Arthur Hugh Clough Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Arthur Hugh Clough (kluhf), although primarily a poet, was also a distinguished essayist. Clough’s essays tend to cluster around two topics—literary criticism, and social, especially religious, issues. His prose works appeared primarily in newspapers and periodicals. They have been collected in The Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough (1869) and Selected Prose Works (1964).


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Most assessments of Arthur Hugh Clough’s achievements raise the question, “Why did he not achieve more?” This question originated with his contemporaries and reflects the social attitudes and professional expectations of Victorian times. A young man who was well begun, that is, one who graduated from Oxford or Cambridge and who enjoyed the respect of his colleagues, was expected to rise to eminence in his profession. Clough began with these high expectations. Subsequently, however, he surrendered a fellowship at Oxford, took an administrative post at the University of London, became an examiner in the Education Office, and, finally, an aide to the famous nurse Florence Nightingale. Contemporaries saw this path as a continual falling off. Furthermore, his real accomplishments in poetry occur in just a single decade of his life. Perhaps a more generous way of assessing Clough’s achievement is to concentrate on his creative work itself.

His writing reveals a ferocious intellectual honesty that, by its clarity of vision, allows subsequent generations to see more clearly what were the inner tensions of the reflective person in an age of religious, scientific, and political ferment. Clough is an articulate observer of the age that witnessed the rapid spread of evangelicalism, the sharp reaction against it by the Oxford Movement, the open attacks on historic Christianity, and the fervent reply of a beleaguered orthodoxy. Moreover, he is not only an observer; he is also a sympathetic participant drawn in painfully divergent directions by the conflicts of his times.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Biswas, Robindra Kumar. Arthur Hugh Clough: Towards a Reconsideration. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1972. This somewhat laborious biographical-critical study of Clough makes a case for his success around the period 1847-1852, particularly in Amours de Voyage, in which Clough “confidently fulfills his potential as a poet.” His is a “minor key,” or “a footnote” illuminating a “major argument” in the text of Victorian poetry. Good bibliography.

Chorley, Katharine. Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1962. This biography assumes that “Clough wrings his criticism of life out of his own experience.” His poetry is a fight to “save himself” from his own intellectual honesty by fixing on some faith, but he “dared not commit himself to any answer,” because of an Oedipal conflict with the authority of his mother.

Christiansen, Rupert. The Voice of Victorian Sex: Arthur H. Clough, 1819-1861. London: Short Books, 2001. A brief biography focused on the interior, psychological aspects of Clough and his work. He is placed in context in Victorian England, and Christiansen details Clough’s struggle with natural physical urges and the shame they caused him all his life.

Greenberger, Evelyn Barish. Arthur Hugh Clough: The Growth of a Poet’s...

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