Kingston, William Henry Giles (DNB00)

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KINGSTON, WILLIAM HENRY GILES (1814–1880), novelist, born in Harley Street, London, 28 Feb. 1814, was eldest son of Lucy Henry Kingston, and grandson by the mother's side of Sir Giles Rooke [q. v.], justice of the common pleas. His father was in business in Oporto, and there for many years the son lived, making frequent voyages to England, and contracting a lifelong affection for the sea. He entered his father's business, but soon indulged 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, and while still living in Oporto, he wrote ‘The Prime Minister,’ an historical novel, and ‘Lusitanian Sketches,’ descriptions of travels in Portugal. Settling in England, he interested himself in the emigration movement, edited in 1844 ‘The Colonist’ and ‘The Colonial Magazine and East India Review,’ was honorary secretary of a colonisation society, wrote in 1848 ‘Some Suggestions for a System of General Emigration,’ lectured on colonisation in 1849, published a manual for colonists, ‘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. The ‘Union Jack,’ a paper for boys, he started only a few months before his death. The best known of his stories, which numbered more than a hundred, are: ‘Peter the Whaler,’ 1851; ‘Blue Jackets,’ 1854; ‘Digby Heathcote,’ 1860; ‘The Cruise of the Frolic,’ 1860; ‘The Fireships,’ 1862; ‘Foxholme Hall,’ 1867; ‘Ben Burton,’ 1872; ‘The Three Midshipmen,’ 1873; ‘The Three Lieutenants,’ 1875; ‘The Three Commanders,’ 1876; and ‘The Three Admirals,’ 1878; ‘Kidnapping in the Pacific,’ 1879; and ‘Hendriks the Hunter,’ 1884. He travelled widely on the ordinary routes of travel, and described his experience for the young in ‘Western Wanderings,’ a Canadian tour, 1856; ‘My Travels in Many Lands’ (France, Italy, and Portugal), 1862; ‘The Western World,’ 1874; and ‘A Yacht Voyage round England,’ 1879. His popular records of adventure and of discovery included: ‘Adventures in the Far West,’ 1881; in Africa, 1883; in India, 1884; in Australia, 1885; a ‘Life of Captain Cook,’ 1871; ‘Great African Travellers,’ 1874; a ‘Popular History of the Navy,’ 1876; ‘Notable Voyages from Columbus to Parry,’ 1880, subsequently brought down to 1885; ‘Livingstone's Travels,’ 1886; ‘Mungo Park's Travels,’ 1886. He translated several of Jules Verne's stories from the French, 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 like ‘Half-Hours with the Kings and Queens of England,’ 1876. 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 in touching terms to the boys for whom he had written so much and so long on 2 Aug. 1880, and died three days later at Stormont Lodge, Willesden, near London.

[Boy's Own Paper, 11 Sept. 1880, which contains his portrait; preface to his novel James Braithwaite, 1882; Athenæum, 14 Aug. 1880; Times, 10 Aug. 1880.]

J. A. H.