The publication of all the known letters of Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), when complete in seven volumes, will present close to 4000 letters, nearly five times the number in G.W.E. Russell's two-volume compilation of 1895, many of which appear in their entirety here for the first time. Renowned as a poet and critic, Arnold will be celebrated now as a letter writer. In his introduction, Cecil Y. Lang writes that the letters "may well be the finest portrait of an age and of a person, representing the main movements of mind and of events of nearly half a century and at the same time revealing the intimate life of the participant-observer, in any collection of letters in the 19th century, possibly in existence". Volume 1 begins in 1829 with an account of the Arnold children by their father, the notable headmaster of Rugby School, and closes in 1859, when already a poet and literary critic, Matthew Arnold returned to England after several months on a government educational commission in Europe to find himsef acquiring a European reputation.
The letters show him as a child; a schoolboy at Winchester and Rugby; a foppish Oxonian; a worldly young main in a perfect, undemanding job; then as a new husband in an imperfect, too-demanding job; Professor of Poetry at Oxford; and finally as an emergent European critic. The letters, with a consecutiveness rare in such editions, contain a great deal of new information about Arnold and his family, both personal (somtimes intimate) and professional. Two new diaries are included, a long, boyish travelogue-letter and a mature essay-letter on architecture, never before recognized as Arnold's, as well as a handful of letters written to Arnold. Matthew Arnold wrote with wit, humour and warmth of his poetry, his work, his travels throughout Europe and America, and his large and loving family. But most of all, what comes across in these letters, writes Lang, is that "Arnold loved to live - the world within and the world without chiming togther...And he learned to live with a boring, demanding, underpaid, unrewarding occupation largely because - questing intellectual, husband and father, school inspector, clubbable man-about-town and cosmopolite-about-Europe and America, fisherman, skater, voracious reader - he learned to live".
Publisher: University of Virginia Press