Muses' Library), 1906;
Poems, with an Introduction by Alice Meynell (Red Letter Library), 1908;
Poems, selected and arranged by Andrew Lang (Longman's Pocket Library),
LIFE: Short biography in 'Poets and Poetry of the
Century' edition of Poems, by Mackenzie Bell, 1892; some 'Recollections of
Jean Ingelow and her Early Friends', 1901.
Maureen Peters 'Jean Ingelow, Victorian Poetess'
(Rowan and Littlefield, 1972).
"'Ahem!' said a voice close to him.
Tom started, and to his great surprise, saw a small man,
about the size of his own baby, sitting composedly at his elbow.
He was dressed in green—green hat, green coat, and green shoes.
He had very bright black eyes, and they twinkled very much as he
looked at Tom and smiled . . . ."
"The Minnows with Silver Tails," from . . . .
Stories Told to a Child
"The sun was shining pleasantly across the level sands as she
walked homewards, and each cliff cast a clear reflection of its
figure at her feet, the soft and shining waves broke gently on the
shore, and the sky was peaceful and cloudless, only a flock of white
gulls were wheeling about in it, serving thus to increase its
resemblance to its 'twin deep,' the blue sea, that was adorned, not
far from the horizon, with a fleet of small fishing vessels, whose
white sails were lovely in the sunshine."