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Likeable Sage

Sheldon Rothblatt

17 September 1981
Matthew ArnoldA Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 496 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 297 77824 2
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... It is impossible not to like MatthewArnold now that we know him so well. There is no stereotyped Victorian sage in this excellent biography, which is a joy to read, nor are there stereotyped fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or friends. Yes ...

Enisled

John Sutherland: Matthew Arnold

19 March 1998
A Gift Imprisoned: The Poetic Life of Matthew​ Arnold 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., £17.99, March 1998, 0 7475 3671 6
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... The last few decades have been good for MatthewArnold. In 1977, R.H. Super completed the 11-volume Complete Prose Works, a venture that seemed quixotic (‘all those school reports!’) when he began it in 1960. The complete Poems, edited, tidied up and ...

Misguided Tom

Eric Stokes

5 March 1981
Letters of Thomas Arnold​ the Younger 1850-1900 
edited by James Bertram.
Auckland/Oxford, 276 pp., £15, August 1980, 0 19 647980 0
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... Tom Arnold owes the preservation of his name to his connections. Although he ended life as an obscure don in the struggling Catholic university at Dublin, his lineage and acquaintances kept him close to those ...

An Abiding Sense of the Demonic

Stefan Collini: Arnold

20 January 2000
The Letters of Matthew Arnold. Vol. I: 1829-59 
edited by Cecil Lang.
Virginia, 549 pp., £47.50, November 1998, 0 8139 1651 8
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The Letters of Matthew Arnold. Vol. II: 1860-65 
edited by Cecil Lang.
Virginia, 505 pp., £47.95, November 1998, 0 8139 1706 9
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The Letters of Matthew Arnold. Vol. III: 1866-70 
edited by Cecil Lang.
Virginia, 483 pp., £47.95, November 1998, 0 8139 1765 4
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... I have thought, read, and observed here, about it. I am very well and only wish I was not so lazy, but hope and believe one is less so from 40 to 50, if one lives, than at any other time of life. MatthewArnold was 37 when he wrote this letter from Strasbourg where in 1859 he was on a fact-finding mission about foreign schools for the royal commission on elementary education. For eight years he had ...

Eminent Athenians

Hugh Lloyd-Jones

1 October 1981
The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain 
by Frank Turner.
Yale, 461 pp., £18.90, April 1981, 0 300 02480 0
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... a copy of Froude’s Nemesis of Faith, has led him to refer to it by the name of Exeter Hall, a building in London where Elderess Polly, Elderess Antoinette and other Nonconformist orators dear to MatthewArnold used to edify the public. But where Mr Jenkyns is trivial, superficial and patronising, Professor Turner is serious, thorough and understanding. He is extremely well-informed, and, where ...

Solomon Tuesday

Rosemary Ashton

8 January 1987
R.H. Hutton: Critic and Theologian 
by Malcolm Woodfield.
Oxford, 227 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 19 818564 2
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... Coleridge has always been our representative Romantic literary critic, and MatthewArnold has long been thought of as the type of the Victorian critic. There is, perhaps, no need to topple Arnold from his eminence, but it is high time that a close competitor was brought out from the shadows where he now lurks, uncollected and unread. For Richard Holt Hutton was a prodigious and impressive ...

How are you finding it here?

Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts

28 October 1999
The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... content to believe myself of that great Teutonic stock, which has ruled the world in the past, and will rule it to the end of time.’ More sympathetic studies of the Celts, many of them inspired by MatthewArnold, were actually more insidious, forcing Irish, Scottish, and Welsh culture into an untraditional and externally imposed category. As W.J. McCormack argues in his Ascendancy and Tradition in ...
20 March 1980
Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... reading Gibbon when he was a boy; he preceded and survived Byron, Shelley and Keats. He outlived Enthusiasm and revolution, sat through the quarrels of Reform, went on to consider the doubts of MatthewArnold and the euphoria of the Great Exhibition, and listened to all arguments with a satirist’s joy in dispute. A liberal who sometimes sounded Toryish – he was often attacked by the strenuously ...

Unsaying

Philip Davis: Thomas Arnold’s Apostasies

15 April 2004
A Victorian Wanderer: The Life of Thomas Arnold​ the Younger 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 274 pp., £25, July 2003, 0 19 925741 8
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... Oxford; in 1876 to London again and then Dublin. And, worse, with each shift came the risk of family betrayal: at first of the inheritance of the broad-church Anglicanism of his famous father, Thomas Arnold; and then – not once, but twice – in the danger to his marriage to Julia, the anti-Catholic he had married in New Zealand. Bernard Bergonzi’s description of Thomas Arnold the Younger as a ...

Grumbles

C.K. Stead

15 October 1981
Flaws in the Glass: A Self-Portrait 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 272 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 9780224029247
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... MatthewArnold worried that a literary reputation in England, unconfirmed by ‘the whole group of civilised nations’ (by which he meant Europe), might be merely provincial. At the same time he was pretty ...
1 June 2000
The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy 
by Russell Jacoby.
Basic Books, 256 pp., £17.95, April 1999, 0 465 02000 3
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Utopias: Russian Modernist Texts 1905-40 
edited by Catriona Kelly.
Penguin, 378 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 14 118081 1
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The Faber Book of Utopias 
edited by John Carey.
Faber, 560 pp., £20, October 1999, 9780571197859
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The Nazi War on Cancer 
by Robert Proctor.
Princeton, 390 pp., £18.95, May 1999, 0 691 00196 0
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... a radically different future. But when Jacoby actually identifies such a hero, whose utopian vision he endorses, the outcome is a bit of a let-down, for he turns out – hang onto your hats – to be MatthewArnold. ‘The 19th-century critic denounced the culture of his day in the name of something better, a more thoughtful and graceful culture,’ Jacoby approvingly notes. ‘Today most observers and ...

O Harashbery!

C.K. Stead

23 April 1992
The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara 
edited by Donald Allen.
Carcanet, 233 pp., £18.95, October 1991, 0 85635 939 4
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Flow Chart 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 213 pp., £16.95, September 1991, 0 85635 947 5
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... party on Fire Island. There was something Keatsian about his poetry, its vividness and particularity, and its spontaneity, though there might be difficulties for a critic who wanted to argue, as MatthewArnold did when he tried to rescue Keats from the aesthetes, that ‘there was flint and iron in him.’ In Keats, thought and poetry were neither identical nor simultaneous. Contemplation preceded ...

Yes and No

John Bayley

24 July 1986
Lionel Trilling and the Fate of Cultural Criticism 
by Mark Krupnick.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $25.95, April 1986, 0 8101 0712 0
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...  perdurable, because founded not on mental enthusiasm but on biological need. We all need to rest, and where better to rest than in the company of cool, humouring, compassionate observers like MatthewArnold and E.M. Forster, or of Lionel Trilling himself? Naturally if you write as if present and past were one, you tend to write about purely notional things and people; like MatthewArnold, you ...

The Enlightened Vote

Stefan Collini: Ernest Renan

9 December 2019
‘What Is a Nation?’ and Other Political Writings 
by Ernest Renan, translated and edited by M.F.N. Giglioli.
Columbia, 328 pp., £62, September 2018, 978 0 231 17430 5
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... exhibited such a fundamental ambiguity, and perhaps this creative unclarity was one of the reasons for his extraordinarily wide reach.To take an obvious example, Renan is everywhere in the work of MatthewArnold, arguably his nearest British homologue. Arnold quickly recognised the kinship when Renan’s Essais appeared, confiding to one correspondent before the end of 1859 that ‘with respect both ...
7 February 1985
The Function of Criticism: From the ‘Spectator’ to Post-Structuralism 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 133 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86091 091 1
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... shamefaced neo-humanism. There was a poem, ‘Homage to Walter Benjamin’, and the affirmation that Benjamin’s anti-historicism might be ‘quite literally the warrant of our survival’. It was MatthewArnold who wrote that currency and supremacy were assured to good literature by the ‘instinct of self-preservation in humanity’; I.A. Richards had echoed him in describing poetry as being ...

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