Arnold, Thomas (1823-1900) (DNB01)

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ARNOLD, THOMAS (1823–1900), professor of English literature, second son of Dr. Thomas Arnold [q. v.] of Rugby, and younger brother of Matthew Arnold [q. v. Suppl.], was born at Laleham, Staines, on 30 Nov. 1823. Like his brother Matthew he was privately taught by Herbert Hill, a cousin of Robert Southey, and then, after a year at Winchester (1836-7), was entered at Rugby, where his master was James Prince Lee. The vacations were spent at Fox How in Westmoreland, and Arnold had a clear recollection of Southey and of Wordsworth at Rydal Mount reciting the sonnet that he had just composed, ‘Is there no nook of English ground secure?’ He was elected to a scholarship at University College, Oxford, in 1842, matriculating on 26 Feb., graduated B.A. 1845, M.A. 1865, and was entered of Lincoln's Inn on 25 April 1846. His college rooms were opposite those of Arthur Stanley, and a small debating society, ‘The Decade,’ brought him into intimate relations with Stanley, Jowett, Shairp, and Clough. He met Clough near Loch Ness in the long vacation of 1847, and supplied the poet with one or two of the incidents forming the staple of his ‘Bothie of Tober-na- Vuolich’ (in which poem he himself figures with little concealment as 'Philip'). In the same year he accepted a clerkship in the colonial office, but held it for a few months only, for in November 1847 he took a cabin passage to Wellington, New Zealand. During the summer of 1848 he attempted to start a small farm on a clearing in the Makara Valley, two sections of which had been purchased by his father; but this scheme proved abortive, and early in 1849 he started a school at Fort Hill, near Nelson. His chief friend in New Zealand was Alfred Domett [q. v.] (Browning's ' Waring '), through whom he was offered, but refused, a private secretaryship to Governor (Sir) George Grey. His emoluments at Nelson were small, and he was smarting under a certain sense of failure when in October 1849 he received a letter from Sir William Denison offering him the post of inspector of schools in Tasmania, which he gladly accepted. He performed the duties without intermission for six years and a half from January 1850, At Hobart Town, where his headquarters were, he married on 13 June 1850 Julia, daughter of William Sorell, registrar of deeds in Hobart, and granddaughter of Colonel Sorell, a former governor of the colony. His life at the Normal School in Hobart was uneventful during the next few years, but his mind was oscillating upon religious questions, and in January 1856 he was received into the Roman catholic church by Bishop Willson of Hobart. This step incensed many of the colonists, and Arnold was glad to accept eighteen months' leave of absence ; he sailed for England with his wife and three children in July, doubling Cape Horn in a small barque of four hundred tons, and arriving at London in October. A few months later he was asked by Newman to go to Dublin, with a prospect of employment as professor of English literature at the contemplated catholic university. While there, between 1856 and 1862, he gradually put together his useful 'Manual of English Literature, Historical and Critical' (1862; a work considerably improved in successive editions, of which the seventh, preface dated Dublin, December 1896, is the last). Newman resigned the rectorship of the university in 1858, and in January 1862 Arnold followed him to Edgbaston, accepting the post of first classical master in the Birmingham Oratory School. About this time he made the acquaintance of Lord Acton, and wrote several articles in his review, the 'Home and Foreign.'

Early in 1865 Arnold's growing liberalism began to alienate him from the oratorians. Newman would not allow one of his boys to receive Dollinger's 'The Church and the Churches,' which Arnold had selected for a prize. This convinced him that his 'connection with the Oratory was not likely to be prolonged,' and he thereupon left it and the church of Rome. After taking advice with Arthur Stanley, then canon of Canterbury, he built a house (now Wycliffe Hall) in the Banbury Road, Oxford, and decided to take pupils there. He was candidate for the professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford in 1876, but his election was prevented by the announcement that he had rejoined the church of Rome. He now sold his house at Oxford, and after a brief interval resumed literary teaching in Dublin. He was elected fellow of the Royal University of Ireland in 1882, his status being improved by his appointment as professor of English language and literature in the University College, St. Stephen's Green. His later life was uneventful. After 1887 he settled exclusively in Ireland, and he made pilgrimages in 1898 to the shrine of St. Brigit at Upsala in Sweden, visiting at the same time the scene of the main action of Beowulf, about Roskilde, and in 1899 to Rome. Early in 1900 he brought out an autobiographical volume entitled 'Passages in a Wandering Life;' he writes in an agreeable style of a life of which he laments, with needless bitterness, that the greater part had been 'restless and unprofitable.' He died at Dublin on 12 Nov. 1900, and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, leaving several children, the eldest of whom, born at Hobart in 1851, is the novelist, Mrs, Humphry Ward. After the death of his first wife in 1888 he married, in 1890, Josephine, daughter of James Benison of Slieve Rassell, co. Cavan.

Besides his well-known 'Manual of English Literature,' Arnold wrote 'Chaucer to Wordsworth : a Short History of English Literature to the present day' (London, 1868, 2 vols. 12mo; 2nd ed, 1875). His editions of English classics are numerous and valuable. They include: 1. 'Select English Works of John Wycliffe from Original Manuscripts,' 1809-71, 3 vols. 8vo. 2. 'Beowulf: an Heroic Poem of the Eighth Century, with a Translation,' 1876. 3. 'English Poetry and Prose, a Collection of Illustrative Passages, 1696-1832, with Notes and Indexes,' 1879 ; new ed. 1882. 4. 'The History of the English by Henry of Huntingdon,' 1879. 5. 'The Historical Works of Symeon of Durham,' vols. i. and ii. The last two texts were edited for the Rolls; Series.

A fine portrait of Thomas Arnold is prefixed to his autobiographical volume, showing his marked resemblance as an older man to his brother, Matthew Arnold. An excellent crayon likeness of him as a younger man, by Bishop Nixon of Tasmania, is in the possession of Miss Arnold of Fox How.

[Arnold's Passages in a Wandering Life, 1900; Times, 13 Nov. 1900; Literature, 17 Nov. 1900; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; The Tablet, 17 Nov. 1900; Men and Women of the Time, 13th ed.; Matthew Arnold's Letters, 1894; Allibone's Dict. of English Literature; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.