Kingsley, Charles (1819–1875), novelist, Church of England clergyman, and controversialist, was born on 12 June 1819 at Holne vicarage, Devon, on the eastern edge of Dartmoor. He was the eldest of the six surviving children of Revd Charles Kingsley (1781–1860), then (briefly) curate of Holne, a Hampshire country gentleman from an old family, including soldiers who had fought at Naseby and at Minden, who had taken orders only at the age of thirty-five, three years previously, after his mismanaged inheritance was exhausted. His mother, Mary Lucas (1787–1873), was born in Barbados, the daughter of a judge who had inherited slave-run sugar plantations. But any prospect of substantial wealth from this source eventually passing to the Kingsley family vanished with the decline of the West Indian sugar trade and the abolition of slavery in 1833. His father's subsequent career in the church took the family to Nottinghamshire, to Barnack, near Stamford (1824–30), close to the fen country which later supplied background for his historical novel Hereward the Wake, to Clovelly on the north Devon coast (1830–36), which inspired an enduring fascination with sea and shore later reflected in Westward Ho! and The Water-Babies, and, finally, in 1836, to St Luke's rectory, Chelsea (1836–60).
A delicate, nervous, imaginative child afflicted with a stutter which persisted into adult life, Kingsley nevertheless shared his father's passion for country sports and natural history. His education started at home, where he showed a precocious interest in writing sermons and poems. In 1831 he and his brother Herbert were sent to a preparatory school at Clifton, where he was a horrified and fascinated witness to the Bristol riots associated with the Reform Bill agitation, an experience which influenced his ambivalent attitude towards popular politics in later years. The following year the boys went to Helston grammar school in Cornwall, a small school run by Revd Derwent Coleridge, second son of the poet. Kingsley had an attack of cholera at the school (English cholera rather than the more virulent Asiatic cholera then ravaging Cornwall), which left him with a lifelong intestinal weakness but also stimulated his passion for sanitary reform as a way of containing and preventing disease. He seems to have learnt a great deal from informal botanizing expeditions with one of the masters, C. A. Johns, later a distinguished naturalist, and from browsing in the headmaster's library, where he encountered arcane treasures such as Iamblichus and Porphyry, but his formal instruction in classics and mathematics was rather neglected until he and his family moved to London in 1836. He studied at King's College, London (1836–8), where he worked hard and engaged in extensive private reading. Living at home, he became increasingly bored and irritated with the puritanical restrictions of rectory life and the endless fuss of church business and district visiting in his father's large and active evangelical parish.
In October 1838 Kingsley went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge. Lonely, intensely shy, and physically restless, he gradually found companionship through rowing and riding to hounds, and acquired a close friend in the brilliantly eccentric athlete and amateur scientist Charles Mansfield, another clergyman's son. He discovered the calming effects of tobacco and was soon addicted, though he had already suffered from lung disease. More significantly, he developed religious doubts. He managed to win a scholarship in the May examinations at the end of his first year, and during the long vacation of 1839 met his future wife, Frances Eliza Grenfell, known as Fanny [see Kingsley, Frances Eliza (1814-1891)], devout daughter of Pascoe Grenfell (1761–1838) MP, a wealthy industrialist who had married (as his second wife) Georgiana St Leger, daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile. Kingsley gradually shared his religious difficulties with her. A prolonged period of feverish restlessness, dissipation, and depression, interspersed with fishing trips, boxing lessons, and geologizing expeditions with Professor Sedgwick, came to an end in 1841 when he and Fanny came to an understanding and he resolved to become a clergyman. Six months of desperate work to make up lost time secured him a first class in classics in 1842, and he was ordained to the curacy of Eversley in Hampshire, where he immediately proved himself an energetic pastor deeply concerned with the poor.
Despite Fanny's predilection for a celibate life associated with one of the Anglican sisterhoods springing up under the influence of the Oxford Movement, and despite opposition from her family mainly because of Kingsley's lack of funds, they eventually married on 10 January 1844. One of Fanny's sisters had married the well-connected Revd Sidney Godolphin Osborne, and it was through Osborne's influence that Kingsley was appointed to the curacy of Pimperne in Dorset and turned his mind increasingly to the problems of agrarian poverty, on which Osborne had published pamphlets. He had spent the difficult years just before his marriage in a bizarre religiously erotic correspondence with Fanny, and in reading Coleridge, F. D. Maurice, and Carlyle under her guidance to develop some kind of intellectual framework to reconcile his poetic, almost pantheistic love of the physical world, his developing social concern, and his powerful awakened sexuality with traditional religious belief. He also began to write and illustrate a prose life of St Elizabeth of Hungary, a conspicuously married saint, as a wedding present for Fanny; it was an early instalment in his lifelong crusade against the celibate ideal of the religious life which had threatened to keep Fanny from him. The material was eventually reworked as a rather uneven quasi-Shakespearian verse tragedy, The Saint's Tragedy, and published in 1848 with an aggressively protestant preface. It seemed to attract little attention at the time except among critics of the Oxford Movement in Oxford itself, but Baron von Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador, and Prince Albert greatly admired it, as did Daniel Macmillan, later Kingsley's publisher. In May 1844 Kingsley was invited to return to Eversley as rector, and proceeded to transform a badly neglected parish in what was then a wild country district. A daughter, Rose, was born in 1846. He corresponded with F. D. Maurice, then professor of English and history at King's College, London, on parish and theological matters, and came increasingly under his influence. In 1847 Maurice stood godfather to the Kingsleys' second child, a son who was named after him. In 1848, on Maurice's recommendation, Kingsley obtained a part-time appointment as professor of English at the newly formed Queen's College for Women in London, where he gave lectures on Anglo-Saxon literature and history, among other topics.
Like Maurice and Maurice's friends the London barristers J. M. Ludlow and Thomas Hughes, Kingsley was affected by the growing social unrest of the ‘hungry forties’. When the Chartist movement organized a major demonstration at Kennington Common for 10 April 1848, he and Ludlow were present in person. He sat up late that night drafting a poster addressed to Chartists and signed ‘A Working Parson’, being deeply sympathetic to the hunger and poverty which had prompted the demonstration but claiming the constitutional reforms demanded by the Charter would not go far enough to secure genuine freedom and reform: that depended on developing moral independence from demagogues and from electoral bribery and corruption, and on reuniting politics with religion.
In company with Maurice and his friends Kingsley threw himself into a controversial new Christian socialist movement devoted to spreading this gospel and to setting up co-operative workshops for tailors and other oppressed trades. Kingsley and Ludlow co-edited the short-lived Christian socialist journal Politics for the People, launched on 6 May 1848. Writing as Parson Lot, Kingsley supplied much of the copy for the paper himself, as well as contributing to its successors the Christian Socialist and the Journal of Association. At a time when the Church of England had remained conspicuously aloof from working-class political movements, he caused consternation by declaring himself a Chartist as well as a Church of England parson. But he was a moralist and a reformer rather than a revolutionary, an upholder of the House of Lords who abhorred the 'physical force' strand in Chartism and dreaded any recurrence of the mob violence he had witnessed as a schoolboy at the Bristol riots. Even so, he was briefly banned from preaching in the diocese of London. His first novel, Yeast, characteristically vivid and chaotic, responding to the ferment of the times, attacked celibacy and bad landlords and drew on his experience of rural poverty; it began to appear serially in Fraser's Magazine in July 1848, though it was brought to a hurried conclusion as the publisher, John Parker, became alarmed by its radical tendency.
Financial worries and the prolonged strain and excitement of all these activities alongside Kingsley's regular parish work brought about the first of several episodes of complete nervous exhaustion. He resigned his position at Queen's College and retreated to Devon for a period of complete rest. But he soon recovered sufficiently to write Cheap Clothes and Nasty (1850), an indignant Christian socialist pamphlet about the clothing industry, and to start work on Alton Locke (1850), a propagandist novel about a working tailor and poet (partly modelled on his Chartist friend Thomas Cooper) who becomes an active Chartist and eventually a Christian. This incorporates some of Kingsley's other recurring concerns, such as sanitary reform, and his conviction that science and religion needed to learn from each other. The novel was harshly reviewed, though Thomas Carlyle liked it—perhaps because the sympathetic portrait of the radical bookseller Sandy Mackaye was clearly modelled on himself.
Kingsley's direct involvement with Christian socialism gradually slackened, and he played little part in the movement's most enduring achievement, the Working Men's College, founded in 1852, but his natural combativeness and his vision of a manly and socially committed Christianity, comprehensive and democratic, found alternative expression, notably in his first historical novel, Hypatia (1853), subtitled New Foes with an Old Face. The new foes were J. H. Newman, now a Roman Catholic, and the other leaders of the Oxford Movement, such as E. B. Pusey; the old face imputed to them was that of the fanatical (and of course celibate) monks of fifth-century Alexandria who murdered the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia, and who Kingsley viewed as extreme and discreditable examples of the asceticism of the early church from which contemporary Catholic spirituality had drawn inspiration. By way of contrast Kingsley introduces the ostrich-hunting married bishop Synesius and, a little improbably, a crew of cheerfully brutal proto-British Goths who embody Kingsleyan virtues of rough, unconventional decency, courage, physical sturdiness, and a saving respect for women.
Kingsley had already introduced the type in Lancelot Smith, the hero of Yeast, and it was to recur in later work—in the bluff sea dogs of Westward Ho! and the fierce Saxon warriors in Hereward the Wake, and even in the presentation of Greek heroes such as Perseus in The Heroes (1856), written for children. T. C. Sandars, reviewing Two Years Ago in the Saturday Review (February 1857), insisted that he preached a gospel of 'muscular Christianity' (Feb 1857, 176), a gibe taken up by other critics, but Kingsley preferred to call it 'Christian manliness', exemplified by biblical heroes such as David, on whom he delivered a series of sermons published in 1865. Contemporary evidence suggests Kingsley's aggressive masculinity in print was balanced by vulnerability, quick sympathy, and a feminine sensitivity in private. He was far from being the hearty muscular giant he seemed to idolize: nervously active, tall, thin, with piercing eyes and beaky features, he had had more than his share of physical illness since childhood.
Kingsley's greatest popular success, the historical novel Westward Ho! (1855), was originally planned as a patriotic anti-Catholic tale about the defeat of the Spanish Armada which he hoped would strike a sympathetic note amid contemporary anxieties about 'the Pope and the French invasion', triggered by the restoration of the papal hierarchy in England in 1850 and the aggressive anti-English posturing of Emperor Napoleon III. By the time the novel was finished patriotic feeling had been redirected, as England was fighting Russia in the Crimean War, of which Kingsley was an enthusiastic supporter, but this made the novel seem even more timely. His pamphlet Brave Words for Brave Soldiers and Sailors (1855) was published the same month as Westward Ho! and distributed among the troops at Sevastopol. The Crimean War and the outbreak of cholera in 1853–4 were the principal events of the recent past invoked by the title of his next novel Two Years Ago (1857), his most successful and coherent novel of contemporary life. Kingsley's continuing concern with sanitary reform, which had led him to join a deputation to the prime minister on the subject in 1854, was dramatized in the efforts of his doctor hero to combat cholera and unhealthy housing conditions.
The prince consort had admired the protestant and Germanic emphasis of Kingsley's Saint's Tragedy and Hypatia, and shared his scientific and sanitary enthusiasms, and this led to his appointment as chaplain to the queen in 1859. In 1860, again on the recommendation of the prince consort, Kingsley succeeded Sir James Stephen as regius professor of modern history at Cambridge, then a part-time appointment. He was not the first choice, and he lacked some of the critical and technical skills of later professional historians, but he had published historical lectures on Alexandria and her Schools (1854) as a scholarly offshoot of his background research for Hypatia and he was a popular historical novelist and public figure. Despite his own misgivings his inaugural lecture, 'The limits of exact science applied to history', was a conspicuous success, and in subsequent lectures he was able to hold steady audiences of 100 or more undergraduates, far more than his predecessors had managed. He stimulated interest in his subject and was an effective and tactful private tutor to the prince of Wales during his brief period at Cambridge. But he encountered stern if not entirely disinterested criticism. His Romantic fascination with manly Goths and other early Germanic peoples was rather undiscriminating. The lectures published as The Roman and the Teuton (1864) and his imaginative rather than critical use of sources in Hereward the Wake (1866) were savagely attacked by the historian of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, E. A. Freeman, who was eager to establish historical studies on a more rigorously professional footing and wanted professors of history to be severe scholars. Professional diffidence, exacerbated by Freeman's criticism, continuing ill health, renewed money worries since there were now four children to educate and launch into adult life (Mary [see Harrison, Mary St Leger] had been born in 1852 and Grenville in 1858), and the strain of preparing lectures, induced him to resign his professorship in 1869, hoping for preferment in the church. A few months later the queen appointed him to a vacant canonry at Chester which was better paid and less demanding. He showed some interest in becoming dean of Winchester in 1872, but this came to nothing. The following year Gladstone proposed, with the approval of the queen, that he should exchange his Chester canonry for a much more lucrative one at Westminster Abbey, and he accepted. Despite his habitual nervousness in public he was a popular and effective preacher when he was in residence and worked particularly well with the dean, A. P. Stanley, with whose broad-church religious views he was substantially in agreement.
Success and royal favour have been blamed for silencing the radical in Kingsley, but this overstates the case. It is true that he modified the criticism of Cambridge in the revised edition of Alton Locke published in 1862. But even in his Christian socialist heyday his democratic sympathies had been modified by distrust of constitutional reform without moral improvement and by admiration for benignly autocratic Carlylean heroes such as the mysterious Barnakill in Yeast. Early in the 1850s, before royal patronage had been extended to him, he sensed that there were different battles to be fought. The increased prosperity of the 1850s and 1860s seemed to have alleviated the worst economic injustices which he had attacked in Yeast and Alton Locke, but he continued to be controversially outspoken on other social and religious issues, supporting sanitary reform, women's education, medical degrees for women, and Darwinian evolution. A proposal to award him an honorary DCL at Oxford in 1863 was successfully blocked by Pusey and his followers, who never forgave him for Hypatia.
The most damaging controversy of Kingsley's career began with an article in Macmillan's Magazine (January 1864), in which he reviewed volumes 7 and 8 of the new History of England by J. A. Froude, an old friend who had married one of Fanny's sisters. In discussing Froude's treatment of Catholic intrigue in the reign of Elizabeth I, matter he had already dramatized in Westward Ho!, Kingsley bluntly opined that 'Truth for its own sake has never been a virtue of the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not, to be' (Charles Kingsley: his Letters, 216), a contention he supported, rather inadequately, by citing Newman's (Anglican) sermon 'Wisdom and innocence' (1844). An exchange of letters and a pamphlet war ensued, culminating in Newman's celebrated Apologia pro vita sua written to vindicate his integrity. Newman had little difficulty in making fun of Kingsley's protestant prejudices and scored easy debating points against his hasty opponent, whose reputation suffered accordingly, but commentators at the time and subsequently disagreed about the merits of the case. Kingsley was in a sense renewing a long-standing debate in moral theology: casuists such as St Alphonsus Liguori had controversially justified equivocation and evasions in particular situations for the greater good of the church. But this was hardly the real issue. Kingsley, the embattled activist, sensed that Catholic spirituality exemplified by Newman could sanction serene, even disdainful, withdrawal from the everyday problems and responsibilities of secular life and from ordinary moral accountability, and he resented and felt threatened by it, especially because it had encouraged Fanny's original sense of a special celibate vocation. Newman chose to respond to his gibes in largely personal terms which did not fully address the more general questions.
Kingsley's continuing fascination with natural history, particularly marine biology, was less controversial. He gave popular lectures on the subject even when he was in residence at Chester and published enthusiastic works such as Glaucus, or, The Wonders of the Shore (1855) and Madam How and Lady Why (1869). He welcomed the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859 because it seemed consistent with his own idiosyncratic theory of related moral and physical evolution which he had already illustrated in an evolutionary dream sequence at the end of Alton Locke. His most enduringly popular book, The Water-Babies (1863), began as a story for his own children and an attack on the continuing employment of climbing boys to sweep chimneys. But the story sends little Tom on an evolutionary moral journey and includes incidental satiric commentary on education, fashion, and current affairs, as well as mockery of post-Darwinian controversies about human descent and distinctiveness and the nature of scientific evidence. His main target was the agnostic scientist and polemicist T. H. Huxley, with whom he was, however, on friendly terms.
Kingsley's last novel, Hereward the Wake (1866), was perhaps his least successful. It set out to be a patriotic narrative of romantically unavailing resistance to William the Conqueror and the Norman yoke, but this was unhelpfully complicated by attacks on degenerate Anglo-Saxon monks and priests and the presence of Danish and Anglo-Danish warriors. The Kingsleys had been guests at the wedding of the prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, and the Schleswig-Holstein crisis of 1863–4 had briefly kindled interest in Danish affairs, but the Danish elements in the novel only added to the confusions endemic in the sources. The narrative was a grim saga with an unattractive hero redeemed only by strength, savage cunning, and military prowess.
Kingsley, like Carlyle before him, had always rather admired strong men, however bloodthirsty, and had embarrassed his more liberal friends such as J. M. Ludlow by hero-worshipping Raja Brooke of Sarawak, to whom Westward Ho! was dedicated. John Eyre, Australian explorer and subsequently governor of Jamaica, was another of his slightly dubious heroes. Kingsley had been impressed by Harriet Beecher Stowe and the moral fervour of New England abolitionism, but unlike most of his associates from his Christian socialist days he was lukewarm about Abraham Lincoln, sympathetic to the gentlemanly American south during the civil war, and a little distrustful of black people. Descended on his mother's side from West Indian plantation owners, his first sympathies were with the white community in the West Indies. Though he largely avoided the racist hysteria of Carlyle, he joined with him in 1866 to defend Governor Eyre from charges of excessive severity in suppressing an alleged uprising, while friends such as J. M. Ludlow and Thomas Hughes had joined J. S. Mill's Jamaica committee to press for Eyre's prosecution for murder.
Financial worries until the last few years of his life drove Kingsley to write too much. Though there are some fine essays, such as his introductions to Susan Winkworth's translations from the German of Theologia Germanica (1854) and Tauler (1857), he rushed into print too quickly, attacking Emerson in his quasi-Platonic dialogue Phaethon, or, Loose Thoughts for Loose Thinkers (1852), dashing off rather unsympathetic sketches of The Hermits for Macmillan's Sunday Library (1868), and freely airing his religious and aesthetic prejudices in often opinionated essays and reviews injudiciously collected as Miscellanies (1859) and Plays and Puritans (1873). But Kingsley's love of outdoor life, his eye for landscape, and his fascination with the natural and human history of particular places gave rise to vivid, quirky occasional essays such as 'North Devon' and 'Chalk stream studies', originally written for Fraser's Magazine, which he collected as Prose Idylls (1873). He had written poetry all his life and, while his output was very uneven, the best poems have worn well. These range from songs and ballads such as 'The Sands of Dee' and 'The Last Buccanier' to more ambitious narrative poems such as 'Andromeda', one of the few more or less successful English experiments in quantitative hexameters. In poems such as 'Elegiacs' there is a strong melancholy strain at odds with the boisterous vigour of much of his prose. He kept faith with his Christian socialist past to the extent of reprinting various poems 'connected with 1848–9' in a collected volume, Poems (1871). His sense of poetry as essentially musical attracted composers, and there are song settings of some of his lyrics by Charles Gounod, John Hullah, and the young Gustav Holst. He collaborated very successfully and amicably with Sterndale Bennett, composer and professor of music at Cambridge, in a light-hearted formal ode performed at the installation of the duke of Devonshire as chancellor of the university in 1862.
In his later years, dogged by ill health and recurring periods of exhaustion and depression, Kingsley seems to have seen himself as a spent force. A lifelong ambition was realized in the winter of 1869–70 when he had the opportunity to visit the West Indies, described enthusiastically in At Last (1871). A lecture tour in the United States in 1874, which took him as far west as Colorado Springs, was undertaken as much to consolidate his improved finances as to see the country, and it proved not only exhilarating but exhausting and ultimately fatal. He was seriously ill in Colorado, and ill again with a liver complaint soon after his return. Fanny fell dangerously ill in December 1874 and he neglected his own health to look after her until he had to take to bed himself with inflammation of the right lung. Fanny recovered, but Kingsley died at Eversley on 23 January 1875. Dean Stanley offered Westminster Abbey, but he was buried in Eversley churchyard. The Bramshill hunt servants and the Gypsies of the common, as well as Dean Stanley and a representative of the prince of Wales, attended the funeral.
The sheer variousness of Kingsley's career affected his reputation in his own time and subsequently. He did many interesting things in a short lifetime, but few of them supremely well and almost none without controversy. His Christian socialism attracted notice in France and Germany as well as in Britain, though his politics have satisfied neither radicals nor conservatives. He was outstanding as a parish clergyman, though increasingly absent from his parish. The popular preacher, the historian, and the scientific popularizer were soon forgotten. The churchman was recalled, rather unfairly, only as Newman's luckless antagonist. Kingsley the novelist has fared better: he is still remembered as a children's writer, mainly for The Water-Babies. Westward Ho! and Hereward the Wake, like The Water-Babies, have been frequently reprinted and adapted, and have survived, a little precariously, as juvenile classics. Alton Locke has retained a more specialised academic readership as a Victorian ‘social-problem’ novel. Literary criticism has become more tolerant of Kingsley's eccentricities of form and vivid incoherence, if not of his outlook on race, class, and gender. Historians of literature, sexuality, and social movements continue to be interested in his work.
Norman Vance DNB
Richmond, George (1809–1896), portrait painter, fifth child of Thomas Richmond (1771–1837), miniature painter, and his wife, Ann Coram (1772–1860), of 42 Half Moon Street, Mayfair, Westminster, was born on 28 March 1809, probably at Brompton. He was baptized on 1 May at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London.
Artistic training and involvement with the Ancients
With his artistic family background (Thomas's great-grandfather was the miniaturist George Engleheart), and a gift for drawing strongly apparent by the age of twelve, it is not surprising that Richmond decided on a career in art. What other learning he received was at a dame-school in Soho; this limited elementary education explains his perennial difficulty with spelling, and his execrable handwriting. More important for his future were his regular visits to the British Museum to draw from the antique. He entered the Royal Academy Schools at Somerset House on 23 December 1824, and exhibited his first academy work, in tempera, in 1825: Abel the Shepherd (Tate collection). Among his older fellow pupils was a part-time student, Joseph Severn, a friend of John Keats, who had attended the poet's deathbed.
The most profound early influence on Richmond was that of William Blake, to whom he was introduced by John Linnell when he was sixteen; Richmond said that a conversation with Blake was like talking with the prophet Isaiah. He was at Blake'shome, 12 Fountain Court, the Strand, on 12 August 1827, when Blake died, and he closed his eyes. A moving account of Blake's death, which Richmond sent to his friend Samuel Palmer, described how 'His countenance became fair—his eyes brightened and he burst out singing of the things he saw in Heaven. In truth he Died like a Saint' (G. E. Bentley, Blake Records, 1969, 346–7).
Blake had been the mentor to a group of young artists and friends which came to include Richmond. Palmer was the pivotal figure; the other members of the circle were Edward Calvert, Francis Oliver Finch, Henry Walter (1779–1849), Welby Sherman (fl. 1827–1834), Palmer's cousin John Giles (1810–1880), and two sons of the architect Charles Heathcote Tatham, Frederick (1805–1878) and Arthur (1809–1874). The Ancients, as they called themselves, met regularly, and frequently visited Shoreham in Kent, where Palmer's father lived and the painter himself owned a cottage. There they lived simply, bathing in the river, reading poetry, playing music, and discussing their work. Richmond recalled that, at Shoreham, he had managed to live on about 10s. a week. A simple piety animated the group: Richmond recollected how 'We all said our prayers attended church and Trusted wholly in God and were blessed in that Trust' (Richmond family MSS). They continued to meet regularly even into middle age.
Early career and marriage
Wishing to broaden his artistic horizons, Richmond visited France from 1826 to 1829, supporting himself there by painting miniatures. Until the 1830s, in addition to portraits, he also engraved, drew, or painted religious and literary subjects set in landscapes reminiscent of Palmer's work. Among them were the engravings The Shepherd (1827; uncompleted) and The Fatal Bellman (1827), based on a passage in Macbeth; the paintings Christ and the Woman of Samaria (1828; Tate collection), and the numinous The Eve of Separation (1830; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Drawings in pen and ink, sometimes heightened with watercolour, include the Blake-like A Damned Soul Hanging from a Gothic Building (1823; priv. coll., England) and The Angel and Elijah (1824 or 1825; Tate collection).
About 1826 Richmond fell in love with Julia (1811–1881), the beautiful fourteen-year-old sister of the Tatham brothers, whose father had engaged Richmond to give her drawing lessons. Although old Tatham had encouraged the romance, his diminishing fortune brought a change of mind when a rich and elderly suitor expressed interest in Julia. Learning of this, the young couple—encouraged by Palmer, who loaned Richmond £40—eloped to Gretna Green, where they were married on 24 January 1831. Back in London, Richmond set up home at 27 Northumberland Street, New Road, sending Julia to stay for the time being with Palmer's father at Shoreham. Meanwhile John Linnell persuaded Tatham that Richmond had a promising future. Tatham forgave them, and within three weeks George and Julia were reunited: their marriage proved to be long and happy. They had fifteen children, of whom ten survived infancy; with this growing family Richmond needed a reliable income, and he spent most of his remaining working life painting portraits.
In the 1830s Richmond began to extend his social life; he was assisted by the tory politician Sir Robert Inglis, bt, who introduced Richmond to his circle. This included Inglis's second cousin William Wilberforce and the family of Henry Thornton. Inglisbecame guardian to Thornton's family after his death, and moved into the Thorntons'house, Battersea Rise, much frequented at that time by artists and thinkers. It was during a visit to Battersea Rise that Richmond was offered the chance to paint Wilberforce's portrait; timidity made him hesitate, but his wife insisted that he must do it. It was a turning point in his career: as an engraving by Samuel Cousins it sold well, enhancing both Richmond's reputation and his bank balance. By 1836 he was earning £1000 p.a. from portraits and enjoying considerable popularity. During the 1830s his sitters included the countess of Pembroke (1835), four reigning bishops—Chester (1833), Lichfield (1833), London (1833), and Montreal (1836)—the Revd Samuel Wilberforce (1834), later bishop of Oxford, and then of Winchester, Rowland Hill(1834), and Charles Darwin (1839).
Visit to Rome
In 1837 Richmond and his wife, accompanied by the newly-weds Samuel and Hannah Palmer, visited Italy. The party embarked at Blackwall in October, and six weeks later entered Rome through the Porto del Popolo. Richmond lost no time in looking up his old fellow student Joseph Severn, now married and living in Rome. Severn later became British consul and was already moving in prestigious social circles, to which he introduced Richmond, as well as to other English artists working in the city. Among those with whom Richmond became thus acquainted were John Baring, of the banking dynasty, Sir Henry Russell, and Sir William Knight, son of the keeper of the privy purse under George IV. Among many social events during the coming months Richmondattended a party at the house of Torlonia, the Roman banker, where he saw the dukes of Devonshire and Sutherland and the Russian tsarevich. Severn also introduced Richmond to the young W. E. Gladstone, already at the age of twenty-nine an MP; with him the painter rode beyond the limits of the Roman states, where the young politician demonstrated his disapproval of the papal administration by throwing his hat in the air, crying 'long live liberty!'
However, the climate of Rome did not suit Richmond, who was anyway something of a hypochondriac. His eyes weakened, and for one period at least he was compelled temporarily to 'desist from night studies'. His fretfulness continued intermittently throughout the Italian visit, but he worked pertinaciously at such self-imposed tasks as copying Roman murals, and experimenting with technical devices, including an egg-yolk-based medium. He visited the Vatican to view Raphael's Loggia and the Sistine Chapel, recording the number of hours he spent sketching there. At the Sistine Chapel he obtained permission from Filippo Agricola, the managing artist, to erect scaffolding, so as to study more closely Michelangelo's frescoes. He studied carefully many other works, and attended life classes at the Rome Academy.
Further afield Richmond visited Naples, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, after which he travelled with Julia to Florence. There he threw himself with enthusiasm into the study of everything, from Michelangelo's David in the Accademia di Belli Arti to Leonardo'sAdoration of the Magi in the Uffizi, and many works by the early Italian masters. Back in Rome, Richmond produced some original work, including landscapes and subject paintings, such as The Journey to Emmaus, commissioned by Baring. And there were portraits, enough to underline where his future lay: 'It will', he said in a note about 1841, 'be a long time before I shall earn equal reputation by historical art' (Richmond family MSS). Richmond and his wife finally left Rome on 22 June 1839, stopping at Florence for ten days, before setting off for Venice, where Richmond expressed himself 'less astonished than delighted'. Above all, he was able to study there the work of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, and was impressed especially by the latter's awesome Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco. The Richmonds left Venice for home in August 1839.
Success as a portrait painter
In England, Richmond's portrait commissions multiplied. One of especial significance to his future career was a portrait of Thomas Dyke Acland, later eleventh baronet(1840), commissioned by the prestigious Grillion's Club, whose members were drawn from high strata of the aristocracy, politics, and professions. A portrait of each member was commissioned on his election: this opened a grand prospect for Richmond, who became for many years the club's portrait painter. In all, he painted seventy Grillion's portraits, and in 1861 was made an honorary member of the club. Richmond presented its members, many of them young MPs, as a high-minded élite; his drawings constitute one of the best series of British public-life portraiture.
Richmond visited Rome again in late 1840, and renewed acquaintance with much that he had seen during his previous visit, in addition to taking in much that was new to him. Characteristically, on this visit he pushed himself to study all he could during the daylight hours, and to study anatomy in the evening. As usual, this punishing regime led to depression and illness, which nevertheless abated whenever he received a letter from his wife. John Ruskin, then twenty-one years old, was in Rome at this time, and was introduced to Richmond by Joseph Severn. After visiting the Vatican with him, Richmond noted that Ruskin was 'not so open to receive impressions nor does he kindle readily at the sight of the great works' (Richmond family MSS, diary, 16 Dec 1840). Despite this artistic difference of opinion, Ruskin was devoted to Richmond for many years, and was influenced by him in the development of his own aesthetic awareness.
Richmond returned home early in 1841, having been away four months. He was immediately inundated with portrait commissions and was so busy that he was giving four or five sittings a day; before long his annual income exceeded £2000. With Richmond's ever expanding family, and an ever growing professional practice, a larger and more convenient house became necessary. Therefore, in 1833 the family moved to 16 Beaumont Street, London, where a son, William Blake Richmond (1842–1921), was born, and then in 1843 to 10 (later renumbered 20) York Street, off Baker Street, where Richmond remained for the rest of his life.
Whenever possible Richmond turned to landscape, which was closer to his predilection than portraiture. There is no doubt that this imperative concentration on portraiture led to a neurotic inner struggle, and in turn to illness and depression. Despite his yearning for other subjects, however, Richmond was a superb portrait painter, his work refined by studies in Italy. If some of his portraits flattered somewhat, they were still, he said, 'the truth lovingly told' (E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, eds., The Works of John Ruskin, 36, 1909, xxvii). Such is his affectionate depiction of Samuel Palmer (1829; NPG), in which his friend's spiritual quality is fully captured, but his usually unkempt appearance is tactfully tidied. Occasionally—inspired no doubt by his strong evangelical beliefs—Richmond painted religious subjects, such as The Agony in the Garden (1858; Whitehaven Methodist Church, Cumberland).
Family, professional, social life, and other interests
Richmond was a small man, but carried himself with dignity, and won much respect. As a family man he was a devoted husband and father, not averse to romping with his children. Yet he could be strict, even stern: when his son Willie ran away from home with Palmer's son, Thomas More, he was made to memorize scolding letters sent to him by his father's friends.
In 1844 Richmond was appointed by Gladstone to a seat on the School of Design council, vacated by Sir Augustus Callcott. In addition, he was making professional visits to Devon and Yorkshire, yet he still managed to attend the foregatherings of the Ancients. No doubt he was once again overworking, although he had breaks at Battersea Rise and in Kent, where he could indulge himself in landscape painting. But these short respites became increasingly difficult to arrange, and were almost impossible by 1847, in which year he painted nearly one hundred portraits. Throughout his life he continued to find time to study the technique of painting—his own work seldom, if ever, satisfied him and from the 1860s he added photography to his resources as an aide-mémoire.
Richmond's social life prospered: in addition to his honorary membership of Grillion's Club, he was elected a member of Johnson's Club (1860), the Athenaeum (1856), and of the Club of Nobody's Friends (1856). Professionally, he served on the royal commission for determining the site of the National Gallery, and in 1857 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming an academician in 1866.
At infrequent intervals Richmond turned to sculpture, the technique of which he probably learned while a student at the Royal Academy. His most important sculpture—commissioned in 1859, and completed in 1867—was a recumbent effigy of his friend Charles James Blomfield, bishop of London, for his tomb in St Paul's Cathedral. From 1866 Richmond also began to undertake restorations, beginning with the full-length portrait of Richard II in Westminster Abbey. The earliest contemporary portrait of an English monarch, it had been inexpertly restored and overpainted in the eighteenth century, and was considered to be beyond repair. Richmond, feeling confident that he could restore it, offered his services to the dean; the work was successfully realized by Henry Merritt, the picture cleaner, under the artist's supervision. Following this triumph, Richmond received many similar commissions, the most spectacular of which was the restoration between 1872 and 1875 of Daniel Maclise's murals in the palace of Westminster, Wellington Meeting with Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo and The Death of Nelson.
Last years, death, and assessment
During his final years Richmond worked largely on landscape, although he still painted a few portraits. The Ancients died: Henry Walter was the first to depart in 1849, Calvertthe last in 1883; as the group's central figure, Samuel Palmer, lay on his deathbed in 1881, Richmond knelt in prayer beside him. Julia Richmond died in the same year. In old age he spent much time with his children and grandchildren. Surviving friends—among them Ruskin—kept in touch with him, but he had distanced himself from Gladstone because of what he considered to be mistaken policies towards Ireland and the Sudan.
Richmond received many honours, including honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, honorary fellowship of University College, London, and honorary associate membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Towards the end he became infirm and suffered frequent bouts of illness. He died at his home, 20 York Street, London, a few days before his eighty-seventh birthday, on 19 March 1896, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 22 March.
As a portrait painter Richmond was undoubtedly a master, despite his preference for landscape and his forced overproductivity. His early pencil or chalk portraits, which closely resemble those of his contemporary Samuel Laurence, appear in technique to be based on the nets of lines and cross-hatchings of engraving, an art practised by Richmond early in his career. After studying in Italy, however, his oil paintings became enriched by splendid colouring which owed much to Veronese, while such devices as placing the sitter by an open window show the influence of Titian. This intelligent imitation of the Italian Renaissance masters served to lift Richmond's best works well above the common run of mid nineteenth-century portraiture.
Raymond Lister DNB