Arthur Hugh Clough: The Critical Heritage

By Michael Thorpe | Go to book overview

58.

‘Arthur Hugh Clough’, article in the Contemporary Review

February 1914, cv, 285-8

This article was occasioned by the publication of Charles Whibley’s apologetic Introduction to Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough (London, 1913). The tone of this Introduction is well conveyed by the extract from it which the reviewer cites in his article. Whibley devotes much space to a discussion of Clough’s use of the hexameter which, on the whole, he finds unsatisfactory.

The critical estimation of the great Victorian poets is taking a new phase. We are now beginning to regard them as the poets of a past age, and to estimate their place in literature without any of the disturbing elements due to the influence of their personalities on their own generation. Browning, Tennyson, Clough, and Arnold form a group by themselves, a group that set their souls to the same problems, each according to the measure of his gifts. This group of stars has during the last few years been to some extent obscured by passing clouds. The dazzling personal influence has passed away, and new schools of some merit, but of no particular note, have occupied the more limited attention that is to-day available for the art of poesy. These current writers, who supply incapacity for form and absence of scholarship by vigour that is not unattractive and coarseness that vainly calls itself virile, have not really taken the place of the mighty men of the Victorian era, and this fact makes probable an early return to the poetic art of that period. Mr. Charles Whibley’s essay on Clough, prefixed to the new edition of that poet’s works, is a sign of the return movement. That we have a final estimate of the poet before us is difficult to believe, but Mr. Whibley’s brilliant critical faculty has placed before the public an issue as to the disputable position of the poet that is of extraordinary value. The present writer believes, Mr. Whibley does not believe, that Clough was a great poet. It will be of interest to consider the case. Mr. Whibley writes as follows: —

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