In this book, I have tried to interpret and to reassess the achievement of Matthew Arnold. My view of what is of greatest importance in it differs from that of most of my predecessors in that I am unable to regret his switching from poetry to criticism in early middle life. This view is in harmony with opinions expressed from time to time by Mr. T. S. Eliot, Dr. F. R. Leavis, and Mr. F. W. Bateson. But none of these has made Arnold the subject of a full-length study; and most of the principal Arnoldians--Professor Lionel Trilling, Professor Louis Bonnerot, Sir E. K. Chambers, Professor E. K. Brown, Professor C. B. Tinker, and Dr. H. F. Lowry, for instance--seem to rate his poetry very much more highly than I. In praise of his criticism, on the other hand, it is likely that I go at least as far as they could wish.
I am happy to acknowledge my indebtedness to the various critics and scholars who have preceded me in this field, and especially to those named in this preface and in my bibliography. I owe much, for example, to Professor Trilling in my discussion of Arnold's youthful dandyism; to Dr. Lowry in my consideration of his friendship with Clough; to Dr. Leavis in my assessment of his poetry; and to Professor Bonnerot and Professor E. D. H. Johnson in my analysis of 'Empedocles on Etna'. But a conscientious examination of other critics' opinions, backed by an elaborate apparatus of notes, would have been quite out of place in a work intended . . .