From two letters 21 January 1849 (W. H. Dunn, James Anthony Froude, Vol. I, 224-5) and 29 January 1849 (Corr. I, 234).
James Anthony Froude (1818-94), the historian and biographer of Thomas Carlyle, was, like Clough, having a difficult time at Oxford. He had taken Deacon’s orders as part of the requirements of a Fellow of Exeter College, but soon after he wrote these letters to Clough he was to resign his Fellowship rather than continue with a divided mind. At the same time, in February 1849, his novel The Nemesis of Faith, a highly subjective book designed to illustrate how ‘too exact a credulity’ in religious matters was ‘again bringing a nemesis behind it’, was execrated by conservatives in the University, one of whom, the Rector of Exeter College, burnt a copy of it before the undergraduates.
From the letter of 21 January 1849;
I am sorry very sorry that you did not wait and let the Ambarvalia come first, to secure more respectful attention to what certainly wants it to bring out its merits. People don’t expect philosophy in a thing coming out in the shape and with the tone of a sketchy poem; and won’t look for it, and won’t believe it is there when it seems to be, particularly when you set off so inauspiciously as I think you do in the whole of the first section. I think the last two lines of Hewson’s speech there quite unnatural, at least no good fellow could have dragged them in in so unprovoked a fashion, and yet they are important and are made to strike, and so through the whole (except the fourth section, which is uniformly most excellent and worthy of anybody) I was forever falling upon lines which gave me uneasy twitchings; for example, the end of the love scene.
And he fell at her feet and buried his face in her apron.
I dare say the head would fall there, but what an image! It chimes in