OVERCOMING MATTHEW ARNOLD
Ethics in Culture and Criticism
By James Walter Caufield
Ashgate Publishing Company
CHAPTER ONE: Culture and Conduct: Politics, Pessimism, and the Function of Matthew Arnold
3 – Like the religious writing in which it is explored, Arnold’s “Conduct” is now almost wholly forgotten by readers, while his “culture” is hotly debated.
Stefan Collini and Francis Mulhern had a war in the New Left Review from 2001 to 2004 of ‘cultural politics’ versus ‘cultural criticism.’
These positions perfectly mirror the positions taken in the 1860s by James Fitzjames Stephen and Henry Sidgwick.
Edward Said drones on about Arnold’s culture too.
4 – This book highlights Arnold’s ethics – basically, his first principle of conduct, namely ‘renouncement.’ – Arnoldian pessimism.
5 – This is a side shadow to his culture.
6 – Renouncement conjoins the self-abnegation of Christian altruism with the will denial of Schopenhauerian pessimism.
It shows that this disinterestedness is requisite for finding out ‘best-selves.’
7 – Stefan Collini ignores his renouncement, but is wonderfully attentive to ‘experience’ and ‘reflection’ in Arnold’s work. This is because Arnold’s poems are always reflections on experience rather than records of the experience itself.
8 – Collini – like others – prefers the “more winning and cheerful Arnold” of the 1860s prose. Why? Melancholy is always self-important whereas the later cheerfulness is impersonal. Collini calls the earlier stage ‘egotistical.’
9 – But is it the best because it’s cheerful or cheerful because it’s the best?
At any rate, Collini sees the cheery and renouncement parts of Arnold as separate. Caufield sees them as one in the same.
10 – 12 Upcoming chapter summaries
13 – In the 1880 ‘The Study of Poetry” Arnold prophesies “The spirit of our race will find, we have said, as time goes on and as other help fail it, its consolation and stay” in poetry.
Early critics see no redemption in his poetry: but it displays the way via Stoicism.
14 – Victorianism looks at altruism as the heart of all moral virtue. Caufield argues that Arnold pushes this to the extreme wherein ALL our actions should benefit others.
This is, of course, a painful prospect. But it is the vision of the Church.
15 – Carlyle, in Sartor Resartus (1883) quotes Goethe to say: “It is only with Renunciation that Life, properly speaking, can begin.”
16 – This is higher than happiness.
16 – Collini denies this in Arnold, saying he “preferred to loll on Parnassus than to crawl up Calvary” which is “hardly the natural home of the dandy, even the reformed dandy turned social cultural critic.”
18 – What were the sources of Victorian pessimism (it was pre-holocaust and all seemed to progress rapidly). The usual suspects are ‘the death of God and the rise of Darwin,’ ‘the death of deference and the rise of the mass political man,’ the death of pastoral beauty and the rise of dark Satanic mills,’ and ‘intellectual anarchy.’
19 – Political pessimists have antidemocratic imaginations that foresee the imminent destruction of the social order due to the reforms that begin in 1832. Carlyle is a leader in this from the 30s to the 50s. After, James Fitzjames Stephan takes over.
20 – Madame Blavatsky is one way out. There is also an emergent sociology that fosters nationalistic blood mysticism. Benjamin Kidd, for example. Also, Henry Maudsley and Max Nordau.
22 – And perhaps it is the shadow of utilitarianism which puts such a strain on happiness, implying the shadow of pain as normal. And Victorians don’t know why they should sacrifice their happiness for the greater good.
23 – Schopenhauer’s British popularity peaks in the 1870s and 1880s.
24 – 25 looks at different meanings of ‘pessimistic.’
26 – But a pessimism claims that honestly assessed, life operates at a loss.
Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen,
Count o’er thy days from anguish free
And know, whatever thou hast been,
Tis something better not to be
Altruism, in the zero-sum concept of conduct means not doing unto oneself, thus renunciation is essential. Altruism and an obsessive antipathy to selfishness is the bedrock of Victorian ethics.
28 – Very few see Arnold as Schoepenhauer-ish.
CHAPTER TWO: The Buried Life: Cultural Politics and the Renunciation of Arnold
29 – Since the 1980s Said, Terry Eagleton, Francis Mulhern, Chris Baldick, and J. C. Young have painted Arnold as an elitist, authoritarian, Eurocentric of high-brow exclusivity, and cultural centrality. The right, in response, have taken him the same way.
30 – Arnold is “The deadest white European male of all.”
31 – 35 look at whether or not Arnold is rising in attention or becoming more obscure.
34 - Collini sees his rise as tied to post World War II institutionalization of English studies in the UK and US.
35 – William Bennett and Roger Kimball love Arnold.
40 – But the fog is lifting on the culture wars. And, so we’re ready for Arnold as more than a sock puppet.
41 – In 1867 Sidgwick saw Arnold as practicing renouncement for selfish self-development.
42 – “Culture and Its Enemies” was Arnolds last lecture from the chair of Poetry at Oxford.
43 – T. S. Elliot built upon Sidgwick’s view of Arnold to make him a precursor to Pater and Wilde’s selfish indolence and incapacity for action.
44 – To this supposed hedonism, some Victorians added the charge of ‘Godless.’
46 - They say this accounts for his despair.
47 – Arnold writes, in Culture and Anarchy (CA) “Everything in our political life tends to hid from us that there is anything wiser than our ordinary selves, and to prevent our getting the notion of a paramount right reason.” Which “never reaches at all the mass of us governed, to serve as a lesson to us, to abate our self-love, and to awaken in us a suspicion that our favorite prejudices may be to a higher reason, all nonsense.”
People see this as evidence of authoritarianism.
48 – This early arguments foreshadow Mulhern and Collini. He has 5 periods of Arnoldian stereotypes: Victorian logicians, the Strachey-Eliot interlude, the moment of Scrutiny, the New Left turn, and the postcolonial Arnold.
49 – Arnold describes himself as “a nearly worn-out man of letters” with n more than “a frippery of phrases about sweetness and light, seeing things as they really are, knowing the best that has been thought and said in the world, which never had very much solid meaning, and have now quite lost the charm and gloss of novelty.”
His poise and grace are themselves a sign of renouncement. Given this, the few political stances he does take should be looked at obliquely.
50 – People are angry that he didn’t take sides in the US Civil War.
51 – On the other hand, Arnold says that culture “seeks to do away with classes” and “is not satisfied till we all come to a perfect man,” that “culture hates hatred,” and that “the men of culture are the true apostles of equality.”
52 – Still, Northrup Frye thinks MA sounds ‘badly frightened’ in the ‘conclusion’ to CA. And, Wilson says it is haunted by fear of large working class demonstrations.”
More controversy comes from his educational writings because he believes a small remnant will lead us, but fights for the education of the poor.
54 – Worst of all, Said noted, from the 50s to the 60s, T. S. Eliot and the Southern Agrarians and New Critics’ view of culture as removed from politics and unworldly dominated.
55 - This is headed by, presumably, Arnold and his insulting pose towards the public. Very ivy.
That until he and others overthrew this’ generally Arnoldian’ ‘new humanism.’
56 – Said doesn’t name Arnold until the end. Why? All was grounded, Said said, in European and North Atlantic culture, ‘the classics, the church, and empire in their traditions, languages, and masterworks, along with a whole ideological apparatus of canonicity, synthesis, centrality and consciousness.”
57 – Ironically, while he descries Arnold, his personal style is largely indebted to Trilling, his “Columbia colleague and mentor of sorts.”
Trilling and Leavis were seen to be in Arnold’s line. Conservatives, such as Eliot have created their own Arnold too.
58 – Eliot says Arnold “skillfully initiated” the “degradation of philosophy and religion” that Pater continues.
59 – The fact that Eliot and Said can take their lit crit to social causes is largely a result of Arnold.
60 – The Cold Warrior Arnold made a target for the New Left.
CHAPTER THREE: Poetry is the Reality: Arnoldian Culture Tackles the Athletes of Logic
This chapter and the next trace the trope of Arnold being “unthinking.” This comes from his failure to be a card carrying “Benthamite, Comptean, Millite, Hegelian, Phalansterian or Anglican.
Arnold says, “Culture is always assigning to system-makers and systems a smaller share in the bent of human destiny than their friends like.”
62 – Mulhern says Collini is anti-theoretical content and so not intellectual. Collini says Mulhern is “over-theorized.”
63 – We are only warm when loving what is beautiful and interesting in itself, Arnold says the warmth of religion is better than frigidity around dogma.
64 – Arnold is against system making.
65 – In this context Raymond Williams, in Culture and Society, calls Arnold a “soured romantic.”
Leslie Stephan is Fitzjames Stephan’s younger brother. Leslie is a doctrinaire Hobbesian who loves systematic rigor.
66 – Bagehot, in reviewing Ruskin, says it is “Aesthetic Twaddle versus Economic Science.”
67 – Victorians say Arnold lacks “any real stimulus to progress.” His thought rests not so much on principle but on a first anti-principle. He likes concretes not abstractions. He doesn’t describe the grand style, he provides examples.
Fitzjames says anyone who could sneer at the greatness and majesty of England’s commercial and industrial muscles must “despise human life itself.”
68 – 69 Arnold apologizes for having a “spirit of effeminacy and cultivated inaction.” But want to plead how “plausible were some of the appearances which led astray an untutored mind, not protected by systematic philosophy.”
70 – Elsewhere he s, “Poetry is the reality, philosophy the illusion.”
His supposed effeminate passivity becomes the stereotype of aristocracy of posing middle class snobs.
71 – He is also accused of having too little love for English literature. He approaches it like a foreigner with too little affection for England. Arnold’s view is too ‘cosmopolitan’ (read ‘Jewish’)
72 – He ignores the custom and habit that make English character for intellectualism.
73 – He also gets insulted as a mere inspector of schools, thus he had wandered beyond his true scope.
75 – Eliot, very dismissively, says his mentor F. H. Bradley “knocked the bottom out of Literature and Dogma” with some footnotes.
76 – And Pater, Eliot says, is “only a development of the intellectual Epicureanism of Arnold.”
77 – Arnold anticipates and disarms these by calling himself “a mere man of letters.”
78 – But Leavis notes that Arnold makes up for consistency of definition by always using solid examples. He needs to be taken, we’re told, on his own terms. And these are: “culture” and Conduct” with the latter indicating ‘renouncement.’
79 – Best self also gets called “the critical best self of lucidity, disinterestedness, and seeing the object as in itself it really is, and as the religious best self of purity, charity, and sweet reasonableness.” And, MA uses math as a foil repeatedly.
80 – Many think it odd that he treats morals aesthetically and aesthetics ethically.
81 – Leavis backs Arnold as being unfairly judged on logic systemization terms to which he does not aspire. This prefaces the Two Cultures debate of 1959.
82 – Leavis supports “flexibility, the sensitiveness, the constant delicacy of touch for the concrete in all its complexity, the intelligence that is inseparably one with an alert and fine sense of value.”
83 – Collini also resents this castigating of MA for not having ‘theory’ by moderns, who call him elitist.
84 – The next chapter shows how the New Left has an addiction to abstract system, in the works of Louis Althusser, Antonio Gramsci, Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and others.
CHAPTER FOUR: Culture Hates Hatred: Critical Antihumanism and the Fate of Arnold
86 – With the rise of Marxist critique in Britain after WWII MA’s anti-system bias becomes a tactic to subvert critical thought and direct action.
87 – The all – male avant garde New Left gives ever more attention to ‘culture’ at the exclusion of ‘conduct.’
88 – Because Arnold wasn’t ‘theoretical’ he couldn’t be properly ‘oppositional.’
90 - Baldick’s The Social Mission of English Criticism is especially harsh against MA. [Ball-dick? Really?]
92 - His hermeneutics of suspicion make MA reactionary. But, this often includes misrepresentations as does the rest of the New Left work.
92 – 96 more bad reading by the New Left.
97 – Nair says the indigenous English romantics are a form of synthetic conservatism cooked up by the “artificers of the system.”
98 – Mulhern says Collini’s work does the same.
101 – Collini distinguishes between “Right-Arnoldians” and “Left-Arnoldians.”
The Right – Arnoldians prefer Arnold’s winning side. On the Study of Celtic Lit and his religious stuff gets ignored.
102 – Collini says, in contradistinction to politics, culture signifies those forms of activity which are not principally governed by an instrumental purpose.
103 – It just goads technocrats. Mulhern attacks this and Collini seeks (104) to “rescue the quiddity of past historical agents.”
These two battle for years starting with Collini’s review of Mulhern’s “Culture/Metaculture.”
104 – Thus they parallel the pro-anti systemic thought debates earlier: only they’re not so harsh on each other personally.
106 – Collini finds it less than rigorous when the New Left goes on about the implausibly unified ruling class of the bourgeois state.
107 – Mulhern says Collini’s “Manner, tone, identity, conduct” are a committed stance of quietism about the social relations of capitalism.
108 – Mulhern has a category “Kulturkritik” which Collini says is very pessimistic. Mulhern agrees. Adorno’s damaged subject, Lucaks’s destruction of reason, Gramsci’s war of position, Sartre’s violence of scarcity are all pessimistic.
110 – Arnold’s last entry (a week after his death) was on May 22nd. It has a pessimistic Marx quote with the others.
111 – Trilling’s virtues of new humanism stem from a fascination with “the multiple complexities and ambiguities of writing and speech.”
Said also asks folks to enter into multiple worlds. People thus criticize Said for his flights and his idea that the problems of the Middle East are ultimately textual.
Collini says Said’s work is, in style, like a spiritual pep-talk.
112 – It is paradoxically much like Arnold, Eliot and Leavis.
113 – To give his post-colonial rhetoric bite, he says that Arnold was against the prosecution of a Jamaican slave owner that led a campaign that killed more than 500 Jamaicans. Indeed, people took sides, (Huxley, Darwin, Spencer, Stephan for prosecution / Tennyson and Dickens against) but Arnold did not.
114 – It is a non-fact that Arnold didn’t want prosecution – a lie.
115 – These folks also say that Arnold’s Study of Celtic Literature was racist. He does believe in national characteristics.
116 – Young says Arnold “inaugurated the institution of national culture,” but then oddly qualifies it as not happening in a straightforward way.
117 – Young says culture has “always” been racially constructed. He uses the word ‘always’ far too often.
118 – They quote one book “Matthew Arnold, the Ethnologist” (1951 by Frederic Everett Faverty. This book insinuates that MA was remotely responsible for the holocaust!
119 – The folks find “Hellenistic” and “Hebraic” racist.
120 – Hebraism, MA said, is energy driving at practice and Hellenism is energy driving at ideas.
121 – He said the names derived from the two races of men who have supplied the most signal and splendid manifestations.” It is hard to paint him as an anti-Semite. And MA said, we will not “stickle” for a name. We are concerned with the idea.
123 – Some of this comes from the eristic tradition of super-ego structure nit-picking in academia.
CHAPTER FIVE: To the Wise, Foolish; to the World, Weak: The Reception of Arnoldian Pessimism
The labor of this book has thus far been negative: to relieve Arnold’s blackened image. Now it will get more constructive. To do so we go to the opening lines of Culture and Anarchy in which Arnold describes himself as “a Liberal tempered y experience, reflection, and renouncement”
Renouncement of what? Of thyself, which is the ‘secret’ of Jesus.
126 – Both his religious work and other stuff is based on overcoming. Eliot saw some of this in tying Arnold to Pater. But in this he sees no suffering.
127 – But Arnold tells us that renouncement is the main factor in righteousness and conduct.
In preaching the law of self-denial, MA tells us, Jesus “saw through the suffering at its surface to its joy at the center.”
128 – Suffering is central to Christians, Buddhists, and philosophical pessimists alike.
129 – Catholics say suffering purifies our love for God. This connects Christianity to Nietzsche.
130 – 131 To Nietzsche, man “suffered from the problem of his meaning . . . his problem was not suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question, ‘why do I suffer?’”
131 – Turning this around, we could imagine someone who suffers specifically for meaning.
“All those who have attained a high degree of holiness have learnt to rejoice in suffering” says the Catholic Encyclopedia.
133 – Little progress has been made in the postmodern era on the question of the meaning of suffering. One might say literary studies are Victorian in their call for altruism.
In saying that “renouncement is the law of human life” Arnold pushes Victorian altruism to its extreme.
134 – Avoidance of renunciation is done via omitting Arnold’s religious work.
135 – For Schopenhauer, “in the case of individual persons, knowledge can withdraw from this subjection, throw off its yoke, and, free from all aims of the will, exist purely for itself, simply as a clear mirror of the world; and this is the source of art.”
136 – Houghton called Arnold “the poet of Victorian loneliness.”
But few have noted his prose being undergirded by pessimistic withdrawal.
138 – Culler pushes his optimistic turn earlier.
139 - ApRoberts in Arnold and God is one of the few to make renouncement part of his lifelong ethical object.
Before looking at the philosophical side of his pessimism, he wishes to look at the personal side.
140 – In his 129 published poems the word pain occurs 79 times, vain and vainly 76, gloom and gloomy 63 times, etc. Joy is 100 times. But most often occurs in a sentence that notes its absence.
Caufield will look at inner and outer worlds of pain.
In the outer, someone said melancholy comes from chaos and this also leads to fantasies of a utopian world.
Arnold uses the word ‘multitudinous’ a lot.
141 – In his inaugural address as Oxford Professor of Poetry, he calls for “intellectual deliverance” from the “impatient irritation of mind” that all feel in the “immense, moving, confused, spectacle” of the modern age,” one that “perpetually excites our curiosity” as it “perpetually baffles our comprehension.”
142 – Like Sophocles, the scholar – gypsy “saw life steadily, and saw it whole,” while the rest of us simply fluctuate and wander in these “damned times.”
Why are we obsessed with the dark ages? Because, Arnold says, man had thrown off the burden of his over-stimulated, sophisticated, artificialized false-developed miserable nervous skeptical self.”
143 – C&A treats the “best self” as the opposite of the “ordinary self.” The will of God says “Thou must go without, go without” and “die daily.”
144 – Arnold said with “Necrosis” he finds the one key to “the subduing of the obvious faults of our animality” and effecting our “rescue from the thrall of vile affections.”
The word “Fausta” means ‘lucky.’
145 – He will now look at the poem ‘resignation.’
146 – “The sad lucidity of soul” is the renunciation to see ‘not joy, but peace.”
147 – With large results so little rife,
Though bearable, seemly hardly worth,
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth.”
149 – he notes the formula “disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world.”
The poet does not say I am alone as he considers “not his own course, but that of man.”
151 – His 1840 Rugby prize poem, he wrote at 18, sings of “energies wasted, unimproved hours.” It has the same sense of removal.
152 – People don’t like his rejection of the modern world. They warn that “the day is at hand when he that will not work neither shall he eat.”
153 – Reviewers don’t like MA because he “seems to fail so signally as a moral guide and spiritual comforter, the chief duties of a poet, according to the prevailing wisdom.
154 – Arnold’s Oxford classmate said poets “should do their utmost to strengthen and restore, not farther paralyze it by useless and unmanly lamentations.
156 – Kingsley, who did a sort of Muscular Christianity, advised Arnold, - in print – to “marry and get children.” Arnold did so.
Collini wrote that such criticisms betrayed “a constant anxiety about the possibility of sinking into a state of psychological malaise or anomie, a kind of emotional entropy assumed to be the consequence of absorption in purely selfish aims.” (Public moralists, 65).
Thomas Carlyle wrote in the “Gospel of Work,” “produce! Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a product, produce it in God’s name.”
157 – There was despair that this focus on work made us like other animals and no higher.
158 – Arnold replies to this that we need Hellenism as well as Hebraism. He sees the need for constant work as Philistinism.
His being called weak, effeminate, lazy and selfish is somewhat a reaction to his questioning mechanical muscularity.
CHAPTER SIX: Less than Joy and More than Resignation: Arnold’s Method of Ethical Exemplarity
This chapter will look at Arnold’s rhetorical style.
160 – In Numbers (1885) he says “There is nothing like positive instances to illustrate general propositions and to make them believed.”
Both as a poet and essayist, Arnold’s style causes as much critical vexation as his substance.
[footnotes: Celibacy was a part of the Tractarian dispute. Kingsley found church celibacy un-English and otherworldly: effeminate. Young looks at effeminate / masculine tropes in the Celtic / British nationalism depictions.]
162 – Mills, Fawcetts and Leslie Stephens are seen as manly. Arnold not.
163 – His poetry could not be farther from Victorian imperial and industrial triumphalism and the attitude in Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days. Hughes also wrote a book called “The Manliness of Christ.”
164 – They accuse him of “idle and incoherent chatter” and being an “intellectual dandy.” Deserving only the “admiration of young ladies or of old women – of both sexes.”
165 – It is said that he advocates a purely personal and hence selfish self-development at the expense of the Christian’s manly duty to work for progressive political reform.
Arnold, of course, says that it is not in his power to argue points obstinately.
166 – But Arnold drops the faux-humility in his religious prose of the 1870s and makes his opposition to the athletes of theology and metaphysics quite explicit.
167 – He boldly asserts that, “miracles do not happen.”
168 – Young has argued that Arnold’s “tolerance” in religion “in many ways provided the historical and ideological basis for its modern version contemporary liberal multiculturalism.”
169 – Mill, Carlyle, Newman, Dickens, George Eliot, the Froude brothers, the Stephen brothers all have an “obsessive antipathy to selfishness.”
170 – Herein we have a look at the word “personality” which meant, then, more concern with one’s person. And Arnold is most free from personality. He practices a “personal impersonality.”
171 – Arnold’s argument is nearly always personal, not based on social needs directly.
172 – Collini overlooks a half of a eulogy sentence wherein Arnold is said to be “most free from personality.”
173 – This means that he does not deal in invective.
174 – In writing about death and how little time he has left and how much he has to do Arnold writes, “whether one lives or not, to be less and less personal in one’s desires and workings is the great matter.”
175 – Arnold personalizes impersonality by dramatizing and embodying it, by performing it. We see this in his rant on “Wragg is in custody.” He does this in reaction to a British triumphalism that will make spiritual progress impossible.
176 – Wragg killed her child and Arnold is struck by the description and the name Wragg.
178 – Eliot and others see class distinctions that make them somewhat impervious to the suffering of others. And, Eliot sees artistic self-sacrifice making art near the objectivity of science. For Arnold, such sacrifice leads to aesthetics, in opposition to physics or metaphysics.
In this he mounts a form of epistemological critique of the absolute or transcendental foundations of God and truth.
179 – This is a weak harbinger of the postmetaphysical antifoundational position today. But, Caufield undercuts this a bit by noting that Nietzsche implied the ascetic ideal is another form of grounding, and so weak. But, Arnold wishes to restore intuition.
Schopenhauer claimed his views and true Christianity were congruent.
180 – In St. Paul and Protestantism he says we must crucify ourselves to see the universal moral order, the will of God. This is the very opposite of “the ordinary self,” of “doing as one likes,” which does not get us out of the class to which we happen to belong.
The only authority capable of curbing this anarchy of ordinary selves lies in the “best self,” which “inspires faith, and is capable of affording a serious principle of authority.”
From this he draws his notion of the state as the notorious “organ of our collective best self, of our national right reason.” This allows us to go below beneath our habits and practice to find the very ground and cause out of which they spring.
The ground is binary: Hellenism and Hebraism. And Hebraism is the locus of moral order. It involves “Self-conquest, self-devotion, the following not of our individual will, but the will of God, obedience, is the fundamental idea” and to this we give “the general name of Hebraism.”
181 – Nietzsche wrote on just this denial of self as selfish and so making the philosopher like a god at the expense of demonizing the unrestrained self.
182 – There is no evidence that Arnold read any of Schopenhauer’s work. But he did make note of other’s summaries of his writing.
183 – The irony was noted that by being abstinent, we actually end the propagation of the species.
184 – Chastity Arnold will adopt, but not celibacy.
185 – Arnold buried three sons in four years. And he knows that overpopulation leads to poverty, as he saw in East London. But he will not adopt Schopenhauer’s plan for species extinction.
186 – But he won’t go for the unbridled propagation either.
Arnold hints at population control. This was a serious heresy in Victorian England.
187 – To Arnold, Jesus never deals in speculative theory, but stands on practical experience and speaks directly to conduct.
Arnold never tires of saying, “Conduct is three-fourths of life” and “art and science divide the one-fourth fairly between them.”
188 – Arnold’s progressive model of the “Law of our being” of a human nature that “becomes,” is as much as tribute to the influence of evolutionary thought as to Dr. Arnold’s Viconian historicism.”
189 – But he follows Jesus’ way of intuition and keeping close to facts.
Arnold tells us that when we use principles in criticism, we should not become abstract. The mere application of principles, “like mathematics, it is tautological, and cannot well give us, like fresh learning, the sense of creative activity.”
190 – Yet, Arnold admits that he never succeeded in mastering himself.
191 – Arnold writes that his claims for “an eternal not ourselves that makes for righteousness. For this is really a law of nature, collected from experience, just as much as the law of gravitation . . . it has its origins in experience, it appeals to experience, and by experience it is, as we believe, verified.”
Eliot said that to be able to quote like Arnold was the best evidence of taste.
192 – Only practical examples and concrete images (poetry) can sufficiently stir the imagination and light the way to self-renunciation. And religion as poetry has the ability to inspire emotion.
193 – In Civilization and the United States (1887) the last essay Arnold saw through the press her wrote the following about the mistranslation of “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”:
“Instead of again, we ought to translate from above, and instead of taking the kingdom of God in the sense of a life in Heaven above, we ought to take it, as its speaker meant it, in the sense of the reign of saints, a renovated and perfected human society on earth, the ideal society of the future. In the life of such a society, in the life from above, the life born of inspiration or the spirit – in that life elevation and beauty are not everything; but they are much, and they are indispensable. Humanity cannot reach its ideal while it lacks them: “Except a man be born from above, he cannot have part in the society of the future.”
194 – 195 The characters Arnold reviews are much like himself. In his first Oxford Address he talks of Lucretius’ withdraw from the world. And his other portraits are of melancholy authors.
196 - In his first tour of America he speaks of the impact of Newman’s sermons as aesthetic. He also enjoys the pathos of his expression, not the vision of heaven.
Trilling speaks of Arnold’s “controlled self-pity.”
197 – Leslie Stephen is a positivist preaching eternal progress of the ‘social tissue’ (basically race) but he cannot ignore the rising tide of decadence and irrationalism.
Stephan was editor of Cornhill Magazine and pulled Literature and Dogma after two installments.
198 – He criticized St. Paul and Protestantism for its vainly trying to preserve Christianity instead of revolting against it. He does not like his effeminate rewrite of scriptures wherein he puts new wine in old bottles.
199 – Stephen’s first rule of editing was “Thou shall not shock a young lady.”
200 – Moderating desire, impersonalizing if not silencing it altogether, is the goal of Arnold’s ‘renouncement.’
In Culture and Anarchy, Arnold wrote
“We can no more allow absolute validity to his stock maxim, Liberty is the law of human life, than we allow it to the opposite maxim, which is just as true, Renouncement is the law of human life. For we know that the only perfect freedom is, as our religion says, a service: not a service to any stock maxim, but an elevation of our best self, and a harmonizing in subordination to this, and to the idea of a perfected humanity, all the multitudinous, turbulent, and blind impulses of our ordinary selves.”
201 – We have failed to see that pessimism and renouncement are a strong strain in all of Arnold’s work.