Essays In Criticism, First Series "The Last Enchantments Of The Middle Age"

Matthew Arnold

"The Last Enchantments Of The Middle Age"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In the "Preface" to his collection of essays, several of which had been criticized in earlier publication, Arnold answers two of his critics. To the translator of the Iliad who had produced a bad version of the epic and who had accused Arnold of using his position as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University to argue his ideas, he replies that he respects the university, but prefers to stand as an individual in his judgments. To the Saturday Review, which had written that the British nation has found its philosophy "and has finally anchored itself, in the fulness of perfected knowledge, on Benthamism," Arnold declares:

. . . No, we are all seekers still! seekers often make mistakes, and I wish mine to redound to my own discredit only, and not to touch Oxford. Beautiful city! so venerable, so lovely, so unravaged by the fierce intellectual life of our century, so serene! . . . And yet, steeped in sentiment as she lies, spreading her gardens to the moonlight, and whispering from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Age, who will deny that Oxford, by her ineffable charm, keeps ever calling us nearer to the true goal of all of us, to the ideal, to perfection,–to beauty, in a word, which is only truth seen from another side? . . .