Essay Theme: Literature and Arnold

Submitted By thischickandyy
Words: 719
Pages: 3

Matthew Arnold Matthew Arnold wrote during the Victorian Period. He was the first modern critic. Arnold was known as a clever and sharp man. (Greenblatt 2159) Matthew Arnold was a literary critic that was honest and focused on telling the public what they needed to know.
“Arnold’s biographers usually dismiss his youthful frivolity of spirit as only a temporary pose or mask, but it permanently colored his prose style, brightening his most serious criticism with geniality and wit.” (Allot)
He was born in 1822 in Laleham, a village in the valley of the Thames. (Greenblatt 2159) His father, Dr. Thomas Arnold, was a head master at Rugby School. Arnold studied at Balliol College, Oxford University. (Andrews) Although Arnold was a very prosperous poet he didn’t dedicate all of his time to writing. Arnold wrote during his spare time. Arnold traveled England and studied the schools around. In 1849 Arnold published his first piece of poetry. The purpose of literary criticism in his view was “to know the best that is known and thought in the world and by in its turn making this known, to create a current of true and fresh ideas.” (Greenblatt)
A poet being highly educated, meaning that they read, was how poets should be in his eyes. With a favorable background, a poet could be creative enough to be a good writer. (Arnold) Arnold kept nothing to himself; he expressed his views for everything he could. (Allot) To Arnold, poetry should be straightforward and easy to understand. Arnold, mainly focusing on literary criticism, wrote about Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron (romantic poets). Arnold criticizes the creativity of these poets and on the way they wrote. He criticized based on what he called the truth. Poems like Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” didn’t meet his high standers. “Canterbury Tales” had many unrealistic scenes and things that couldn’t have a real explanation to. Arnold wanted logic. Anything that didn’t sound reasonable wasn’t meant to be poetry. (Greenblatt)
Arnold not only criticized literature but society, politics, and religion as well. He criticized everything. Arnold’s opinion on religion was that he thought it was a “failure.” (Allot) Arnold did not prefer the idea of something that could not be proven. He disliked metaphors, and religious writings. Although this all might sound like Arnold gave up religion to become an atheist, he didn’t completely turn his back on religion. Arnold didn’t believe in miracles. He believed man needed more than money to succeed- they needed faith. (Allot) Arnold believed in what he called “culture.” Culture contributed in to making people more civilized. This is where religion fell under. (Greenblatt 2162) In the eyes of orthodox churchmen, Arnold was “widening the rat hole in the Temple” (Allot) As a social critic, Arnold realized the upper class passed on the social influence to the middle class. Arnold disliked