Essays, Letters, and Reviews

Essays, Letters, and Reviews

Essays, Letters, and Reviews

Essays, Letters, and Reviews

Excerpt

Essays, Letters, and Reviews by Matthew Arnold is not an anthology of the "beauties" of Arnold. It is a collection of articles by him that time or shifting interests or oversight have made difficult of access to readers of Arnold, frequently even to the scholar. The collection embraces almost Arnold's entire career as a writer of prose, extending from "On the Modern Element in Literature," which he gave as a lecture in 1857, to his essay "Disestablishment in Wales," which appeared in March 1888, the month before his death. By virtue of this span it is representative of his varied styles and of his intellectual development in many of its phases. These essays, though they cannot increase his stature, afford a lively sense of his breadth of interests, his essential modesty, and his lambent humor.

The present volume is, I think, justified by the current state of Arnold scholarship. More than fifty years ago the fifteen-volume Edition de Luxe of The Works of Matthew Arnold (London, 1903-1904) was published. The inclusion in the last volume of Thomas B. Smart Bibliography of Matthew Arnold indicated even then the selective nature of what has remained the standard edition. E. J. O'Brien's collection, published as Essays in Criticism, Third Series (Boston, 1910), and the Oxford edition of the Essays of Matthew Arnold (Oxford, 1914), brought together from their original places of publication certain additional papers. But these books, like Arnold's own volume Civilization in the United States (Boston, 1888), of which no part was included in the Edition de Luxe, have long been out of print. The current renewal of popular and scholarly interest in the Victorian period has encouraged the republication of individual essays and of selections like Merle M. Bevington's edition of England and the Italian Question (Durham, N. C., 1953) and Kenneth Allott Five Uncollected Essays of Matthew Arnold (Liverpool, 1953). Moreover, textual studies of Arnold's revisions of his prose by the late E. K. Brown, Francis G. Townsend and William E. Buckler have disclosed other inadequacies of the Edition de Luxe, while the critical perspectives of our time have given increased significance to articles like The Bishop and the Philosopher, which has never been reprinted in its original form.

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