Arthur Hugh Clough

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Arthur Hugh Clough (January 1, 1819 – November 13, 1861) was an English poet, and the brother of Anne Jemima Clough.


  • 1 Early years
  • 2 Writings
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links

Early years

He came of Welsh stock by his father, James Butler Clough, and of a Yorkshire one by his mother, Anne Perfect. He was born in Liverpool. In 1822 his father, a Liverpool cotton merchant, moved to the United States, and Clough's childhood was spent mainly at Charleston, South Carolina, much under the influence of his mother, a cultivated woman, full of moral and imaginative enthusiasm. In 1828 the family paid a visit to England, to place Clough, then 9 years old, at the school in Chester attended by his elder brother, Charles. He passed in 1829 to Rugby School, then under Thomas Arnold, whose strenuous views on life and education he accepted.

Cut off to a large degree from home relations, he passed a somewhat reserved and solitary boyhood, devoted to the well-being of the school and to early literary efforts in the Rugby Magazine. In 1836 his parents returned to Liverpool, and in 1837 he went with a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. Here his contemporaries included Benjamin Jowett, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, John Campbell Shairp, William George Ward and Frederick Temple. Matthew Arnold, four years his junior, arrived the term after Clough had graduated. Clough and Arnold enjoyed an intense friendship in Oxford, but neither cared much for the other's poetry.

Oxford, in 1837, was in the full swirl of the High Church movement led by John Henry Newman. Clough was for a time carried away by the flood, and, although he recovered his equilibrium, it was not without an amount of mental disturbance and an expenditure of academic time, which perhaps accounted for his failure to obtain more than a second class in his final examination. He missed a Balliol fellowship, but obtained one at Oriel, with a tutorship, and lived the Oxford life of study, speculation, lectures and reading-parties for some years longer. Gradually, however, certain skeptical tendencies with regard to the current religious and social order grew upon him to such an extent as to render his position as an orthodox teacher of youth irksome, and in 1848 he resigned it. Then he traveled to Paris, seeing The Revolutions of 1848 in France. Returning to England in a state of almost manic euphoria, he wrote his long poem The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich, a cheerful farewell to the academic life, following it up with some more pessimistic poems from his time as student and tutor, in the shared publication Ambarvalia. 1849 saw him again a spectator to revolution in the siege of the Roman Republic, which inspired another long poem, Amours de Voyage and also Easter Day, a brilliant rejection of the Resurrection.

In the autumn of 1849 the reality of his position caught up with him. He was now responsible for his mother and sister, following the death of his father and younger brother and the marriage of his elder brother. He took up new duties as principal of University Hall, a hostel for students at University College, London. He soon found that he disliked London, in spite of the friendship of the Carlyles, nor did the atmosphere of Unitarianism prove any more congenial than that of Anglicanism to one so averse to dogmatism of all kinds. A prospect of a post in Sydney led him to engage himself to Miss Blanche Mary Shore Smith, and when it disappeared he left England in 1852, and went, encouraged by Ralph Waldo Emerson, to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here he remained some months, lecturing and translating Plutarch for the booksellers, until in 1853 the offer of an examinership in the Education Office brought him to London once more. He married, and pursued a steady official career, diversified only by an appointment in 1856 as secretary to a commission sent to study certain aspects of foreign military education. He devoted enormous energy to work as an unpaid secretarial assistant to his wife's cousin Florence Nightingale, which may have contributed to his state of exhaustion.

At this, as at every period of his life, he enjoyed the warm respect and admiration of a small circle of friends, who learnt to look to him alike for unselfish sympathy and for spiritual and practical wisdom, but he wrote virtually no poetry for six years. In 1860 his health began to fail. He visited first Great Malvern and Freshwater, Isle of Wight. From April 1861 he traveled strenuously in Greece, Turkey and France, where he met up with the Tennyson family. Despite his fragile health, this continental tour renewed a state of euphoria like that of 1848-9, and he wrote at great speed the elements of his last long poem, Mari Magno. Anxious for his health, his wife joined him and they traveled through Switzerland to Italy, where his health finally collapsed. He died in Florence on 13th November. He is buried there in a tomb in the English Cemetery that his wife and sister had Susan Horner design from Jean-François Champollion's book on Egyptian hieroglyphs. Matthew Arnold wrote to his memory, with somewhat faint praise, the elegy of Thyrsis.


Shortly before he left Oxford, in the stress of the Irish potato famine, Clough wrote an ethical pamphlet addressed to the undergraduates, with the title, A Consideration of Objections against the Retrenchment Association at Oxford (1847). His Homeric pastoral The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich, afterwards renamed Tober-na-Vuolich (1848), and written in hexameter, was inspired by a long vacation after he had given up his tutorship, and is full of socialism, reading-party humours and Scottish scenery. Ambarvalia (1849), published jointly with his friend Thomas Burbidge, contains shorter poems of various dates from 1840, or earlier, onwards. Amours de Voyage, a novel in verse, was written at Rome in 1849; Dipsychus, a rather amorphous satire, at Venice in 1850; and the idylls which make up Mari Magno, or Tales on Board, in 1861. A few lyric and elegiac pieces, later in date than the Ambarvalia, complete the tale of Clough's poetry. His only considerable enterprise in prose was a revision of the 17th century translation of Plutarch by John Dryden and others, which occupied him from 1852, and was published as Plutarch's Lives (1859).

No part of Clough's life was wholly given up to poetry, and he probably had not the gift of detachment necessary to produce great literature in the intervals of other occupations. He wrote but little, and even of that little there is a good deal which does not aim at the highest seriousness. He never became a great craftsman. His long poems show a gift for narrative and psychological penetration, and a few of his best lyrics have a strength of melody to match their depth of thought, but much of what he left consists of rich ore too imperfectly fused to make a splendid or permanent possession. Nevertheless, he is rightly regarded as one of the most forward-looking English poets of the 19th century, often with a sexual frankness that shocked his contemporaries. His critical instincts and strong ethical temper brought him athwart the popular ideals of his day both in conduct and religion. His verse has upon it the melancholy and the perplexity of an age of transition. He is a skeptic who by nature should have been with the believers. He stands between two worlds, watching one crumble behind him, and only able to look forward by the sternest exercise of faith to the reconstruction that lies ahead in the other. On the technical side, Clough's work is interesting to students of metre, owing to the experiments which he made, in the Bothie and elsewhere, with English hexameters and other types of verse formed upon classical models.

  • Clough's Poems (1862) edited, with a short memoir, by F.T. Palgrave,
  • Letters and Remains, with a longer memoir, privately printed in 1865. *Both volumes published together in 1869, and reprinted
  • Samuel Waddington, Arthur Hugh Clough: A Monograph (1883)
  • Anthony Kenny, Arthur Hugh Clough, a Poet's Life (2005)
  • Howard F. Lowry and Ralph Leslie Rusk (editors), Emerson-Clough Letters, Hamden: Archon Books, 1968.

Selections from the poems were made by Mrs Clough for the Golden Treasury series in 1894, and by E. Rhys in 1896.

  • "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1969), by John Fowles.
  • The Poetry of Arthur Hugh Clough
  • Arthur Hugh Clough's poetry at Minstrels
  • The Works of Plutarch
    The Works Parallel Lives | The Moralia | Pseudo-Plutarch
    The Lives

    Alcibiades and Coriolanus1 • Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar • Aratus of Sicyon & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho2 • Aristides and Cato the Elder1
    Crassus and Nicias1 • Demetrius and Antony1 • Demosthenes and Cicero1 • Dion and Brutus1 • Fabius and Pericles1 • Lucullus and Cimon1
    Lysander and Sulla1 • Numa and Lycurgus1 • Pelopidas and Marcellus1 • Philopoemen and Flamininus1 • Phocion and Cato the Younger
    Pompey and Agesilaus1 • Poplicola and Solon1 • Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius • Romulus and Theseus1 • Sertorius and Eumenes1
    Tiberius Gracchus & Gaius Gracchus and Agis & Cleomenes1 • Timoleon and Aemilius Paulus1 • Themistocles and Camillus

    The Translators John Dryden | Thomas North | Jacques Amyot | Philemon Holland | Arthur Hugh Clough
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    1 Comparison extant 2 Four unpaired Lives

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