Thomas Humphry Ward, ed. The English Poets. 18801918. Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Critical Introduction by Thomas Humphry Ward
Jean Ingelow (18201897)
[Born 1820 at Boston, Lincolnshire, of an English father and a Scottish mother. She spent her youth in the Fen country which she so often describes in her verses, and soon after 1860 fixed her home in London, where she died in 1897. In 1850 she published a volume of small importance; this was followed in 1863 by the Poems which made her reputation. This book ran through many editions, and four years later was issued in a volume illustrated by many of the best artists, which had so much success that twelve years later the 23rd edition was announced, while in America it is said that over 200,000 copies of her works were sold. After 1864 she wrote many novels and was particularly happy in her various stories for children.]
WHEN Jean Ingelow published her first book, A Rhyming Chronicle, in 1849 or 1850, a, relative of hers sent it to Tennyson and he acknowledged it saying: Your cousin must be worth knowing; there are some very charming things in her book. Then followed some rather sharp criticisms, and it may have been in part owing to them that the young lady hesitated for a dozen years before issuing another volume. That however, the Poems of 1863, had great and immediate success, for although it failed to satisfy readers in search of profound thought or exceptional technique, it appealed to that wide public which seeks for common themes intelligibly treated, tender feeling, and melodious verse. Nobody, not even the schoolgirls who adored her, ever claimed for Miss Ingelow a place among the great poets, but thousands of quiet folk enjoyed her ballads, her narratives, and her songs, because they expressed in a charming way the thoughts of which they themselves had been vaguely conscious and described in clear language situations and characters that they could understand and appreciate. The poems which we have selected, and which will be well known to the older generation of readers, will explain and justify this success, and those who read them, whether for the first time or as pieces with which they were once familiar, will admit that a poem so true and so tragic as The High Tide, or such a song as When Sparrows Build, are worth preserving and that their author ought not to be forgotten.