cured for Arnold an inspectorship of schools, and on 10 June of that year he fulfilled a cherished wish by uniting himself to Frances Lucy, daughter of Sir William Wightman [q.v.], one of the judges of the queen's bench.
Up to this time Arnold, though now eight and twenty, was known only to a few as a member of a highly intellectual Oxford set, to which Oiough, Lake, and J. D. Coleridge belonged, and to a few more as the author of a little volume of verse, 'The Strayed Reveller and other Poems,' published in 1849 under the initial 'A' (London, 16mo ; five hundred copies were printed, but it was withdrawn before many copies were sold and is very scarce). His correspondence of the period, which though full of crudities is more lively and original than_the letters of later years, shows that he was profoundly interested in the questions of the day, especially in the revolutionary movements of 1848, and had already conceived the germs of most of the ideas which he was afterwards to develop. He must have been studying French and German, but he seems to have made no attempt in the department of literary and philosophical criticism in which he was afterwards to become potent ; and his volume of verse, though including two of his best poems, 'The Forsaken Merman' and 'Mycerinus,' was too unequal as well as too diminutive to produce much effect. On the whole his mental progress up to this date seems slow; but either a natural process or his conduct with the busy world in the discharge of his really arduous duties as school inspector effected, a speedy development ; in 1852 he appears as a poet of mature power, and in 1853 not merely as_a poet but as a legislator upon poetry. The volume of 1852 was 'Empedocles on Etna and other Poems' (London, 8vo; reissued 1896, 4to ; the original is only less scarce than 'The Strayed Reveller'). The book, like its forerunner, was published under the bare initial 'A.' It contained, with some short lyrics, two long poems, the dramatic 'Empedocles on Etna,' and the narrative 'Trisfram and Iseult,' which were much more ambitious in design and elaborate in execution than anything previously attempted by Arnold. Both poems had great attractions ; the songs of the_harp-player Callicles in 'Empedocles' are extraordinary combinations of pictorial beauty with lyrical passion, and the third canto of 'Tristram' is a masterpiece of descriptive poetry. But neither the songs of Callicles nor the third canto of 'Tristram' has much connection with the rest of the poem to which each belongs. If the finest passages are thus, strictly speaking, superfluous, the poems can hardly be other than disjointed — and so indeed they are — not apparently from inability to conceive the subjects as wholes, but from ineptitude in the combination of details. They nevertheless contain sufficient beauty to justify by themselves a high poetical reputation, and were accompanied by a number of exquisite lyrics, among which it will suffice to name 'A Summer Night,' 'The Youth of Nature,' 'The Youth of Man,' 'Isolation,' and 'Faded Leaves.' The spirit of these pieces may be described as intermediate between Wordsworth and Goethe, who are elsewhere in the same volume contrasted with each other and with Byron in a very noble lyric. If, however, the poet neither expressed a new view of life nor created a new form of poetry, his style and cast of thought were indisputably his own. The volume nevertheless failed to win public attention, and the author, probably prompted less by disappointment than by dissatisfaction with the defects which he had discovered in 'Empedocles,' withdrew it after disposing of fifty copies. He was already providing himself with a new pièce de résistance, better adapted to exemplify his creed as a poet. He could not have chosen better than in 'Sohrab and Rustum,' which first appeared in 'Poems by Matthew Arnold' a new edition' (1853, 8vo; 1854 and 1857, slightly altered). Together with a re-issue of the most important contents ('Empedocles on Etna' excepted) of his former volumes, the new volume contained the new poems of 'The Scholar Gypsy and 'Requiescat,' as well as 'Schrab and Rustum.' The last piece is an episode from Firdusi's ' Shah-Nameh,' noble and affecting in subject, and so simple in its perfect unity of action as to leave no room for digression, while fully admitting the adornments of description and elaborate simile. These are introduced with exquisite judgment, and, while greatly heightening the poetical beauty of the piece, are never allowed to divert attention from the progress of the main action, which culminates in a situation of unsurpassable pathos. Nothing could have more forcibly exemplified the doctrines laid down by the author in his memorable preface to this volume of 'Poems,' in which he condemns the prevalent taste for brilliant phrases and isolated felicities, and admonishes poets to regard above all things unity, consistency, and the total impression of the piece.This prefatory essay is a literary landmark and monument of sound criticism. It is also of peculiar interest as foreshadowing the character of the literary work with