Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

49.

Unsigned review in the Saturday Review

7 July 1888, 25-6

Like No. 50, this review was occasioned by the publication of the new edition of The Poems and Prose Remains (see headnote, p. 335).

The appearance of a new and enlarged edition of the poems of Clough, with the memoir and pretty full selections from his scanty prose writings in a companion volume, both of convenient size, gives a very good opportunity for surveying briefly the work of a man who has been very variously judged, but who, it is pretty evident, has been something of an influence lately. Clough, who has been called by a limping lampooner ‘the father of all such as take an interest in Robert Elsmere,’ and who was to some extent the prototype of Robert Elsmere himself, has always been greatly prôné by a certain not uninfluential clique of University wits. But it is, we confess, with something like surprise that we see from a note in this edition that it is the twelfth of his poems that has appeared since his death, and that by far the larger number of these reprints are of quite recent issue. Four editions sufficed, it would seem, for the consumption of the first fifteen years; but from 1877 to the present year, both inclusive, only three years have passed without a fresh impression. This is a fact which, take it how we may, is not to be neglected. A volume of poems by a dead man, not recently dead, and on subjects for the most part of no apparent general interest, without any particular graces of form or anything that can be called strong poetic inspiration, does not go through eight editions in eleven years, half a generation after its author’s life is closed, without corresponding to some definite, if passing, appetite, taste, disease, or whatever libentius audit, of the day and time.

The thing is the more remarkable that the most careful reading of Clough (and we have taken pains on this occasion to read or re-read him as a whole) fails to show him to an impartial critic as a man of very great, or even of great, power in any one direction. Something

-330-

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