Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Arnold, Edwin

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ARNOLD, Sir EDWIN (1832–1904), poet and journalist, born at Gravesend on 10 June 1832, was second son of Robert Coles Arnold of Whartons, Framfield, and elder brother of Sir Arthur Arnold [q. v. Suppl. II]. Educated at King's School, Rochester, and at King's College, London, where he was a friendly rival of F. W. (Dean) Farrar (1850-1), Edwin obtained a scholarship at University College, Oxford, in 1851 and graduated B.A. in 1854 and M.A. in 1856. Although he won only a third class in the final classical school, he read Greek poetry with enthusiasm, and in 1852 he obtained the Newdigate with an ornate poem on 'Belshazzar's Feast.' This was published separately (1852) and was also reissued to form next year the staple of an elegant volume, 'Poems Narrative and Lyrical' (Oxford, 1853). Dedicated to Lady Waldegrave, Arnold's 'Poems' obtained the distinction of a review, on 'The two Arnolds,' in 'Blackwood' (March 1854). In America, many years later, Matthew Arnold found himself credited to an embarrassing extent with the poetical baggage of his namesake. After a short period as second English master at King Edward's School, Birmingham, Arnold was in 1856 nominated principal of the government Deccan College at Poona. On settling there he was elected a fellow of Bombay University. He soon studied Eastern languages, and mastered not only those of India but also Turkish and Persian. A successful translation of 'The Book of Good Counsels. From the Sanskrit of the Hitopadesa,' with pleasing illustrations by Harrison Weir (1861), dedicated to his first wife, indicates his rapid attraction to Oriental study. He also wrote a pamphlet on education in India (1860), pleading for a more scientific grafting of Western knowledge upon the lore of the East, and a 'History of the Marquis of Dalhousie's Administration' (2vols. 1862-5). His demeanour as principal during the trying times of the mutiny won him commendations from the Indian government.

During a visit to England in 1861 Arnold obtained through a chance advertisement the post of leader-writer on the 'Daily Telegraph,' which Joseph Moses Levy [q. v.] was just setting to work to regenerate. This appointment finally determined his career. His colleague George Augustus Sala describes in his 'Reminiscences' how in the early days of 1862 the Eastern aroma first began to make itself felt in the leading articles of the 'Daily Telegraph.' Arnold and Sala were responsible, perhaps, in about equal measure for the roaring tones in which the 'Telegraph' began about this time to answer back the thunder of 'The Times' newspaper (see Matthew Arnold's Friendship's Garland, 1871 ). On Thornton Hunt's doath in 1873 Arnold became a chief editor of the 'Daily Telegraph,' and with the proprietors was responsible for the despatch of some enterprising and important journalistic missions, that of George Smith [q. v.] to Assyria in 1874, that of H. M. Stanley (jointly with the 'New York Herald') to complete the disdbveries of Livingstone in the same year, and that of Sir H. H. Johnston to Kilima-Njaro in 1884. Arnold's Oriental knowledge proved of vital influence on his editorial work, and as a champion of Turkey through the Russo-Turkish war and of Lord Lytton's forward policy in India he helped to mould public opinion. He was made C.S.I, when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India on 1 Jan. 1877. In 1879 he published the epic poem 'The Light of Asia,' to which he owed most of his fame. In blank verse, of Oriental luxuriance, in which colour and music were blended in the Tennysonian manner with heightened effects, Arnold here presented the picturesque and pathetic elements of the Buddhist legend and the life of Gautama. The moral doctrines were those to which Europeans had been accustomed all their lives, but the setting was new to English and American readers. The poem aroused the animosities of many pulpits, but there were sixty editions in England and eighty in America, and translations were numerous. A sequel appeared in 1891 as 'The Light of the World,' and proved a signal failure.

After twenty-eight successful years in the editorial room, where his staff of writers included Edward Dicey, James Macdonell, H. D. Traill, and others, Arnold, who was made K.C.I.E. in 1888, became a travelling commissioner of the paper. In August 1889 he started with his daughter, Katharine Lilian, upon a long ramble chiefly devoted to the Pacific coast and Japan. As a picturesque tourist in books like 'India Revisited' (1886), 'Seas and Lands' (1891), 'Wandering Words' (1894), and 'East and West' (1896) (studies of Egypt, India, and Japan), he has had few rivals. His 'first visit to Japan was often repeated, and he was fascinated by the artistic and social side of Japanese life. His writings on Japan helped to spread in England optimistic views of Japanese progress and culture. In 1891 he undertook a reading tour in America, and he received numerous foreign decorations from Turkey, Persia, Siam, and Japan.

During the last nine or ten years of his life his sight gradually failed, but in spite of infirmities he maintained a keen interest in contemporary affairs. In 1899 he dedicated to his third wife his interesting story of the wrongs of an Indian cultivator called ' The Queen's Justice,' and in 1895 he dedicated to the Duchess of York, afterwards Queen Mary, his 'Tenth Muse and Other Poems, including many Renderings of Japanese "uta." ' He died at his house in Bolton Gardens, London, on 24 March 1904 ; he was cremated at Brookwood and his ashes bestowed in the chapel of his old college at Oxford. A portrait by James Archer was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1890. He married (1) in 1854 Katharine Elizabeth (d. 1864), daughter of Rev. Theo Biddulph of Bristol; (2) Fannie Maria Adelaide (d. 1889), daughter of Rev. W. H Channing of Boston, U.S.A.; he issued 'In my Lady's Praise' in the year of her death; (3) Tama KuroKawa of Sendai Japan, who survives him. He left issue Mr. Edwin Lester Arnold, the author, and four other children, two sons and two daughters.

Arnold was a copious and animated writer, and where he is describing actual events, often vivid and terse. Somewhat insensitive to the finer kinds of metrical effect, he is as a poet over-sensuous, and at times allows his glowing imagery to vitiate his taste. He confidently expected the reversion of the laureateship after Lord Tennyson's death.

Apart from those already enumerated, his original works include (chiefly in verse):

  1. 'Griselda, a tragedy, and other poems,' 1856.
  2. 'The Wreck of the Northern Belle,' 1857.
  3. 'The Poets of Greece,' 1869.
  4. 'Indian Poetry,' 1881.
  5. 'Pearls of the Faith,' 1883.
  6. 'The Secret of Death,' 1885.
  7. 'Lotus and Jewel,' 1887.
  8. 'With Sa'di in the Garden,' 1888.
  9. 'Japonica' (papers from 'Scribner's Magazine'), 1892.
  10. 'Potiphar's Wife,' 1892.
  11. 'Adzuma' (a story of a Japanese marriage), 1893.
  12. 'The Voyage of Ithobal,' 1901.

Among his translations are 'Political Poems by Victor Hugo and Garibaldi' (under initials E. A.), 1868; 'Hero and Leander,' from Musseus, 1873; 'The Indian Song of Songs from the Jayadeva,' 1875; 'Indian Idylls from the Mahabharata,' 1883 and 1885; 'The Chaura panchasika,' 1896; 'Sa'di's Gulistan,' parts i.-iv. 1899. He was also author of 'A Simple Transliteral Grammar of Turkish,' 1877. A collection of his poetical works came out in 1888. Selections appeared in the same year and 'The Edwin Arnold Birthday Book ' in 1885.

[The Times, 26 March 1904; Daily Telegraph; Athenæum; Illustrated London News (portrait); Alfred Austin's Reminiscences, ii. 175; Hatton's Journalistic London; Arena, April 1904; Men of the Time; Bookman, 1901, xiii. p. 373 (caricature by Phil May); Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

T. S.