A Gift Imprisoned: The Poetic Life of Matthew Arnold


A Gift Imprisoned is a tale of the two lives, of Matthew Arnold: as young man and impassioned lyric poet, and, in his maturity, his poetic ambitions long-since quelled, as Victorian England's best-known social prophet, educational reformer, and literary critic.

By age forty, Arnold's poetic life was effectively over, at which time he began to devote his energies to "purposeful" prose composition. As the eldest son of Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby, the most celebrated headmaster in England and the great shaper of Victorian morality, Arnold saw his future as inescapable. As W. H. Auden wrote, Arnold "thrust his gift in prison till it died". For about twenty years, however, Arnold made efforts to resist his destiny as a social moralist. A Gift Imprisoned is the story of that losing battle. Why did Arnold abandon an extremely promising poetic life? Was it Victorian repression, Arnold's fierce love of duty, or was he crippled by insufficient faith in his own talents? These questions lead Ian Hamilton through beautifully reasoned considerations on the nature of creativity and its silencing

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1999