Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/101

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89
MATTHEW ARNOLD

tion. The 'Scholar Gipsy,' for example, expresses in certain passages sentiment which I must call morbid, but for all that, even for me, it remains one of the most exquisite poems in the language.

This leads me to another point. In his essay upon Joubert (Essays in Criticism, p. 249), Arnold spoke of literature as a 'criticism of life.' Elsewhere (Introduction to Mr. H. Ward's Collection of Poems) he gave the same account of poetry. But to poetry, he says in the same breath, we shall have to turn for consolation, and it will replace much of 'what now passes with us for religion and philosophy.' If so, he obviously cannot mean that poetry and criticism are really the same thing. The phrase 'criticism of life' gave great offence, and was much ridiculed by some writers, who were apparently unable to distinguish between an epigram and a philosophical dogma. To them, indeed, Arnold's whole position was naturally abhorrent. For it is not uncommon now to hear denunciations of all attempts to connect art with morality and philosophy. It is wicked, we are told, for a poet, or a novelist, or a painter, to take any moral consideration into account; and therefore to talk of poetry as destined to do for us much