Jean Ingelow

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Jean Ingelow by Elliott and Fry

Jean Ingelow (17 March 1820 – 20 July 1897), was an English poet and novelist.

Early life and education[edit]

Born at Boston, Lincolnshire, she was the daughter of William Ingelow, a banker. As a girl she contributed verses and tales to magazines under the pseudonym of Orris, but her first (anonymous) volume, A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings, which came from an established London publisher, did not appear until her thirtieth year. This was called charming by Tennyson, who declared he should like to know the author; they later became friends.

Professional Life[edit]

Jean Ingelow followed this book of verse in 1851 with a story, Allerton and Dreux, but it was the publication of her Poems in 1863 which suddenly made her a popular writer. They ran rapidly through numerous editions and were set to music, proving very popular for English domestic entertainment. Her work often focused on religious introspection. In the United States, her poems obtained great public acclaim, and the collection was said to have sold 200,000 copies. In 1867 she edited, with Dora Greenwell, The Story of Doom and other Poems, a collection of poetry for children, and then gave up verse for a while and became industrious as a novelist. Off the Skelligs appeared in 1872, Fated to be Free in 1873, Sarah de Berenger in 1880, and John Jerome in 1886. She also wrote Studies for Stories (1864), Stories told to a Child (1865), Mopsa the Fairy (1869), and other stories for children. Ingelow's children's stories were influenced by Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald.[1] Mopsa the Fairy, about a boy who discovers a nest of fairies and discovers a fairyland while riding on the back of an albatross) was one of her most popular works (it was reprinted in 1927 with illustrations by Dorothy Lathrop).[2] Anne Thaxter Eaton, writing in A Critical History of Children's Literature, calls the book "a well-constructed tale", with "charm and a kind of logical make-believe."[2] Her third series of Poems was published in 1885. The last years of her life were spent in Kensington, and she outlived her popularity as a poet. Ingelow died in 1897 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

Criticism[edit]

Jean Ingelow 001.jpg

Her poems, collected in one volume in 1898, were frequently popular successes. Sailing beyond Seas and When Sparrows build in Supper at the Mill were among the most popular songs of the day. Her best-known poems include The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire and Divided.

There have many parodies of her poetry, particularly of her archaisms, flowery language, and perceived sentimentality. These include Lovers, and a Reflexion) by Charles Stuart Calverley and "Supper at the Kind Brown Mill", a parody of her "Supper at the Mill", within Sorrentino's satirical novel Blue Pastoral (1983).

Others, particularly her contemporaries, have defended her work. Gerald Massey described The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire as ". . . . a poem full of power and tenderness." [3] and Susan Coolidge said of her in verse in a preface to an anthology of Ingelow's poems 'She stood amid the morning due/ And sang her earliest measure sweet/ Sang as the lark sings,speeding fair/ to touch and taste the purer air'.[4]

Still, the larger literary world largely dismissed her work. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, for example, wrote this of her: "if we had nothing of Jean Ingelow’s but the most remarkable poem entitled Divided, it would be permissible to suppose the loss [of her], in fact or in might-have-been, of a poetess of almost the highest rank... Jean Ingelow wrote some other good things, but nothing at all equalling this; while she also wrote too much and too long." Some of this criticism has had overtones of dismissiveness of her as a female writer, where Cambridge continued, for example, to say, " 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."[3]

Works[edit]

Legacy[edit]

The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire is referred to in a story of Rudyard Kipling's, My Son's Wife. A reading of the same poem forms a scene in chapter 7 of D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mike Ashley, "Ingelow,Jean", in the St. James Guide To Fantasy Writers, ed. David Pringle, St. James Press, 1996, ISBN 1-55862-205-5,(p. 299-300).
  2. ^ a b Eaton, Anne Thaxter (1969). Meigs, Cornelia, ed. A Critical History of Children's Literature. Macmillan Publishing co. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-02-583900-4. 
  3. ^ a b http://gerald-massey.org.uk/ingelow/index.htm
  4. ^ Preface to Poems by Jean Ingelow, Volume II, Roberts Bros 1896 kindle ebook ASIN B0082C1UAI

References[edit]

External links[edit]