The Water Babies as Catechetical Paradigm

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1989


Children's Literature Association


Tutor to the Prince of Wales and first Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, Charles Kingsley (1819-75) was well-known in his own day as an educator and as a strong advocate for Thomas Arnold's educational reforms. Kingsley became especially vocal as a proponent of the Greek ideal of forming a sound mind in a sound body —so vocal, in fact, that his suggestion that sports should play a major role at Eton, Harrow, and the other training grounds for the leaders of the Empire became caricatured as "muscular Christianity." As the tag suggests, however, the goal of education for Kingsley, whether it was to be education of the mind or of the body, was ultimately religious. He was, after all, an Anglican clergyman and chaplain to Queen Victoria, and the emphasis in his pedagogy is highly moral: while granting that any knowledge, even religious, must be based on observation (Letters 2: 303), he writes that the principal aim of education is to "enable us hereafter to make ourselves and all around us, wiser, better, and happier" (Letters 1: 60). If more empirical knowledge does not produce a better human being, it comes under Kingsley's attack.