Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

Arnold’s advantage. As late as 1869, we find the High Churchman J. B. Mozley, going to this extreme in the course of an article in which he discusses Clough and Arnold in turn: ‘To pass from Clough to Mr. Matthew Arnold, is to pass from one who poured out his whole soul in verse to one with whom verse is a pleasant recreation’ (Quarterly Review, cxxvi, April 1869, 348). At that time, while he had the whole of Arnold’s poetry before him, including the New Poems of 1867, Mozley’s comparisons were limited to Clough’s Poems, 1863. Readers today who have lost the Victorian habit of thinking of Clough as being in the same company as Arnold, Tennyson and Browning, may feel the need in the course of reading this volume to reconsider their comparative judgments.

The solid core of Victorian appreciation of Clough is in the typically expansive essays and reviews of the 1860s and little except repetitious biographical information has been cut from these. Since Clough died before the bulk of his work was either published or commented upon, we can only guess at what his response to his critics would have been, though his reactions to his friend J. C. Shairp’s adverse criticisms of Amours de Voyage (No. 25) and his review in 1853 of Arnold and others—the crucial part of which is quoted in the extract from Waddington’s biography (No. 46) —show that Clough knew very well what he was doing and what he wished to do. But his failure to complete anything substantial after about 1851, ten years before his death, naturally led critics, from Palgrave (No. 24) onwards, to look for explanation and extenuation in his life. Unfortunately, they seized upon him as being pre-eminently ‘one of those’ Victorians, ‘whose memoirs should be written when they died, ’ to quote Mrs Bulstrode upon her sainted husband (Middlemarch; Chapter 36). Their biographical preoccupation tended to deflect their concern from evaluation of what Clough did achieve: in bulk at least his collected poems compare closely with those of Arnold, who also wrote most of his poetry in the space of a few years in his late twenties and early thirties.

Some two-thirds of the collection printed below covers virtually all the valuable comment, English and American, up to 1869, the year when The Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough appeared, the most complete collection of Clough’s work accessible in the nineteenth century. After this date, I have had to be more selective. While making sure that the better and more influential critics are represented, I have tried also to provide a reliable cross-section of the varying views. I have excluded many pieces which seemed either wholly

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