Personal relations between Arnold and Swinburne were friendly. Arnold was grateful for Swinburne’s praise in Essays and Studies. Arnold’s comments on his contemporaries testify to his lofty standards rather than to his critical acumen. Swinburne’s later comments on Arnold, unduly harsh, were partly prompted by Arnold’s, especially by his phrase ‘a sort of pseudo-Shelley’ and his depreciatory estimate of the real Shelley. Arnold’s Letters are quoted by permission of Macmillan & Co. Ltd.
(i) From Arnold’s letter to his mother, 16 June 1863 (Letters, ed. G. W. E. Russell, 1896, i, 227-8): On Sunday night I dined with Monckton Milnes, and met all the advanced liberals in religion and politics. …But the philosophers were fearful! G. Lewes, Herbert Spencer, a sort of pseudo-Shelley called Swinburne, and so on.
[In Charles Dickens, after referring to several Dickens characters, Swinburne observed: ‘The incredible immensity, measurable by no critic ever born, of such a creative power as was needed to call all these into immortal life would surely, had Dickens never done any work on a larger scale of invention and construction, have sufficed for a fame great enough to deserve the applause and the thanksgiving of all men worthy to acclaim it, and the contempt of such a Triton of the minnows as Matthew Arnold. A man whose main achievement in creative literature was to make himself by painful painstaking into a sort of pseudo-Wordsworth could pay no other tribute than that of stolid scorn to a genius of such inexhaustible force and such indisputable originality as that of Charles Dickens. ’ In ‘Changes of Aspect’ and ‘Short Notes’, first published by the editor of this volume in PMLA for March 1943 but now available in New Writings by Swinburne, ed. Lang, Swinburne also judged Arnold severely. ]
(ii) From Arnold’s letter to his mother 16 November 1867 (Letters …, ed. Russell, i, 436): I am to meet Swinburne at dinner on Monday,