The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840-1867

The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840-1867

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The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840-1867

The Poems of Matthew Arnold, 1840-1867

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Excerpt

'I do not hold up Joubert as a very astonishing and powerful genius, but rather as a delightful and edifying genius. . . . He is the most prepossessing and convincing of witnesses to the good of loving light. Because he sincerely loved light, and did not prefer to it any little private darkness of his own, he found light. . . . And because he was full of light he was also full of happiness. . . . His life was as charming as his thoughts. For certainly it is natural that the love of light, which is already, in some measure, the possession of light, should irradiate and beatify the whole life of him who has it.'

MANY a reader of Essays in Criticism must have paused and in thought transferred to Matthew Arnold these words of his in praise of Joubert, as well as the fine passage in which he goes on to ask What, in literature, we mean by fame? Only two kinds of authors (he tells us) are secure of fame: the first being the Homers, Dantes, Shakespeares, 'the great abiding fountains of truth,' whose praise is for ever and ever. But beside these sacred personages stand certain elect ones, less majestic, yet to be recognized as of the same family and character with the greatest, 'exercising like them an immortal function, and like them inspiring a permanent interest.' The fame of these also is assured. 'They will never, like the Shakespeares, command the homage of the multitude; but they are safe; the multitude will not trample them down.'

To this company Matthew Arnold belongs. We all feel it, and some of us can give reasons for our confidence; but perhaps, if all our reasons were collected . . .

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