Matthew Arnold: A Study in Conflict

Matthew Arnold: A Study in Conflict

Matthew Arnold: A Study in Conflict

Matthew Arnold: A Study in Conflict

Excerpt

It WAS Matthew Arnold's express wish," says G. W. E. Russell, the editor of his letters, "that he might not be made the subject of a biography." A few months before he died, Arnold deplored the appearance of Edward Dowden's Shelley; he thought that it came between the reader of Shelley's poems and the "ideal Shelley." Arnold's wish has been respected for sixty years. Apart from the speculative image presented in Mr. Hugh Kingsmill Matthew Arnold, the only full-length figure that comes between the reader of Arnold's works and the ideal Arnold is the correct, cheerful, domestic Victorian gentleman who appears in Russell's edition of the letters, an edition mangled by the family blue pencil. If the materials for a detailed and revealing biography of Arnold exist, the secret has been well kept.

For some time there has been a promise of an edition of Arnold's notebooks, which has been under preparation by Mr. Howard F. Lowry and Mr. Waldo H. Dunn. I have been permitted to consult the notebooks in the Rare Book Room of the Yale University Library by the courtesy of the keeper, Professor Chauncey B. Tinker. They disclose a host of important facts about what Arnold read but relatively little of his responses to his reading and almost nothing of the impulses that led to his own works. They disclose almost everything one might care to know about his finances, which were more flourishing than I had supposed. They offer a detailed although incomplete record of his official . . .

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