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Arthur Hugh Clough

Samantha Matthews

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0016
Arthur Hugh Clough

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The English poet Arthur Hugh Clough (b. 1819–d. 1861) is a representative figure of the mid-Victorian religious crisis and an innovative Victorian poet. He was a talented protégé of Rugby school’s charismatic headmaster Thomas Arnold. At Balliol College, Oxford, Clough witnessed the period’s religious controversies, defined by the theological establishment’s contests with Tractarianism (John Henry Newman’s High Church “Oxford movement”) and with the influence of the “Higher Criticism” of the Bible led by German textual scholars. Unable to subscribe to the Church of England’s Thirty-nine Articles, in 1848 Clough resigned as a tutor and fellow of Oriel College. In 1851 he resigned from a brief tenure as professor of English at University College, London, and made unsuccessful attempts to find academic employment in Australia and America. In 1854 his appointment as an examiner in the Education Office enabled him to marry. Clough turned from poetry to a life of service, working for his wife’s cousin Florence Nightingale, but failing health led to his early death at age 42, in Florence. He is the subject of his friend Matthew Arnold’s elegy, “Thyrsis.” Leaving Oxford gave Clough the freedom to experiment with less orthodox poetic subjects and forms, and with radical political and moral ideas. In an extraordinary burst of productivity from 1848 to 1852, he wrote the three long works on which his poetic reputation now largely rests. The Bothie of Toper-na-Fuosich (1848) is a witty and reflexive modern pastoral set in the Scottish Highlands. He wrote his masterpiece, the epistolary verse-novel Amours de Voyage (1858), after witnessing the fall of Mazzini’s short-lived Roman republic in 1849. In 1850 he began Dipsychus, a Faustian dramatic dialogue that he never completed. Notable shorter poems include “Natura Naturans,” a meditation on erotic affinity that begins with an exchange of glances in a railway carriage; “The Latest Decalogue,” a satirical summary of modern unbelief; and “The Struggle,” one of the most celebrated instances of the Victorian fascination with the battle as a metaphor for life. Besides Matthew Arnold, Clough’s influential friendships included Thomas Carlyle, R. W. Emerson, and Charles Eliot Norton. His literary reputation, secured by the Bothie and consolidated by the posthumous publication of his literary remains, declined sharply in the early 20th century, and he was left in Arnold’s shadow. New editions and critical studies have complicated and enriched our picture of him, and confirm his distinctive presence in the poetic and intellectual culture of his time.

Article.  7679 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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