MATTHEW ARNOLD and AMERICAN CULTURE
By John Henry Raleigh
University of California Press
I Arnold (MA) would seem to be in modern criticism almost what Shakespeare was in the drama.
Post-Civil War does not seem like an auspicious time for an English critic in America. We had our own prophet, Emerson; poet, Whitman; novelist, Hawthorne; humorist, Twain.
We were not in need of guidance from the parent country.
2 – Moreover, the upper class had not sided with the North on the War.
Indeed the War raised us to a “wiser and sadder” maturity.
And, our West was opening, while tech was binding the Atlantic to Europe.
3 – Whitman was in some respects Emerson’s disciple.
And we were tired of Europe’s condescension.
But the English had great sway in literary criticism. He liked a poet more because the English did or resented them more for not liking him.
4 – Arnold got some popularity because he criticized the English themselves. And, there were plenty of Anglophiles.
Overall, we considered the Brits kin.
5 – And we had some cynicism about ourselves. Poe wrote that we are in danger of “liking a stupid book the better , because, sure enough, its stupidity is American.”
It would only be side by side with European literature that American literature would prove itself.
6 – Our culture, people realized, is European.
Though he rejected Europe’s influence, even Emerson admitted that some restaint of the older culture were needed.
Whitman denigrated only part of American culture as he liked both Tennyson and Carlyle.
7 – And much of what MA wrote had already been hinted at by American critics. The example given is that POE said criticism is only criticism. [Odd].
8 – Poe also, along with Arnold, didn’t like Macaulay and Carlyle.
But Emerson and Arnold had the most similarities. For example:
1) Emerson diagnosed the 19th century as a time of criticism, introspection, and solitude.
2) Both agreed that religion had become excessively anthropomorphic – concerned with the ‘person’ of Jesus.
3) Emerson was glad that we’d turned from theology to morals.
4) Both saw impersonality and indifference in nature. In his notes, Emerson quoted MA as saying, “Nature would be a terror, were it not so full of beauty.”
5) (10) Emerson, though a democrat, had fear of the untutored masses. Emerson wrote “Every human society wants to be officered by a best class, who shall be masters instructed in all the great arts of life.”
6) And Emerson said, in The American Scholar, that ambitious men could only be turned away from the exclusive pursuit of money and power “by the gradual domestication of the idea of culture.”
7) And Emerson said government must take responsibility for education.
8) Finally both had great feeling for the two great romantic poets, Wordsworth and Goethe.
11 – Emerson and MA did disagree on the proper relation of Europe to America, on transcendental philosophy, the problem of evil, and individualism. But, in many ways, he paved the way for MA.
12 – As MA lamented the lack of an intellectual center (like France’s royal academy), Emerson did the same for Europe.
13 – The general idea that America lacked criticism sped up Arnold’s reputation and influence. The US had a few, but no history of literature criticism. MA for these seemed to offer a complete criticism of literature and life and a set of principles for dealing with both.
PART ONE: GROUNDSWELL
CHAPTER ONE: HENRY JAMES
17 – As a young writer in 1864, James found US criticism either sociological or ethical. Reverencing tradition, he could find no tradition to build upon. And this hurt as, “the flower of art blooms only where the soil is deep, . . . it takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.”
In the 1860s there was only Poe, Emerson or his friend J. R. Lowell.
18 – Poe he found provincial and lacking reflection. And he found Emerson limited. He was too close to Lowell and didn’t find him that brilliant anyhow.
19 – In 1865, just after starting his literary career, James was asked to review Arnold’s Essays in Criticism. He gave it mostly praise with qualification.
20 – James liked that MA dinged the English in favor of French critics. He liked that MA had both science and logic.
21 – James takes to MA’s argument about Philistines in the press. But, we read, he especially likes that MA hangs out in the high ground of theory.
He agrees with MA that the “sole function of criticism is to make the truth known, not to apply it practically.” [Hmmn?]
22 – James likes that he’s no votary of the practical. MA, we learn “speaks of all things seriously, or, in other words, that he is not offensively clever.”
James was, at this point, Arnoldian.
23 – MA influenced James via: general ideas – as the exemplar of culture / the cosmopolitan commentator; and in actual critical method, as the flexible, ‘perceptive’ critic.
24 – MA was cosmopolitan, but worshipped Europe. Ironically, Americans often worshiped Europe more than Europeans did.
Europe spoke to James of art and history.
James liked it when MA wrote that by making the best that in known and thought known, creating a current of true and fresh ideas.
25 – This was the center of character itself. And, this character found vulgarity repugnant too.
26 – James completely agreed that America was like England but with no Barbarian Aristocracy and the populace nearly left out, and the philistines middle class predominating.
The cure for both men was knowledge of French. Both like Sands and forgave her her lubricity, but did not approve of it.
27 – 28 - One assessor of MA said that his strongest admiration was for the Germans. “Theirs were the sterling virtues, theirs the solid, if also unhappily the stolid, qualities which the world must fall back on at last.”
28 – The excessive sensuality of France would be their downfall.
29 – Indeed James moved to France, but returned after one year. He said those in their literary circles had “An incredibly superficial perception of the moral side of life. It is not only that adultery is their only theme, but that the treatment of it is so monstrously vicious and arid.”
30 – Both MA and James thought art should be aesthetically pleasing and morally sound. Neither liked simple minded morality, but both too eschewed art for art’s sake. Both liked the “moral aesthetic.”
31 - Poetry should show MA wrote “the inward world of man’s moral spiritual nature.”
James wrote, “To deny the relevance of subject matter and the importance of moral quality of a work of art strikes us as, in two words, very childish.”
III – In practical criticism, MA pulled James away from his concern with ‘principles’ and ‘reasons’ to a reliance on pure sensibility and perception.”
32 – Early, James was very dogmatic and condemned all immoral artists. Slowly he took some aesthetics into consideration.
34 – Under MA’s influence, curiosity became the greatest virtue of a novelist. This corresponds to MA’s ‘free play of mind.’
James’ later criticism is geared to the art of the novel, far removed from the extensive socio-politico-religious interests of Arnold. It is not Arnoldian.
36 – Still upon his tour of America James totally praised MA. He did so in a nostalgic way. And, the sheen had come off of MA in some eyes only because MA’s phrases had all now become a part of the common stock.
37 – James said MA “has added to the interest of life, to the charm of knowledge.”
He appreciated MA’s being the leading apostle of culture. “I shall not go so far as to say of Mr. Arnold that he invented it; but he made it more definite than it had been before – he vivified and lighted it up.”
38 – In 1865, James found fault in MA for not being ‘coolly logical and rational.’ Now he praised MA’s quickness, lightness, grace and flexibility.
IV – MA began his career talking about the French, but he ended it talking about the Americans. In a rough way James followed this pattern.
40 – In 1865 MA wrote to his sister K of Science as, “in the widest sense of the word, meaning a true knowledge of things as the bases of our operations.”
40 - MA knew that he’d have to be negative about England to make her a leader. The important thing was to do so “without a particle of vice, malice, or rancor.”
41 – James wrote “Conservatism has all the cathedrals, the colleges, the castles, the gardens, the traditions, the associations, the fine name, the better manners, the poetry.”
42 – Unlike many others, Both James and MA liked Catholicism. Arnold said its future was “immense” due to its “poetry.”
Both writers were convinced that the future was in the hands of America. James last three novels were about America and the problems of culture in the only country that had begun as a democracy and was attempting to make this democracy permanent.
When he returned to the US in 1904, James was as a foreigner, doing a tour.
43 - He had largely been gone for decades and the US had changed so much in those.
His late critique of the US is MA all over again. The machinery is solved, but what of beauty, grace, and individuality.
James would have never said that America was uninteresting as he was fascinated by it.
44 – In the US, James said, the men were completely devoted to the pecuniary endeavor; and social activity, left to women, was therefore completely feminized.
45 - What struck him most was the incredible rate of change. And it was not that the US didn’t have a past, but only residuum was left. He wrote, there was no longer the “great Puritan ‘whip,’ the whip for the conscience and the nerves . . . but that of a huge applied sponge, a sponge saturated with the foreign mixture and passed over almost everything I remembered and might still have recovered.”
We had a past it was just being pushed aside as rapidly as possible.
46 V – James’s novels are, in a sense, a tribute to MA’s ideal.
CHAPTER TWO: ARNOLD IN AMERICA: 1865 – 1895
It was a great loss to America when James went to Europe in 1875. He became a fine novelist, but we lost our best critic.
But, another person took over the Arnoldian tradition, William C. Brownell. Many in the 80s and 90s seized upon MA as gospel. Older figures like Whitman and Twain would have none of it. But, Brownell’s folks started a cult.
48 – The Function of Criticism at the Present Time and CULture and Anarchy came out in the 1860s. But the war kept folks busy. In the 80s and 90s MA’s influence was at its height.
He was known as a poet, critic, social critic, and religious commentator. But lit crit was the most influential. But the controversy around him grew and then peaked when he visited. Then he became part of our general heritage.
49 - Much of the controversy stemmed over nationalism and cosmopolitanism. MA was a ‘decadent’ ‘effete’ from sterile Europe. And radical in the sphere of religion.
People liked his 1861 popular Education of France, aside from its sneers at America.
50 – Most followed James’ unqualified love of his lit crit – which was safe from national rancor.
51 – The poems, Homer and Celtic literature were also nicely received.
People liked him and thought having someone like him in USA would help us develop good writers.
52 – One dude in the nation though said culture rests on leisure and so the backs of the working man.
A53 - nother said Culture and Anarchy had sweetness and light, but what about strength?
Arnold was cited in a ten-minute speech by then Congressman James A. Garfield about education. He was arguing against federal aid to education. He quoted MA to the effect that “the public school for the people must rest on the municipal organization of the country.”
The first impress on socioreligious matters can with Literature and Dogma in 1873.
This made him a controversialist as well as an apostle of culture.
55 – Mixed Essays came out in 1879. And it had essays on topics as disparate as George Sand and Democracy. In Democracy MA asked, “What influence may help us to prevent the English people from becoming, with the growth of democracy, Americanized? I confess I am disposed to answer: . . . the action of the state.
57 – One reviewer liked it but protested that not all Americans were boors. The printing and wide distribution of his poems were proof.
By 1882, Arnold and America had established a special and uneasy relationship. More than any other foreign critic he spoke of and to the people of the US. Then his 1883 – 1884 tour of America!
The reaction in America to his tour divided itself into three levels: the response of newspapers, the response of literary journals, and the response of prominent individual writers.
58 – On the popular or journalistic level, which will not concern Raleigh here, Arnold became a national joke. This was, though, short lived and ephemeral.
Only two big writers liked him: Emerson the optimist and Melville the pessimist. But most prominent writers were against him.
Why? His manner, opinions on America (even more), other writers had come, gotten money and then returned to trash talk America.
Walt Whitman had the strongest negative reaction.
59 – Whitman said he could barely read him. And, didn’t like him as a critic, literary, social or political person or as a man.
He wrote a mocking essay on Arnold and an actor touring the states. And he didn’t dislike Arnold cause he was a brit (he liked Carlyle and Tennyson, they would have understood America, He disliked Arnold as too “civilized” and effete.
60 – Whitman thought those who didn’t like his poetry were like Arnold, too preoccupied with rules and canons and neglecting the substance of poetry.
He rejected Arnold’s “rich, hefted, lousy, reeking, with delicacy, refinement, elegance, prettiness, propriety, criticism, analysis: all of them things which threaten to overwhelm us.”
MA was a man of books, unable to understand real life. He didn’t like “the Arnolds” out there.
61 – Whitman had friends that liked Arnold. But that could not bridge the gap between the prophet of egalitarian democracy and the apostle of culture. At Arnold’s death, Whitman said he would not be missed.
Lowell, the colossus of American criticism at the time, also didn’t like Arnold and his super-refined chilliness.
62 – When Arnold relegated MA to a second rank, people hated it.
64 – Some others, we learn, also hated Arnold. Finally, Mark Twain hated him. Twain said “So long as I reverence my own ideals my whole duty is done.”
67 – The folks who hated Arnold were his contemporaries. His converts, James and Brownell, were younger.
But, all the great metropolitan newspapers extended MA a warm welcome. Only the Boston paper, pissed over Emerson, had some less-than-complimentary comments on Arnold.
The most fervent Arnoldian ever was Horatio N. Powers.
68 – The climax of Arnold’s tour was his criticizing Emerson in Boston.
69 – Emma Lazarus wrote a poem defending Emerson and denigrating MA.
70 – And many until recently (1961) have agreed with MA that Emerson was not a great poet, essayist, or philosopher.
Some said he wasn’t wrong, he just lacked tact. Others thought his defiance of popular opinion heroic.
71 – Emerson himself defended and admired MA.
72 – Some thought Arnold’s religious views ‘dangerous.’
In Princeton, the administrators wouldn’t approve Arnold so the students raised money to listen to him. This shows you the esteem at which he was held. But he disappointed them with bad oratory.
74 - At Haverford they also refused to let MA speak. This, paradoxically, raised MA’s esteem.
75 – He was considered one of the leading speakers for emergent liberal Christianity in the English-speaking world.
MA was happy that his work led more people to read the Bible.
He joked to his younger brother that “The Baptist Union recommends all good Christians to give at least two hours to reading their Bible for every hour they give to hearing Matthew Arnold. This shows that in the judgment of the Baptist Union Matthew Arnold’s doctrine is very nearly twice as powerful as that of the Bible.”
76 – Arnold died only four years after his USA tour. His writing on America impacted the image of him. Also three other things: 1) Objective assessment by a new generation of critics: 2) a positive fervor about him developing among the young people who had been brought up, so to speak, on Matthew Arnold; and 3) a more abstract and more inclusive picture forming in the American literary mind.
77 – No one liked his writing on Grant (which were intended to introduce Grant to the English public).
78 – It was used to accuse him of southern sympathies.
Fry attacked his “Civilization in the US” for saying the US lacked ‘distinction’ and ‘Beauty.’ Many of these responses were jingoistic. Only the Dial came out for him sans reservations.
80 – But Arnold ended this barrage of criticism by dying. Of course, as this happens obituaries start saying nice things about him.
83 – Many wrote and felt wonderful admiration for him.
84 – The literary criticism was the first and only aspect of Arnold criticism to fade into near-oblivion.
Catholic World charged: “Arnold’s influence upon the religious views of English-speaking Protestants it would be difficult to exaggerate.” They called his view, the penultimate phase of Protestantism. “Many protestant believers, however, still regarded Arnold as a savior.”
Even a scientist wrote a book praising MA’s analysis of St. Paul.
86 – The signal event that modified the general image of Arnold, however, was the publication of his letters. It humanized Arnold. The endless dreary tasks, family ties, love of nature and animals, humility, laid forever the ghost of snobbery to rest.
87 – This turned the fop into a godly figure.
CHAPTER THREE: WILLIAM BROWNWELL
Edith Wharton was William Brownell’s editor.
He looked to Henry James as an American predecessor and Arnold as a foreign prophet and French culture as his teacher.
Brownell (1851 – 1928) spanned important years for America. From Lincoln to Comic books.
89 - At the age of 21 he became the city editor for the New York World. From 1888 to 1828, he was the editor and literary advisor for Scribners. And, during this slowly and carefully he brought out volumes of criticism.
He loved James and MA. He rejected Poe, Emerson and Lowell.
90 – He partially rejected Poe because Poe was unethical.
Emerson’s doctrine of individualism had gone astray. The only effective counter measure was culture. Emerson and culture were at war.
91 – Lowell loved the classics, so you might think Brownell would love him. But he said Lowell was a dilettante. He ignored science, theology, art, philosophy and history. And his criticism was impressionistic.
Also he stayed on safe ground and did not speak French!
92 - He loved James, but had some reservations; he was too inclined to the esoteric and aesthetic values.
93 – Also, James had no program and not a literary critic all his life.
Brownell was not a carbon copy of MA. He was an original thinker and wit and disagreed with MA on some issues – especially those relating to America.
But MA was around when Brownell came on the scene and said things very well.
94 – Brownell wrote a book entitled, Victorian Prose Masters. Early he wasn’t so keen on MA’s poetry, but changed later.
MA taught that the real method of criticism must be persuasion, the instillment of conviction. He lifted Anglo-American criticism.
95 – “To have one’s gospel so promptly accepted demonstrates that it has been preached. He had, in a word, a mission. And he fulfilled it.”
MA’s chief trait was “sweet reasonableness.”
96 – Brownell said MA’s chief flaw was a lack of genuine energy.
99 – There is a shift in emphasis with Brownell’s generation: James’ aesthetic interest has given way to a more philosophical and sociological one. And MA the man has become more of a revered figure of the past.
99 – Brownell’s first book concerned the educative example of the French. Even without MA’s influence, based on 3 years in France, it is one of the finest studies in comparative culture ever written.
But, as a moralist, he would have nothing to do with the Goddesses of Lubricity.
102 – As opposed to us who “do as we like” the French, MA said, have a correct sense of duty, they have a concept of “the nation, of the State, - the nation in its collective and corporate character, entrusted with stringent powers for the general advantage, and controlling individual wills in the name of an interest wider than that of individuals.”
Brownell said that individualism itself had not even the imagined virtues – color and variety – of its defect, but issued paradoxically, in monotony. “The monotony of the chaotic composition and movement in paradoxically, its most abiding impression. And, as the whole is destitute of definiteness, of distinction, the parts are, correspondingly, individually insignificant.” REMINDS ONE OF ENTROPY
Emerson’s doctrine of self-reliance had been carried too far, and now obstructed the integration of any social order.
103 – The French have a ‘social instinct’ which makes France the most homogeneous and civilized race in the world, because with them relationships, not individuals, are stressed.
Thus the French have made a civilized art of everything, including manners and conversation.
Brownell said MA was more delicate in dealing with lit critics than most English critics, but could never achieve the disinterestedness of the French.
104 – He does argument Ad Hominem.
Brownell (JB) agreed with MA that the French were intelligent rather than energetic – to a fault.
105 - Both MA and WB worried about 1) the justification for criticism and 2) the problem of objectivity.
106 – Critics all applaud MA for elevating the critical act itself. Goethe just said of critics “kill the dog!”
MA started “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time” by saying since not all men have the creative genius, at least they can and should exercise their faculties by criticism. And, such criticism is of great value.
107 – For the critic to be valuable, they must reach objectivity. This means they need their own solid center of reference for them. Criticism should be a thesis.
In doing this he was attacking Croce’s expressionism.
The function of estimation requires familiarity with culture widely.
Arnold had warned that too much learning in history or philosophy was liable to be dangerous.
108 – It could lead you to overvaluing the past as past or make you too metaphysical.
Furthermore, you cannot be a critic if you’re a rheoretician: you must be disinterested.
109 – WB came to the conclusion that the final criterion for a critic was ‘taste.’ Which is determined by the individual and their environment.
It is like translation in that you need to convey the original effect. You need to find the characteristics of a work, not its causes. You read the man through his works.
110 – People hated this; You don’t want Beethoven, you want the 5th.
But, WB took that from MA and so did Stuart P. Sherman, who spoke of adventures in the souls of the masters.
111 – WB was a conservative in that he always saw the need for the brakes of conservatism, for setting up standards, in life and art.
WB applauded MA making religion morality.
112 – MA pointed out that most people need to follow ideals, not set them.
“Standards, said Brownell, are the products of sensibility rather than reason and therefore are produced by culture rather than by philosophy.”
We don’t have standards due to an overemphasis on individualism.
113 – The inner life has disappeared and “natural man” has been unleashed. Modern art is without taste or virtue. Arts and letters are now directed at crude people.
114 – We need the authority of standards to counter this. Many of his standards echo those of the New Humanists.
115 – But neither MA nor WB were anti democratic. WB wrote “We are not going to cease being democratic because a few of us aim at being superior.” He recognized the virtues of democracy.
Both start with the French and end with Americans. WB’s 1927 Democratic Distinction in America is a criticism and correction of Arnold’s Civilization in the United States.
116 – In it WB noted that the “leg show” had passed from the stage to the street.
And he kept his grip on his main theme: individuals are not formed by heaven or chemistry of the blood, but by social institutions.
The remnant never took hold in America because they too often made unsubstantiated accusations about their poorer cousins. This makes the remnant unattractive.
117 – WB dismissed the New Humanists because of their “commending to an energetic people in an expansive age a purely inhibitive ideal.”
MA’s mistakes about the USA was not noting that it was the only great democracy on its own. This gave us social mobility and freedom that Europeans misunderstand.
118 – The US may not publish the best, but it publishes more.
MA also confused social power with the aesthetic. We had our own distinction: being “fraternal” and “amiable.”
119 – Our education being general is ‘democracy’s answer to Plato.”
Lincoln had a moral as opposed to an aesthetic distinction – which is better. He and others were aristocrats of niceness.
120 – We were innocent, but good: Still we wanted
But still, ew did want that aesthetic distinction.
122 – Our national comic figure is not a wit , but a clown. Mockery of seriousness, indeed, is the staple basis of much of the humor in which we tell the world we altogether excel. Twain and Will Rogers are examples.
Our pragmatism and emasculation of religion were drying up the wellsprings of emotion.
Morality has “lost touch with emotion, . . . that social ethics should have so largely replaced personal morality, and that, accordingly, sin must be transformed into crime to receive the attention it could once safely count on.”
We have more tradition / literature than we realize, but are indifferent to it.
123 – The penultimate civilizing forces are society, sentiment, and tradition, but education is the big one. American ed is an unmixed blessing.
He then looked at popular culture and did not find it as grim as Babbitt did.
124 – The USA had many cultural experiments going, though we lacked cohesion and needed more aesthetics.
He thought music was popular and good for aesthetics.
PART TWO: EBB
CHAPTER FOUR: ARNOLD IN AMERICA: 1895 – 1930
The review of Arnold’s letters had more impact than removing his rep as superciliousness.
Hamilton Wright Mabie found in them that MA was complicated and not a monolithic museum piece.
130 - She loved his disingenuous self-deprecation and was surprised that, with all his opinions, he was not attacked more often. In the end, MA just wanted man to have more dignity and sanctity.
132 – One manifestation of MA were in the movement for ‘culture in the provinces’ (called English Clubs) in which married ladies and clergymen, banded into clubs to worship English heritage.
These clubs read Arnold and others – but more so, reflected his vision. One such club wrote a book “Matthew Arnold and the Spirit of the Age.”
This was in the South. But, the Dial and other papers promoted him in the North.
135 – There were detractors in the 1890s, but they were in the minority.
136 – Saintbury’s book was savaged for saying that Johnson, Dryden, and Coleridge had done better. Paul called MA “Our English Goethe” but was still savaged for not fully appreciating MA.
137 – They spoke of the cult of MA.
138 – As we came into the first decade of the first century, he became less controversial and more a hallowed figure of the past.
139 – But a wave of anti-Victorianism was gathering force and would soon try to sweep away the 19th century. Fresh critics like Mencken.
140 – Great Victorian authors had become standard subjects for college curricula in the late 19th. But MA was not only a subject, but a prophet. And, the professor was more likely than not an Arnoldian. But, as the 20th dawned this was being questioned.
142 – But even in being rejected, he was mentioned. Why the rejection?
Rapid immigration made it seem that culture was not only British. Also WW I had an outbreak of Anglophobia. And, there was a reaction against New England with their connection to the Anglo sphere.
Randolph Bourne launched an attack on the older generation and the verities of Protestant religion and New England morality. MA, with James and Wharton were seen as epitomizing the New England hegemony.
143 – The rise of people like Shaw and Nietzsche reacted against people like Spinoza, Goethe and George Sand.
Painting and music supplemented literature as moving arts. While MA assumed that art was the printed page.
The new critics fought against sexual taboo and for honesty about private lives. He was called Priggish. MA had consciously argued to let our better selves push our darker selves into the ground.
144 – Political people got more into complex sociology which was the enemy of Arnold’s kind of liberalism.
“The whole tenor of Arnold’s thought, with its emphasis on discipline, patience, and the recognition of limitation was foreign to an age that was, both before and after the war, expansive, romantic, undisciplined, to say that least.” WB writes.
The new breed were anti the past. And they had a carefree outlook that applauded its own vagaries and glorified in its own prejudices.
145 - Still, even as a target, MA did not go away. Ludwig Lewinsohn said in the Nation in 1922, “We all talk Arnold, think Arnold, preach and propagate Arnold.”
It was Paul Elmer More who noticed the link between Arnold and Pater. He thought when MA’s method was used by less moral critics, it was insidious.
146 – He also traced it to “the hedonism of Oscar Wilde.” Starting in 1900 many started to think of MA as an impressionistic writer. His dislike of philosophizing and theorizing didn’t help to allay this impression.
These folks focused on MA’s emphasis on “appreciation” and “detachment.”
In 1910 Spingarn took historical considerations out of criticism when he launched “expressionism.” He said MA was in the right direction, but hadn’t totally gone from intellectual to aesthetic considerations.
147 – His interest in social and political matters barred him from the ranks of the true and elect.
The Impressionists enemy were the New Humanists. They championed MA.
148 – They, however, had profound differences with MA.
More said he and Babbitt considered themselves primarily moralists, rather than literary critics. This came from Babbitt’s Buddhism and More’s love of the Upanishads and Gita (later Platonism and Christianity).
‘Humanistic’ meant for them ‘dualism.’
149 - MA, they said, wasn’t precise due to lingering romanticism in his work. His replacing religion with poetry was dubious as was his ruling out of the supernatural, said Babbitt.
More said he was a unwitting precursor of Impressionism. And, More disliked his positivism. Babbitt and More were also more learned than MA. They were more philosophical and logical. And, they were consciously anti-liberals.
We can say, that the Impressionists took their sensibility from MA, Humanists their morality. At any rate, MA became a touchstone of debate in the 1920s.
Bourne noted that MA hit with the US because we had just developed a leisure class. But his preoccupation with what was best in Europe kept us from appreciating USA and the present.
151 – Van Wyck Brooks’ America’s Coming-of-Age was very Arnoldian. He blamed our lack of center on Protestantism: the same as MA’s Hebraism.
153 – Ludwig Lewinson was another champ of MA.
154 – Robert Morss Lovett, at one time an editor of the New Republic, stressed MA’s influence as a liberal and, perhaps, even progenitor of socialism.
155 – Early on George Santayana was an Arnoldian.
156 – We see this in his disain for Philistines and saying poetry is philosophy.
CHAPTER FIVE: STUART P. SHERMAN
158 – He is the last Arnoldian in the line of James and Brownell. He is the least distinguished intellectually. He represents the passing of the tradition into being moribund.
MA had gone from being represented by a revolutionary creative writer, to a rather conservative critic, to a university professor – i.e.; establishment.
159 – His long pre-occupation was between democracy and culture.
Early on Sherman was straight New Humanist.
161 – In his second book, (After his one on Matthew Arnold) On Contemporary Literature, he says in spite of Dewey and the relativists, one cannot abandon the notion of absolute values. And that today is the worst of all worlds because ‘lust and law” are now alike. This is the logical outcome of Naturalistic Philosophy. This comes from Romanticism.
“The great revolutionary task of the nineteenth century was to put man into nature; the great task of the twentieth-century thinkers is to get him out again.”
Man is now living according to the “law for things” and must be raised to the “law for man.” We must develop our “inner check.”
162 – He therefore repudiates Dreiser’s barbaric
He compares H. G. Wells and MA. Wells is a crude bomb dropper; MA a “Victorian reticent.” Wells is an unprincipled liberator, urging onward the lawlessness of natural man.
Babbitt and More, though, disliked Sherman’s unqualified allegiance to democracy.
163 – Babbitt argued that MA was an aristocrat who set standards for humanity, rather than attempting to raise humanity.
More rejected a pro-Rousseau article by Sherman for the Nation in 1912. Sherman was also showing too much enthusiasm for state universities, which more said produced dangerous, democratic, and romantic fantasies.
164 – More questioned two things about Sherman’s On Contemporary Literature: 1) how could he reconcile his idea that this was “the worst of all possible worlds” with a faith in our inevitable progress to a better society. 2) How did he reconcile his rejection of naturalism with his embrace of democracy?
After the War, Sherman became Whitman-esque in his embrace of democracy.
165 – He got more pro-democracy too. He was against nationalism. But, he thought the more we loved American spirit the more we’d find ourselves in accord with friends of all nations.
166 – Sherman found More too metaphysical and removed. He drifted towards modernism and found a father-image in Brownell.
167 – Brownell dedicated his last book to Sherman. They reinforced each other. And, bonded on a respect for democracy.
169 – Sherman appealed to MA’s quote from mixed essays, “Our love of inequality is really the vulgarity in us, and the brutality, admiring and worshiping the splendid materiality.”
Were we to value tradition or fresh experience?
Brownell’s being American meant we no longer had to look to Europe. He liked nature and standards. And Sherman, wedded the American tradition of Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau to Arnold.
But Sherman’s concept of culture was narrow and colored by racial prejudice.
To Sherman culture was Anglo – American and gentlemanly. Mencken blew it by severing ties with England. We also lost our profound moral idealism. Suerman thus entered the 1920s as a champion of Puritanism.
171 – He said Puritanism was liberal, progressive, individualistic, and ethically sound. It was centered on a “dissatisfaction with the past.” This is the spirit of Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, etc.,
He saw Franklin in this tradition.
172 - He wanted a marriage of our Western writers and our refined Eastern writers. Hebraism (vigor / roughness) and Hellenism (sweetness / light) on American terms. This was to be done via following Arnold.
Sherman started as a humanist, but ended as a sort of Professional American,” and “Nordic, Protestant, and blond” as described in Ernest Boyd’s essay “Ku Klux Kriticism.”
Brownell noticed that Arnold read himself into those he wrote about. Sherman sure did this with MA.
173 – He judged people by the author’s personality and whether or not they were uplifting.
Sherman was into MA before he was into Babbitt, and possibly liked Babbitt because he was like MA.
Sherman’s Arnold book stresses his being a great religious and moral teacher, a prophet, more than his literary criticism. (not sure I agree)
174 – In literature he stresses MA’s restraint, decorum, reverence for the established and traditional.
175 – To Sherman MA was the greatest because, 1) he didn’t look at the ephemeral; 2) he loved his subject; 3) he had sound principles.
176 – In religion, Sherman identified with God, not beauty as in the works of Keats. He liked MA’s talk of a power outside of man. It was not as religious as More, but just as much religion as Sherman could accept.
177 – In education he saw MA as a prophet. He gave science its due, but also showed its limits.
178 – He defended state universities and MA against More, because More was so removed and ivy tower. MA reached out to the people.
Admiring MA’s advocacy explains much of Sherman’s changing public career.
He wasn’t snobby or vulgar (MA and by implication Sherman), the middle class could handle ideas.
180 – For Sherman, democratic liberalism was not a leveling tendency, but an elevating one.
Twain’s late pessimism was an indication that American writers were beginning to see through the “romantic illusion” of the worship of the common man. Sinclair Lewis and Wharton too. America was dull.
181 – MA also influenced Sherman’s style and willingness to engage in controversy. It was in this spirit that he took on Mencken.
183 – MA wrote “The aimless and unsettled, but also open and liberal, state of our youth we must perhaps all leave and take refuge in morality and character.”
His course on MA was very popular as he made MA a pattern for the life of an educated man.
He encouraged his students to, as he did, keep a book of thoughts and maxims.
184 – He told his students we needed more intelligent seriousness and grand style and less “jazz and razz.” This would come from other lands.
185 – Arnoldians believe democracy is inevitable. And that “the object of politics is to bring the entire body of the people to the fullest and most human life of which they are capable.” This implies no relinquishing of standards.
186 – The last real member of the ‘cult’ of MA, he reconciled MA and Sherman by limiting MA’s aristocratic tendencies and making Whitman have a thirst for distinction.
187 – Sherman’s MA was more blurred than James’ or Brownell’s. But this is partially because he never met him and lived after the controversies had subsided.
188 – He also was ga-ga because he was a weaker vessel than James or Brownell. He had neither the Jame’s aesthetic intelligence nor Brownell’s rational intelligence.
Bourne said Sherman was the most dangerous man in America, reputedly.
189 – His hagiography and personality worship, rather than thought and intellectual substance made him the last Arnoldian and of limited influence – in the long run.
PART THREE: RESURGENCE
CHAPTER SIX: T. S. ELLIOT
In the last four decades (1921 – 1961) Elliot has replaced MA.
But still, to be a professor was to be an Arnoldian of sorts. To advocate for colleges was to be an Arnoldian of sorts.
194 – Elliot himself knew he was up against MA as he rose.
195 - But he claimed that no generation was interested in art in the same way.
Elliot’s career paralleled MA’s, he went from literary criticism, to religious and social criticism, to the problems of culture and education in the widest sense.
196 – And if there is a trend, it is that Arnold was the “enemy” in early days and then became an “ally” except in the sphere of religion.
Both revered the Graeco-Roman heritage; both were preoccupied with the relationship between literature and religion; Humanism; the conservative attitude towards morals; dislike for eccentric individualism; wanting European cultural unity and pluralism. Distrust of Romanticism and dislike of the Renaissance.
Whereas MA was Sweetness and Light, TS was “objective correlative.”
197 - Both were job holders and thought the world was flying apart.
MA declared that he had won no battles, but had kept the lines of communication open.
198 – Whereas MA’s work is happy and seems like he’s in a carnival; TS’s work, especially his early work verges on the funeral.
199 – MA knew of the dark, but did not dwell upon it; TS took this to mean he was not profound. Life is made up of “horror,” “boredom,” and “glory,” and MA only knew “boredom.”
200 – Overall, TS was no part of the Arnoldian tradition. And TS took a monumentally “long” view of American culture.
He saw America as an experiment, the results of which were yet to be seen. Especially the results of the civil war.
201 – In his 1933 lecture, After Strange Gods, he said that Southern culture was the last, since New England culture was being wiped out by the invasion of “foreign-born” and industrialism.
And, if the US n Canada were to develop a positive culture of their own, it could only happen via pagan or Christian ways. For at the moment, culture was only “neutral.”
202 – The only American critic TS liked was Poe (the one Arnoldians’ liked least).
Old lit crit had been too tied to ancient stuff. Modern was too modern. Babbitt, TS said, had a good balance.
204 – “Literary criticism is a critique of life” was too facile. More was mostly a moralist. Babbitt was better, but he lacked religious insight. And the Humanist followers of More and Babbitt were too academic, only worked in academia, and a by-product of Protestantism in its death throws.
Elliot also returned to the French for literary models. They had clarity, precision, and seriousness. MA was vague and lacked intellectual vigor.
205 – MA in TS’s eyes was primarily a continuation of the Romantic tradition.
Dryden developed a “natural” style, closer to common language; this new kind of poetry required a revolution in criticism.
TS has three charges against MA that never change: 1) He was a propagandist and moralist, rather than a critic. 2) He was a vague and inexact thinker. 3) He was wrong in thinking that poetry could be an adequate substitute for religion.
206 – If someone else had been an adequate social critic, MA could have devoted all his time to criticism and we’d be better for it.
207 – TS was Babbitt’s student and learned not to confuse genres.
208 – Intellectual rigor was to replace catchphrases.
209 – TS separated out MA’s religious work. He said MA said religion is art and morals and so removed intellect.
TS said, “Poetry is a superior amusement” and thus has nothing to do with morals or religion.
211 – And MA was a “Philistine” in religion.
And rather than start a revolution, MA tried to continue a dying tradition.
With After Strange Gods, TS became more concerned with orthodoxy and the problems of culture and religion. MA confused religion and art.
212 – Instead, TS said, everyone must be brought to orthodoxy.
In education and culture, where TS went, the problem was not that TS was wrong but that he didn’t go far enough.
213 – TS thought his social goals and education ideals too individualistic. They didn’t take the whole of society into consideration!??
We have three aims of education: The professional, the social (creating citizens) and the individual (MA’s perfection). Not just one.
214 – In the long run, MA’s position on religion has become more widespread.
215 - In religion and elsewhere, TS is more extreme and MA more moderate.
Both agreed with Goethe that you had to know other cultures to know your own. But MA knew modern Europe, he liked Goethe. He cared about the “race” of nations.
216 – TS liked Dante, the Middle Ages and Rome.
217 – Elliot said MA didn’t embrace liberalism enough.
218 – MA’s vision of a society of equals gives way to Eliot’s idea of a Christian society, with its classes and orders. Arnold’s insistence on self-help beomce “God’s grace.”
219 – Eliot told his readers in 1936 that there are only two hypotheses about life: the material and the Catholic. MA would have rejected this for a blend: Trilling did too.
CHAPTER SEVEN: LIONEL TRILLING
If Eliot took the poetic-religious side of MA for his starting point, Trilling took the socio-liberal side.
Eliot looked at technique; Trilling, content and ideas. Eliot Europe and the past, Trilling, America.
Trilling answers Eliot’s charges against MA in MA’s name.
221 – Eliot defined thinking as abstract and said that Shakespeare and Dante did not really think. Trilling denies this. He goes against TS’s idea that emotions and thought are distinct.
223 – Trilling asks if a “Christian” society is adequate when it has failed historically.
Glad to have strong intellectual enemies, Trilling said Eliot was just one such anti-liberal adversary.
225 – Trilling notes that TS’s comments defending intelligent believers makes him closer to MA than he’d like to admit. Also, The idea of a Christian society is rather romantic.
A man is known by the tradition in which he sees himself, and Trilling’s tradition is in the line of Arnold, the Romantics, and the ideology of the French Revolution.
227 – The greatness of the 19th century emanated properly from the Romantics. He noted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debt to the romantics with approval.
228 – Fitzgerald was the last writer to affirm the Romantic fantasy, descended from the Renaissance, of personal ambition and heroism, of live committed to or thrown away for some ideal of self. This puts him in line with Wordsworth and Keats.
Like MA, Trilling’s trajectory of the West is relatively modern.
229 – Wordsworth teaches us to feel and thus puts his finger on that which kept the French Revolution from succeeding – its truncated, unemotional, intellectual view of man. And the French Revolution took an atomized, rather than social view of man.
130 – The great conservatives: Wordsworth; Coleridge; Newman, and Carlyle pleaded for ogranicism, not atomism, and so saw more clearly what a good society could be.
Trilling also defended the Romantics against the idea that they were not precise thinkers and lacked discipline.
231 – Trilling also put Freud in line with the Romantics. He thought we needed to blend the Romantic emotion and the ideology of the French Revolution: MA was the man to do this.
Trilling also condemns MA’s religious writing. He also doesn’t like his division between serious and non-serious poetry; in politics he failed to see the solidarity of Europeanism of the English workers.
232 – Trilling also didn’t like MA’s addiction to “racialism” (though he was more interested in bringing people together than separating them). And the human mind is more complex than MA allowed for. He also overlooked the “animal, biological basis for life.” But he was still a ‘culture hero.’
Why? Trilling says, “he gives himself in full submission and sacrifice to his historical moment in order to comprehend and control the elements which that moment brings.”
TS said MA established the teaching of English as an academic profession.
233 – Each age has its own needs. The critic must attempt to conciliate epochs, in order to assure continuity that a society must have.
Brownell said, “The great truth that Arnold is now to keep ever before him . . . is that all human values, all human emotions, are of social growth if not social origin.”
233 – Raleigh writes that he brought “literature and life, culture and politics, into a necessary conjunction.
234 – Overall, Trilling likes MA’s method more than his conclusions.
236 – Trilling says all literature is political and he and MA provide friendly critiques of it.
237 – Hemingway was compromised by critics’ demands that literature be “socially conscious.” Trilling says a writer should be left alone. And, then incidentally, they might produce a usable critique of liberalism.
Herein Trilling is mostly attacking Marxist critics of the 1930s.
238 – They love progress and so diminish history.
Marxism requires little people to be good and optimistic. And it doesn’t even like literature, but wants party line.
241 – Arnold is critical and so would not acquiesce.
In his “The Liberal Imagination” Trilling says we need a new union between our political ideas and our imagination.
242 – Trilling is middle-of-the-road and so like MA.
244 – Trilling is more of a novel critic than poetry critic (this is pages and pages on Trilling, but this book is about MA).
245 – The Novel, Trilling thinks in the Moral Imagination, has been performing the role of religion, as MA hoped, by directing us to a spiritual life, bringing questions of good and bad / life and death, into the public life. Lit is always a criticism of life.
CHAPTER EIGHT: MATTHEW ARNOLD AND AMERICAN CULTURE
MA may have had more influence in American than in England.
Critics of the 1920s noted that Arnold dealt with the “total human situation.” Giving criticism a range and flexibility which it had hitherto lacked.
247 – Also during MA’s time, German scholarship with its enormous erudition and exhaustive precision, threatened to turn literary studies into a form of pedantry.
But MA reminded us that criticism is an art, not a science.
His common sense approach also served as an antidote to transcendentalism and Coleridge, which lay a thick mist over criticism. Following German models, Coleridge tried to make criticism respectable by making it technically philosophical.
248 – MA thus moved us towards pragmatism and classicism in a way that American’s could deal with.
MA also worked with American cause he understood the middle class. He understood the poor via school inspecting and hit our middle classes’ desire to be cultured.
249 – MA also preached that we bend with the time – spirit. Americans breathe change. He seemed practical to us.
250 – MA dealt in common sense as a method, we liked that too.
MA also wasn’t very tied to the past and he looked towards the future. The critics that were most tied to the past, James and Eliot, went to Europe.
There are other reasons we got along too. The idea that morality and conduct are more important than intelligence and knowledge, that MA supposedly held.
251 – Lastly, we and MA are both joyful and melancholy. That is likely why Melville liked him and marked so many of his books.
252 – MA appealed to Melville as pessimist and Emerson as an optimist.
253 – People have had very contradictory understanding of MA.
255 – MA was seen as a religious radical and now is a bulwark of conservatism.
256 – Oddly, MA’s reputation lays between the thoughts of Babbitt, More, Elliot and himself. Therein we have these views: MA was deficient in religious insight (More); led to Pater (More); he lacked a binding philosophy and first principles (More); he was a fuzzy thinker (Babbitt); and confused genres (Babbitt).
257 – People think MA both a Victorian and a modern.
MA has helped us navigate our relationship to Europe: independence; reciprocal, or dependence. It has largely been the latter two while Twain and Whitman have gone for independence.
Expats James and Eliot mostly led us to the third alternative dependence.
But MA’s cosmopolitanism has reinforced the second, reciprocal view. Brownell, Sherman and Trilling have gone this way. Sherman was the least Francophile.
258 – The US has had no multigenerational shared conservative ideology. We have, OTOH, had a liberal one, but in modern times, it has been ‘pragmatic and cultureless’ just reflecting practical grass roots distress.
258 – If there is anything all his followers agree upon, it is reverence for France.
259 – Liberal ideology has also been anti-intellectual.
Conservatives have, in America, by contrast, produced respectable philosophers. Babbitt and Santayana. Yet these folks, in our nation of change, barely get an audience.
260 – At any rate, a liberal intellectual would likely be suspicious of panaceas.
Liberal intellectuals follow MA’s “conservative radicalism” wherein they are socially conservative, but vote liberal.
262 – Often practical nations like the USA and England, people don’t like thinkers. But MA made thinking a kind of doing, so okay.
And, he asked two important questions, what to do between religion and the future; and how to have excellence in democracy. The answer to both? Culture.
263 – And literature is playing the role religion once did, with high standards and idols n all. And in his time he was stating, in many ways, a case that had already become a fait accompli (with lit replacing religion).
264 – The connection is overt with More (a theologian) and Babbitt (a moralist) being religious.
There are two kinds of folks: those who think modern life is great and those who pine for the past. MA was of the latter and put it into politics, sociology, education and the future of culture.
265 – MA cannot die as people from all sides invoke him.
But history has not spoken so we do not know if MA’s work is an augury of the future or a monument to the past.