Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

48.

R. H. Hutton, ‘Amiel and Clough’ in Spectator

9 January 1886, lix, 42-3

The Journal Intime of Henri Fredéric Amiel (1821-81), published posthumously, became one of the most discussed ‘confessional works’ of the nineteenth century. Mrs Humphry Ward’s translation, to which Hutton refers, had been published in 1885. Matthew Arnold came to this celebrated work with some reluctance, he tells us—he shrunk, no doubt, from the excessive contemporary enthusiasm for it—and his essay, ‘Amiel’, did not appear until September 1887 (Macmillan’s Magazine); he makes no reference to the parallel that might be drawn with Clough.

Mrs. Humphrey Ward, in the interesting introduction which she has prefixed to her beautiful translation of Amiel’s Journal, indicates, though not as distinctly as we should have been disposed to do, the close analogy between Amiel’s dread of practical life and Clough’s dread of practical life. And there certainly was a close analogy, as well as a wide difference, between their views. Amiel, it is clear, never did anything at all equal to his powers, through a jealous regard for his own intellectual independence. He could not bear to commit himself to any practical course which would mortgage, as it were, his intellectual freedom. ‘The life of thought alone, ’ he wrote, ‘seems to me to have enough elasticity and immensity, to be free enough from the irreparable; practical life makes me afraid. ’ And yet he knew that a certain amount of practical life was essential even to a true intellectual life, only he was anxious to reduce that practical life to a minimum, in order that the intellectual life might remain as free as possible. Clough, too, had the greatest distrust of the practical ties into which he felt that the tenderness of his nature would bring him. The whole drift of his Amours de Voyage was to show that fidelity to the intellectual vision is inconsistent with the class of connections into which the sentiments of a tender heart bring men; and not only inconsistent with

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