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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
WITH the volume of ‘Poems’ published in 1863 Jean Ingelow became well known in America, as she had long been at home. Although her poems and stories had been appearing from time to time since 1850, the public knew little of the author’s life. She saw no reason why her literary work should entail publicity, and tried hard to maintain her privacy. But as facts were difficult to discover, an imaginary Jean Ingelow was invented to gratify curiosity, until she came forward in self-defense.  1
  Jean Ingelow was born in 1820 at Boston, Lincolnshire, England, where her father was a banker. Her childhood was quiet and happy under the care of a bright-natured Scotch mother, and she early showed an optimistic capacity for simple enjoyment. The little girl who gathered her apronful of stones from the path, to drop them again farther on, because the poor pebbles must be so tired of lying in one spot and staring up into the sky, already felt the imaginative sympathy with all things which is evident in the woman’s poems.  2
  Her first book, ‘A Rhyming Chronicle of Incidents and Feelings,’ was published anonymously in 1850; and was followed the next year by ‘Allerton and Dreux,’ a story in verse. In these as in her later work she shows her gift for portraying the homely simplicity of life, with its latent charm and beauty. Naturally her poetry-loving spirit fell under the influence of the contemporary poets who were stirring English hearts, and she sometimes reflects Tennyson and Mrs. Browning. But she is too individual and spontaneous to remain an imitator, and both in theme and handling of metres she shows unusual freedom. The ‘Story of Doom’ and other religious and didactic poems are sometimes tedious; but the purely emotional lyrics, such as ‘High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire,’ the ‘Songs of Seven,’ ‘Divided,’ are noteworthy for the musical lilt which made them cling to the memory, and for a warmth of sentiment which touched the popular heart.  3
  Jean Ingelow loved children; and with ‘Mopsa the Fairy,’ that delightful succession of breezy impossibilities, and many other tales, she has won the love of young readers.  4
  Her first serious effort in fiction was ‘Studies for Stories’ (1864),—carefully developed character sketches. Since then she has published several novels, which have been widely read, although they are less satisfactory than her verse. ‘Sarah de Berenger’ and ‘Don John’ show how ingeniously she can weave a plot. ‘Off the Skelligs,’ and its sequel, ‘Fated to be Free,’ derive their chief interest from careful character analysis. But the arrangement of material lacks proportion; and in her effort to be true to life, she overcrowds her scenes with children and other people who are merely incidental to the plot, and have no sufficient reason for being.  5
  She died July 19th, 1897.  6

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