Samuel Waddington.

Arthur Hugh Clough; a monograph online

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Online LibrarySamuel WaddingtonArthur Hugh Clough; a monograph → online text (page 1 of 17)
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T N preparing the following study of Clough's life
-*• and poems I have more especially availed my-
self of the information contained in the notices,
reviews, and other fugitive papers respecting him,
which have been published during the last quarter of
a century ; — and, with a view of preserving all that
might prove of interest, numerous extracts have been
included from the writings of various authors, who
were, for the most part, personally acquainted with
the poet. Among such writers may be mentioned
the late Dean of Westminster, Mr. R. H. Hutton,
Mr. Matthew Arnold, the late Mr. Walter Bagehot,
the Dean of St. Paul's, Mr. F. T. Palgrave, Mr.
Thomas Hughes, Q.C., Professor Masson, Mr.
William Allingham, Professor Sellar, Mr. J. A.
Symonds, Mr. C. E. Norton, Mr. T. Arnold, Pro-
fessor Shairp, the late Charles Kingsley, and others.
The present would appear to be a period un-
usually productive as regards the publication of


monographs and biographies, and in the case of
one poet — Shelley — there have been, if I remember
rightly, nearly a dozen critical and biographical
works published in rapid succession within a very
few years. This is, however, the first volume that
has been devoted to the criticism and study of
Clough, although nearly a quarter of a century has
now elapsed since he was laid in the ' little cypress-
crowded cemetery beyond the walls of the Fair
City (Florence), on the side towards Fiesole.' — The
' sincerity and sense,' which, with a rare Homeric
simplicity of genius, are the characteristic features
of Clough's poetry, will, I trust, impart an interest
and value to the present volume which it might
not, perhaps, otherwise have possessed.

I would take this opportunity of thanking Mrs.
Clough, and also Messrs. Macmillan and Co., for
their kindness in granting me permission to print
extracts from the poet's works.

47, Connaught Street,
Hyde Park, W.

October, 1882.



Introduction i

Early Life 22

Oxford 57

Oxford {continued) 88

Ambarvalia 129


The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich . . . 152

Life in London 195






Amours-de- Voyage, and Mari Magno . . 252

America Revisited, and Prose Writings . . 288

Last Years 305

Conclusion 319


I" T has been said that ' poets are all who love,
■*■ who feel great truths and tell them,' — and we
know that of old ' they were ranked in the class of
philosophers, and that the ancients made use of
them as preceptors in music and morality.' But
now, in these latter days, nous avons change tout cela,
and we look to the ministers of religion, to our
pastors and masters, to preach and teach us morality ;
while we expect our bards, or singers (as some of
them now prefer to be called), to teach us something
quite different, — or rather we expect them not to
teach at all. And yet, as a matter of fact, all
classes are being taught, and cannot fail to be
taught, by those verses which, when once read,
remain stamped on the tablets of memory for life :
and it was not unwisely written by Andrew Fletcher,
of Saltoun, in a letter to the Marquis of Montrose,



that 'if a man were permitted to make all the bal-
lads, he need not care who should make the laws of
a nation.' The influence of the poetry of Robert
Burns in forming and colouring the opinions and
characters of his countrymen is said to have been
greater than that of any other Scotchman of his
century ; — and the influence of Keats, a poet of a
very different order, is plainly perceptible at the
present time in England, and is affecting many
sections of society, and more especially the art and
literary circles of the metropolis. A few years ago
the same might have been observed, with equal
truth, respecting Wordsworth ; but it is to the
author of Endymion and The Eve of St. Agnes
that reference is usually made by those modern
critics who extol what they themselves call ' mere
poetry,' although it was Keats that complained of

those who forget

' the great end
Of Poesy, that it should be a friend
To soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.'

And yet if this is what is meant by ' mere poetry,'
if it means verse that ' lifts the thoughts of man,'
and makes us feel

' that we are greater than we know/


then it becomes clear that the contention respecting
it is only a dispute about words, and arises from
the fact that our two schools of criticism do not
quite understand each other's meaning. The poetry
of Burns and of Wordsworth, or even that of
Shakspeare and of Milton, can hardly be said to do
more than ' soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts
of man ; ' and we are not prepared to say that the
poetry of Keats at all fails to accomplish the like
end. The lines

' Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,'

contain the one ' great truth ' which Keats loved,
and felt, and taught ; and which coloured, and in a
measure consecrated, all his compositions. Never
was there a philosopher who was more firmly
attached to his own particular views respecting the
world in which he moved, nor ever a preceptor
whose example was more in accordance with his

Still, all this notwithstanding, it seems probable,
seeing that the minds of men are differently con-
stituted, and variously influenced by imagination
and reason, by thought and emotion, that there will


ever be found in our midst these two schools hold-
ing opposite views respecting the province and
proper sphere of poetry. The one delights, and
will always continue to delight, in the form, the
manner, the music, the metaphor, the graceful
phrase, the uncommon, the well-chosen or, perhaps,
archaic term, and all the thousand-and-one adjuncts
that go to form the dress in which the poet clothes
his thought, — or, alas, in some instances conceals
his want of thought. The other school also delights
in all these things ; — it rejoices in the harmonious
arrangement of words, and in the subtle felicity of
expression ; — it loves

' the light that never was on sea or land ; '

but these, these alone, these unaccompanied by any
deep ' under-song of sense,' are not sufficient for
it, and it asks, ' Is not the body more than raiment,
and the soul of more importance than the body ? '

'Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outer walls so costly gay ? '

Or, in the words of Isaac Barrow, it exclaims : * If it
is true that nothing has for you any relish except
painted comfits and unmeaning trifles, that not even
wisdom will please you, unless without its peculiar


flavour, nor truth, unless seasoned with a jest, then
in an unlucky hour have I been assigned as your
purveyor, neither born nor bred in such a frivolous

Such, roughly and briefly stated, are the two
opposite views that are held by the respective par-
tisans and upholders of the especial value in poetry
of form and manner, on the one hand, and of
thought and subject-matter, on the other: — but it is
in the latter rather than the former of these schools
that the poet who is the subject of these pages has
for the most part found his disciples and admirers.
Those who cherish, and find pleasure in studying
the writings of Clough — and we believe that their
number, both in this country and in America, is
much larger than is usually supposed — admire him,
not for the smoothness of his numbers, or the
melody of his verse, but for the nobility of
character, the subtlety of thought, and the sincere
earnestness and zeal in the pursuit of both truth
and truthfulness, that are marked in no uncertain
letters upon all his compositions, whether in prose
or verse. As regards the question, however, re-
specting the province of poetry, to which reference
has already been made, it will be well before pro-


ceeding to the study of the poet's own writings that
some insight should, if possible, be obtained into
what were the opinions which he himself held on
this subject. With this view the following interest-
ing extract is quoted from a paper published
by him in the North American Review for July,
1853, in which he reviewed and compared the
respective poems of the late Alexander Smith and
Mr. Matthew Arnold. He writes : —

'We have before us, we may say, the latest
disciple of the school of Keats, who was indeed no
well of English undefiled, though doubtless the
fountain-head of a true poetic stream. Alexander
Smith is young enough to free himself from his
present manner, which does not seem his simple
and natural own. He has given us, so to say, his
Endymion ; it is certainly as imperfect, and as mere
a promise of something wholly different, as was
that of the master he has followed. We are not
sorry, in the meantime, that this Endymion is not
upon Mount Latmos. The natural man does pant
within us after flumina silvasqne ; yet really, and
truth to tell, is it not, upon the whole, an easy
matter to sit under a green tree by a purling brook,
and indite pleasing stanzas on the beauties of nature


and fresh air? Or is it, we incline to ask, so very
great an exploit to wander out into the pleasant
field of Greek or Latin mythology, and reproduce,
with more or less of modern adaptation,

' the shadows
Faded and pale, yet immortal, of Faunus, the Nymphs, and
the Graces ? '

Studies of the literature of any distant age or
country ; all the imitations and ^^-translations
which help to bring together into a single focus the
scattered rays of human intelligence ; poems after
classical models, poems from Oriental sources, and
the like, have undoubtedly a great literary value.
Yet there is no question, it is plain and patent
enough, that people much prefer Vanity Fair
and Bleak House. Why so? Is it simply be-
cause we have grown prudent and prosaic, and
should not welcome, as our fathers did, the Mar-
mions and the Rokebys, the Childe Harolds and
the Corsairs ? Or is it, that to be widely popular,
to gain the ear of multitudes, to shake the hearts of
men, poetry should deal, more than at present
it usually does, with general wants, ordinary feel-
ings, the obvious rather than the rare facts of


human nature ? Could it not attempt to convert
into beauty and thankfulness, or at least into some
form and shape, some feeling, at any rate, of
content — the actual, palpable things with which our
every-day life is concerned ; introduce into business
and weary task-work a character and a soul of
purpose and reality ; intimate to us relations which,
in our unchosen, peremptorily-appointed posts, in
our grievously narrow and limited spheres of action,
we still, in and through all, retain to some central,
celestial fact ? Could it not console us with a sense
of significance, if not of dignity, in that often dirty,
or at least dingy, work which it is the lot of so
many of us to have to do, and which some one or
other, after all, must do ? Might it not divinely
condescend to all infirmities ; be in all points
tempted as we are ; exclude nothing, least of all
guilt and distress, from its wide fraternization ; not
content itself merely with talking of what may be
better elsewhere, but seek also to deal with what is
here ? We could each one of us, alas ! be so much
that somehow we find we are not ; we have all of
us fallen away from so much that we still long to
call ours. Cannot the Divine Song in some way
indicate to us our unity, though from a great way


off, with those happier things ; inform us, and
prove to us, that though we are what we are,
we may yet, in some way, even in our abasement,
even by and through our daily work, be related to
the purer existence.'

Thus writes, and very wisely, the poet himself, —
and it is both surprising and instructive to note, as
the eye passes along the eloquent and impassioned
sentences, how closely the sense, the gist of the
whole passage, approximates to those words of
Keats, to which reference has been made, that the
great end and aim of poetry should be ' to soothe
the cares and lift the thoughts of man.' The very
fact that two poets, such as were Keats and Clough,
whose compositions are in many respects so very
dissimilar, — who in seeking a field in which the
poetic genius might work and develop its powers to
advantage, turned their backs upon each other, and
parted at the very threshold, — who travelled, or
seemed to travel, on their respective paths in quest
of apparently very different objects of desire, — that
these two poets should nevertheless agree on this
important subject, and should hold like views
respecting the fundamental principle of what should
be the great end of poetry, is, to say the very least


of it, instructive, and a matter which should not be
overlooked by our youthful bards and modern

There have recently been various theories pro-
pounded respecting what may best serve as a true
definition of ' poetry;' — and while Mr. Matthew
Arnold tells us that it is the criticism of life, Mr.
Alfred Austin intimates that it is nothing of the
kind, but that it is the transfiguration or imagina-
tive representation of life. Possibly there is much
truth in both of these theories, and yet, after all,
may we not say in the words of Wordsworth, —

' Dear child of Nature, let them rail !
— There is a nest in a green dale,
A harbour and a hold,
Where thou * * * shalt see
Thy own delightful days, and be
A light to young and old.'

And may not these lines, also, serve in a mea-
sure to indicate one phase at least of what poetry
either is, or ought to be ? But so long as the term
is widely and variously employed, as it is at present,
it is manifestly a waste of time to try and include
under one definition its manifold and various mean-
ings. Originally it would appear to have meant


rhythmical compositions, or creations, of any kind
or character ; and a century ago it would have been
considered applicable to what we should now only
deem to be correctly described as ' verse : ' — while it
would not have been held to be an appropriate
term for any composition in prose, even if written
by such imaginative or emotional writers as Thomas
Carlyle and Mr. Ruskin.

The ' poetry of life ' is plainly far removed from
the poetry (if there be any) in Pope's Essay on
Man, or Samuel Butler's Hudibras : — while the
poetry that Wordsworth could find in ' a primrose
by a river's brim,' or in his favourite, ' the lesser
celandine,' is an entirely different thing from that
which inspires some of Mr. Matthew Arnold's
philosophic, didactic, and yet very beautiful ser-
mons-in-sonnets, such as are his East London,
The Better Part, and Worldly Place. But let us
once more refer on this subject to the paper by
Clough in the North American Review where he
writes : — ' You have been reading Burns, and you
take up Cowper. You feel at home, how strangely !
in both of them. Can both be the true thing ? and
if so, in what new form can we express the relation,
the harmony, between them ? Are we to try and



reconcile them, or judge between them ? May we
escape from all the difficulty by a mere quotation,
and pronounce with the shepherd of Virgil,

' Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites
Et vitula tu dignus, et hie'

* * * * Will you be content, O reader, to plod in
German manner over miles of a straight road that
seems to lead somewhere, with the prospect of
arriving at last at some point where it will divide
at equal angles, and lead equally into two opposite
directions, where you may therefore safely pause,
and thankfully set up your rest, and adore in sacred
doubt the Supreme Bifurcation ? '

But now let us consider a moment what is the
conclusion at which we are arriving, — what is the
end and aim of these introductory observations.
Is it to set up, and adore the poetic Supreme Bifur-
cation, as the poet himself humorously designates
the point where the pathways of two schools of
poetry divide ? Is it to show that the wonder-
working process of Evolution has in its literary
progress created at various points of divergence
new and distinct species of poetry ? Is it to indicate
that whereas one school, or species, will more


especially serve ' to soothe the cares,' another will
rather ' lift the thoughts,' of Man ? Is it to urge
that both of these schools are good in their way,
and to be esteemed for their own particular merits ?
Is it to prove that of Clough and Keats, as ot
Cowper and Burns, it may justly be said,

' Et vitula tu dignus, et hie ? '

Or, lastly, is it to point out that it is hardly wise
in literature — any more than it is in religion — to
confine the growing, the ever-increasing world of
thought, and truth, and sympathy, by any narrow
exclusive dogma, or definition, that may at the
time best fit in with our own opinions and predi-
lections ?

Yes — these, taken together, constitute the goal
to which our observations tend, for in writing of a
poet, such as Clough, who is far removed from the^
sphere in which the new poets that have arisen
during the last fifteen or twenty years are moving,
it would seem necessary to point out in limine that
it does not follow that one is right, and the other
wrong, when two poets choose very different
methods, and compose poems on opposite principles.
There is, after all, much of fashion in these matters,


and in addition there is the influence which the
events of the period, the religious and political
movements of the times, must always have upon
the poet's work. It is to this that Mr. Stopford
Brooke refers when he writes: — 'Keats marks the
exhaustion of the impulse which began with Burns
and Cowper. There was now no longer in England
any large wave of public thought or feeling such as
could awaken poetry. We have then, arising after
his death, a number of pretty little poems, having
no inward fire, no idea, no marked character. They
might be written by any versifier at any time, and
express pleasant indifferent thought in pleasant
verse. But with the Reform agitation, and the
new religious agitation at Oxford which was of the
same date, a new excitement or a new form of the
old, came on England, and with it a new tribe of
poets arose, among whom we live. The elements
of their poetry were also new, though their germs
were sown in the previous poetry. It took up the
theological, sceptical, social, and political questions
which disturbed England. It gave itself to meta-
physics and to analysis of human character. It
carried the love of natural scenery into almost every
county in England, and described the whole land.


Some of its best writers are Robert Browning and his
wife, Matthew Arnold, and Arthur Hugh Clough.'

Of these four only two, unfortunately, are still left
with us to work and use their influence in our midst,
at a time when their influence is especially needed,
and when the school of purely Decorative Poetry (to
use the late Mr. Bayard Taylor's phrase) which ad-
dresses itself to the eye and ear, rather than to the
heart and brain, is beginning to somewhat weary
its readers. Of Browning and Clough it is especially
true that they are 'thinkers' rather than 'singers,'
and the following which has been written respecting
the former is also true of the latter : 'He as a singer
has been surpassed by many inferior men. We had
almost said he seldom sings. But he is a poet for
all that, and he can sing, and sing sweetly too, when
he pleases. But he is chiefly dear to the age as a
feeler and a thinker ; he is also dear because know-
ing all, and having been racked with its doubts, and
stretched upon the mental torture-wheels of his
time, he does not despair.' It is possible that
Mr. M. Arnold when he recently defined poetry
as the ' criticism of life,' was thinking more espe-
cially of these two poets, Browning and Clough,
these spiritual analysts of the social body, that


unveil the conventional shams of the world, that
show us life as it really is, and do not hesitate to
criticize our most cherished dogmas of duty and
religion. But there is another, and far wider,
definition of poetry, given, we believe, by John
Stuart Mill, that it is, ' Thought coloured by emo-
tion, expressed in metre :' — and if we accept this
as approximately true, then may we accept, also,
Clough's compositions as true poetry, for in them
we find the most subtle ' thought ' accompanied
by the most deep and impressive emotion, which
is none the less deep and impressive because it is
held under restraint, and bears the calm demeanour
of discipline. Those who, on bygone Sabbath
afternoons, when the shades of approaching dark-
ness began to deepen the gloom of the grand old
Abbey, have listened in past years to the touching
eloquence and the calm yet impressive language of
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, will recognize at once the
same spiritual fervour, — the same earnest, yet re-
strained, zeal and emotion — in the poems of Clough
and the sermons of the late Dean. And, indeed,
are not these in a measure but different pipes of the
same organ-stop, — are they not fragrant flowers
gathered from the same holy garden, — the work


and wisdom of two scholars that had been nurtured
and trained under the fostering care of one and the
same master, that great and good man the late
Dr. Arnold ? Thought, coloured by emotion, yet
subject to discipline ; — sincere earnestness in the
pursuit of Truth coloured by charity towards the
holders of opposite views and opinions ; — a desire to
impart wider views and a larger sympathy to the
various sects of society with their petty shibboleths
and narrow party-spirit ; — such, truly, were the
feelings and the aims that inspired the spiritual
fervour of both poet and priest ; and such is the
didactic purpose which we find to be present,
though not objectionably obtruded, in most of the
poems and prose writings of Clough.

A didactic purpose ? Yes, — for when a great
truth has taken possession of the heart, — when an
eternal verity (as Carlyle would have said) hath
entered into and overpowered the spirit of the man,
— then, and then only, out of the fullness of the
heart the mouth speaketh, and teacheth whether
it will or not. Then, and then only, the poet
uttereth such impassioned poems, as The world is
too muck with us, late and soon, as Hood's Bridge
°f Sighs, or Mrs. Browning's Cry of the Children.



But we have already discussed this subject above,
and we will not refer to it further, beyond stating
that the effect produced by a man who is in
earnest will always be greater than that produced
by one who is only playing his part ; and that the
character of the worker will, in some way or other,
be mirrored in the works that he produces. ' Be-
lieve me,' were the words of Sir Frederick Leighton
on a recent occasion, ' believe me, whatever of
dignity, whatever of strength we have within us,
will dignify and will make strong the labours of
our hands ; whatever littleness degrades our spirit
will lessen them and drag them down. Whatever
noble fire is in our hearts will burn also in our
work, whatever purity is ours will chasten and
exalt it ; for as we are, so our work is, and what we
sow in our lives, that, beyond a doubt, we shall
reap for good or for ill in the strengthening or
defacing of whatever gifts have fallen to our lot.'
In the following pages the reader will have before
him the history of the life, and description of the
character, of one whom we, for our part, believe to
have been a very pure, and noble, and good man ;
he will also have an account and study of his poems
and other writings, and he will thus have an oppor-

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Online LibrarySamuel WaddingtonArthur Hugh Clough; a monograph → online text (page 1 of 17)