A doll poem

Dear Diary,

Angelo:  I think you'll enjoy this lovely poem by a man about his doll.  

The Little Doll
~Charles Kingsley
I once had a sweet little doll, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world;
Her cheeks were so red and so white; dears,
And her hair was so charmingly curled.
But I lost my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
And I cried for her more than a week, dears;
But I never could find where she lay.
I found my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day:
Folks say she is terrible changed, dears,
For her paint is all washed away,
And her arm trodden off by the cows, dears,
And her hair not the least bit curled:
Yet for old sakes' sake she is still, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world.

 It was written by Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875), a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian and novelist.  I cannot find anywhere an explanation of why he wrote this poem.  Perhaps, it was a reminiscence of something which happened to him in his youth.  I find it to be a mystery: how did a man who was known in his time for promoting "muscular Christianity" and the hyper-masculinity it espoused, come to write a poem on his childhood girl doll?

"I'd like to dedicate this posting to my dear friend, Peggy Sue, the prettiest doll I know."


  1. Oh Angelo, you brought tears to my eyes, you are the sweetest boy, and I am sure Peggy Sue will experience the same feeling tomorrow morning when she wakes up. Thank you.

    What a beautiful poem, thank you for posting it, it is very interesting/curious isn't it? Love is so much more than what we see on the surface, and Charles Kingsley obviously knew this.

  2. Usha Frances Rautenbach sent this comment to me and requested that I post it under comments (she's having difficulty doing same). It is a beautiful comment and I am certain readers will enjoy it. Jesse

    I’ve always loved a quote from this man-lover of dolls (or just one)

    "We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” Charles Kingsley

    And when I was a child, a favourite book to have someone read to us was his “Water-Babies”, although I don’t remember what it was about it that we did so love! except for the watery illustrations, a fantasy life under water, and the never-forgotten Mrs. Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By - so the book probably contributed to my upbringing. I think it had something to do with the plight of chimney sweeps, which I have also never forgotten - maybe the boy who went under, into water-baby land, had been one?

    I loved the face of the doll you sent along with the poem - reminded me of my first doll, Effie, who literally ’perished' when I was seven - I took her to the beach where she swam with me, and the sea-water did not agree with her, gave her a terrible skin condition. Sticky bits of her flesh would come off and attach onto me, especially getting permanently affixed to my hair, so that we had to be cut apart. I felt pretty well exactly as Charles Kingsley did, but my aunts scolded my poor mother dreadfully for letting me continue to love her, and play with here. In the end, my mother, who was a vet, declared that Effie had “perished” and we must bury her, with flowers, and never ever forget her. So we did, my whole family - and that was that! Except that you can see that never ever have forgotten her.

    Oddly enough, I never had another doll until I was in my forties, when my current great love of playing with 18-inch dolls was born.

    Effie was a “baby doll”, made of rubber, hollow - so the bathwater could be squeezed out of her, while my brothers chortled with glee to see her 'peeing’. She had a bumpy head of rubber hair in curls, painted pale ginger. I’m glad I loved her so much. I do actually remember what she looked like and felt like to play with; I was the eldest in the family and had plenty of real babies to handle with care (three by the time she was buried) - Effie was my very own, to love and to hold and to carry around since I was five.

    I’m left wondering if water featured so highly in my doll-play with Effie because of the Water-Babies!

    Thank you for the memory, Angelo and Adam and all.


    1. Of course! I remember reading this book when young. I wonder if I have a copy of it? Might have to get one and re-read!

      What a lovely story of a child's love of her doll by Usha. Special memories.

  3. Angelo's message is so endearing <3. He's right, Peggy Sue is a wonderful doll, very pretty, and she has a beautiful personality as well.
    Charles Kingsley was a remarkable person, I read on Wikipedia that he even supported Darwin's theories! This poem is curious, but sweet.
    The comment of Usha was great, thanks for sharing it.

  4. What a lovely poem and dedication. We also think the picture of Angelo is wonderful!

  5. Thank you for reminding me of this curious poem. It's been some time since I read 'The Water Babies' and it has been one of my favourite stories.
    I think that when it's read in the context of the book it perhaps makes more sense why Kingsley wrote it. The water babies love the poem and are excited for the 'strange fairy' to recite it. Perhaps the broken doll can be seen as a metaphor for a 'broken' child. If my memory serves me correctly the water babies are all broken, damaged or neglected in some way but still quite rightly deserve to be loved and cherished. Their 'blemishes' are only skin deep and they're still beautiful and important.
    A wonderful poem indeed!


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