Academic journal article Nineteenth-Century Prose

"I Have a Letter from Major Pond": Matthew Arnold, Major James Burton Pond, and an Unpublished Letter from Arnold to Pond

Academic journal article Nineteenth-Century Prose

"I Have a Letter from Major Pond": Matthew Arnold, Major James Burton Pond, and an Unpublished Letter from Arnold to Pond

Article excerpt

On April 28, 1885, Matthew Arnold wrote to his daughter Lucy, then living in the United States, and stated, "I have a letter from Major Pond to ask what I am going to do; I am waiting to hear from you, but I think from what you say to Dick that you are dropping the intention of coming over this year. But we shall be guided by your decision" (Letters 277). The uncertainty that Arnold express ed regarding his daughter's plans to visit the family in England arose as a result of his essay "A Word More about America," published in February 1885, which Arnold feared might have offended Lucy's American husband, Frederick Whitridge, and his family. (1) In any case, Lucy did, in fact, come to England for a visit in the summer of 1885, perhaps out of a concern for her father's health, and she was joined by her husband later (Honan 410).

Arnold's reply to Major Pond was given in the following previously unpublished letter: (2)

   London. May 20th, 1885.

   Dear Major Pond
      My daughter is coming over
   here this autumn, so I have
   given up the thought of
   re-visiting the States during
   the present year.

      Remember me very kindly
   to your brother, and also
   to Mr. Beecher when you
   see him.

                  very truly yours
                 Matthew Arnold.

Although Arnold's letter to Pond is cordial enough in its refusal, the actual relationship between the two men appears to have been somewhat less so.

Pond had been the American promoter for Arnold's lecture tour of the United States in 1883-84 (Honan 394) when the English impressario Richard D'Oyly Carte had served as Arnold's manager-in-chief; and in spite of the fact that the tour was viewed as something of a disappointment by all concerned, it would appear from Arnold's letter to Pond that Pond was interested in undertaking sole management himself of another tour by Arnold. What is clear from the surviving correspondence is that although he toyed with the idea of a second American tour during 1885, by May Arnold had abandoned the idea; and the letters also show that a good part of the reason was because of his dissatisfaction over the manner in which his managers had handled his first tour. (3)

I have found no other mention of Major Pond in Arnold's correspondence, nor is Pond mentioned in Arnold's diaries (as Carte is), but it seems a safe assumption that Arnold's repeated complaints against his managers were intended to include Pond as well as Carte. Perhaps such complaints were inevitable since before his tour even began, Arnold expressed reservations about undertaking the venture, writing that "I hate going, but it has been proposed and canvassed so often that I had better go and have done with it" (Letters 217). An even more telling statement is reported for October 9, just four days before he was scheduled to sail, when Arnold commented, "I don't like going, I don't like lecturing, I don't like living in public" (Honan 394). Living in public it was to be, however. Shortly after his arrival in New York, before he had given his first lecture, Arnold wrote to his sister that "The blaring publicity of this place is beyond all that I had any idea of. My managers are anxious I should not refuse to see people, the press people above all, as the newspapers can do much for the success of the lectures" (Letters 221-22). On November 27, Arnold again wrote to her, reporting that "My travelling is done in great comfort, as the agents send a man with me (a gentleman), who finds out my trains, takes my tickets, sees to my lights, and saves me all trouble" (Letters 233). In spite of the optimistic tone of the preceding observation, though, most of Arnold's comments concerning his management complain of insensitive treatment. On December 8, he again wrote to his sister, saying "I am driven hard as usual" (Letters 238). (4) On Friday, December 14, to his daughter Eleanor he wrote that he was to begin lecturing in Washington on Monday and that "The managers have chosen a stupid lecture for that particular place--Literature and Science--and I do not expect a good audience" (Letters 241). …

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