Mathew Arnold as a Critic Essay

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Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) the contemporary of Carlyle and Ruskin was the eldest son of Thomas Arnold. He was a poet and a critic who was called ‘the apostle of culture’. His critical essays frequently attacked Victorian smugness and materialism (the emphasis on material rather than spiritual values) in literature, religion, politics and social life. As a poet Arnold is generally ranked after Tennyson and Browning among Victorian poets. His poetry was not considered very great, the criticism partially true that he was not a poet by nature but one made by his own hard work that’s why his poetry is cold, intellectual and temperamentally moral. His mind was philosophical and his poetry was inspired by Greek, Goethe and Wordsworth. He turned from poetry to prose because he felt that through the latter medium he can render a more necessary public service. With characteristic self confidence and inherent tendency for didacticism Arnold made himself critic of English national life, beliefs and tastes and set out to instruct the public in matters of literature, social relations, politics and religion. His famous literary criticisms are ‘Culture and Anarchy’, ‘Literature and Dogma’ and ‘Essays In Criticism’. Among his works the first place is given to Essays in Criticism, which marks him as a front rank literary critic. His philosophy is broad, his purpose was to free English tastes from insularity, to give it sympathetic introduction with the excellencies of other literatures. Some of his essays, like those on ‘The Function of Criticism at the Present Time’, ‘Wordsworth’, and ‘Byron’ are among the best in English. Mr. Paul pronounces Essays in Criticism as; ‘Mr. Arnold’s most important work in prose, the central book, so to speak , of his life.’ On the other hand Mr. Saintsbury calls it ‘the full and varied, and perhaps always the best, expression and illustration of

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