Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind: a Study of His Life and Poetry

Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind: a Study of His Life and Poetry

Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind: a Study of His Life and Poetry

Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind: a Study of His Life and Poetry

Excerpt

In the Oxford Book of Victorian Verse , Arthur Hugh Clough is represented by four short poems and an excerpt of half a dozen lines. Everyone knows two of these poems, Say not the Struggle and the Latest Decalogue , but most casual readers of poetry leave it at that and would be hard put to it to quote any of his other poems. Yet these examples are only like thin branches cut off from the great boughs and trunk of his poetry, a gnarled tree whose concentric rings witness to the conflicts and growing pains of one of the most interesting and significant but also one of the most baffling personalities of the early and mid-Victorian era.

Clough died in November 1861, when he was not quite forty- three, with the promise, regarded as so certain by his Oxford contemporaries, of a brilliant life to all appearances unfulfilled. He had come up to Oxford on a Balliol scholarship trailing clouds of glory from his schooldays at Rugby under Dr. Arnold. Like Newman before him and Matthew Arnold after him, he had won an Oriel fellowship, at that time still one of the most coveted fellowships in the University. As a young don he was distinguished as the most impressive contributor to the debates of 'the Decade', a small and highly select society of young Oxford intellectuals, almost all of whom rose to the challenge of their Oxford form in later years. And then, when Oxford had offered him the world of scholarship with both hands he had 'walked out' on grounds of conscience, because he could not bring himself any longer to reconcile with intellectual honesty the subscription to the XXXIX Articles of the Church of England which he had had to make before taking his M.A. He was only twenty-eight. It was not too late for a brilliant man to begin again and make his mark in the world of affairs or in the world of letters. But he made no mark at all in the world of affairs, drifting into pedestrian, bread-winning work altogether inadequate to his intellectual powers. And he made very little mark in the world of letters. With the exception of Ambarvalia , The Bothie of Tober na Vuolich . . .

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