Biographical Study of A.W. Kinglake HTML version

Literary And Parliamentary Life
Kinglake returned from Algiers in 1844 to find himself famous both in the literary and
social world; for his book had gone through three editions and was the universal theme.
Lockhart opened to him the "Quarterly." "Who is Eothen?" wrote Macvey Napier, editor
of the "Edinburgh," to Hayward: "I know he is a lawyer and highly respectable; but I
should like to know a little more of his personal history: he is very clever but very
peculiar." Thackeray, later on, expresses affectionate gratitude for his presence at the
"Lectures on English Humourists":- "it goes to a man's heart to find amongst his friends
such men as Kinglake and Venables, Higgins, Rawlinson, Carlyle, Ashburton and
Hallam, Milman, Macaulay, Wilberforce, looking on kindly." He dines out in all
directions, himself giving dinners at Long's Hotel. "Did you ever meet Kinglake at my
rooms?" writes Monckton Milnes to MacCarthy: "he has had immense success. I now
rather wish I had written his book, WHICH I COULD HAVE DONE--AT LEAST
NEARLY." We are reminded of Charles Lamb--"here's Wordsworth says he could have
written Hamlet, IF HE HAD HAD A MIND." "A delightful Voltairean volume," Milnes
elsewhere calls it.
"Eothen" was reviewed in the "Quarterly" by Eliot Warburton. "Other books," he says,
"contain facts and statistics about the East; this book gives the East itself in vital actual
reality. Its style is conversational; or the soliloquy rather of a man convincing and
amusing himself as he proceeds, without reverence for others' faith, or lenity towards
others' prejudices. It is a real book, not a sham; it equals Anastasius, rivals 'Vathek;' its
terseness, vigour, bold imagery, recall the grand style of Fuller and of South, to which the
author adds a spirit, freshness, delicacy, all his own." Kinglake, in turn, reviewed "The
Crescent and the Cross" in an article called "The French Lake." From a cordial notice of
the book he passes to a history of French ambition in the Levant. It was Bonaparte's fixed
idea to become an Oriental conqueror--a second Alexander: Egypt in his grasp, he would
pass on to India. He sought alliance against the English with Tippoo Saib, and spent
whole days stretched upon maps of Asia. He was baffled, first at Aboukir, then at Acre;
but the partition of Turkey at Tilsit showed that he had not abandoned his design. To
have refrained from seizing Egypt after his withdrawal was a political blunder on the part
of England.
By far the most charming of Kinglake's articles was a paper on the "Rights of Women,"
in the "Quarterly Review" of December, 1844. Grouping together Monckton Milnes's
"Palm Leaves," Mrs. Poole's "Sketch of Egyptian Harems," Mrs. Ellis's "Women and
Wives of England," he produced a playful, lightly touched, yet sincerely constructed
sketch of woman's characteristics, seductions, attainments; the extent and secret of her
fascination and her deeper influence; her defects, foibles, misconceptions. He was greatly
vexed to learn that his criticism of "Palm Leaves" was considered hostile, and begged
Warburton to explain. His praise, he said, had been looked upon as irony, his bantering
taken to express bitterness. Warburton added his own conviction that the notice was
tributary to Milnes's fame, and Milnes accepted the explanation. But the chief interest of
this paper lies in the beautiful passage which ends it. "The world must go on its own way,