William Henry Giles Kingston

William Henry Giles Kingston (28 February 1814 – 5 August 1880), often credited as W. H. G. Kingston, was an English writer of boys' adventure novels.

William Henry Giles Kingston
Kingston in an 1884 portrait
Kingston in an 1884 portrait
Born28 February 1814
Westminster, London, England
Died5 August 1880 (aged 66)
Willesden, Middlesex (now London), England
Period19th century
GenreChildren's literature


William Henry Giles Kingston was born in Harley Street, London on 28 February 1814. He was the eldest son of Lucy Henry Kingston (d.1852) and his wife Frances Sophia Rooke (b.1789), daughter of Sir Giles Rooke, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Kingston's paternal grandfather John Kingston (1736-1820) was a Member of Parliament who staunchly supported the Abolition of the Slave Trade, despite having a plantation in Demerara. His father Lucy entered into the wine business in Oporto,[1] and Kingston lived there for many years, making frequent voyages to England and developing a lifelong affection for the sea.

He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and afterwards entered his father's wine business, but soon indulged in his natural bent for writing. His newspaper articles on Portugal were translated into Portuguese, and assisted the conclusion of the commercial treaty with Portugal in 1842, when he received from Donna Maria da Gloria an order of Portuguese knighthood and a pension.

His first book was The Circassian Chief, a story published in 1844. While still living in Oporto, he wrote The Prime Minister, a historical novel, and Lusitanian Sketches, descriptions of travels in Portugal. Settling in England, he interested himself in the emigration movement, edited The Colonist and The Colonial Magazine and East India Review in 1844, was honorary secretary of a colonisation society, wrote Some Suggestions for a System of General Emigration in 1848, lectured on colonisation in 1849, published a manual for colonists entitled How to Emigrate in 1850, and visited the western highlands on behalf of the emigration commissioners. He was afterwards a zealous volunteer and worked actively for the improvement of the condition of seamen. But from 1850, his chief occupation was writing books for boys, or editing boys' annuals and weekly periodicals. He started the Union Jack, a paper for boys, only a few months before his death. His stories number more than a hundred; the best known are:

In the Rocky Mountains - book cover - Project Gutenberg eText 19419
Cover of In the Rocky Mountains written by W. H. G. Kingston
  • Peter the Whaler, 1851
  • Blue Jackets, 1854
  • Digby Heathcote, 1860
  • The Cruise of the Frolic, 1860
  • The Fireships, 1862
  • The midshipman Marmaduke Merry, 1863
  • Foxholme Hall, 1867
  • Ben Burton, 1872
  • The Three Midshipmen, 1873
  • The Three Lieutenants, 1876
  • The Three Commanders, 1876
  • The Three Admirals, 1878
  • Kidnapping in the Pacific, 1879
  • Hendriks the Hunter, 1884

He travelled widely on the ordinary routes of travel, and described his experience for the young in:

  • Western Wanderings. Or, a pleasure tour in the Canadas, 1856
  • My Travels in Many Lands, 1862 (France, Italy and Portugal)
  • "In The Eastern Seas", 1871
  • The Western World, 1874
  • A Yacht Voyage round England, 1879

His popular records of adventure and of discovery included:

  • Captain Cook: His Life, Voyages, and Discoveries, 1871
  • Great African Travellers, 1874
  • Popular History of the Navy, 1876
  • Notable Voyages from Columbus to Parry, 1880
  • Adventures in the Far West, 1881
  • Adventures in Africa, 1883
  • Adventures in India, 1884
  • Adventures in Australia, 1885
  • Travels of Dr. Livingstone's Travels, 1886
  • Travels of Mungo Park, Denham and Clapperton, 1886

He published translations of several of Jules Verne's stories from the French (see below on the actual translator), and wrote many historical tales dealing with almost all periods and countries, from Eldol the Druid (1874) and Jovinian, a tale of Early Papal Rome (1877) downwards, and undertook some popular historical compilations such as Half-Hours with the Kings and Queens of England (1876).

He rewrote Richard Johnson's 1596 book The Seven Champions of Christendom to bring the language into more contemporary English.

His writings occupy nine pages and a half of the British Museum Catalogue. They were very popular; his tales were quite innocuous, but most of them proved ephemeral. Feeling his health failing, he wrote a farewell letter on 2 August 1880 in touching terms to the boys for whom he had written so much and so long, and died three days later at Stormont Lodge, Willesden, near London.[2][3]

Family life

On 4 August 1853, Kingston married Agnes Kinloch, daughter of Captain Charles Kinloch of the 52nd Light Infantry who had served in the Peninsular War as aide-de-camp to General Sir John Hope. Their honeymoon was spent in Canada, where Kingston acquired the background for many of his later novels, and they spent their first Christmas at Quebec City with the family of William Collis Meredith, Chief Justice of Quebec. Agnes Kinloch was privately educated, as was the custom of the time. She sang well, was an accomplished musician, studied art and languages in Europe, and spoke both French and German fluently, a skill which was to be of benefit during her husband's later financial troubles. She bore her husband eight children but all died early, and this branch of the family is now extinct.[4]

Kingston's brother George Kingston (1816–1886) was a Canadian professor, meteorologist, author, and public servant. He has been called the father of Canadian Meteorology for successfully promoting and organising one of Canada's first national scientific services.

Financial troubles and translations of Jules Verne

Beginning in 1860, Kingston suffered a number of financial reverses resulting from his publishing activities and, by 1868, he was very nearly bankrupt. In fact, he was forced to accept a grant of £50 from the Royal Literary Fund and, a few months later, £100 from the Queen's Civil List. The financial troubles continued and resulted in Kingston living as a recluse during the last ten years of his life.

Beginning in the 1870s, Kingston entered into a contract with publishers Sampson Low and Marston to translate some works of French author Jules Verne. These are the works for which Kingston is most remembered today. They were all published under his name, but the translations were actually done by his wife Agnes Kinloch Kingston.[5] This fact was generally known in literary circles, and actually mentioned in Mrs. Kingston's obituary in 1913, but it was apparently forgotten until it was revived in the 20th Century edition of the Dictionary of National Biography in 2004.[1] The Verne books which Mrs. Kingston translated are:

Kingston died at his family home at 3 Brondesbury Villas, Willesden, Middlesex on 5 August 1880, and his death was registered four days later by H. C. Kingston, "present at the death". The cause of death was cited on his death certificate as "Cancer of Kidney, Time not known, Certified by J. F. Anderson MD."


His first book The Circassian Chief appeared in 1844. His first book for boys Peter the Whaler was published in 1851 and had such success that he retired from business and devoted himself entirely to the production of this kind of literature and, during 30 years, he wrote upwards of 130 tales, including:

  • The Three Midshipmen (1862),
  • The Three Lieutenants (1874),
  • The Three Commanders (1875),
  • The Three Admirals (1877),
  • Digby Heathcote, etc.

He also wrote a tale about the notorious outlaw Ninco Nanco called Ninco Nanco, The Neapolitan Brigand, from Foxholme Hall.

He also conducted various papers, including The Colonist and Colonial Magazine and East India Review. He was also interested in emigration, volunteering, and various philanthropic schemes. He received a Portuguese knighthood for services in negotiating a commercial treaty with Portugal, and a Government pension for his literary labours.

He is mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in the poem prefacing Treasure Island:[6]

If studious youth no longer crave,
His ancient appetites forgot,
Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,
Or Cooper of the wood and wave ...


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.
  1. ^ a b Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, London: 2004–2007
  2. ^ Boy's Own Paper, 11 September 1880, which contains his portrait; preface to his novel James Braithwaite, 1882; Athenaeum, 14 August 1880; Times, 10 August 1880.
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 22 (Supplement), Oxford University Press, London: 1922
  4. ^ The Life, Work, and Influence of W. H. G. Kingston, M. R. Kingsford, Ryerson Press, Toronto: 1947.
  5. ^ In 1943, M. R. Kingsford inherited the diaries of Kingston and his wife Agnes from the last living family descendant, material which he used for his B.Litt thesis at Oxford and which was later published in this biography. The diaries of Mrs. Kingston provided conclusive proof that she was the translator of the Verne works, the Swiss Family Robinson, and in fact of all the other translations attributed to W. H. G. Kingston. The Life, Work, and Influence of W. H. G. Kingston, M. R. Kingsford, Ryerson Press, Toronto: 1947.
  6. ^ Treasure Island

External links

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Kingston (surname)

Kingston is an English surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Alex Kingston, English actress

Charles Kingston (disambiguation), several peopleCharles Kingston (1850–1908), premier of South Australia, son of G. S. Kingston below

Charles Kingston (Mormon) (1856–1944), leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wyoming

Charles W. Kingston (1884–1975), Mormon fundamentalist leader

Charles Elden Kingston (1909–1947), Mormon fundamentalist leader

Charles Kingston (cricketer) (1865–1917), English cricketer

Charles Morgan Kingston (1867–1948), Canadian politicianGeorge Strickland Kingston (1807–1880), surveyor and politician in South Australia

Jack Kingston, American politician

John de Kingston (died after 1336), English knight

John E. Kingston (1925–1996), New York politician and judge

Judith Kingston (1949–2016), English paediatric oncologist

Kevin Kingston, Australian Rugby League player

Kiwi Kingston, Wrestler and actor from New Zealand

Kofi Kingston, ring name of Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah, Ghanaian professional wrestler

Mark Kingston, English actor

Maxine Hong Kingston, Chinese-American author

Paul Elden Kingston, leader of the Mormon fundamentalist Latter Day Church of Christ

Robert Kingston, United States Army General

Russ Kingston, American actor

S. G. Kingston (1848–1897), lawyer in South Australia, son of G. S. Kingston above

Sean Kingston, Jamaican hip hop artist

Tom Kingston, Australian rugby union player

Tom Kingston (rugby league), Australian rugby league player

Vera Kingston, English swimmer

Wendy Kingston, Australian newsreader for Nine News

William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London

William Henry Giles Kingston, English writer

Lisson Grove

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Powder monkeys was the nickname given to young men during the Age of Sail that carried bags of gunpowder from the powder magazine in the ship's hold to the gun crews. It may also refer to:

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Victorian literature

Victorian literature is literature, mainly written in English, during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901) (the Victorian era). It was preceded by Romanticism and followed by the Edwardian era (1901–1910).

While in the preceding Romantic period, poetry had been the dominant genre, it was the novel that was most important in the Victorian period. Charles Dickens (1812–1870) dominated the first part of Victoria's reign: his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was published in 1836, and his last Our Mutual Friend between 1864–5. William Thackeray's (1811–1863) most famous work Vanity Fair appeared in 1848, and the three Brontë sisters, Charlotte (1816–55), Emily (1818–48) and Anne (1820–49), also published significant works in the 1840s. A major later novel was George Eliot's (1819–80) Middlemarch (1872), while the major novelist of the later part of Queen Victoria's reign was Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), whose first novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, appeared in 1872 and his last, Jude the Obscure, in 1895.

Robert Browning (1812–89) and Alfred Tennyson (1809–92) were Victorian England's most famous poets, though more recent taste has tended to prefer the poetry of Thomas Hardy, who, though he wrote poetry throughout his life, did not publish a collection until 1898, as well as that of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89), whose poetry was published posthumously in 1918. Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909) is also considered an important literary figure of the period, especially his poems and critical writings. Early poetry of W. B. Yeats was also published in Victoria's reign. With regard to the theatre it was not until the last decades of the nineteenth century that any significant works were produced. This began with Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas, from the 1870s, various plays of George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) in the 1890s, and Oscar Wilde's (1854–1900) The Importance of Being Earnest.

William Collis Meredith

Sir William Collis Meredith, (23 May 1812 – 26 February 1894) was Chief Justice of the Superior Court for the Province of Quebec from 1866 to 1884. In 1844, he was offered but refused the positions of Solicitor General of Canada and then Attorney-General for Canada East - the latter position he turned down again in 1847. In 1887, he was one of the two English-speaking candidates considered by the Liberals for the role of Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. The home he commissioned and lived in at Montreal from 1845 to 1849 still stands today, known as the Notman House.

William Giles

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Bill Giles (baseball) (William Yale Giles, born 1934), Philadelphia Phillies

Bill Giles (meteorologist) (William George Giles, born 1939), meteorologist and television presenter

William Giles (colonial manager) (1791–1862), CEO of the South Australia Company, 1841–1860, and member of the South Australian colonial legislature

William Giles (Oz), fictional character on HBO's prison drama Oz, played by Austin Pendleton

William Branch Giles (1762–1830), American statesman

William Fell Giles (1807–1879), U.S. Representative from Maryland

William Henry Giles Kingston (1814–1880), writer of tales for boys

William L. Giles (1911–1997), former president of Mississippi State University, 1966-1976

William Kingston (disambiguation)

William Kingston (c. 1476–1540) was constable of the Tower of London during the reign of Henry VIII.

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William Henry Giles Kingston (1814-1880), writer of tales for boys

William Kingston Flesher (1825–1907), Canadian businessman and political figure

William Kingston Vickery (1851–1925), Irish-American art dealer

William Kingston (cricketer) (1874–1956), English cricketer for Northamptonshire

Victorian-era children's literature

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