The Water-Babies
  • Publication Date: May 21, 2008
  • ISBN: 9781551117737 / 1551117738
  • 320 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Water-Babies

  • Publication Date: May 21, 2008
  • ISBN: 9781551117737 / 1551117738
  • 320 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Among the most popular children’s books of the Victorian period, The Water-Babies continues to delight readers of all ages. It tells the story of a young boy named Tom, who escapes his harsh life as a chimney sweep by being transformed into a “water-baby.” His adventures underwater introduce him to strange animals, gentle fairies, and exotic seascapes, and Kingsley frequently digresses from the mythical narrative with his commentary on political and scientific topics. Many of Linley Sambourne’s remarkable illustrations from the 1886 edition are included in the text of the novel.

This Broadview edition reproduces the first edition of The Water-Babies, published in 1863. The appendices include a broad selection of other 19th-century children’s literature and excerpts from Kingsley’s essays on evolution, hygiene, and education.


“A new and unabridged edition of The Water-Babies is an unlooked-for pleasure. Everyone who has an interest in the exuberant, eclectic, ecological, and erotic aspects of Victorian literature should know this book. When combined with the definitive illustrations by Linley Sambourne and a wealth of explanatory notes, appendices, and other critical tools, this edition becomes indispensable. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Kelly and to Broadview Press for editing and re-issuing this delightful and important work of Victorian children’s literature.” — Naomi Wood, Kansas State University

“This is a long overdue, thoroughly detailed, and informative edition of Kingsley’s classic Victorian children’s tale. Though The Water-Babies has had great popular success since first publication, especially in the UK, it has frequently been read in abbreviated versions with many of Kingsley’s often lengthy asides on politics, religion, education, and other pressing topics of the day omitted. This Broadview edition, following closely the first book text of 1863, includes all of Kingsley’s fascinating diversions. The work is greatly enhanced by Professor Kelly’s many scholarly appendices and numerous instructive annotations on the text. The result is an excellent edition that renders this intriguing classic much more amenable to the modern reader.” — Brendan A. Rapple, Boston College

Charles Kingsley: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Water-Babies

Appendix A: William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and Songs of
(1789, 1794)

Appendix B: Matthew Arnold, “The Forsaken Merman” from The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems (1849)

Appendix C: From Heinrich Hoffman, Struwwelpeter (1845)

Appendix D: From Lewis Carroll, “The Mock-Turtle’s Story” in Alice’s Adventures in

Appendix E: From Margaret Gatty, “Whereunto?” Parables From Nature (1861)

Appendix F: From Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter (1854)

Appendix G: From Samuel G. Goodrich, Peter Parley’s Method of Telling About Geography to Children (1831)

Appendix H: Reflections of Charles Kingsley on Nature and Sanitation

  1. From Charles Kingsley, Glaucus; or,The Wonders of the Shore (1855)
  2. From Charles Kingsley, Madame How and Lady Why or, First Lessons in Earth Lore for Children (1870)
  3. From Charles Kingsley, “Air-Mothers,” in Sanitary and Social Lectures and Essays (1880)
  4. From Letter XII

Appendix I: Joseph Noel Paton’s Illustrations for the First Edition of The Water-Babies (1863)

Appendix J: Reviews of The Water-Babies

  1. The Anthropological Review (November 1863)
  2. New York Times (25 December 1863)
  3. The Times (26 January 1864)
  4. The Times (12 December 1885)


Richard Kelly is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. He is the
editor of the Broadview Editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Charles
Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.