Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

Introduction

I

There was ample contemporary response to Clough’s work, so much so that the present volume can lay no claims to being exhaustive. I have, however, printed virtually all the reviews of the volumes published during Clough’s lifetime, The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich (1848) and Ambarvalia (1849), while in the later period I have concentrated on giving space to the most substantial essays and reviews. These have been reinforced with extracts from letters written to Clough or about him by a number of important Victorians who were themselves creative writers, with several of whom, such as Matthew Arnold, Emerson and J. A. Froude, Clough had a close personal relationship. If a few of the earlier reviews were somewhat cursory and ill-natured, reflecting a Philistine prejudice against bright young Oxford men, this is amply compensated for by the thorough and often very favourable articles and reviews of the 1860s, written in response to the posthumous collections of Clough’s work published in 1862 and 1869. In these first twenty years Clough probably received at least as much critical attention from the reputable critics of the day as did Matthew Arnold or, in an earlier period, Tennyson. In fact, the volume and kind of the initial response to Clough’s volumes of 1848-9 compares very favourably with the reception given to the early Tennyson as represented in Professor J. D. Jump’s Tennyson: the Critical Heritage. In comparison with his friend Arnold, whose first volume, The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems, came out one month after Ambarvalia, in February 1849, Clough seems to have got off to a far better start. A later reviewer of Arnold’s Poems (1853) reports that his early work was received with ‘general indifference’ (Westminster Review, xxv, April 1853, 146). If this is true, it may have been partly owing to its anonymous publication—under the initial ‘A’ —but in one case The Strayed Reveller was reviewed together with Ambarvalia. This was in the Guardian (No. 17) and there it is interesting to see that both were welcomed, with inevitable reservations on the score of immaturity, as worthy potential successors to Tennyson. This was only the first of several comparisons between the two—and these were not always to

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