When Arthur Hugh Clough was three years old, his family moved from Liverpool to Charleston, South Carolina. During the six years he spent in the United States, he lived under the constant influence of his mother’s evangelical piety. In spite of a subsequent religious disillusionment, the concerns and temperament of the evangelical disposition marked Clough’s poetry for the rest of his life.
In 1828, Clough was sent back to England for his education. The following year, he entered Rugby and so fell under another of the dominant influences on his life and work—namely, the family of the headmaster, Thomas Arnold. Arnold and his two sons Tom and Matthew Arnold (who became a poet) fostered in Clough the ideals of a commitment to reason, rigorous self-discipline in pursuit of high goals, and a deep moral sobriety in contemplating public affairs. At Rugby, Clough was editor of the Rugby Magazine and head of the School House.
Clough won a prestigious scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, which he entered in 1827. In 1841, he earned a second-class degree, to the considerable surprise of friends who had expected more, and he was denied a fellowship in his own college after his graduation. Nevertheless, he was elected to a fellowship in Oriel College and so remained at Oxford, where he became one of the most popular tutors.
Throughout Clough’s years at Oxford, he had watched the progress of the Oxford Movement. The polemical context of religious discussions on the Oxford campus at the time may have contributed to a growing skepticism,...
(The entire section is 645 words.)