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Poetess, novelist and author of charming children's stories.

"A healthful hunger for a great idea is the
  beauty and 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 pleasant bounty."

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."

ISABELLA FYVIE MAYO, from Recollections.

"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."



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 her life.

"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 . . . . Off the Skelligs.

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 — but slowly at times (likewise in Off the Skelligs and Fated to be Free  into an 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.

From 1852, Jean 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, Tales 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 divided

. . . .
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 . . . Notable Women 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 High Tide.]

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.'


15A, HOLLAND STREET,          


        "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 you privately.

    "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 to grown-up 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.
                                                                                      "I am,
                                                                                            Yours sincerely,

3 January, 1857


From Recollections of 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', chpt. XX.

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 . . . .


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 poetand, as such, likely to sell wellshould 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 strict accuracy.

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 come."

        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
            our rest.'

        Give Thou us more.   We look
        For more.   The heart that took
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,
            and noon.

(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 final 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 Tennysonhimself an admirer of Jean's versedied 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 jobno doubt to the relief of the Misses Ingelow and Rosettithought 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 Jerome.

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 1920s.  When 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. & II.).


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 two novels, 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 days."

From...Off the Skelligs.

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 résumé and review).

"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 carrier’s hand."

A night-time journey, from . . . . Sarah De Berenger.

Don John: a story (1881 résumé & review) and John Jerome (1886 résumé & 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 more 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) enlightening.

"O woman, 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.

Jean Ingelow's last novel, A Motto Changed (1893), appears only to have been published in the United States, where it met with cool reviews.

"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. vii.

Among Jean's children's stories are Studies for 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 Wonder-Box Tales.

. . . . 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 stories of 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."

From Recollections of 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 surface it 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 privileges."

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.


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 all my
prayers have not been answered."


. . . ."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 around them!"

    "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 house.

    "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 flower.

    "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 tranquillity.

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. 1863.

". . . . 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 Greenwell (see letters).  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 Cleansing 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 life."

From . . . Notable Women 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 tells us that:

". . . .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 (albeit conceited) deduction.  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 Seven'

. . . . 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 jetty—


"When I sit on market-days amid the comers and the goers,
  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 in prose—

". . . . 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 verse.

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 her poems.

    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 happiness.

"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 none.

21st July, 1897.



HE death occurred yesterday, at her residence in Kensington, of Miss Jean Ingelow, the poet and no
velist.  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.


Brooklyn Eagle
21 July 1897


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.


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 visit!

(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 light
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 might;
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 most distinguished women poets.

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 move within;
    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 rowsYou will approach the Ingelow family grave from behind the headstone shown above. Careful how you go the ground is very uneven.


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 deep.


26th July, 1897.


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 had finished.


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 - 1865);
Poems, with 4th edition in same year, 1863 (illustrated by Pinwell, Poynter, and others, 1866);
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;
One Hundred Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads: Original, and Suitable for Music (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1878published unattributed);
Poems, new edition in 2 vols. (Vol. I, from 23rd edition, Vol. II. from 6th edition, 1879);
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), 1892;
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 and 1902;
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), 1908.

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."

From Poor Matt (A Sister's Bye-Hours)

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