Jean Ingelow by Elliott & Fry (1860s)
|Born||17 March 1820|
Boston, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
|Died||20 July 1897 (aged 77)|
Kensington, London, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Poet and novelist|
Jean Ingelow (17 March 1820 – 20 July 1897) was an English poet and novelist, who became suddenly popular in 1863. She also wrote several stories for children.
Born at Boston, Lincolnshire, she was the daughter of William Ingelow, a banker. As a girl she contributed verses and tales to magazines under the pseudonym of Orris, but her first (anonymous) volume, A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings, which came from an established London publisher, did not appear until her 30th year. This was called charming by Tennyson, who declared he should like to know the author; they later became friends.
Ingelow followed this book of verse in 1851 with a story, Allerton and Dreux, but it was the publication of her Poems in 1863 which suddenly made her a popular writer. This ran rapidly through numerous editions and was set to music, proving very popular for English domestic entertainment. Her work often focused on religious introspection. In the United States, her poems obtained great public acclaim, and the collection was said to have sold 200,000 copies. In 1867 she edited, with Dora Greenwell, The Story of Doom and other Poems, a collection of poetry for children
At that point Ingelow gave up verse for a while and became industrious as a novelist. Off the Skelligs appeared in 1872, Fated to be Free in 1873, Sarah de Berenger in 1880, and John Jerome in 1886. She also wrote Studies for Stories (1864), Stories told to a Child (1865), Mopsa the Fairy (1869), and other stories for children. Ingelow's children's stories were influenced by Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald.Mopsa the Fairy, about a boy who discovers a nest of fairies and discovers a fairyland while riding on the back of an albatross was one of her most popular works (reprinted in 1927 with illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop). Anne Thaxter Eaton, writing in A Critical History of Children's Literature, calls it "a well-constructed tale" with "charm and a kind of logical make-believe." Her third series of Poems was published in 1885.
Ingelow's poems, collected in one volume in 1898, were frequently popular successes. "Sailing beyond Seas" and "When Sparrows build in Supper at the Mill" were among the most popular songs of the day. Her best-known poems include "The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1571" and "Divided".
Many, particularly her contemporaries, have defended her work. Gerald Massey described The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire as "a poem full of power and tenderness"  and Susan Coolidge remarked in a preface to an anthology of Ingelow's poems, "She stood amid the morning dew/And sang her earliest measure sweet/Sang as the lark sings, speeding fair/to touch and taste the purer air." "Sailing beyond Seas" (or "The Dove on the Mast") was a favourite poem of Agatha Christie, who quoted it in two novels, The Moving Finger and Ordeal by Innocence.
Yet the wider literary world largely dismissed her. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, for example, wrote: "If we had nothing of Jean Ingelow's but the most remarkable poem entitled Divided, it would be permissible to suppose the loss [of her], in fact or in might-have-been, of a poetess of almost the highest rank.... Jean Ingelow wrote some other good things, but nothing at all equalling this; while she also wrote too much and too long." Some of this criticism has overtones of dismissing her as a female writer: "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."
There have many parodies of her poetry, noting her archaisms, flowery language and perceived sentimentality. These include "Lovers, and a Reflexion" by Charles Stuart Calverley and "Supper at the Kind Brown Mill", a parody of her "Supper at the Mill", which appears in Gilbert Sorrentino's satirical novel Blue Pastoral (1983).
The novelist Maureen Peters wrote Jean Ingelow: Victorian Poetess (1972).
The city of Enderby, British Columbia in Canada was named in 1887 after a reading of "The High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire, 1571". There is an Ingelow Road named after her in Battersea, London SW8.