Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

28.

Unsigned review, ‘Clough’s Poems’ in the Saturday Review

26 July 1862, 109-10

Mr. Clough’s poems have been collected into a volume, and the outer world has now a fair opportunity of judging a man whose friends have spoken of him so highly. A memoir by Mr. Palgrave precedes this collection, and tells the simple story of Mr. Clough’s life. It is impossible that a career so absolutely unmarked by outer events should have much interest, and the only feature of attraction which the biography of a man of thought and retirement can offer—that of a selection from his correspondence—is not present here. Mr. Palgrave has nothing to do except to record that Mr. Clough was a very promising boy at Rugby—that he was successively fellow and tutor at Oriel—that he resigned his tutorship in 1848, and went to Italy, where he was present at the siege of Rome—that he was for a short time head of an institution in connexion with the University of London— that he took a voyage to America—that he returned, obtained a situation in the Privy Council Office, married, and worked on until his health gave way, and he set out on the tour which was brought to an end by his death in Italy last year. This simple outline is filled up with a sketch of Mr. Clough’s character, and some observations on his poetical powers and productions. To write this sort of memoir of a man just dead, and known only in a very limited circle, is by no means an easy task. If the writer is warm in his praise, the outside world thinks he is amusing himself by magnifying an obscure friend into posthumous fame. If he is guarded, the few people who really care about the book, and who watch with a generous jealousy over the memory of one long loved and lately lost, exclaim that the biographer has been unjust to the dead. On the whole, Mr. Palgrave may be said to have done well what he had to do. He points forcibly and truly the main traits of Mr. Clough’s character—his scrupulous justice and honour, his tolerance and largeness of mind, his constant endeavour to ‘live plainly and think highly, ’ He also sums up very fairly the chief characteristics of Mr. Clough’s poetry—the love of nature it shows, the

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