Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

47.

R. H. Hutton, ‘The Unpopularity of Clough’, review in the Spectator

25 November 1882, lv

This review of Samuel Waddington’s Arthur Hugh Clough: A Monograph was reprinted in Brief Literary Criticism, ed. E. M. Roscoe (London, 1906), 304-15.

The appearance of Mr. Waddington’s admiring and sympathetic ‘monograph’ on Clough—why call, by the way, a publication of this kind a monograph, which properly means a study of something artificially separated from its natural context? —affords us a good opportunity of asking why Clough is not better known than he is in modern English literature; why his fame is not greater, and his often magnificent verse more familiar to modern ears. In Mr. Haweis’s hasty and scrappy book on the ‘American Humourists’, Mr. Haweis scoffs parenthetically at the present American Minister’s ‘curious notion that Clough was, after all, the great poet of the age’ (American Humourists, p. 83);1 and even one of Clough’s most intimate friends, Mr. F. T. Palgrave, has lent some sort of authority to Mr. Haweis’s scoff, by the remark—to us as amazing as it appears to some good critics candid, —that ‘one feels a doubt whether in verse, he [Clough] chose the right vehicle, the truly natural mode of utterance. ’ We can only say, in reply, that Clough seems to us never to touch verse without finding strength, never to attempt to speak in prose without losing it, and becoming half-inarticulate. But there clearly must be some reason or quasi-reason in a view which a whole generation of lovers of poetry have not disproved, but to some extent verified, by the relative neglect in which, during a time when verse has secured an immense amount of attention, Clough’s stirring and often elevating poetry has been left. Mr. Waddington, we are sorry to see, does not address himself to this question, and throws but little light on it. And with all his genuine

1 ‘present American Minister’: J. R. Lowell, American Ambassador to Great Britain 1880-4; for Lowell’s opinion of Clough, see Introduction, passim.

-320-

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