smith

Document Sample
smith Powered By Docstoc
					MODERN LETTERS




Matthew Arnold: “The Dandy Isaiah”

                                  B A S I L A. S M I T H




Arnold, in some ways the most interesting of the Victorians, held by ancient
loyalties despite his liberal associations.


 IT WAS A Tuesday evening in May, 1848,           “The clouds of sickness cast no stniir
and the young man in the library of Lans-            upon
downe House took note that it was a quart-        Her valleys and blue hills:
er past six. Lord Lansdowne had not yet           The Doubt, that assails all things,
returned from his Parliamentary duties RS            never won
Lord President of the Council, but he hscl        This faithful impulse of unfailhful wills.
told his private secretary not to wait for        “It gets more and more gray and indis-
him. So another fifteen minutes and the        tinct, and the musical clock behind me is
dour-faced young dandy would be off. At        quickening its pace in preparation for its
twenty-five, with the equipment of Rugby       half-hour peal; I shut this up and go’.”
and Oxford behind him, life had much to           What are we to think of such a vignette
offer, and he had already learnt to savoiir    of the setting in which Matthew Arnold
it without wasting time. He had poetry         found himself during that revolutionary
in him, and spring was once more visiting      year? Lansdowne House obviously had an
the earth: happy the man who could ob-         atmosphere which appealed to him; for he
serve it from the well-bred quiet of a great   described it, with its great windows look-
house. In such a mood, resting a book on       ing out on to the lawn and these same
his knee, he took a sheet of paper and cap-    crocuses, in another letter addressed to his
tured the moment by penning a letter t o       brother Tom in February. The musical
his sister Jane. “It is beginning to grow      clock ticking away behind him is particu-
dusk,” he wrote, “but it has been a sweet      larly mentioned in both letters. Perhaps
day, with s i n and a p!“yiz“ ::.ind ns:! 2
                             6                 the p ! s e cf cl?rrent !ife is mnst felt it? B
softly broken sky. The crocuses, which have    dreamy building of an earlier age. It was
long starred the lawn in front of the win-     here, in this “backstanding, lordly man-
dows, growing like daisies out of the turf,    sion,” that the sounds of London reached
have nearly vanished, but the lilacs that      him-deferentially almost-bringing from
border the court are thrusting their leaves    the square and the neighbouring streets hot
out to make amends.                            rumours of the menacing political world.


184                                                                                 Full 1957
The voice of a newsboy reminded him that        Headmaster who was his father, and that
the ’48 revolution was seething in France.      this would always be likely to save him
He passed the porter, pacing civilly to and     from the pitfalls of literary ambition and
fro in the hall, as he went out to buy a        early success. The way he emerges in the
paper and see for himself the latest report     Letters as a devoted husband and father
fromParis . . .                                 is quite delightful. One year, in the midst
    The sister who received the letter-a fine   of his school inspecting, they are all at
character, herself an accomplished scholar      Ramsgate “with pails and spades at work
and a little older than Matt-had her sus-       on the sand, picking shells, gathering
picions that the dear boy might not alto-       daisies . . . in the fields at the top of the
gether be benefiting from the society of        cliff, riding on donkeys, or going in a
the great. For the daughters of Dr. Arnold      boat in the harbour and just outside4.”
continued (as Mrs. Humphry Ward has             Another time it is August, and he is having
told us) to move within that severer orbit      his photograph taken with the family at
 of the Westmorland household at Fox How        Llandudno (where “they charge extra for
 -with “its strong religious atmosphere,        children of that age”)5. Again, on a visit to
its daily psalms and lessons”-where their       Oxford, before dressing to dine at the high
 widowed mother presided over the family        table at Balliol, we find him amusing his
 destinies of the four of them, as well as      boys on the river, pulling little Tom along
 her five sons, in a sweet vein of old-fash-    in a boat while Dicky paddled himself in
ioned tact and tenderness which never lost       a canoe6.
 its toucha. Matthew, so far, had remained         Life saw him, when he was an established
loyal to the Christian claims of that home      author, much lionized in circles which he
tradition. But was there not in him, as in      first entered in a junior capacity in con-
 none of the others, a worldly streak that      nexion with Lord Lansdowne at BOWOOL~:
 might respond unpredictably to the hazards     and later became familiar with under the
 and complications of a more polished           more personal patronage of the Roth-
sphere? This very letter has, in truth, an      schilds. From Aston Clinton he moved
 enigmatic ring about it. Along with its        about as the honoured guest of Lord Lyt-
spontaneous delight in spring flowers and       ton at Knebworth, Lady Meyer at Hamp-
 skies does there not go a certain suggestion   den, Lord Derby at Knowsley, and so forth.
of pose, as though our promising young          But though it flattered him to be held in
secretary were desirous to impress? And         sophisticated conversation by Disraeli, or
what particularly does he mean by bringing      entertained by the Lovelaces and Aher-
in those lines about “the Doubt that assails    dares, there can be little doubt that he
all things?”                                    meant it when he called country-house
    In the light of that volume of verses       visiting the parent of idleness. Whatever
with which in the following year he first       his vanity-and no-one more loved to win
 came before the world seriously as a poet,     literary praise-this  son of the great Dr.
 the conscience of the family might well        Arnold never allowed social considerations
 smite them, as it then did, for entertaining   to come between him and his life’s work.
 such ungenerous forebodings3. Nor need         Thus, on one particular occasion, after a
posterity ever question the fundamental         splendid dinner with dancing, he stayed
 goodness of Matthew Arnold’s heart. We         conversing with Lady de Rothschild; but
may safely say-with the evidence of Rug-        he breakfasted next morning in his own
 by Chapel, and much more in the letters, to    room, was off in her Viennese carriage to
go upon-that there was about him from           the station at a quarter past eight, and
the start a large fund of moral seriousness,    arrived for work in a school at Covent
bound up with reverent admiration for the       Garden by ten. “These occasional appear-


Modern Age                                                                               185
ances in the world I like-no,       I do not        and at school, as is well-known, Providence
like them, but they do one good, and one            had placed him all the time under the
learns something from them; but, as a              benevolent but overpowering lordship 01
general rule, I agree with all the men of          an admirable father. A first taste of gaiety
soul from Pythagoras to Byron in thinking          awaited him, however, at Oxford. In the
that this type of society is the most drying,      liberating company of a band of youthful
wasting, depressing and fatal thing pos-           “exquisites,” whose modes of dress and
sible.”T                                           discussion might have pained Dr. Arnold
     None can question that, morally, Mat-         somewhat, Matthcw breathed -as only a
 thew Arnold always kept his head. But is          poet can breathe-the revolutionary tang
 it not conceivable that he retained in fact       that was in the air. From France came the
  a certain element of the poseur, innocent        challenge of Lamennais and George Sand,
 enough to begin with, which landed him            with the German figure of Goethe Iooming
 psychologically in a loss of integrity differ-    historically behind as the recognized moun-
 ent in kind from that which his sisters had       tain peak from which advanced thought in
 feared? He had a strange flair for pursuing       Europe had somehow to get its bearings.
  a number of unexpected if not incompatible       I n England, here at hand, was Newman
 lines at once. As we have just seen, it           serving to provide a romantic stimulus even
 pleased him to combine the prosaic routine        €or those who did not succumb to his
 of his job with a gratifying suggestion OC       Tractarian appeal. The bitter-sweet experi-
 sparkle from the beau monde. Certainly           ence of religious doubt was something
 he kept his ear all the while, literally and      Matthew Arnold fed upon in company
 metaphorically, upon the quick pace of the        with his fellow-poet. Clough, who resigned
 musical clock behind him. But the fact           an Oriel fellowship a little later because
 remains that, while never deviating from          of it. Such minds were not satisfied with
 the path of duty, he liked to feel socially       what the ecclesiastics in England had I O
 mobile. Nor was this a passing trait of his       say about religion or with what English
 early period. Even when he had achieved           thought generally had then to shew. in
 a secure place as the most decorous of            May, 1848, Clough was in Paris to see the
 Victorian prophets, he liked to display a        pocket revolution at first hand, and Ar-
 dash of the improbable in the cut of his         nold’s poem T o a Republican Friend ap-
 dress and style of hair. Meredith dubbed         peared the same year. But it is significant
him shrewdly, the “Dandy Isaiah.” No              that Dr. Arnold’s son. for all his Liberal
 doubt there is a thrill in being able to         sympathies, never toyed-as Clough of the
 drive a six-in-hand through life and always      Dipsychus had the instinct to toy-with
run to schedule. But there are graver risks       outright paganism. He could consort with
when, to the desire of feeling socially ver-      the academic vanguard of emancipated
satile, there is added the taste for being        ideals and wear voguish clothes, but not
morally the dutiful son and intellectually        lor an instant must his moral outlook give
the man about town. Matthew Arnold arriv-         way to the least mood of unguarded fun.
ed at maturity with spectacular achieve-          He was soon to be teaching classics to the
ments to shew in several quite exacting           fifth form back at his father’s old school.
fields, It is a nice question whether he did      And if that did not last long, neither did his
not, with aii his greatness, suirer from iiie     three s r four yems i.n. Lrrndon-tantalizing
effects of mental flirtatiousness and so come     as the prospects may have appeared-lift
to be more misunderstood than he need             him for more than an interval out of the
have been.                                        didactic path.
    Does his biography, considered in rapid          Indeed, from a literary point of view,
outline, bear out this suggestion? At home        the die seemed to be cast ralher awkwardly


180                                                                                   Fnll 1957
 for Matthew Arnold. In 1851: when Pal-            the controversy, he seems to have been
merston fell, his secretaryship came to an         stung into taking the line he did. Obtuse-
end and Lord Lansdowne appointed him              ness of the national outlook, by rousing
to a n inspectorship of schools. Anything          him to militant effort on behalf of a cause
less bohemian, or less conducive to poetry,       which he felt strongly at heart, has had the
can scarcely be imagined. Yet, was the             result of letting posterity see the prowess
move essentially out of character with the         of his pen in a new medium. In 1865, two
man? In accepting a post which entailed            years before his poetic powers were still
thirty years’ exacting toil, often of a routine    able to produce Thyrsis, he sounded the
and desiccating kind, he shouldered a duty        note of a new and peculiar sort of prophecy
imposed upon him by the Arnold tradition.          in his essay, “The Function of Criticism at
The educational mission of the father was          the Present Time.” So the gage was thrown
continued, by conviction, in the life-work         down. Having entered the arena of general
 of his son. Could not the Liberal, no less        controversy, he was soon drawn into a full-
than the Christian, take satisfaction in the       scale battle with “Philistinism”: to meet
fact that, whereas Thomas Arnold’s voca-          the volleys of retort which were directed
tion was with scions of the governing class,       upon him he shewed the calibre of his guns
Matthew laboured to bring an emancipat-            in CuzLure and Anarchy and enunciated
ing purpose to bear upon the masses whose         therein the famous doctrine of “sweetness
fate was to attend elementary schools? But        and light.” Matters were henceforth set
the friend of Clough had in him a spirit          for a course of expository development
which was to make much more of the work            which gradually unfolded as a pattern of
than a sort of altruistic exercise in slum-       personal declaration. It began as a protest
ming. It is evidence of genius allied with         of temperament. The harshness and smug-
character that the burdens of officialdom          ness of British Nonconformity, which Ar-
never depressed Matthew Arnold from his           nold met on school committees everywhere
high standard as a man of letters. His            he travelled: was something abhorrent to
direct aspiration, however-once he knew            a cultivated Anglican of the Oxford tracli-
the facts-was to be not an ofIicial cyphcr         tion. The much-quoted passage, which
but the architect of a new national system         describes that venerable city as “spreading
of education. There was an indirect literary      her gardens in the moonlight, and whisper-
result because his determination involved         ing from her towers the last enchantments
him in what can only be regarded as a              of the Middle Age8,” is patently a tribute
hold and brilliant subversive campaign of          to the sort of spiritual allegiance which
writing. While working as the subordinate         Newman-speaking as a clergyman in H
of Robert Lowe, he made it his business by         still clerically-minded university--was able
means of lectures and articles to overthrow       to evoke in minds which had already cle-
that Minister’s policy of providing the           clared for rationalism. Dissenters had not
nation’s schools with a cheap scheme of           always realized the sacredness of some of
instruction in lieu of any genuine attempt        those things which may be too lightly dis-
at education.                                     missed as “lost causes.” As the argument
   The legislative result which was ulti-         developed, however, Arnold‘s strictures
mately achieved is rightly acclaimed as the       were seen to be aimed not only at chapel
victory of vision and morality over the           stewards but also against the educated
forces o i political cynicism. But, apart         Englishman who felt himself capable of
from this practical outcome, the expression       giving a not unworthy account of his na-
of Matthew Arnold’s mind in the course of         tion’s greatness. What, he seemed to say in
the struggle is worth noticing. Despite that      Essays in Criticism, what was British litera-
urbanity of style which he maintained i n         ture compared with the world of letters?


Modern Age                                                                                 187
Instead of being so smug and provincial,         piety. That he was essentially filial is well-
take a look at some of these foreigners you      known. But, besides being sustained in his
have scarcely heard of-Maurice            and    educational mission by the impressions he
EugCnie de Guirin, Heine and Joubert. In         received from his father at Laleham and
fact, why not forget the Christian achieve-      Rugby, he carried with him an almost re-
ment for a while and see what the orientals      ligious devotion to the continuing influ-
and the old pagans can teach? This was not       ence of home, principally syinbolized at
merely a sort of literary eclecticism. Behind    Fox How. His life was strung, more than
the idea was a view of life: everything must     ordinarily, upon the thread of family cor-
be judged by the standards of those culti-       respondence. Friends had a place in that
vated persons who are qualified to assess        chain of personal reports, but it was a
‘?he best that is known and thought in           minor place compared with mother and
the world.” Here was something calculated        wife and sisters and children. The aura of
to clash not only with crude patriotism but      devotion spreads beyond kith and kin to
also with the claims which theology had          domestic servants and pets in a way which
always made to stand supreme in the rBle         renders Matthew Arnold specially attrac-
of passing judgment. So the prophet of           tive to the modern reader. When he was
culture, having begun to preach a sort of        abroad, there came before him an image o€
literary cosmopolitanism, found himself in       the gamekeeper up in Rydal Head or by
the end enunciating principles which cut         the Rotha-“dear old Banks . . . with his
violently across the accepted religious          brown velveteen coat and fishing-rod and
beliefs of his countrymen in general. The        fine sagacious faceg.” He shewed a fascin-
appearance of Literature and Dogma in            ated affection for his dog Max and for
1873 marked the stage when most educated         Toss, the Persian cat that used to look for
members of the Church ol England, no less        him in bedlo. The whole of a most touch-
than his original victims, had come to re-       ing letter to his wife is concerned with the
sen1 the sterilized suavity of a critic so ex-   tender burial of an aged pony, Lola, for
clusively and devastatingly moral. What          whom he-away in Munich at the time--
shall we say then? Was it that Arnold, true      was forced to tears”. Through all vicissi-
to the principles he had imbibed from Con-       tudes, however, the one letter which he
tinental rationalism, stood finally revealed     never omitted any week in his life was that
as merely the latest Victorian exponent of       to his mother, till her death in 1873. Never
the anti-Christian movement? Another Vol-        was such a bond of family; but it is Mrs.
taire?                                           Arnold, spending her long widowhood in
    To think so would be to do him an in-        the old home in Westmorland, who is the
justice and to overlook some significant         sacred symbol and centre of it.
facts revealed in his letters. In the absence       The Virgilian cast of heart, to which we
of an adequate biography, this correspond-       have referred, is specially seen in Matthew
dence deserves, indeed, more careful analy-      Arnold’s intense love of the English land-
sis than it has yet received. There are two      scape. Evidence of this is by no means con-
matters at least in which Matthew Arnold         fined to what The Scholar-Gipsy has fixed
has been misunderstood; and in one of            for us in poetic form. In May, 1861, a char-
them, as it seems, he misunderstood him-         acteristic letter discovers him in Berkshire,
self. He is thought to have been a typicai       taking a iiaiii ai h d f - p ~ seYe2 i 1 ~ E P
                                                                                 ~t    1
Liberal, and he went amongst men as a            morning to enjoy a walk through the White
“good European.” But there was some-             Horse Vale, with the line of the downs
thing in the roots of his being which makes      duly noted and the villages clustered with
a travesty of both those positions. And          elms. “Presently I am going to my old
 that something was a kind of Virgilian          haunts in the Cumner hills,” he writes from


188                                                                                  Fall 1957
Oxford, “and shall come back with plenty          on circuit’g. So for twelve years-till   Sir
of orchises and blue-bells. I left Wantage        William Wightman died suddenly in :he
at half-past twelve, and am back here by         midst of his judicial duties at York-Ar- .
two, having had a biscuit and some mulled        nold found hospitality in the customary
claret at DidcotlZ.” His botanical passion       style which county towns provided, and still
for flowers and trees had no national             provide, so colourfully for Her Majesty’s
bounds, as can be seen in the rapturous ac-      justices of assize. Thus he came to be
counts of what they shewed him during his         perched in the court at Maidstone, writing
second American tour’3. But running              home to tell of the lovely surounding
strennis were an English feature so dear          country and the Medway in floodz0. Again
to him that-apart from Scotland and its           it is Hertford, and they are lodged in the
wild mountain rivers-no      other country        Castle; but, despite the activity of inspect-
could ever provide scenery to satisfy him        ing schools in the district and rushing
for long. He could exult in the country           back to see the Grand Jury sworn, there is
views of Italy with cypresses on every             (as always) time to put pen to paper and
height and its pell-mell of olive, vine, f i g    report about violets in the lanes. “Tomor-
and mulberry on a journey to Florence;            row I shall return to London, whether the
but the dry water-courses of the Apennincs        Judge has finished here or not, but in the
were a positive pain to him in the end, and       morning before I start I shall try hard to
he longed for the rivers and brooks of bis       get into the copses towards Panshanger
own land14.                                       along the side of the river MimramP1.” A
    If he had desired any compensation for        December visit to Durham for the winter
 becoming an inspector of schools, it was         assizes there gave him great satisfaction,
 suitably bestowed in the opportunities          for he found the little city, looking from
 which the work gave him of coming across        the Castle down its steep hill, “very grand
 places and various sorts of people he might     and Edinburghesque.” After crossing the
 not have seen. He would travel mostly by        Wear by Prebends Bridge and climbing
 train, but sometimes he had to walk the         through the wooded banks, he got a glimpse
 final part of a journey or get a lift by        of the Cathedral, such that “even Oxford
 ~agonette’~.Once, on the borders of             has no view to compare with it.” His only
 Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex, he           disappointment was that the Dean, cele-
writes-“could get nothing but a taxed cart       brated for princely hospitality but having
 and pony and a half-drunk cripple to drive      been kept waiting by two judges on a
-six miles by cross-country roads to Box-        previous occasion, did not invite them to
 ford16.” Another time he spent an October       dinnerz2 But the favourite region for Mat-
day in Shropshire with only a bun for            thew Arnold was East Anglia, and he rated
luncheon after a cold wet ride on the top of     Norwich-where he attended the Cathedral
a horse omnibus’7. At Evesham he sat in the      three times in three days to enjoy the music
class-room of a girls’ school and, while the     of the service-the finest of those old cities
pupils and teacher were at work, wrote to        which retain the air of a provincial capital
his mother: “I wish you could look out of        . . .23. Such topographical accounts may not
the window with me and see our dear old          equal Cobbett’s Rural Rides for vigour of
friend, the Avon, here a large river, and        comment, but they remind us very convinc-
the CotswoIds bounding the plain, and the        ingly that here, besides a school inspector
plain itself one garden18 . . .” Arnold’s        and a critic, we have a man who really
scope for such observations was increased        knew and loved England.
i n another way. By marrying the daughter          Whence then came the reputation that
of a judge he was enabled to act as mar-         he was a despiser of his own country and
shal to his father-in-law and ride with him      countrymen? It derived, without doubt:


Modern Age                                                                               189
from his anxiety to be always lecturing            those two beacons of the wider culture had
them. He became, in the course of his              led him to?
cultural campaigning, eaten up with that               Never, probably, did he feel so sure of
jealousy for his pupils’ success which is a        this as in the spring of 1865, when he was
mark of the schoolmaster. In this case, of         commissioned by the government to make
course, it was his nation which constituted        an eight months’ tour of the Continent in
the pupils. He feared lest those upon whom         order to study the educational systems of
SO much had been bestowed should fall be-          other States. The prospect for him was
hind other rialions. “I have a conviction,”        certainly congenial, for there still lurked
he wrote in 1665, “that there is a real, an        the dandy within the educationist. He left
almost imminent danger of England losing           the shores of England conscious of being
immeasurably in all ways. declining into           very much a citizen of the world. To trace
a sort of greater Holland, for want of what        his reactions from country to country is:
I still call ideas. . . . This conviction haunts   however, most revealing. The letters start,
me, and at times even overwhelms me with           of course, from France, where he notes
depression; I would rather not live to see         after pacing the Tuileries that, as Europe
the change come to pass, for we shall a11          gets richer and richer, so Paris will be seen
deteriorate under it. While there is time          more and more as the capital of EuropezG.
I will do all I can, and in every way, to          But soon the itch to measure and compare
prevent its coming to passx.’’ It was a            all men in the Arnoldine scale is at work,
noble concern; but it is not surprising that,      and the much-bruited deficiencies of the
as the chief purveyor of home truths to            British character begin to fade, ever so
Englishmen, he drew upon himself Herbert           slightly, as the critic sees Frenchmen at
Spencer’s charge of having an “anti-               close quarters. “Heaven forbid that the
patriotic bias.” He was, in fact. in some-         English nation should become like this
what the same ironical position as thc             nation; hut Heaven forbid also that it
leaders of the Oxford Movement had been            should remain as it is. If it does, it will
when their very zeal for the Church which          be beaten by America on its own line, and
they loved caused them to be regarded as           by the Continental nations on the Euro-
its enemies. The censorious spirit so evident      pean line2‘.” France, he comes to fear, is
in Matthew Arnold was due to his patriot-          as much without the grand air as England ;
ism. It was for that reason that he assumed        but he looks for better things in Italy and
the office-as Richard Garnett put it-of            Germany . . . Once over the Alps, he is
“detector-general of the intellectual failings     enraptured-as      who is not?-by        all the
of his own nation.”                                sights and associations of glory. But then
    The Tractarians, who were so self-con-         it comes once more to be an assessing of
sciously English, actually represented a           peoples. The Italians are distinguished
religious force which was anything but             amongst all Europeans by their scientific
nationalistic in essence. It was the reverse       intellect on 24 May, but on 21 June he
with the author of Cullure and Anarchy.            had come round regretfully to “papa’s
We find him, indeed, reading Coleridge’s           feeling about the Italians, and I cannot but
Life of Keble and thanking God for “papa’s          think this a fair-weather kingdomza.” Send
immense superiority to all the set” in the          in 80,000 French, English or Germans, and
Oxford Movement because he was above               they would overrun the land in three
their narrow concern for a domestic                months without opposition! Refinement, it
 issuez5.And if Dr. Arnold was a man of             appears, is not everything. “My opinion of
European outlook, how much more so must            the Italians,” concludes our European
his enlightened son have been, nurtured            traveller the following day, “from all I
upon George Sand and Goethe and all that            have seen of them, is very u n f a v o ~ r a b l e ~ ~ . ”


190                                                                                          Fa11 1957
Next come Lake Como and the magnificent                been a pre-occupying motive in Matthew
Alpine valleys; but the Swiss, alas, are the           Arnold’s life, and one which it never oc-
“most bourgeois of nations30.” (His poor               curred to him to question.
opinion of Holland had been registered on                  Now if his cosmopolitanism was more
a previous tour, and as for the Belgians,              apparent than fundamental and if, as we
they were “on the whole, the most con-                 have suggested, it disguised a special form
temptible people in                Need we              of patriotic anxiety, there is equal reason to
ask about Germany? Visiting there is a                 question another aspect of him which would
waste of time, “partly because the Germans.            be puzzling if we accepted it at its face
with their hideousness and commonness,                 value. To be precise, the Liberalism with
are no relief to one’s spirit but rathrr                which Arnold is associated needs some
depress        So the apostle of culture, be-          scrutiny. Politically, we know. his affection
ginning his grand tour with high hopes of              for the party of that name was not great.
the European mind, shrinks progressively               “Neither Liberal nor Conservative Govern-
down to the everyday stature of an incura-             ments:” he wrote in 1866, “will do for the
ble Anglo-Saxon. “All I see abroad makes               imtion what it most wants; but perhaps a
me fonder of England, and yet more and                 Liberal Government flatters and foments
more convinced of the general           . . .”         most of its worst faults3’”; and eight years
cttc.                                                  later he reminded Lady de Rothschild that
    The fact is that Matthew Arnold over               Tiberalism did not seem to him “quite the
 the course of his busy life travelled a good          beautiful and admirable thing” which the
 deal on the Continent and was far better              party in general supposed it36. In the wider
 qualified than most to absorb the signifi-            sense, too, he could not help detesting that
 cance of much that he saw. His official               “middle-class Liberalism”-part        political.
 journeys in 1859 and 1865. when he was                part commercial, part sectarian, but in
compiling data about schools, bore fruit              every aspect quantitative and vulgar-
 in reports which must always do him credit           which had been the basic enemy when
 in the cause which he served so well. But             Newman came to bring light into the
the incidental reactions, which we have                world. In the same breath that he declares
 noted, go to endorse a suspicion that lie             this, however, he mentions that “other and
 approached his cultural mission in general            more intelligent forces” were opposed to
with the sort of outIook we should except             that famous revival of religious devotion
in a young military attachi. Leaving aside.            and doctrine3’. Whatever his sentiment for
in his case, brute survival as a motive, it           the tone of the Oxford Movement: Arnold
always seemed to be implied that there was            had certainly ranged himseH with those
a competition in progress with a sort of              intellectual forces which \ \ ent about to
international prize-giving arranged to take           supersede it. If he himself is called a Liber-
])lace at the end of time. A single but re-           al. therefore, he deserves the label not for
vealing remark must suffice to illustrate             political reasons but because it was in theol-
\\hat we mean. He would be sorry, he says             ogy rather than anything else that he took
i n a letter to old Mrs. Arnold, to be any-           up a position which Newman-and many
thing but an Englishman; “but I know that             who did not go with Newman to Rome-
this native instinct which other nations,             would have abhorred.
too, have does not prove one’s superiority,               Yet his alignment with Stanley against
but that one has to achieve this by undeni-           dogmatic Christianity raises another prob-
able excellent p e r f ~ r m a n c e ~ ~ . ” infer-
                                       The            lem. Since he was not by nature impious.
ence here that some nation is going to                what was his motive in striving so earnestly
dominate-and      that if he can have his             to dilute the Faith almost to the point of
way it shall be England-seems               to have   abolishing it altogether? Not philosophical


AIodern Age                                                                                       191
Liberalism, but simply this: he wanted to          father and son. Thomas Arnold was a reli-
save Christian morality and with it, as a          gious man who thought it necessary to
natural inheritance, those cultural institu-       loosen up the parts in order to retain the
tions of Christianity which had become             whole. Matthew Arnold felt that there was
part of civilized life. In his view it would       much more to jettison than his father’s
still be a public advantage to have “a             generation had been prepared to forgo*”.
Church which is historical as the State            For he was no longer religious in thc
itself is historical, and whose order, cere-       orthodox sense but a man in whose sensi-
monies, and monuments reach, like those            tive heart the natural pieties had LO suppiy
of the State, far beyond any fancies and           the place of religion. On the basis of accept-
devisings of ours%.” His position was              ing and championing-and in his own life
avowedly that of the outwardly Anglican            seeking honourably to fulfil-the        moral
man, in favour of continuing the Establish-        teachings of Jesus, he paid the homage
ment, but for whom rationalism had de-             which his filial nature owed to the home
stroyed any belief in the supernatural.            and the Church which had given him the
Creeds and formularies were henceforth, lie        clearest things on earth. The obligations of
would say, an anachronism which-with               a religious upbringing, which are so touch-
the spread of educalion-could only serve           ingly evident in Carlyle’s letters to his
to alienate people from that core of moral         Presbyterian mother in Scotland, operated
teaching which was the abiding element in          upon this son of an English parsonage in
the Gospel, and which would remain a               a much more subtle way. The reader will
natural and vital need for the human race3y.       look in vain for any trace of interior strug-
Putting it another way, because the essen-          gle in the letters which he wrote to his
tials were social and humane, not meta-            family. The bonds of affection were main-
physical, the practical thing was to pre-          tained, and every bit of progress towards
serve men’s respect for Christian principles       the attainment of his practical ideals was
of conduct, and also keep them embraced,           duly reported. But no questions were
for the community’s sake, within the na-           asked-on      either side, it seems-about
tional Church. For there lay, embodied in          religious sanctions and motives. At some
the Anglican settlement, rich and tolerant         unrecorded moment, faith had apparently
traditions too precious to be dissipated in        been exchanged for a sunny form of ration-
the course of a merely theological crisis.          alism without a pang41. Skepticism left,
Understood in these terms, Matthew Ar-             perhaps, no sense of emptiness in a life
nold’s mission-in the field of ideas as in         where the traditions of domestic love and
the field of administrative education-was           the interests of the high hrnoldine vocation
to refine in order to preserve. It was the          were so warm and active.
grand purpose of his father more fully                 Religion had gone; but obligation re-
deployed. For the Liberalism of the Ar-             mained. It is significant that Matthew Ar-
 nolds can be taken to be always a means            nold tolerated but never quite approved of
to an end; and for that reason it may he            Harriet Martineau. In him the rejection of
 doubted whether they were true Liberals at         orthodoxy was not allowed to upset the life
all. Theirs ultimately was not a doctrine of        of balanced decorum. The reasons which,
 individualism, looking towards the removal         as we have seen, gave conformity a respect-
 of all arbitrary restraints; rather it was the     able place within his prociaimed versioii of
 vision of a readjusted community, strongly         nineteenth-century Christianity, tallied with
 but sweetly held together by perpetuating          the personal factors which made him in
 in itself the essential features of a Christian    private life so amiable a conformist. As a
 civilization.                                      pro-Christian he went on studying the
    Yet there is a notable difference between       Bible with profound and scholarly atten-


192                                                                                    Fall 1357
tion. As a pro-Anglican he continued quite         16:     Letters 1 268.
                                                   17.    Letters I 43.
sincerely to go to church and be, in his           18.    Letters I 49.
own quiet way, a champion of the clergy.           19.     Letters 1 52, 154, 427.
May it not be that his very Liberalism was          20. Letters I 189.190.
                                                    21. Letters I 214-215.
always pro-Conservative in intention be-            22. Letters I 179.
cause-like the rest of his intellectual PO-         2.3. Letters I 163.
sition-it  was psychologically contained            24. Letters I 360.
                                                    25. Letters I1 5.
within the framework of certain old and             26. Letters I 296.
simple loyalties?                                   27. Letters I 305.
                                                    28. Letters I 313, 325.
    1. Letters of Matthew Arnold [ed. G. W. E.      29. Letters I 329.
Russell (1901) 2 vols.] I, 9.                       30. Letters I 335.
    2. Mrs. Humphrey Ward, A Writer’s Ke-           31. Letters I 108.
collections (1918) 37 ff.                           32. Letters 1 349.
    3. Ibid. 42.                                    33. Letters 1 3 4 0 .
    4. Letters I 220.                               34. Letters I 372.
    5. Letters I 275.                               35. Letters I 388.
    6. Letters I 424.                               36. Letters I1 131.
    7. Letters 1262.                                37. Culture and Anarchy [ed. J. Dover Wilson
   8. Preface to Essays in Criticism.            ( 1 9 5 0 ) l p . 62.
   9. Letters 1343.                                 38. Culture and Anarchy 15 ( c f . Letters I1
  10. Letters I1 31, 74, 376 etc.                151).
  11. Letters I1 371.                               39. Literature and Dogma (1886 edn.) Pref-
  12. Letters I 156.                             ace and Ch. XII.
  13. Letters I1 387, 389, 396-8.                   40. Letters I1 23-24, 147.
  14. Letzers I 323.                                41. For the nearest approach to a recorded
  15. Letters 1267.                              confession of his position, see Letters 11, 139.




Alien in the Rye
                     ALBERT       FOWLER



The modern American disciples of Rousseau in fiction adhere to the delusion
that man is naturally good and society naturally evil.
J. D. SALINGER’S PICTURE of man ,sick-           warping form imposed against the grain.
ened by society reflects the idea pro.           Many have been the voices raised in sup-
pounded by Rousseau and the disciples            port of this theme, and none more signi-
of naturalism of the individual born good        ficant for the present century than that of
and corrupted by his institutions. Both          Sigmund Freud who said: “My secret
in the novel T h e Catcher in the Rye and        conclusion was: since we can only regard
in the stories like For Esme-with     Love       the highest civilization of the present as
and Squalor he shows an adolescent               disfigured by a gigantic hypocrisy it fol-
trailing clouds of childhood and very            lows that we are organically unfit for it.”
much at odds with the world. The argu-              The cause of the alienation is placed at
ment that Salinger has inherited from a          the doors of schools, churches, business
long tradition of writers is that nature is      houses, government bureaus. They are
norm and ideal, civilization the alien and       charged with thwarting human aspira-


Modern Age                                                                                   193

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:4
posted:9/3/2012
language:English
pages:10