Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/97

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MATTHEW ARNOLD

of the Greek or of the Celtic element, I know not; but I am quite sure that they are delightful. At his best Arnold reaches a felicity of style in which Tennyson alone, of all our modern poets, if Tennyson himself, was his superior. The comparison, much as I dislike comparisons, may suggest at least the question why Arnold's popularity is still, as I think it is, below his deserts. One answer is obvious. I cannot doubt that Arnold fully appreciated the greatest of contemporary artists. But certain references to Tennyson in his essays are significant. Arnold incidentally quotes Tennyson's 'great, broad-shouldered, genial Englishman,' by way of illustrating his favourite proposition that this broad-shouldered personage was a 'barbarian,' and conspicuous for insensibility to ideas. He refers with a certain scorn to the self-complacency implied in the phrase about freedom broadening slowly down from precedent to precedent. Though Arnold does not criticise the poetry, he evidently felt—what, to say the truth, I think must be admitted—that Tennyson interpreted the average—shall I say, the Philistine or the commonplace English sentiment?—a little too faithfully; but it may be inferred—though Arnold does not draw the