Born in 1830 at Barnack Rectory, Northhamptonshire, England, Kingsley was educated at King's College School, London and Worcester College, Oxford, although he did not complete a degree. In 1853 he went to Australia and settled in Victoria. Little is known about his five years in Australia, although it appears that he had a variety of occupations, including gold miner and police trooper.
After his return to England in 1857, he began publishing novels, short stories and other works, commencing with The Recollections of Geoffry Hamlyn (1859), his most famous work with an Australian setting. Much of The Hillyars and the Burtons (1865) is also set in Australia, while there is Australian content in the story 'The Two Cadets', and in Reginald Hetherege (1874). Of the novel Ravenshoe (1862), Morris Miller comments; 'Some Australian references occur, including a simile from Australian mining, the Snowy River and other features, as well as discussions on a missionary from Australia and motives for emigration which probably indicated Kinglsey's own.' Patrick Morgan, however, points to the Australian interest in its 'fictionalized version of the real-life Tichborne saga. In Silcotes of Silcote (1867), the Nawab has an Australian horse and the leading character refers to the 'Australian Madness of 1852'. Tales of Old Travel Re-Narrated (1869), and The Boy in Grey (1871) also have Australian content,as does the boys' adventure story The Mystery of the Island (1877). Kingsley wrote two prose pieces on Australian exploration, published in Hornby Mills and Other Stories (1872). Kingsley published a number of other works, mainly fiction, which have no Australian content*.
In 1864 Kingsley married Sarah Haselwood and they settled in Berkshire. In 1869 he was appointed editor of the Edinburgh Review, a position he held until 1871. He died at Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1876. Although he never achieved the fame of his brother Charles Kingsley (1819-75), author of The Water Babies, Westward Ho and Hereward the Wake, he nevertheless produced one of the most significant works in early Australian literature.
*These works are: Austin Elliot (1863); Leighton Court (1866); Mademoiselle Mathilde (1968); Stretton (1869); Valentin (1872); The Harveys (1872); Oakshott Castle (1873); Number Seventeen (1875); The Grange Garden (1876); Fireside Studies (1876). He also edited the Globe edition of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.