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Victorian Literature Matthew Arnold
by
Stefano Evangelista

Introduction

Matthew Arnold (b. 1822–d. 1888) is one of the most influential writers of the Victorian age. After receiving a Classics degree from Oxford and spending a brief spell in Paris, Arnold spent most of his life working as a schools inspector. He was elected to the Oxford Professorship of Poetry in 1857. Arnold was an author of both poetry and criticism. His verse includes: The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems (1847), Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems (1852), and New Poems (1867), as well as the classical verse tragedy Merope (1858). Together with Tennyson and Browning, Arnold has been held by critics as one of the representative poets of his age because of his poetry’s difficult negotiations of the legacy of Romanticism and its clear expression of the Victorian zeitgeist, evident, for instance, in the analysis of religious doubt contained in one of his most famous poems, “Dover Beach.” His prolific prose canon includes cornerstones of 19th-century intellectual and critical history such as On Translating Homer (1861), Essays in Criticism (1865) and Culture and Anarchy (1869). The influence of Arnold’s literary, social, and religious criticism has been immense. His work appears so representative of the Victorian age because of its constant effort to understand and scrutinize modernity. Like many other Victorian authors, however, Arnold suffered a period of neglect and hostility in the early 20th century; but his works are now once again recognized as classics and attract a great deal of critical attention both from literary scholars and cultural historians.

General Overviews

In recent decades scholars from different disciplines, such as literature, history, and cultural studies, have been attracted by different aspects of Arnold’s thought; this interest is reflected in several concise and reliable overviews of his work. Good starting points are Neiman 1968 and the more recent Collini 1988, both of which provide historicist readings that take in a broad range of texts within Arnold’s oeuvre and present him as both literary author and thinker, although the emphasis is on the latter in both cases. Bush 1971 is an accessible survey of the writings, with more emphasis on their literary value. Going back in time, Trilling 1939 is an authoritative, classic overview that pays close attention to Arnold’s literary achievement. Madden 1967 has a more specialized focus on aesthetic consciousness and presents Arnold as representative of his age. Of the several collections of secondary criticism on Arnold, Allott 1975 is a particularly good starting point, as it contains essays by well-known Arnold scholars who introduce specific areas of his thought and work. DeLaura 1973 does a similar job, but it brings together selected essays from the early reception until the 1970s. The Arnoldian (now Nineteenth-Century Prose) was a journal entirely devoted to Arnold and his circle, which is especially useful for reviews and bibliographical information.

  • Allott, Kenneth, ed. Matthew Arnold. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1975.

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    This anthology brings together major Arnold scholars and provides an accessible overview of Arnold’s work. It contains a chronology and particularly useful chapters that deal with poetry, criticism, social and political thought, religion and the classics. A good starting point for students.

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  • The Arnoldian. 1975–1990.

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    This journal started as the Arnold Newsletter, then became The Arnoldian from 1975 to 1990, and later became Nineteenth-Century Prose. The Arnoldian was entirely devoted to Arnold’s works, publishing brief articles, reviews, and bibliographic information. Even in its broader new incarnation, though, the journal still publishes many essays of interest to Arnold scholars.

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  • Bush, Douglas. Matthew Arnold: A Survey of His Poetry and Prose. New York: Collier, 1971.

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    An accessible and wide-ranging introduction to Arnold in the form of a survey of his oeuvre. It is strong on contextual close readings of the literary works.

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  • Collini, Stefan. Arnold. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    An engaging and concise study that offers an authoritative starting point for students and researchers. The focus is on Arnold’s distinctive literary “voice”; from this starting point Collini moves through Arnold’s vast oeuvre, selectively, covering both poetry and critical writings but with a strong emphasis on the latter.

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  • DeLaura, David J., ed. Matthew Arnold: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973.

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    Collects essays by noted Arnold scholars, some of which focus on broad aspects of his work (elegy, religious poetry, etc.), others on individual writings. It contains a reprint of T. S. Eliot’s essay on Arnold and Pater.

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  • Madden, William. Matthew Arnold: A Study of the Aesthetic Temperament in Victorian England. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967.

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    This comprehensive study reads Arnold’s work as representative of the 19th-century reflection on the aesthetic consciousness. It is divided into sections that explore, respectively, the formative years, the poems, and the criticism.

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  • Neiman, Fraser. Matthew Arnold. New York: Twayne, 1968.

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    Drawing largely on the letters, this study offers an engaging historicist introduction to Arnold as thinker and literary author.

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  • Trilling, Lionel. Matthew Arnold. London: Allen and Unwin, 1939.

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    Although now somewhat old-fashioned in places, this book remains a classic and one of the most thorough and influential critical studies of Arnold. It is available in several more recent reprints.

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Primary Materials

The authoritative editions of Arnold’s primary texts are divided by genre: Super 1960–1977 covers the prose, and Allott 1979 covers the poetry. Both are impressive fully annotated editions that will be indispensable to advanced students and researchers. Allott and Super 1986 and Arnold 2006 are more easily accessible and work well as starting points and as good teaching resources: Allott and Super 1986 provides a good selection of prose, poetry, and letters; while Arnold 2006, edited by Jane Garnett, is an excellent paperback edition of Culture and Anarchy. As with most authors, Arnold’s letters constitute a precious archive to trace the development of his thought. Once completed, Lang 1996–2001 will be indispensable; for the moment only the correspondence of the early years is available in this scholarly fully annotated edition. Lowry 1932 provides an interesting selection of the correspondence, focusing on Arnold’s letters to Clough. The collection of the extant diaries and notebooks in Lowry, et al. 1952 will be particularly useful to advanced students.

  • Allott, Kenneth, ed. The Poems of Matthew Arnold. 2d ed. London: Longman, 1979.

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    The most complete, authoritative edition of Arnold’s poetry. The material is arranged chronologically. It gives textual variants and contains helpful explanatory notes. First edition published in 1965.

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  • Allott, Miriam, and Robert H. Super, eds. Matthew Arnold. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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    A carefully selected collection of prose, poetry, and letters. It is available in paperback and annotated. A good starting point for students and a good teaching resource.

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  • Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Edited by Jane Garnett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    The best recent annotated edition of this fundamental text. It is in an easily accessible paperback and contains helpful notes, an introduction that places the text in its cultural contexts and spells out its relevance today, and a useful chronology.

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  • Lang, Cecil Y., ed. The Letters of Matthew Arnold. 6 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996–2001.

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    These six fully annotated volumes provide readers with the best and fullest edition of Arnold’s voluminous correspondence.

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  • Lowry, Howard Foster, ed. The Letters of Matthew Arnold to Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: Oxford University Press, 1932.

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    A fully annotated, useful selection of letters that brings to light the intellectual exchange between these two major Victorian poets.

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  • Lowry, Howard Foster, Karl Young, and Waldo Hilary Dunn, eds. The Note-Books of Matthew Arnold. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952.

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    Covers the notebooks and diary that Arnold kept from 1852 to 1888. It is especially useful for a record of Arnold’s wide-ranging reading during this period.

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  • Super, R. H., ed. The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold. 11 vols. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960–1977.

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    A fully annotated, authoritative edition of Arnold’s prose writings. It is a comprehensive and impressive multivolume work, complete with useful historical and contextual information about the writings. Indispensable to advanced students.

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Bibliographies

The best bibliography of Arnold’s primary texts is Smart 1892. For critical works on Arnold, DeLaura 1973 is a reliable bibliographical essay. Machann 1993, which is more comprehensive and obviously more up-to-date, is thematically arranged and covers most of the 20th century. Unfortunately, both works largely limit themselves to English-language sources.

  • DeLaura, David J. “Matthew Arnold.” In Victorian Prose: A Guide to Research. Edited by David J. DeLaura, 249–320. New York: Modern Language Association, 1973.

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    A bibliographical essay that surveys the major criticism on Arnold up to 1972. It is very reliable and covers the poetry as well as the prose writings.

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  • Machann, Clinton. The Essential Matthew Arnold: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Modern Studies. New York: G. K. Hall, 1993.

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    A carefully annotated, selected bibliography of 20th-century contributions to Arnold criticism. It is an excellent source, balanced and easy to search, and contains specific sections on poetry, prose, and a variety of thematic issues.

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  • Smart, Thomas Burnett. The Bibliography of Matthew Arnold. London: Davy, 1892.

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    The standard bibliography of Arnold’s primary works published in his own lifetime. It is not complete (the American editions, for instance, are missing) but is the fullest single source to date.

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Biographies

The fullest biography is Honan 1981, which manages to convey the richness and complexity of Arnold as an intellectual and contains readings of all the major works. Machann 1998 and Murray 1997 are shorter works and therefore perhaps more accessible. Both works emphasize Arnold’s literary career, with Murray 1997 being particularly keen on the poetry. Bonnerot 1947 is a striking psychological portrait. The short McCarthy 1971 complements the other sources listed here, providing a portrait of Arnold’s wife, Frances Lucy Wightman.

Poetry

One of the recurrent concerns in Arnold criticism is the effort to determine the relationship between the poetry and the critical prose works. This has often led critics to compare his achievement in the two literary genres. All the studies listed here argue for the intrinsic value and accomplishment of the poetry, with the exception of the interesting Riede 1988, which focuses on failure and irresolution. For students of Arnold’s verse, Culler 1976 is a good starting point, being both authoritative and wide-ranging. Another comprehensive study is Buckler 1982, which is particularly interested in Arnold’s departure from Romanticism. Faas 1988 and Hardman 1991 examine Arnold’s poetry in the broader contexts of, respectively, Victorian poetic responses to psychology and 19th-century intellectual history. Tinker and Lowry 1940 remains useful as a resource for background information about the individual poems. Farrell and Savory 1988 is a special double issue of the critical journal Victorian Poetry devoted to Arnold. It features thirteen essays by noted scholars on specific aspects of his poetry, including one by Clyde de L. Ryals that presents an unusual argument of Arnold as ironist.

  • Buckler, William E. On the Poetry of Matthew Arnold: Essays in Critical Reconstruction. New York: New York University Press, 1982.

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    A revisionist study of Arnold’s poetry that stresses the modernity of the verse and reflects on his departures from the Romantic tradition.

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  • Culler, A. Dwight. Imaginative Reason: The Poetry of Matthew Arnold. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1976.

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    This is probably the single most influential study of Arnold’s poetry. It is attentive to language and poetics and comprehensive in coverage. It reads the verse against a biographical background. (Originally published by Yale University Press in 1966.)

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  • Faas, Ekbert. Retreat into the Mind: Victorian Poetry and the Rise of Psychiatry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    A reading of Arnold’s verse in the context of a wider study of Victorian poets, including Tennyson and Browning. A chapter on Arnold (pp. 121–144) focuses on his advocacy of objectivity and studies his poetry comparatively against other poets’ use of the dramatic monologue.

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  • Farrell, John P., and Jerold J. Savory, eds. Special Issue: Centennial of Matthew Arnold. Victorian Poetry 26 (1988): 1–2.

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    A double issue of this scholarly journal that is explicitly devoted to Arnold, with contributions by noted critics, including Alan Grob on pessimism (pp. 25–44), Virginia Carmichael on lyric (pp. 61–74), Clyde de L. Ryals on Romantic irony (pp. 91–102), and U. C. Knoepflmacher on Arnold and Pater (pp. 103–116).

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  • Hardman, Malcom. Six Victorian Thinkers. Manchester, UK, and New York: Manchester University Press, 1991.

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    This book on Victorian intellectual history contains a chapter on Arnold’s poetry (pp. 141–173). It makes a plea for the importance of the poems within Arnold’s oeuvre, judging them superior in performing “the task of inner renewal which his prose merely draws attention to” (p. 142). It provides an extended reading of “Dover Beach.”

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  • Harrison, Antony H. The Cultural Production of Matthew Arnold. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010.

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    This comprehensive study of Arnold’s poetry includes particularly interesting material on medievalism and the reception of Keats. The readings situate Arnold the poet and intellectual in the context of Victorian cultural institutions.

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  • Riede, David G. Matthew Arnold and the Betrayal of Language. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988.

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    A suggestive and comprehensive study of Arnold’s poetry that focuses on contradiction and self-referentiality in its use of language. It reads Arnold’s verse in the context of Victorian language theories. It concludes that Arnold’s poems are the record of “his failures to accomplish what he believed […] poetry could accomplish” (p. 204).

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  • Tinker, C. B., and H. F. Lowry. The Poetry of Matthew Arnold: A Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940.

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    A useful resource that provides essential background information about the individual poems, such as sources and publication history.

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Criticism

Many scholars regard Arnold’s critical writings as the most important part of his body of work. Studies in this area tend to privilege one or the other of three specific, often distinct, strands of Arnold’s criticism: the literary, sociopolitical, or religious. This section lists examples of a more general approach to Arnold as prose writer and then examines critics who have focused more specifically on the strands listed above. DeLaura 1969 is a classic of Arnold criticism and an essential read for students of his prose. The more wide-ranging Buckler 1983 engages with a large number of the critical texts, paying special attention to the question of Arnold’s literary sensibility. Bahr 2007 adopts a psychoanalytic approach to the study of Arnold’s use of metaphor; it is in a useful special issue of Nineteenth-Century Prose devoted to Arnold that contains specialized essays on various aspects of his criticism. Walsh 1992 is a rare gendered approach to Arnold.

  • Bahr, Katherine. “The Function of Matthew Arnold’s Criticism: Resolution and Independence.” Nineteenth Century Prose 34. 1–2 (2007): 89–114.

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    Studies Arnold’s use of metaphor in Culture and Anarchy using a psychoanalytic approach. It is in a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Prose devoted to Arnold.

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  • Buckler, William E. Matthew Arnold’s Prose: Three Essays in Literary Enlargement. New York: AMS Press, 1983.

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    A concise study that brings to readers’ attention the fundamental literariness of Arnold’s critical prose. Brings out Arnold’s great intellectual breadth and his engagement with contemporary culture.

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  • DeLaura, David J.. Hebrew and Hellene in Victorian England: Newman, Arnold, Pater. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969.

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    One of the most influential studies of Arnold’s prose. DeLaura examines Arnold alongside Newman and Pater. Very good on the transition from Victorian Christianity to aestheticism.

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  • Walsh, Susan. “That Arnoldian Wragg: Anarchy as Menstrosity in Victorian Social Criticism.” Victorian Literature and Culture 20 (1992): 217–241.

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    A feminist reading that explores the female body as a site of cultural anxiety in Arnold’s prose works.

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Literary Criticism

Several scholars have compared Arnold’s achievements as poet and critic, seeing in the latter a more interesting and substantial contribution. Such is the case with Carroll 1982, which looks at both genres in a detailed examination of Arnold’s idea of culture. DeLaura 1975 is a good starting point for students, as it gives a reliable overview of Arnold’s work as critic. Schneider 1989 starts from the literary criticism in order to trace Arnold’s development as a social and cultural critic. One of the most productive debates in this field is about Arnold’s legacy in the history of criticism. Baldick 1983 traces his influence on important critics of the early 20th century, such as T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis. Harris 1988 is an openly polemical essay that argues for Arnold’s relevance today, while Eagleton 1983 accuses Arnold of promoting middle-class ideology.

  • Baldick, Chris. The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1849–1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

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    Baldick stresses Arnold’s foundational role in reconfiguring the authority of the literary critic and traces his influence on early-20th-century critics such as T. S. Eliot, I. A. Richards, and the Leavises.

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  • Carroll, Joseph. The Cultural Theory of Matthew Arnold. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

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    An important study of Arnold as critic that also deals with the relationship between prose and poetry in his oeuvre. The focus is on the development of Arnold’s idea of culture. Carroll argues for Arnold’s significance to literary theory and examines the formative influence on him played by 18th-century English and German writers.

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  • DeLaura, David J.. “Arnold and Literary Criticism: (1) Critical Ideas.” In Matthew Arnold. Edited by Kenneth Allott, 118–148. London: G. Bell, 1975.

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    An accessible, succinct overview of Arnold as literary critic. It focuses on Arnold’s intellectual development and tries to tease out the interconnections among his various concerns.

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  • Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

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    This readable introduction to literary theory is critical of Arnold’s achievement (pp. 17–53). While acknowledging his influence in the rise of English literature as an academic discipline, Eagleton attacks Arnold as a critic who promoted middle-class ideology in order to control and suppress the working classes.

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  • Harris, Wendell. “The Continuously Creative Function of Arnoldian Criticism.” Victorian Poetry 26 (1988): 117–133.

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    Traces the critical reception of Arnold’s “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” and suggests its relevance for current critical practice.

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  • Schneider, Mary W. Poetry in the Age of Democracy: The Literary Criticism of Matthew Arnold. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989.

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    Accessible and comprehensive study of Arnold’s literary criticism, with a special interest in social and political thought. It traces Arnold’s development as a literary critic, focusing on his ideas on “the place of criticism and poetry in a democratic age” (p. 1).

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History, Politics, and Society

Many critics have argued that Arnold’s most substantial legacy is in his political and social thought. Collini 1988 is an authoritative general study of Arnold that corroborates this view. Super 1970 is also a good starting point and contains an analysis of Arnold’s ideal of liberalism. David DeLaura is one of the preeminent Arnold scholars of the 20th century. DeLaura 1972 and DeLaura 1988 explore two fundamental issues: the question of historiography and the definition of culture. Dale 1977 also deals with historiography, examining how Arnold’s view of history influences his literary work. Alexander 1965 places Arnold’s social and political thought in a broader context, reading him alongside John Stuart Mill.

  • Alexander, Edward. Matthew Arnold and John Stuart Mill. London: Routledge, 1965.

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    A detailed comparative study of these two figures, whom the author takes as representative of the Victorian age. Alexander is keen to tease out similarities and continuities between the two. Reprinted in 2010.

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  • Collini, Stefan. Arnold. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    In this concise study, Collini covers (selectively) the breadth of Arnold’s oeuvre, although he draws especially on the political and social criticism. He is especially interested in Arnold’s distinctive literary voice.

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  • Dale, Peter Allan. The Victorian Critic and the Idea of History: Carlyle, Arnold, Pater. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977.

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    Concerned with historicism and historiography in Victorian criticism. The focus is on how Arnold’s idea of history influences his ideas about literature. It contains good material on the complex relationship between criticism and poetry.

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  • DeLaura, David J.. “Matthew Arnold and the Nightmare of History.” In Victorian Poetry.Edited by M. Bradbury and D. Palmer, 37–57. Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies 15. London: Edward Arnold, 1972.

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    Focuses on Arnold’s historiography. It contains interesting parallels with Carlyle and Clough. DeLaura presents Arnold as working under the twin influences of Christianity and Hegel.

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  • DeLaura, David J. “Matthew Arnold and Culture: The History and the Prehistory.” In Matthew Arnold in his Time and Ours: Centenary Essays. Edited by Clinton Machann and Forrest Burt, 1–16. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988.

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    An accessible essay that deals with a crucial issue in Arnold criticism: his definition of culture. DeLaura adopts a wide-ranging historicist approach, examining Goethe’s influence on the development of this important concept.

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  • Super, R. H. The Time-Spirit of Matthew Arnold. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1970.

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    A concise general study of Arnold’s work with an emphasis on Arnold’s understanding of his historical moment and on the question of liberalism. Good on the influence of Goethe and the classical tradition.

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Religion

Religion was, naturally enough, part of Arnold’s interest as sage and cultural critic. His understanding of religion preoccupied the early critics and, after a period of neglect, started attracting critics again in the second half of the 20th century. The readable Willey 1975 provides a good introduction to this area. Many critics have read Arnold’s work as representative of the Victorian crisis of Christianity. Such is the case with Miller 1963 and Shaw 1980: they both place a large importance on poetry and poetics, with the former situating Arnold’s work within a broader study of the period. ApRoberts 1983 and Livingston 1986 are larger and more detailed works that examine Arnold’s religious development and cover a variety of writings, although they are both more interested in the criticism than in the poetry. Both reclaim the importance of Arnold’s religious writings at a time in which they had seemed to go out of favor with critics. ApRoberts 1983 is more literary, Livingston 1986 more theological. Levine 1988 is less directly concerned with religion, but his approach through science opens up an interesting debate.

  • apRoberts, Ruth. Arnold and God. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

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    A thorough examination of Arnold’s ideas on religion, which claims that the religious writings are the “most substantial” (p. 157) and crucial among Arnold’s prose writings. It covers the entire oeuvre but mainly deals with the religious writings.

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  • Levine, George. “Matthew Arnold’s Science of Religion: The Uses of Imprecision.” Victorian Poetry 26.1–2 (1988): 143–162.

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    Focuses on Arnold’s attitudes toward science in his criticism. The third and final section turns to the religious writings, which for Levine manifest “most overtly his ambivalence towards science” (p. 154).

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  • Livingston, J. C. Matthew Arnold and Christianity: His Religious Prose Writings. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.

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    Looks both at Arnold’s religious development and his religious hermeneutics. The interest is certainly more theological than literary or even cultural-historical but it contains useful details for literary critics.

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  • Miller, J. Hillis. “Matthew Arnold.” In The Disappearance of God: Five Nineteenth-Century Writers. By J. Hillis Miller, 212–269. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1963.

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    This essay investigates Arnold’s poetry and criticism in the context of a larger study of the Victorian crisis of Christianity. The focus is on language and poetics.

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  • Shaw, W. David. “The Agnostic Imagination in Victorian Poetry.” Criticism 22 (1980): 116–139.

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    Focusing on the poetry, this article argues that Arnold systematically debunks religion and mythology.

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  • Willey, Basil. “Arnold and Religion.” In Matthew Arnold. Edited by Kenneth Allott, 236–258. London: G. Bell, 1975.

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    A good, balanced introduction to this topic. Examines the influences on Arnold’s religious thought and then focuses on specific writings in order to show that religious concerns were a vital part of his work.

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The Classics

The study of the classics and the role of classical culture in the present were two of Arnold’s main concerns. It is unsurprising therefore that several scholars should have explored these topics in detail. The fullest account is in Anderson 1965, which is especially preoccupied with sources. Anderson 1975 provides a similar general treatment but is much more concise and makes a good starting point for students. Other critics have explored Arnold’s engagement with classical culture in the context of broader studies of the Victorian period. Turner 1981 is particularly interested in the question of liberal values, while Evangelista 2009 focuses on Arnold’s influence on Pater and Wilde. Zonana 1985 argues that Arnold was drawn to a darker side of Greece than the one portrayed in his famous ideal of Hellenism. Goldhill 2002 is a polemical book on the uses of ancient Greek, which includes a discussion of Arnold’s American lectures.

  • Anderson, Warren D. Matthew Arnold and the Classical Tradition. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965.

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    Studies Arnold’s persistent engagement with the classical world, arguing that he projected a subjective (and selective) view of classical culture. Traces the presence of classical references in Arnold’s works and the influence of specific classical authors across his oeuvre. It includes a useful appendix that identifies classical sources.

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  • Anderson, Warren D.. “Arnold and the Classics.” In Matthew Arnold. Edited by Kenneth Allott, 259–285. London: G. Bell, 1975.

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    A general introduction to this topic that deals with “the background and the general nature of Arnold’s approach to classical writers” (p. 259).

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  • Evangelista, Stefano. British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece: Hellenism, Reception, Gods in Exile. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    Studies the reception of Greek antiquity by a number of writers linked to aestheticism. It traces the influence of Arnold’s classicism, especially his definitions of Hellenism and Hebraism, on Pater and Wilde, among others.

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  • Goldhill, Simon. Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Polemical defense of the study of ancient Greek in modern education. Includes material on the use of the Greek classics in Arnold’s American lectures.

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  • Turner, Frank M. The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

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    In this incisive study of the 19th-century reception of ancient Greece, Turner argues that Arnold’s Hellenism played a key role in promoting Victorian humanism and that his views of ancient Greece, and its cultural relevance, exercised a lasting influence on classical studies.

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  • Zonana, Joyce. “Matthew Arnold and the Muse: The Limits of the Olympian Ideal.” Victorian Poetry 23 (1985): 59–74.

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    Drawing on the poetry, this essay argues that Arnold repeatedly found inspiration in the darker, irrational side of Greek culture associated with Dionysus and the Chthonian cults.

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Contextual Studies

This section lists works that examine Arnold in the broader context of Victorian literature and culture, treating him alongside other authors and thinkers. Studies that explicitly compare him to specific authors are listed under Comparative Studies. Armstrong 1993 provides an authoritative reading of the poetry as part of her influential study of politics in Victorian poetry. Miyoshi 1969 considers both the poetry and the critical writings within a broad study of the fragmented consciousness in 19th-century literature. Coulling 1974 reconstructs the Victorian cultural debate, tracing Arnold’s engagement with a large number of contemporary critics and reviewers. Dellamora 1990 is a rare example of a gendered approach to Arnold in the context of a study of masculinity and homosexuality in Victorian aestheticism.

  • Armstrong, Isobel. Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetic, and Politics. London: Routledge, 1993.

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    Influential study containing a reading of Arnold in the context of Victorian poetry as site for political and aesthetic debate. It deals with Arnold’s attitudes to liberalism and to the complexity of the modern experience.

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  • Coulling, Sidney. Matthew Arnold and his Critics: A Study of Arnold’s Controversies. Athens, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1974.

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    This historicist study presents Arnold as an essentially controversial thinker and writer by reconstructing his polemical encounters with his contemporaries: authors, critics, and reviewers.

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  • Dellamora, Richard. Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

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    This wide-ranging study of aestheticism includes a chapter on Arnold and Pater. Dellamora detects the presence of a certain erotophobia in Arnold’s writings and a suspicion toward the aesthetic that would provide a point of departure for Pater.

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  • Miyoshi, Masao. The Divided Self: A Perspective on the Literature of the Victorians. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

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    This comparative study analyzes the issue of fragmented consciousness in the context of several Victorian writers such as Robert Browning, Arthur Clough, Charles Dickens, and Alfred Lord Tennyson, as well as their romantic predecessors. Arnold is one of the dominant figures discussed by the author, who draws both on the critical and imaginative writings.

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Comparative Studies

This section lists critical works that compare Arnold to specific authors, mostly his contemporaries. Eliot 1951 is an influential essay that brings together Arnold and Pater and identifies these critics’ tendency to transfer religious values onto literature. While Eliot based his analysis on the critical essays, Fulweiler 1972 and Lowry 1932 concentrate on the poetry, reading Arnold alongside Clough and Hopkins respectively. Alexander 1965 investigates the social criticism by comparing Arnold to John Stuart Mill; and Alexander 1973 builds on his earlier study in order to bring together Arnold and Ruskin. DeLaura 1964 also considers the criticism, examining Arnold’s ambivalent attitude toward Carlyle. Simpson 1979 traces the influence of Goethe on Arnold.

  • Alexander, Edward. Matthew Arnold and John Stuart Mill. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.

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    A comparative study of these two figures, whom the author takes as representative of the Victorian age. The focus is on social and political thought. Reprinted in 2010.

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  • Alexander, Edward. Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and the Modern Temper. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1973.

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    Alexander builds on his earlier comparative study of Arnold and Mill in order to explore the parallel careers of Arnold and Ruskin. The comparison is especially rewarding in the areas of politics and social theory, revealing both parallels and divergences in the way in which the two thinkers developed the belief that society could be improved through art.

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  • DeLaura, David J.. “Arnold and Carlyle.” PMLA 79 (1964): 104–129.

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    This essay traces Carlyle’s influence on Arnold, piecing together Arnold’s borrowings from him and unearthing a complex attitude of deep-seated ambivalence and concealment of influence.

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  • Eliot, T. S. “Arnold and Pater.” In Selected Essays. By T. S. Eliot, 431–443. London: Faber & Faber, 1951.

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    This often-reprinted essay, first published in 1930, is a classic of the dismissive tone typical of modernist criticism. Eliot scrutinizes Arnold’s language so as to attack the moral certainties that underlie his criticism; he traces an evolution from Arnold to Pater of a tendency to attribute a religious value to literature.

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  • Fulweiler, Howard. Letters from the Darkling Plain: Language and the Grounds of Knowledge in the Poetry of Arnold and Hopkins. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1972.

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    A comparative study of the poetry of Arnold and Gerald Manley Hopkins. The focus is on philosophical questions, especially epistemology, approached from the perspectives of linguistic and aesthetic theory.

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  • Lowry, Howard Foster, ed. The Letters of Matthew Arnold to Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: Oxford University Press, 1932.

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    The introduction to this volume analyzes the relationship between these two important Victorian poets.

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  • Simpson, James. Matthew Arnold and Goethe. London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1979.

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    A detailed study of Arnold’s engagement with Goethe, which demonstrates his deep knowledge of Goethe and portrays him as an important cultural mediator. Traces Goethe’s influence on Arnold’s poetry, criticism, and ideas on science, religion, and politics. Contains useful bibliographical material, especially on Goethe’s early reception in England.

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Reception and Influence

A good starting point for students of Arnold’s critical reception is Dawson and Pfordresher 1979, which collects reviews of and responses to Arnold’s criticism. Mazzeno 1999 isolates and discusses important 20th-century studies. The influence of Arnold on modernism is the subject of Meisel 1987 and Pratt 1988, the former focusing on the criticism, the latter on the poetry. Baldick 1983 also deals with the early 20th century, but his interest is in Arnold’s influence on critical practice. Finally, Stone 1997 takes the concept of influence in its broadest sense, examining both authors who influenced Arnold and modern writers and thinkers influenced by him.

  • Baldick, Chris. The Social Mission of English Criticism, 1849–1932. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

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    Baldick traces Arnold’s influence on early-20th-century critics such as T. S. Eliot, I. A. Richards, and the Leavises.

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  • Dawson, Carl, and John Pfordresher, eds. Matthew Arnold: The Critical Heritage. Critical Heritage Series. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.

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    Useful resource that collects reviews and responses to Arnold’s prose works.

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  • Mazzeno, Laurence W. Matthew Arnold: The Critical Legacy. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 1999.

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    Traces Arnold’s critical reception from the publication of his early works until the end of the 20th century. Divided into chapters that give digests of selected criticism from circumscribed periods. Only covers the English-language reception.

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  • Meisel, Perry. The Myth of the Modern: A Study in British Literature and Criticism after 1850. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987.

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    Meisel sees Arnold and other late-19th-century critics as forerunners of modernism. The focus is on the critical writings, especially on how they construct a sense of distance between the artist and mass culture.

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  • Pratt, Linda Ray. “Matthew Arnold and the Modernist Image.” In Matthew Arnold in his Time and Ours: Centenary Essays. Edited by Clinton Machann and Forrest D. Burt, 81–97. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988.

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    A revisionist essay that argues for the influence of Arnold’s poetry—and his concept of poetry—on modernism. The essay examines the idea of modernist poetics rather than focusing on any one modernist poet in detail.

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  • Stone, Donald. Communications with the Future: Matthew Arnold in Dialogue. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

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    Examines Arnold’s dialogical temper by placing him in dialogue with a range of other thinkers who either influenced him or absorbed his influence. It includes material on William James, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Richard Rorty, among others.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/02/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199799558-0004

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