Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian and novelist. He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men's college, and forming labour cooperatives that failed but led to the working reforms of the progressive era. He was a friend and correspondent with Charles Darwin. He was also the uncle of traveller and scientist Mary Kingsley.
The years from 1830 to 1850 were particularly distressing because typhus, cholera, small-pox and influenza spread over England in epidemic waves. Edwin Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842) drew the attention of the reading public to the degrading environment of the urban poor and the mutual relationship between disease and poverty. “The Report” showed that working-class districts were full of “ filth and disease”.
Kingsley became active in the diffusion of sanitary knowledge in his sermons, pamphlets and novels. In 1857, he published his third Condition-of-England novel, Two Years Ago, in which he described the cholera epidemic in a fictitious West Country fishing village of Aberalva, which had very poor sanitary conditions. He criticised the laissez-faire system which left the locality unassisted by the central government during the outbreak of the epidemic, but praised the commitment of the inhabitants. The title refers to two significant events in the novel: a cholera epidemic and the Crimean War. The main hero of the novel, Tom Thurnall represents Kingsley’s idea of “muscular Christianity”, which promoted cleanliness, personal hygiene, sport and physical fitness as the functional prerequisites of modern British society.
Although the novel had an obscure title, a complex and confusing plot, and interruptions by lengthy authorial comments, Kingsley managed to bring to public conscience a conviction that sanitary reform was not only a medical issue, but also a national one, which would significantly improve the living conditions of England and, consequently, her welfare.
Excellent pages for its age, some edge and board wear.