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Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1828-1896) plaque, Coombe Hill, London. Photo by Mike Quinn, 2008. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Elizabeth Rundle Charles (2 January 1828 - 28 March 1896) was an English poet and writer on Christian themes.

Life Edit

OverviewEdit

Charles was born at Tavistock, Devon, the daughter of John Rundle, MP. Some of her youthful poems won the praise of Tennyson, who read them in manuscript. In 1851 she married Andrew Paton Charles. Charles's best known book, written to order for an editor who wished for a story about Martin Luther, The Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family, was published in 1862, and was translated into most of the European languages, into Arabic, and into many Indian dialects. Mrs Charles wrote in all over 50 books, the majority of a semi-religious character, as well as writing and translating a number of hymns. She took an active part in the work of various charitable institutions, and among her friends and correspondents were Dean Stanley, Archbishop Tait], Charles Kingsley, William Booth, Benjamin Jowett and Edward Bouverie Pusey. She was affiliated with the Anglican Church, and died at Hampstead, London, in 1896.[1]

Youth and educationEdit

She was born Elizabeth Rundle, the only child of John Rundle, M.P. of Tavistock, at the Bank, Tavistock, 2 Jan. 1828. There she lived until the age of 11 (she has described her own early life in that of Bride Danescombe in 'Against the Stream,' 1873), when her parents moved to Brooklands, near Tavistock, the house of her maternal grandfather.[2]

She was educated at home by governesses and tutors, and began to write very early. James Anthony Froude, whom she sometimes saw, criticised her juvenile performances, and detected touches of genius in the Three Trances. In 1848 Tennyson, while on a visit to Miss Rundle's uncle, read some of her poems in manuscript. He praised especially the lines on the "Alpine Gentian," and made some verbal criticisms on the "Poet's Daily Bread".[3] [2]

Her earliest printed story, 'Monopoly,' was inspired by Harriet Martineau's political economy tales. A visit to France,[2] combined with the Oxford movement, strongly attracted her to the Roman catholic church, but the influence of a Swiss protestant pastor effectually prevented her conversion. She remained all her life a strong Anglican, but with a wide tolerance. She numbered among her closest friends Roman catholics, nonconformists, and many of no pronounced faith. Miss Rundle published her earliest original book, Tales and Sketches of Christian Life in Different Lands and Ages, in 1800.[4]

Marriage and careerEdit

In 1851 she married Andrew Paton Charles, and went to live at Hampstead. Her husband owned a soap and candle factory at Wapping, and Mrs. Charles worked along the employés and among the poor of the district. She lived next in Tavistock Square, London, where, in consequence of the loss of their fortune, her parents joined her. Her father died on 4 Jan. 1864. For the sake of her husband's health she made a 4 months' journey in Egypt and the Holy Land, Turkey, the Greek islands, and Italy. She gave some account of her travels in Wanderings over Bible Lands and Seas, 1861.[4]

Andrew Cameron, the editor of the Family Treasury, a Scottish magazine, offered Mrs. Charles 400l. for a story about Luther for his periodical. This was the origin of her best-known book, The Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family, which was published in 1862. It passed through numerous editions, and has been translated into most European languages, Arabic, and some of the dialects of India.[4]

Her husband died of consumption on 4 June 1868, and Mrs. Charles and her mother moved to Victoria Street, Westminster, where the friendship of Dean and Lady Augusta Stanley did much to awaken Mrs. Charles to new interests and hopes after her bereavement. Her reminiscences of Lady Augusta Stanley, contributed to Atalanta, and afterwards (in 1892) published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, although slight, are full of interest.[4]

Mrs. Charles travelled at this time in Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, and North Italy, and in 1894 built herself a house at Combe Edge, Hampstead. She had inherited nothing from either father or husband. When her books became remunerative her husband invested the proceeds for her own use. The copyright of the Schönberg-Cotta Family sold for 150l., to which the publisher added another 100l. She never again sold a copyright, and the royalties on her subsequent books, which numbered about 50, enabled her to live in comfort.[4]

Her interests were not confined to literature; she regularly attended the meetings of the North London Hospital for Consumption; an early meeting of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants was held at her house; and she founded in 1885, at Hampstead, the Home for the Dying, known as 'Friedenheim.' In politics she was a strong and decided liberal. Among her friends and correspondents were Pusey, Archbishop Tait, Liddon, Jowett, and Charles Kingsley.[4]

Her mother died on 17 April 1889, and her own death took place on 28 March 1896. She was buried on 1 April following in the churchyard of Hampstead parish church. Her friends and admirers perpetuated her memory by endowing a bed in the North London Hospital for Consumption at Mount Vernon in the December following her death.[4]

WritingEdit

Mrs. Charles wrote a simple idiomatic style, and her books touch almost every century of every country of Christendom. They are interesting as pictures of different historical periods; but the characters, especially those of real personages like Luther and Melanchthon, lack life and vivacity.[4]

Many of her writings were published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. They went through many editions and were much read in America. By the Mystery of Thy Holy Incarnation (1890) contains the epitome of her religious faith.[4]

Mrs. Charles's works include: 'Rest in Christ, or the Crucifix and the Cross,' 1848; 2nd edit. 1869. 'Tales and Sketches of Christian Life in different Lands and Ages,' 1850. 'The Two Vocations,' 1853. 'The Cripple of Antioch,' 1856; reprinted 1870. 'The Voice of Christian Life in Song,' 1858; new edit. 1897. 'The Three Wakings,' 1859; reprinted 1860. 'The Black Ship,' 1861; reprinted 1873. 'The Martyrs of Spain and Liberators of Holland,' 1862; reprinted 1870; Spanish translation, 1871. 'Wanderings over Bible Lands and Seas,' 1862. 'Sketches of Christian Life in England in the Olden Time,' 1864. 'Diary of Mrs. Kitty Trevylyan,' 1865. 'Winifred Bertram and the World she lived in,' 1866. 'The Draytons and the Davenants,' 1867. 'On Both Sides of the Sea,' 1868. 'The Victory of the Vanquished,' 1871. 'Against the Stream,' 1873. 'Conquering and to Conquer,' 1876. 'The Bertram Family,' 1876. 'Lapsed but not Lost,' 1877; Dutch translation, 1884. 'Joan the Maid,' 1879. 'Sketches of the Women of Christendom,' 1880.[4] 'Songs Old and New' (collected poems), 1882; new edit. 1894. 'An Old Story of Bethlehem,' 1884. Between 1885 and 1896 she published sixteen religious 'books for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Our Seven Homes: autobiographical reminiscences, edited by Mary Davidson, 1896.[5]

RecognitionEdit

The best portrait of her is a crayon drawing done after her death by Miss Hill, Frognal, Hampstead. A picture of her as a girl was in the possession of Robert Charles.[4]

Publications Edit

PoetryEdit

FictionEdit

Non-fictionEdit

TranslatedEdit

HymnsEdit

  • Around a Table, Not a Tomb
  • Come and Rejoice with Me
  • Is Thy Cruse of Comfort Wasting?
  • Jesus, What Once Thou Wast
  • Never Further Than Thy Cross
  • Praise Ye the Triune God
  • What Marks the Dawning of the Year?

A number of her hymns appeared in The Family Treasury, edited by William Arnot (1808-1875).

Translations of HymnsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • von Hügel, Friedrich (1897). "Impressions of Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1827-1896) [sic.]". Hampstead Annual: 52–62. 
  • PD-icon.svg Lee, Elizabeth (1901). Sidney Lee. ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. 1. London: Smith, Elder. p. 417. . Wikisource, Web, Mar. 12, 2020.

NotesEdit

  1. 12px One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Charles, Elizabeth". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lee, 417.
  3. cf. Tennyson, Memoir, i. 278.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Lee, 418.
  5. Lee, 419.
  6. The Three Wakings, with Hymns & Songs (1865), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  7. The Women of the Gospels, The Three Wakings, and other poems (1867), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  8. Songs Old and New (1887)], Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  9. The Black Ship, with other allegories and parables (1859), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  10. Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family (1864), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  11. Diary of Mrs. Kitty Trevylyan: A story of the time of Whitefield and the Whitneys (1864), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  12. The Early Dawn; or, Sketches of Christian life in the olden time (1864), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  13. The Martyrs of Spain and the Liberators of Holland (1865), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  14. Tales and Sketches of Christian Life in Different Lands and Ages (1865), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  15. Winifred Bertram and the World She Lived In (1866), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  16. The Draytons and the Davenants: A story of the Civil War (186-?), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  17. On Both Sides of the Sea: A story of the Commonwealth and the Restoration (1867?), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  18. The Victory of the Vanquished: A story of the first century (1871), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  19. Against the Stream: The story of an heroic age in England (1873), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  20. The Bertram Family (1877)], Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  21. Conquering and to Conquer: The diary of Brother Bartholomew (18--?), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  22. The Voice of Christian Life in Song; or, Hymns and hymn-writers of many lands and ages (1859), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  23. Wanderings Over Bible Lands and Seas (1867), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  24. Three Martyrs of the Nineteenth Century (1885), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  25. Martyrs and saints of the first Twelve Centuries: Studies from the lives of the Black Letter Saints of the English Calendar (1887), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  26. Early Christian Missions of Ireland, Scotland, and England (1893), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  27. The Ravens and the Angels (1894), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  28. Te Deum Laudamus: Christian life in song ; the song and the singers (1897), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.
  29. Watchwords for the Warfare of Life (1869), Internet Archive. Web, July 19, 2013.

External links Edit

Poems
Books
About

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement (edited by Sidney Lee)​. London: Smith, Elder, 1901. Original article is at: Charles, Elizabeth

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