Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

35.

From ‘Arthur Hugh Clough’, an unsigned review of The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough (Boston, 1862), the Boston Review

March 1863, iii, 132-8

The Boston edition of The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough was prefixed with a memoir by Charles Eliot Norton; for details of the very slight differences in contents from the English edition see A. H. C. Descr. Cat. p. 34. For Norton on Clough see No. 27.

The thoughts of a rare, choice spirit lie entombed in these pages. Clough was one of those men who leave a marked impression upon the circle in which they move. He had the magnetism of personal influence. He could charm by word, by cheer, by the indefinable air of intellectual superiority, those among whom he familiarly lived. To these his poems, the truthful revelations of the man, have more than ordinary attraction. Memory gives each of them a special meaning. To us who never knew him, until this little volume came to hand, they have a charm, as they reveal a singularly honest and earnest nature. And more, they are instructive, as showing the intellectual spirit of the times. It was given to Clough, as to Sterling and to Blanco White to pass through the region of modern doubt. Each of these men came to nearly the same conclusion; each threw aside hereditary opinions; each pushed out into great vagueness of speculation; each, after a long flight, like a bird spent of its strength, fluttered to the ground; each is now learning for himself those secrets which to mortal eyes are not revealed.

Hence Clough, aside from his merely literary character, is a representative man in religious thought. He would not be called a religious thinker. In this respect, he only claims our notice as one who rejected, at much personal loss, his ancestral faith, and tried to solve the problems of our spiritual nature. His minor poems are mainly occupied with suggestions upon these. They touch upon doubt, necessity, duty, fidelity to truth; they show fully the longing for peace and hope; but

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