The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 10. Arthur Hugh Clough; His hexameters
Their common connection with Rugby and Oxford, and the imperishable commemoration of their Oxford friendship in Thyrsis, inseparably link with the name of Matthew Arnold that of Arthur Hugh Clough. Clough was Arnold’s senior by some four years, and their friendship was founded on a deep mutual respect for each other’s character and intellectual powers. “You and Clough,” Arnold writes to his sister Fanny in 1859, are, I believe, the two people I in my heart care most to please by what I write”; and, at the time of Clough’s death, he speaks to his mother of his loss as one “which I shall feel more and more as time goes on, for he is one of the few people who ever made a deep impression upon me.” The most elaborate tribute paid to him in Last Words on Translating Homer is well known: the “admirable Homeric qualities” of The Bothie are there duly noted; “but that in him of which I think oftenest is the Homeric simplicity of his literary life.” The impression which Clough made on Arnold was largely due to the fact that they were both in the same “movement of mind” in the England of their day. In any comparison, however, between Arnold and Clough, it should be remembered that, probably, the former has given us all the poetry that was in him, while Clough died young.
Arthur Hugh Clough was born in Liverpool on 1 January, 1819. In 1828, he was put to school at Chester, whence he shortly afterwards went to Rugby. At Rugby, Clough became Thomas Arnold’s ideal pupil, and he left the school, in 1837, with a great reputation and a Balliol scholarship. Like Matthew Arnold after him, he only took a second class in the Oxford schools, but so much was thought of him that he was soon made a fellow and tutor of Oriel. He resigned both fellowship and tutorship in 1848 because of his inability to subscribe any longer to the faith of the church of England. Few of the remarkable group of Oxford men who found themselves “contention-tost” in the welter of the tractarian agitation were so dominated by a single-minded endeavour after truth as Clough. Most of his poetry is the record of the spiritual and intellectual struggles into which he was plunged by the religious unrest of the time. In 1854, he married Blanche Smith, who was a first cousin of Florence Nightingale; and, in the work of the latter during and after the Crimean war, Clough took the liveliest interest. His health, never at any time very strong, began to give way in 1859. After long and weary wanderings on the continent, he died at Florence on 13 November, 1861.