Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

TWO TRIBUTES

22.

An unsigned review, ‘Clough’s Poems’, the Saturday Review

30 November 1861, pp. 564-5

The author of these poems [The Bothie and Ambarvalia] has lately died, leaving a very high reputation in a very narrow circle. His was the old case of a boy who outshines and surpasses other boys—of a young man whose life seems full of promise—and then of a grown man in whom the promise seems to fade away, and who, if he does anything to reveal his powers to the outer world, does far less than his friends hoped for. Sometimes a disappointment of this sort is due to there being nothing really in the character or mind of the man that has any permanent value; and then no career can be much less interesting. But sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Clough, the failure is due to the particular type of the mind—to an excess of feeling and scrupulousness and intellectual activity, and a deficiency in clearness of thought, in the gift of expression, and in physical spirits. In 1849, Mr. Clough published a small volume of poems, which were, in some measure, a record of the struggles and trials through which he had passed. His friends found a few striking passages in them, an enormous preponderance of obscure and confused meditations, and a very unequal power of versification. The world at last never read them at all; but within the circle to which Mr. Clough was known in England and America, these poems made no difference in the general impression he produced on those who came in intimate contact with his high thoughts, his proud and shy bearing, and his intense love of truth. Now that he is gone, the general public is not likely to care much for his poems, even if the only poetical work he produced of real interest— his Long Vacation Pastoral—which has long been out of print, were again issued. But when a man has a high position in a small knot of friends, it is always interesting to know why he has it. It is not by

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