Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

42.

From an unsigned review in Putnam’s Magazine

December 1869, iv, 752-4

Putnam’s was an American magazine which published a few of Clough’s poems and his ‘Letters of Parepidemus’ in 1853-4.

…he who would be a just critic must take up Time into his mind; must have for his point of view the far future; must bring his intellect into the few broad lines of thought into which the movement of the age is to concentrate itself at last, and which are to be prolonged to other ages. At least he must aim at this; and the nearer he can come to it the greater his success. True criticism has for its best feature the sense for what is abiding, what is immortal; detects this and honors it, and so does for the day the work of time. It is certainly a rare article. Was it ever rarer than now? This is often called an age of criticism; but is it not rather an age of impatient and shallow judgments? It produces abundantly, and in part greatly, but does not know its own greatness, nor divide wheat and chaff. In recent American literature there are enough and able strictures on many things in government, in society, and in books; but where is there a contribution of note to that form of culture which makes each mind a test of truth, informing it with the principles by which societies and books live and die?

Perhaps there has been nothing of this kind lately more important than the Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough, which his wife has just edited so tastefully for Macmillan and Co., of London. When an author has been dead nine years, it seems late to introduce him; but it is a fact that Mr. Clough has had no fair introduction to the American or even the English public until this charming monument appeared. As for direct criticism, the book contains less of it than it provokes; except a few of his essays here reprinted, with two charming ‘Letters of Parepidemus, ’ first published in Putnam’s Monthly in 1853, there is hardly anything formal in this line. Yet the tone of the man is so high, partakes so much of that which is of no age or nation, but of humanity,

-293-

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