Matthew Arnold


1822-1888; b. Laleham nr. Staines, England; ed. Winchester, then Rugby when his father was headmaster, and at Balliol Coll., Oxford; Fellow at Oriel, 1845; private sec. to Lord Lansdowne, 1847, later confessing to Benjamin Jowett [of Balliol] that he was appalled at the sang froid with which Lansdowne foresaw a million deaths before the famine would be over; wrote “The Scholar Gipsy”; publ. The Strayed Reveller (1849); schools inspector, 1851; m. 1851; wrote “Dover Beach” during honeymoon, giving classical expression to Victorian scepticism (‘Where ignorant armies clash by night’), prob. written 1851, poss. 1867;

wrote to Arthur Clough ‘I am past thirty and three parts iced over’, in mitigation of his cooling friendship, 1853; wrote Euripides on Etna and Other Poems (1855); elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford, 1857; wrote England and the Italian Question (1860); wrote On Translating Homer (1861); conceived an interest in the Celtic contribution to culture, having read Renan’s Essay on the Poetry of the Celtic Races during a holiday in Llandudno, 1864; also Henry Martin’s France before 1789; influenced by continental Celtic studies and the urgency of events in Ireland to write four lectures under the title “On the Study of Celtic Literature” (1865-66), appearing serially in Cornhill Magazine in 1866 and in book-form in 1867 - in which he speaks of Celtic languages as ‘a badge of the beaten race’;

Arnold spoke of the ‘shrunken and diminished remains of this great primitive race’, remarking on ‘their failure to reach any material civilisation sound and satisfying, and not out at the elbows, poor, slovenly, and half-barbarous’. As an epigraph for his lectures, he selected the sentence from MacPherson’s Ossian, ‘They always went to battle and they always fell.’

draws on works of Eugene O’Curry, Zeuss, and Renan’s ‘Essai sur la poèsie des races celtiques’ [1863] to argue that the Celts are part of Indo-European race in contradistinction from the Semitic peoples, and not therefore ‘unassimilable’ like those others; postulated the inevitably unification of the British Isles as an English-speaking people; defined the Celtic spirit in terms of ‘its chafing against the despotism of fact’ - borrowing Henri Martin’s phrase - while denying its capacity for self-government; issued New Poems (1867); wrote Culture and Anarchy (1869), his classic essay on the philistinism of bourgeois society, first issued serially in Cornhill Magazine, 1867-68; publ.
edited Burke’s Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs (1881), ‘to set them on thinking’ [pref., p.xxxx - quoting Burke to Mrs. Crewe]; his essays of 1878-81 incl. “Irish Catholicism and British Liberalism”, “The Incompatibles” - on Fenians, and “An Unregarded Irish Grievance”; issued Irish Essays and Others (1882); d. 14 April; Arnold’s definition of the Celtic spirit has latterly been treated as the chief signifier for a British hegemonic relation to Irish culture, chiefly due to W. B. Yeats’s development of the theme in “The Celtic Element in Literature”; now more often treated as signal instance of a wider European trend. ODNB FOC OCEL FDA OCIL

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  • C. B. Tinker and H. F. Lowery, Poetical Works (1950); Kenneth Allott, ed. & notes, Poems (1865).
  • The Study of Celtic Literature (London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1867), 181pp. [see reprint];
  • ed., Edmund Burke, Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs (London: Macmillan 1881);
  • The Letters of Matthew Arnold to Arthur Hugh Clough, ed. H. F. Lowery, (OUP 1932; 1968), 192pp. [the Intro. occupies 58pp.];
  • The Note-Books of Matthew Arnold, ed. H. F. Lowry et al. [1st edn.] (OUP 1952), 656pp.; R
  • R. H. Super, ed., The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, 11 vols. (Ann Arbor: Michigan UP 1960-76) [incl. Lectures and Essays in Criticism, Michigan UP 1962].
Articles & pamphlets (relating to Ireland)
  • ‘Irish Catholicism and British Liberalism’, in Fortnightly Review (July 1878) [rep. in Mixed Essays (1879)];
  • ‘The Incompatibles’, in Nineteenth Century, IX [2 pts.] (April & June 1881), pp.709-26, 1026-43; rep. in Irish Essays, and Others (1882)
  • ‘An Unregarded Irish Grievance’, [rep. in.] Irish Essays, and Others (1882) [on public education in Ireland.]
*Cited in James Carty, Bibliography of Irish History 1870-1911 (Dublin: Stationary Office 1936);.

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Cambridge Scholars Publishing Classic Texts - (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2008), 197pp.

Read Arnold at Read Books Online ...
“On the Study of Celtic Literature” (1867)
Culture and Anarchy (1869)
Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold (1913)*
Preface and Introduction
  I. Theories Of Literature And Criticism
  1. Poetry And The Classics
  2. The Function Of Criticism At The Present Time
  3. The Study Of Poetry
  4. Literature And Science
  II. Literary Criticism
  1. Heinrich Heine
  2. Marcus Aurelius
  3. The Contribution of the Celts to English Literature
  4. George Sand
  5. Wordsworth
  III. Social And Political Studies
  1. Sweetness And Light
  2. Hebraism And Hellenism
  3. Equality
  4. Notes
Available online - accessed 03.03.2011

[ *Selections from the Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, ed. by William Savage Johnson [Riverside Press Cambridge] (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1913) - digital copy at at Gutenberg Project online - accessed 20.03.2011. ]

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Full-length studies
  • Frederick E. Faverty, Matthew Arnold, The Ethnologist (Illinois: Northwestern UP 1951);
  • Leon Gottfried, Matthew Arnold and the Romantics (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1963);
  • Rachel Bromwich, Matthew Arnold and Celtic Literature: A Retrospect (Oxford: Clarendon 1965) [infra];
  • Park Honan, Matthew Arnold: A Life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1981);
  • Nicholas Sagovsky, Between Two Worlds: George Tyrrell’s Relationship to the Thought of Matthew Arnold (Cambridge UP 1983);
  • Stephen Collini, ed., Arnold Matthew, Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings (Cambridge UP 1993), 248pp.;
  • Nicholas Murray, A Life of Matthew Arnold (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1996), 400pp.
Essays (the Irish connection)
  • D. P. Moran, ‘The Battle of Two Civilizations’ [1900], in The Philosophy of Irish Ireland (Dublin: The Leader/James Duffy & Co.; 1905) [extract];
  • Thomas MacDonagh, Literature in Ireland: Studies Irish and Anglo-Irish (Dublin: Talbot 1916), Chapter IV [extract];
  • John V. Kelleher, ‘Matthew Arnold and the Celtic Revival’, in Perspectives in Criticism, ed. Harry Levin [Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature, 20] (Harvard UP 1950), pp.197-221 [var. pp.169-174];
  • Malcolm Brown, Politics of Irish Literature (London: Allen & Unwin 1972), p.320 [infra];
  • David Lloyd, ‘Arnold, Ferguson, Schiller: Aesthetic Culture and the Politics of Aesthetics’, in Cultural Critique, 2 (Winter 1985-86), pp.139-52, rep. in Nationalism and Minor Literature (California UP 1982), [as extract];
  • W. J. McCormack, in ‘Varieties of Celticism’, in From Burke to Beckett (Cambridge UP 1985), p.224-53 [citing Arnold’s ‘Study of Celtic Literature’ from Lectures and Essays in Criticism, 292ff.];
  • Seamus Deane, ‘Arnold, Burke and the Celts’, in Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature, 1880-1980 (London: Faber 1985), pp.17-27 [extract];
  • W. J. McCormack, Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History (Oxford: Clarendon 1985), p.225 [extract];
  • Owen Dudley Edwards, ‘Matthew Arnold’s Fight for Ireland’, in Robert Gibbings, ed., Matthew Arnold: Between Two Worlds (London: Vision 1986) [q.pp.];
  • Maurice Riordan, ‘Matthew Arnold and the Irish Revival’, in Wolfgang Zach & Heinz Kosok eds., Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, Vol. III: National Images and Stereotypes (Tübingen: Guntar Narr Verlag 1987), pp.145-52;
  • Conor Cruise O’Brien, ‘Introduction’ to reprint of Matthew Arnold’s 1881 edn. of Burke’s Letters and Speeches on Irish Affairs (London: Cresset Press 1988);
  • David Cairns & Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland (Manchester UP 1988), pp.44-48 [infra];
  • Robert Welch, ed. & intro., W. B. Yeats, Writings on Irish Folklore, Legend and Myth (London: Penguin 1993), pp.xxiii-iv [extract];
  • Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (London: Jonathan Cape 1995), p.31 [extract];
  • Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, ‘British Romans and Irish Carthaginians: Anticolonial Metaphor in Heaney, Friel and McGuinness, PMLA (March 1996), pp.222-36 [extract];
  • Marjorie Howes, Yeats’s Nations: Gender, Class, and Irishness (Cambridge UP 1996), p.19ff. [extract];
  • Chris Morash, ‘Celticism: Between Race and Culture’, [Pt. 2 of] ‘The Triple Play of Irish History’, Irish Review, 20 (Winter-Spring 1997), pp.29-36 [extract];
  • Chris Corr, ‘Matthew Arnold and the Younger Yeats: The Manoeuvrings of Cultural Aesthetics’, Irish University Review, 28, 1 (Spring/Summer 1998), pp.11-27;
  • Stephen Regan, ‘The Celtic Spirit in Literature: Renan, Arnold, Wilde and Yeats’, in Irish Encounters: Poetry, Politics and Prose, ed. Alan Marshall & Neil Sammells (Bath: Sulis Press 1998) [Chap. 4; q.pp.].
  • Peter McDonald, ‘The Function of Criticism at the Present Time: Arnold and Irish Culture’, in Irish Review, 23 (Winter 1998), pp.94-104 [extract];
  • Denis Donoghue, ‘Ireland, Race, Nation, State’ [Part 1], in Partisan Review, LXVI, 2 (1999), pp.223-34 [infra];
  • Mary Jean Corbett, Allegories of Union: in Irish and English Writing, 1790-1870: Politics, History and the Family from Edgeworth to Arnold (Cambridge UP 2000), x, 228pp. [espec. Chap. 5: ‘England’s opportunity, England’s character: Arnold, Mill and the Fate of the Union in the 1860s’].
  • James Walter Caufield, Overcoming Matthew Arnold: Ethics in Culture and Criticism (London: Routledge 2016), 242pp. [available at Google Books - online; accessed 07.05.2019].

See also L. P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, A Study of anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England (Bridgeport UP 1968), and see Seamus Deane, Declan Kiberd, and Luke Gibbons in Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol. 2 (Derry 1991), infra.

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[See separate file, infra.]

[See separate file, infra.]

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Mark Storey, Poetry and Ireland since 1800: A Source Book (London: Routledge 1988), pp.61-68, reprints extract from ‘On the Study of Celtic Literature’, which he characterises - in Seamus Deane’s phrase - as ‘Thomas Davis rewritten for the Murdstones’. Storey see Yeats’s ‘Celtic Element in Literature’ (1897) as a riposte to Arnold.

Seamus Deane , gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2: Deane remarks editorially, ‘helped by Standish O’Grady and ably seconded by Arnold and Renan on the Celtic spirit, a heroic vision of Ireland emerged, evoking the legendary past, the contemporary folk-culture, and the militant spirit’ [p.9]; Declan Kiberd remarks ‘Froude endorsed Arnold’s comment on the inability of the Celt to cope with the tyranny of fact’ [p.375]; Terence Brown comments on ‘[T]he idea of the Celt, popularised by Arnold’s derivative but influential essay of 1867, On the Study of Celtic Literature’ [p.516]; Synge, Arnold, and Ruskin compared [idem., p.518]; D. P. Moran writes, ‘We were all on the look-out for someone to think for us, for we had given up that habit with our language. Matthew Arnold happily came along just in the nick of time, and in a much quoted essay suggested, among other things, that one of the characteristics of Celtic poetry was “natural magic”. I confess I don’t exactly know what “natural magic” means ... Then yet another Irish make-believe was born, and it was christened “The Celtic Note,” Mr W. B. Yeats standing sponsor for it ... caus[ing] a little stir among minor literary circles in London ... &c., &c.’ (’The Battle of Two Civilizations’, in The Philosophy of Irish Ireland, 1905) [p.555]; Seamus Heaney, introducing Yeats, compares Arnold’s plaintively forsaken merman with Yeats’s “Collar-Bone of a Hare” [p.786]; Luke Gibbons remarks editorially, ‘It was not as if abstract though is beyond the reach of “the Irish mind”, for in Matthew Arnold’s The Study of Celtic Literature (1867), the locus classicus for the myth of the imaginative Celt, it was the tendency to get lost in abstraction [..., &c.] - “[T]he abstract, severe character of the Druidical religion”, which prevented a more practical, down-to-earth approach to worldly affairs ... The Celt revolted against ‘the despotism of fact’, but was only too willing to fasten on to an ideal’ [p.950; see also ftn. to selection from Eglinton explaining references to Renan, p.956n]; Thomas MacDonagh, in Literature in Ireland (1916), Chapter IV, writes, ‘... Matthew Arnold in his essay On the Study of Celtic Literature, largely a work of fiction, has written interestingly of the Celtic Note, using the name in a sense of his own. He has been rather apprehended than understood; and with later writers the meaning has become vaguer’ [p.989].

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Oscar Wilde (1): On reading Grant Allen’s essay ‘The Celt in English Art’ in the Fortnightly Review (1 Feb. 1891) - the same issue of which contained his own essay ‘Man Under Socialism’ - Wilde wrote to Allen praising his ‘superb assertion of that Celtic spirit in Art that Arnold divined, but did not demonstrate, at any rate in the sense of scientific demonstration, such as yours is.’ (Isobel Murray, ed., Wilde, Man Under Socialism and Prison Writings, OUP 1990; quoted in Richard Haslam, ‘Oscar Wilde and the Imagination of the Celt’, in Irish Studies Review, 11 [Oscar Wilde Special Issue], Summer 1995, pp.2-5. [See also seq.]

Oscar Wilde (2) - again on Allen’s essay ‘The Celt in English Art’ in the Fortnightly Review (1 Feb. 1891): John Wilson Foster writes: Wilde wrote ot Grant Allen in early 1891 praising his essay [...] for its “scientific demonstration” of the Celtic spirit of Art that Arnold had merely “divined” - further noting that Allen wrote several books on evolution. (Foster, ‘Against Nature? Science and Oscar Wilde’, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture, Dublin: IAP 2009, pp.44-45 [n.9.], citing Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis, NY: Harcourt, Brace 1962, pp.286-87.)

Oscar Wilde (2): Not that Basil Hallward’s phrase ‘the spirit that is Greek’ in The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1890) is actually a permutation on Arnold’s ‘the Greek spirit’ in ‘Hebraism and Hellenism’, in Culture and Anarchy (1869) [q.p.]. See John Wilson Foster, ‘Against Nature? Science and Oscar Wilde’, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture(Dublin: IAP 2009), p.31 [n.7, p.44.]

George Moore chooses to use Arnold’s title Literature and Dogma for certain episodes in the second book of Hail and Farewell. (See “Salve”, Heinemann, 1926 edn., pp.180, 195, 206, 207, &c.)

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Seán O’Faolain, in The Irish (West Drayton: Penguin 1947), quotes Arnold on the French revolution, ‘had their source in a great movement of feeling, not in a great movement of mind’, and remarks: ‘Not that Arnold’s ideas in the first of his Essays in Criticism have any political validity, and certainly no validity as between Ireland and England since (as he recognises freely [...]), you might as well try to change an Englishman’s [p.105] political views about his Empire by reasoning with him as hope to stop the charge of an elephant with an epigram’. Further, ‘[it is] still true of our Irish rebels that it was upon the emotional content of the Revolution that they seized and not on its intellectual content, with the result that the whole of Irish patriotic literature ever since has either concerned itself with matters of sentiment rather than thought; or with interim solutions [...]’ (pp.105-06.)

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