1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arnold, Sir Edwin

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ARNOLD, SIR EDWIN (1832–1904), British poet and journalist, was born on the 10th of June 1832, and was educated at the King’s school, Rochester; King’s College, London; and University College, Oxford, where in 1852 he gained the Newdigate prize for a poem on Belshazzar’s feast. On leaving Oxford he became a schoolmaster, and went to India as principal of the government Sanskrit College at Poona, a post which he held during the mutiny of 1857, when he was able to render services for which he was publicly thanked by Lord Elphinstone in the Bombay council. Returning to England in 1861 he worked as a journalist on the staff of the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper with which he continued to be associated for more than forty years. It was he who, on behalf of the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph in conjunction with the New York Herald, arranged for the journey of H. M. Stanley to Africa to discover the course of the Congo, and Stanley named after him a mountain to the north-east of Albert Edward Nyanza. Arnold must also be credited with the first idea of a great trunk line traversing the entire African continent, for in 1874 he first employed the phrase “a Cape to Cairo railway” subsequently popularized by Cecil Rhodes. It was, however, as a poet that he was best known to his contemporaries. The Light of Asia appeared in 1879 and won an immediate success, going through numerous editions both in England and America. It is an Indian epic, dealing with the life and teaching of Buddha, which are expounded with much wealth of local colour and not a little felicity of versification. The poem contains many lines of unquestionable beauty; and its immediate popularity was rather increased than diminished by the twofold criticism to which it was subjected. On the one hand it was held by Oriental scholars to give a false impression of Buddhist doctrine; while, on the other, the suggested analogy between Sakyamuni and Christ offended the taste of some devout Christians. The latter criticism probably suggested to Arnold the idea of attempting a second narrative poem of which the central figure should be the founder of Christianity, as the founder of Buddhism had been that of the first. But though The Light of the World (1891), in which this idea took shape, had considerable poetic merit, it lacked the novelty of theme and setting which had given the earlier poem much of its attractiveness; and it failed to repeat the success attained by The Light of Asia. Arnold’s other principal volumes of poetry were Indian Song of Songs (1875), Pearls of the Faith (1883), The Song Celestial (1885), With Sadi in the Garden (1888), Potiphar’s Wife (1892) and Adzuma (1893). In his later years Arnold resided for some time in Japan, and his third wife was a Japanese lady. In Seas and Lands (1891) and Japonica (1892) he gives an interesting study of Japanese life. He received the order of C.S.I. on the occasion of the proclamation of Queen Victoria as empress of India in 1877, and in 1888 was created K.C.I.E. He also possessed decorations conferred by the rulers of Japan, Persia, Turkey and Siam. Sir Edwin Arnold died on the 24th of March 1904.