Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

5.

R. W. Emerson to Clough

1849

From a letter dated 10 January 1849 (Corr. I, 232-3).

The free-thinking Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), the American transcendentalist philosopher, who had in 1832 left the ministry in reaction against the dogmatism of the Church and the formalization of religion, appealed strongly to Clough. When Emerson visited England in 1847 on a lecture tour, Clough wrote inviting him to visit Oxford where ‘amongst the [less orthodox] juniors there are many that have read and studied your books, and not a few that have largely learnt from them’; Emerson came and ‘everybody liked him’. Clough saw much of him in Paris at the time of the ‘1848’ and later Emerson strongly influenced Clough’s decision to try his luck in America.

I cannot tell you how great a joy to me is your poem…. This poem is a high gift from angels that are very rare in our mortal state. It delights and surprises me from beginning to end…. I knew you were good and wise, stout of heart and truly kind, learned in Greek, and of excellent sense, but how could I know or guess that you had all this wealth of expression, this wealth of imagery, this joyful heart of youth, this temperate continuity, that belongs only to high masters. It is a noble poem. Tennyson must look to his laurels…. Longfellow I sent it to, and he writes moderately enough, yet I will transcribe his note, as Longfellow is prized on your side of the water.

Altogether fascinating and in part very admirable is the poem of Mr. Clough. Tom Appleton read it aloud to us the other evening [‘us’ included ‘Lowell, the poet’]…. All were much delighted with the genial wit, the truth to nature, and the extreme beauty of various passages and figures; all agreed that it was a poem of a very high order of merit; no one criticised….

then he praises ‘the fine delineation of the passion of love, and congratulates himself on the hexameters, etc., etc.

-33-

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