Selected and Introduced by
Brian Crick and Michael DiSanto
Matthew Arnold is the founder in English of an idea of criticism without which a nation's spirit . . . must, in the long run, die of inanition. His closeness of attention, so as to see the object as in itself it really is and to form what he calls a real judgement, established the tradition of criticism which led to the university subject English. Arnold was anything but insular, and constantly exhorts us to look both to the classics and the literatures of Europe; and for him literature was not confined to works of the imagination. So this representative selection includes essays on Spinoza, Joubert and Marcus Aurelius, as well as The Modern Element in Literature which, wittily enough, mainly concerns the Greeks. But Arnold's great endeavour, culminating in The Study of Poetry, is to see the form of English literature as a whole and to recognize how and why it matters.
Arnold's own essays belong to the literature he does so much to establish, and naturally stand or fall with it. The denial of the literature at present fashionable in universities has to contradict Arnold in particular, and has been so successful that Arnold is no longer much read, particularly in the departments that logically depend on him.
He remains one of the most illuminating critics of the English romantics and of the sensibility of the eighteenth century. He remains classical in his conception the free play of mind that can show what literature is and where it belongs in life, as well as in his still challenging discriminations between what belongs to literature and what does not.
This large selection, nicely printed and priced to make purchase by students possible, will allow present-day readers to test these opinions and Arnold to regain something more like his rightful place as a prime source of the criticism we need.
Introduction page vii
1 Preface to First Edition of Poems (1853) 1
2 The Function of Criticism at the Present Time 14
3 Heinrich Heine 39
4 Joubert 62
5 Spinoza and the Bible 87
6 Marcus Aurelius 109
7 On the Modern Element in Literature 131
8 Preface to Johnson's Lives of the Poets 148
9 The Study of Poetry 161
10 John Keats 185
11 Wordsworth 195
12 Byron 212
13 Count Leo Tolstoi 230
14 Literature and Science 250
15 Emerson 268
Editorial Notes 287
For Brian Crick see Love Confounded
Michael DiSanto, after a first class B.A. from Brock University and an M.A. from Dalhousie University, was awarded his Ph.D. by Dalhousie for a dissertation on Conrad's novels as a Criticism of the Nineteenth Century. He teaches at Algoma University, Ontario.