Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves

By John Rodden | Go to book overview

1
“The Mind of Matthew Arnold,” The Nation
March 1939

Robert Morss Lovett

Robert Morss Lovett (1870–1956), educator, literary critic, and author, was a leading American radical, eventually becoming editor of The New Republic (1921–29). Lovett began his career as a professor of English at the University of Chicago. He collaborated with the poet William Vaughn Moody on the massive History of English Literature (1902), which was updated over the course of the next three decades and went through several editions. Lovett published a number of books of criticism, including Edith Wharton (1925) and several studies of British drama, and he also wrote two novels and a play.

A Christian Socialist, Lovett resided for long periods at Hull House, the settlement house in Chicago founded for the poor and underprivileged by Jane Addams. As a New Republic editor and contributor, he wrote sympathetically about the Bolshevik Revolution and the Spanish Loyalists during the civil war; he campaigned vigorously against capital punishment and British colonialism. In 1939, at the time of this book review, Lovett was appointed secretary to the Virgin Islands by Franklin Roosevelt. While he was in office, two congressional committees investigated his alleged Communist associations and recommended that he be discharged from office without pay. Roosevelt bowed to congressional pressure in 1943 and asked for Lovett’s resignation; a 1946 Supreme Court decision reversed the congressional decision and awarded Lovett back pay.

A committed socialist critic, Lovett commends Trilling in the review below for highlighting those aspects of Arnold that cast him as a socialist precursor.

It is understood to be in accordance with Matthew Arnold’s wish to have no biography of himself written, that his descendants have maintained careful

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