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Title: Matthew Arnold
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Matthew Arnold" ***

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DICKENS ......... W.E. HENLEY.

[Symbol: 3 asterisks] _Other Volumes will be announced in due

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Mr. Matthew Arnold, like other good men of our times, disliked the
idea of being made the subject of a regular biography; and the only
official and authoritative sources of information as to the details of
his life are the _Letters_ published by his family, under the
editorship of Mr G.W.E. Russell (2 vols., London, 1895)[1]. To these,
therefore, it seems to be a duty to confine oneself, as far as such
details are concerned, save as regards a very few additional facts
which are public property. But very few more facts can really be
wanted except by curiosity; for in the life of no recent person of
distinction did things literary play so large a part as in Mr
Arnold's: of no one could it be said with so much truth that, family
affections and necessary avocations apart, he was _totus in
illis_. And these things we have in abundance.[2] If the following
pages seem to discuss them too minutely, it can only be pleaded that
those to whom it seems so are hardly in sympathy with Matthew Arnold
himself. And if the discussion seems to any one too often to take the
form of a critical examination, let him remember Mr. Arnold's own
words in comparing the treatment of Milton by Macaulay and by M.

  "Whoever comes to the _Essay on Milton_ with the desire to get
  at the real truth about Milton, whether as a man or a poet, will
  feel that the essay in nowise helps him. A reader who only wants
  rhetoric, a reader who wants a panegyric on Milton, a panegyric on
  the Puritans, will find what he wants. A reader who wants criticism
  will be disappointed."

I have endeavoured, in dealing with the master of all English critics
in the latter half of the nineteenth century, to "help the reader who
wants criticism."


[1] Mr Arthur Galton's _Matthew Arnold_ (London, 1897) adds a
few pleasant notes, chiefly about dachshunds.

[2] It is impossible, in dealing with them, to be too grateful to Mr.
T. B. Smart's _Bibliography of Matthew Arnold_ (London, 1892), a
most craftsmanlike piece of work.


       *       *       *       *       *


_POEMS_ OF 1853


POEMS_--LIFE FROM 1862 TO 1867




       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *


OF 1853.

Even those who are by no means greedy of details as to the biography
of authors, may without inconsistency regret that Matthew Arnold's
_Letters_ do not begin till he was just five-and-twenty. And then
they are not copious, telling us in particular next to nothing about
his literary work (which is, later, their constant subject) till he
was past thirty. We could spare schoolboy letters, which, though often
interesting, are pretty identical, save when written by little prigs.
But the letters of an undergraduate--especially when the person is
Matthew Arnold, and the University the Oxford of the years
1841-45--ought to be not a little symptomatic, not a little
illuminative. We might have learnt from them something more than we
know at present about the genesis and early stages of that not
entirely comprehensible or classifiable form of Liberalism in matters
political, ecclesiastical, and general which, with a kind of altered
Voltairian touch, attended his Conservatism in literature. Moreover,
it is a real loss that we have scarcely anything from his own pen
about his poems before _Sohrab and Rustum_--that is to say, about the
great majority of the best of them. By the time at which we have full
and frequent commentaries on himself, he is a married man, a harnessed
and hard-working inspector of schools, feeling himself too busy for
poetry, not as yet tempted by promptings within or invitations from
without to betake himself to critical prose in any quantity or
variety. Indeed, by a not much more than allowable hyperbole, we may
say that we start with the book of his poetry all but shut, and the
book of his prose all but unopened.

We must therefore make what we can of the subject, and of course a
great deal more is to be made in such a case of the work than of the
life. The facts of the latter are but scanty. Matthew Arnold, as all
the world knows, was the son--the eldest son--of the famous Dr
(Thomas) Arnold, Head-master of Rugby, and Regius Professor of Modern
History at Oxford, where he had earlier been a Fellow of Oriel. Dr
Arnold survives in the general memory now chiefly by virtue of his
head-mastership, which was really a remarkable one, whatever
distinction it may owe to the loyalty of such a group of pupils as his
son, Dean Stanley, Clough, "Tom Brown" Hughes, and others. But he was,
if not positively great, a notable and influential person in many
ways. As a historian he was alert and intelligent, though perhaps too
much under the influence of that subtlest and most dangerous kind of
"popular breeze" which persuades those on whom it blows that they are
sailing not with but away from the vulgar. As a scholar he was
ingenious, if not very erudite or deep. He was really a master, and
has been thought by some good judges a great master, of that admirable
late Georgian academic style of English prose, which is almost the
equal of the greatest. But he was, if not exactly _cupidus novarum
rerum_ in Church and State, very ready to entertain them; he was
curiously deficient in logic; and though the religious sense was
strong in him, he held, and transmitted to his son, the heresy--the
foundation of all heresies--that religion is something that you can
"bespeak," that you can select and arrange to your own taste; that it
is not "to take or to leave" at your peril and as it offers itself.

On August 11, 1820, Dr Arnold married Mary Penrose, and as he had
devoted his teaching energies, which were early developed, not to
school or university work, but to the taking of private pupils at
Laleham on the Thames, between Staines and Chertsey, their eldest son
was born there, on Christmas Eve, 1822. He was always enthusiastic
about the Thames valley, though not more so than it deserves, and in
his very earliest letter (January 2, 1848) we find record of a visit,
when he found "the stream with the old volume, width, shine, rapid
fulness, 'kempshott,'[1] and swans, unchanged and unequalled." He was
only six years old when his father was elected to the head-mastership
of Rugby; he was educated in his early years at his birthplace, where
an uncle, the Rev. John Buckland, carried on the establishment, and at
the age of fourteen he was sent to Winchester, his father's school.
Here he only remained a year, and entered Rugby in August 1837. He
remained there for four years, obtaining an open Balliol scholarship
in 1840, though he did not go up till October 1841. In 1840 he had
also gained the prize for poetry at Rugby itself with _Alaric at
Rome_, a piece which was immediately printed, but never reprinted
by its author, though it is now easily obtainable in the 1896 edition
of those poems of his which fell out of copyright at the seven years
after his death.

It is an observation seldom falsified, that such exercises, by poets
of the higher class, display neither their special characteristics,
nor any special characteristics at all. Matthew Arnold's was not one
of the exceptions. It is very much better than most school prize
poems: it shows the critical and scholarly character of the writer
with very fair foreshadowing; but it does not fore-shadow his poetry
in the very least. It is quite free from the usual formal faults of a
boy's verse, except some evidences of a deficient ear, especially for
rhyme ("full" and "beautiful," "palaces" and "days"). It manages a
rather difficult metre (the sixain rhymed _ababcc_ and ending
with an Alexandrine) without too much of the monotony which is its
special danger. And some of the tricks which the boy-poet has caught
are interesting and abode with him, such as the _anadiplosis_--

  "Yes, there are stories registered on high,
  Yes, there are stains Time's fingers cannot blot";

in which kind he was to produce some years later the matchless

  "Still nursing the unconquerable hope,
  Still clutching the inviolable shade,"

of the _Scholar-Gipsy_. On the whole, the thing is correct but
colourless; even its melancholy is probably mere Byronism, and has
nothing directly to do with the later quality of _Dover Beach_
and _Poor Matthias_.

Of Mr Arnold's undergraduate years we have unluckily but little
authentic record, and, as has been said, not one letter. The most
interesting evidence comes from Principal Shairp's well-known lines in
_Balliol Scholars, 1840-1843_, written, or at least published,
many years later, in 1873:--

  "The one wide-welcomed for a father's fame,
  Entered with free bold step that seemed to claim
    Fame for himself, nor on another lean.

  So full of power, yet blithe and debonair,
    Rallying his friends with pleasant banter gay,
  Or half a-dream chaunting with jaunty air
    Great words of Goethe, catch of Béranger,
  We see the banter sparkle in his prose,
  But knew not then the undertone that flows
    So calmly sad, through all his stately lay."[2]

Like some other persons of much distinction, and a great many of
little or none, he "missed his first," in December 1844; and though he
obtained, three months later, the consolation prize of a Fellowship
(at Oriel, too), he made no post-graduate stay of any length at the
university. The then very general, though even then not universal,
necessity of taking orders before very long would probably in any case
have sent him wandering; for it is clear from the first that his bent
was hopelessly anti-clerical, and he was not merely too honest, but
much too proud a man, to consent to be put in one of the priests'
offices for a morsel of bread. It may well be doubted--though he felt
and expressed not merely in splendid passages of prose and verse for
public perusal, but in private letters quite towards the close of his
life, that passionate attachment which Oxford more than any other
place of the kind inspires--whether he would have been long at home
there as a resident. For the place has at once a certain republicanism
and a certain tyranny about its idea, which could not wholly suit the
aspiring and restless spirit of the author of _Switzerland_. None
of her sons is important to Oxford--the meanest of them has in his
sonship the same quality as the greatest. Now it was very much at Mr
Arnold's heart to be important, and he was not eager to impart or
share his qualities.

However this may be, there were ample reasons why he should leave the
fold. The Bar (though he was actually called and for many years went
circuit as Marshal to his father-in-law, Mr Justice Wightman) would
have suited him, in practice if not in principle, even less than the
Church; and he had no scientific leanings except a taste for botany.
Although the constantly renewed cries for some not clearly defined
system of public support for men of letters are, as a rule, absurd,
there is no doubt that Mr Arnold was the very man for a sinecure, and
would have justified the existence of Pipe or Hanaper to all
reasonable men. But his political friends had done away with nearly
all such things, and no one of the very few that remained fell to his
lot. His father had died in 1842, but the son served a short
apprenticeship to school-teaching at Rugby, then became private
secretary to Lord Lansdowne, the President of the Council (it is now
that we first meet him as an epistoler), and early in 1851 was
appointed by his chief to an inspectorship of schools. Having now a
livelihood, he married, in June of that year, Frances Lucy Wightman,
daughter of a judge of the Queen's Bench. Their first child, Thomas,
was born on July 6, 1852, and Mr Arnold was now completely estated in
the three positions of husband, father, and inspector of schools,
which occupied--to his great delight in the first two cases, not quite
so in the third--most of his life that was not given to literature.
Some not ungenerous but perhaps rather unnecessary indignation has
been spent upon his "drudgery" and its scanty rewards. It is enough to
say that few men can arrange at their pleasure the quantity and
quality of their work, and that not every man, even of genius, has had
his bread-and-butter secured for life at eight-and-twenty.

But in the ten or twelve years which had passed since _Alaric at
Rome_, literature itself had been by no means neglected, and in
another twelvemonth after the birth of his first-born, Matthew Arnold
had practically established his claim as a poet by utterances to which
he made comparatively small additions later, though more than half his
life was yet to run. And he had issued one prose exercise in
criticism, of such solidity and force as had not been shown by any
poet since Dryden, except Coleridge.

These documents can hardly be said to include the Newdigate poem
(_Cromwell_) of 1843: they consist of _The Strayed Reveller and other
Poems_, by "A.," 1849; _Empedocles on Etna, and other Poems_, [still]
by "A.," 1852; and _Poems_ by Matthew Arnold, a new edition, 1853--the
third consisting of the contents of the two earlier, with _Empedocles_
and a few minor things omitted, but with very important additions,
including _Sohrab and Rustum, The Church of Brou, Requiescat_, and
_The Scholar-Gipsy_. The contents of all three must be carefully
considered, and the consideration may be prefaced by a few words on

This [Greek: agonisma], like the other, Mr Arnold never included in
any collection of his work; but it was printed at Oxford in the year
of its success, and again at the same place, separately or with other
prize poems, in 1846, 1863, and 1891. It may also be found in the
useful non-copyright edition above referred to. Couched in the
consecrated couplet, but not as of old limited to fifty lines, it is
"good rhymes," as the elder Mr Pope used to say to the younger; but a
prudent taster would perhaps have abstained, even more carefully than
in the case of the _Alaric_, from predicting a real poet in the
author. It is probably better than six Newdigates out of seven at
least, but it has no distinction. The young, but not so very young,
poet--he was as old as Tennyson when he produced his unequal but
wonderful first volume--begins by borrowing Wordsworth's two voices of
the mountain and the sea, shows some impression here and there from
Tennyson's own master-issue, the great collection of 1842, which had
appeared a year before, ventures on an Alexandrine--

  "Between the barren mountains and the stormy sea"

--which comes as a pleasant relief, and displays more than once (as he
did afterwards in _Tristram and Iseult_) an uncertain but by no means
infelicitous variety of couplet which he never fully or fairly worked
out, but left for Mr William Morris to employ with success many years
later. Otherwise the thing is good, but negligible. It would have
taken an extremely strong competition, or an extremely incompetent
examiner, to deprive it of the prize; but he must have been a sanguine
man who, in giving the author that prize, expected to receive from him
returns of poetry.

Yet they came. If we did not know that the middle of this century was
one of the nadirs of English[3] criticism, and if we did not know
further that even good critics often go strangely wrong both in praise
and in blame of new verse, it would be most surprising that _The
Strayed Reveller_ volume should have attracted so little attention.
It is full of faults, but that is part of the beauty of it. Some of
these faults are those which, persevering, prevented Mr Arnold from
attaining a higher position than he actually holds in poetry; but no
critic could know that. There is nothing here worse, or more
necessarily fatal, than many things in Tennyson's 1830 and 1832
collections: he overwent those, so might Mr Arnold have overgone
these. And the promise--nay, the performance--is such as had been seen
in no verse save Tennyson's, and the almost unnoticed Browning's, for
some thirty years. The title-poem, though it should have pleased even
a severe judge, might have aroused uncomfortable doubts even in an
amiable one. In the first place, its rhymelessness is a caprice, a
will-worship. Except blank verse, every rhymeless metre in English has
on it the curse of the _tour de force_, of the acrobatic. Campion
and Collins, Southey and Shelley, have done great things in it; but
neither _Rose-cheeked Laura_ nor _Evening_, neither the
great things in _Thalaba_ nor the great things in _Queen
Mab_, can escape the charge of being caprices. And caprice, as some
have held, is the eternal enemy of art.

But the caprice of _The Strayed Reveller_ does not cease with its
rhymelessness. The rhythm and the line-division are also studiously
odd, unnatural, paradoxical. Except for the "poetic diction" of
putting "Goddess" after "Circe" instead of before it, the first stave
is merely a prose sentence, of strictly prosaic though not
inharmonious rhythm. But in this stave there is no instance of the
strangest peculiarity, and what seems to some the worst fault of the
piece, the profusion of broken-up decasyllables, which sometimes
suggest a very "corrupt" manuscript, or a passage of that singular
stuff in the Caroline dramatists which is neither blank verse, nor any
other, nor prose. Here are a few out of many instances--

      "Is it, then, evening
  So soon? [_I see the night-dews
  Clustered in thick beads_], dim," etc.

       *       *       *
  ["_When the white dawn first
  Through the rough fir-planks. _"]

       *       *       *
  ["_Thanks, gracious One!
  Ah! the sweet fumes again._"]

       *       *       *
  ["_They see the Centaurs
  In the upper glens._"]

One could treble these--indeed in one instance (the
sketch of the Indian) the entire stanza of _eleven_ lines, by the
insertion of one "and" only, becomes a smooth blank-verse piece of
_seven_, two of which are indeed hemistichs, and three "weak-ended,"
but only such as are frequent in Shakespeare--

  "They see the Indian drifting, knife in hand,
  His frail boat moored to a floating isle--thick-matted
  With large-leaved [_and_] low-creeping melon-plants
  And the dark cucumber.
  He reaps and stows them, drifting, drifting: round him,
  Round his green harvest-plot, flow the cool lake-waves,
  The mountains ring them."

Nor, perhaps, though the poem is a pretty one, will it stand criticism
of a different kind much better. Such mighty personages as Ulysses and
Circe are scarcely wanted as mere bystanders and "supers" to an
imaginative young gentleman who enumerates, somewhat promiscuously, a
few of the possible visions of the Gods. There is neither classical,
nor romantic, nor logical justification for any such mild effect of
the dread Wine of Circe: and one is driven to the conclusion that the
author chiefly wanted a frame, after his own fashion, for a set of
disconnected vignettes like those of Tennyson's _Palace of Art_
and _Dream of Fair Women_.

But if the title poem is vulnerable, there is plenty of compensation.
The opening sonnet--

  "Two lessons, Nature, let me learn of thee"--

is perhaps rather learnt from Wordsworth, yet it does not fail to
strike the note which fairly differentiates the Arnoldian variety of
Wordsworthianism--the note which rings from _Resignation_ to
_Poor Matthias_, and which is a very curious cross between two
things that at first sight may seem unmarriageable, the Wordsworthian
enthusiasm and the Byronic despair. But of this[4] more when we have
had more of its examples before us. The second piece in the volume
must, or should, have struck--for there is very little evidence that
it did strike--readers of the volume as something at once considerable
and, in no small measure, new. _Mycerinus_, a piece of some 120
lines or so, in thirteen six-line stanzas and a blank-verse
_coda_, is one of those characteristic poems of this century,
which are neither mere "copies of verses," mere occasional pieces, nor
substantive compositions of the old kind, with at least an attempt at
a beginning, middle, and end. They attempt rather situations than
stories, rather facets than complete bodies of thought, or
description, or character. They supply an obvious way of escape for
the Romantic tendency which does not wish to break wholly with
classical tradition; and above all, they admit of indulgence in that
immense _variety_ which seems to have become one of the chief
devices of modern art, attempting the compliances necessary to gratify
modern taste.

The Herodotean anecdote of the Egyptian King Mycerinus, his
indignation at the sentence of death in six years as a recompense for
his just rule, and his device of lengthening his days by revelling all
night, is neither an unpromising nor a wholly promising subject. The
foolish good sense of Mr Toots would probably observe--and
justly--that before six years, or six months, or even six days were
over, King Mycerinus must have got very sleepy; and the philosophic
mind would certainly recall the parallel of Cleobis and Biton as to
the best gift for man. Mr Arnold, however, draws no direct moral. The
stanza-part of the poem, the king's expostulation, contains very fine
poetry, and "the note" rings again throughout it, especially in the

  "And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all,
  _And the night waxes, and the shadows fall_."

The blank-verse tail-piece is finer still in execution; it is, with
the still finer companion-_coda_ of _Sohrab and Rustum_, the
author's masterpiece in the kind, and it is, like that, an early and
consummate example of Mr Arnold's favourite device of finishing
without a finish, of "playing out the audience," so to speak, with
something healing and reconciling, description, simile, what not, to
relieve the strain of his generally sad philosophy and his often
melancholy themes.

One may less admire, despite its famous and often-quoted line,

  "Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole,"

the sonnet _To a Friend_, praising Homer and Epictetus and
Sophocles, for it seems to some to have a smatch of priggishness. Nor
am I one of those who think very highly of the much longer _Sick
King in Bokhara_ which (with a fragment of an _Antigone_,
whereof more hereafter) follows, as this sonnet precedes, _The
Strayed Reveller_ itself. There is "the note," again, and I daresay
the orientalism has the exactness of colour on which, as we know from
the _Letters_, Mr Arnold prided himself. Yet the handling of the
piece seems to me prolix and uncertain, and the drift either very
obscure or somewhat unimportant. But about the _Shakespeare_
sonnet which follows there can be no controversy among the competent.
"Almost adequate" is in such a case the highest praise; and it must be

The companions of this sonnet are respectable, but do not deserve much
warmer words; and then we turn to a style of poem remarkably different
from anything which the author had yet published and from most of his
subsequent work. It is not unnoteworthy that the batch of poems called
in the later collected editions _Switzerland_, and completed at
last by the piece called _On the Terrace at Berne_, appeared
originally piecemeal, and with no indication of connection. The first
of its numbers is here, _To my Friends who Ridiculed a Tender
Leave-taking_. It applies both the note of thought which has been
indicated, and the quality of style which had already disengaged
itself, to the commonest--the greatest--theme of poetry, but to one
which this poet had not yet tried--to Love. Let it be remembered that
the thought has the cast of a strictly pessimist quietism--that the
style aims, if it aims at any single thing, at the reproduction of the
simpler side of classicalism, at an almost prim and quakerish
_elegance_, a sort of childlike grace. There is, however, by no
means any great austerity in the tone: on the contrary, the refrain
(altered later)--

  "Ere the parting kiss be dry,
  Quick! thy tablets, Memory!"--

approaches the luscious. It is not easy to decide, and it is perhaps
in both senses impertinent to speculate, whether the "Marguerite"
(whose La Tour-like portrait is drawn in this piece with such relish,
and who is so philosophically left to her fate by her lover on the
Terrace at Berne later) had any live original. She seems a little more
human in some ways than most of those cloud-Junos of the poets, the
heroines of sonnet-sequence and song-string. She herself has a
distinct touch of philosophy, anticipating with nonchalant resignation
the year's severance, and with equally nonchalant anticipation the
time when

  "Some day next year I shall be,
  Entering heedless, kissed by thee."

Her wooer paints her with gusto, but scarcely with ardour; and ends
with the boding note--

  "Yet, if little stays with man,
  Ah! retain we all we can!"--

seeming to be at least as doubtful of his own constancy as of hers.
Nor do we meet her again in the volume. The well-known complementary
pieces which make up _Switzerland_ were either not written, or
held back.

The inferior but interesting _Modern Sappho_, almost the poet's
only experiment in "Moore-ish" method and melody--

  "They are gone--all is still! Foolish heart, dost thou quiver?"--

is a curiosity rather than anything else. The style is ill suited to
the thought; besides, Matthew Arnold, a master at times of blank
verse, and of the statelier stanza, was less often an adept at the
lighter and more rushing lyrical measures. He is infinitely more at
home in the beautiful _New Sirens_, which, for what reason it is
difficult to discover, he never reprinted till many years later,
partly at Mr Swinburne's most judicious suggestion. The scheme is
trochaic, and Mr Arnold (deriving beyond all doubt inspiration from
Keats) was happier than most poets with that charming but difficult
foot. The note is the old one of yearning rather than passionate
melancholy, applied in a new way and put most clearly, though by no
means most poetically, in the lines--

    "Can men worship the wan features,
    The sunk eyes, the wailing tone,
    Of unsphered, discrowned creatures,
  Souls as little godlike as their own?"

The answer is, "No," of course; but, as some one informed Mr Arnold
many years later, we knew that before, and it is distressing to be
told it, as we are a little later, with a rhyme of "dawning" and
"morning." Yet the poem is a very beautiful one--in some ways the
equal of its author's best up to this time; at least he had yet done
nothing except the _Shakespeare_ sonnet equal to the splendid
stanza beginning--

  "And we too, from upland valleys;"

and the cry of the repentant sirens, punished as they had sinned--

  "'Come,' you say, 'the hours are dreary.'"

Yet the strong Tennysonian influence (which the poet rather
ungraciously kicked against in his criticism) shows itself here also;
and we know perfectly well that the good lines--

  "When the first _rose_ flush was steeping
  All the frore peak's _awful_ crown"--

are but an unconscious reminiscence of the great ones--

  "And on the glimmering summit far withdrawn,
  God made himself an _awful rose_ of dawn."

He kept this level, though here following not Tennyson or Keats but
Shelley, in the three ambitious and elaborate lyrics, _The Voice_, _To
Fausta_, and _Stagirius_, fine things, if somehow a little suggestive
of inability on their author's part fully to meet the demands of the
forms he attempts--"the note," in short, expressed practically as well
as in theory. _Stagirius_ in particular wants but a very little to be
a perfect expression of the obstinate questionings of the century; and
yet wanting a little, it wants so much! Others, _To a Gipsy Child_ and
_The Hayswater Boat_ (Mr Arnold never reprinted this), are but faint
Wordsworthian echoes; and thus we come to _The Forsaken Merman_.

It is, I believe, not so "correct" as it once was to admire this; but
I confess indocility to correctness, at least the correctness which
varies with fashion. _The Forsaken Merman_ is not a perfect poem--it
has _longueurs_, though it is not long; it has those inadequacies,
those incompetences of expression, which are so oddly characteristic
of its author; and his elaborate simplicity, though more at home here
than in some other places, occasionally gives a dissonance. But it is
a great poem--one by itself, one which finds and keeps its own place
in the foreordained gallery or museum, with which every true lover of
poetry is provided, though he inherits it by degrees. No one, I
suppose, will deny its pathos; I should be sorry for any one who fails
to perceive its beauty. The brief picture of the land, and the fuller
one of the sea, and that (more elaborate still) of the occupations of
the fugitive, all have their own charm. But the triumph of the piece
is in one of those metrical _coups_ which give the triumph of all the
greatest poetry, in the sudden change from the slower movements of the
earlier stanzas or strophes to the quicker sweep of the famous

  "The salt tide rolls seaward,
  Lights shine from the town"--


  "She left lonely for ever
  The kings of the sea."

Here the poet's poetry has come to its own.

_In Utrumque Paratus_ sounds the note again, and has one exceedingly
fine stanza:--

  "Thin, thin the pleasant human noises grow,
      And faint the city gleams;
  Rare the lone pastoral huts--marvel not thou!
  The solemn peaks but to the stars are known,
  But to the stars, and the cold lunar beams;
  Alone the sun arises, and alone
      Spring the great streams."

But _Resignation_, the last poem in the book, goes far higher. Again,
it is too long; and, as is not the case in the _Merman_, or even in
_The Strayed Reveller_ itself, the _general_ drift of the poem, the
allegory (if it be an allegory) of the two treadings of "the self-same
road" with Fausta and so forth, is unnecessarily obscure, and does not
tempt one to spend much trouble in penetrating its obscurity. But the
splendid passage beginning--

  "The Poet to whose mighty heart,"

and ending--

  "His sad lucidity of soul,"

has far more interest than concerns the mere introduction, in this
last line itself, of one of the famous Arnoldian catchwords of later
years. It has far more than lies even in its repetition, with fuller
detail, of what has been called the author's main poetic note of
half-melancholy contemplation of life. It has, once more, the interest
of _poetry_--of poetical presentation, which is independent of any
subject or intention, which is capable of being adapted perhaps to
all, certainly to most, which lies in form, in sound, in metre, in
imagery, in language, in suggestion--rather than in matter, in sense,
in definite purpose or scheme.

It is one of the heaviest indictments against the criticism of the
mid-nineteenth century that this remarkable book--the most remarkable
first book of verse that appeared between Tennyson's and Browning's in
the early thirties and _The Defence of Guenevere_ in 1858--seems to
have attracted next to no notice at all. It received neither the
ungenerous and purblind, though not wholly unjust, abuse which in the
long--run did so much good to Tennyson himself, nor the absurd and
pernicious bleatings of praise which have greeted certain novices of
late years. It seems to have been simply let alone, or else made the
subject of quite insignificant comments.

In the same year (1849) Mr Arnold was represented in the _Examiner_ of
July 21 by a sonnet to the Hungarian nation, which he never included
in any book, and which remained peacefully in the dust-bin till a
reference in his _Letters_ quite recently set the ruthless reprinter
on its track. Except for an ending, itself not very good, the thing is
quite valueless: the author himself says to his mother, "it is not
worth much." And three years passed before he followed up his first
volume with a second, which should still more clearly have warned the
intelligent critic that here was somebody, though such a critic would
not have been guilty of undue hedging if he had professed himself
still unable to decide whether a new great poet had arisen or not.

This volume was _Empedodes on Etna and other Poems_, [still] _By A._
London: Fellowes, 1852. It contained two attempts--the title-piece and
_Tristram and Iseult_--much longer and more ambitious than anything
that the poet had yet done, and thirty-three smaller poems, of which
two--_Destiny_ and _Courage_--were never reprinted. It was again very
unequal--perhaps more so than the earlier volume, though it went
higher and oftener high. But the author became dissatisfied with it
very shortly after its appearance in the month of October, and
withdrew it when, as is said, less than fifty copies had been sold.

One may perhaps not impertinently doubt whether the critical reason,
_v. infra_--in itself a just and penetrating one, as well as admirably
expressed--which, in the Preface of the 1853 collection, the poet gave
for its exclusion (save in very small part) from that volume tells the
whole truth. At any rate, I think most good judges quarrel with
_Empedodes_, not because the situation is unmanageable, but because
the poet has not managed it. The contrast, in dramatic trio, of the
world-worn and disappointed philosopher, the practical and rather
prosaic physician, and the fresh gifts and unspoilt gusto of the
youthful poet, is neither impossible nor unpromising. Perhaps, as a
situation, it is a little nearer than Mr Arnold quite knew to that of
_Paracelsus_, and it is handled with less force, if with more
clearness, than Browning's piece. But one does not know what is more
amiss with it than is amiss with most of its author's longer
pieces--namely, that neither story nor character-drawing was his
_forte_, that the dialogue is too colourless, and that though the
description is often charming, it is seldom masterly. As before, there
are jarring rhymes--"school" and "oracle," "Faun" and "scorn."
Empedocles himself is sometimes dreadfully tedious; but the part of
Callicles throughout is lavishly poetical. Not merely the show
passages--that which the Roman father,

  "Though young, intolerably severe,"

saved from banishment and retained by itself in the 1853 volume, as
_Cadmus and Harmonia_, and the beautiful lyrical close,--but the
picture of the highest wooded glen on Etna, and the Flaying of
Marsyas, are delightful things.

_Tristram and Iseult_, with fewer good patches, has a greater
technical interest. It is only one, but it is the most remarkable, of
the places where we perceive in Mr Arnold one of the most curious of
the notes of transition-poets. They will not frankly follow another's
metrical form, and they cannot strike out a new one for themselves. In
this piece the author--most attractively to the critic, if not always
quite satisfactorily to the reader--makes for, and flits about,
half-a-dozen different forms of verse. Now it is the equivalenced
octosyllable of the Coleridgean stamp rather than of Scott's or
Byron's; now trochaic decasyllabics of a rather rococo kind; and once
at least a splendid anapæstic couplet, which catches the ear and
clings to the memory for a lifetime--

  "What voices are these on the clear night air?
  What lights in the court? What steps on the stair?"

But the most interesting experiment by far is in the rhymed heroic,
which appears fragmentarily in the first two parts and substantively
in the third. The interest of this, which (one cannot but regret it)
Mr Arnold did not carry further, relapsing on a stiff if stately blank
verse, is not merely intrinsic, but both retrospective and
prospective. It is not the ordinary "stopped" eighteenth-century
couplet at all; nor the earlier one of Drayton and Daniel. It is the
"enjambed," very mobile, and in the right hands admirably fluent and
adaptable couplet, which William Browne and Chamberlayne practised in
the early and middle seventeenth century, which Leigh Hunt revived and
taught to Keats, and of which, later than Mr Arnold himself, Mr
William Morris was such an admirable practitioner. Its use here is
decidedly happy; and the whole of this part shows in Mr Arnold a
temporary Romantic impulse, which again we cannot but regret that he
did not obey. The picture-work of the earlier lines is the best he
ever did. The figure of Iseult with the White Hands stands out with
the right Præ-Raphaelite distinctness and charm; and the story of
Merlin and Vivian, with which, in the manner so dear to him, he
diverts the attention of the reader from the main topic at the end, is
beautifully told. For attaching quality on something like a large
scale I should put this part of _Tristram and Iseult_ much above both
_Sohrab and Rustum_ and _Balder Dead_; but the earlier parts are not
worthy of it, and the whole, like _Empedocles_, is something of a
failure, though both poems afford ample consolation in passages.

The smaller pieces, however, could have saved the volume had their
larger companions been very much weaker. The _Memorial Verses_ on
Wordsworth (published first in _Fraser_) have taken their place once
for all. If they have not the poetical beauty in different ways of
Carew on Donne, of Dryden on Oldham, even of Tickell upon Addison, of
_Adonais_ above all, of Wordsworth's own beautiful _Effusion_ on the
group of dead poets in 1834, they do not fall far short even in this
respect. And for adequacy of meaning, not unpoetically expressed, they
are almost supreme. If Mr Arnold's own unlucky and maimed definition
of poetry as "a criticism of life" had been true, they would be poetry
in quintessence; and, as it is, they are poetry.

Far more so is the glorious _Summer Night_, which came near the middle
of the book. There is a cheering doctrine of mystical optimism which
will have it that a sufficiently intense devotion to any ideal never
fails of at least one moment of consummate realisation and enjoyment.
Such a moment was granted to Matthew Arnold when he wrote _A Summer
Night_. Whether that rather vague life-philosophy of his, that
erection of a melancholy agnosticism _plus_ asceticism into a creed,
was anything more than a not ungraceful or undignified will-worship of
Pride, we need not here argue out. But we have seen how faithfully the
note of it rings through the verse of these years. And here it rings
not only faithfully, but almost triumphantly. The lips are touched at
last: the eyes are thoroughly opened to see what the lips shall speak:
the brain almost unconsciously frames and fills the adequate and
inevitable scheme. And, as always at these right poetic moments, the
minor felicities follow the major. The false rhymes are nowhere; the
imperfect phrases, the little sham simplicities or pedantries, hide
themselves; and the poet is free, from the splendid opening landscape
through the meditative exposition, and the fine picture of the
shipwreck, to the magnificent final invocation of the "Clearness

His freedom, save once, is not so unquestionably exhibited in the
remarkable group of poems--the future constituents of the
_Switzerland_ group, but still not classified under any special
head--which in the original volume chiefly follow _Empedocles_, with
the batch later called "Faded Leaves" to introduce them. It is,
perhaps, if such things were worth attempting at all, an argument for
supposing some real undercurrent of fact or feeling in them, that they
are not grouped at their first appearance, and that some of them are
perhaps designedly separated from the rest. Even the name "Marguerite"
does not appear in _A Farewell_; though nobody who marked as well as
read, could fail to connect it with the _To my Friends_ of the former
volume. We are to suppose, it would appear, that the twelvemonth has
passed, and that Marguerite's anticipation of the renewed kiss is
fulfilled in the first stanzas. But the lover's anticipation, too, is
fulfilled, though as usual not quite as he made it; he wearies of his
restless and yet unmasterful passion; he rather muses and morals in
his usual key on the "way of a man with a maid" than complains or
repines. And then we go off for a time from Marguerite, though not
exactly from Switzerland, in the famous "_Obermann_" stanzas, a
variation of the Wordsworth memorial lines, melodious, but a very
little _impotent_--the English utterance of what Sainte-Beuve, I
think, called "the discouraged generation of 1850." Now mere
discouragement, except as a passing mood, though extremely natural, is
also a little contemptible--pessimism-and-water, mere peevishness to
the "fierce indignation," mere whining compared with the great ironic
despair. As for _Consolation_, which in form as in matter strongly
resembles part of the _Strayed Reveller_, I must say, at the risk of
the charge of Philistinism, that I cannot see why most of it should
not have been printed as prose. In fact, it would be a very bold and
astonishingly ingenious person who, not knowing the original,
perceived any verse-division in this--

  "The bleak, stern hour, whose severe moments I would annihilate,
  is passed by others in warmth, light, joy."

Nor perhaps can very much be said for some of the other things. The
sonnet afterwards entitled _The World's Triumphs_ is not strong;
_The Second Best_ is but "a chain of extremely valuable
thoughts"; _Revolution_ a conceit. _The Youth of Nature_ and
_The Youth of Man_ do but take up less musically the _threnos_ for
Wordsworth. But _Morality_ is both rhyme and poetry; _Progress_ is at
least rhyme; and _The Future_, though rhymeless again, is the best of
all Mr Arnold's waywardnesses of this kind. It is, however, in the
earlier division of the smaller poems--those which come between
_Empedocles_ and _Tristram_--that the interest is most concentrated,
and that the best thing--better as far as its subject is concerned
even than the _Summer Night_--appears. For though all does _not_
depend upon the subject, yet of two poems equally good in other ways,
that which has the better subject will be the better. Here we have the
bulk of the "Marguerite" or _Switzerland_ poems--in other words, we
leave the windy vagaries of mental indigestion and come to the real
things--Life and Love.

_The River_ does not name any one, though the "arch eyes"
identify Marguerite; and _Excuse_, _Indifference_, and _Too
Late_ are obviously of the company. But none of these is exactly of
the first class. We grow warmer with _On the Rhine_, containing,
among other things, the good distich--

  "Eyes too expressive to lie blue,
  Too lovely to be grey";

on which Mr Swinburne gave a probably unconscious _scholion_ as
well as variation in his own--

  "Those eyes, the greenest of things blue,
  The bluest of things grey."

The intense pathos, which the poet could rarely "let himself go"
sufficiently to reach, together with the seventeenth-century touch
which in English not unfrequently rewards the self-sacrifice necessary
to scholarly poets in such abandonment, appears in _Longing_;
_The Lake_ takes up the faint thread of story gracefully enough;
and _Parting_ does the same with more importance in a combination,
sometimes very effective, of iambic couplets and anapaestic strophes,
and with a touch of direct if not exalted nature in its revelation of
that terrible thing, retrospective jealousy, in the lover. Woe to the
man who allows himself to think--

  "To the lips! ah! of others
    Those lips have been pressed,
  And others, ere I was,
    Were clasped to that breast,"

and who does not at once exorcise the demon with the fortunately
all-potent spell of _Bocca bacciata_, and the rest! _Absence_ and
_Destiny_ show him in the same Purgatory; and it is impossible to say
that he has actually escaped in the crowning poem of the series--the
crowning-point perhaps of his poetry, the piece beginning

  "Yes! in the sea of life enisled."

It is neither uninteresting nor unimportant that this exquisite piece,
by a man's admiration of which (for there are some not wholly lost,
who do _not_ admire it) his soundness in the Catholic Faith of
poetry may be tested, perhaps as well as by any other, has borne more
than one or two titles, It is in the 1852 volume, _To Marguerite. In
returning a volume of the letters of Ortis_. In 1853 it became
_Isolation_, its best name; and later it took the much less
satisfactory one of _To Marguerite--continued_, being annexed to

_Isolation_ is preferable for many reasons; not least because the
actual Marguerite appears nowhere in the poem, and, except in the
opening monosyllable, can hardly be said to be even rhetorically
addressed. The poet's affection--it is scarcely passion--is there, but
in transcendence: he meditates more than he feels. And that function
of the riddle of the painful earth which Lucretius, thousands of years
ago, put in his grim _Nequicquam!_ which one of Mr Arnold's own
contemporaries formulated with less magnificence and more popularity,
but still with music and truth in _Strangers Yet_--here receives
almost its final poetical expression. The image--the islands in the
sea--is capitally projected in the first stanza; it is exquisitely
amplified in the second; the moral comes with due force in the third;
and the whole winds up with one of the great poetic phrases of the
century--one of the "jewels five [literally five!] words long" of
English verse--a phrase complete and final, with epithets in unerring

  "The unplumb'd, salt, estranging sea."

_Human Life_, no ill thing in itself, reads a little weakly after
_Isolation_; but _Despondency_ is a pretty piece of melancholy, and,
with a comfortable stool, will suit a man well. In the sonnet, _When I
shall be divorced_, Mr Arnold tried the Elizabethan vein with less
success than in his Shakespeare piece; and _Self-Deception_ and _Lines
written by a Death-Bed_, with some beauty have more monotony. The
closing lines of the last are at the same time the moral of the book
and the formula of the Arnoldian "note"--

  "Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well.
  'Tis all perhaps which man acquires,
  But 'tis not what our youth desires."

Again, we remember some one's parody-remonstrance thirty years later,
and again we may think that the condemnation which Mr Arnold himself
was soon to pronounce upon _Empedocles_ is rather disastrously
far-reaching, while even this phrase is a boomerang. Musical and
philosophical despair is one of the innumerable strings of the poetic
lyre; but 'tis not what our youth, or our age either, desires for a

The remarkable manifesto just referred to was not long delayed.
Whatever may have been his opinion as to the reception of the two
volumes "by A," he made up his mind, a year after the issue and
withdrawal of the second, to put forth a third, with his name, and
containing, besides a full selection from the other two, fresh
specimens of the greatest importance. In the two former there had been
no avowed "purpose"; here, not merely were the contents sifted on
principle, the important _Empedocles_ as well as some minor
things being omitted: not merely did some of the new numbers,
especially _Sohrab and Rustum_, directly and intentionally
illustrate the: poet's theories, but those theories themselves were
definitely put in a _Preface_, which is the most important
critical document issued in England for something like a generation,
and which, as prefixed by a poet to his poetry, admits no competitors
in English, except some work of Dryden's and some of Wordsworth's.

Beginning with his reasons for discarding _Empedocles_, reasons
which he sums up in a sentence, famous, but too important not to
require citation at least in a note,[5] he passes suddenly to the
reasons which were _not_ his, and of which he makes a good
rhetorical starting-point for his main course. The bad critics of that
day had promulgated the doctrine, which they maintained till a time
within the memory of most men who have reached middle life, though the
error has since in the usual course given way to others--that "the
Poet must leave the exhausted past and draw his subjects from matters
of present import." This was the genuine
"_Times_-_v._-all-the-works-of-Thucydides" fallacy of the
mid-nineteenth century, the fine flower of Cobdenism, the heartfelt
motto of Philistia--as Philistia then was. For other times other
Philistines, and Ekron we have always with us, ready, as it was once
said, "to bestow its freedom in pinchbeck boxes" on its elect.

This error Mr Arnold has no difficulty in laying low at once; but
unluckily his swashing blow carries him with it, and he falls headlong
into fresh error himself. "What," he asks very well, "are the eternal
objects of Poetry, among all nations and at all times?" And he
answers--equally well, though not perhaps with impregnable logical
completeness and accuracy--"They are actions, human actions;
possessing an inherent interest in themselves, and which are to be
communicated in an interesting manner by the art of the Poet." Here he
tells the truth, but not the whole truth; he should have added
"thoughts and feelings" to "actions," or he deprives Poetry of half
her realm. But he is so far sufficient against his Harapha (for at
that date there were no critical Goliaths about). Human action
_does_ possess an "inherent," an "eternal," poetical interest and
capacity in itself. That interest, that capacity, is incapable of
"exhaustion"--nay (as Mr Arnold, though with bad arguments as well as
good, urges later), it is, on the whole, a likelier subject for the
poet when it is old, because it is capable of being grasped and
presented more certainly. But the defender hastens to indulge in more
than one of those dangerous sallies from his trenches which have been
fatal to so many heroes. He proclaims that the poet cannot "make an
intrinsically inferior action equally delightful with a more excellent
one by his treatment of it," forgetting that, until the action is
presented, we do not know whether it is "inferior" or not. He asks,
"What modern poem presents personages as interesting as Achilles,
Prometheus, Clytemnestra, Dido?" unsuspicious, or perhaps reckless, of
the fact that not a few men, who admire and know the classics quite as
well as he does, will cheerfully take up his challenge at any weapons
he likes to name, and with a score of instances for his quartette. It
is true that, thanks to the ineptitude of his immediate antagonists,
he recovers himself not ill by cleverly selecting the respectable
Hermann and Dorothea, the stagy-romantic Childe Harold, the creature
called "Jocelyn," and the shadowy or scrappy personages of the
_Excursion_, to match against his four. But this is manifestly
unfair. To bring Lamartine and Wordsworth in as personage-makers is
only honest rhetorically (a kind of honesty on which Wamba or
Launcelot Gobbo shall put the gloss for us). Nay, even those to whom
Goethe and Byron are not the ideal of modern poetry may retort that
Mephistopheles--that even Faust himself--is a much more "interesting"
person than the sulky invulnerable son of Thetis, while Gulnare,
Parisina, and others are not much worse than Dido. But these are mere
details. The main purpose of the _Preface_ is to assert in the most
emphatic manner the Aristotelian (or partly Aristotelian) doctrine
that "All depends on the subject," and to connect the assertion with a
further one, of which even less proof is offered, that "the Greeks
understood this far better than we do," and that they were _also_ the
unapproachable masters of "the grand style." These positions, which,
to do Mr Arnold justice, he maintained unflinchingly to his dying day,
are supported, not exactly by argument, but by a great deal of
ingenious and audacious illustration and variation of statement, even
Shakespeare, even Keats, being arraigned for their wicked refusal to
subordinate "expression" to choice and conception of subject. The
merely Philistine modernism is cleverly set up again that it may be
easily smitten down; the necessity of Criticism, and of the study of
the ancients in order to it, is most earnestly and convincingly
championed; and the piece ends with its other famous sentence about
"the wholesome regulative laws of Poetry" and their "eternal enemy,

As Mr Arnold's critical position will be considered as a whole later,
it would be waste of time to say very much more of this first
manifesto of his. It need only be observed that he might have been
already, as he often was later, besought to give some little notion of
what "the _grand style_" was; that, true and sound as is much of
the Preface, it is not a little exposed to the damaging retort, "Yes:
this is _your_ doxy, and she seems fair to you, no doubt; but so
does ours seem fair to us." Moreover, the "all-depends-on-the-subject"
doctrine here, as always, swerves from one fatal difficulty. If, in
what pleases poetically, poetical expression is always present, while
in only some of what pleases poetically is the subject at the required
height, is it not illogical to rule out, as the source of the poetic
pleasure, that which is always present in favour of that which is
sometimes absent?

We know from the _Letters_--and we should have been able to
divine without them--that _Sohrab and Rustum_, the first in
order, the largest in bulk, and the most ambitious in scheme of the
poems which appeared for the first time in the new volume, was written
in direct exemplification of the theories of the _Preface_. The
theme is old, and though not "classical" in place, is thoroughly so in
its nature, being the story of a combat between a father and a son,
who know not each other till too late, of the generosity of the son,
of the final triumph of the father, of the _anagnorisis_, with
the resignation of the vanquished and the victor's despair. The medium
is blank verse, of a partly but not wholly Miltonic stamp, very
carefully written, and rising at the end into a really magnificent
strain, with the famous picture of "the majestic river" Oxus floating
on regardless of these human woes, to where the stars

  "Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea."

Even here, it is true, the Devil's Advocate may ask whether this, like
the _Mycerinus_ close, that of _Empedocles_, and others,
especially one famous thing, to which we shall come presently, is not
more of a purple tail-patch, a "tag," a "curtain," than of a
legitimate and integral finale. It is certain that Mr Arnold,
following the Greeks in intention no doubt, if not quite so closely as
he intended, was very fond of these "curtains"--these little
rhetorical reconciliations and soothings for the reader. But this is
the most in place of any of them, and certainly the noblest
_tirade_ that its author has left.

Most of the new poems here are at a level but a little lower than this
part of _Sohrab and Rustum_, while some of them are even above it
as wholes. _Philomela_ is beautiful, in spite of the obstinate
will-worship of its unrhymed Pindaric: the _Stanzas to the Memory of
Edward Quillinan_ are really pathetic, though slightly irritating
in their "sweet simplicity"; and if _Thekla's Answer_ is nothing
particular, _The Neckan_ nothing but a weaker doublet of the
_Merman, A Dream_ is noteworthy in itself, and as an outlier of
the _Marguerite_ group. Then we have three things, of which the
first is, though unequal, great at the close, while the other two rank
with the greatest things Mr Arnold ever did. These are _The Church
of Brou_, _Requiescat_, and _The Scholar-Gipsy_.

If, as no critic ever can, the critic could thoroughly discover the
secret of the inequality of _The Church of Brou_, he might, like
the famous pedant, "put away" Mr Arnold "fully conjugated in his
desk." The poem is in theme and scheme purely Romantic, and
"nineteenth century" in its looking back to a simple and pathetic
story of the Middle Age--love, bereavement, and pious resignation. It
is divided into three parts. The first, in trochaic ballad metre,
telling the story, is one of the poet's weakest things. You may oft
see as good in Helen Maria Williams and the Delia Cruscans. The
second, describing the church where the duke and duchess sleep, in an
eight-line stanza of good fashion, is satisfactory but nothing more.
And then the third, after a manner hardly paralleled save in Crashaw's
_Flaming Heart_, breaks from twaddle and respectable verse into a
rocket-rush of heroic couplets, scattering star-showers of poetry all
over and round the bewildered reader. It is artifice rather than art,
perhaps, to lisp and drawl, that, when you _do_ speak out, your
speech may be the more effective. But hardly anything can make one
quarrel with such a piece of poetry as that beginning--

  "So rest, for ever rest, O princely pair!"

and ending--

  "The rustle of the eternal rain of Love."

On the other hand, in _Requiescat_ there is not a false note,
unless it be the dubious word "vasty" in the last line; and even that
may shelter itself under the royal mantle of Shakespeare. The poet has
here achieved what he too often fails in, the triple union of
simplicity, pathos, and (in the best sense) elegance. The dangerous
repetitions of "roses, roses," "tired, tired," &c., come all right;
and above all he has the flexibility and quiver of metre that he too
often lacks. His trisyllabic interspersions--the leap in the vein that
makes iambic verse alive and passionate--are as happy as they can be,
and the relapse into the uniform dissyllabic gives just the right
contrast. He must be [Greek: ê thêrion ê theos]--and whichever he
be, he is not to be envied--who can read _Requiescat_ for the
first or the fiftieth time without mist in the eyes and without a
catch in the voice.

But the greatest of these--the greatest by far--is
_The Scholar-Gipsy_. I have read--and that not once only, nor
only in the works of unlettered and negligible persons--expressions of
irritation at the local Oxonian colour. This is surely amazing. One
may not be an Athenian, and never have been at Athens, yet be able to
enjoy the local colour of the _Phædrus_. One may not be an
Italian, and never have been in Italy, yet find the _Divina
Commedia_ made not teasing but infinitely vivid and agreeable by
Dante's innumerable references to his country, Florentine and general.
That some keener thrill, some nobler gust, may arise in the reading of
the poem to those who have actually watched

  "The line of festal light in Christ Church Hall"

from above Hinksey, who know the Fyfield elm in May, and have "trailed
their fingers in the stripling Thames" at Bablockhithe,--may be
granted. But in the name of Bandusia and of Gargarus, what offence can
these things give to any worthy wight who by his ill luck has not seen
them with eyes? The objection is so apt to suggest a suspicion, as
illiberal almost as itself, that one had better not dwell on it.

Let us hope that there are after all few to whom it has presented
itself--that most, even if they be not sons by actual matriculation of
Oxford, feel that, as of other "Cities of God," they are citizens of
her by spiritual adoption, and by the welcome accorded in all such
cities to God's children. But if the scholar had been an alumnus of
Timbuctoo, and for Cumnor and Godstow had been substituted strange
places in _-wa_ and _-ja_, I cannot think that, even to
those who are of Oxford, the intrinsic greatness of this noble poem
would be much affected, though it might lose a separable charm. For it
has everything--a sufficient scheme, a definite meaning and purpose, a
sustained and adequate command of poetical presentation, and passages
and phrases of the most exquisite beauty. Although it begins as a
pastoral, the mere traditional and conventional frippery of that form
is by no means so prominent in it as in the later (and, I think, less
consummate) companion and sequel _Thyrsis_. With hardly an
exception, the poet throughout escapes in his phraseology the two main
dangers which so constantly beset him--too great stiffness and too
great simplicity. His "Graian" personification is not overdone; his
landscape is exquisite; the stately stanza not merely sweeps, but
sways and swings, with as much grace as state. And therefore the
Arnoldian "note"--the special form of the _maladie du siècle_
which, as we have seen, this poet chooses to celebrate--acquires for
once the full and due poetic expression and music, both symphonic and
in such special clangours as the never-to-be-too-often-quoted

  "Still nursing the unconquerable hope,
  Still clutching the inviolable shade"--

which marks the highest point of the composition.

The only part on which there may be some difference between admirers
is the final simile of the Tyrian trader. This finishes off the piece
in nineteen lines, of which the poet was--and justly--proud, which are
quite admirable by themselves, but which cannot perhaps produce any
very clear evidences of right to be where they are. No ingenuity can
work out the parallel between the "uncloudedly joyous" scholar who is
bid avoid the palsied, diseased _enfants du siècle_, and the
grave Tyrian who was indignant at the competition of the merry Greek,
and shook out more sail to seek fresh markets. It is, once more,
simply an instance of Mr Arnold's fancy for an end-note of relief, of
cheer, of pleasant contrast. On his own most rigid principles, I fear
it would have to go as a mere sewn-on patch of purple: on mine, I
welcome it as one of the most engaging passages of a poem delightful
throughout, and at its very best the equal of anything that was
written in its author's lifetime, fertile as that was in poetry.

He himself, though he was but just over thirty when this poem
appeared, and though his life was to last for a longer period than had
passed since his birth to 1853, was to make few further contributions
to poetry itself. The reasons of this comparative sterility are
interesting, and not quite so obvious as they may appear. It is true,
indeed,--it is an arch-truth which has been too rarely
recognised,--that something like complete idleness, or at any rate
complete freedom from regular mental occupation, is necessary to the
man who is to do poetic work great in quality and in quantity at once.
The hardest occupation--and Mr Arnold's, though hard, was not exactly
that--will indeed leave a man sufficient time, so far as mere time is
concerned, to turn out as much verse as the most fertile of poets has
ever produced. But then that will scarcely do. The Muses are
feminine--and it has been observed that you cannot make up even to the
most amiable and reasonable of that sex for refusing to attend to her
at the minute when she wants _you_, by devoting even hours, even days,
when you are at leisure for _her_. To put the thing more seriously,
though perhaps not more truly, the human brain is not so constituted
that you can ride or drive or "train" from school to school, examining
as you go, for half-a-dozen or half-a-score hours a-day, or that you
can devote the same time to the weariest and dreariest of all
businesses, the reading of hundreds of all but identical answers to
the same stock questions, and yet be fresh and fertile for imaginative
composition. The nearest contradictory instances to this proposition
are those of Scott and Southey, and they are, in more ways than one or
two, very damaging instances--exceptions which, in a rather horrible
manner, do prove the rule. To less harassing, and especially less
peremptory, work than Mr Arnold's, as well as far more literary in
kind, Scott sacrificed the minor literary graces, Southey immolated
the choicer fruits of genius which he undoubtedly possessed the power
of producing; and both "died from the top downward."

But there was something more than this. Mr Arnold's poetic ambition,
as we have seen, did not aim at very long and elaborate works. His
forte was the occasional piece--which might still suggest itself and
be completed--which, as we shall see, did sometimes suggest itself and
was completed--in the intervals, the holidays, the relaxations of his
task. And if these lucid and lucent intervals, though existent, were
so rare, their existence and their rarity together suggest that
something more than untoward circumstance is to blame for the fact
that they did not show themselves oftener. A full and constant tide of
inspiration is imperative; it will not be denied; it may kill the poet
if he cannot or will not give vent to it, but it will not be patient
of repression--quietly content to appear now and then, even on such
occasions as the deaths of a Clough and a Stanley. Nor is it against
charity or liberality, while it is in the highest degree consonant
with reason and criticism, to infer that Mr Arnold's poetic vein was
not very full-blooded, that it was patient of refusal to indulge it,
that his poetry, in nearly the happiest of his master's phrases, was
not exactly "inevitable," despite the exquisiteness of its quality on

It is fortunate for the biographer that this earliest part of Mr
Arnold's life is so fertile in poetry, for otherwise, in the dearth of
information, it would be a terribly barren subject. The thirty years
of life yield us hardly twenty pages of letters, of which the first,
with its already cited sketch of Laleham, is perhaps the most
interesting. At the Trafalgar Square riots of March 1848 the writer is
convinced that "the hour of the hereditary peerage and eldest sonship
and immense properties has struck"; sees "a wave of more than American
vulgarity, moral, intellectual, and social, preparing to break over
us"; and already holds that strange delusion of his that "the French
are the most civilised of European peoples." He develops this on the
strength of "the intelligence of their idea-moved classes" in a letter
to his sister; meets Emerson in April; goes to a Chartist
"convention," and has a pleasant legend for Miss Martineau that the
late Lord Houghton "refused to be sworn in as a special constable,
that he might be free to assume the post of President of the Republic
at a moment's notice." He continues to despair of his country as
hopelessly as the Tuxford waiter;[6] finds Bournemouth "a very stupid
place"--which is distressing; it is a stupid place enough now, but it
was not then: "a great moorland covered with furze and low pine coming
down to the sea" could never be that--and meets Miss Brontë, "past
thirty and plain, with expressive grey eyes though." The rest we must


[1] The editor glosses this variously spelt and etymologically
puzzling word "landing-stage." But unless I mistake, a "kempshott,"
"campshed," or "campshedding" is not a landing-stage (though it helps
to make one) so much as a river-wall of stakes and planks, put to
guard the bank against floods, the wash of barges, &c.

[2] _Glen Desseray and other Poems_. By John Campbell Shairp,
London, 1888. P. 218.

[3] This statement may seem too sweeping, especially as there is
neither room nor occasion for justifying it fully. Let us only
indicate, as among the heads of such a justification, the following
sins of English criticism between 1840-1860,--the slow and reluctant
acceptance even of Tennyson, even of Thackeray; the obstinate refusal
to give Browning, even after _Bells and Pomegranates_, a fair
hearing; the recalcitrance to Carlyle among the elder, and Mr Ruskin
among the younger, innovators in prose; the rejection of a book of
erratic genius like _Lavengro_; the ignoring of work of such
combined intrinsic beauty and historic importance as _The Defence of
Guenevere_ and FitzGerald's _Omar Khayyam_. For a sort of
quintessence of literary Philistinism, see the advice of Richard Ford
(himself no Philistine) to George Borrow, in Professor Knapp's
_Life_ of the latter, i. 387.

[4] This "undertone," as Mr Shairp calls it.

[5] "What, then, are the situations, from the representation of which,
though accurate, no poetical enjoyment can be derived? They are those
in which the suffering finds no vent in action; in which a continuous
state of mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, hope,
or resistance; in which there is everything to be endured, nothing to
be done. In such situations there is inevitably something morbid, in
the description of them something monotonous. When they occur in
actual life, they are painful, not tragic; the representation of them
in poetry is painful also."

[6] "The Tuxford waiter desponds exactly as you do."--_Sydney Smith
to Jeffrey_.



We must now return a little and give some account of Mr Arnold's
actual life, from a period somewhat before that reached at the end of
the last chapter. The account need not be long, for the life, as has
been said, was not in the ordinary sense eventful; but it is
necessary, and can be in this chapter usefully interspersed with an
account of his work, which, for nine of the eleven years we shall
cover, was, though interesting, of much less interest than that of
those immediately before and those immediately succeeding.

One understands at least part of the reason for the gradual drying up
of his poetic vein from a sentence of his in a letter of 1858, when he
and his wife at last took a house in Chester Square: "It will be
something to unpack one's portmanteau for the first time since I was
married, nearly seven years ago." "Something," indeed; and one's only
wonder is how he, and still more Mrs Arnold (especially as they now
had three children), could have endured the other thing so long. There
is no direct information in the _Letters_ as to the reason of
this nomadic existence, the only headquarters of which appear to have
been the residence of Mrs Arnold's father, the judge, in Eaton Place,
with flights to friends' houses and to lodgings at the places of
inspection and others, especially Dover and Brighton. And guesswork is
nowhere more unprofitable than in cases where private matters of
income, taste, and other things are concerned. But it certainly would
appear, though I have no positive information on the subject, that in
the early days of State interference with education "My Lords" managed
matters with an equally sublime disregard of the comfort of their
officials and the probable efficiency of the system.[1]

Till I noticed the statement quoted opposite, I was quite unable to
construct any reasonable theory from such a passage as that in a
letter of December 1852[2] and from others which show us Mr Arnold in
Lincolnshire, in Shropshire, and in the eastern counties. Even with
the elucidation it seems a shockingly bad system. One doubts whether
it be worse for an inspector or for the school inspected by him, that
he should have no opportunity for food from breakfast to four o'clock,
when he staves off death by inviting disease in the shape of the
malefic bun; for him or for certain luckless pupil-teachers that,
after dinner, he should be "in for [them] till ten o'clock." With this
kind of thing when on duty, and no home when off it, a man must begin
to appreciate the Biblical passages about partridges, and the wings of
a dove, and so forth, most heartily and vividly long before seven
years are out, more particularly if he be a man so much given to
domesticity as was Matthew Arnold.

However, it was, no doubt, not so bad as it looks. They say the rack
is not, though probably no one would care to try. There were holidays;
there was a large circle of hospitable family friends, and strangers
were only too anxious to welcome (and perhaps to propitiate) Her
Majesty's Inspector. The agreeable anomalies of the British legal
system (which, let Dickens and other grumblers say what they like,
have made many good people happy and only a few miserable) allowed Mr
Arnold for many years to act (sometimes while simultaneously
inspecting) as his father-in-law's Marshal on circuit, with varied
company and scenery, little or nothing to do, a handsome fee for doing
it, and no worse rose-leaf in the bed than heavy dinners and hot port
wine, even this being alleviated by "the perpetual haunch of venison."

For the rest, there are some pleasing miscellaneous touches in the
letters for these years, and there is a certain liveliness of phrase
in them which disappears in the later. It is pleasant to find Mr
Arnold on his first visit to Cambridge (where, like a good
Wordsworthian, he wanted above all things to see the statue of Newton)
saying what all of us say, "I feel that the Middle Ages, and all their
poetry and impressiveness, are in Oxford and not here." In one letter
--written to his sister "K" (Mrs Forster) as his critical letters
usually are--we find three noteworthy criticisms on contemporaries,
all tinged with that slight want of cordial appreciation which
characterises his criticism of this kind throughout (except, perhaps,
in the case of Browning). The first is on Alexander Smith--it was the
time of the undue ascension of the _Life-Drama_ rocket before its
equally undue fall. "It can do me no good [an odd phrase] to be
irritated with that young man, who certainly has an extraordinary
faculty, although I think he is a phenomenon of a very dubious
character." The second, harsher but more definite, is on
_Villette_. "Why is _Villette_ disagreeable? Because the
writer's mind [it is worth remembering that he had met Charlotte
Brontë at Miss Martineau's] contains nothing but hunger, rebellion,
and rage, and therefore that is all she can in fact put into her book.
No fine writing can hide this thoroughly, and it will be fatal to her
in the long-run." The Fates were kinder: and Miss Brontë's mind did
contain something besides these ugly things. But it _was_ her
special weakness that her own thoughts and experiences were
insufficiently mingled and tempered by a wider knowledge of life and
literature. The third is on _My Novel_, which he says he has
"read with great pleasure, though Bulwer's nature is by no means a
perfect one either, which makes itself felt in his book; but his gush,
his better humour, his abundant materials, and his mellowed
constructive skill--all these are great things." One would give many
pages of the _Letters_ for that naïf admission that "gush" is "a
great thing."

A little later (May 1853), all his spare time is being spent on a
poem, which he thinks by far the best thing he has yet done, to wit,
_Sohrab and Rustum_. And he "never felt so sure of himself or so
really and truly at ease as to criticism." He stays in barracks at the
depot of the 17th Lancers with a brother-in-law, and we regret to find
that "Death or Glory" manners do not please him. The instance is a
cornet spinning his rings on the table after dinner. "College does
civilise a boy," he ejaculates, which is true--always providing that
it is a good college. Yet, with that almost unconscious naturalness
which is particularly noticeable in him, he is much dissatisfied with
Oxford--thinks it (as we all do) terribly fallen off since _his_
days. Perhaps the infusion of Dissenters' sons (it is just at the time
of the first Commission in 1854) may brace its flaccid sinews, though
the middle-class, he confesses, is abominably disagreeable. He sees a
good deal of this poor middle-class in his inspecting tours, and
decides elsewhere about the same time that "of all dull, stagnant,
unedifying _entourages_, that of middle-class Dissent is the
stupidest." It is sad to find that he thinks women utterly unfit for
teachers and lecturers; but Girton and Lady Margaret's may take
comfort, it is "no natural incapacity, but the fault of their
bringing-up." With regard to his second series of _Poems_ (_v.
infra_) he thinks _Balder_ will "consolidate the peculiar sort
of reputation he got by _Sohrab and Rustum_;" and a little later,
in April 1856, we have his own opinion of himself as a poet, whose
charm is "literalness and simplicity." Mr Ruskin is also treated--with
less appreciation than one could wish.

The second series just mentioned was issued in 1855, a second edition
of the first having been called for the year before. It contained,
like its predecessor, such of his earlier work as he chose to
republish and had not yet republished, chiefly from the
_Empedocles_ volume. But _Empedocles_ itself was only
represented by some scraps, mainly grouped as _The Harp-Player on
Etna. Faded Leaves_, grouped with an addition, here appear:
_Stagirius_ is called _Desire_, and the _Stanzas in Memory
of the Author of Obermann_ now become _Obermann_ simply. Only
two absolutely new poems, a longer and a shorter, appear: the first is
_Balder Dead_, the second _Separation_, the added number of
_Faded Leaves_. This is of no great value. _Balder_ is interesting,
though not extremely good. Its subject is connected with that of
Gray's _Descent of Odin_, but handled much more fully, and in
blank-verse narrative instead of ballad form. The story, like most of
those in Norse mythology, has great capabilities; but it may be
questioned whether the Greek-Miltonic chastened style which the poet
affects is well calculated to bring them out. The death of Nanna, and
the blind fratricide Hoder, are touchingly done, and Hermod's ride to
Hela's realm is stately. But as a whole the thing is rather dim and

Mr Arnold's election to the Professorship of Poetry at Oxford (May
1857) was a really notable event, not merely in his own career, but to
some, and no small, extent in the history of English literature during
the nineteenth century. The post is of no great value. I remember the
late Sir Francis Doyle, who was Commissioner of Customs as well as
Professor, saying to me once with a humorous melancholy, "Ah! Eau de
Cologne pays _much_ better than Poetry!" But its duties are far
from heavy, and can be adjusted pretty much as the holder pleases. And
as a position it is unique. It is, though not of extreme antiquity,
the oldest purely literary Professorship in the British Isles; and it
remained, till long after Mr Arnold's time, the only one of the kind
in the two great English Universities. In consequence partly of the
regulation that it can be held for ten years only--nominally five,
with a practically invariable re-election for another five--there is
at least the opportunity, which, since Mr Arnold's own time, has been
generally taken, of maintaining and refreshing the distinction of the
occupant of the chair. Before his time there had been a good many
undistinguished professors, but Warton and Keble, in their different
ways, must have adorned even a Chair of Poetry even in the University
of Oxford. Above all, the entire (or almost entire) freedom of action
left to the Professor should have, and in the case of Keble at least
had already had, the most stimulating effect on minds capable of
stimulation. For the Professor of Poetry at Oxford is neither, like
some Professors, bound to the chariot-wheels of examinations and
courses of set teaching, nor, like others, has he to feel that his
best, his most original, efforts can have no interest, and hardly any
meaning, for all but a small circle of experts. His field is
illimitable; his expatiation in it is practically untrammelled. It is
open to all; full of flowers and fruits that all can enjoy; and it
only depends on his own choice and his own literary and intellectual
powers whether his prelections shall take actual rank as literature
with the very best of that other literature, with the whole of which,
by custom, as an extension from poetry, he is at liberty to deal. In
the first century of the chair the custom of delivering these
Prelections in Latin had been a slight hamper--indeed to this day it
prevents the admirable work of Keble from being known as it should be
known. But this was now removed, and Mr Arnold, whose reputation (it
could hardly be called fame as yet) was already great with the knowing
ones, had not merely Oxford but the English reading world as audience.

And he had it at a peculiarly important time, to the importance of
which he himself, in this very position, was not the least
contributor. Although the greatest writers of the second period of the
century--Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Thackeray--had, in all cases but
the last, a long, and in the two first a very long and a wonderfully
fruitful career still before them, yet the phase to which they
belonged was as a dominant phase at its height, and as a crescent was
beginning to give place to another. Within a few years--in most cases
within a few months--of Mr Arnold's installation, _The Defence of
Guenevere_ and FitzGerald's _Omar Khayyam_ heralded fresh
forms of poetry which have not been superseded yet; _The Origin of
Species_ and _Essays and Reviews_ announced changed attitudes
of thought; the death of Macaulay removed the last writer who, modern
as he was in some ways, and popular, united popularity with a
distinctly eighteenth-century tone and tradition; the death of Leigh
Hunt removed the last save Landor (always and in all things an
outsider) of the great Romantic generation of the first third of the
century; _The Ordeal of Richard Feverel_ started a new kind of

The division which Mr Arnold, both by office and taste, was called to
lead in this newly levied army, was not far from being the most
important of all; and it was certainly that of all which required the
most thorough reformation of staff, _morale_,[3] and tactics. The
English literary criticism of 1830-1860, speaking in round numbers, is
curiously and to this day rather unintelligibly bad. There is, no
doubt, no set of matters in which it is less safe to generalise than
in matters literary, and this is by no means the only instance in
which the seemingly natural anticipation that a period of great
criticism will follow a period of great creation is falsified. But it
most certainly is falsified here. The criticism of the great Romantic
period of 1798-1830 was done for it by itself, and in some cases by
its greatest practitioners, not by its immediate successors. The
philosophic as well as poetical intuition of Coleridge; the marvellous
if capricious sympathy and the more marvellous phrase of Lamb; the
massive and masculine if not always quite trustworthy or well-governed
intellect of Hazlitt, had left no likes behind. Two survivors of this
great race, Leigh Hunt and De Quincey, were indeed critics, and no
inconsiderable ones; but the natural force of both had long been much
abated, and both had been not so much critics as essayists; the
tendency of Hunt to flowery sentimentality or familiar chat, and that
of De Quincey to incessant divergences of "rigmarole," being
formidable enemies to real critical competence. The greatest prosemen
--not novelists--of the generation now closing, Carlyle and Macaulay,
were indeed both considerable critics. But the shadow of death in the
one case, the "shadow of Frederick" in the other, had cut short their
critical careers: and presumptuous as the statement may seem, it may
be questioned whether either had been a great critic--in criticism
pure and simple--of literature.

What is almost more important is that the _average_ literary
criticism of William IV.'s reign and of the first twenty years of her
present Majesty's was exceedingly bad. At one side, of course, the
work of men like Thackeray, who were men of genius but not critics by
profession, or in some respects by equipment, escapes this verdict. At
the other were men (very few of them indeed) like Lockhart, who had
admirable critical qualifications, but had allowed certain theories
and predilections to harden and ossify within them, and who in some
cases had not outgrown the rough uncivil ways of the great
revolutionary struggle. Between these the average critic, if not quite
so ignorant of literature as a certain proportion of the immensely
larger body of reviewers to-day, was certainly even more blind to its
general principles. Such critical work as that of Phillips, long a
favourite pen on the _Times_, and enjoying (I do not know with
how much justice) the repute of being the person whom Thackeray's
_Thunder and Small Beer_ has gibbeted for ever, excites amazement
nowadays at its bland but evidently sincere ignoring of the very
rudiments of criticism. I do not know that even in the most
interesting remains of George Brimley (who, had fate spared him, might
have grown into a great as he already was a good critic) we may not
trace something of the same hopeless amateurishness, the same
uncertainty and "wobbling" between the expression of unconnected and
unargued likes and dislikes concerning the matter of the piece, and
real critical considerations on its merits or demerits of scheme and

Not for the first time help came to us Trojans _Graia ab urbe_.
Of the general merits of French literary criticism it is possible to
entertain a somewhat lower idea than that which (in consequence of the
very circumstances with which we are now dealing) it has been for many
years fashionable in England to hold. But between 1830 and 1860 the
French had a very strong critical school indeed--a school whose
scholars and masters showed the dæmonic, or at least prophetic,
inspiration of Michelet, the milder and feebler but still inspiring
enthusiasm of Quinet, the academic clearness and discipline of
Villemain and Nisard, the Lucianic wit of Mérimée, the matchless
appreciation of Gautier, and, above all, the great new critical
idiosyncrasy of Sainte-Beuve. Between these men there were the widest
possible differences, not merely of personal taste and genius, but of
literary theory and practice. But where they all differed quite
infinitely from the lower class of English critics, and favourably
from all but the highest in their happiest moments, was in a singular
mixture of scholarship and appreciation. Even the most Romantic of
them usually tried to compare the subject with its likes in his own
and even, to some extent, in other literatures; even the most
Classical acknowledged, to some extent, that it was his duty to
appreciate, to understand, to grasp the case of the victim before
ordering him off to execution.

In the practice of Sainte-Beuve himself, these two acknowledgments of
the duty of the critic embraced each other in the happiest union. The
want of enthusiasm which has been sometimes rather sillily charged
against him, comes in reality to no more than this--that he is too
busy in analysing, putting together again, comparing, setting things
in different lights and in different companies, to have much time for
dithyrambs. And the preference of second-to first-class subjects,
which has been also urged, is little more than the result of the fact
that these processes are more telling, more interesting, and more
needed in the case of the former than in the case of the latter.
Homer, Æschylus, Lucretius, Dante, Shakespeare will always make their
own way with all fit readers sooner or later: it is not so with
Meleager or Macrobius or Marmontel, with William Langland or with
Thomas Love Peacock.

But Sainte-Beuve must not carry us too far from Mr Arnold, all
important as was the influence of the one upon the other. It is enough
to say that the new Professor of Poetry (who might be less
appetisingly but more correctly called a Professor of Criticism) had
long entertained the wish to attempt, and now had the means of
effecting, a reform in English criticism, partly on Sainte-Beuve's own
lines, partly on others which he had already made publicly known in
his famous Preface, and in some later critical writings, and which he
was for the rest of his life always unflinchingly to champion,
sometimes rather disastrously to extend.

Still it has always been held that this chair is not _merely_ a
chair of criticism; and Mr Arnold lodged a poetical diploma-piece in
the shape of _Merope_. This was avowedly written as a sort of
professorial manifesto--a document to show what the only Professor of
Poetry whom England allowed herself thought, in theory and practice,
of at least dramatic poetry. It was, as was to be expected from the
author's official position and his not widespread but well-grounded
reputation, much less neglected than his earlier poetry had been. He
even tells us that "it sells well"; but the reviewers were not
pleased. The _Athenæum_ review is "a choice specimen of style,"
and the _Spectator_ "of argumentation"; the _Saturday Review_ is only
"deadly prosy," but none were exactly favourable till G.H. Lewes in
_The Leader_ was "very gratifying." Private criticism was a little
kinder. The present Archbishop of Canterbury (to whom, indeed, Mr
Arnold had just given "a flaming testimonial for Rugby") read it "with
astonishment at its goodness," a sentence which, it may be observed,
is a little double-edged. Kingsley (whom the editor of the _Letters_
good-naturedly but perhaps rather superfluously reintroduces to the
British public as "author of _The Saints' Tragedy_ and other poems")
was "very handsome." Froude, though he begs the poet to "discontinue
the line," was not uncomplimentary in other ways. His own conclusion,
from reviews and letters together, is pretty plainly put in two
sentences, that he "saw the book was not going to take as he wished,"
and that "she [Merope] is more calculated to inaugurate my
professorship with dignity than to move deeply the present race of
_humans_." Let us see what "she" is actually like.

It is rather curious that the story of Merope should have been so
tempting as, to mention nothing else, Maffei's attempt in Italian,
Voltaire's in French, and this of Mr Arnold's in English, show it to
have been to modern admirers and would-be practitioners of the
Classical drama: and the curiosity is of a tell-tale kind. For the
fact is that the _donnée_ is very much more of the Romantic than of
the Classical description, and offers much greater conveniences to the
Romantic than to the Classical practitioner. With minor variations,
the story as generally dramatised is this. Merope, the widowed queen
of the murdered Heraclid Cresphontes, has saved her youngest son from
the murderer and usurper, Polyphontes, and sent him out of the
country. When he has grown up, and has secretly returned to Messenia
to take vengeance, Polyphontes is pressing Merope to let bygones be
bygones and marry him, so as to reconcile the jarring parties in the
State. Æpytus, the son, to facilitate his reception, represents
himself as a messenger charged to bring the news of his own death; and
Merope, hearing this and believing the messenger to be also the
assassin, obtains access to the chamber where he is resting after his
journey, and is about to murder her own sleeping son when he is saved
by the inevitable _anagnorisis_. The party of Cresphontes is then
secretly roused. Æpytus, at the sacrifice which the tyrant holds in
honour of the news of his rival's death, snatches the sacrificial axe
and kills Polyphontes himself, and all ends well.

There is, of course, a strong dramatic moment here; but I cannot think
the plot by any means an ideal one for classical tragedy. At any rate
the Aristotelian conditions--the real ones, not the fanciful
distortions of sixteenth-seventeenth century criticism--are very ill
satisfied. There is bloodshed, but there is no tragic bloodshed, as
there would have been had Merope actually killed her son. The
arresting and triumphant "grip" of the tragic misfortunes of Oedipus
and Orestes, the combination of the course of fate and the [Greek:
hamartia] of the individual, is totally absent. The wooing of Merope
by Polyphontes is not so much preposterous as insignificant, though
Voltaire, by a touch of modernism, has rescued it or half-rescued it
from this most terrible of limbos. The right triumphs, no doubt; but
who cares whether it does or not? And Mr Arnold, with the heroic
obstinacy of the doctrinaire, has done nothing to help the effect of a
scheme in itself sufficiently uninspiring to the modern reader. When
he was at work upon the piece he had "thought and hoped" that it would
have what Buddha called "the character of Fixity, that true sign of
the law." A not unfriendly critic might have pointed out, with gloomy
forebodings, that a sign of law is not necessarily a sign of poetry,
and that, as a prophet of his own had laid it down, poetry should
"transport" not "fix." At any rate, it is clear to any one who reads
the book that the author was in a mood of deliberate provocation and
exaggeration--not a favourable mood for art. The quiet grace of
Sophocles is perhaps impossible to reproduce in English, but Mr
Arnold's verse is more than quiet, it is positively tame. The dreary
_tirades_ of Polyphontes and Merope, and their snip-snap
_stichomythia_, read equally ill in English. Mr Swinburne, who has
succeeded where Mr Arnold failed, saw by a true intuition that, to
equal the effect of the Greek chorus, full English lyric with rhyme
and musical sweep was required. Mr Arnold himself, as might have been
expected from his previous experiments in unrhymed Pindarics, has
given us strophes and antistrophes most punctiliously equivalent in
syllables; but sometimes with hardly any, and never with very much,
vesture of poetry about them. It is absolutely preposterous to suppose
that the effect on a Greek ear of a strophe even of Sophocles or
Euripides, let alone the great Agamemnonian choruses, was anything
like the effect on an English ear of such wooden stuff as this:--

  "Three brothers roved the field,
  And to two did Destiny
  Give the thrones that they conquer'd,
  But the third, what delays him
  From his unattained crown?"

But Mr Arnold would say "This is your unchaste modern love for
passages and patches. Tell me how I managed this worthy action?" To
which the only answer can be, "Sir, the action is rather
uninteresting. Save at one moment you have not raised the interest
anywhere, and you have certainly not made the most of it there."

The fact is, that very few even of thorough-going Arnoldians have had,
or, except merely as "fighting a prize," could have had, much to say
for _Merope_. The author pleads that he only meant "to give people a
specimen of the world created by the Greek imagination." In the first
place, one really cannot help (with the opening speech of the
_Prometheus_, and the close of the _Eumenides_, and the whole of the
_Agamemnon_ in one's mind) saying that this is rather hard on the
Greeks. And in the second place, what a curious way of setting about
the object, when luckily specimens of the actual "world" so "created,"
not mere _pastiches_ and plaster models of them, are still to be had,
and of the very best! But the fact is, thirdly, that Mr Arnold, as all
men so often do, and as he not very seldom did, was clearly trying not
so much to extol one thing as to depreciate another. Probably in his
heart of hearts (which is generally a much wiser heart than that
according to which the mouth speaks and the pen writes) he knew his
failure. At any rate, he never attempted anything of the kind again,
and Merope, that queen of plaster, remains alone in his gallery, with,
as we see in other galleries, merely some _disjecta membra_--"Fragment
of an _Antigone_," "Fragment of a _Dejaneira_," grouped at her feet.
In the definitive edition indeed, she is not with these but with
_Empedocles on Etna_, a rather unlucky contrast. For _Empedocles_, if
very much less deliberately Greek than _Merope_, is very much better
poetry, and it is almost impossible that the comparison of the two
should not suggest to the reader that the attempt to be Greek is
exactly and precisely the cause of the failure to be poetical. Mr
Arnold had forgotten his master's words about the _oikeia hedone_. The
pleasure of Greek art is one thing--the pleasure of English poetry

His inaugural lecture, "On the Modern Element in Literature," was
printed many years afterwards in _Macmillan's Magazine_ for February
1869; and this long hesitation seems to have been followed by an even
longer repentance, for the piece was never included in any one of his
volumes of essays. But the ten years of his professorship are,
according to the wise parsimony of the chair, amply represented by the
two famous little books--_On Translating Homer_, which, with its
supplementary "Last Words," appeared in 1861-62, and _On the Study of
Celtic Literature_, which appeared at the termination of his tenure in
1867. It may be questioned whether he ever did anything of more
influence than these books, this being due partly to the fashion of
their publication--which, in the latter case at least, applied the
triple shock of lecture at the greatest of English literary centres,
of magazine article, and of book--and partly to the fact that they
were about subjects in which a real or a factitious, a direct or an
indirect, interest was taken by almost every one. Every educated
person knew and cared something (or at least would not have liked to
be supposed not to care and know something) about Homer; very few
educated persons knew anything about Celtic literature. But in these
later lectures he put in a more popular and provocative form than that
of his _French Eton_ (see next chapter) that mixture of literary,
political, social, and miscellaneous critique of his countrymen for
which he was thenceforward best known; and which, if it brought down
some hard knocks from his adversaries, and perhaps was not altogether
a healthy mixture for himself, could at least not be charged by any
reasonable person with lack of piquancy and actuality.

Both books are, and, despite some drawbacks of personal and ephemeral
allusion, always will be, interesting; and both had, perhaps even more
than the _Essays in Criticism_ themselves, a stimulating effect
upon English men of letters which can hardly be overvalued. It may
indeed be said without paradox that they owe not a little of their
value to their faults; but they owe a great deal more to their merits.

The faults are apparent enough even in the first series, which falls
to be noticed in this chapter; yet it is really difficult to say when
a more important book of English criticism had appeared. Dryden's
_Essay of Dramatic Poesy_, Johnson's _Lives_ at their frequent best,
Coleridge's _Biographia Literaria_, are greater things; but hardly the
best of them was in its day more "important for _us_." To read even
the best of that immediately preceding criticism of which something
has been said above--nay, even to recur to Coleridge and Hazlitt and
Lamb--and then to take up _On Translating Homer_, is to pass to a
critic with a far fuller equipment, with a new method, with a style of
his own, and with an almost entirely novel conception of the whole art
of criticism. For the first time (even Coleridge with much wider
reading had not co-ordinated it from this point of view) we find the
two great ancient and the three or four great modern literatures of
Europe taken synoptically, used to illustrate and explain each other,
to point out each other's defects and throw up each other's merits.
Almost for the first time, too, we have ancient literature treated
more or less like modern--neither from the merely philological point
of view, nor with reference to the stock platitudes and traditions
about it. The critic is not afraid of doctrines and general
principles--in fact, he is rather too fond of them--but his object is
anything rather than mere arid deduction and codification. He has the
aesthetic sense as thoroughly as Hazlitt and Lamb, but without the
wilfulness of either, or at least with a different kind of wilfulness
from that of either. Finally, in one of the numerous ways in which he
shows that his subject is alive to him, he mixes it up with the
queerest personalities and sudden zigzags, with all manner of
digressions and side-flings. And last of all, he has that new style of
which we spoke--a style by no means devoid of affectation and even
trick, threatening, to experienced eyes, the disease of mannerism, but
attractive in its very provocations, almost wholly original, and
calculated, at least while it retains its freshness, to drive what is
said home into the reader's mind and to stick it there.

The faults, we said, both critical and non-critical, are certainly not
lacking; and if they were not partly excused by the author's avowedly
militant position, might seem sometimes rather grave. Whatever may
have been the want of taste, and even the want of sense, in the
translation of F. W. Newman, it is almost sufficient to say that they
were neither greater nor less than might have been expected from a
person who, if the most scholarly of eccentrics, was also the most
eccentric even of English scholars. It is difficult not to think that
Mr Arnold makes too much of them and refers too frequently to them.
Such "iteration" is literally "damnable": it must be condemned as
unfair, out of place, out of taste, and even not distantly approaching
that lack of urbanity with which Mr Arnold was never tired of
reproaching his countrymen. Another translator, Mr Wright, was indeed
needlessly sensitive to Mr Arnold's strictures; but these strictures
themselves were needlessly severe. It is all very well for a reviewer,
especially if he be young and anonymous, to tell a living writer that
his book has "no reason for existing"; but chairs of literature are
not maintained by universities that their occupants may, in relation
to living persons, exercise the functions of young anonymous
reviewers. It may indeed be doubted whether these occupants should,
except in the most guarded way, touch living persons at all.

Critically too, as well as from the point of view of manners, the
_Lectures on Translating Homer_ are open to not a few criticisms.
In the first place, the assumptions are enormous, and, in some cases
at least, demonstrably baseless. One of Mr Arnold's strongest points,
for instance, not merely against Mr Newman but against Homeric
translators generally, is concerned with the renderings of the Homeric
compound adjectives, especially the stock ones--_koruthaiolos_,
_merops_, and the rest. The originals, he is never weary of repeating,
did not strike a Greek and do not strike a Greek scholar as out of the
way; the English equivalents do so strike an English reader. Now as to
the Greeks themselves, we know nothing: they have left us no positive
information on the subject. But if (which is no doubt at least partly
true) _koruthaiolos_ and _dolichoskion_ do not strike us, who have
been familiar with Greek almost as long as we can remember, as out of
the way, is that an argument? Most of us, I suppose, at about nine or
ten years old, some no doubt a little or a good deal earlier, learnt
these words as part of the ordinary Greek that was presented to us,
just as much as _kai_ and _ara_; but if we had learnt Greek as we
learn English, beginning with quite ordinary words, would it be so? I
think not; nor would it be so if people began Greek at a later and
more critical stage of their education.

It is also true that the book is full of that exceedingly arbitrary
and unproved assertion, of that rather fanciful terminology, of those
sometimes questionable æsthetic _obiter dicta_, of which, from
first to last, Mr Arnold was so prolific. When he talks about the
mysterious "grand style," and tells us that Milton can never be
affected, we murmur, "_De gustibus!_" and add mentally, "Though
Milton is the greatest of affected writers, Milton is, after
_Comus_ at least, never anything else!" When he tells us again
that at that moment (1861) "English literature as a living
intellectual instrument ranks after the literatures of France and
Germany," we remember that at the time France possessed perhaps only
one writer, Victor Hugo, and Germany absolutely none, of the calibre
of a dozen Englishmen--Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Thackeray,
Dickens, and not a few others, from Landor to Mr Ruskin; that Germany,
further, had scarcely one, though France had more than one or two,
great writers of the second class: and we say, "Either your 'living
intellectual instrument' is a juggle of words, or you really are
neglecting fact." Many--very many--similar retorts are possible; and
the most hopeless variance of all must come when we arrive at Mr
Arnold's championship of that ungainly and sterile mule the English
hexameter, and when we review the specimens of the animal that he
turns out from his own stables for our inspection.

But it matters not. For all this, and very much more than all this,
which may be passed over as unnecessary or improper, nothing like the
book had, for positive critical quality, and still more for germinal
influence, been seen by its generation, and nothing of the same
quality and influence has been seen for more than a technical
generation since. It would of course be uncritical in the last degree
to take the change in English criticism which followed as wholly and
directly Mr Arnold's work. He was not even the voice crying in the
wilderness: only one of many voices in a land ready at least to be
eared and pathed. But he was the earliest of such voices, the
clearest, most original, most potent; and a great deal of what
followed was directly due to him.

The non-literary events of his life during this period were
sufficiently varied if not very momentous. We have mentioned the
domiciling in Chester Square, which took place in February 1858,
perhaps on the strength of the additional income from Oxford. In the
late summer of that year he went alone to Switzerland, and next
spring, shortly after the New Year, received, to his very great joy, a
roving commission to France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Piedmont, to
report on elementary education. "Foreign life," he says, with that
perfect naturalness which makes the charm of his letters, "is still to
me perfectly delightful and liberating in the last degree." And he was
duly "presented" at home, in order that he might be presentable
abroad. But the first days of the actual sojourn (as we have them
recorded in a letter to his mother of April 14) were saddened by that
death of his brother William, which he has enshrined in verse.

He had, however, plenty to distract him. France was all astir with the
Austrian war, and it is impossible to read his expressions of
half-awed admiration of French military and other greatness without
rather mischievous amusement. He visited the Morbihan, which struck
him as it must strike every one. Here he is pathetic over a promising
but not performing dinner at Auray--"soup, Carnac oysters, shrimps,
_fricandeau_ of veal, breast of veal, and asparagus;" but
"everything so detestable" that his dinner was bread and cheese. He
must have been unlucky: the little Breton inns, at any rate a few
years later than this, used, it is true, to be dirty to an extent
appalling to an Englishman; but their provender was usually far from
contemptible. There is more sense of Breton scenery in another letter
a little later. Both here and, presently, in Gascony he notes truly
enough "the incredible degree to which the Revolution has cleared the
feudal ages out of the minds of the country people"; but if he
reflected on the bad national effect of this breach with the past, he
does not say so. By June 12 he is in Holland, and does not like
it--weather, language, &c., all English in the worst sense, apparently
without the Norman and Latin element which just saves us. And though
he was a very short time in the Netherlands, he has to relieve his
feelings by more abuse of them when he gets back to Paris--in fact, he
speaks of Holland exactly as the typical Frenchman speaks of England,
and is accordingly very funny to read. The two things that make
Holland most interesting, history and art, were exactly those that
appealed to Mr Arnold least. Then after a refreshing bath of Paris, he
goes to Strasbourg, and Time--Time the Humourist as well as the
Avenger and Consoler--makes him commit himself dreadfully. He "thinks
there cannot be a moment's doubt" that the French will beat the
Prussians even far more completely and rapidly than they are beating
the Austrians. Lord Cowley, it seems, "entirely shared" his conviction
that "the French will always beat any number of Germans who come into
the field against them, and never be beaten by any one but the
English." Let us hope that Jove, when he whistled half this prophecy
down the wind, affirmed the rest of it! Switzerland comes next; and he
is beginning to want very much to be back in England, partly "for the
children, but partly also from affection for that foolish old
country"--which paternal and patriotic desire was granted about the
end of the month, though only for a short time, during which he wrote
a pamphlet on the Italian question. Then "M. le Professeur Docteur
Arnold, Directeur Général de toutes les Écoles de la Grande Bretagne,"
returned to France for a time, saw Mérimée and George Sand and Renan,
as well as a good deal of Sainte-Beuve, and was back again for good in
the foolish old country at the end of the month.

In the early winter of 1859-60 we find him a volunteer, commenting not
too happily on "the hideous English toadyism which invests lords and
great people with commands," a remark which seems to clench the
inference that he had not appreciated the effect of the Revolution
upon France. For nearly three parts of 1860 we have not a single
letter, except one in January pleasantly referring to his youngest
child "in black velvet and red-and-white tartan, looking such a duck
that it was hard to take one's eyes off him."[4] This letter, by the
way, ends with an odd admission from the author of the remark quoted
just now. He says of the Americans, "It seems as if few stocks could
be trusted to grow up properly without having a priesthood and an
aristocracy to act as their schoolmasters at some time or other of
their national existence." This is a confession. The gap, however, is
partly atoned for by a very pleasant batch in September from Viel Salm
in the Ardennes, where the whole family spent a short time, and where
the Director-General of all the schools in Great Britain had splendid
fishing, the hapless Ardennes trout being only accustomed to nets.

Then the interest returns to literature, and the lectures on
translating Homer, and Tennyson's "deficiency in intellectual power,"
and Mr Arnold's own interest in the Middle Ages, which may surprise
some folk. It seems that he has "a strong sense of the irrationality
of that period" and of "the utter folly of those who take it seriously
and play at restoring it." Still it has "poetically the greatest charm
and refreshment for me." One may perhaps be permitted to doubt whether
you can get much real poetical refreshment out of a thing which is
irrational and which you don't take seriously: the practice seems to
be not unlike that mediæval one of keeping fools for your delectation.
Nor can the observations on Tennyson be said to be quite just or quite
pleasant. But every age and every individual is unjust to his or its
immediate predecessor--a saying dangerous and double-edged, but true
for all that. Then he "entangles himself in the study of accents"--it
would be difficult to find any adventurer who has _not_ entangled
himself in that study--and groans over "a frightful parcel of grammar
papers," which he only just "manages in time," apparently on the very
unwholesome principle (though this was not the same batch) of doing
twenty before going to bed when he comes in from a dinner-party at
eleven o'clock. Colds, Brighton, praise from Sainte-Beuve, critical
attacks in the English papers, and (not quite unprovoked) from F.W.
Newman, reflections on the Age of Wisdom (forty), and a meeting with
Thackeray, the Laureate of that age, diversify the history agreeably.
Then we come to a dead, and now rather more than dull, controversy
over the Revised Code, of which we need not say much. Official
etiquette on such matters, especially in England, is very loose,
though he himself seems to have at one time thought it distantly
possible, though not likely, that he would be ejected for the part he
took. And his first five years' tenure of the Oxford Chair ends with
the delivery of the Creweian oration, as to the composition of which
he consoles himself (having heard both from the Vice-Chancellor and
others that there was to be "a great row") by reflecting that "it
doesn't much matter what he writes, as he shall not be heard." I do
not know whether the prediction was justified; but if so, the same
fate had, according to tradition, befallen his Newdigate some twenty
years earlier. In neither case can the "row" have had any personal
reference. Though his lectures were never largely attended by
undergraduates, he was always popular in Oxford.


[1] The mystery is partly explained, in a fashion of no little
biographical importance, by the statement in Mr Arnold's first general
report for the year 1852, that his district included Lincoln,
Nottingham, Derby, Stafford, Salop, Hereford, Worcester, Warwick,
Leicester, Rutland and Northants, Gloucester, Monmouth, _all_
South Wales, most of North Wales, and some schools in the East and
West Ridings. This apparently impossible range had its monstrosity
reduced by the limitation of his inspectorship to Nonconformist
schools of other denominations than the Roman Catholic, especially
Wesleyan and the then powerful "British" schools. As the schools
multiplied the district was reduced, and at last he had Westminster
only; but the exclusion of Anglican and Roman Catholic schools
remained till 1870. And it is impossible not to connect the somewhat
exaggerated place which the Dissenters hold in his social and
political theories (as well as perhaps some of his views about the
"Philistine") with these associations of his. We must never forget
that for nearly twenty years Mr Arnold worked in the shadow, not of
Barchester Towers, but of Salem Chapel.

[2] "I have papers sent me to look over which will give me to the 20th
of January in _London_ without moving, then for a week to
_Huntingdonshire_ schools, then for another to London, ...and
then _Birmingham_ for a month."

[3] There are persons who would spell this _moral_; but I am not
writing French, and in English the practice of good writers from
Chesterfield downwards is my authority.

[4] The letters are full of pleasant child-worship, the best passage
of all being perhaps the dialogue between Tom and "Budge," at vol. i.
p. 56, with the five-year-old cynicism of the elder's reply, "Oh this
is _false_ Budge, this is all _false_!" to his infant brother's
protestations of affection.


POEMS_--LIFE FROM 1862 TO 1867.

The period of Mr Arnold's second tenure of the Poetry Chair, from 1862
to 1867, was much more fertile in remarkable books than that of his
first. It was during this time that he established himself at once as
the leader of English critics by his _Essays in Criticism_ (some
of which had first taken form as Oxford Lectures) and that he made his
last appearance with a considerable collection of _New Poems_. It
was during this, or immediately after its expiration, that he issued
his second collected book of lectures on _The Study of Celtic
Literature_; and it was then that he put in more popular, though
still in not extremely popular, forms the results of his
investigations into Continental education. It was during this time
also that his thoughts took the somewhat unfortunate twist towards the
mission of reforming his country, not merely in matters literary,
where he was excellently qualified for the apostolate, but in the much
more dubiously warranted function of political, "sociological," and
above all, ecclesiastical or anti-ecclesiastical gospeller. With all
these things we must now deal.

No one of Mr Arnold's books is more important, or more useful in
studying the evolution of his thought and style, than _A French
Eton_ (1864). Although he was advancing in middle-life when it was
written, and had evidently, as the phrase goes, "made up his bundle of
prejudices," he had not written, or at least published, very much
prose; his mannerisms had not hardened. And above all, he was but just
catching the public ear, and so was not tempted to assume the part of
Chesterfield-Socrates, which he played later, to the diversion of
some, to the real improvement of many, but a little to his own
disaster. He was very thoroughly acquainted with the facts of his
subject, which was not always the case later; and though his
assumptions--the insensibility of aristocracies to ideas, the
superiority of the French to the English in this respect, the failure
of the Anglican Church, and so forth--are already as questionable as
they are confident, he puts them with a certain modesty, a certain
[Greek: epieikeia], which was perhaps not always so obvious when he
came to preach that quality itself later. About the gist of the book
it is not necessary to say very much. He practically admits the
obvious and unanswerable objection that his _French Eton_,
whether we look for it at Toulouse or look for it at Sorèze, is very
French, but not at all Eton. He does not really attempt to meet the
more dangerous though less epigrammatic demurrer, "Do you _want_
schools to turn out products of this sort?" It was only indirectly his
fault, but it was a more or less direct consequence of his arguments,
that a process of making ducks and drakes of English grammar-school
endowments began, and was (chiefly in the "seventies") carried on,
with results, the mischievousness of which apparently has been known
and noted only by experts, and which they have chiefly kept to

All this is already ancient history, and history not ancient enough to
be venerable. But the book as a book, and also as a document in the
case, has, and always will have, interest. "The cries and catchwords"
which Mr Arnold denounces, as men so often do denounce their own most
besetting temptations, have not yet quite mastered him; but they have
made a lodgment. The revolt--in itself quite justifiable, and even
admirable--from the complacent acceptance of English middle-class
thought, English post-Reform-Bill politics, English mid-century taste
and ethics and philosophy,--from everything, in short, of which
Macaulay was the equally accepted and representative eulogist and
exponent, is conspicuous. It is from foreign and almost hostile
sources that we must expect help. The State is to resume, or to
initiate, its guidance of a very large part, if not of the whole, of
the matters which popular thought, Liberal and Conservative alike,
then assigned to individual action or private combination. We have not
yet Barbarians, Philistines, and Populace labelled with their tickets
and furnished with their descriptions; but the three classes are
already sharply separated in Mr Arnold's mind, and we can see that
only in the Philistine who burns Dagon, and accepts circumcision and
culture fully, is there to be any salvation. The anti-clerical and
anti-theological animus is already strong; the attitude _dantis jura
Catonis_ is arranged; the _jura_ themselves, if not actually
graven and tabulated, can be seen coming with very little difficulty.
Above all, the singing-robes are pretty clearly laid aside; the
Scholar-Gipsy exercises no further spell; we have turned to prose and
(as we can best manage it) sense.

But _A French Eton_ is perhaps most interesting for its style. In
this respect it marks a stage, and a distinct one, between the
_Preface_ of 1853 and the later and better known works. More of a
_concio ad vulgus_ than the former, it shows a pretty obvious
endeavour to soften and popularise, without unduly vulgarising, the
academic tone of the earlier work. And it does not yet display those
"mincing graces" which were sometimes attributed (according to a very
friendly and most competent critic, "harshly, but justly") to the
later. The mannerisms, indeed, like the dogmatisms, are pretty clearly
imminent. Slightly exotic vocabulary--"habitude" "repartition," for
"habit," "distribution"--makes its appearance. That abhorrence of the
conjunction, which made Mr Arnold later give us rows of adjectives and
substantives, with never an "and" to string them together, is here.
But no one of these tricks, nor any other, is present in excess: there
is nothing that can justly be called falsetto; and in especial, though
some names of merely ephemeral interest are in evidence--Baines,
Roebuck, Miall, &c., Mr Arnold's well-known substitutes for Cleon and
Cinesias--there is nothing like the torrent of personal allusion in
_Friendship's Garland_. "Bottles" and his company are not yet
with us; the dose of _persiflage_ is rigorously kept down; the
author has not reached the stage when he seemed to hold sincerely the
principle so wickedly put by Mr Lewis Carroll, that

  "What I tell you three times is true,"

and that the truth could be made truest by making the three thirty.

The result is that he never wrote better. A little of the dignity of
his earlier manner--when he simply followed that admirable older
Oxford style, of which Newman was the greatest master and the last--is
gone, but it has taken some stiffness with it. Some--indeed a good
deal--of the piquancy of the later is not yet apparent; but its
absence implies, and is more than compensated by, the concomitant
absence of those airs and flings, those interludes as of an academic
jester, in cap and gown and liripipe instead of motley, which have
been charged, not quite unjustly, on the Arnold that we know best.
There is hardly in English a better example of the blending and
conciliation of the two modes of argumentative writing referred to in
Bishop Kurd's acute observation, that if your first object is to
convince, you cannot use a style too soft and insinuating; if you want
to confute, the rougher and more unsparing the better. And the
description and characterisation are quite excellent.

Between _A French Eton_ and the second collection of Oxford
Lectures came, in 1865, the famous _Essays in Criticism_, the
first full and varied, and perhaps always the best, expression and
illustration of the author's critical attitude, the detailed manifesto
and exemplar of the new critical method, and so one of the
epoch-making books of the later nineteenth century in English. It
consisted, in the first edition, of a _Preface_ (afterwards
somewhat altered and toned down) and of nine essays (afterwards to be
made ten by the addition of _A Persian Passion-Play_). The two
first of these were general, on _The Function of Criticism at the
Present Time_ and _The Literary Influence of Academies_, while
the other seven dealt respectively with the two Guérins, Heine,
_Pagan and Mediæval Religious Sentiment_, Joubert, Spinoza, and
Marcus Aurelius. I am afraid it must be taken as only too strong a
confirmation of Mr Arnold's own belief as to the indifference of the
English people to criticism that no second edition of this book was
called for till four years were past, no third for ten, and no fourth
for nearly twenty.

Yet, to any one whom the gods have made in the very slightest degree
critical, it is one of the most fascinating (if sometimes also one of
the most provoking) of books; and the fascination and provocation
should surely have been felt even by others. As always with the
author, there is nothing easier than to pick holes in it: in fact, on
his own principles, one is simply bound to pick holes. He evidently
enjoyed himself very much in the _Preface:_ but it may be doubted
whether the severe Goddess of Taste can have altogether smiled on his
enjoyment. He is superciliously bland to the unlucky and no doubt
rather unwise Mr Wright (_v. supra_): he tells the _Guardian_ in a
periphrasis that it is dull, and "Presbyter Anglicanus" that he is
born of Hyrcanian tigers, and the editor of the _Saturday Review_ that
he is a late and embarrassed convert to the Philistines. He introduces
not merely Mr Spurgeon, a Philistine of some substance and memory, but
hapless forgotten shadows like "Mr Clay," "Mr Diffanger," "Inspector
Tanner," "Professor Pepper" to the contempt of the world. And then,
when we are beginning to find all this laughter rather
"thorn-crackling" and a little forced, the thing ends with the famous
and magnificent _epiphonema_ (as they would have said in the old days)
to Oxford, which must for ever conciliate all sons of hers and all
gracious outsiders to its author, just as it turns generation after
generation of her enemies sick with an agonised grin.

So, again, one may marvel, and almost grow angry, at the whim which
made Mr Arnold waste two whole essays on an amiable and interesting
person like Eugénie de Guérin and a mere nobody like her brother. They
are very pretty essays in themselves; but then (as Mr Arnold has
taught us), "all depends on the subject," and the subjects here are so
exceedingly unimportant! Besides, as he himself almost openly
confessed, and as everybody admits now, he really did not understand
French poetry at all. When we come to "Keats and Guérin," there is
nothing for it but to take refuge in Byron's

  "_Such_ names coupled!"

and pass with averted face. Seventy-two mortal pages of Matthew
Arnold's, at his very best time, wasted on a brother and sister who
happened to be taken up by Sainte-Beuve!

But the rest of the book is entirely free from liability to any such
criticism as this. To some criticism--even to a good deal--it is
beyond doubt exposed. The first and most famous paper--the general
manifesto, as the earlier _Preface_ to the _Poems_ is the
special one, of its author's literary creed--on _The Function of
Criticism at the Present Time_ must indeed underlie much the same
objections as those that have been made to the introduction. Here is
the celebrated passage about "Wragg is in custody," the text of which,
though no doubt painful in subject and inurbane in phraseology, is
really a rather slender basis on which to draw up an indictment
against a nation. Here is the astounding--the, if serious, almost
preternatural--statement that "not very much of current English
literature comes into this best that is known and thought in the
world. Not very much I fear: certainly less than of the current
literature of France and Germany." And this was 1865, when the Germans
had had no great poet but Heine for a generation, nor any great poets
but Goethe and Heine for some five hundred years, no great
prose-writer but Heine (unless you call Goethe one), and were not
going to have any! It was 1865, when all the great French writers,
themselves of but some thirty years' standing, were dying off, not to
be succeeded! 1865, when for seventy years England had not lacked, and
for nearly thirty more was not to lack, poets and prose-writers of the
first order by the dozen and almost the score! Here, too, is the
marvellous companion-statement that in the England of the first
quarter of the century was "no national glow of life." It was the
chill of death, I suppose, which made the nation fasten on the throat
of the world and choke it into submission during a twenty years'

But these things are only Mr Arnold's way. I have never been able to
satisfy myself whether they were deliberate paradoxes, or sincere and
rather pathetic paralogisms. For instance, did he really think that
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, an organ of "dukes, dunces, and
_dévotes_," as it used to be called even in those days by the
wicked knowing ones, a nursing mother of Academies certainly, and a
most respectable periodical in all ways--that this good _Revue_
actually "had for its main function to understand and utter the best
that is known and thought in the world," absolutely existed as an
organ for "the free play of mind"? I should be disposed to think that
the truer explanation of such things is that they were neither quite
paradoxes nor quite paralogisms; but the offspring of an innocent
willingness to believe what he wished, and of an almost equally
innocent desire to provoke the adversary. Unless (as unluckily they
sometimes are) they be taken at the foot of the letter, they can do no
harm, and their very piquancy helps the rest to do a great deal of

For there can be no doubt that in the main contention of his
manifesto, as of his book, Mr Arnold was absolutely right. It was true
that England, save for spasmodic and very partial appearances of it in
a few of her great men of letters--Ben Jonson, Dryden, Addison,
Johnson--had been wonderfully deficient in criticism up to the end of
the eighteenth century; and that though in the early nineteenth she
had produced one great philosophical critic, another even greater on
the purely literary side, and a third of unique appreciative sympathy,
in Coleridge, Hazlitt, and Lamb, she had not followed these up, and
had, even in them, shown certain critical limitations. It was true
that though the Germans had little and the French nothing to teach us
in range, both had much to teach us in thoroughness, method,
_style_ of criticism. And it was truest of all (though Mr Arnold,
who did not like the historic estimate, would have admitted this with
a certain grudge) that the time imperatively demanded a thorough
"stock-taking" of our own literature in the light and with the help of

Let _palma_--let the _maxima palma_--of criticism be given
to him in that he first fought for the creed of this literary
orthodoxy, and first exemplified (with whatever admixture of
will-worship of his own, with whatever quaint rites and ceremonies)
the carrying out of the cult. It is possible that his direct influence
may have been exaggerated; one of the most necessary, though not of
the most grateful, businesses of the literary historian is to point
out that with rare exceptions, and those almost wholly on the poetic
side, great men of letters rather show in a general, early, and
original fashion a common tendency than definitely lead an otherwise
sluggish multitude to the promised land. But no investigation has
deprived, or is at all likely to deprive, the _Essays in
Criticism_ of their place as an epoch-making book, as the manual of
a new and often independent, but, on the whole, like-minded, critical
movement in England.

Nor can the blow of the first essay be said to be ill followed up in
the second, the almost equally famous (perhaps the _more_ famous)
_Influence of Academies_. Of course here also, here as always,
you may make reservations. It is a very strong argument, an argument
stronger than any of Mr Arnold's, that the institutions of a nation,
if they are to last, if they are to do any good, must be in accordance
with the spirit of the nation; that if the French Academy has been
beneficial, it is because the French spirit is academic; and that if
(as we may fear, or hope, or believe, according to our different
principles) the English spirit is unacademic, an Academy would
probably be impotent and perhaps ridiculous in England. But we can
allow for this; and when we have allowed for it, once more Mr Arnold's
warnings are warnings on the right side, true, urgent, beneficial.
There are still the minor difficulties. Even at the time, much less as
was known of France in England then than now, there were those who
opened their eyes first and then rubbed them at the assertion that
"openness of mind and flexibility of intelligence" were the
characteristics of the French people. But once more also, no matter!
The central drift is right, and the central drift carries many
excellent things with it, and may be allowed to wash away the less
excellent. Mr Arnold is right on the average qualities of French
prose; whether he is right about the "provinciality" of Jeremy Taylor
as compared to Bossuet or not, he is right about "critical freaks,"
though, by the way--but it is perhaps unnecessary to finish that
sentence. He is right about the style of Mr Palgrave and right about
the style of Mr Kinglake; and I do not know that I feel more
especially bound to pronounce him wrong about the ideas of Lord
Macaulay. But had he been as wrong in all these things as he was
right, the central drift would still be inestimable--the drift of
censure and contrast applied to English eccentricity, the argument
that this eccentricity, if it is not very good, is but too likely to
be very bad.

Yet it is perhaps in the illustrative essays that the author shows at
his best. Even in the Guérin pieces, annoyance at the waste of
first-rate power on tenth-rate people need not wholly blind us to the
grace of the exposition and to the charming eulogy of "distinction" at
the end. That, if Mr Arnold had known a little more about that French
Romantic School which he despised, he would have hardly assigned this
distinction to Maurice; and that Eugénie, though undoubtedly a "fair
soul," was in this not distinguished from hundreds and thousands of
other women, need not matter very much after all. And with the rest
there need be few allowances, or only amicable ones. One may doubt
whether Heine's charm is not mainly due to the very lawlessness, the
very contempt of "subject," the very quips and cranks and caprices
that Mr Arnold so sternly bans. But who shall deny the excellence and
the exquisiteness of this, the first English tribute of any real worth
to the greatest of German poets, to one of the great poets of the
world, to the poet who with Tennyson and Hugo completes the
representative trinity of European poets of the nineteenth century
proper? Very seldom (his applause of Gray, the only other instance, is
not quite on a par with this) does the critic so nearly approach
enthusiasm--not merely _engouement_ on the one side or serene
approval on the other. No matter that he pretends to admire Heine for
his "modern spirit" (why, _O Macarée_, as his friend Maurice de
Guérin might have said, should a modern spirit be better than an
ancient one, or what is either before the Eternal?) instead of for
what has been, conceitedly it may be, called the "tear-dew and
star-fire and rainbow-gold" of his phrase and verse. He felt this
magic at any rate. No matter that he applies the wrong comparison
instead of the right one, and depreciates French in order to exalt
German, instead of thanking Apollo for these two good different
things. The root of the matter is the right root, a discriminating
enthusiasm: and the flower of the matter is one of the most charming
critical essays in English. It is good, no doubt, to have made up
one's mind about Heine before reading Mr Arnold; but one almost envies
those who were led to that enchanted garden by so delightful an

Almost equally delightful, and with no touch of the sadness which must
always blend with any treatment of Heine, is the next essay, the pet,
I believe, of some very excellent judges, on "Pagan and Mediæval
Religious Sentiment," with its notable translation of Theocritus and
its contrast with St Francis. One feels, indeed, that Mr Arnold was
not quite so well equipped with knowledge on the one side as on the
other; indeed, he never was well read in mediæval literature. But his
thesis, as a thesis, is capable of defence; in the sternest times of
military etiquette he could not have been put to death on the charge
of holding out an untenable post; and he puts the different sides with
incomparable skill and charm. Mr Arnold glosses Pagan morals rather
doubtfully, but so skilfully; he rumples and blackens mediæval life
more than rather unfairly, but with such a light and masterly touch!

Different again, inferior perhaps, but certainly not in any hostile
sense inferior, is the "Joubert." It has been the fashion with some to
join this essay to the Guérin pieces as an instance of some
incorrigible twist in Mr Arnold's French estimates, of some inability
to admire the right things, even when he did admire I cannot agree
with them. Joubert, of course, has his own shortcomings as a
_pensée_-writer. He is _rococo_ beside La Bruyére, dilettante beside
La Rochefoucauld, shallow beside Pascal. There is at times, even if
you take him by himself, and without comparison, something thin and
amateurish and conventional about him. But this is by no means always
or very often the case; and his merits, very great in themselves, were
even greater for Mr Arnold's general purpose.

That subtle and sensitive genius did not go wrong when it selected
Joubert as an eminent example of those gifts of the French mind which
most commended themselves to itself--an exquisite _justesse_, an
alertness of spirit not shaking off rule and measure, above all, a
consummate propriety in the true and best, not the limited sense of
the word. Nor is it difficult to observe in the shy philosopher a
temperament which must have commended itself to Mr Arnold almost as
strongly as his literary quality, and very closely indeed connected
with that--the temperament of equity, of _epieikeia_, of freedom
from swagger and brag and self-assertion. And here, once more, the
things receive precisely their right treatment, the treatment
proportioned and adjusted at once to their own value and nature and to
the use which their critic is intending to make of them. For it is one
of the greatest literary excellences of the _Essays in Criticism_
that, with rare exceptions, they bear a real relation to each other
and to the whole--that they are not a bundle but an organism; a
university, not a mob.

The subjects of the two last essays, _Spinoza_ and _Marcus
Aurelius_, may at first sight, and not at first sight only, seem
oddly chosen. For although the conception of literature illustrated in
the earlier part of the book is certainly wide, and admits--nay,
insists upon, as it always did with Mr Arnold--considerations of
subject in general and of morals and religion in particular, yet it is
throughout one of literature as such. Now, we cannot say that the
interest of Spinoza or that of Marcus Aurelius, great as it is in both
cases, is wholly, or in the main, or even in any considerable part, a
literary interest. With Spinoza it is a philosophical-religious
interest, with Marcus Aurelius a moral-religious, almost purely. The
one may indeed illustrate that attempt to see things in a perfectly
white light which Mr Arnold thought so important in literature; the
other, that attention to conduct which he thought more important
still. But they illustrate these things in themselves, not in relation
to literature. They are less literary even than St Francis; far less
than the author of the _Imitation_.

It cannot therefore but be suspected that in including them Mr Arnold,
unconsciously perhaps, but more probably with some consciousness, was
feeling his way towards that wide extension of the province of the
critic, that resurrection of the general Socratic attitude, which he
afterwards adventured. But it cannot be said that his experiments are
on this particular occasion in any way disastrous. With both his
subjects he had the very strongest sympathy--with Spinoza (as already
with Heine) as a remarkable example of the Hebraic spirit and genius,
rebellious to or transcending the usual limitations of Hebraism; with
Marcus Aurelius as an example of that non-Christian morality and
religiosity which also had so strong an attraction for him. There is
no trace in either essay of the disquieting and almost dismaying
jocularity which was later to invade his discussion of such things: we
are still far from Bottles; the three Lord Shaftesburys relieve us by
not even threatening to appear. And accordingly the two essays add in
no small degree, though somewhat after the fashion of an appendix or
belated episode, to the charm of the book. They have an unction which
never, as it so often does in the case of Mr Arnold's dangerous master
and model Renan, degenerates into unctuosity; they are nobly serious,
but without being in the least dull; they contain some exceedingly
just and at the same time perfectly urbane criticism of the ordinary
reviewing kind, and though they are not without instances of the
author's by-blows of slightly unproved opinion, yet these are by no
means eminent in them, and are not of a provocative nature. And I do
not think it fanciful to suppose that the note of grave if
unclassified piety, of reconciliation and resignation, with which they
close the book, was intended--that it was a deliberate "evening
voluntary" to play out of church the assistants at a most remarkable
function--such a function as criticism in English had not celebrated
before, such as, I think, it may without unfairness be said has not
been repeated since. _Essays in Criticism_, let us repeat, is a
book which is classed and placed, and it will remain in that class and
place: the fresh wreaths and the fresh mud, that may be in turn
unfitly thrown upon it, will affect neither.

Between this remarkable book and the later ones of the same
_lustrum_, we may conveniently take up the thread of biography
proper where we last dropped it. The letters are fuller for this
period than perhaps for any other; but this very fulness makes it all
the more difficult to select incidents, never, perhaps, of the very
first importance, but vying with each other in the minor biographical
interests. A second fishing expedition to Viel Salm was attempted in
August 1862; but it did not escape the curse which seems to dog
attempts at repetition of the same pleasure. The river was hopelessly
low; the fish would not take; and the traveller came back in very
little more than "a day and a night and a morrow." By December
danger-signals are up in a letter to his mother, to the effect that
"it is intolerable absurdity to profess [who does?] to see
Christianity through the spectacles of a number of second- or
third-rate men who lived in Queen Elizabeth's time"--that time so
fertile in nothing but the second-rate and the third. But it is
followed a little later by the less disputable observation, "It is
difficult to make out exactly at what [F.D.] Maurice is driving;
perhaps he is always a little dim in his own mind" on that point.

The illuminations at the Prince of Wales's marriage, where like other
people he found "the crowd very good-humoured," are noted; and the
beginning of _Thyrsis_ where and while the fritillaries blow. But
from the literary point of view few letters are more interesting than
a short one to Sir Mountstuart (then Mr) Grant Duff, dated May 14,
1863, in which Mr Arnold declines an edition of Heine, the loan of
which was offered for his lecture--later the well-known essay. His
object, he says, "is not so much to give a literary history of Heine's
work as to mark his place in modern European letters, and the special
tendency and significance of what he did." He will, therefore, not
even read these things of Heine's that he has not read, but will take
the _Romancero_ alone for his text, with a few quotations from
elsewhere, With a mere passing indication of the fact that Matthew
Arnold here, like every good critic of this century, avowedly pursues
that plan of "placing" writers which some of his own admirers so
foolishly decry, I may observe that this is a _locus classicus_
for his own special kind of criticism. It is possible--I do not know
whether he did so--that Sir Mountstuart may, on receiving the letter,
have smiled and thought of "Mon siége est fait"; but I am sure he
would be the first to admit that the cases were different. I do not
myself think that Mr Arnold's strong point was that complete grasp of
a literary personality, and its place, which some critics aim at but
which few achieve. His impatience--here perhaps half implied and later
openly avowed--of the historic estimate in literature, would of itself
have made this process irksome to him. But on the lines of his own
special vocation as a critic it was not only irksome, it was
unnecessary. His function was to mark the special--perhaps it would be
safer to say _a_ special--tendency of his man, and to bring that
out with all his devices of ingenious reduplication, fascinating
rhetoric, and skilful parading of certain favourite axioms and general
principles. This function would not have been assisted--I think it
nearly certain that it would have been hampered and baulked--by that
attempt to find "the whole" which the Greek philosopher and poet so
sadly and so truly declares that few boast to find. It was a side, a
face, a phase of each man and writer, that he wished to bring out;
and, though he might sometimes exaggerate this, yet his exaggeration
was scarcely illegitimate. To bring out something he had to block out
much. If he had attempted to show the whole Goethe, the whole Heine,
the whole Homer or Shakespeare even, they would have been difficult if
not impossible to group and to compare in the fashion in which he
wished to deal with them.

And except on the sheer assumption, which is surely a fallacy, that
_suppressio veri_ is always and not only sometimes _suggestio
falsi_, I do not see that he exceeded a due licence in this matter,
while that he was wise in his generation there can be no doubt. He
wanted to influence the average Englishman, and he knew perfectly well
there is nothing the average Englishman dislikes so much as guarded
and elaborately conditioned statements. The immense popularity and
influence of Macaulay had been due to his hatred of half-lights, of
"perhapses"; and little as Mr Arnold liked Macaulay's fiddle, he was
wise enough to borrow his rosin, albeit in disguise. If a critic makes
too many provisos, if he "buts" too much, if he attempts to paint the
warts as well as the beauties, he will be accused of want of sympathy,
he will be taxed with timorousness and hedging, at best he will be
blamed for wire-drawn and hair-splitting argument. The preambles of
exposition, the conclusions of summing up, will often be considered
tedious or impertinent. The opposite plan of selecting a nail and
hitting that on the head till you have driven it home was, in fact, as
much Mr Arnold's as it was Macaulay's. The hammer-play of the first
was far more graceful and far less monotonous: yet it was hammer-play
all the same. But we must return to our _Letters_.

A dinner with Lord Houghton--"all the advanced Liberals in religion
and politics, and a Cingalese in full costume"--a visit to Cambridge
and a stroll to Grantchester, notice of about the first elaborate
appreciation of his critical work which had appeared in England, the
article by the late Mr S.H. Reynolds in the _Westminster Review_
for October 1863, visits to the Rothschilds at Aston Clinton and
Mentmore, and interesting notices of the composition of the
_Joubert_, the _French Eton_, &c., fill up the year. The
death of Thackeray extracts one of those criticisms of his great
contemporaries which act as little douches from time to time, in the
words, "I cannot say that I thoroughly liked him, though we were on
friendly terms: and he was not to my mind a great writer." But the
personal reflections which follow are of value. He finds "the sudden
cessation of so vigorous an existence very sobering. To-day I am
forty-one; the middle of life in any case, and for me perhaps much
more than the middle. I have ripened and am ripening so slowly that I
should be glad of as much time as possible. Yet I can feel, I rejoice
to say, an inward spring which seems more and more to gain strength
and to promise to resist outward shocks, if they must come, however
rough. But of this inward spring one must not talk [it is only to his
mother that he writes this] for it does not like being talked about,
and threatens to depart if one will not leave it in mystery."

An interview with Mr Disraeli at Aston Clinton, not, as one may
suppose, without pleasant words, opens 1864. "It is only from
politicians who have themselves felt the spell of literature that one
gets these charming speeches," he says, and they, not unnaturally,
charmed him so much that he left his dressing-case and his umbrella
behind him. But the anti-crusade is more and more declared. He "means
to deliver the middle-class out of the hand of their Dissenting
ministers," and in the interval wants to know how "that beast of a
word 'waggonette' is spelt?" The early summer was spent at Woodford,
on the borders of Epping Forest, and the early autumn at Llandudno,
where Welsh scenery and the poetry of the Celtic race "quite
overpower" him. Alas! some other poetry did not, and when we find him
in September thinking _Enoch Arden_ "perhaps the best thing
Tennyson has done," we are not surprised to find this remarkable
special appreciation followed by a general depreciation, which is
quite in keeping. He is even tempted (and of course asked) to write a
criticism of the Laureate, but justly replies, "How is that possible?"

From 1865 we get numerous notices of the notices of the _Essays_,
and a pleasant and full account of a second official tour on the
Continent, with special dwellings at most of the Western and Central
European capitals. The tour lasted from April to November, and I have
sometimes thought that it might, by itself, give a better idea of Mr
Arnold as an epistoler than the _Letters_ at large seem to have
given. Early in 1866 we hear of the beginnings of the _Friendship's
Garland_ series, though the occasion for that name did not come
till afterwards. And he spent the summer of that year (as he did that
of the next) in a farmhouse at West Humble, near Dorking, while he
caught "_a_ salmon" in the Deveron during September.

The occasion is perhaps a good one to say a few words on the relations
between Mr Arnold and M. Renan, though the latter is not so prominent
in the Continental letters as Sainte-Beuve and M. Scherer are. The
author of the _Vie de Jésus_ was a very slightly younger man than
Mr Arnold (he was born in 1823), but in consequence of his having left
the seminary and begun early to live by literary work, he was somewhat
in advance of his English compeer in literary repute. His
contributions to the _Débats_ and the _Revue des Deux Mondes_
began to be collected soon after 1850, and his first remarkable single
book, _Averroès et l'Averroisme_, dates from that year. I do not
know how early Mr Arnold became acquainted with his written work. But
they actually met in 1859, during the business of the Foreign
Education Commission, and there is a very remarkable passage in a
letter to Mrs Forster on Christmas Eve of that year. He tells his
sister of "Ernest Renan, a Frenchman I met in Paris," and notes the
considerable resemblance between their lines of endeavour, observing,
however, that Renan is chiefly "trying to inculcate morality, in a
high sense of the word, on the French," while _he_ is trying to
inculcate intelligence on the English. After which he makes a long and
enthusiastic reference to the essay, _Sur la Poésie des Races
Celtiques_, the literary results of which we shall soon see. I do
not know whether Mr Arnold ever expressed to his intimates--for the
reference to M. Renan in "Numbers" is not quite explicit--what he
thought of those later and very peculiar developments of "morality in
a high sense of the word" which culminated in the _Abbesse de
Jouarre_ and other things. His sense of humour must have painfully
suggested to him that his own familiar friend and pattern Frenchman
had become one of the most conspicuous examples of that French
lubricity which he himself denounced. But there was no danger of his
imitating M. Renan in this respect. In others the following was quite
unmistakable, and, I am bound to say, on the whole rather disastrous.
In literary criticism Mr Arnold needed no teaching from M. Renan, and
as his English training on one of its sides preserved him from the
Frenchman's sentimental hedonism, so on another it kept him from the
wildest excesses of M. Renan's critical reconstructions of sacred
history. But he copied a great deal too much of his master's
dilettante attitude to religion as a whole, and, as we shall see, he
adopted and carried a great deal further M. Renan's (I am told) not
particularly well-informed and (I am sure) very hazardous and
fantastic ideas about Celtic literature. On the whole, the two were
far too much alike to do each other any good. Exquisite even as M.
Renan's mere style is, it is exquisite by reason of sweetness, with a
certain not quite white and slightly phosphorescent light, not by
strength or by practical and masculine force. Now it was the latter
qualities that Mr Arnold wanted; sweetness and light he could not

As the tenure of his Chair drew to a close, and as he began to loathe
examination papers more and more (indeed I know no one to whom _usus
concinnat amorem_ in the case of these documents), he made some
endeavours to obtain employment which might be, if not both more
profitable and less onerous, at any rate one or the other. First he
tried for a Charity Commissionership; then for the librarianship of
the House of Commons. For the former post it may be permitted to think
that his extremely strong--in fact partisan--opinions, both on
education and on the Church of England, were a most serious
disqualification; his appointment to the latter would have been an
honour to the House and to England, and would have shown that
sometimes at any rate the right man can find the right place. But he
got neither. He delivered his last Oxford lecture in the summer term
of 1867. I remember that there were strong undergraduate hopes that Mr
Browning, who was an Honorary M.A., might be got to succeed him; but
it was decided that the honorary qualification was insufficient, and I
daresay there were other objections. Mr Arnold had a sort of
"send-off" in the shape of two great dinners at Balliol and Merton, at
which he and Mr Browning were the principal guests, and the close of
his professorial career was further made memorable by the issue of the
_Study of Celtic Literature_ in prose and the _New Poems_ in verse,
with _Schools and Universities on the Continent_ to follow next year.
Of these something must be said before this chapter is closed.

_On the Study of Celtic Literature_ is the first book of his to
which, as a whole, and from his own point of view, we may take rather
serious objections. That it has merits not affected by these
objections need hardly be said; indeed I think it would not be foolish
to say that it is--or was--even the superior of the _Homer_ in
comparative and indirect importance. In that Mr Arnold had but, at the
best, roused men to enter upon new ways of dealing with old and
familiar matter; in this he was leading them to conquest of new
realms. Now, as we have seen, it was exactly this exploration, this
expansion, of which English was then in most need, just as it is now
perhaps in most need of concentration and retreat upon the older

So far so good; but if we go farther, we do not at first fare better.
It would be grossly unjust to charge Mr Arnold with all the nonsense
which has since been talked about Celtic Renascences; but I fear we
cannot write all that nonsense off his account. In particular, he set
an example, which has in this and other matters been far too widely
followed, of speaking without sufficient knowledge of fact. It cannot
be too peremptorily laid down that the literary equivalent of a
"revoke"--the literary act after which, if he does it on purpose, you
must not play with a man--is speaking of authors and books which he
has not read and cannot read in the original, while he leaves you
ignorant of his ignorance. _This_ Mr Arnold never committed, and
could never have committed. But short of it, and while escaping its
penalty, a man may err by speaking too freely even of what he
confesses that he does not know; and of this minor and less
discreditable sin, I own (acknowledging most frankly that I know even
less of the _originals_ than he did), I think Mr Arnold was here

Exactly how much Gaelic, Irish, or Welsh Mr Arnold knew at first-hand,
I cannot say: he frankly enough confesses that his knowledge was very
closely limited. But what is really surprising, is that he does not
seem to have taken much trouble to extend it at second-hand. A very
few Welsh triads and scraps of Irish are all that, even in
translation, he seems to have consulted: he never, I think, names
Dafydd ap Gwilym, usually put forward as the greatest of Celtic poets;
and in the main his citations are derived either from _Ossian_
("this do seem going far," as an American poetess observes), or else
from the _Mabinogion_, where some of the articles are positively
known to be late translations of French-English originals, and the
others are very uncertain. You really cannot found any safe literary
generalisations on so very small a basis of such very shaky matter. In
fact, Mr Arnold's argument for the presence of "Celtic magic," &c., in
Celtic poetry comes to something like this. "There is a quality of
magic in Shakespeare, Keats, &c.; this magic must be Celtic: therefore
it must be in Celtic poetry." Fill up the double enthymeme who list, I
am not going to endeavour to do so. I shall only say that two
sentences give the key-note of the book as argument. "Rhyme itself,
all the weight of evidence tends to show, came into our poetry from
the Celts." Now to some of us all the weight of evidence tends to show
that it came from the Latins. "Our only first-rate body of
contemporary poetry is the German." Now at the time (1867), for more
than thirty years, Germany had not had a single poet of the first or
the second class except Heine, who, as Mr Arnold himself very truly
says, was not a German but a Jew.

But once more, what we go to Mr Matthew Arnold for is not fact, it is
not argument, it is not even learning. It is phrase, attitude, style,
that by which, as he says admirably in this very book, "what a man has
to say is recast and heightened in such a manner as to add dignity and
distinction to it." It is the new critical attitude, the appreciation
of literary beauty in and for itself, the sense of "the word," the
power of discerning and the power of reflecting charm, the method not
more different from the wooden deduction of the old school of critics
than from the merely unenlightened and Philistine commonness of the
reviewers, his earlier contemporaries, or from the aimless "I like
that" and "I don't like this" which does duty now, and did then, and
has done always, for criticism itself. True, Mr Arnold himself might
be wilful, capricious, haphazard; true, he might often be absolutely
unable to give any real reason for the faith that was in him; true, he
sometimes might have known more than he did know about his subject.
But in all these points he saved himself: in his wilfulness, by the
grace and charm that sometimes attend caprice; in his want of reason,
by his genuineness of faith itself; in his occasional lack of the
fullest knowledge, by the admirable use--not merely display--which he
made of what knowledge he had. There may be hardly a page of the two
books of his lectures in which it is not possible to find some
opportunity for disagreement--sometimes pretty grave disagreement; but
I am sure that no two more valuable books, in their kind and subject,
to their country and time, have been ever issued from the press.

The _New Poems_ make a volume of unusual importance in the
history of poetical careers. Mr Arnold lived more than twenty years
after the date of their publication; but his poetical production
during that time filled no more than a few pages. At this date he was
a man of forty-five--an age at which the poetical impulse has been
supposed to run low, but perhaps with no sufficient reason. Poets of
such very different types as Dryden and Tennyson have produced work
equal to their best, if not actually their best, at that age and
later. Mr Browning had, a few years before, produced what are perhaps
his actually greatest volumes, _Men and Women_ and _Dramatis
Personae_, the one at forty-three, the other at fifty-two.
According to Mr Arnold's own conception of poetry-making, as depending
upon the subject and upon the just and artist-like exposition of that
subject, no age should be too late.

Certainly this age was not too late with him. The contents all
answered strictly enough to their title, except that _Empedocles on
Etna_ and some half-dozen of its companions were, at Mr Browning's
request, reprinted from the almost unpublished volume of 1852, and
that _Thyrsis, St Brandan, A Southern Night_, and the _Grande
Chartreuse_ had made magazine appearances. Again the moment was
most important. When Mr Arnold had last made (omitting with an apology
the "transient and embarrassed phantom" of _Merope_) an
appearance in 1855, the transition age of English nineteenth-century
poetry was in full force. No one's place was safe but Tennyson's; and
even his was denied by some, including Mr Arnold himself, who never
got his eyes quite clear of scales in that matter. Browning, though he
had handed in indisputable proofs, had not yet had them allowed; the
Spasmodics had not disappeared; the great prae-Raphaelite school was
but on the way. The critics knew not what to think; the vulgar thought
(to the tune of myriad copies) of Tupper. Both classes, critic and
public, rent _Maud_ and neglected _Men and Women: The Defence
of Guenevere_ had not yet rung the matins--bell in the ears of the
new generation.

Now things were all altered. The mixture of popularity and perfection
in the _Idylls_ and the _Enoch Arden_ volume--the title poem
and _Aylmer's Field_ for some, _The Voyage_ and _Tithonus_ and _In the
Valley of Cauterets_ for others--had put Tennyson's place

  "Beyond the arrows, shouts, and views of men."

The three-volume collection of Browning's _Poems_, and
_Dramatis Personae_ which followed to clench it, had nearly, if
not quite, done the same for him. _The Defence of Guenevere_ and
_The Life and Death of Jason, Atalanta, Chastelard_, and most of
all the _Poems and Ballads_, had launched an entirely new
poetical school with almost unexampled pomp and promise on the world.
The Spasmodics were forgotten, the Tupper cult had been nearly (not
yet quite) laughed out of existence. That Mr Arnold's own poems had
had any widely extended sale or reading could hardly be said; but they
were read by those who were or were shortly to be themselves read. You
had not to look far in any Oxford college (I cannot speak of
Cambridge) before you found them on those undergraduate shelves which
mean so much; while many who, from general distaste to poetry or from
accident, knew them not, or hardly knew them, were familiar with their
author's prose work, or at least knew him as one whom others knew.

The volume itself was well calculated to take advantage, to at least a
moderate extent, of this conjunction of circumstance. At no time was
the appeal of Mr Arnold's poetry of the most impetuous or peremptory
order. And it might be contended that this collection contains nothing
quite up to the very best things of the earlier poems, to the
_Shakespeare_ sonnet, to _The Scholar-Gipsy_, to the _Isolation_
stanzas. But with the majority of its readers it was sure rather to
send them to these earlier things than to remind them thereof, and its
own attractions were abundant, various, and strong.

In the poet himself there was perhaps a slight consciousness of "the
silver age." The prefatory _Stanzas_, a title changed in the
collected works to _Persistency of Poetry_, sound this note--

  "Though the Muse be gone away,
  Though she move not earth to-day,
  Souls, erewhile who caught her word,
  Ah! still harp on what they heard."

A confession perhaps a little dangerous, when the Muses were speaking
in no uncertain tones not merely to juniors like Mr Morris and Mr
Swinburne but to seniors like Tennyson and Browning. But the actual
contents were more than reassuring. Of _Empedocles_ it is not
necessary to speak again: _Thyrsis_ could not but charm. The
famous line,

  "And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,"

sets the key dangerously high; but it is kept by the magnificent
address to the cuckoo,

  "Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?"

and the flower-piece that follows; by that other single masterpiece,

  "The coronals of that forgotten time;"

by the more solemn splendour of the stanza beginning

  "And long the way appears which seemed so short;"

by the Signal tree; and by the allegoric close with the reassertion of
the Scholar. All these things stand by themselves, hold their sure and
reserved place, even in the rush and crowd of the poetry of the
sixties, the richest, perhaps, since the time from 1805 to 1822.

_Saint Brandan_, which follows, has pathos if not great power,
and connects itself agreeably with those Celtic and mediæval studies
which had just attracted and occupied Mr Arnold. The sonnets which
form the next division might be variously judged. None of them equals
the _Shakespeare_; and one may legitimately hold the opinion that
the sonnet was not specially Mr Arnold's form. Its greatest examples
have always been reached by the reflex, the almost combative, action
of intense poetic feeling--Shakespeare's, Milton's, Wordsworth's,
Rossetti's--and intensity was not Mr Arnold's characteristic. Yet
_Austerity of Poetry, East London_, and _Monica's Last Prayer_ must
always stand so high in the second class that it is hardly critical
weakness to allow them the first. And then the tide rises. _Calais
Sands_ may not be more than very pretty, but it is that, and _Dover
Beach_ is very much more. Mr Arnold's theological prepossessions and
assumptions may appear in it, and it may be unfortunately weak as an
argument, for except the flood itself nothing is so certain a
testimony to the flood as the ebb. But the order, the purpose, the
argument, the subject, matter little to poetry. The expression, the
thing that is _not_ the subject, the tendency outside the subject,
which makes for poetry, are here, and almost of the very best. Here
you have that passionate interpretation of life, which is so different
a thing from the criticism of it; that marvellous pictorial effect to
which the art of line and colour itself is commonplace and _banal_,
and which prose literature never attains except by a _tour de force_;
that almost more marvellous accompaniment of vowel and consonant
music, independent of the sense but reinforcing it, which is the glory
of English poetry among all, and of nineteenth-century poetry among
all English, poetries. As is the case with most Englishmen, the sea
usually inspired Mr Arnold--it is as natural to great English poets to
leave the echo of the very word ringing at the close of their verse as
it was to Dante to end with "stars." But it has not often inspired any
poet so well as this, nor anywhere this poet better than here. If at
any time a critic may without fatuity utter judgment with some
confidence, it is where he disagrees with the sentiment and admires
the poem; and for my part I find in _Dover Beach_, even without the
_Merman_, without the _Scholar-Gipsy_, without _Isolation_, a document
which I could be content to indorse "Poetry, _sans phrase_."

_The Terrace at Berne_ has been already dealt with, but that mood for
epicede, which was so frequent in Mr Arnold, finds in the _Carnac_
stanzas adequate, and in _A Southern Night_ consummate, expression.
_The Fragment of Chorus of a Dejaneira_, written long before, but now
first published, has the usual faults of Mr Arnold's rhymeless verse.
It is really quite impossible, when one reads such stuff as--

  "Thither in your adversity
  Do you betake yourselves for light,
  But strangely misinterpret all you hear.
  For you will not put on
  New hearts with the inquirer's holy robe
  And purged considerate minds"--

not to ask what, poetically speaking, is the difference between this
and the following--

  "To college in the pursuit of duly
  Did I betake myself for lecture;
  But very soon I got extremely wet,
  For I had not put on
  The stout ulster appropriate to Britain,
  And my umbrella was at home."

But _Palladium_, if not magnificent, is reconciling, the Shakespearian
_Youth's Agitations_ beautiful, and _Growing Old_ delightful, not
without a touch of terror. It is the reply, the _verneinung_, to
Browning's magnificent _Rabbi ben Ezra_, and one has almost to fly to
that stronghold in order to resist its chilling influence. But it is
poetry for all that, and whatever there is in it of weakness is
redeemed, though not quite so poetically, by _The Last Word_. The
_Lines written in Kensington Gardens_ (which had appeared with
_Empedocles_, but were missed above) may be half saddened, half
endeared to some by their own remembrance of the "black-crowned
red-boled" giants there celebrated--trees long since killed by London
smoke, as the good-natured say, as others, by the idiotic tidiness of
the gardeners, who swept the needles up and left the roots without
natural comfort and protection. And then, after lesser things, the
interesting, if not intensely poetical, _Epilogue to Lessing's
Laocoon_ leads us to one of the most remarkable of all Mr Arnold's
poems, _Bacchanalia, or the New Age_. The word remarkable has been
used advisedly. _Bacchanalia_, though it has poignant and exquisite
poetic moments, is not one of the most specially _poetical_ of its
author's pieces. But it is certainly his only considerable piece of
that really poetic humour which is so rare and delightful a thing.
And, like all poetic humour, it oscillates between cynicism and
passion almost bewilderingly. For a little more of this what pages and
pages of jocularity about Bottles and the Rev. Esau Hittall would we
not have given! what volumes of polemic with the _Guardian_ and
amateur discussions of the Gospel of St John! In the first place, note
the metrical structure, the sober level octosyllables of the overture
changing suddenly to a dance-measure which, for a wonder in English,
almost keeps the true dactylic movement. How effective is the
rhetorical iteration of

  "The famous orators have shone,
  The famous poets sung and gone,"

and so on for nearly half a score of lines! How perfect the sad
contrast of the refrain--

  "_Ah! so the quiet was!
  So was the hush!_"

how justly set and felicitously worded the rural picture of the
opening! how riotous the famous irruption of the New Agers! how
adequate the quiet-moral of the end, that the Past is as the Present,
and more also! And then he went and wrote about Bottles!

"Progress," with a splendid opening--

  "The master stood upon the mount and taught--
  He saw a fire in his disciples' eyes,"--

conducts us to two other fine, though rhymeless, dirges. In the first,
_Rugby Chapel_, the intensity of feeling is sufficient to carry off
the lack of lyrical accomplishment. The other is the still better
_Heine's Grave_, and contains the famous and slightly pusillanimous
lines about the "weary Titan," which are among the best known of their
author's, and form at once the motto and the stigma of mid-century
Liberal policy. And then the book is concluded by two other
elegies--in rhyme this time--_The Stanzas written at the Grande
Chartreuse_ and _Obermann once more_. They are, however, elegies of a
different kind, much more self-centred, and, indeed, little more than
fresh variations on "the note," as I ventured to call it before. Their
descriptive and autobiographic interest is great, and if poetry were a
criticism of life, there is plenty of that of them. The third
book--_Schools and Universities on the Continent_ (1868)--in which are
put the complete results of the second Continental exploration--is, I
suppose, much less known than the non-professional work, though
perhaps not quite so unknown as the earlier report on elementary
education. By far the larger part of it--the whole, indeed, except a
"General Conclusion" of some forty pages--is a reasoned account of the
actual state of matters in France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. It
is not exactly judicial; for the conclusion--perhaps the foregone
conclusion--obviously colours every page. But it is an excellent
example (as, indeed, is all its author's non-popular writing) of clear
and orderly exposition--never arranged _ad captandum_, but also never
"dry." Indeed there certainly are some tastes, and there may be many,
to which the style is a distinct relief after the less quiet and more
mannered graces of some of the rest.

Opinions may differ more as to the value of the book as a lesson, or
as an argument. Mr Arnold had started with a strong belief in the
desirableness--indeed of the necessity--of State-control of the most
thoroughgoing kind in education; and he was not at all likely to miss
the opportunity of fetching new weapons from the very arsenals and
_places d'armes_ of that system. He was thoroughly convinced that
English ways generally, and especially the ways of English schools and
colleges, were wrong; and he had, of course, no difficulty in pointing
triumphantly to the fact that, if the institutions of Continental
countries differed in some ways from each other, they all differed in
nearly the same way from ours. It may undoubtedly be claimed for
him--by those who see any force in the argument--that events have
followed him. Education, both secondary and university in England,
_has_ to a large extent gone since on the lines he indicates; the
threatened superiority of the German bagman has asserted itself even
more and more; the "teaching of literature" has planted a terrible
fixed foot in our schools and colleges. But perhaps the weight usually
assigned to this kind of corroboration is rather imaginary. That a
thing has happened does not prove that it ought to have happened,
except on a theory of determinism, which puts "conduct" out of sight
altogether. There are those who will still, in the vein of
Mephistopheles-Akinetos, urge that the system which gave us the men
who pulled us out of the Indian Mutiny can stand comparison with the
system which gave France the authors of the _débâcle_; that the
successes of Germany over France in war have no necessary connection
with education, and those of Germany over England in commerce,
diplomacy, &c., still less. They will even go further--some of
them--and ask whether the Continental practices and the Arnoldian
principles do not necessitate divers terribly large and terribly
ill-based assumptions, as that all men are _educable_, that the value
of education is undiminished by its diffusion, that all, or at least
most, subjects are capable of being made educational instruments, and
a great many more.

On the other hand, they will cheerfully grant that Mr Arnold never
succumbed to that senseless belief in examination which has done, and
is doing, such infinite harm. But they will add to the debit side that
the account of English university studies which ends the book was even
at the time of writing so inaccurate as to be quite incomprehensible,
unless we suppose that Mr Arnold was thinking of the days of his own
youth, and not of those with complete accuracy. He says "the
examination for the degree of bachelor of arts, which we place at the
end of our three years' university course, is merely the
_Abiturienten-examen_ of Germany, the _épreuve du baccalauréat_ of
France, placed in both those countries at the entrance to university
studies"; and it is by this that he justifies Signer Matteucci's
absurd description of Oxford and Cambridge as _hauts lyceés_ Now, in
the first place, there is not one single word in this sentence, or in
the context, or, so far as I remember, in the whole book, about the
Honours system, which for very many years before 1868 had exalted the
standard infinitely higher in the case of a very large proportion of
men. And in the second place, there is not a word about the
Scholarship system, which in the same way had for very many years
provided an entrance standard actually higher--far higher in some
ways--than the _concluding_ examinations of the French _baccalauréat_.
My own days at Oxford were from 1863 to 1868, the year of Mr Arnold's
book. During that time there were always in the university some 400
men who had actually obtained scholarships on this standard; and a
very considerable number who had competed on it, and done fairly.
Whether Mr Arnold shared Mark Pattison's craze about the abolition of
the pass-man altogether, I do not know. But he ought to have known,
and I should think he must have known, that at the time of his writing
the mere and sheer pass-man--the man whose knowledge was represented
by the minimum of Smalls, Mods, and Greats--was, if not actually in a
minority,--in some colleges at least he was that--at any rate in a
pretty bare majority. With his love of interference and control, he
might have retorted that this did not matter, that the university
_permitted_ every one to stick to the minimum. But as a matter of fact
he suggests that it provided no alternative, no _maximum_ or _majus_
at all.

By the time that we have now reached, that of his giving up the
professorship, Mr Arnold's position was, for good and for evil, mostly
fixed. When he took up the duties of his chair he was, though by no
means a very young man and already the author of much remarkable work,
yet almost unknown out of Oxford and a small official circle in
London. He had now, at forty-five, not exactly popularity, but a very
considerable, and a very lively and growing, reputation. By far the
most and the best of his poetry was written; but it was only just
coming to be at all generally read or at all justly appreciated. He
had, partly in obeying, and partly in working against his official
superiors, acquired a distinct position as an educational reformer. He
had become something of a figure in society. But, above all, he had
proclaimed with undoubting authority, and had exemplified with
remarkable and varied skill, a new or at least a very greatly altered
kind of literary criticism. And this had already threatened incursions
into domains from which men of letters as such had generally kept
aloof, or which, if they had touched, they had touched not as men of
letters. Something of Socrates, something of Addison, something of
Johnson, mingled in Mr Arnold's presentation of himself as, if not
exactly an arbiter, at any rate a suggester of elegances in all
things, poetry and politics, prose and polite manners, public thought,
public morality, religion itself. These pretensions, if urged in a
less agreeable manner, would have been intolerable; they were not
universally tolerated as it was: but the gifts and graces of the
critic made them--so far--inoffensive, even rather fascinating, to all
save the least accommodating or the most clear-sighted, and to some
even of these.

And we must remember that this appearance of Mr Arnold as the mild and
ingenious tamer of the ferocious manners of Britons coincided with far
wider and more remarkable innovations. This was the time, at home, of
the second Parliamentary Reform, which did at least as much to
infringe the authority of his enemy the Philistine, as the first had
done to break the power of the half-dreaded, half-courted Barbarian.
This was the time when, abroad, the long-disguised and disorganised
power of Germany was to rearrange the map of Europe, and to bring
about a considerable rearrangement of Mr Arnold's own ideas as to the
respective greatness of foreign nations. And finally the walls of
another stronghold of British Philistia, its intense and apparently
impregnable self-satisfaction with Free-trade and cheap money and so
forth, were tottering and crumbling. A blast against them--indeed a
series of blasts from _Chartism_ to the _Latter-day
Pamphlets_--had been blown long before by Carlyle, in very
different tones from Mr Arnold's. They had lost their stoutest
champion and their most eloquent panegyrist in Macaulay. But Sadowa
and household suffrage gave the final summons, if not the final shake.
Mr Arnold had done his best to co-operate; but his object, to do him
justice, was to be rather a raiser of the walls of Thebes than an
over-thrower of those of Jericho, or even of Ashdod. He set about, in
all seriousness, to clear away the rubbish and begin the
re-edification; unluckily, in but too many cases, with dubious
judgment, and by straying into quarters where he had no vocation. But
he never entirely neglected his real business and his real vocation,
and fortunately he returned to them almost entirely before it was too



That the end of Mr Arnold's tenure of the Professorship of Poetry was
a most important epoch in his life is sufficiently evident. In the ten
years that came to an end then, he had, as two such extremely
competent judges as Mr Disraeli and Crabb Robinson in different ways
told him,[1] passed from comparative obscurity into something more
than comparative prominence. His chair had been for him a real
_cathedra_, and his deliverances from it had always assumed, and
had at length, to a great extent, achieved, real authority. In
criticism it was evident that if he had not revealed positively novel
aspects of truth, he had formulated and put on record aspects which
were presenting themselves to many, nay, most, of the best critical
minds of his day. His criticism had drawn his poetry with it, if not
into actual popularity, yet into something like attention. His
attempts to obtain some other employment less irksome, less absorbing,
and more profitable, had indeed been unsuccessful; but he was rising
in his own department, and his work, if still in part uncongenial and
decidedly laborious, appears to have been much less severe than in
earlier days. Partly this work itself, partly his writings, and partly
other causes had opened to him a very large circle of acquaintance,
which it was in his own power to extend or contract as he pleased. His
domestic life was perfectly happy, if his means were not very great:
and his now assured literary position made it easy for him to increase
these means, not indeed largely, but to a not despicable extent, by
writing. The question was, "What should he write?"

It is probably idle ever to wish that a man had done anything
different from that which he has done. Without being a rigid
Determinist, one may be pretty well convinced that the actual conduct
is the joint result of abilities, and of desires, and of opportunity
to exercise them, and that the man, had he really done otherwise,
would have been unsuccessful or unhappy or both. But I fear that if I
had been arbiter of Mr Arnold's fate at this moment I should have
arranged it differently. He should have given us more poems--the man
who, far later, wrote the magnificent _Westminster Abbey_ on such a
subject as Dean Stanley, had plenty more poetry in his sack. And in
prose he should have given us infinite essays, as many as De Quincey's
or as Sainte-Beuve's own, and more than Hazlitt's, of the kind of the
_Heine_ and the _Joubert_ earlier, of the _Wordsworth_ and the _Byron_
later. I can see no reason why, in the twenty-one years' lease of life
upon which he now entered, he should not have produced a volume a-year
of these,--there are more than enough subjects in the various
literatures that he knew; and though it is possible that in such
extended application his method might have proved monotonous, or his
range have seemed narrow, it is not likely. To complete the thing, I
should have given him, instead of his inspectorship, a headship at
Oxford, for which, it seems to me, he was admirably fitted. But _Dis
aliter visum_: at least it seemed otherwise good to Mr Arnold himself
as far as his literary employments were concerned, and the gods did
not interfere.

We have seen that he had, some years before, conceived the ambitious
idea of changing the mind of England on a good many points by no means
merely literary; and he seems, not altogether unnaturally, to have
thought that now was the time to apply seriously to that work. His
tenure of the Oxford chair had given him the public ear; and the
cessation of that tenure had removed any official seal of etiquette
which it might have laid on his own lips. A far less alert and acute
mind than his must have seen that the Reform troubles of 1866 and the
"leap in the dark" of 1867 were certain to bring about very great
changes indeed at home; and that the war of the first-named year meant
the alteration of many things abroad. He at least thought--and there
was some justification of a good many kinds for him in thinking--that
intellectual changes, of importance equal to the political, were
coming or come upon the world. And so for a time he seems to have
grown rather cold towards the Muses, his earliest and always his
truest loves. Social, political, and religious matters tempted him
away from literature; and for a matter of ten years it can hardly be
said that he had anything to do with her except to take her name in
vain in the title of by far his worst, as it was by far his most
popular, volume.

It has been hinted in a note on one of the early pages in this book
that the secret of this unfortunate twist is at least partly to be
found in the peculiar character of Mr Arnold's official employment.
For nearly twenty years he had been constantly thrown into contact
with the English Dissenters; and, far earlier than the time which we
have reached, they seem not only, in familiar phrase, to have "got
upon his nerves," but to have affected his brain. He saw all things in
Dissent--or, at least, in the middle-class Philistine Dissenter. His
Philistia is not in the least a true portrait of the average
middle-class household thirty or forty years ago; though, I daresay (I
have little direct knowledge), it is not an unfair one of the average
Dissenting middle-class household. The religion which Mr Arnold
attacks is not the religion of the Church of England at all, or only
of what was even then a decaying and uninfluential part of it, the
extremer and more intolerant sect of the Evangelicals. Once more, I
cannot from personal knowledge say whether this portrait was true of
Dissent, but I can believe it.

Now, to derive an idea of England from the English Dissenter is and
was absurd. Politically, indeed, he had only too much power between
1832 and 1866, from the tradition which made Liberal politicians fond
of petting him. Socially, intellectually, and to a great extent
religiously, he had next to no power at all. To take the average
manager of a "British" school as the average representative of the
British nation was the wildest and most mischievous of confusions. Yet
this practically was the basis of Mr Arnold's crusade between 1867 and

The First Blast of the Trumpet was, intentionally no doubt, the last
of the Oxford lectures, and for that very reason a rather gentle and
insinuating one. _Culture its Enemies_, which was the origin and
first part, so to say, of _Culture and Anarchy_, carried the
campaign begun in the _Essays in Criticism_ forward; but only in
the most cautious manner, a caution no doubt partly due to the fact of
the author's expressed, and very natural and proper, intention of
closing his professorial exercises with the _bocca dolce_. Still
this is at least conceivably due to the fact that the boldest
extension of the campaign itself had not definitely entered, or at
least possessed, the author's mind. A considerable time, indeed from
July 1867 to January 1868, passed before the publication of the
lecture as an article in the _Cornhill_ was followed up by the
series from the latter month to August, which bore the general title
of _Anarchy and Authority_, and completed the material of
_Culture and Anarchy_ itself. This, as a book, appeared in 1869.

It began, according to the author's favourite manner, which was
already passing into something like a mannerism, with a sort of
half-playful, half-serious battery against a living writer (in this
case Mr Frederic Harrison), and with a laudatory citation from a dead
one (in this case Bishop Wilson). Mr Harrison had blasphemed "the cant
about culture," and Mr Arnold protests that culture's only aim is in
the Bishop's words, "to make reason and the will of God prevail." In
the first chapter, famous thenceforward in English literature by its
title, borrowed from Swift, of "Sweetness and Light," we have the old
rallyings of the _Daily Telegraph_ and the _Nonconformist_.
Then the general view is laid down, and is developed in those that
follow, but still with more of a political than a religious bent, and
with the political bent itself chiefly limited to the social aspect.

"Doing as one Likes" scatters a mild rain of ridicule on this supposed
fetich of all classes in England; and then, the very famous, if not
perhaps very felicitous, nickname-classification of
"Barbarian-Philistine-Populace" is launched, defended, discussed in a
chapter to itself. To do Mr Arnold justice, the three classes are, if
not very philosophically defined, very impartially and amusingly
rallied, the rallier taking up that part of humble Philistine
conscious of his own weaknesses, which, till he made it slightly
tiresome by too long a run, was piquant enough. The fourth chapter,
"Hebraism and Hellenism," coasts the sands and rocks (on which, as it
seems to some, Mr Arnold was later to make shipwreck) very nearly in
the title and rather nearly in the contents, but still with a fairly
safe offing. The opposition might be put too bluntly by saying that
"Hellenism" represents to Mr Arnold the love of truth at any price,
and "Hebraism" the love of goodness at any price; but the actual
difference is not far from this, or from those of knowing and doing,
fear of stupidity and fear of sin, &c. We have the quotation from Mr
Carlyle about Socrates being "terribly at ease in Zion," the
promulgation of the word Renascence for Renaissauce, and so forth.
"Porro unum est necessarium," a favourite tag of Mr Arnold's, rather
holds up another side of the same lesson than continues it in a fresh
direction; and then "Our Liberal Practitioners" brings it closer to
politics, but (since the immediate subject is the Disestablishment of
the Irish Church) nearer also to the quicksands. Yet Mr Arnold still
keeps away from them; though from what followed it would seem that he
could only have done so by some such _tour de force_ as the
famous "clubhauling" in _Peter Simple_. Had _Culture and
Anarchy_ stood by itself, it would have been, though very far from
its author's masterpiece, an interesting document both in regard to
his own mental history and that of England during the third quarter of
the century, containing some of his best prose, and little, if any, of
his worst sense.

But your crusader--still more your anti-crusader--never stops, and Mr
Arnold was now pledged to this crusade or anti-crusade. In October
1869 he began, still in the _Cornhill_,--completing it by further
instalments in the same place later in the year, and publishing it in
1870,--the book called _St Paul and Protestantism_, where he
necessarily exchanges the mixed handling of _Culture and Anarchy_
for a dead-set at the religious side of his imaginary citadel of
Philistia. The point of at least ostensible connection--of real
departure--is taken from the "Hebraism and Hellenism" contrast of the
earlier book; and the same contrast is strongly urged throughout,
especially in the _coda_, "A Comment on Christmas." But this
contrast is gradually shaped into an onslaught on Puritanism, or
rather on its dogmatic side, for its appreciation of "conduct" of
morality is ever more and more eulogised. As regards the Church of
England herself, the attack is oblique; in fact, it is disclaimed, and
a sort of a Latitudinarian Union, with the Church for centre, and
dogma left out, is advocated. Another of our Arnoldian friends, the
"Zeit-Geist," makes his appearance, and it is more than hinted that
one of the most important operations of this spirit is the exploding
of miracles. The book is perfectly serious--its seriousness, indeed,
is quite evidently deliberate and laboured, so that the author does
not even fear to appear dull. But it is still admirably written, as
well as studiously moderate and reverent; no exception can be taken to
it on the score of taste, whatever may be taken on the score of
orthodoxy from the one side, where no doubt the author would hasten to
plead guilty, or on those of logic, history, and the needs of human
nature on the other, where no doubt his "not guilty" would be equally

The case is again altered, and very unfortunately altered, in the
next, the most popular and, as has been said, the most famous of the
series--its zenith at once and its nadir--_Literature and Dogma_.
A very much smaller part of this had appeared in magazine form;
indeed, the contents of _St Paul and Protestantism_ itself must
have seemed odd in that shape, and only strong sympathies on the part
of the editor could have obtained admission for any part of
_Literature and Dogma_. Much of it must have been written amid
the excitement of the French-Prussian War, when the English public was
athirst for "skits" of all sorts, and when Mr Arnold himself was "i'
the vein," being engaged in the composition of much of the matter of
_Friendship's Garland_. _St Paul and Protestantism_ had had
two editions in the same year (_Culture and Anarchy_, a far
better thing, waited six for its second), and altogether the state of
things was such as to invite any author to pursue the triumph and
partake the gale. And he might at first flatter himself that he had
caught the one and made cyclone-use of the other; for the book,
appearing at the end of 1872, with the date of 1873, passed through
three editions in that year, a fourth in 1874, and a fifth two years
later. It was thus by far Mr Arnold's most popular book; I repeat also
that it is quite his worst.

That it was in hopelessly bad taste here and there--in taste so bad
that Mr Arnold himself later cut out the most famous passage of the
book, to which accordingly we need here only allude--can be denied by
nobody except those persons who hold "good form" to be, as somebody or
other puts it, "an insular British delusion of the fifties and
sixties." But this excision of his and, I think, some others, besides
the "citations and illustrations" which he confesses to having
excluded from the popular edition, may give us the welcome leave to
deal very briefly with this side of the matter in other respects also.
We may pass over the fun which Mr Arnold had with Archbishop Thomson
(who, whatsoe'er the failings on his part, was at any rate a logician)
on the theory of causation; with the University of Cambridge about
_hominum divomque voluptas alma Venus_ (I have forgotten what was
the bearing of this joke, and it is probably not worth inquiring
into); with the Bishop of Gloucester about the Personality of God;
with the Athanasian Creed, and its "science got ruffled by fighting."
These things, as "form," class themselves; one mutters something well
known about _risu inepto_, and passes on. Such a tone on such a
subject can only be carried off completely by the gigantic strength of
Swift, though no doubt it is well enough in keeping with the merely
negative and destructive purpose of Voltaire. It would be cruel to
bring _Literature and Dogma_ into competition with _A Tale of a
Tub_; it would be more than unjust to bring it into comparison with
_Le Taureau blanc_. And neither comparison is necessary, because
the great fault of _Literature and Dogma_ appears, not when it is
considered as a piece of doubtful or not doubtful taste, but when it
is regarded as a serious composition.

In the first place, the child-like fashion in which Mr Arnold
swallowed the results of that very remarkable "science," Biblical
criticism, has always struck some readers with astonishment and a kind
of terror. This new La Fontaine asking everybody, "Avez-vous lu
Kuenen?" is a lesson more humbling to the pride of literature than
almost any that can be found. "The prophecy of the details of Peter's
death," we are told in _Literature and Dogma_, "is almost
certainly an addition after the event, _because it is not at all in
the manner of Jesus_." Observe that we have absolutely no details,
no evidence of any sort whatever, outside the Gospels for the "manner
of Jesus." It is not, as in some at least of the more risky exercises
of profane criticism in a similar field, as if we had some absolutely
or almost absolutely authenticated documents, and others to judge by
them. External evidence, except for the mere fact of Christ's
existence and death, we have none. So you must, by the inner light,
pick and choose out of the very same documents, resting on the very
same authority, what, according to your good pleasure, is "in the
manner of Jesus," and then black-mark the rest as being not so. Of
course, when Mr Arnold thus wrote, the method had not been pushed
_ad absurdum_, as it was later by his friend M. Renan in the
_Histoire d'Israël_, to the dismay and confusion of no less
intelligent and unorthodox a critic than his other friend, M. Scherer.
But it is more or less the method of all Biblical criticism of this
sort, and Mr Arnold follows it blindly.

Again, the chief bent of the book is to establish that "miracles do
not happen." Alas! it is Mr Arnold's unhappy lot that if miracles
_do_ happen his argument confessedly disappears, while even if
miracles do not happen it is, for his purpose, valueless. Like almost
all critics of his class recently, especially like Professor Huxley in
another division, he appears not to comprehend what, to the believers
in the supernatural, the supernatural means. He applies, as they all
apply, the tests of the natural, and says, "Now really, you know,
these tests are destructive." He says--he cannot prove--that miracles
do not happen now; his adversaries, if they were wise, would simply
answer, "_Après?_" Do any of them pretend to prescribe to their
God that His methods shall be always the same, or that those methods
shall stand the tests of the laboratory and the School of Charters?
that He shall give "a good title," like a man who is selling a house?
Some at least would rather not; they would feel appallingly little
interest in a Divinity after this sworn-attorney and
chartered-accountant fashion, who must produce vouchers for all His
acts. And further (to speak with reverence), the Divinity whom they
_do_ worship would be likely to answer Mr Arnold in the words of
a prophet of Mr Arnold's own--

  "Du gleichst dem Geist den du begreifst,
  Nicht Mir!"

But this is not all. There is not only begging of the question but
ignoring of the issue. _Literature and Dogma_, to do it strict
justice, is certainly not, in intention at any rate, a destructive
book. It is meant, and meant very seriously, to be constructive--to
provide a substitute for the effete religion of Hooker and Wilson, of
Laud and Pusey, as well as for that of Baxter and Wesley and Mr Miall.
This new religion is to have for its Jachin Literature--that is to
say, a delicate æsthetic appreciation of all that is beautiful in
Christianity and out of it; and for its Boaz Conduct--that is to say,
a morality at least as rigid as that of the purest Judaism, though
more amiable. If dogma is to be banished, so is anything like licence;
and in the very book itself Mr Arnold formulated, against his once
(and still partly) beloved France, something like that denunciation of
her worship of Lubricity which he afterwards put more plainly still.
Even Hellenism, the lauded Hellenism, is told to mend its ways (indeed
there was need for it), and the Literature-without-Dogmatist will have
to behave himself with an almost Pharisaic correctness, though in
point of belief he is to be piously Sadducee.

Now this is all very pretty and very creditable, but it will not work.
The goods, to use the vulgar but precise formula of English law, "are
not of the nature and quality demanded by the purchaser." Nobody wants
a religion of that sort. Conduct is good; poetic appreciation is
perhaps better, though not for the general. But then religion happens
to be something different from either, though no doubt closely
connected with both. Mr Arnold does not exactly offer us a stone for
bread, but he does, like the benevolent French princess in the story,
offer us pie-crust. Pie-crust is a good thing; it is a close
connection of bread; but it will not do for a substitute, and, in
addition, it is much more difficult for the general to obtain.
Moreover, there is a serious, a historical, difficulty about Conduct
_plus_ poetic appreciation, but _minus_ what we call religion. Mr
Arnold, in a stately sonnet, has told us that Sophocles was his ideal
as a life-philosopher who was also a poet. He knew, presumably, the
stories told about Sophocles in Athenæus, and though these might be
idle scandal, he knew far too much not to be aware that there is
nothing intrinsically impossible about them. It would have been rather
interesting to hear him fully on this subject. But he was too busy
with expatiating on the sweet reasonableness of Jesus and "the
_Aberglaube_ of the Second Advent" to trouble himself with awkward
matters of this kind at the moment.

It may be suspected, however, that he did trouble himself with them,
or with something like them, afterwards. The book--a deliberate
provocation--naturally found plenty of respondents, though I do not
remember that any one smashed it, as, for instance, Dean Mansel could
have done if he had been alive, or as Cardinal Newman could, had he
been still in the fold. Mr Arnold was perhaps not less really
disquieted by its comparative popularity. For he had quite enough of
Phocion in him to feel, if not to say, that he must have said
something at least ambiguous, when the multitude applauded. At any
rate, though the ill-omened series did not cease, nothing further
appeared in it which showed the tone of _Literature and Dogma_.
Indeed, of the concluding volumes, _God and the Bible_ and
_Last Essays on Church and Religion_, the first is an elaborate
and rather anxious apology, and the second a collection of diverse and
comparatively "anodyne" essays. It is significant--as showing how much
of the success of _Literature and Dogma_ had been a success of
scandal--that neither of these volumes enjoyed the least popularity.
_God and the Bible_ was never reprinted till the popular edition
of the series thus far in 1884; and _Last Essays_ was never
reprinted at all, or had not been up to the date of the invaluable
_Bibliography_ of the works. Indeed the copies now, 1899, on sale
appear to be of the first edition. This cool reception does not
discredit either Barbarians or Philistines or Populace. There are good
things in the _Last Essays_ (to which we shall return), but the
general effect of them is that of a man who is withdrawing from a
foray, not exactly beaten, but unsuccessful and disgusted, and is
trying to cover his retreat by alarums and excursions.

_God and the Bible_ tells much the same tale. It originally
appeared by instalments in the _Contemporary Review_, where it
must have been something of a choke-pear even for the readers of that
then young and thoughtful periodical. Unless the replier has the
vigour of Swift, or at least of Bentley, the adroitness in fence of
Pascal, or at least of Voltaire, "replies, duplies, quadruplies" are
apt to be wofully tedious reading, and Mr Arnold was rather a
_veles_ than a _triarius_ of controversy. He could harass,
but he did not himself stand harassing very well; and here he was not
merely the object of attacks from all sides, but was most uneasily
conscious that, in some cases at least, he did not wish his enemies to
destroy each other. He had absolutely no sympathy with the rabid
anti-Christianity of Clifford, very little with the mere agnosticism
of Huxley; he wanted to be allowed to take just so much Biblical
criticism as suited him and no more. He wished to prove, in his own
remarkable way, the truth and necessity of Christianity, and to this
wish the contradictions of sinners were too manifold. One must be
stony-hearted not to feel some pity for him, as, just when he thinks
he has evaded an orthodox brick, the tile of a disbeliever in the
Fourth Gospel whizzes at him; or as, while he is trying to patch up
his romantic reconstructions of imaginary Jewish history and religion,
the push of some aggressive reviewer bids him make good his challenge
to metaphysical theologians. But this interest is only passing.

In the Preface there is indeed some of the old attempt at liveliness.
Professor Clifford himself, then dead, is disposed of with a not
ungraceful mixture of pity and satire; Messrs Moody and Sankey are not
unpleasantly rallied; Satan and Tisiphone, Mr Ruskin and Sir Robert
Phillimore, once more remind one of the groves of Blarney or the more
doubtful chorus in the _Anti-Jacobin_. But the apologist is not
really light-hearted: he cannot keep the more solemn part of his
apologia out of the Preface itself, and assures us that the story of
Adam's fall "is all a legend. It never really happened, any of it."
Again one asks Mr Arnold, as seriously as possible, "How _do_ you
know that? On your own calculus, with your own estimate of evidence,
how is it possible for you to know that? You may, on your principles,
say that you are insufficiently persuaded that it _did_ happen;
but how can you, without preternatural revelation (the very thing you
will not admit) say that it did _not?_ Surely there is some want
of intellectual seriousness in thus lightly ignoring every rule of law
and logic, of history and of common-sense?"

But the embarrassment thus revealed naturally shows itself even more
in the book itself, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Arnold expressly
declines to reply to those who have attacked _Literature and
Dogma_ as anti-Christian and irreligious. Not even by summarily
banishing this not inconsiderable host can he face the rest
comfortably: and he has to resort to the strangest reasons of defence,
to the most eccentric invitation of reinforcements from afar.

The strangest of all these, the clearest proof in itself of flurry and
sense of need, is exhibited in his summoning--of all wonderful things
--of Comparative Philology to the rescue of Literature. To rebut the
criticism on his denial of a Personal God, he takes refuge in the
ethnological meaning of Deus, which, it seems, is "Shining." The poor
plain mind, already staggered by Mr Arnold's private revelations as to
what did _not_ happen 6000 years ago (or earlier) in the garden
of Eden, quite succumbs before this privilegium of omniscience. One
had thought that the results of philology and etymology of this sort
were extremely ingenious guesses, to be admitted in so far as they do
not conflict with facts, and till the next guess comes, but nothing
more. Lo! they are quoted as if they were on a par with "two and two
make four," or the law of Excluded Middle. We may not take Moses and
the prophets without proof, but Curtius and Professor Max Müller may
speak, and we must but hear. And later, when Mr Arnold is trying to
cope with Descartes, he flies for refuge to "the roots _as_, _bhu_,
and _sta_."

One is tempted rather to laugh at this; but on some sides it is very
serious. That no God of any religion can be more of a mere hypothesis
than _as_, _bhu_, and _sta_, never seems to have occurred to
Mr Arnold for one moment, nor that he was cutting the throat of his
own argument. We must not, however, fall into his own mistake and
quadruplicate to his duply. It may be sufficient to say that the long
defence of the Fourth Gospel which this book contains is one of the
oddest things in all literature. What, on Mr Arnold's principles, it
matters whether the Fourth Gospel was written in the first century,
the fourth, or the fourteenth, it is impossible for the poor plain
mind to see. He will not have it as revelation, and as anything else
its date is quite immaterial.

The fact is that this severe censor of "learned pseudo--science mixed
with popular legend," as he terms theology, appears to have no idea of
the value of evidence whatever. The traditional history of the Bible
is not even to be considered; but a conjectural reconstruction of it
by a Dutch critic, without in the older cases one jot or tittle of
evidence outside the covers of the Bible itself, deserves every
respect, if not reverent acceptance _en bloc_. Miracles are
fictions, and the scenes in the garden of Eden and at the Sepulchre
never happened; but _as_, _bhu_, and _sta_ are very solemn
facts, and you can find out all about the Divinity, because the word
Deus means (not "has been guessed to mean," but _means_)
"Shining." That Shakespeare knew everything is much more certain than
that miracles do not happen; and he certainly knew Mr Arnold's case if
not Mr Arnold, when he introduced a certain main episode in _A
Midsummer Night's Dream_. To frown on Oberon and caress Bottom is
venial compared with the dismissal of the Bible as popular legend, and
the implicit belief in _as_, _bhu_, and _sta_.

A wilfully hostile historian of Mr Arnold could not dwell too long on
these unfortunate books, for the handles they present are infinite;
but for my part I shall take leave to say little more about them. To
ask, in the common phrase, whether they did any harm would be to beg
the question in their own manner; to ask whether they produced any
effect would lead us too far. They certainly expressed a prevalent
tendency. Most fortunately Mr Arnold was allowed another ten years and
more wherein to escape from the wilderness which yielded these Dead
Sea fruits, and to till his proper garden once more. Yet we have not
quite done with the other fruits themselves.

The actual finale, _Last Essays on Church_ and _Religion_,
was still less popular, was indeed the least popular of all his works,
seeing that, as has been said above, it has never been reprinted. It
is easy to understand this, for it is perhaps the only one of his
books which can be definitely called dull. The apologetic tone
noticeable in _God and the Bible_ continues, but the apology is
illustrated and maintained in an even less attractive manner. The
Preface is perhaps the least dead part of the book; but its line of
argument shares, and perhaps even exaggerates, the controversial
infelicity of this unfortunate series. Mr Arnold deals in it at some
length with the comments of two foreign critics, M. Challemel-Lacour
and Signor de Gubernatis, on _Literature and Dogma_, bringing out
(what surely could have been no news to any but very ill-educated
Englishmen) the fact of their surprise, not at his taking the Bible
with so little seriousness, but at his taking it with any seriousness
at all. And he seems never even to dream of the obvious retort:
"Certainly. These men are at any rate 'thorough'; they are not
dilettante dalliers between two opinions. They have got far beyond
your half-way house and have arrived at their destination. We have no
desire to arrive at the destination, and therefore, if you will excuse
us, we decline to visit the half-way house." It is less surprising
that he did not see the force of the objections of another critic, M.
Maurice Vernes, to the equally illogical and unhistorical plan of
arbitrarily selecting this utterance as that of "Jesus," and another,
given by the same authority, as not that of "Jesus." A man, who was
sensible of this paralogism, could never take Mr Arnold's views on
Church and Religion at all.

But when we leave the Preface, even such faint liveliness as this
deserts us. The text contains four (or five, the second being divided
into two parts) essays, lectures, or papers, _A Psychological
Parallel_, _Bishop Butler and the Zeit-Geist_, The Church of England_,
and _A Last Word on the Burials Bill_. All had appeared in
_Macmillan's Magazine_ or the _Contemporary Review_ during
1876, while _Bishop Butler_ had been delivered as two lectures at
Edinburgh, and _The Church of England_ as an address to the
London Clergy at Sion College, during the spring of that year.

Over all there is a curious constraint, the evidence of a mood not
very difficult to analyse, and in the analysis of which lies almost
all the satisfaction or edification to be got out of the book. The
writer, though by no means abandoning his own point of view, and even
flattering himself that some _modus vivendi_ is about to be
established between himself and the more moderate supporters of the
Church and of religion, betrays not merely the well-known
self-excusing and self-accusing tone, but odd flashes of discontent
and weariness--nay, even a fretfulness such as might have been that of
a Moses at Rephidim who could not bring water out of the rock. _A
Psychological Parallel_ is an attempt to buttress the apologia by
referring to Sir Matthew Hale's views on witchcraft, to Smith, the
Cambridge Platonist and Latitudinarian, and to the _Book of
Enoch_ (of which, by the way, it is a pity that Mr Arnold did not
live to see Mr Charles's excellent translation, since he desiderated a
good one). Of course the argument is sun-clear. If Hale was mistaken
about witchcraft, St Paul may have been mistaken about the
Resurrection. Expressions attributed to Christ occur in the _Book of
Enoch_, therefore they are not original and divine, &c., &c. And it
would be out of place to attempt any reply to this argument, the reply
being in each case as sun-clear as the argument itself. No believer in
supernatural religion that I ever met considered Sir Matthew Hale to
have been inspired; and no believer in the divinity of Christ can fail
to hold that His adoption of words (if He did adopt them) makes them

The gist of the Butler lectures is considerably less clear, and, if
only for that reason, it cannot be succinctly stated or answered. In
particular, it requires rather careful "collection" in order to
discover what our friend the Zeit-Geist has to do in this galley. I
should imagine that, though an Edinburgh audience is by no means
alarmed at philosophy, the majority, perhaps the enormous majority, of
Mr Arnold's hearers must have had a singularly dim idea as to his
exact drift. Indeed I cannot say that after reading the piece when it
first appeared, and again, twenty years later, for the purposes of
this book, I have any very distinct notion of that drift myself. If it
merely means that Butler, being an eighteenth-century person, was
afflicted with the eighteenth-century limitations by the Zeit-Geist,
eighty-six pages, and an imposing German compound at the head of every
other one of them, seem a good deal for telling us this. If it is a
sort of indirect attack upon--an oblique demurrer to--Butler's
constructive-aggressive orthodoxy in psychology and religion, one is
bound to say with all politeness, first, that it is a case of _impar
congressus_, and secondly, that the adventurous knight does not
give himself a fair chance. It will take more than eighty-six not very
large pages, and a German word at the top of the alternate ones, to do
that! In the opening sketch of Butler himself Mr Arnold could not but
be agreeable and even delightful. It gives us, indeed, most pleasant
promise of work in this same good kind soon to follow; but for the
rest we grope till we find, after some seventy-three of the
eighty-six, that what Mr Arnold wanted to say is that Butler did not
handle, and could not then have handled, miracles and the fulfilment
of prophecy satisfactorily. Butler, like St Paul, is undoubtedly
inconvenient for those who believe that miracles do not happen, and
that prophecies were either not made or not fulfilled. So he must be
got rid of. But whether he is got rid of,--whether Mr Arnold and the
Zeit-Geist have put him on the shelf as a venerable but antiquated
object,--that is another question.

The two remaining essays show us Mr Arnold, in his character of at
least would-be practical statesman, dealing no longer with points of
doctrine but with the affairs of the Church as a political body. The
circumstances of the first--the address delivered at Sion College--had
a certain piquancy: whether they had also sweet reasonableness and an
entire accordance with the fitness of things is a question no doubt
capable of being debated. Me the situation strikes, I must confess, as
a little grotesque. The layman in the wide sense, the amateur, always
occupies a rather equivocal position when he addresses experts and the
profession; but his position is never so equivocal as when he doubles
the part of non-expert with that of candid friend. How Mr Arnold
succeeded in this exceedingly delicate attempt I do not propose to
examine at any length. He thought himself that he had "sufficiently
marked the way in which the new world was to be reached." Paths to new
worlds are always interesting, but in reading, or rather re-reading,
the sailing directions of this Columbus twenty years after date, one
may be a little disappointed. The sum appears to be a somewhat
Tootsian declaration that things of general are of no consequence. The
Church is better than Dissent; at least she would be so if she dropped
all her dogma, the greater part of her superstitions about the rights
of property and "my duty to my neighbour," and as much as possible of
the barriers which separate her from Dissent itself. A most moderate
eirenicon. Still less need be said of the Burials Bill paper, which is
a sort of appendix or corollary to the Sion speech, at the end of
which the subject had been referred to. The particular question, in
this phase of it, has long ceased to burn, and one need not disturb
the ashes.

We must now turn to the incursions of this time into politics, which,
if not much happier, were more amusing. The chief monument of them is
the long unreprinted _Friendship's Garland_, which has always had
some fervent devotees, and is very characteristic. It so happened that
the period when _Essays in Criticism_, combined with his Oxford
Lectures, introduced Mr Arnold to the public, was the period of the
first years of the _Pall Mall Gazette_, when that brilliant
periodical, with the help of many of the original staff of the
_Saturday Review_, and others, was renewing for the sixties the
sensation of a new kind of journalism, which the _Saturday_
itself had given to the fifties, while its form and daily appearance
gave it even greater opportunities. As early as the summer of 1866,
during the agitation into which the public mind had been thrown by the
astounding rapidity and thoroughness of the Prussian successes in the
Seven Weeks' War, Mr Arnold had begun a series of letters, couched in
the style of _persiflage_, which Kinglake had introduced, or
reintroduced, twenty years earlier in _Eothen_, and which the
_Saturday_ had taken up and widely developed. He also took not a
few hints from Carlyle in _Sartor_ and the _Latterday
Pamphlets_. And for some years at intervals, with the help of a
troupe of imaginary correspondents and _comparses_--Arminius von
Thundertentronckh, Adolescens Leo of the _Daily Telegraph_, the
Bottles family of wealthy Dissenters, with cravings for their deceased
wife's sisters, as well as a large number of more or less celebrated
personages of the day, introduced in their proper persons, and by
their proper names--he instructed England on its own weakness, folly,
and vulgarity, on the wisdom and strength of the Germans, on the
importance of _Geist_ and ideas, &c., &c. The author brought
himself in by name as a simple inhabitant of Grub Street, victimised,
bullied, or compassionately looked down upon by everybody; and by this
well-known device took licence for pretty familiar treatment of other
people. When the greater crash of 1870 came, and the intelligent
British mind was more puzzled, yet more _Prusso-mimic_, than
ever, he supplemented these letters, framed or bound them up, as it
were, with a moving account of the death of Arminius before Paris, and
launched the whole as a book.

The letters had been much laughed over; but I do not think the book
was very widely bought--at any rate, its very high price during the
time in which it was out of print shows that no large number was
printed. Perhaps this cold welcome was not altogether so discreditable
to the British public as it would have been, had its sole cause been
the undoubted but unpalatable truths told by the writer. Either, as
some say, because of its thick-hidedness, or, as others, because of
its arrogant self-sufficiency, the British public has never resented
these much. But, in the first place, the thing was a falsetto. Mr
Arnold had plenty of wit but not much humour; and after a time one
feels that Bottles and Leo & Co. may be, as Dousterswivel says, "very
witty and comedy," but that we should not be altogether sorry if they
would _go_. Further, the direct personalities--the worst
instances concerned Lord Elcho, Mr Frederic Harrison, and the late Mr
Sala--struck, and strike, some people as being not precisely in good
taste. The constant allusions and references to minor and ephemeral
things and persons were not of course then unintelligible, but they
were even then teasing, In all these points, if _Friendship's
Garland_ be compared, I will once more not say with _A Tale of a
Tub_, but even with the _History of John Bull_, its weakness
will come out rather strongly.

But this was not all. It was quite evident--and it was no shame and no
disadvantage to him--that the jester was endeavouring to urge a very
serious earnest behind, and by means of, his jest; that he was no mere
railer, or caviller, or even satirist, but a convinced reformer and
apostle. Yet when we try to get at his programme--at his gospel--there
is no vestige of anything tangible about either. Not very many
impartial persons could possibly accept Mr Arnold's favourite
doctrine, that the salvation of the people lies in state-provided
middle-class schools; and this was specially difficult in 1871, if
they remembered how some few years before Mr Arnold had been extolling
the state-provided middle-class schools of France. While, for the
rest, a man might be (as many men were) thoroughly dissatisfied with
the part England had played abroad in Italy, in the American Civil
War, in Denmark, in the war of 1866, in the war of 1870, and at home
from 1845 onwards, and yet not be able for the life of him to discover
any way of safety in _Friendship's Garland_.

Nor, to take with the _Garland_ for convenience sake _Irish
Essays_, 1882, the political book which closed this period with the
political book that opened it, do we find things much better, even
long after "the Wilderness" had been mostly left behind. There is
indeed less falsetto and less flippancy; perhaps Mr Arnold had
silently learnt a lesson, perhaps the opportunities of regular essays
in "three-decker" reviews--of a lay sermon to working men, of a speech
at the greatest public school in the world--discouraged the
playfulness which had seemed permissible in addressing a skittish
young evening newspaper. But the unpracticalness--not in the
Philistine but in the strictly scientific sense--is more glaring than
ever, and there are other faults with it. Great part of _An
Unregarded Irish Grievance_ is occupied by a long-drawn-out
comparison of England's behaviour to Ireland with that of Mr Murdstone
and his friend and manager Quinion to David Copperfield. In the first
place, one thinks wickedly of the gibe in _Friendship's Garland_
about "Mr Vernon Harcourt developing a system of unsectarian religion
from the life of Mr Pickwick." In the second, one asks on what
principles of literary art a comparison, not wholly improper as a mere
illustration in passing, can be worked to death and turned inside out
and upside down, for some twenty mortal pages.

And so in other places. Yet the worst faults are not in form but in
substance. Minor contradictions do not matter, though in a copy of the
book I have read there is a damaging comparison by some annotator
between Mr Arnold's description of English Government at p. 4 and his
rosy picture of education under Government at p. 107. This might
happen to anybody, and is not fatal. What is fatal is that this censor
of the "unideaed" has evidently himself no "ideas," no first
principles, in politics at all. That, play what tricks you will, all
possible politics come round either to the Rule of the One, the Rule
of the Few, or the Rule of the Many, and that the consequences of
these rules, differentiated a little but not materially by historical
and racial characteristics, are as constant as anything commonly
called scientific,--this never seems to have occurred to Mr Arnold at
all. He did not fully appreciate Thackeray, and Thackeray died too
soon to know very much of him. But I have always thought that, for a
criticism of life possessing prophetic genius, the Chevalier Strong's
wedding congratulations to Arthur Pendennis are almost uncanny as
regards the Matthæan gospel. "Nothing," said the Chevalier, when he
had established himself as agent to the Duke of Garbanzos, "is so
important to the welfare of the household as _Good Sherry_." And
so we find that the Irish question, like all others, will be solved by
the substitution of State-governed for private middle-class schools,
by the saturation of England with "ideas," by all our old friends.

The rest matches. Mr Arnold pooh-poohs the notion that Ireland, except
by force, will never be blended with England; it would be as sensible
to say this "of Scotland, Wales, or Cornwall." He was not, I think,
dead--he was certainly not dead long--when Wales actually did follow,
less formidably, of course, in the path of Ireland, beginning with the
Church, going on to the Land, and not distantly threatening the State.
As usual he goes to his books. He quotes Goethe--a great man of
letters, but perhaps the most pedantic of great men of letters except
Milton--to prove that "the English are pedants." He quotes Burke--the
unregenerate Irish Whig Burke, not the prophet whose tongue the French
Revolution had touched as it opened his eyes--to tell us what to do
with Ireland. But the main point in at least one of these essays, _The
Incompatibles_, is again connected with _David Copperfield_. I have
said that, from the merely literary point of view, the perpetual
ringing of the changes on Creakle, Murdstone, Quinion--Quinion,
Murdstone, Creakle--is inartistic and irritating. But from the
philosophical and political point of view it is far worse. No
Englishman with any sense of fact ever has taken, or could take,
Dickens's characters as normal types. They are always fantastic
exaggerations, full of genius occasionally, but as unlike actual
reality as those illustrations by Cruikshank which are their nearest
companions in the art of line. Of the three figures selected in
particular, Creakle is a caricature; Murdstone, though not exactly
that, is a repulsive exception; and Quinion is so mere a _comparse_ or
"super" that to base any generalisation on him is absurd. The dislike
of the British public to be "talked book to" may be healthy or
unhealthy; but if it takes no great heed of this kind of talking book,
small blame to it! The same hopeless, not to say the same wilful,
neglect of the practical appears throughout. Mr Arnold (to his credit
be it said) had no great hopes of the Land Bill of 1881. But his own
panaceas--a sort of Cadi-court for "bag-and-baggaging" bad landlords,
and the concurrent endowment of Catholicism--were, at least, no
better, and went, if it were possible, even more in the teeth of

It may be worth while (taking the usual chronological licence for the
sake of logical coherence) to say a few words on the other political
and quasi-political pieces reprinted with _Irish Essays_--the address
to Ipswich working men, _Ecce Convertimur ad Gentes_, the Eton speech
on _Eutrapelia_, and the ambitious _Future of Liberalism_[2] The first
is a curious but not very important appeal to the lower class to
educate the middle, with episodic praises of "equality," "academies,"
and the like, as well as glances at a more extensive system of
"municipalisation," which, not to the satisfaction of everybody, has
come about since. The second contains some admirable remarks on
classical education, some still more admirable protests against
reading about the classics instead of reading the classics, and the
famous discourse on _Eutrapelia_, with its doctrine that "conduct is
three-fourths of life," its denunciation of "moral inadequacy," and
its really great indications of societies dying of the triumph of
Liberalism and Conservatism respectively. A discourse quite admirable
in intention, though if "heckling" had been in order on that occasion,
a sharp youth might have put Mr Arnold in some difficulty by asking
where the canons of "moral adequacy" are written.

But _The Future of Liberalism_, which the Elizabethans would have
called a "cooling-card" after the Liberal triumph of 1880, exhibits
its author's political quiddity most clearly. Much that he says is
perfectly true; much of it, whether true or not, is, as Mr Weller
observes, "wery pretty." But the old mistake recurs of playing on a
phrase _ad nauseam_--in this case a phrase of Cobbett's (one of
the greatest of phrase-makers, but also one of the chief of the
apostles of unreason) about "the principles of Pratt, the principles
of Yorke." It was, of course, a capital _argumentum ad invidiam_,
and Mr Arnold frankly adopted it. He compared himself to Cobbett--a
compliment, no doubt; but one which, I fear, Cobbett, who hated
nothing so much as a university man, would not have appreciated.
Cobbett thought of nothing but the agricultural labourer's "full
belly"--at least this is how he himself put it; and it would have
enforced Mr Arnold's argument and antithesis had he known or dared to
use it. Mr Arnold thought of nothing but the middle classes' empty
mind. The two parties, as represented by the rather small Lord Camden
and the rather great Lord Hardwicke, cared for neither of these
things--so "the principles of Pratt, the principles of Yorke" comes in
as a refrain. To the average Briton quotation is no more argument
than, on higher authority, is blank verse. Still it might do for
ornament, if not for argument,--might help the lesson and point it at
least. So we turn to the lesson itself. This "Liberal of the future,"
as Mr Arnold styles himself, begins, with orthodoxy if not with
philosophy, by warning the Tories off entirely. "They cannot really
profit the nation, or give it what it needs." Perhaps; but suppose we
ask for a little reason, just a ghost of a premiss or two for this
extensive conclusion? There is no voice, neither any that answers. And
then, the Tories dismissed with a wave to all but temporary oblivion
(they are to be allowed, it seems, to appear from time to time to
chasten Liberalism), our prophet turns to Liberalism itself. It ought
to promote "the humanisation of man in society," and it doesn't
promote this. Ah! what a blessed word is "humanisation," the very
equivalent, in syllables as in blessedness, of "Mesopotamia"! But when
for the considerable rest of the essay we try to find out what
humanisation _is_, why we find nothing but the old negative
impalpable gospel, that we must "_dis_materialise our upper
class, _dis_vulgarise our middle class, _dis_brutalise our
lower class." "Om-m-ject and sum-m-m-ject!" "om-m-ject and
sum-m-m-ject," in short, as that famous flash of Thomas Carlyle's
genius discovered and summarised Coleridge, and with Coleridge the
whole nineteenth century. A screed of jargon--a patter of
shibboleth--and that is all. Never a thought for this momentous
question--"May you not possibly--indeed most probably--in attempting
to remove what you choose to consider as the defects of these classes,
remove also what you acknowledge to be their virtues--the governing
faculty of the upper class, the conduct and moral health of the
middle, the force and vigour of the lower?" A momentous question
indeed, and one which, as some think, has _got_ something of an answer
since, and no comfortable one!

I must apologise, and I do, for anything that may appear too polemical
in this chapter. But the circumstances of the case made it almost as
impossible, as it would have been uninteresting, to be merely
recitative and colourless; and Mr Arnold's own example gives ample
licence. In particular, any one who has had actual and close knowledge
of the actual progress of politics for many years may be pardoned for
speaking with some decision on the practice of sitting at ease in
Zion, and raying out curious observations on Barbarians and Eutrapelia
and the character of Mr Quinion. We may have too little of such things
in English politics--no doubt for a good many years before Mr Arnold's
day we _had_ too little of them. But too much, though a not
unpopular, is a very clumsy and very unscientific antidote to too
little; and in Mr Arnold's own handling of politics, I venture to
think that there was too much of them by a very great deal.

It is very pleasant to turn from the literary results of this period,
from the spectacle of Pegasus

  "Stumbling in miry roads of alien art,"

and harnessing himself to all manner of unsuitable vehicles, to the
private history of the decade. This, though sadly chequered by Mr
Arnold's first domestic troubles, was on the whole prosperous, was
somewhat less laborious than the earlier years, and was lightened by
ever more of the social and public distractions, which no man entirely
dislikes, and which--to a certain extent and in a certain way--Mr
Arnold did not dislike at all. The changes of occupation and of
literary aim by the termination of the professorship coincided, as
such things have a habit of doing, with changes in place and
circumstance. The Chester Square house grew too small for the
children, and a move to Harrow was first meditated and then achieved.
A very pleasant letter to his mother, in November 1867, tells how he
was present at the farewell dinner to Dickens on his departure for
America, how they wanted him (vainly) to come to the high table and
speak, and how Lord Lytton finally brought him into his own speech. He
adds that some one has given him "a magnificent box of four hundred
Manilla cheroots" (he must surely have counted wrong, for they usually
make these things in two-hundred-and-fifties or five-hundreds),
welcome to hand on, though he did not smoke himself. In another he
expresses the evangelical desire to "do Mr Swinburne some good."

But in January 1868 his baby-child Basil died; and the intense family
affection, which was one of his strongest characteristics, suffered of
course cruelly, as is recorded in a series of touching letters to his
sister and mother. He fell and hurt himself at Cannon Street, too, but
was comforted by his sister with a leading case about an illiterate
man who fell into a reservoir through not reading a notice. The Harrow
house became a reality at Lady Day, and at Midsummer he went to stay
at Panshanger, and "heard the word 'Philistine' used a hundred times
during dinner and 'Barbarian' nearly as often" (it must be remembered
that the "Culture and Anarchy" articles were coming out now). This
half-childish delight in such matters (like Mr Pendennis's "It's all
in the papers, and my name too!") is one of the most fascinating
things about him, and one of not a few, proving that, if there was
some affectation, there was no dissimulation in his nature. Too many
men, I fear, would have said nothing about them, or assumed a lofty
disdain. In September he mentions to Mr Grant Duff a plan (which one
only wishes he had carried out, letting all the "Dogma" series go
[Greek: kat ouron] as it deserved) for "a sketch of Greek poetry,
illustrated by extracts in harmonious prose." This would have been one
of the few great literary histories of the world, and so Apollo kept
it in his own lap. The winter repeated, far more heavily, the domestic
blow of the spring, and Tom, his eldest son, who had always been
delicate, died, aged sixteen only, at Harrow, where since the removal
he had been at school. There is something about this in the
_Letters_; but on the great principle of _curæ leves_, less,
as we should expect, than about the baby's death.

In February next year Mr Arnold's double repute, as a practical and
official "educationist" and as a man of letters, brought him the offer
of the care of Prince Thomas of Savoy, son of the Duke of Genoa, and
grandson of Victor Emmanuel, who was to attend Harrow School and board
with the Arnolds. The charge, though honourable and, I suppose,
profitable, might not have been entirely to the taste of everybody;
but it seemed to Mr Arnold a new link with the Continent, and he
welcomed it. The same year saw a visit to Knebworth, and a very
interesting and by no means unsound criticism on that important event
in the life of a poet, the issue of the first collected edition of his
poems.[3] This was in two volumes, and is now rather precious. "It
might be fairly urged that I have less poetic sentiment than Tennyson,
and less intellectual vigour and abundance than Browning; yet because
I have perhaps more of a fusion of the two than either of them, and
have more regularly applied that fusion to the main line of modern
development, I am likely enough to have my turn." One can only query
whether poetry has anything to do with "modern development," and
desiderate the addition to "sentiment" of "art." He seems to imply
that Mr Gladstone personally prevented his appointment to a
commissionership under the Endowed Schools Act. But the year ended
with a complimentary reference from Mr Disraeli at Latimers about
"Sweetness and Light."

In February 1870 the famous Persian cat Atossa (now in the most
comfortable lap of all the gods or goddesses, with Hodge and Bona
Marietta and Hinse of Hinsfeldt) makes her first appearance; and in
June Mr Arnold received the Oxford D.C.L. He set it down to "a young
and original sort of man, Lord Salisbury, being Chancellor"; and Lord
Salisbury himself afterwards told him that "no doubt he ought to have
addressed him as 'vir dulcissime et lucidissime.'" But though he was
much pleased by his reception, he thought Lord Salisbury "dangerous,"
as being unliterary, and only scientific and religious in his tastes.

In December he had an amusing and (as it ended well) not
unsatisfactory experience of the ways of Income Tax Commissioners.
These gentlemen acted on even vaguer principles than those on which
they once assessed a poor dramatic amateur, who had by accident
received £6 "author's rights" for a week, at £300 per annum, on the
sound arithmetical argument that there are fifty (indeed, there are
fifty-two) weeks in a year, and that fifty times six is three hundred.
They put Mr Arnold's literary profits at £1000, and he had to
expostulate in person before they would let him down to £200, though
he pathetically explained that "he should have to write more articles
than he ever had done" to prevent his being a loser even at that.
About the catastrophe of the _Année Terrible_, his craze for
"righteousness" makes him a very little Pecksniffian--one thinks of
the Tower of Siloam. But it is pleasant to hear that, early in 1871,
they are arranging for him "a perfect district, Westminster and a
small rural part near Harrow." So one hopes that the days of posting
from shire to shire and subsisting on buns were over. He is interested
about Deutsch (the comet of a season for his famous Talmud articles),
receives the Commandership of the Crown of Italy for his services to
Prince Thomas, and is proposed for the Middlesex magistracy, but (to
one's sorrow) declines. There is fishing at Chenies (_vide_ an
admirable essay of Mr Froude's) in the early summer, a visit to
Switzerland in the later, and in September "the pigs are grown very
large and handsome, and experts advise their conversion into bacon."
But Mrs Arnold "does not like the idea." Indeed this is the drawback
of pig-keeping, which is otherwise a most fascinating pastime; but you
can escape it, and unite pleasure with profit, by merely breeding the
pigs and selling the litters young.

After this respite fate was again cruel. On February 16, 1872, Mr
Arnold's second son died at Harrow, and again the reception of the
blow and its effect are marked by lesser voicefulness in the grief.
Yet one phrase, "I cannot write his name without stopping to look at
it in stupefaction at his not being alive," is equal to volumes. The
letters of this year are few, but in September begins a correspondence
of some interest and duration with a French pastor, M. Fontanès. Nor
does 1873 give much except description of a tour to Italy, while in
May the Arnolds moved from Harrow, with its painful memories, to
Cobham, which was Mr Arnold's home for the rest of his life. In
September he "shoots worse than ever" (_vide_ _Friendship's
Garland_) in the famous preserves of Six Mile Bottom, and soon
after his mother dies. But it is not given to all men not to be
motherless till they themselves are fifty. And 1874 is again rather
barren, even such yield as it gives being rather didactic and
controversial, as for instance in a letter to his sister, who had
apparently remonstrated with some vigour against the tone of
_Literature and Dogma_. A pleasant letter to Miss Kingsley on her
father's death (1875) puts in good evidence against the charge of
grudging appreciation of contemporaries which has often been brought
against Mr Arnold, and which some unguarded expressions, rather
injudiciously published in other letters, may seem to confirm.

Another in December contains an instance[4] of that dislike to
history, which long before its publication careful students of his
works had always noticed in him. The fact is, that to a man of ideas,
as Mr Arnold would have liked to be called--a man of theories or of
crotchets, as in extending order of unkindness people actually did
call him--history must be an annoying study. The things that ought to
happen do not happen, and the things that do happen have to be
awkwardly explained away or hazardously ignored His almost pettish
disgust for the historic estimate in literature itself may have either
caused or been caused by this more general dislike, and the dislike
itself explains the leniency with which he always regarded the sheer
guess-work of the Biblical critics. But it is possible to sympathise
with his disapproval of the divorce of History and Law, which used to
be united in the Oxford schools. Together they made a discipline,
inferior indeed, but only inferior, to that of the great school of
_Literæ Humaniores_, the best intellectual training in the world.
When they are divided, it may be feared that law becomes a mere
technicality, if not a mere bread-study, and that history is at once
thin and vague.

But Clio must have made interest with Nemesis; for, but a page or two
afterwards, this disregard of history leads Mr Arnold into a very odd
blunder. His French friend, M. Fontanès, had thought of writing about
Godwin, but Mr Arnold dissuades him. "Godwin," he says, "est
intéressant, mais il n'est pas une source; des courants actuels qui
nous portent, aucun ne vient de lui." Godwin is the high priest of
Anarchism; he is our first Socialist philosopher, he advocated no
marriage, woman's rights, the abolition of religion. And _dans nos
courants actuels rien ne vient de lui!_ This was early in 1876, and
later in the same year we have from him the singular judgment that
George Sand, just dead, was "the greatest spirit in our European world
from the time that Goethe departed." The chronicle may be
appropriately closed for the time by mentioning that in the spring of
1877 Mr Arnold was approached with a view to his standing once more
for the Poetry Chair, and declined. The invitation, however, was a
sort of summons to him to go back to his proper work, and in effect,
though doubtless not in intention, he had already obeyed it. "A French
Critic on Milton," published in January 1877, is the first literary
article of any importance that his bibliography records for the whole
decade which we have surveyed in this chapter.

_Note._--It is particularly unlucky that the _Prose
Passages_, which the author selected from his works and published
in 1879, did not appear later. It is almost sufficient to say that
less than one-fourth of their contents is devoted to literature, all
the rest to the "Dead Sea fruit." I have therefore said nothing about
the book in the text. It is, however, a useful though incomplete and
one-sided chrestomathy of Mr Arnold's style from the formal point of
view, illustrating both his minor devices of phrase and the ingenious
_ordonnance_ of his paragraphs in building up thought and


[1] Mr Disraeli's words (in 1864) have been referred to above (p.
100). They were actually: "At that time [when they had met at Lord
Houghton's some seven or eight years earlier] ... you yourself were
little known. Now you are well known. You have made a reputation, but
you will go further yet. You have a great future before you, and you
deserve it." Crabb Robinson was a much older acquaintance, and is
credited, I believe, with the remark far earlier, that "he shouldn't
_dare_ to be intimate" with so clever a young man as Matthew
Arnold. Very shortly before his death in February 1867, he had met Mr
Arnold in the Athenæum, and asked "which of all my books I should
myself name as the one that had got me my great reputation. I said I
had not a great reputation, upon which he answered: 'Then it is some
other Matthew Arnold who writes the books.'" The passage, which
contains an odd prophecy of the speaker's own death, and an
interesting indication that Mr Arnold rightly considered the
_Essays_ to be "the book that got him his reputation," will be
found in _Letters_, i. 351.

[2] Of the remaining contents, the _Prefaces_ of 1853-5 are
invaluable, at least the first is, but this has been already noticed.
Of _The French Play in London_, I am, perhaps, no good judge, as I
take little interest in the acted drama. It is much occupied with the
inferiority of French poetry, and especially of the poetry of Hugo;
the inferiority of English civilisation, especially of the middle
class. There are good things in it, but they are better said
elsewhere. The rest needs no notice.

[3] A note on the contents of this and the subsequent collected
editions may not be unwelcome; for, as was always the case with him,
he varied them not a little. This first collection was advertised as
comprehending "the First and Second Series of the Author's Poems and
the New Poems," but as a matter of fact half-a-dozen pieces--including
things as interesting as _A Dream_ and _Stagirius_--are omitted,
though the fine _In Utrumque Paratus_ reappears for the first time as
a consolation. As reprinted in 1877, this collection dropped _The
Church of Brou_ except the third part, and recovered not only
_Stagirius_ and others but _The New Sirens_, besides giving, for the
first time in book-form, _Haworth Churchyard_, printed twenty-two
years before in _Fraser_. A further reprint in 1881 restored the whole
_Church of Brou_ and _A Dream_, and gave two or three small additions,
especially _Geist's Grave_. The _three-volume_ edition of 1885 also
republished _Merope_ for the first time, and added _Westminster Abbey_
and _Poor Matthias_. The _one_-volume edition of 1890 reproduced all
this, adding _Horatian Echo_ and _Kaiser Dead_; it is complete save
for the two prize poems, and six or seven smaller pieces.

[4] "I do not like the course for the History School at all; nothing
but read, read, read, endless histories in English, many of them by
quite second-rate men; nothing to form the mind as reading really
great authors forms it, or even to exercise it as learning a new
language, or mathematics, or one of the natural sciences exercises



It would be unhistorical to assert, and unphilosophical to assume,
that in the change or reversion noted at the end of the last chapter,
Mr Arnold had any consciousness of relinquishment, still more to hint
any definite sense of failure on his part. He would probably have said
(if any one had been impertinent enough to ask, and he had
condescended to reply) that he had said his say, had shot his bolt,
and might leave them to produce their effect. But that there was, if
no repentance, a certain disgust, I cannot but believe. He must have
seen--he almost acknowledges that he saw--that the work which he at
least thought was conservative was being utilised by others in a
purely destructive spirit; he must have found himself in very
unwelcome alliances; and (which is worst of all to a delicate and
sensitive spirit) he must constantly have found fools dotting his
_i_'s and emphasising his innuendoes in their own clumsy and
Philistine fashion. At any rate, it is purely historical to say that
he did henceforward almost entirely change his main line of operation
as to religious matters, and that though, as has been shown, he
persisted, not too fortunately, in politics, his method of discussion
in that likewise was altered. As we heard no more of the three Lord
Shaftesburys, so Bottles and his unwelcome society were permitted to
remain unchronicled. In the latter department seriousness came upon Mr
Arnold; in the former, if not a total, yet a general and certainly
most welcome silence.

Most welcome: for he was voiceful enough on other and his proper
subjects. "Falkland," which followed "A French Critic on Milton," in
March in the _Fortnightly_, and "George Sand," which followed it,
as has been said, in June in the _Nineteenth Century_, somewhat
deserved the title (_Mixed Essays_) of the volume in which they
were two years later reprinted. But the last essay of the year 1877,
that on Mr Stopford Brooke's _Primer_, was, like the "French
Critic," and even more than that, pure literature. "A French Critic on
Goethe," which appeared in the _Quarterly Review_ for January
1878, followed next. The other pieces of this year, which also, with
one exception, appeared in _Mixed Essays_, were, with that
exception, evidences of a slight but venial relapse, or let us say of
convalescence not yet quite turned into health. "Equality"
(_Fortnightly_, March 1878), "Irish Catholicism and British
Liberalism" (_Fortnightly_, July 1878), and "Porro Unum est
Necessarium" (_Fortnightly_, November 1878), were, if not of "the
utmost last provincial band," yet not of the pure Quirites, the
genuine citizens of the sacred city of Mr Arnold's thought: and he
seceded from this latter in not a few of those estimable but
unimportant Irish essays which have been noticed in the last chapter.

But the literary contents of _Mixed Essays_ are very interesting,
and the Johnson paper (really a preface to the six selected lives,
which he edited for Messrs Macmillan in 1878) is a most excellent
piece of work. His selection of the Lives is perhaps not quite
unerring. For he ought surely to have given the "Cowley," with its
(from his own point of view) invaluable _point de repère_ in the
estimate of the "metaphysicals." And he might have missed the "Swift,"
which, though extremely interesting as a personal study from its
mixture of prejudice and constraint, its willingness to wound, and
yet--not its fear but--its honest compunction at striking, is, for the
purpose of the volume, misplaced. But he had a right to give what he
chose: and his preface has points of the very highest value. The
opening passage about the _point de repère_ itself, the fixed
halting-place to which we can always resort for fresh starts, fresh
calculations, is one of the great critical _loci_ of the world,
and especially involves the main contribution of the nineteenth
century to criticism if not to literature altogether. We may exalt,
without very much doubt or dread, the positive achievements of the
century of Tennyson and Browning, of Carlyle and Thackeray, of Heine
and Hugo. But we have seen such strange revolutions in this respect
that it may not do to be too confident. The glory of which no man can
deprive our poor dying _siècle_ is that not one, of all the
others since history began, has taken such pains to understand those
before it, has, in other words, so discovered and so utilised the
value of _points de repère_. It may be that this value is, except
in the rarest cases, all that a critic can ever pretend to--that he
may be happy if, as few do, he reaches this. But in the formulation of
the idea (for he did much more than merely borrow it from the French)
Mr Arnold showed his genius, his faculty of putting

  "What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed."

And when a man does this in prose or in verse, in criticism or in
creation, he has his reward--a reward that no man can take away, even
if any one were disposed to try.

As a whole, _Mixed Essays_ itself, which followed _Last Essays
on Church and Religion_ at an interval of two years, is an almost
immeasurably livelier book than its predecessor, and to some judgments
at least seems to excel that predecessor in solid value as much as in
the graces. "Mixed" is perhaps not a strictly accurate title, for the
volume consists of two halves, the contents of each of which are
homogeneous enough, but which have next to nothing to do with each
other. But even in the non-literary essays we are out of "The
Wilderness" in its worst sense. Most of the essays had, as has just
been shown, appeared in different periodicals, while "Equality" was
also delivered as a lecture during the years 1877 and 1878. The
exception was the paper called "Democracy," which he reprinted from
his first work on Foreign Schools in 1861, where it had appeared as an
Introduction. The juxtaposition is by no means uninteresting or
uninstructive, though perhaps it is not entirely favourable to the
idea of Mr Arnold's development as a _zoon politicon_. It has
been said before that his earliest political writing is a good deal
less fantastic and more sane than that of his middle period, and
though "the last of life for which the first was made" was now
restoring to him much of his power in this direction, yet he was
always much joined to idols in matters political. In grasp "Democracy"
does not quite come up to its rather ambitious title; and a moment's
thought will show why. In 1861 Democracy was a very academic subject.
All projects for further Parliamentary Reform had failed utterly in
England; and nobody dreamt of what the next five or six years would
bring. In France there was what looked like a crushing military
despotism: in other Continental countries the repression which had
followed the outbreaks of 1848-49 was only just being relaxed, or not
relaxed at all. American democracy had not had its second baptism of
Civil War. The favourite fancies about the respective _ethos_ of
aristocracy, of the middle-class, and of the lower do indeed appear,
but for the most part Mr Arnold confines himself to the simple
question of State interference, for which in his own subject of
education he was so anxious, and which he would gladly have seen
extended. It has been more than once remarked already that he may
justly be regarded as a politician of more seriousness than he has
here been represented as possessing, if espousing the cause of the
things which actually happen is taken as the criterion. For State
interference has grown and is growing every day. But then it may be
held--and as a matter of principle he would not himself have contested
it--that a man's politics should be directed, not by what he thinks
will happen, but by what he thinks ought to happen. And some of us,
while not in love by any means with the middle-class Liberal ideas of
1830-1860, think that the saving grace of that day that is dead was
precisely its objection to State interference.

"Equality," which follows, and which starts what might be called at
the time of the book its contemporary interest, is much more
far-reaching and of greater curiosity; indeed, it may perhaps be held
to be the most curious, in a certain sense, of all its author's
writings, and to give, in a not fully satisfactory but suggestive
fashion, a key to his complex character which is supplied by no other
of his essays. That there was (in no silly or derogatory sense of an
often absurdly used word) a slightly un-English side to that
character, few acute judges would deny. But its results, in the
greater part of the works, are so diffused, and, as it were,
subterranean, that they are difficult to extract and concentrate. Here
we seem to get the spirit much nearer proof. For the Equality which Mr
Arnold here champions is not English but French equality; not
political and judicial equality before the law, but social equality
enforced by the law. He himself admits, and perhaps even a little
exaggerates, his attitude of _Athanasius contra mundum_ in this
respect, amassing with relish expressions, in the sense opposite to
his own, from such representative and yet essentially diverse
authorities as Lord Beaconsfield, Mr Gladstone, Sir Erskine May, Mr
Froude, and Mr Lowe. Against them he arrays Menander and George
Sand--a counter-championship not itself suggestive of Equality. This
may be "only his fun"--a famous utterance which it is never more
necessary to keep in mind than when speaking or writing of Mr Arnold,
for his fun, such as it was, was pervading, and occasionally rather
cryptic. But the bulk of the paper is perfectly serious. Social
equality, and its compulsory establishment by a law against free
bequest or by public opinion, these are his themes. He asserts that
the Continent is in favour of them; that the English colonies,
_ci-devant_ and actual, are in favour of them; that the Greeks were in
favour of them; that the Bible is in favour of them. He cites Mr
Hamerton as to the virtues of the French peasant. He renews his old
tilt at the manners of the English lower-middle class, at Messrs Moody
and Sankey, at the great "Jingo" song of twenty years ago (as to
which, by the way, a modern Fletcher of Saltoun might have something
to say to-day), at the Puritans, at Mr Goldwin Smith, at many things
and many persons.

I feel that history has given me at the moment rather an unfair
advantage over Mr Arnold here. One could always pick plenty of holes
in "Equality," could suggest that the Greeks did not make such a very
good thing of it with their equality (which included slavery); that
the Biblical point is far from past argument; that M. Zola, for
instance, supplies an interesting commentary on Mr Hamerton's
rose-coloured pictures of the French peasantry; that whatever Mr
Arnold's own lot may have been, others who have lived in small French
towns with the _commis voyageur_ have not found his manners so
greatly superior to those of the English bagman. But just at this
moment, and, in fact, in an increasing degree ever since Mr Arnold
wrote, the glorification of France has become difficult or impossible.
Sir Erskine May, it seems, had warned him in vain about the political
effect of French Equality even at that time: but one need not confine
oneself to politics. At the end of the nineteenth century France has
enjoyed the blessings of social equality, enforced by compulsory
division of estates, for a hundred years and more. Perhaps equality
has nothing to do with the decadence of her literature, with that
state of morals which Mr Arnold himself deplored with almost Puritan
emphasis, with the state of religion which he holds up as an awful
example, fit to warn England to flee to the refuge of his own
undogmatic _Nephelococcygia_, with the ineffable scandals of
Panama and the Dreyfus case, with the mixture of blind illucidity and
febrile passion which characterises the French press. Only, what is
left? Where are the improvements due to this great influence? They
are, according to Mr Arnold, in the amiable dignity of the French
peasant and the polished refinement of the French middle-class.
Frankly, one may prefer Hodge and Bottles.

"Irish Catholicism and British Liberalism" has less actuality, and,
moreover, it belongs to a group of which enough has been said in
reference to the _Irish Essays_. But "Porro Unum est Necessarium"
possesses not merely an accidental but a real claim to fresh
attention, not merely at the moment when there is at last some chance
of the dream of Mr Arnold's life, the interference of the State in
English secondary education, being realised, but because it is one of
the expressions of that dream which was in his life so important. It
consists partly of statistics and partly of a moan over the fact that,
in the heat and heyday of Mr Gladstone's _levée en masse_ against
the Tory Government of 1874-80, the Liberal programme contained
nothing about this darling object. And the superiority of France is
trotted out again; but it would be cruel to insist any more. Yet at
last Mr Arnold becomes practical, and contends for pretty much the
substance of present Secondary Education Reform schemes--limited
inspection, qualification of masters, leaving certificates, &c. "It do
not over-stimulate," to quote an author to whom Mr Arnold was shortly
to devote much attention; but we leave the political or semi-political
batch in considerably greater charity with the author than his prose
volumes for years past had rendered possible.

No reserves, no allowances of the least importance are necessary in
dealing with the rest of the volume. I do not think it fanciful to
discern a sort of involuntary or rather unconscious "Ouf!" of relief
in the first, the "Guide to English Literature," on the subject, as
has been said, of Mr Stopford Brooke's always excellent and then novel
_Primer_. A tribute to duty is, indeed, paid at starting: we are told
sternly that we must not laugh (as it is to be feared too many of us
did and do) at the famous boast of the French Minister, as to all the
boys in France learning the same lesson at the same hour. For this was
the result of State interference: and all the works of State
interference are blessing and blessed. But, this due rite paid, Mr
Arnold gives himself up to enjoyment, laudation, and a few
good-natured and, for the most part, extremely judicious proposals for
making the good better still. Even if this last characteristic were
not present, it would be unjust to call the article a puff. Besides,
are puffs so wholly bad? A man may be not very fond of sweets, and yet
think a good puff now and then, a puff with its three corners just hot
from the oven, full of jam, light, artistically frothed, to be a very
pleasing thing. And, as I have said, Mr Arnold's review is much more
than a puff. Once, indeed, there is even a hypercriticism, due to that
slight want of familiarity with literary history proper which has been
noticed more than once. Mr Arnold finds fault with Mr Brooke for
adopting, as one of his chapter divisions, "from the Restoration to
George III." He objects to this that "George III. has nothing to do
with literature," and suggests "to the Death of Pope and Swift." This
is a curious mistake, of a kind which lesser critics have often
repeated. Perhaps George III. _had_ nothing to do with literature; but
his accession immediately preceded, and may even, as the beginning of
a pure English _régime_, have done something to produce, numerous
appearances of the Romantic revival--Percy's _Reliques_, Hurd's
_Essays_, Macpherson's _Ossian_, _The Castle of Otranto_, and others.
The deaths of Pope and Swift have no such synchronism. They mark,
indeed, the disappearance of the strongest men of the old school, but
not the appearance of even the weakest and most infantine of the new.
Still this, though interesting in itself, is a trifle, and the whole
paper, short as it is, is a sort of _Nunc Dimittis_ in a new sense, a
hymn of praise for dismissal, not from but to work--to the singer's
proper function, from which he has been long divorced.

"Falkland," which follows, is less purely literary, but yet closely
connected with literature. One thinks with some ruth of its original
text, which was a discourse on Falkland by that modern Lucius Gary,
the late Lord Carnarvon--the most curious and pathetic instance of a
man of the nineteenth century speaking of one who was almost his exact
prototype, in virtues and graces as in weaknesses and disabilities of
temperament, during the seventeenth. It would, of course, have been
indecent for Mr Arnold to bring this parallel out, writing as he did
in his own name and at the moment, and I do not find any reference to
it in the _Letters_; but I can remember how strongly it was felt
at the time. His own interest in Falkland as the martyr of Sweetness
and Light, of lucidity of mind and largeness of temper, was most
natural, and its sources most obvious. It would be cruel, and is quite
unnecessary, to insist on the too certain fact that, in this instance
at any rate, these excellent qualities were accompanied by a distinct
weakness of will, by a mania for sitting between two stools, and by
that--it may be lovable, it may be even estimable--incapacity to
think, to speak, to behave like a man of this world, which besets the
conscientious idealist who is not a fanatic. On the contrary, let us
not grudge Mr Arnold a hero so congenial to himself, and so little
repulsive to any of us. He could not have had a better subject; nor
can Falkland ever hope for a _vates_ better consecrated, by
taste, temper, and ability, to sing his praises.

Then we are back again in pure literature, with the two notable
_Quarterly_ articles, already glanced at, on M. Scherer as "A
French Critic on Milton" and "A French Critic on Goethe." There was a
very strong sympathy, creditable to both, between the two. M. Scherer
went further than Mr Arnold in the negative character of his views on
religion; but they agreed as to dogma. His literary criticism was
somewhat harder and drier than Mr Arnold's; but the two agreed in
acuteness, lucidity, and a wide, if not quite a thoroughgoing, use of
the comparative method. Both were absolutely at one in their
uncompromising exaltation of "conduct." So that Mr Arnold was writing
quite _con amore_ when he took up his pen to recommend M. Scherer
to the British public, which mostly knew him not at that time.

But he did not begin directly with his main subject. He had always, as
we have seen, had a particular grudge at Macaulay, who indeed
represented in many ways the tendencies which Mr Arnold was born to
oppose. Now just at this time certain younger critics, while by no
means championing Macaulay generally, had raised pretty loud and
repeated protests against Mr Arnold's exaggerated depreciation of the
_Lays_ as "pinchbeck"; and I am rather disposed to think that he
took this opportunity for a sort of sally in flank. He fastens on one
of Macaulay's weakest points, a point the weakness of which was
admitted by Macaulay himself--the "gaudily and ungracefully
ornamented" (as its author calls it) _Essay on Milton_. And he
points out, with truth enough, that its "gaudy and ungraceful
ornament" is by no means its only fault--that it is bad as criticism,
that it shows no clear grasp of Milton's real merits, that it ignores
his faults, that it attributes to him qualities which were the very
reverse of his real qualities. He next deals slighter but still
telling blows at Addison, defends Johnson, in passing, as only
negatively deficient in the necessary qualifications, not positively
conventional like Addison, or rhetorical like Macaulay, and then with
a turn, itself excellently rhetorical in the good sense, passes to M.
Scherer's own dealings with the subject. Thenceforward he rather
effaces himself, and chiefly abstracts and summarises the "French
Critic's" deliverances, laying special stress on the encomiums given
to Milton's style. The piece is one of his most artfully constructed;
and I do not anywhere know a better example of ingenious and
attractive introduction of a friend, as we may call it, to a new

The method is not very different in "A French Critic on Goethe,"
though Carlyle, the English "awful example" selected for contrast, is
less maltreated than Macaulay, and shares the disadvantageous part
with Lewes, and with divers German critics. On the whole, this essay,
good as it is, seems to me less effective than the other; perhaps
because Mr Arnold is in less accord with his author, and even seems to
be in two minds about that author's subject--about Goethe himself.
Earlier, as we have partly seen, he had, both in prose and in verse,
spoken with praise--for him altogether extraordinary, if not
positively extravagant--of Goethe; he now seems a little doubtful, and
asks rather wistfully for "the just judgment of forty years," the calm
revised estimate of the Age of Wisdom. But M. Scherer's estimate is in
parts lower than he can bring himself to admit; and this turns the
final passages of the essay into a rather unsatisfactory chain of "I
agree with this," "I do not agree with that." But the paper retains
the great merit which has been assigned to its predecessor as a piece
of ushering; and that, we must remember, was what it was designed to

In "George Sand," which completes the volume, we have Mr Arnold no
longer as harbinger of another, but in the character, in which after
all he is most welcome, of speaker on his own account. His estimate of
this prolific _amuseuse_ will probably in the long-run seem
excessive to the majority of catholic and comparative critics; nor is
it at all difficult to account for the excess. Mr Arnold belonged
exactly to the generation to which in England, even more than in
France, George Sand came as a soothing and sympathetic exponent of
personal sorrows. Even the works of her "storm-and-stress" period were
not too far behind them; and her later calmer productions seem to have
had, at least for some natures among the "discouraged generation of
1850" (to which, as we have said, Mr Arnold himself by his first
publications belonged), something of that healing power which he has
assigned, in larger measure and with greater truth, to Wordsworth. A
man is never to be blamed for a certain generous overvaluation of
those who have thus succoured him; it would be as just to blame him
for thinking his mother more beautiful, his father wiser than they
actually were. And Mr Arnold's obituary here has a great deal of
charm. The personal and biographical part is done with admirable
taste, not a grain too much or too little of that _moi_ so
_haïssable_ in excess, so piquant as a mere seasoning, being
introduced: and the panegyric is skilful in the extreme. To be sure,
Mr Hamerton reappears, and Mr Arnold joins in the chorus of delight
because the French peasant no longer takes off his hat. Alas! there is
no need to go to the country of _La Terre_ to discover this sign
of moral elevation. But the delusion itself is only another proof of
Mr Arnold's constancy to his early ideas. And looking back on the
whole volume, one is almost tempted to say that, barring the first
_Essays in Criticism_ itself, he had written no better book.

Before very long the skill in selecting and editing which had been
first applied to Johnson's _Lives_ found extended opportunities.
Mr Arnold had much earlier, in the _Essays in Criticism_,
expressed a wish that the practice of introducing books by a critical
and biographical Essay, which had long been naturalised in France, and
had in former times not been unknown in England, should be revived
among us. His words had been heard even before he himself took up the
practice, and for about the usual time--your thirty years is as a
matter of fact your generation--it flourished and prospered, not let
us hope to the great detriment of readers, and certainly to the modest
advantage of the public man when vexed by want of pence. Nor can it
exactly be said to have ceased--though for some years grumbles have
been uttered. "Why," says one haughty critic,--"why mar a beautiful
edition of So-and-so's works by incorporating with them this or that
man's estimate of their value?" "The publishers," says an inspired
_communiqué_, "are beginning to recognise that the public has no
need of such things in the case of works of established repute, of
which there is nothing new to be said." No doubt both these are
genuine utterances: no doubt the haughty critic would have steadily
refused to "mar" the book by _his_ estimate if he had been asked
to do so; no doubt the particular firm of publishers were not in the
least influenced by a desire to save the ten, twenty, fifty, or a
hundred guineas which this or that man might have demanded for saying
nothing new.

But Mr Arnold did not agree with these severe folk. He thought--and
not a few good wits have thought with him--not only that these
Introductions are an opportunity for men like himself, with original
gifts of thought and style, to display these gifts, but that the
mighty public, for all its knowledge of everything that has been
thought and said about everybody, might find something new to it even
in the observations of lesser folk. As a matter of fact, of course,
and neither to talk nor to quote nonsense, the utility of such
Introductions, even if moderately well done, is unmistakable. Not one
in a thousand of the probable readers of any book has all the
information which even a fairly competent introducer will put before
him; not one in a hundred knows the previous estimates of the author;
not many possess that acquaintance with his whole work which it is
part of the business of the introducer to acquire, and adjust for the
better understanding of the particular book. Of course, if an
Introduction is imperfectly furnished with fact and thought and
reading--if it is desultory, in bad taste, and so forth--it had better
not be there. But this is only saying that a bad Introduction is a bad
thing, which does not get us much beyond the intellectual edification
of the niece of Gorboduc. Unless the introducer is a boggler, the
Introduction will probably do good to those who want it and can be
neglected by those who don't; while in the rarer and better cases it
will itself acquire, or even possess from the first, that very value
as a _point de repère_ which Mr Arnold had discussed. It will be
good relatively and good in itself,--a contribution at once to the
literature of knowledge and to the literature of power.

Of Mr Arnold's efforts in editing I may be permitted to neglect his
"intromittings" with Isaiah, for reasons already sufficiently given.
In more hopeful matter there are three examples which are not soon
likely to lose interest or value: the selection of his own poems, that
from Wordsworth, and that from Byron. To the first the English habits
of his own day did not permit him to prefix any extensive
Introduction, and though the principle is sound, one is almost sorry
for the application. Neither Wordsworth nor Coleridge would have had
any scruples in doing this, and while Mr Arnold had the sense of the
ludicrous which Wordsworth lacked, he was less subject to disastrous
divagations than Coleridge. Still, the 1853 Preface enables those who
have some slight power of expansion to fill in what is wanted from the
point of view of purpose; and the selection itself is quite excellent.
Almost the only things that, as a basis for a good knowledge of the
poet, one finds it necessary to subjoin, are the beautiful
_Resignation_, which Mr Humphry Ward had the good taste to
include in the appendix to his _English Poets_; and the curious,
characteristic, and not much short of admirable _Dream_, which in
the earlier issues formed part of _Switzerland_, and should never
have been excluded from it. It is probably the best selection by a
poet from his own works that has ever been issued, and this is saying
not a little. Nor does one like Mr Arnold less for his saying,
reported either by Mr Ward or Lord Coleridge, that he had rather have
given _all_ the poems.

As for the "Wordsworth" and the "Byron," they gain enormously by "this
man's estimate of them," and do not lose by "this man's" selection. I
have had occasion, not once or twice only, and for purposes not
invariably the same, to go through the Wordsworth book carefully, side
by side with the complete poems, in order to see whether anything has
necessarily to be added. I really do not know what has, unless it be a
few of the oases from the deserts of the _Excursion_, the
_Prelude_, and the then not published _Recluse_. Wordsworth's real
titles are put in once for all; the things by which he must stand or
fall are there. The professor, the very thorough-going student, the
literary historian, must go farther; the idle person with a love of
literature will; but nobody need.

And the Introduction (for after all we can all make our selections for
ourselves, with a very little trouble) is still more precious. I know
few critical essays which give me more pleasure in reading and
re-reading than this. Not that I agree with it by any means as a
whole; but he is in the mere "Pettys" of criticism (it is true not
many seem to get beyond) who judges a critical essay by his own
agreement with it. Mr Arnold puts Wordsworth, as a poet and an English
poet, far higher than I can put him. He is not so great a poet to my
thinking as Spenser or Shelley; if it were possible in these
competitions to allow weight for age, he is not as great a poet as
Keats; I am sure he is not a greater poet than Tennyson; I cannot give
him rank above Heine or Hugo, though the first may be sometimes
naughty and the second frequently silly or rhetorical; and when Mr
Arnold begins to reckon Molière in, I confess I am lost. When and
where did Molière write poetry? But these things do not matter; they
are the things on which reviewers exercise their "will it be
believed?" and on which critics agree to differ. We may include with
them the disparaging passage on Gautier (of whom I suspect Mr Arnold
knew little, and whom he was not quite fitted to judge had he known
more) and the exaltation of "life" and "conduct" and all the rest of
it. These are the colours of the regiment, the blazonry of the knight;
we take them with it and him, and having once said our say against
them, pass them as admitted.

But what is really precious is first the excellent criticism scattered
broadcast all over the essay, and secondly, the onslaught on the
Wordsworthians. They might perhaps retort with a _tu quoque_.
When Mr Arnold attacks these poor folk for saying that Wordsworth's
poetry is precious because its philosophy is sound, we remember a
certain Preface with its "all depends on the subject," and chuckle a
little, a very little. But Mr Arnold is right here. No philosophy, no
subject, will make poetry without poetical treatment, and the
consequence is that _The Excursion_ and _The Prelude_ are,
as wholes, not good poems at all. They contain, indeed, passages of
magnificent poetry. But how one longs, how, as one sees from this
essay, Mr Arnold longed, for some mercury-process which would simply
amalgamate the gold out of them and allow us to throw the dross down
any nearest cataract, or let it be blown away by any casual hurricane!

The Byron paper contains more disputable statements--indeed the
passage about Shelley, if it were quite serious, which may be doubted,
would almost disqualify Mr Arnold as a critic of poetry. But it is
hardly less interesting, and scarcely at all less valuable. In the
first place, it is a very great thing that a man should be able to
admire both Byron and Wordsworth. Of a mere Byronite, indeed, Mr
Arnold has even less than he has of a Wordsworthian pure and simple.
He makes the most damaging admissions; he has to fall back on Goethe
for comfort and confirmation; he is greatly disturbed by M. Scherer's
rough treatment of his subject. In no essay, I think, does he quote so
much from others, does he seem to feel it such a relief to find a
backer, a somebody to fight with on a side point, a somebody (for
instance Professor Nichol) to correct and gloss and digress upon while
complimenting him. Mr Arnold is obviously not at ease in this
Zion--which indeed is a Zion of an odd kind. Yet this very uneasiness
gives to the _Essay_ a glancing variety, a sort of animation and
excitement, which are not common things in critical prelections. Nor,
though one may think that Mr Arnold's general estimate of Byron is not
even half as sound as his general estimate of Wordsworth, does the
former appear to be in even the slightest degree insincere. Much as
there must have been in Byron's loose art, his voluble
inadequacy--nay, even in his choice of subject--that was repellent to
Mr Arnold: much more as there must have been in his unchastened
conduct, his flashy affectations, his lack of dignity, morality,
_tenue_ of every kind,--yet there were real links between them. Mr
Arnold saw in Byron an ally, if not an altogether admirable or
trustworthy ally, against the Philistine. He saw in him a link with
general European literature, a check and antidote to the merely
insular. Byron's undoubtedly "sincere and strong" dislike of the
extreme Romantic view of literature was not distasteful to Mr Arnold.
Indeed, in his own earlier poems there are not wanting Byronic touches
and echoes, not so easy to separate and put the finger on, as to see
and hear "confusedly." Lastly, he had, by that sort of reaction which
often exhibits itself in men of the study, an obvious admiration for
Force--the admiration which makes him in his letters praise France up
to 1870 and Germany after that date--and he thought he saw Force in
Byron. So that the _Essay_ is written with a stimulating mingle-mangle
of attraction and reluctance, of advocacy and admission. It is very
far indeed from being one of his best critically. You may, on his own
principles, "catch him out" in it a score of times. But it is a good
piece of special pleading, an excellent piece of writing, and one of
the very best and most consummate literary _causeries_ in

In strict chronological order, a third example of these most
interesting and stimulating Prefaces should have been mentioned
between the "Wordsworth" and the "Byron"--the latter of which, indeed,
contains a reference to it. This is the famous Introduction to Mr T.H.
Ward's _English Poets_, which, in that work and in the second
series of _Essays in Criticism_, where it subsequently appeared,
has perhaps had more readers than any other of its author's critical
papers. It contains, moreover, that still more famous definition of
poetry as "a criticism of life" which has been so often attacked and
has sometimes been defended. I own to having been, both at the time
and since, one of its most decided and irreconcilable assailants. Nor
do I think that Mr Arnold would have much relished the apology made, I
think, by Mr Leslie Stephen since his death, that its critics "mistake
an epigram for a philosophical definition." In the first place, the
epigrammatic quality is not clearly apparent; and in the second place,
an epigram would in the particular place have been anything but
appropriate, while a philosophical definition is exactly what was

Mr Arnold himself never attempted any such defence. He pleaded, with
literal justice, that the phrase "a criticism of life" was only part
of his formula, which adds, "under the conditions fixed for such a
criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty." But this
does not make the matter much better, while it shows beyond
controversy that it _was_ a philosophical definition that he was
attempting. It merely takes us round in a circle, telling us that
poetry is poetical, that the archdeacon performs archidiaconal
functions. And while it is not more illuminative than that famous and
useful jest, it has the drawback of being positively delusive, which
the jest is not. Unless we are to assign some quite new meaning to
"criticism"--and the assignment of new meanings to the terms of an
explanation is the worst of all explanatory improprieties--poetry is
_not_ a criticism of life. It may be a passionate interpretation of
life--that has seemed to some not a bad attempt at the
unachievable,--a criticism it cannot be. Prose fiction may be and
should be such; drama may be and should be such; but not poetry. And
it is especially unfortunate that such poetry as answers best to the
term is exactly that poetry which Mr Arnold liked least. Dryden and
Pope have much good and true criticism of life: _The Vanity of Human
Wishes_ is magnificent criticism of life; but Mr Arnold has told us
that Dryden and Pope and Johnson are but "classics of our prose." That
there is criticism of life _in_ poetry is true; but then in poetry
there is everything.

It would also, no doubt, be possible to pick other holes in the paper.
The depreciation of the "historic estimate," instead of a simple hint
to correct it by the intrinsic, is certainly one. Another is a
distinct arbitrariness in the commendation or discommendation of the
examples selected. No one in his senses would put the _Chanson de
Roland_ on a level with the _Iliad_ as a whole; but some among those
people who happen to possess an equal acquaintance with Greek and Old
French will demur to Mr Arnold's assignment of an ineffably superior
poetical quality to one of the two passages he quotes over the other.
So yet again with the denial of "high seriousness" to Chaucer. One
feels disposed to enter and argue out a whole handful of not quite
contradictory pleas, such as "He _has_ high seriousness" (_vide_ the
"Temple of Mars," the beginning of the _Parliament of Fowls_, and many
other places): "Why should he have high seriousness?" (a most
effective demurrer); and "What _is_ high seriousness, except a fond
thing vainly invented for the nonce?"

But, as has so constantly to be said in reference to Mr Arnold, these
things do not matter. He must have his catchwords: and so "criticism
of life" and "high seriousness" are introduced at their and his peril.
He must have his maintenance of the great classics, and so he exposes
what I fear may be called no very extensive or accurate acquaintance
with Old French. He must impress on us that conduct is three-fourths
of life, and so he makes what even those who stop short of
_latreia_ in regard to Burns may well think mistakes about that
poet likewise. But all the spirit, all the tendency, of the
_Introduction_ is what it ought to be, and the plea for the
"real" estimate is as wholly right in principle as it is partly wrong
in application.

It is well borne out by the two interesting articles on Gray and Keats
which Mr Arnold contributed to the same work. In the former, and here
perhaps only, do we find him putting his shoulder to the work of
critical advocacy and sympathy with an absolutely whole heart. With
Wordsworth, with Byron, with Heine, he was on points more or fewer at
grave difference; though he affected to regard Goethe as a _magnus
Apollo_ of criticism and creation both, I think in his heart of
hearts there must have been some misgivings; and it is impossible that
he should not have known his fancy for people like the Guérins to be
mere _engouement_. Gray's case was different. The resemblances
between subject and critic were extraordinary. Mr Arnold is really an
industrious, sociable, and moderately cheerful Gray of the nineteenth
century; Gray an indolent, recluse, more melancholy Arnold of the
eighteenth. Again, the literary quality of the bard of the
_Elegy_ was exactly of the kind which stimulates critics most.
From Sainte-Beuve downwards the fraternity has, justly or unjustly,
been accused of a tendency to extol writers who are a little
problematical, who approach the second class, above the unquestioned
masters. And there was the yet further stimulus of redressing wrongs.
Gray, though a most scholarly poet, has always pleased the vulgar
rather than the critics, and he had the singular fate of being
dispraised both by Johnson and by Wordsworth. But in this paper of Mr
Arnold's the wheel came full circle. Everything that can possibly be
said for Gray--more than some of us would by any means indorse--is
here said for him: here he has provided an everlasting critical
harbour, into which he may retreat whensoever the popular or the
critical breeze turns adverse.

And the Keats, less disputable in its general estimate, is equally
good in itself, and specially interesting as a capital example of Mr
Arnold's polemic--_the_ capital example, indeed, if we except the
not wholly dissimilar but much later article on Shelley's _Life_.
He is rather unduly severe on the single letter of Keats which he
quotes; but that was his way, and it is after all only a justifiable
rhetorical _reculade_, with the intent to leap upon the maudlin
defenders of the poet as a sort of hero of M. Feydeau, and rend them.
The improvement of the mere fashion, as compared with the
fantasticalities of the _Friendship's Garland_ period, is simply
enormous. And the praise which follows is praise really in the grand
style--praise, the style and quality of which are positively rejoicing
to the heart from their combination of fervour and accuracy, from
their absolute fulfilment of the ideal of a word shockingly misused in
these latter days, the word Appreciation. The personal sympathy which
Mr Arnold evidently had with Gray neither makes nor mars here; all is
purely critical, purely literary. And yet higher praise has never been
given by any save the mere superlative-sloppers of the lower press,
nor juster criticism meted out by the veriest critical Rhadamanthus.
Of its scale and kind, this, I think, is the most perfect example of
Mr Arnold's critical power, and it is so late that it shows that power
to have been not merely far off exhaustion, but actually, like sound
old wine, certain to improve for years to come.

In the seven years that were left to him after the publication of the
_Byron_, Mr Arnold did not entirely confine himself to the
service of his only true mistress Literature. But he never fell again
so completely into the power of Duessa as he had fallen between 1867
and 1877. His infidelities were chiefly in the direction of politics,
not of religion or irreligion, and they were of a less gay and
frivolous character than those of a generally similar kind in earlier
dates. They were partly devoted to the change which has brought it
about, that, while during the third quarter of the century the
Conservatives were in power, though on three different occasions, yet
in each for absolutely insignificant terms, in the fourth Mr
Gladstone's tenure of office from 1880 to 1885 has been the only
period of real Liberal domination. But although he dealt with the
phenomenon from various points of view in such articles as "The Nadir
of Liberalism," the "Zenith of Conservatism," and so forth, it was
chiefly, as was natural at the time, in relation to Ireland that he
exercised his political pen, and enough has been said about these
Irish articles by anticipation above. _Discourses in America_,
the result of his lecturing tour to that country in 1883-84, and the
articles on Amiel, Tolstoi, and Shelley's Life, which represent his
very last stage of life, require more particular attention.

The _Discourses in America_, two of them specially written, and
the other, originally a Cambridge "Rede" discourse, recast for the
Western Hemisphere, must always rank with the most curious and
interesting of Mr Arnold's works: but the very circumstances of their
composition and delivery made it improbable, if not impossible, that
they should form one of his best. These circumstances were of a kind
which reproduces itself frequently in the careers of all men of any
public distinction. In his days of comparative obscurity, or in some
position of "greater freedom and less responsibility," even when he
ceases to be obscure, a man deals faithfully, but perhaps a little
flippantly, with this or that person, thing, nation, subject,
doctrine. Afterwards he is brought into a relation with the person or
nation, into a position as regards the thing, subject, or doctrine,
which necessitates, if not exactly a distinct recantation in the
humiliating sense attached to the Latin, yet a more or less graceful
and ingenious palinode in the more honourable one which we allow to
the Greek equivalent and original. Mr Arnold could never be lacking in
grace or in ingenuity; but he certainly had, in his earlier work,
allowed it to be perfectly visible that the world of American
politics, American manners, American institutions and ways generally,
was not in his eyes by any means a world all of sweetness or all of

His sense of the ludicrous, and his sense of art, alike precluded even
the idea of a clumsy apology, and though, as was to be expected, the
folk of the baser sort who exist everywhere may not have been pleased
with his Discourses, the people of the United States generally did not
owe him or show him any grudge for being frank and consistent as well
as polite. The subjects were selected and grouped with great skill.
"Numbers" dealt with the burning question of democracy, which must
ever be uppermost--or as nethermost not less important--in a republic;
and dealt with it after the more moderate, not the extremer form, of
that combination of literature and politics which Mr Arnold had always
affected. "Literature and Science," the middle discourse, attacked a
question which, so far as the nationality of his audience was
concerned, had nothing burning about it, which the lecturer was
singularly well qualified to treat from the one side, and which is
likely to retain its actuality and its moment for many a day and year,
perhaps many a century. "Emerson," the last, descended from
generalities to the consideration of a particular subject, at once
specially American and specially literary. It would have been hard
indeed to exhibit better composition in the grouping of the subjects
as regards their classes, and criticism may be defied to find better
examples of each class than those actually taken.

It is not clear that quite such high praise can be given to the
execution, and the reason is plain: it was in the execution, not in
the composition and scheme, that the hard practical difficulties of
the task came in. Long harnessed official as he was, and preacher as
he was, in his critical character, of Law, Order, Restraint, Mr Arnold
was both too much of an Englishman and too much of a genius not to be
ill to ride with the curb. And, save perhaps in "Literature and
Science" (which was not at first written for an American audience at
all), the pressure of the curb--I had almost said of the twitch--is
too often evident, or at least suggested. This especially applies to
the first, the longest, the most ambitious, and, as its author would
say, most "nobly serious" of the three. There are quite admirable
things in "Numbers"; and the descant on the worship of the great
goddess Aselgeia, and its effect upon France, is not only nobly
serious from the point of view of morality, but is one of Mr Arnold's
best claims to the title of a political philosopher, and even of a
political prophet. But it is less easy to say that this passage
appears to be either specially in place or well composed with its
companions. Perhaps the same is true of the earlier part, and its
extensive dealings with Isaiah and Plato. As regards the prophet, it
is pretty certain that of Mr Arnold's hearers, the larger number did
not care to have Isaiah spoken about in that particular manner, while
some at least of the rest did not care to have him spoken about at
all. Of the philosopher, it is equally safe to say that the great
majority knew very little, and that of the small minority, some must
have had obstinate questionings connected with the appearance of Plato
as an authority on the moral health of nations, and with the
application of Mr Arnold's own very true and very noble doctrine about
Aselgeia. In fact, although the lecture is the most thoughtful, the
most serious in part, the most forcible, and the truest of all Mr
Arnold's political or social discourses, yet it shares with all of
them the reproach of a touch of desultory dilettantism.

The others, at least equally interesting in parts, are much better as
wholes. The opening of the "Emerson," with its fond reminiscence of
Oxford, is in a vein which Mr Arnold did not often work, but which
always yielded him gold. In the words about Newman, one seems to
recognise very much more than meets the ear--an explanation of much in
the Arnoldian gospel, on something like the principle of revulsion, of
soured love, which accounts for still more in the careers of his
contemporaries, Mr Pattison and Mr Froude. He is less happy on
Carlyle--he never was very happy on Carlyle, and for obvious
reasons--but here he jars less than usual. As for Emerson himself,
some readers have liked Emerson better than Carlyle at first, but have
found that Carlyle "wears" a great deal better than Emerson. It seems
to have been the other way with Mr Arnold; yet he is not uncritical
about Emerson himself. On Emerson's poetry he is even, as on his own
principles he was, perhaps, bound to be, rather hypercritical. Most of
it, no doubt, is not poetry at all; but it has "once in a hundred
years," as Mr O'Shaughnessy sang, the blossoming of the aloe, the
star-shower of poetic meteors. And while, with all reverence, one is
bound to say that his denying the title of "great writer" to Carlyle
is merely absurd--is one of those caprices which somebody once told us
are the eternal foes of art--he is not unjust in denying that title to
Emerson. But after justifying his policy of not "cracking up" by still
further denying his subject the title of a great philosophic thinker,
he proceeds to find a pedestal for him at last as a friend and leader
of those who would "live in the spirit." With such a judgment one has
no fault to find, because it must be in all cases an almost purely
personal one. To some Gautier, with his doctrine of

  "Sculpte, lime, cisèle,"

as the great commandment of the creative artist, has been a friend and
leader in the life of the spirit: to Mr Arnold he was only a sort of
unspiritual innkeeper. To Mr Arnold, Maurice de Guérin, with his
second-hand Quinetism, was a friend and leader in the life of the
spirit; others scarcely find him so. "This is this to thee and that to

The third (strictly the middle) piece fortunately requires no
allowances, and suffers from no drawbacks. "Literature and Science" is
an apology for a liberal education, and for a rationally ordered
hierarchy of human study, which it would be almost impossible to
improve, and respecting which it is difficult to think that it can
ever grow obsolete. Not only was Mr Arnold here on his own ground, but
he was fighting for his true mistress, with the lance and sword and
shield that he had proved. And the result is like that, of the
fortunate fights of romance: he thrusts his antagonists straight over
the crupper, he sends them rolling on the ground, and clutching its
sand with their fingers. Even Mr Huxley, stoutest and best of all the
Paynim knights, never succeeded in wiping off this defeat; and it is
tolerably certain that no one else will. The language of the piece is
unusually lacking in ornateness or fanciful digression; but the logic
is the strongest that Mr Arnold ever brought to bear.

The three last essays we have mentioned, apart from the pathetic and
adventitious interest which attaches to them as last, would be in any
case among the best of their author's, and their value is (at least,
as it seems to me) in an ascending scale. To care very much for that
on Count Tolstoi is not easy for those who are unfashionable enough
not to care very much for the eloquent Russian himself. Nothing is
satisfactory that one can only read in translations. But Mr Arnold, in
whom a certain perennial youthfulness was (as it often, if not always,
is in the chosen of the earth) one of his most amiable features, seems
to have conceived a new _engouement_ for this new and quaintly
flavoured Russian literature. Had he lived longer, he probably would
have sung us something in a cautionary strain; just as it can never be
sufficiently regretted that he did not live long enough to handle
Ibsenism. And it would have been very particularly pleasant to hear
him on those _Memoirs of a Mongol Minx_ (as they have been
profanely called), which are assigned to the great Marie Bashkirtseff;
or on those others of the learned She-Mathematician, who waited with a
friend on a gentleman and suggested that he should marry _one_ of
them, no matter which, and lead both about. But the mixture of
freshness, of passion, and of regard for conduct in Count Tolstoi
could not but appeal to him; and he has given us a very charming
_causerie_ on _Anna Karenina_, notable--like O'Rourke's
noble feast--to

  "Those who were there
  And those who were not,"--

to those who have read the book itself, and to those who have not yet
found time to read it.

I cannot plead much greater affection for the lucubrations of Amiel
than for Count Tolstoi's dealings with that odd compound of crudity
and rottenness, the Russian nature; but Mr Arnold's "Amiel" is
admirable. Never was there a more "gentlemanly correction," a more
delicate and good-humoured setting to rights, than that which he
administers to Amiel's two great panegyrists (who happened to be Mr
Arnold's own niece and Mr Arnold's own friend). On subjects like Maya
and the "great wheel" it would almost be impossible to conceive, and
certainly impossible to find, a happier commentator than Mr Arnold,
though perhaps in the regions of theology he had a private Maya, a
very Great Wheel, of his own. The firmness with which he rebukes the
maunderings of the Genevese hypochondriac--of whom some one once
unkindly remarked that he was not so much intoxicated with Idealism as
suffering from the subsequent headache--is equalled by the kindness of
the dealing; and the quiet decision with which he puts his fine
writing in its proper place is better still. Nobody could call Mr
Arnold a Philistine or one insensible to _finesse_, grace,
_sehnsucht_, the impalpable and intangible charm of melancholy
and of thought. And his comments on Amiel's loaded pathos and his
muddled meditation are therefore invaluable. Nor is he less happy or
less just in the praise which, though not the first, he was one of the
first to give to by far the strongest side of Amiel's talent, his
really remarkable power of literary criticism.

But the best wine was still kept for the very last. It will have been
observed in these brief sketches of his work that, since his return to
the fields of literature proper, Mr Arnold had drawn nearer to the
_causerie_ and farther from the abstract critical essay,--that he had
taken to that mixture of biography, abstract of work, and interspersed
critical comment which Sainte-Beuve, though he did not exactly invent
it, had perfected, and which somebody, I think, has recently described
as "intensely irritating." Well! well! pearls, as we all know, are
irritating to certain classes of consumers. He had from the first done
this well, he now did it consummately. That he took occasion, in the
paper on Shelley's life which appeared in the _Nineteenth Century_ for
January 1888, to repeat his pet heresy about Shelley's poetry, matters
nothing at all. It is an innocent defiance, and no attempt whatever is
made to support it by argument. The purpose of the essay is quite
different. Already, some years before, in his article on Keats, Mr
Arnold had dealt some pretty sharp blows both at the indiscretion of a
certain class of modern literary biographers, and at the pawing and
morbid sentimentality of the same persons or others. He had a new and
a better opportunity in the matter he was now handling, and he struck
more strongly, more repeatedly, and with truer aim than ever. From the
moment of its appearance to the present day, this piece has been an
unceasing joy to all who love literature with a sane devotion. Its
composition is excellent; it selects just the right points, dwells on
them in just the right way, and drops them just when we have had
enough. In mere style it yields to nothing of its author's, and is
conspicuously and quite triumphantly free from his repetitions and
other mannerisms. No English writer--indeed one may say no writer at
all--has ever tempered such a blend of quiet contempt with perfect
good-humour and perfect good-breeding. Dryden would have written with
an equally fatal serenity, but not so lightly; Voltaire with as much
lightness, but not nearly so much like a gentleman--which may also be
said Of Courier. Thackeray could not have helped a blaze of
indignation--honest and healthy, but possibly just
_plusquam_-artistic--at the unspeakable persons who think that by
blackening the unhappy Harriet they can whiten Shelley. And almost any
one would have been likely either to commit the complementary error of
being too severe on Shelley himself, or, if this were avoided, to
underlie the charge of being callous and unsympathetic. Every one of
these rocks, and others, Mr Arnold has avoided; and he has left us in
the piece one of the most perfect examples that exist of the English
essay on subjects connected with literature. In its own special
division of _causerie_ the thing is not only without a superior, it is
almost without a peer; its insinuated or passing literary comments are
usually as happy as its censure of vital matters, and even the
above-referred-to heresy itself gives it a certain piquancy. Ill
indeed was the fate that took its author away so soon after the
completion of this little masterpiece; yet he could not have desired
to leave the world with a better diploma-performance, lodged as an
example of his actual accomplishment.

We must now return, for the last time unfortunately, to the narrative
of biographical events. December 1877 furnishes, in some letters to
his sister, evidence that he was increasingly "spread" (as the French
say quaintly) by notices of parties and persons--Mr Disraeli and Mr
Gladstone, Mr Huxley and Mr Ruskin. One is glad to hear of the
last-named that the writer "is getting to like him "--the passages on
the author of _Modern Painters_ in the earlier letters are
certainly not enthusiastic--and that "he gains much by his fancy being
forbidden to range through the world of coloured cravats." This
beneficial effect of evening dress is not limited to Mr Ruskin, and is
so well expressed that one only wishes Mr Arnold had let his own fancy
range more freely in such epistolary criticisms of life. We hear that
Mr J.R. Green "likes the Reformation and Puritanism less the more he
looks into them," again a not uncommon experience--and that Mr
Stopford Brooke is deriving much edification from the review of his
_Primer_. The next year continues the series of letters to M.
Fontanes, and gives a pleasant phrase in one to another sister, Mrs
Cropper. "My poems have had no better friends in their early and needy
days than my own sisters"--wherein Mr Arnold unconsciously quotes
_Goblin Market_, "there is no friend like a sister." Later, Mr
Freeman is dashed off, _a la maniere noire_, as "an ardent,
learned, and honest man, but a ferocious pedant." 1879 yields a letter
to Miss Arnold, expressing the intention to send the Wordsworth book
of selections to M. Scherer, and beg him to review it, which request
resulted in one of the very best, perhaps _the_ very best, of
that critic's essays in English Literature. Mr Arnold is distressed
later at Renan's taking Victor Hugo's poetry so prodigiously _au
serieux_, just as some of us have been, if not distressed, yet
mildly astonished, at Mr Arnold for not taking it, with all its
faults, half seriously enough. Geist, the dachshund, appears
agreeably, with many other birds and beasts, in a May letter of this
year, and botany reinforces zoology in a later one to Mr Grant Duff.

1880 is at first less fertile, but gives an amusing account of a
semi-royal reception of Cardinal Newman at the Duke of Norfolk's in
May, and a very interesting series of letters from Pontresina in the
autumn. Fortunately for us Mrs Arnold was not with him, and we profit
by his letters to her. In one of them there is a very pleasing and
probably unconscious touch. "Rapallo [the Duchess of Genoa's husband]
smokes the whole evening: _but I think he has a good heart_." And
later still we have the curious and not uncharacteristic information
that he is reading _David Copperfield_ for the first time (whence
no doubt its undue predominance in a certain essay), and the
description of Burns as "a beast with splendid gleams," a view which
has been fully developed since. On February 21, 1881, there is another
interview, flattering as ever, with Lord Beaconsfield, and later he
tells M. Fontanes, "I never much liked Carlyle," which indeed we knew.
The same correspondent has the only references preserved to Dean
Stanley's death; but the magnificent verses which that death produced
make anything else superfluous. They appeared in the first number of
the _Nineteenth Century_ for 1882, when New Year's Day gives us a
melancholy prediction. If "I live to be eighty [_i.e._, in some
three years from the present moment], I shall probably be the only
person in England who reads anything but newspapers and scientific
publications." Too gloomy a view, let us hope; yet with something in
it. And a letter, a very little later, gives us interesting hints of
his method in verse composition, which was to hunt a Dictionary
(Richardson's) for good but unusual words--Theophile Gautier's way
also, as it happens, though probably he did not know that.

These later letters contain so many references to living people that
one has to be careful in quoting from them; but as regards himself,
there is of course no such need of care. That self-ruthlessness which
always prevented him from scamping work is amazingly illustrated in
one of October 1882, which tells how he sat up till five in the
morning rewriting a lecture he was to deliver in Liverpool, and got up
at eight to start for the place of delivery. Let us hope that a
champagne luncheon there--"chiefly doctors, but you know I like
doctors"--revived him after the night and the journey. And two months
later he makes pleasant allusion to "that demon Traill," in reference
to a certain admirable parody of _Poor Matthias_. He had thought
Mr Gladstone "hopelessly prejudiced against" him, and was
proportionately surprised when in August 1883 he was offered by that
Minister a pension of £250 for service to the poetry and literature of
England. Few Civil List pensions have been so well deserved. But Mr
Arnold, as most men of his quality would have been, was at once struck
with the danger of evil constructions being put by the baser sort on
the acceptance of an extra allowance from public funds by a man who
already had a fair income from them, and a comfortable pension in the
ordinary way to look forward to. Mr John Morley, however, and Lord
Lingen, luckily succeeded in quieting his scruples, and only the very
basest sort grumbled. The great advantage, of course, was that it
enabled him to retire, as soon as his time was up, without too great
loss of income.

A lecturing tour to America was already planned, and October 7, 1883
is the last date from Cobham, "New York" succeeding it without any;
for Mr Arnold had the reprehensible and, in official persons, rare
habit of very constantly omitting dates, though not places. The St
Nicholas Club, "a delightful, poky, dark, exclusive little old club of
the Dutch families," is the only place in which he finds peace. For,
as one expected, the interviewers made life terrible. These American
letters are interesting reading enough, but naturally tend to be
little more than a replica of similar letters from other Englishmen
who have done the same thing. As has been quite frankly admitted here,
Mr Arnold never made any effort, and seldom seems to have been
independently prompted, to write what are called "amusing" letters: he
merely tells a plain tale of journeys, lectures, meals, persons,
scenery, manners and customs, etc. Chicago seems to have vindicated
its character for "character" by hospitably forcing him to eat dinner
and supper "on end," and by describing him in its newspapers as "an
elderly bird pecking at grapes on a trellis." The whole tour,
including a visit to Canada, lasted nearly five months, and
brought--not the profit which some people expected, but--a good sum,
with wrinkles as to more if the experiment were repeated. And when he
came back to England, the lectures were collected and printed.

In February 1885 we have, addressed to his eldest daughter, then
married and living in America, a definition of "real civilisation" as
the state "when the world does not begin till 8 P.M. and goes on from
that till 1 A.M., not later." This is, though doubtless jestful,
really a _point de repère_ for the manners of the later
nineteenth century as concerns a busy man who likes society. In the
eighteenth, and earlier in the nineteenth, men as busy as Mr Arnold
practically abstained from "the world" except quite rarely, while "the
world" was not busy. The dachshunds come in for frequent mention.

On a Sunday in May of this year comes the warning of "a horrid pain
across my chest," which, however, "Andrew Clark thinks [wrongly,
alas!] to be not heart" but indigestion. The _Discourses in
America_, for which their author had a great predilection, came out
later. In August the pain is mentioned again; and the subsequent
remark, "I was a little tired, but the cool champagne at dinner
brought me round," is another ominous hint that it was _not_
indigestion. Two of the most valuable of all the letters come in
October, one saying, "I think Oxford is still, on the whole, the place
in the world to which I am most attached" ["And so say all of us"];
the other, after some notice of the Corpus plate, telling how "I got
out to Hinksey and up the hill to within sight of the Cumnor firs. I
cannot describe the effect which this landscape always has upon me:
the hillside with its valleys, and Oxford in the great Thames valley
below." And this walk is again referred to later. He was pleased by a
requisition that he should stand yet again for the Poetry
Professorship, though of course he did not accede to it. And at the
beginning of winter he had a foreign mission (his last) to Berlin, to
get some information for the Government as to German school fees. He
was much lionised, and seems to have enjoyed himself very much during
his stay, the Crown Princess being specially gracious to him.

Nor was he long in England on his return, though long enough to bring
another mention of the chest pain, and an excellent definition of
education--would there were no worse!--"Reading five pages of the
Greek Anthology every day, and looking out all the words I do not
know." In February 1886 he was back again investigating the Swiss and
Bavarian school systems; and that amiable animal-worship of his
receives a fresh evidence in the mention and mourning of the death of
"dear Lola" (not Montès, but another; in short, a pony), with a sigh
for "a _mèche_ of her hair." The journey was finished by way of
France towards the end of March. At Hamburg Mr Arnold was "really [and
very creditably] glad to have had the opportunity of calling a man
Your Magnificence," that being, it seems, the proper official style in
addressing the burgomaster. And May took him back to America, to see
his married daughter and divers old friends. He remained there till
the beginning of September, improving, as he thought, in health, but
meeting towards the close an awkward bathing accident, which involved
no risk of drowning, but gave him a shock that was followed by a week
or two of troublesome attacks of pain across the chest. There is very
much in the letters of the time about the political crisis of 1886.
His retirement from official work came in November, and the letters
are fuller than ever of delight in the Cobham landscape.

But the warnings grew more frequent, and we know that long before this
he had had no delusions about their nature. Indeed, it is doubtful
whether he had ever had any, considering the fact of the malady, which
had, as he says in a singularly manly and dignified _commentatio
mortis_ dated January 29, 1887, struck down his father and
grandfather in middle life long before they came to his present age.
He "refuses every invitation to lecture or make addresses." The
letters of 1887, too, are very few, and contain little of interest,
except an indication of a visit to Fox How; while much the same may be
said of those, also few, from the early months of 1888. The last of
all contains a reference to _Robert Elsmere_. Five days later, on
April 15, a sudden exertion, it seems, brought on the fatal attack,
and he died. He had outlived his grand climacteric of sixty-three
(which he had thought would be "the end as well as the climax") by two
years and three months.



The personal matters which usually, and more or less gracefully, fill
the beginning of the end of a biography, are perhaps superfluous in
the case of a man who died so recently, and who was so well known as
Mr Matthew Arnold. Moreover, if given at all, they should be given by
some one who knew him more intimately than did the present writer. He
was of a singularly agreeable presence, without being in the sense of
the painter's model exactly "handsome"; and in particular he could
boast a very pleasant and not in the least artificial smile. Some
artificiality of manner was sometimes attributed to him, I think
rather unjustly; but he certainly had "tricks and manners" of the kind
very natural to men of decided idiosyncrasy, unless they transcend all
mere trick, after the fashion which we know in Scott, which we are
sure of, without knowing, in Shakespeare. One of these Mr George
Russell glances at in the preface to the _Letters_, a passage
which I read with not a little amusement, because I could confirm it
from a memory of my only conversation with Mr Arnold. He had been
good-humouredly expostulating with me for overvaluing some French
poet. I forget at the distance of seventeen or eighteen years who it
was, but it was not Gautier. I replied in some such words as, "Well;
perhaps he is not very important in himself, but I think he is
'important _for us_,' if I may borrow that." So he looked at me
and said, "_I_ didn't write that anywhere, did I?" And when I
reminded him that he had told us how Sainte-Beuve said it of
Lamartine, he declared that he had quite forgotten it. Which might, or
might not, be Socratic.

But I should imagine that the complaints of his affectations in
ordinary society were as much exaggerated as I am sure that the
opposite complaints of the humdrum character of his letters are.
Somebody talks of the "wicked charm" which a popular epithet or
nickname possesses, and something of the sort seems to have hung about
"The Apostle of Culture," "The Prophet of Sweetness and Light," and
the rest. He only deserved his finical reputation inasmuch as he was
unduly given to the use of these catch-words, not because he in any
undue way affected to "look the part" or live up to them. And as for
the letters, it must be remembered that he was a very busy man, with
clerical work of the official kind enough to disgust a very
Scriblerus; that he had, so far as the published letters show us, no
very intimate friend, male or (still better) female, outside his own
family; and further, that the degeneration of the art of
letter-writing is not a mere phrase, it is a fact. Has any of my
readers many--or any--correspondents like Scott or like Southey, like
Lamb or like FitzGerald, like Madame de Sévigné or like Lady Mary? He
is lucky if he has. Indeed, the simplicity of the _Letters_ is
the very surest evidence of a real simplicity in the nature. In the
so-called best letter-writers it may be shrewdly suspected that this
simplicity is, with rare exceptions, absent. Scott had it; but then
Scott's genius as a novelist overflowed into his letters, as did
Southey's talent of universal writing, and Lamb's unalterable
quintessence of quaintness. But though I will allow no one to take
precedence of me as a champion of Madame de Sévigné, I do not think
that simplicity is exactly the note of that beautiful and gracious
person; it is certainly not that of our own Lady Mary, or of Horace
Walpole, or of Pope, or of Byron. Some of these, as we know, or
suspect with a strength equal to knowledge, write with at least a
sidelong glance at possible publication; some with a deliberate
intention of it; all, I think, with a sort of unconscious
consciousness of "how it will look" on paper. Of this in Mr Arnold's
letters there is absolutely no sign. Even when he writes to
comparative strangers, he never lays himself out for a "point" or a
phrase, rarely even for a joke. To his family (and it should be
remembered that the immense majority of the letters that we possess
are family letters) he is naturally more familiar, but the familiarity
does not bring with it any quips or gambols. Only in the very early
letters, and chiefly in those to Wyndham Slade, is there any
appearance of second thought, of "conceit," in the good sense. Later,
he seems to have been too much absorbed in his three functions of
official, critic, and poet to do more than shake hands by letter and
talk without effort.

But if he, as the phrase is, "put himself out" little as to
letter-writing, it was by no means the same in those other functions
which have been just referred to. In later years (it is Mr Humphry
Ward, I think, who is our sufficient authority for it) poetry was but
occasional amusement and solace to him, prose his regular avocation
from task-work; and there is abundant evidence that, willingly or
unwillingly, he never allowed either to usurp the place of the
vocation which he had accepted. Not everybody, perhaps, is so
scrupulous. It is not an absolutely unknown thing to hear men boast of
getting through their work somehow or other, that they may devote
themselves to _parerga_ which they like, and which they are
pleased to consider more dignified, more important, nearer the chief
end of man. And from the extremely common assumption that other
people, whether they confess this or not, act upon it, one may at
least not uncharitably suppose that a much larger number would so act
if they dared, or had the opportunity. This was not Mr Arnold's
conception of the relations of the hired labourer and the labour which
gains him his hire. Not only does he seem to have performed his actual
inspecting duties with that exact punctiliousness which in such cases
is much better than zeal, but he did not grudge the expenditure of his
art on the requirements, and not the strict requirements only, of his
craft. The unfitness of poets for business has been often enough
proved to be a mere fond thing vainly invented; but it was never
better disproved than in this particular instance.

Of the manner in which he had discharged these duties, some idea may
be formed from the volume of _Reports_ which was edited, the year
after his death, by Sir Francis Sandford. It would really be difficult
to imagine a better display of that "sweet reasonableness," the
frequency of which phrase on a man's lips does not invariably imply
the presence of the corresponding thing in his conduct. It would be
impossible for the most plodding inspector, who never dared commit a
sonnet or an essay, to deal with his subject in a way showing better
acquaintance with it, more interest in it, or more business-like
abstinence from fads, and flights, and flings. Faint and far-off
suggestions of the biographer of Arminius may, indeed, by a very
sensitive reader, be discovered in the slightly eccentric suggestion
that the Latin of the Vulgate (of which Mr Arnold himself was justly
fond) should be taught in primary schools, and in the rather perverse
coupling of "Scott and Mrs Hemans." But these are absolutely the only
approaches to naughtiness in the whole volume. It is a real misfortune
that the nature of the subject should make readers of the book
unlikely to be ever numerous; for it supplies a side of its author's
character nowhere else (except in glimpses) provided by his extant
work. It may even be doubted, by those who have read it, whether
"cutting blocks with a razor" is such a Gothamite proceeding as it is
sometimes held to be. For in this case the blocks are chopped as well
as the homeliest bill-hook could do it; and we know that the razor was
none the blunter. At any rate, the ethical document is one of the
highest value, and very fit, indeed, to be recommended to the
attention of young gentlemen of genius who think it the business of
the State to provide for them, and not to require any dismal drudgery
from them in return.

But the importance of Mr Arnold to English history and English
literature has, of course, little or nothing to do with his official
work. The faithful performance of that work is important to his
character; and the character of the work itself colours very
importantly, and, as we have seen, not perhaps always to unmitigated
advantage, the nature of his performances as a man of letters. But it
is as a man of letters, as a poet, as a critic, and perhaps most of
all as both combined, that he ranks for history and for the world.

A detailed examination of his poetic performance has been attempted in
the earlier pages of this little book, as well as some general remarks
upon it; but we may well find room here for something more general
still. That the poet is as much above the prose-writer in rank as he
is admittedly of an older creation, has always been held; and here, as
elsewhere, I am not careful to attempt innovation. In fact, though it
may seem unkind to say so, it may be suspected that nobody has ever
tried to elevate the function of the prose-writer above that of the
poet, unless he thought he could write great prose and knew he could
not write great poetry. But in another order of estimate than this, Mr
Arnold's poetic work may seem of greater value than his prose, always
admirable and sometimes consummate as the latter is, if we take each
at its best.

At its best--and this is how, though he would himself seem to have
sometimes felt inclined to dispute the fact, we must reckon a poet.
His is not poetry of the absolutely trustworthy kind. It is not like
that of Shelley or of Keats, who, when their period of mere juvenility
is past, simply cannot help writing poetry; nor is it, on the other
hand, like that of Wordsworth, who flies and flounders with an
incalculable and apparently irresponsible alternation. It is
rather--though I should rank it far higher, on all but the historic
estimate, than Gray's--like that of Gray. The poet has in him a vein,
or, if the metaphor be preferred, a spring, of the most real and
rarest poetry. But the vein is constantly broken by faults, and never
very thick; the spring is intermittent, and runs at times by drops
only. There is always, as it were, an effort to get it to yield
freely, to run clear and constant. And--again as in the case of
Gray--the poet subjects himself to a further disability by all manner
of artificial restrictions, struggles to comply with this or that
system, theories, formulas, tricks. He will not "indulge his genius."
And so it is but rarely that we get things like the _Scholar-Gipsy_,
like the _Forsaken Merman_, like the second _Isolation_; and when we
do get such things there is sometimes, as in the case of the
peroration to _Sohrab and Rustum_, and perhaps the splendid
opening of _Westminster Abbey_ and _Thyrsis_, a certain
sense of parade, of the elaborate assumption of the singing-robe.
There is too seldom the sensation which Coleridge unconsciously
suggested in the poem that heralded the poetry of the nineteenth
century. We do not feel that

  "The fair breeze blew, the while foam flew,
    The furrow followed free"--


  "We were the first that ever burst
    Into that silent sea;"

but that a mighty launch of elaborate preparation is taking place,
that we are pleased and orderly spectators standing round, and that
the ship is gliding in due manner, but with no rush or burst, into the
sea of poetry. While elsewhere there may be even the sense of effort
and preparation without the success.

But, once more, a poet is to be judged first by his best things, and
secondly by a certain _aura_ or atmosphere, by a nameless,
intangible, but sensible quality, which, now nearer and fuller, now
farther and fainter, is over his work throughout. In both respects Mr
Arnold passes the test. The things mentioned above and others, even
many others, are the right things. They do not need the help of that
rotten reed, the subject, to warrant and support them; we know that
they are in accordance with the great masters, but we do not care
whether they are or not. They sound the poetic note; they give the
poetic flash and iridescence; they cause the poetic intoxication. Even
in things not by any means of the best as wholes, you may follow that
gleam safely. The exquisite revulsion of the undertone in

  "Ah! so the silence was,
    So was the hush;"

the honey-dropping trochees of the _New Sirens_; the description
of the poet in _Resignation_; the outburst--

  "What voices are these on the clear night air?"

of _Tristram and Iseult_; the melancholy meditation of _A
Summer Night_ and _Dover Beach_, with the plangent note so
cunningly yet so easily accommodated to the general tone and motive of
the piece,--these and a hundred other things fulfil all the
requirements of the true poetic criticism, which only marks, and only
asks for, the _differentia_ of poetry.

And this poetic moment--this (if one may use the words, about another
matter, of one who wrote no poetry, yet had more than all but three or
four poets), this "exolution, liquefaction, transformation, the kiss
of the spouse, and ingression into the divine shadow" which poetry and
poetry alone confers upon the fit readers of it--is never far off or
absent for long together in Mr Arnold's verse. His command of it is
indeed uncertain. But all over his work, from _The Strayed
Reveller_ to _Westminster Abbey_, it may happen at any minute,
and it does happen at many minutes. This is what makes a poet: not the
most judicious selection of subject, not the most studious
contemplation and, as far as he manages it, representation of the
grand style and the great masters. And this is what Mr Arnold has.

That his prose, admirable as it always is in form and invaluable as it
often is in matter, is on the whole inferior to his verse, is by no
means a common opinion, though it was expressed by some good judges
both during his life and at the time of his death. As we have seen,
both from a chance indication in his own letters and from Mr Humphry
Ward's statement, he took very great pains with it; indeed, internal
evidence would be sufficient to establish this if we had no positive
external testimony whatsoever. He came at a fortunate time, when the
stately yet not pompous or over-elaborated model of the latest
Georgian prose, raised from early Georgian "drabness" by the efforts
of Johnson, Gibbon, and Burke, but not proceeding to the extremes of
any of the three, was still the academic standard; but when a certain
freedom on the one side, and a certain grace and colour on the other,
were being taken from the new experiments of nineteenth-century prose
proper. Whether he or his contemporary Mr Froude was the greatest
master of this particular blend is a question which no doubt had best
be answered by the individual taste of the competent. I should say
myself that Mr Froude at certain moments rose higher than Mr Arnold
ever did; nothing of the latter's can approach that magnificent
passage on the passing of the Middle Ages and on the church-bell sound
that memorises it. And Mr Froude was also free from the mannerisms, at
times amounting to very distinct affectation, to which, in his middle
period more especially, Mr Arnold succumbed. But he did not quite keep
his friend's high level of distinction and _tenue_. It was almost
impossible for Mr Arnold to be slipshod--I do not mean in the sense of
the composition books, which is mostly an unimportant sense, but in
one quite different; and he never, as Mr Froude sometimes did,
contented himself with correct but ordinary writing. If his defect was
mannerism, his quality was certain manner.

The most noticeable, the most easily imitated, and the most doubtful
of his mannerisms was, of course, the famous iteration, which was
probably at first natural, but which, as we see from the
_Letters_, he afterwards deliberately fostered and accentuated,
in order, as he thought, the better to get his new ideas into the
heads of what the type-writer sometimes calls the "Br_u_tish"
public. That it became at times extremely teasing is beyond argument,
and I should be rather afraid that Prince Posterity will be even more
teased by it than we are, because to him the ideas it enforces will
be, and will have been ever since he can remember, obvious and
common-place enough. But when this and some other peccadillos (on
which it is unnecessary to dwell, lest we imitate the
composition-books aforesaid) were absent or even moderately present,
sometimes even in spite of their intrusion, Mr Arnold's style was of a
curiously fascinating character. I have often thought that, in the
good sense of that unlucky word "genteel," this style deserves it far
more than the style either of Shaftesbury or of Temple; while in its
different and nineteenth-century way, it is as much a model of the
"middle" style, neither very plain nor very ornate, but "elegant," as
Addison's own. Yet it is observable that all the three writers just
mentioned keep their place, except with deliberate students of the
subject, rather by courtesy or prescription than by actual conviction
and relish on the part of readers: and it is possible that something
of the same kind may happen in Mr Arnold's case also, when his claims
come to be considered by other generations from the merely formal
point of view. Nor can those claims be said to be very securely based
in respect of matter. It is impossible to believe that posterity will
trouble itself about the dreary apologetics of undogmatism on which he
wasted so much precious time and energy; they will have been arranged
by the Prince's governor on the shelves, with Hobbes's mathematics and
Southey's political essays. "But the criticism," it will be said,
"_that_ ought to endure." No doubt from some points of view it ought,
but will it? So long, or as soon, as English literature is
intelligently taught in universities, it is sure of its place in any
decently arranged course of Higher Rhetoric; so long, or as soon, as
critics consider themselves bound to study the history and documents
of their business, it will be read by them. But what hold does this
give it? Certainly not a stronger hold than that of Dryden's _Essay of
Dramatic Poesy_, which, though some of us may know it by heart, can
scarcely be said to be a commonly read classic.

The fact is--and no one knew this fact more thoroughly, or would have
acknowledged it more frankly, than Mr Arnold himself--that criticism
has, of all literature that is really literature, the most precarious
existence. Each generation likes, and is hardly wrong in liking, to
create for itself in this province, to which creation is so scornfully
denied by some; and old critics are to all but experts (and apparently
to some of them) as useless as old moons. Nor can one help regretting
that so long a time has been lost in putting before the public a
cheap, complete, handy, and fairly handsome edition of the whole of Mr
Arnold's prose. There is no doubt at all that the existence of such an
edition, even before his death, was part cause, and a large part of
the cause, of the great and continued popularity of De Quincey; and it
is a thousand pities that, before a generation arises which knows him
not, Mr Arnold is not allowed the same chance. As it is, not a little
of his work has never been reprinted at all; some of the rest is
difficult of access, and what there is exists in numerous volumes of
different forms, some cheap, some dear, the whole cumbersome. And if
his prose work seems to me inferior to his poetical in absolute and
perennial value, its value is still very great. Not so much English
prose has that character of grace, of elegance, which has been
vindicated for this, that we can afford to lay aside or to forget such
consummate examples of it. Academic urbanity is not so universal a
feature of our race--the constant endeavour at least to "live by the
law of the _peras_," to observe lucidity, to shun exaggeration,
is scarcely so endemic. Let it be added, too, that if not as the sole,
yet as the chief, herald and champion of the new criticism, as a
front-fighter in the revolutions of literary view which have
distinguished the latter half of the nineteenth century in England, Mr
Arnold will be forgotten or neglected at the peril of the generations
and the individuals that forget or neglect him.

Little need be added about the loss of actual artistic pleasure which
such neglect must bring. Mr Arnold may never, in prose, be read with
quite the same keenness of delight with which we read him in poetry;
but he will yield delight more surely. His manner, except in his rare
"thorn-crackling" moments, and sometimes even then, will carry off
even the less agreeable matter; with matter at all agreeable, it has a
hardly to be exaggerated charm.

But it is in his general literary position that Mr Arnold's strongest
title to eminence consists. There have certainly been greater poets in
English: I think there have been greater critics. But as poet and
critic combined, no one but Dryden and Coleridge can be for a moment
placed beside him: the fate of the false Florimel must await all
others who dare that adventure. And if he must yield--yield by a long
way--to Dryden in strength and easy command of whatsoever craft he
tried, to Coleridge in depth and range and philosophical grasp, yet he
has his revenges. Beside his delicacy and his cosmopolitan
accomplishment, Dryden is blunt and unscholarly; beside his directness
of aim, if not always of achievement, his clearness of vision, his
almost business-like adjustment of effort to result, the vagueness and
desultoriness of Coleridge look looser and, in the literary sense,
more disreputable than ever. Here was a man who could not only
criticise but create; who, though he may sometimes, like others, have
convicted his preaching of falsity by his practice, and his practice
of sin by his preaching, yet could in the main make practice and
preaching fit together. Here was a critic against whom the foolish
charge, "You can break, but you cannot make," was confessedly
impossible--a poet who knew not only the rule of thumb, but the rule
of the uttermost art. In him the corruption of the poet had not been
the generation of the critic, as his great predecessor in the two
arts, himself secure and supreme in both, had scornfully said. Both
faculties had always existed, and did always exist, side by side in
him. He might exercise one more freely at one time, one at another;
but the author of the _Preface_ of 1853 was a critic, and a ripe
one, in his heyday of poetry, the author of _Westminster Abbey_
was a poet in his mellowest autumn of criticism.

And yet he was something more than both these things, more than both
of these at once. But for that unlucky divagation in the Wilderness,
his life would have been the life of a man of letters only as far as
choice went, with the duties of no dishonourable profession
superadded. And even with the divagation it was mainly and really
this. To find parallels for Mr Arnold in his unflinching devotion to
literature we must, I fear, go elsewhere than to Dryden or to
Coleridge, we must go to Johnson and Southey. And here again we may
find something in him beyond both, in that he had an even nobler
conception of Literature than either. That he would have put her even
too high, would have assigned to her functions which she is unable to
discharge, is true enough; but this is at least no vulgar error.
Against ignoble neglect, against stolid misunderstanding, against
mushroom rivalry, he championed her alike. And it was most certainly
from no base motive. If he wanted an English Academy, I am quite sure
it was not from any desire for a canary ribbon or a sixteen-pointed
star. Yet, after Southey himself in the first half of the century, who
has done so much for letters _quâ_ letters as Mr Arnold in the
second? His poems were never popular, and he tried no other of the
popular departments of literature. But he wrote, and I think he could
write, nothing that was not literature, in and by the fact that he was
its writer. It has been observed of others in other kinds, that
somehow or other, by merely living, by pursuing their own arts or
crafts whatever they were, they raised those arts and crafts in
dignity, they bestowed on them as it were a rank, a position. A few--a
very few--at successive times have done this for literature in
England, and Mr Arnold was perhaps the last who did it notably in
ours. One cannot imagine him writing merely for money, for position,
even for fame--for anything but the _devoir_ of the born and
sworn servant of Apollo and Pallas. Such devotion need not, of course,
forbid others of their servants to try his shield now and then with
courteous arms or even at sharps--as he tried many. But it was so
signal, so happy in its general results, so exactly what was required
in and for England at the time, that recognition of it can never be
frank enough, or cordial enough, or too much admiring. Whenever I
think of Mr Arnold it is in those own words of his, which I have
quoted already, and which I quoted to myself on the hill by Hinksey as
I began this little book in the time of fritillaries--

  "Still nursing the unconquerable hope,
  Still clutching the inviolable shade"--

the hope and shade that never desert, even if they flit before and
above, the servants and the lovers of the humaner literature.


       *       *       *       *       *
_Alaric at Rome_, 4.

_Bacchanalia, or the New Age_, 114.
_Balder Dead_, 52, 53.
_Byron, Poetry of_, ed. Arnold, 185.

_Celtic Literature, On the Study of_, 66, 104 _et seq._
_Church of Brou, The_, 38.
_Consolation_, 28.
_Cromwell_, 8, 9.
_Culture and Anarchy_, 128 _et seq._

_Discourses in America_, 195.
_Dover Beach_, 112.

_Empedocles on Etna_, 23.
_Essays in Criticism_, 83 _et seq._, 123.
_Eton, A French_, 79 _et seq._

_Farewell, A_, 27.
_Forsaken Merman, The_, 19.
_French Eton, A_, 79 _et seq._
_Friend, To a_, sonnet, 15.
_Friendship's Garland_, 148.

_God and the Bible_, 137.

_Heine's Grave_, 115.
_Homer, On Translating_, 66.

_In Utrumque Paratus_, 20.
_Irish Essays_, 151.
_Isolation_, 31.

Johnson's Lives of the Poets, ed. Arnold, 169.

_Last Essays on Church and Religion_, 137, 142.
_Letters_, 1, 15 _et seq._, 214.
_Lines written by a Death-bed_, 32.
_Literature and Dogma_, 131 _et seq._
_Longing_, 30.

_Marguerite, To_, 31.
_Memorial Verses_, 26.
_Merman, The Forsaken_, 19.
_Merope_, 60.
_Mixed Essays_, 168 _et seq._
_Modern Sappho, The_, 17.
_Mycerinus_, 13.

_New Sirens, The_, 17.

_Obermann_, 53.
_On the Rhine_, 29.
_On the Study of Celtic Literature_, 66, 104 _et seq._
_On the Terrace at Berne_, 16.
_On Translating Homer_, 66.

_Preface_, the, to the 'Poems' of 1853. 33 _et seq._
_Prose Passages_, 166.

Renan, Arnold's relations with, 101.
_Requiescat_, 39.
_Resignation_, 20, 185.
_Rugby Chapel_, 115.

Sainte-Beuve, 59, 203.
_Scholar-Gipsy, The_, 5, 40 _et seq._
_Schools and Universities on the Continent_, 116.
_Selected Poems_, 184.
Shairp, Principal, lines on Arnold by, 5.
_Shakespeare_, Sonnet to, 15.
_Sick King in Bokhara_, 15.
_Sohrab and Rustum_, 37, 51, 52.
Southey, use of rhymeless metre by, 11.
_St Brandan_, 111.
_St Paul and Protestantism_, 130 _et seq._
_Stagirius_, 19.
_Strayed Reveller, The_, 10 _et seq._
_Summer Night, A_, 26.
_Switzerland_, 16.

Tennyson, influence of, on Arnold, 19.
_Thyrsis_, 111.
_To Fausta_, 19.
_To Marguerite_, 31.
_To my Friends who Ridiculed a Tender Leave-taking_, 16, 27.
_Tristram and Iseult_, 24, 25.

_Voice, The_, 19.

Ward's _English Poets_, Arnold's Introduction to, 189.
_Westminster Abbey_, 207, 220, 228.
_Wordsworth, Poems of_, ed. Arnold, 185.



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