Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

60.

James Insley Osborne, from Arthur Hugh Clough

1920, Conclusion 187-91

Clough was even less fortunate in his second English biographer than in his first, so far as criticism was concerned. The extract given below fairly summarizes the content of the book, which is handled with considerable generosity by MacDowall in his review in The Times Literary Supplement (see the next item).

The respect in which Clough was most consistently of the nineteenth century is that all of the settings he uses are nineteenth-century settings. His long narrative poems are all of them about people of his own time; and so are the stories that his lyrics suggest—for a lyric always suggests a story of some sort as its background. Tennyson and Browning and Arnold took much of their material, most of it indeed, from the past, and often from the traditions of other nations than their own. But Clough’s criticism of life is invariably of the life of Britons of his day and generation. This is a real peculiarity. Its importance is lessened, but by no means destroyed, by remembering what modern poems Idylls of the King and Empedocles on Etna and The Statue and the Bust are, and how English, in spite of their foreign or antique subject matter. Clough found human life enough in the world about him without going far afield for it. His mind, indeed, however powerful, had not the intrepidity for travelling. It was still finding plenty to feed on in the home pasture when it ceased its activities.

It is not to be denied that the problems Clough worked at are also all of them nineteenth-century problems, though it might be urged that the nineteenth century made its own nearly all problems of all times. And it was the most universal and timeless of these problems that interested Clough. The nature of friendship and love and marriage and parenthood, the service of God and fellow service—he examines directly these large and eternal things, and not merely abnormal or unusual instances of them, or aspects of them considered to

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