Sir Richard Clough, we are told, was related on his mother’s side to John Calvin. In his own county of Denbigh he was evidently a man of considerable position. He built two houses, Plâs Clough and Bachegraig, about the year 1527. He married first a Dutch lady, by whom he had a son, Richard, who carried on the name, and to whom he bequeathed Plâs Clough. He married, secondly, Katharine Tudor, heiress of Berain, and descendant of Marchweithian, lord of the Welsh tribe of Is-aled. She was a relation and ward of Queen Elizabeth, being great-granddaughter of Henry VII.; and the Queen’s consent is mentioned as having been required for her marriage. Sir Richard Clough was her second husband; and the story is told that he, as well as Morris Wynn of Gwydir, accompanied her to her first husband’s funeral, and that Morris Wynn when leading her out of church requested the favour of her hand in marriage, to which she answered that she had already promised it as she went in to Sir Richard Clough; but added that should there be any other occasion she would remember him. After the death of Sir Richard, accordingly, she did marry him, and afterwards married, fourthly, Edward Thelwall, of Plas-y-Ward. She is said, however, to have preferred Sir R. Clough to her other husbands; and a curious picture of her exists, a companion to a somewhat remarkable one of Richard Clough, holding a locket containing his ashes in one hand, and resting the other on his skull.
By this lady, Sir R. Clough had only two daughters, one of whom married a Wynn, and was the ancestress of the family of Lord Newborough, which still possesses Maynau Abbey, given to her by Sir R. Clough. The second daughter, Katherine, married Roger Salusbury, and received from Sir Richard the house and property of Bachegraig, which afterwards came into the possession of Mrs. Thrale, her lineal descendant.
His son Richard inherited Plâs Clough, where his descendants continued to reside. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the family was represented by a Hugh Clough, who had thirteen children, one of whom, called also Hugh, was Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and is buried there; he was a friend of Cowper the poet, and is said to have been something of a poet himself. Hugh died unmarried; but three sons and one daughter of the first Hugh married, and left large families. One son Roger, thirteenth child of Hugh Clough, married Ann Jemima Butler, a lady possessed of considerable estates in Sussex, to which she was co-heiress with her sister, who married Roger Clough’s elder brother Richard. He did not, however, leave much to his children, for he was of a liberal and profuse turn, and he had ten children, of whom James Butler Clough was the third. This son was the first of his family to leave the neighbourhood of their old house in Wales. He removed to Liverpool, where he settled and went into business as a cotton merchant, and where his four children were born. When Arthur was about four years old, his father migrated to Charleston, in the United States, where he passed several years, and this was the home of Arthur’s childhood till he went to school. We give here a few recollections furnished by his sister, the next to him in age in the family, which bring before us the scenes in which his childhood was passed, and the influences which even then began to tell strongly upon him.
‘The first distinct remembrance,’ she says, ‘that I have of my brother is of his going with me in a carriage to the vessel which was to take us to America. This must have been in the winter of 1822-23, when he was not quite four years old. My next recollection is of our home at Charleston, a large, ugly red brick house near the sea. The lower story was my father’s office, and it was close by a wharf where from our windows we could see the vessels lying by and amuse ourselves with watching their movements.
‘In the summer of this year (1823) we went to the North, and stayed some time in a boarding-house at New York, and afterwards with some friends who lived on the banks of the Hudson, and had a large and pleasant garden. It was here, I have heard, that Arthur learned to read. In the autumn we returned to Charleston, having made the passage there and back by sea.
‘The two following summers (1824 and 1825) we again visited the North; both times we went to New York, and the first year on to Albany and Lebanon Springs, and the second time as far as Newport. After our return to Charleston in the autumn my father was obliged to go to England, and he took with him my eldest brother Charles, who was old enough to go to school. Arthur and I and my youngest brother George remained in the red brick house at Charleston with my mother and a faithful old nurse. My father was absent eleven months. Then Arthur became my mother’s constant companion. Though then only just seven, he was already considered as the genius of our family. He was a beautiful boy, with soft silky, almost black hair, and shining dark eyes, and a small delicate mouth, which our old nurse was so afraid of spoiling, when he was a baby, that she insisted on getting a tiny spoon for his special use.
‘As I said, Arthur was constantly with my mother, and she poured out the fulness of her heart on him. They read much together, histories, ancient and modern, stories of the Greek heroes, parts of Pope’s Odyssey and Iliad, and much out of Walter Scott’s novels. She talked to him about England, and he learnt to be fond of his own country, and delighted to flourish about a little English flag he had possessed himself of. He also made good progress in French. He was sometimes passionate as a child, though not easily roused; and he was said to be very determined and obstinate. One trait I distinctly remember, that he would always do things from his own choice, and not merely copy what others were doing.
‘In the summer we went down to Sullivan’s Island, and lived in a sort of cottage built upon piles. Here we could walk on the shore and gather shells, and we also had a garden. We amused ourselves by watching the steamers and sailing-vessels that came over from Charleston. Sometimes we had visits from friends of my father, often bringing over letters for my mother; but, on the whole, we lived very quietly, learning our lessons, and looking forward joyfully to the time of our father’s return from England. We went back to Charleston in the autumn. This was a weary time for our dear mother, who was continually expecting and longing for our father’s return. We, too, were always on the watch for the first sight of the ship on the bay. One November morning, while we were at our lessons with our mother, there came a hasty ring at the bell. We wanted to look out and see if visitors were coming. We were not fond of visitors, and generally used to run off to our nursery at sight of them, but our mother would not let us peep this time; we must attend to our lessons, she said; she was sure it was only a negro man with a message. And then the door opened and our father was in the room, catching up our mother in his arms, for she was nearly fainting, while we skipped about for joy, and shouted to our mother that she had called our father a negro man. Then came the unpacking of trunks, and all the presents sent to us by our relations in England, and the news of our brother Charles.
‘After my father’s return it was a very happy time for Arthur. He still went on reading history and poetry with our mother. About this time, I believe, he read with her some of Robertson’s “Charles V.,” and the struggle in the Netherlands in Watson’s “ Philip II.;” also the lives of Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. He used also to say the Latin grammar to my father in the early morning, and do sums in the office, lying on the piled-up pieces of cotton bagging which were waiting there to be made into sacks for cotton. Here, too, we used to play and tumble about upon the cotton heaps. One of our games was playing at the Swiss Family Robinson, in which I remember Arthur was always Ernest, because Ernest liked reading and knew so much. In hot weather, Arthur used to lie on his bed in the afternoon, reading the “Universal Traveller” and “Captain Cook’s Travels,” in the purchase of which he had one day expended all his savings. They were both full of pictures, and he used to tell us that he dreamt of the places he had been reading about. He also used to go out with my father when he had business to do on the wharves and on board the ships, and sat with him and my mother in the evenings and saw the occasional visitors who came in, such as the captains of the merchantmen with whom he had dealings, and heard their stories.
‘In the summer of 1827, we again went to Sullivan’s Island. It was a pleasant time, especially as we now had our father with us. We lived in a large rambling house, with a pleasant verandah in which we had a swing, and a large garden fenced in with a hedge of yuccas, called there Spanish bayonets. The house had once been an inn, and was built in two parts. My father and mother slept in a room over a great billiard-room, only reached by an open staircase or by a little open path across a roof; and when great storms arose, as often happened, my father used to carry us in his arms, back over the open space into the more protected part of the house.
‘The walks on the sand were delightful to us children. It was the finest white soft sand without a vestige of shingle on which we used to play; and I remember that Arthur even then was too fastidious to take off his shoes and stockings and paddle about as we did. The whole island was like a great sandbank, with little growing naturally on it but a few palmettos and low woods of myrtle. Our walks along the sea often took us as far as Fort Moultrie, which in our time was a red brick fort with a dry ditch round it, without the earthworks which have since become famous. A high bank of sand lay between it and the sea; and, after crossing this, we came to a few desolate houses half buried in sand, which here lay in great heaps. Here and there grew a few palmettos, which the high tides or autumn storms too often carried away, and when we came to look for a favourite tree, to our great grief, we found it gone. These sands were the haunt of innumerable curlews whose wild screams seemed to make the shore more lonely still. A beautiful grove of myrtles rose farther along the shore.
‘The other end of the island was the inhabited part. There was the pier busy with its arrivals and departures of steamers, and sailing boats going to and fro between the island and the city, and covered with numerous carriages, old-fashioned gigs and waggons, mostly with hoods or some sort of protection from the sun, and a seat for the negro boy behind. The bay was gay, too, with many fishing-boats belonging to the gentlemen who had a fishing club, which met at a house among the myrtles; and many rowing-boats also, chiefly rowed by negroes. Arthur often went out with my father on the water.
‘Six miles off lay Charleston, on a peninsula, between its two rivers, the Cooper and the Ashley. The first sight of it showed a long line of wharves made of palmetto logs fastened together into a sort of wall, stretching perhaps half a mile along the bay, and lined with the ships and smaller craft that frequented the port. As you approached from the water you heard the songs of the negroes at work on the vessels. Beyond the wharves was a battery or public walk, supported against the sea by a substantial very white wall formed of oyster shells beaten fine and hard. This species of pier extended nearly a mile along the sea, and was a favourite resort both for walking and driving in the summer. It was all roughly done, as most things were in the South, but the sunshine and clear skies made it bright and cheerful. The city was not regularly built like the Northern towns. In the lower part indeed the houses were mostly built close together in rows; but in the upper part, where the wealthier people lived, it was full of villas mostly standing in gardens, all built with verandahs, and many with two, an upper and a lower one. In the gardens grew many flowering trees, such as the almond, occasionally the orange, the fringe tree, a gay shrub with a very abundant white flower, and the fig; and these hung over the garden walls into the streets. The streets, too, which were for the most part unpaved, were often planted with trees for the sake of shade. Here and there one came on a large old-fashioned mansion, that at once showed it belonged to the times before the Revolution.
‘From Charleston, Sullivan’s Island was to be seen in the distance, beyond the battery, and on the right James Island, marked by a long low line of wood. Between these two islands, commanding the entrance, Fort Sumter was afterwards built, not far from James Island. On the left was Fort Pinckney, built on a small island or sandbank near the city.
‘In 1828 we all returned to England. We sailed from Charleston early in June. We greatly enjoyed the voyage; being the only children on board, we were exceedingly petted, and the unusual sights impressed our imagination. I remember very well the sea-weed floating in quantities on the Gulf stream; also we saw a water-spout, and grander still—but happily for us only in the distance—an iceberg. When at last we came in sight of the South of Ireland, we were met by the Irish fishermen coming out to sell us their fresh fish. Then came the slow creeping up the Channel against a head-wind, and then a calm, till one night the wind sprang up and in the morning we found ourselves in Liverpool.
‘We then went to stay with an uncle in the country, where we met my eldest brother, and found ourselves among nine or ten cousins of different ages. This was quite a new experience to us. Arthur could not enter into the boys’ rough games and amusements, and missed the constant companionship of his father. We travelled however for some months from one relation’s house to another, and by degrees Arthur became more sociable.
‘In October Arthur went to school at Chester, and my father, mother, George and I sailed again to Charleston. This was practically the end of Arthur’s childhood.
‘Our father was most affectionate, loving, and watchful over his children. It was from him that we received many of the smaller cares which usually come from a mother, especially on the long voyages, during which my mother suffered greatly, when he took the care of us almost entirely, and comforted us in the rough storms. This watchful and tender care for the feelings of others Arthur inherited in the largest degree from his father. My father was very lively, and fond of society and amusement. He liked life and change, and did not care much for reading. He had a high sense of honour, but was venturesome and over sanguine, and when once his mind was set on anything, he was not to be turned from it, nor was he given to counting consequences. My mother was very different. She cared little for general society, but had a few fast friends to whom she was strongly attached. In her tastes and habits she was rigidly simple; this harmonised with the stem integrity which was the foundation of her character. She was very fond of reading, especially works on religious subjects, poetry and history; and she greatly enjoyed beautiful scenery, and visiting places which had any historical associations. She loved what was grand, noble, and enterprising, and was truly religious. She early taught us about God and duty, and having such a loving earthly father, it was not difficult to look up to a Heavenly one. She loved to dwell on all that was stern and noble. Leonidas at Thermopylae, and Epaminondas accepting the lowliest offices and doing them as a duty to his country; the sufferings of the martyrs, and the struggles of the Protestants, were among her favourite subjects. There was an enthusiasm about her that took hold of us, and made us see vividly the things that she taught us. But with this love of the terrible and grand she was altogether a woman, clinging to and leaning on our father. When he left us Arthur became her pet and her companion. I cannot but think that her love, her influence, and her teaching had much to do with forming his character.’
From Charleston, as appears from what precedes, Arthur Clough went, in November 1828, to school at Chester; and, in the summer of 1829, he was removed to Rugby. His eldest brother, Charles, was with him at both schools, but Charles left Rugby before him, as early as the year 1831.
During these first years he was a somewhat grave and studious boy, not without tastes for walking, shooting, and sight-seeing, but with little capacity for play and for mixing with others, and with more of varied intellectual interest than is usual with boys. He seems to have had a fondness for drawing; and he was perpetually writing verses, not remarkable except for a certain ease of expression and for a power of running on, not common at that early age. The influence of Dr. Arnold on his character was powerful, and continued to increase. We find him mounting rapidly through the lower forms and beginning to get prizes. It is also clear that, besides this application to his actual work, he exerted himself with great energy in the endeavour to improve the school and to influence his companions for good. This remarkable interest in Rugby matters is partly to be explained by the fact that he had no near home interests to distract his attention; partly it must be referred to that strong sense of moral responsibility which Arnold, first among schoolmasters, seems to have impressed upon his pupils.
Too early a strain seems to have been put upon him, especially as he had not till 1836 any home to go to in his holidays. Of kind and affectionate relations, who received him hospitably, there were plenty. His uncles, the Rev. Charles Clough, then Vicar of Mold, and the Rev. Alfred Clough, then Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, always showed him the greatest kindness; and he had a large connection of friendly cousins, his visits among whom gave him many opportunities for journeys into Yorkshire and in different parts of Wales. How lively a recollection he retained of this period of his life, and of the incidents of his holiday excursions, may be gathered from the picture he has painted in ‘Primitiæ,’ the first tale of ‘Mari Magno.’ He did thus enjoy much variety, but he lacked rest; and his family instincts and affections were so strong, that he evidently suffered greatly through his separation from those nearest and dearest to him. That a great strain and sense of repression were upon him at this time, is clear from a letter written after the interval of twenty years. The self-reliance and self-adaptation which most men acquire in mature life were, by the circumstances of his family, forced upon him in his early youth.
In July 1831, his father and mother, sister, and youngest brother, came over for a visit from Charleston, and he spent his holidays with them; after which he went back to school, this time without his eldest brother. His sister remembers how their stay was unexpectedly prolonged till the beginning of the following Christmas holidays, by a delay in finding a ship, and how Arthur, hearing this, rushed off to Liverpool to spend their last two or three days together, bringing his new prize, Johnson’s ‘Lives of the Poets,’ in his bag, to show his mother, to whom it was his greatest enjoyment to pour himself out. His mother suffered greatly from the voyages, and from the uprooting consequent on such great changes; and she resolved never again to come to England till it should be her home. His father paid one more visit to England, alone, in 1833, when he took his three sons to London and over to Paris.
At school Arthur continued to prosper. He gained a scholarship, open to the whole school under fourteen, the only one which then existed. He was at the head of the fifth form at fifteen; and as sixteen was the earliest age at which boys were then admitted into the sixth, he had to wait a whole year for this. It was probably a misfortune to him that this rule prevented his advance through the school, and his proceeding at once to Oxford, as he was much exhausted by the intense interest and labour he expended on his moral work among the boys, and also on the ‘Rugby Magazine.’ This was a periodical which absorbed much of the writing powers of the cleverer boys, and to which he contributed constantly, chiefly poetry. For a considerable time he was also its editor. Besides this he took an active part in some of the school games, and his name is handed down in William Arnold’s ‘Rules of Football’ as the best goal-keeper on record. He was also one of the first swimmers in the school, and was a very good runner, in spite of a weakness in his ankles, which prevented his attaining proficiency in many games. He made at this time several close and intimate friendships, and gained a very high character among his schoolfellows in general; a sign of which is given by the story told by some of them at the time, that, when he left school for college, almost every boy at Rugby contrived, to shake hands with him at parting. ‘The grace of his character when he was a boy,’ says one of his friends, ‘can be estimated by nothing so well as by the force with which he attracted the attachment of some, and the jealousy or encroachment of others.’ Another says: ‘I always said that his face was quite another thing from any of those of our own generation; the mixture of width and sweetness was then quite as marked as it was later.’ Dr. Arnold also regarded him with increasing interest and satisfaction; and, as another friend describes, at the yearly speeches, in the last year of Clough’s residence, he broke the rule of silence to which he almost invariably adhered in the delivery of prizes, and congratulated him on having gained every honour which Rugby could bestow, and done the highest credit to his school at the university. This was in allusion to his having just gained the Balliol scholarship, then and now the highest honour which a schoolboy could obtain. Some months previous to this (in July 1836), his father, mother, and sister came over from America, to settle in Liverpool; and thenceforth Arthur was no longer without a home in England. His sister describes him as she then saw him, after an interval of five years, as a blooming youth of seventeen, with an abundance of dark soft hair, a fresh complexion, much colour, and shining eyes full of animation. Though kind and affectionate as ever in his family, they now found him changed in mind; eager and interested in many fresh subjects; full of growing force, and of the fervour of youthful conviction. With boyish vehemence he stood forth on all occasions as the devoted disciple of his beloved master, Dr: Arnold, and the exponent of his various theories of church government and politics.
In November 1836 he had gained the Balliol scholarship, and the October following he went into residence at Oxford. There he soon made friends with some of those with whom he became afterwards intimate—Mr. Ward, Sir B. Brodie, and Professor Jowett,—a little later, with Dr. Temple and Professor Shairp; and, later still, with Mr. T. Walrond and the two eldest sons of Dr. Arnold, whose names frequently occur in his correspondence.
Now came the time which we regard as essentially the turning-point of his life. He began his residence at Oxford when the University was stirred to its depths by the great Tractarian movement. Dr. Newman was in the fullness of his popularity, preaching at St. Mary’s, and in pamphlets, reviews, and verses, continually pouring forth eloquent appeals to every kind of motive that could influence men’s minds. Mr. Ward, one of Clough’s first friends at Oxford, was, as is well known, among the foremost of the party; and thus, at the very entrance into his new life, he was at once thrown into the very vortex of discussion. Something of the same fate which, as a young boy, forced on him a too early self-reliance and independence in matters of conduct, followed him here; and the accident of his passing from the Rugby of Arnold to the Oxford of Newman and Ward, drove him, while he ought to have been devoting himself to the ordinary work of an undergraduate reading for honours, and before he had attained his full intellectual development, to examine and in some degree draw conclusions concerning the deepest subjects that can occupy the human mind. This must be felt to have been a serious disadvantage. As his friend Mr. Ward himself says with much feeling, when looking back on that time after many years, ‘What was before all things to have been desired for him, was that during his undergraduate career he should have given himself up thoroughly to his classical and mathematical studies, and kept himself from plunging prematurely into the theological controversies then so rife at Oxford. Thus he would have been saved from all injury to the gradual and healthy growth of his mind and character. It is my own very strong impression that, had this been permitted, his future course of thought and speculation would have been essentially different from what it was in fact. Drawn as it were peremptorily, when a young man just coming up to college, into a decision upon questions the most important that can occupy the mind, the result was not surprising. After this premature forcing of Clough’s mind, there came a reaction. His intellectual perplexity preyed heavily on his spirits, and grievously interfered with his studies.’
Another cause, also, which rendered him less able to endure the various demands made upon him in his new life was, that the strain of his school-work and interests at Rugby had evidently considerably exhausted him.
Any reader of that marvellously vivid book, the ‘Apologia’ of Dr. Newman, will understand the trouble of spirit into which an impressionable nature must have been thrown by the storm that was raging round him, and by contact with such powerful leaders. The appeals made at once to the imagination, to all the tenderer parts of human nature, and to the reason, combined to render this struggle peculiarly intense. For a time Clough was carried away, how far it is impossible with any approach to certainty to say, in the direction of the new opinions. He himself said afterwards, that for two years he had been ‘like a straw drawn up the draught of a chimney.’ Yet in his mind the disturbance was but temporary. His own nature before long reasserted itself, proving, by the strength of its reaction, how wholly impossible it was for such a character to accept any merely external system of authority. Still, when the torrent had subsided, he found that not only had it swept away the new views which had been presented to him by the leaders of the Romanising movement, but also that it had shaken the whole foundations of his early faith, and had forced him to rely upon his own endeavours in the search after that truth which he still firmly believed in.
This spirit of doubt and struggle, yet of unshaken assurance in the final conquest of truth and good, comes out strongly in the poems written about this time, and contrasts markedly with the boyish effusions of the Rugby period. It is this which forms the very essence of the scepticism of which he is accused, the truth of which charge, in a certain sense, we do not attempt to deny, nay, we believe that in this quality of mind lay his chief power of helping his generation. But his scepticism was of no mere negative quality—not a mere rejection of tradition and denial of authority, but was the expression of a pure reverence for the inner light of the spirit, and of entire submission to its guidance. It was the loyalty to truth as the supreme good of the intellect, and as the only sure foundation of moral character.
He was absolutely truthful towards his own soul. The experiences he had gone through forced him to, look religious questions full in the face, and he could no longer take any dogmatic teaching on trust. He ignored no difficulties, he accepted nothing because it was pleasant—he could retain faith in nothing but his own soul. But that he did retain this faith—faith in the intuitions which he regarded as revelations of God to him, in absolute faithfulness to duty, strict adherence to intellectual and moral truthfulness, single-minded practice of all social and domestic virtues—is not only true of his outward life, but is shown, as far as concerns his moral and intellectual convictions, even in the poems which most strongly testify to the struggle and the darkness in which he often found himself. In illustration of this point we may mention in particular the ‘Summum Pulchrum,’ ‘Qui laborat orat,’ and the ‘New Sinai.’ The often quoted lines in ‘In Memoriam’ might almost be supposed to have been written for him:—
Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,|
At last he beat his music out.
Such scepticism—scepticism which consists in reverent waiting for light not yet given, in respect for the truth so absolute, that nothing doubtful can be accepted as truth because it is pleasant to the soul—was his from this time forth to the end of his life. Some truths he doubtless conceived himself to have learnt to know, in the course of his life, but his attitude was always chiefly that of a learner. The best key for those who care to know his later thought is to be found in the fragment on the ‘Religious Tradition’ contained in the present volume. But the scepticism which assumes a negative position from intellectual pleasure in destructive arguments, which does not feel the want of spiritual support, or realise the existence of spiritual truth, which mocks at the grief of others, and refuses to accept their honest experiences as real, was never his. He never denied the reality of much that he himself could not use as spiritual nutriment. He believed that God spoke differently to different ages and different minds. Not therefore could he lay aside his own duty of seeking and waiting. Through good report, and through evil report, this he felt to be his own personal duty, and from it he never flinched.
To return to Clough’s early days. It would not, we think, be true to say that he abandoned all his early belief; he still, no doubt, preserved much of his old feeling, and was in no sense hostile to existing institutions; but certainty as to anything resting on personal or traditional authority was gone for him.
The result of this disturbance of mind was naturally to distract his attention from his immediate studies, and to make his labour less productive. Yet he did read hard, even more so, perhaps, than most men of his time; and one of his friends records that the only bet he ever remembers making in his life was seven to one that Clough would get a first. His habits are said to have been at this time of Spartan simplicity: he had very cold rooms in Balliol on the ground floor, in which he passed a whole winter without a fire; and he used to say that, now that he was working in good earnest, this was an excellent plan for keeping out visitors, as nobody else could stand it for more than a few minutes. He disclosed but little to anyone of the mental struggle within him, but his family were aware that some great change was going on in him, and were anxious about his health, which evidently suffered; one sign of which was the falling off of his thick brown hair. He is described by his friends at this time as ‘a most noble-looking youth.’ One of them says, ‘I remember well the first time I saw him, just after he got the Balliol. I had no acquaintance with him for years afterwards, but I never lost the impression of the beautiful eyes which I saw opposite to me at dinner in Balliol Hall.’ He had, as we are told, a very high reputation as an undergraduate; and among his contemporaries and those immediately succeeding him, many were found to say that they owed more to him than to any other man. We quote, again, some passages from the affectionate remembrances of Mr. Ward: ‘Certainly I hardly met anyone during my whole Oxford life to whom I was so strongly drawn. Among the many qualities which so greatly attracted me were his unusual conscientiousness and highmindedness and public spirit. As regarded himself, his main desire (so far as I could see) was to do what he felt to be right; and as regarded others, to stand up for the cause of God and of right principle. This latter view—the duty of making a stand in society for good principles—was one especial characteristic of Dr. Arnold’s pupils. Many think that he impressed it on them too prominently, so as to expose them to a real danger of becoming priggish and self-sufficient; but certainly I never saw in Clough the faintest trace of such qualities as these. Closely connected with this were his unselfishness and unworldliness. The notion of preparing himself for success in a worldly career was so far from prominent in his mind, that he might with some plausibility have been accused of not thinking about it enough. But his one idea seemed always to be, that he should to-day do to-day’s duty, and for the rest leave himself in God’s hands. And as to unselfishness, his self-abnegating consideration for others maybe called, in the best sense, feminine. Then his singular sweetness of disposition: I doubt if I have anywhere seen this exceeded. I have known him under circumstances which must have given him great vexation and annoyance, but I never saw in him the faintest approach to loss of temper.
‘Intellectually he struck me as possessing very unusual independence, and (if I may so express myself) straightforwardness of thought. He was never taken in with shams, pretences, and traditions, but saw at once below the surface. On the other hand, he was perhaps less remarkable for logical consecutiveness. But at that time the Oriel fellowship was universally accounted, I think, the best test in Oxford of intellectual power; and he obtained that fellowship the first time he stood for it. I took part myself in examining him for the Balliol fellowship, and I do not remember to have seen so much power displayed in any examination within my experience,
‘As regards his ordinary habits at the time, since I was a fellow and he only an undergraduate, I cannot speak with perfect certainty; but my impression is that from the first he very much abstained from general society. This was undoubtedly the case at a later period, when his intellectual perplexity had hold of him; but I think it began earlier. I remember in particular that every day he used to return to his solitary room immediately after dinner; and when I asked him the reason for this, he told me that his pecuniary circumstances incapacitated him from giving wine parties, and that therefore he did not like to wine with others. I think also there was a certain fastidiousness of taste and judgment about him which prevented him from enjoying general society.
‘The opinion both of tutors and undergraduates undoubtedly was, that there was an unusual degree of reserve in his demeanour which prevented them from understanding him; but they all—certainly all the tutors, and I believe all the undergraduates—greatly appreciated his singularly high principle and his exemplary spotlessness of life.’
We give another sketch of him during his undergraduate period, furnished by Professor Shairp. ‘It was towards the end of 1840 that I first saw A. H. Clough. As a freshman I looked with respect approaching to awe on the senior scholar of whom I had heard so much, stepping out on Sunday mornings to read the first lesson in Balliol Chapel. How clearly I remember his massive figure, in scholar’s surplice, standing before the brass eagle, and his deep feeling tones as he read some chapter from the Hebrew prophets. At that time he was the eldest and every way the first of a remarkable band of scholars. The younger undergraduates felt towards him a distant reverence, as a lofty and profound nature quite above themselves whom they could not quite make out, but who was sure to be some day great. Profaner spirits, nearer his own standing, sometimes made a joke of his then exceeding silence and reserve, and of his unworldly ways. But as he was out of college rooms and reading hard for his degree, we freshmen only heard of his reputation from a distance, and seldom came in contact with him.
‘It must have been early in 1841 that he first asked me to breakfast with him. He was then living in a small cottage, or cottage-like house, standing by itself, a little apart from Holywell. There he used to bathe every morning all the winter through, in the cold Holywell baths, and read hard all day. There were one or two other freshmen there at breakfast. If I remember right, none of the party were very talkative.
‘I have heard that about that time he wrote one day in fun an oracle, in the style of Herodotus, to his brother scholar, who was reading like himself for the Schools. The Greek I forget; the translation he sent with it ran something like this:—
Whereas —— of Lancashire|
Shall in the Schools preside,
And Wynter1 to St. Mary’s go
With the pokers by his side;
Two scholars there of Balliol,
Who on double firsts had reckoned,
Between them two shall with much ado
Scarce get a double second.
‘This turned out only too true an oracle. Since the beginning of class-lists, the succession of firsts among Balliol scholars was unbroken. And few Balliol scholars had equalled, none ever surpassed, Clough’s reputation. I well remember going, towards the end of May or beginning of June, with one of the scholars of my own standing, to the School quadrangle to hear the class-list read out, the first time I had heard it. What was our surprise when the list was read out, and neither of our scholars appeared in the first class. We rushed to Balliol and announced it to the younger Fellows who were standing at their open window. Many causes were assigned at the time for this failure—some in the examiners, some in Clough’s then state of spirits; but whatever the cause, I think the result for some years shook faith in firsts among Clough’s contemporaries. It made a great impression upon others; on himself I fancy it made but little. I never heard him afterwards allude to it as a thing of any consequence. He once told me he was sick of contentions for prizes and honours before he left Rugby.’
Thus he missed his first class, of which perhaps the worst result was that for the time it seriously distressed his parents and his friends, especially Dr. Arnold, who had looked forward to his achieving great distinction, and whose well-known dislike of the Tractarian movement made him doubly grieve at what he regarded as indirectly one of its consequences. Clough himself seems always to have felt a solid confidence in his own powers, and perhaps to have too little regarded the outward means of displaying them. Perhaps, too, he was somewhat conscious of that inaptitude to put himself forward to the best advantage, which many of his friends have noticed, and accepted it with his usual stoic philosophy. At any rate his failure did not long produce the effects he most feared, of want of pupils; for through Dr. Arnold’s kindness he was soon provided with profitable employment in teaching a number of Rugby boys who were kept at home at Liverpool by the breaking out of fever in the school. During this time he stayed at home with his family. In the autumn he returned to Oxford, and tried for a fellowship at Balliol. In this he was unsuccessful. He continued, however, to reside at Oxford, and supported himself on the exhibition and scholarship which he still held. In the spring of 1842 he was elected fellow of Oriel, which was in every way a great and cheering success to him. It healed the disappointment which his former failure and the judgment of others on it had caused, and seemed to give him a new life. It is clear by this determination of his to abide by Oxford and to seek his career and his living there, that he had as yet formed no definite views at variance with the principles of the Church. He had come, we believe, to see the unimportance of many things commonly insisted on; his intellect could no longer accept the ordinary formulas of religious opinion; but he was not provided with any other scheme to set up; his habits and his affections all clung to the old ways; then and many years afterwards, he continued to feel that real liberality, width of view, and mental and moral cultivation were more commonly found among those nursed in the Anglican Church than in any exclusive sect, and probably the idea of any violent move, of quitting the home in which he had been reared, had never yet crossed his mind. His pleasure in his success in obtaining the fellowship was much enhanced by the satisfaction which it gave to Dr. Arnold, and in a practical way it was doubly valuable, because more troubles were now thickening round him and his family. Money difficulties pressed hard on his parents at this time; his help was much needed, and was unsparingly given. For some sketches of this period and a little later we will again quote Mr. Shairp’s words.
‘In the November of the same year he tried for a Balliol Fellowship, but was not successful. Tait,2 however, was strong in his favour, and, I believe, some other of the Fellows. I remember one of them telling me at the time that a character of Saul which Clough wrote in that examination was, I think he said, the best, most original thing he had ever seen written in any examination. But Oriel had at that time a way of finding out original genius better than either Balliol or the Schools. In the spring of 1842, Arthur Hugh Clough was elected Fellow of Oriel, the last examination I believe in which Newman took part. The announcement of that success I remember well. It was on the Friday morning of the Easter week of that year. The examination was finished on the Thursday evening. I had asked Clough and another friend, who was a candidate at the same time, to breakfast with me on the Friday morning, as their work was just over. Most of the scholars of the College were staying up and came to breakfast too. The party consisted of about a dozen. We had little notion that anything about the examination would be known so soon, and were all sitting quietly, having just finished breakfast, but not yet risen from the table. The door opened wide; entered a fellow of another college, and, drawing himself up to his full height, he addressed the other candidate: “ I am sorry to say you have not got it.” Then, “Clough, you have;” and stepping forward into the middle of the room, held out his hand, with “Allow me to congratulate you.” We were all so little thinking of the fellowship, and so taken aback by this formal announcement, that it was some little time before we knew what it was all about. The first thing that recalled my presence of mind was seeing the delight on the face of Clough’s younger brother, who was present.
‘In the summer of 1842, while I was reading in a retired part of Wales with two or three others, Clough, then wandering through the Welsh mountains, one morning looked in on us. I took a walk with him, and he at once led me up Moël Wyn, the highest mountain within reach. Two things I remember that day: one, that he spoke a good deal (for him) of Dr. Arnold, whose death had happened only a few weeks before; another, that a storm came down upon the mountain when we were half-way up. In the midst of it we lay for some time close above a small mountain tarn, and watched the storm-wind working on the face of the lake, tearing and torturing the water into most fantastic, almost ghostly shapes, the like of which I never saw before or since. These mountain sights, though he did not say much, he used to eye most observantly.
‘Early in the autumn of 1843, Clough came to Grasmere to read with a Balliol reading-party, of which I was one. He was with us about six weeks, I think staying till towards the end of September. This was his earliest long vacation party, all things on a smaller scale than his later ones by Loch Ness, or on Dee-side, but still very pleasant. He lived in a small lodging immediately to the west of Grasmere church; we in a farm-house on the lake. During these weeks I read the Greek tragedians with him, and did Latin prose. His manner of translating, especially the Greek choruses, was quite peculiar; a quaint archaic style of language, keeping rigidly to the Greek order of the words, and so bringing out their expression better, more forcibly and poetically, than any other translations I had heard. When work was done we used to walk in the afternoon with him all over that delightful country. His “eye to country” was wonderful. He knew the whole lie of the different dales relatively to each other; every tam, beck, and bend in them. He used, if I remember right, to draw pen-and-ink maps, showing us the whole lineaments of the district. Without any obtrusive enthusiasm, but in his own quiet manly way, he seemed as if he never could get too much of it—never walk too far or too often over it. Bathing too formed one off his daily occupations, up in a retired pool of the stream that afterwards becomes the Rotha, as it comes out of Easedale. One walk, our longest, was on a Saturday, up Easedale, over the Raise by Greenup, Borrowdale, Honister Crag, under the starlight, to Buttermere. In the small inn there we stayed all Sunday. Early on Monday morning we walked, by two mountain passes, to a farm at the head of Wastwater to breakfast. On the way we crossed Ennerdale, and up the pass close under the nearly perpendicular precipices of the Pillar—a tall mountain, which is the scene of Wordsworth’s pastoral of “The Brothers.” From the head of Wastwater, up past the great gorge of the Mickledoor, to the top of Scawfell, then down past the east side of Bowfell towards Langdale Pikes, and so home to Grasmere. As we passed under Bowfell a beautiful autumn afternoon, we lay a long time by the side of the lovely Angle Tarn. The sun, just before he sunk beside Bowfell, was showering down his light, which dimpled the smooth face of the tarn like heavy drops of sun-rain. Every now and then a slight breeze would come and scatter the rays broadcast over the little loch, as if some unseen hand was sowing it with golden grain. It was as memorable an appearance as that different one we had seen a year ago on Moël Wyn. These things, though Clough observed closely, and took pleasure in, he did not speak often about, much less indulge in raptures.
‘Some of our party were very good hill-men. One day, five or six in all set out on a race from our door by Grasmere Lake to the top of Fairfield. He was the second to reach the summit. His action up hill was peculiar; he used to lay himself forward almost horizontally towards the slope, and take very long strides which carried him quickly over the ground. Few men, so stout as he then was, could have matched him up a mountain.
‘Shortly after this time at Oxford, somewhere that is between 1843 and 1845, I remember to have heard him speak at a small debating society called the Decade, in which were discussed often graver subjects, and in a less popular way, than in the Union. Having been an unfrequent attender, I heard him only twice. But both times, what he said and the way he said it, were so marked and weighty as to have stuck to memory when almost everything else then spoken has been forgotten. The first time was in Oriel Common-room; the subject proposed—“That Tennyson was a greater poet than Wordsworth.” This was one of the earliest expressions of that popularity—since become nearly universal—which I remember. Clough spoke against the proposition, and stood up for Wordsworth’s greatness with singular wisdom and moderation. He granted fully that Wordsworth was often prosy, that whole pages of the “Excursion” had better have been written in prose; but still, when he was at his best, he was much greater than any other modern English poet, saying his best things without knowing they were so good, and then drawling on into prosaic tediousness, without being aware where the inspiration failed and the prose began. In this kind of unconsciousness, I think he said, lay much of his power. One of the only other times I heard him speak was, about the same time, when a meeting of the Decade was held in Balliol Common-room. The subject of debate was—“That the character of a gentleman was in the present day made too much of.” To understand the drift of this would require one to know how highly pleasant manners and a good exterior are rated in Oxford at all times, and to understand something of the peculiar mental atmosphere of Oxford at that time. Clough spoke neither for nor against the proposition; but for an hour and a half—well on two hours—he went into the origin of the ideal, historically tracing from mediæval times how much was implied originally in the notion of a “gentle knight”—truthfulness, consideration for others (even self-sacrifice), courtesy, and the power of giving outward expression to these moral qualities. From this high standard he traced the deterioration into the modem Brummagem pattern which gets the name. These truly gentlemen of old time had invented for themselves a whole economy of manners, which gave true expression to what was really in them, to the ideal in which they lived. These manners, true in them, became false when adopted traditionally and copied from without by modem men placed in quite different circumstances, and living different lives. When the same qualities are in the hearts of men now, as truly as in the best of old time, they will fashion for themselves a new expression, a new economy of manners suitable to their place and time. But many men now, wholly devoid of the inward reality, yet catching at the reputation of it, adopt these old traditional ways of speaking and of bearing themselves, though they express nothing that is really in them.
‘One expression I remember he used to illustrate the truth that where the true gentle spirit exists, it will express itself in its own rather than in the traditional way. “I have known peasant men and women in the humblest places, in whom dwelt these qualities as truly as they ever did in the best of lords and ladies, and who had invented for themselves a whole economy of manners to express them, who were very ‘poets of courtesy.’”
‘His manner of speaking was very characteristic, slow and deliberate, never attempting rhetorical flow, stopping at times to think the right thing, or to feel for the exactly fitting word, but with a depth of suggestiveness, a hold of reality, a poetry of thought, not found combined in any other Oxonian of our time.
‘It must have been in the autumn of 1845 that Clough and I first met in Scotland. One visit there to Walrond’s family at Calder Park I especially remember. On a fine morning early in September, we started from Calder Park to drive to the Falls of Clyde. We were to spend the day at Milton Lockhart, and go on to Lanark in the evening. Besides Walrond and Clough, there were T. Arnold, E. Arnold, and myself. It was one of the loveliest September mornings that ever shone, and the drive lay through one of the most lovely regions in south Scotland, known as “the Trough of Clyde.” The sky was bright blue, fleeced with whitest clouds. From Hamilton to Milton Lockhart, about ten miles, the road keeps down in the hollow of the trough, near the water, the banks covered with orchards, full of heavy-laden apple and other fruit trees bending down till they touched the yellow corn that grew among them. There is a succession of fine country houses, with lawns that slope towards lime trees that bend over the river. It was the first time any of us but Walrond had been that way, and in such a drive, under such a sky, you may believe we were happy enough. We reached Milton Lockhart, a beautiful place, built on a high grassy headland, beneath and round which winds the Clyde. Sir Walter Scott, I believe, chose the site, and none could be more beautifully chosen. It looks both ways, up and down the lovely vale.
‘As we drove up, near ten o’clock, we found the late Mr. J. G. Lockhart (Scott’s biographer) walking on the green terrace that looks over the river. The laird himself being from home, his brother was our host. Soon after we arrived, his daughter, then very young, afterwards Mrs. Hope Scott, came out on the terrace to say that breakfast was ready. After breakfast she sang, with great spirit and sweetness, several of her grandfather’s songs, copied into her mother’s books by herself, when they were still newly composed. After listening to these for some time, her brother, Walter Scott Lockhart, then a youth of nineteen or so, and with a great likeness to the portraits of Sir Walter when a young man, was our guide to an old castle, situated on a bank of one of the small glens that come down to the Clyde from the west. It was the original of Scott’s Tillietudlem in “Old Mortality.” A beautiful walk thither; the castle large, roofless, and green with herbage and leafage. We stayed some time, roaming over the green deserted place, then returned to a lunch, which was our dinner; more songs, and then drove off late in the afternoon to the Falls of Clyde and Lanark for the night. It was a pleasant day. Clough enjoyed it much in his own quiet way—quietly, yet so humanly interested in all he met. Many a joke he used to make about that day afterwards. Not he only, but all our entertainers of that day, Mr. J. G. Lockhart, his son and daughter, are now gone.
‘In the summer of 1847, Clough had a reading party at Drumnadrochet, in Glen Urquhart, about two miles north from Loch Ness, where, about the beginning of August, I, along with T. Arnold and Walrond, paid him a visit. Some of the incidents and characters in “The Bothie” were taken from that reading party, though its main scenes and incidents lay in Braemar. One anecdote I specially remember connected with that visit. On our way to Drumnadrochet, T. Arnold and I had made a solitary walk together from the west end of Loch Rannoch, up by Loch Ericht, one of the wildest, most unfrequented lochs in the Highlands. All day we saw only one house, till, late at night, we reached another on the side of the loch, about six miles from Dalwhinnie. It was one of the loveliest, most primitive places I ever saw even in the most out-of-the-way parts of the Highlands. We told Clough of it, and when his reading party was over, later in the autumn, he went on our track. He spent a night at the inn at the west end of Loch Rannoch, called Tighnalyne, where he met with some of the incidents which appeared in “The Bothie.” He also visited the house by the side of Loch Ericht, a small heather-thatched hut, occupied by one of the foresters of the Ben Aulder forest. He found one of the children lying sick of a fever, the father I think from home, and the mother without any medicines or other aid for her child. He immediately set off and walked to Fort William, about two days’ journey from the place, but the nearest place where medicines and other supplies were to be had. These he got at Fort William, and returned on his two days’ journey, and left them with the mother. He had four days’ walk, over a rough country, to bring medicines to this little child, and the people did not even know his name. On these occasions in Scotland, he told me that he used to tell the people he was a “Teacher,” and they were at once at ease with him then. I doubt whether he ever mentioned this to anyone but myself, and to me it only came out casually.
‘If I am not mistaken, it was from this place that he took the original name of what is now Tober-na-Vuolich. In this year he visited the West Highlands, and went through “Lochaber, anon in Locheil, in Knoydart, Moydart, Morrer, Ardgower, and Ardnamurchan.” In the first edition this line was—“Knoydart, Moydart, Croydart, Morrer, and Ardnamurchan.” But he discovered afterwards that Croydart was only the way that the Gael pronounce what is spelt Knoydart. During this wander, he saw all the country about Ben Nevis, westward to the Atlantic—
|‘Where the great peaks look abroad over Skye to the westermost Islands.|
He walked “where pines are grand in Glen-Mally,” and saw all the country which in a few lines here and there he has pictured so powerfully in “The Bothie.” The expression about Ben Nevis, with the morning sprinkling of snow on his shoulders, is absolutely true to reality.
‘In this expedition he came to Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel, the place where Prince Charles met the Highland clans, and unfurled his standard. Here there used to stand a nice quiet little-frequented inn, where one could live for weeks undisturbed. But at the time when Clough reached it, a great gathering was being held there. The Queen had gone to Loch Laggan, and the ships that escorted her to Fort William were lying at the head of Loch Linnhe. McDonald of Glen Aladale had invited all the officers of these ships to have a day’s deer-stalking on his property of Glen Aladale, down the side of Loch Shiel, and to have a ball at the Glenfinnan Inn, after their day’s sport. Clough came in for the ball. It was a strange gathering—the English sailors, officers, a few Highland lairds, Highland farmers and shepherds, with their wives and daughters, were all met together at the ball. Clough and one of his reading party were invited to join the dance, and they danced Highland reels, and went through all the festivities like natives. The uproar was immense, and the ludicrous scenes not few. He often used to speak of it afterwards, as one of the motliest, drollest gatherings he had ever fallen in with.
‘Often afterwards he used to speak of his Scotch adventures with great heartiness. There was much in the ways of life he saw there that suited the simplicity of his nature. Even when Englishmen would laugh at the baldness of our Presbyterian services, he would defend them as better than English ritualism and formality.’
To these reminiscences of Mr. Shairp’s may be added some notes supplied by Professor Conington, of his recollections of the speeches made by Clough in the debates of a society at Oxford, called the Decade. Mr. Conington was himself the secretary of the society at the time of which he speaks. ‘The first occasion of my meeting Mr. Clough at the Decade,’ he says, ‘was on February 14, 1846, when I myself brought forward the subject for discussion. The subject was “That means ought to be adopted by the Legislature for recognising formally the social and political importance of the manufacturing interest.” Sir Robert Peel’s change of policy about the corn laws had just been announced, and those of us who were on the movement side were naturally more or less enthusiastic in favour of the manufacturers, who appeared to us as the winners of a great social victory. My proposal, if I remember rightly, was to the effect that they ought to be made peers, just as great landowners were. In this the bulk of the members present at that meeting do not seem to have concurred with me; but I had Mr. Clough’s support. I do not recollect thoroughly a single sentence of his speech, but I can recall his commanding manner, and the stately serene tones in which he delivered a kind of prophecy of the new era which in a few days was to be inaugurated, and told us that “these men” (the manufacturers) “were the real rulers of England.” The next occasion was some months afterwards, on June 9, 11846, when the question for debate was, “That any system of moral science, distinct from a consideration of Christianity, is essentially imperfect.” Mr. Clough is reported as having spoken for this motion in part. He eventually moved a rider, which, with the motion, was unanimously accepted—“But the existence of moral science is recognised and presupposed by the idea of a revelation.” The only point which remains on my mind is an application by him of the text “comparing spiritual things with spiritual;” “that is,” said he, “comparing the spiritual things in a revelation with the spiritual things in one’s own mind.”
‘I see there were five other occasions, in 1847 and the early part of 1848, on which Mr. Clough appeared at the Decade during my membership. One dwells in my memory with tolerable distinctness—a speech made in a debate on March 6, 1847, the subject being, “That the study of philosophy is more important for the formation of opinion than that of history.” I see that he made five speeches on that evening. I have entered him as supporting the motion “with qualifications,” a common mode of registering opinion in our debates: but I remember that, as the debate grew warm, his qualifications seemed to disappear, and in the speech which I happen to recollect, few if any of them were visible. “What is it to me,” he said, “to know the fact of the battle of Marathon, or the fact of the existence of Cromwell? I have it all within me.” Correcting himself afterwards, he said, “I do not mean that it is of no importance to me that there should have been such a battle or such a person; it is of a great deal: but it is of no importance that I should know it.”
‘The only other occasion when I recollect anything of Mr. Clough which seems worth recording was a conversation which I had with him in the autumn of 1848. He had given up his fellowship, and was living for a few weeks in small cheap lodgings in Holywell Street, Oxford, where I remember finding him without a fire on a cold day. His “Bothie” was just about to be published, and he gave me some account of it, particularly of the metre. He repeated, in his melodious way, several lines, intended to show me how a verse might be read so that one syllable should take up the time of two, or, conversely, two of one. The line which he instanced (altered, I think, from “Evangeline”) was this:
|White | naked | feet on the | gleaming | floor of her | chamber.|
This was new to me, as I had not risen beyond the common notion of spondees, dactyls, and the rest. So I asked for more explanation. He bade me scan the first line of the “Paradise Lost.” I began, “‘Of man’s:’ iambus.” “Yes.” “‘First dis-”’—— There I was puzzled. It did not seem an iambus or a spondee: it was nearly a trochee, but not quite one. He then explained to me his conception of the rhythm. The two feet “first disobe-” took up the time of four syllables, two iambic feet the voice rested awhile on the word “first,” then passed swiftly over “diso-,” then rested again on “be-,” so as to recover the previous hurry. I think he went on to explain that in the next foot, “dience and,” both syllables were short, but that the loss of time was made up for by the pause required by the sense after the former of the two, and that finally the voice rested on the full-sounding word “fruit.” Possibly this last impression may really be the result of my own subsequent use of the clue which he then gave me. But a clue it was in the fullest sense of the term: it gave me an insight into rhythm which I had not before, and which has constantly been my guide since both in reading and writing.’
In June 1842 occurred the death of Dr. Arnold, which was a severe shock as well as a great grief to Clough from its suddenness as well as from the intense reverence and affection he felt for him. ‘He was for a long time more than a father to me,’ were his own words, and no doubt the sensitive boy, exiled from his own family in his childhood, clung with even more of filial feeling than is common to the teacher to whom he owed so much. He heard the news at Oxford, and came home immediately, seeming, as his sister describes him, completely stunned by the blow, incapable of realising or speaking of what had happened, and unable to rest. He soon left home, and wandered away among the Welsh hills, where Mr. Shairp tells us of their meeting.
Later in the summer he had some pupils in Ireland, but left them to come over to bid farewell to his brother George, who sailed for America in October 1842. He was deeply attached to this his youngest brother, whose lively spirits combined with most affectionate devotion to him had done a great deal to cheer him even in his darkest moments. And this was, as it proved, their last meeting. The poor young fellow, only just twenty-two, was struck down by fever at Charleston, when away from all his own family, and died there, after a very few days’ illness. His father had sailed for America, intending to join him, before the news of his illness reached England, and arrived in Boston only to hear that all was over. The shock was a dreadful one to the unhappy father, and came with a double force, because he relied on his son’s help at this moment in a period of great anxiety concerning business. He never recovered the blow, and in the following summer, in 1843, he returned home much shaken by grief and very ill in health, and after lingering on for a few months, during which time he was most tenderly nursed by all his family, including Arthur, he also died.
During his father’s illness, and the years that immediately followed, Arthur spent much of his time with his own family; and when he was away from them, he always took an active part in all plans and arrangements for their comfort and happiness. He had never become estranged in any way from his home, as is often the case with sons and brothers whose calling separates them from their families. Essentially tender and domestic in his feelings, and full of consideration for others, it always seemed natural to him to enter into their interests, and to undertake trouble and responsibility for their sakes.
In 1843 he had been appointed tutor as well as fellow of Oriel, and he is spoken of as being remarkably effective in this capacity. ‘A most excellent tutor, and exceedingly beloved by the undergraduates,’ one of those who best knew has called him. But little need be said of this period. He led a quiet, hardworking, uneventful tutor’s life, diversified with the reading parties, which have been commemorated in ‘The Bothie.’ This was the time when most of the poems in the little volume called ‘Ambarvalia’ were written. He took a warm and increasing interest in all social questions, and in every way he seems to have been full of spirit and vigour. To his younger friends and pupils he especially endeared himself. One of them says: ‘My Oxford days seem all coloured with the recollection of happy and most instructive walks and talks with him. We used to meet every day almost, though at different colleges; and it was my regular Sunday holiday to breakfast with him, and then take a long ramble over Cumnor Hurst or Bagley Wood. When I recall those days, the one thing that comes back upon me most, even more than the wisdom and loftiness and suggestiveness of his conversation, is his unselfishness and tender kindness. Many must have told you what a gift he had for making people personally fond of him; I can use no other word. For myself, I owe him more than I can ever tell, for the seed of just and noble thoughts sown, for the pure and lofty type of character set before me; but the feeling of personal attachment is the strongest of all.’ Another friend of this period says: ‘In him I felt I had an example of a nobleness and tenderness of nature most rare, and one, too, who, since I was an undergraduate, had always given me not only sincere love, but wise and sincere counsel in many difficulties. What he would think on any doubtful point, was indeed often in the mind of many others with me. Often, too, I have remembered that, by his taste, I was first led to read and take pleasure in Wordsworth.’
Thus his life passed on with much of cheerful and active interest and work. Yet it would seem, from his letters, that he was living at Oxford under a sense of intellectual repression. He appears at one time to have doubted about undertaking the tutor’s work, but to have overcome the doubt. He evidently regarded teaching as his natural vocation, and he had great enjoyment in it; but the sense of being bound by his position to silence on many important subjects probably oppressed him. At intervals he expresses vague inclinations to leave Oxford, and seek work elsewhere; but the difficulty of finding this, and the undefined nature of his objections, appear to have hindered him. At this time, in order to secure the comfort of a near relative, he entered into a pecuniary arrangement, by which he bound himself to pay 100l. a year, on condition of receiving a considerable sum at the death of one of the parties to the negotiation. This was looked on as an event certain to occur very soon, but, in fact, it did not come to pass for fifteen years; and this liability, very easily borne while his circumstances were prosperous, became a drag upon him when he had no longer any assured income. Thus, though everything in his outward circumstances combined to make it desirable for him to remain in his present position, yet by degrees his dissatisfaction with it became too strong to be endured. His was a nature ‘which moveth all together, if it move at all;’ and, once entered upon the course of free inquiry, nothing could stop the expansion of his thought in that direction. His absolute conscientiousness and intense unworldliness prevented the usual influences which slacken men’s movements from telling upon his.
It is not very obvious what eventually decided him to quit Oxford at the precise moment when he did so. In the year 1847 he was powerfully stirred by the distress in Ireland at the time of the potato famine, as may be seen from the pamphlet on ‘Retrenchment;’ and the general ferment of his nature, as well as the ripening of opinions in his own mind, probably tended to make him more open to change. Emerson also visited England in this year. Clough became intimate with him, and his influence must have tended to urge him on in the direction in which he was already moving. With another friend, also, whose general dissatisfaction with European life was strong, he was at this time very familiar. We are, therefore, disposed to think that it was some half accidental confirmation of his own doubts as to the honesty and usefulness of his own course, which brought him at last almost suddenly face to face with the question whether he ought to resign his tutorship. After a correspondence with the head of his college—in speaking of whom he always expressed a strong sense of the uniform kindness which he had received from him under these trying circumstances—he eventually gave up his tutorship in 1848; and this done, though his fellowship had not yet expired, he began to feel his whole position hollow; and six months later (in October 1848), he resigned this likewise, and thus left himself unprovided with any present means of making a livelihood, and with the burden of the annuity to which we have alluded still hanging on him. The sacrifice was greater to him than to many men, because he had no natural aptitude for making money. His power of literary production was always uncertain, and very little within his own control. His conscientious scruples interfered with his writing casually, as many would have done; for instance, we are told that he would not contribute to any paper or review with whose general principles he did not agree. He was, therefore, constrained to look out for some definite post in the line of education; and from the best chances in this department he had cut himself adrift by resigning his fellowship. He did, nevertheless, take this step, apparently with a certain lightness of heart and buoyancy, in singular contrast with what might be expected to be the feeling of a man taking a decision so important to his future life. It is clear that he ‘broke away with delight’ from what he felt to be the thraldom of his position in Oxford.
Immediately after laying down his tutorship, he made use of his leisure to go to Paris, in company with Emerson, where he spent a month in seeing the sights of the Revolution.
It was in September of this year (1848), when staying at home with his mother and sister in Liverpool, that he wrote his first long poem, the ‘Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich.’ This was his utterance to the world on quitting Oxford, and not the theological pamphlet which was expected from him. In later days he would often speak of the amusement it had been to him to think of the disappointment which the appearance of these lively verses would produce among those who looked for a serious vindication of his conduct. Some further explanation of his feeling will be furnished by an unpublished letter, which we subjoin:—
‘My objection in limine to subscription would be, that it is a painful restraint on speculation; but beyond this, to examine myself in detail on the Thirty-nine Articles, and say how far my thoughts upon them had passed the limit of speculation and begun to assume the form of concretion, would be not only difficult and distasteful to me, but absolutely impossible. I could not do it with any approximation to accuracy; and I have no wish to be hurried into precipitate declarations which, after all, might misrepresent my mind. It is fair to say that the points in question with me would not be subordinate matters; but at the same time I feel no call to the study of theology, and for the present certainly should leave these controversies to themselves, were they not in some measure forced upon my notice. Of joining any sect I have not the most distant intention.’
This year he spent chiefly at home; and, in the winter of 1848, he received an invitation to take the Headship of University Hall, London, an institution professing entirely unsectarian principles, founded for the purpose of receiving students attending the lectures at University College. His tenure of office was to date from October 1849, and he determined before this to take his first long holiday of travel, and to go to Rome. Thus his visit coincided accidentally with the siege of Rome by the French; and this, though it deprived him of many opportunities of travel and sight-seeing, was historically and politically of very great interest to him. This was the scene and the time during which he wrote his second long poem, the ‘Amours de Voyage.’
In October, 1849, he returned to enter on his duties at University Hall. His new circumstances were, of course, very different from those of his Oxford life, and the change was in many respects painful to him. The step he had taken in resigning his fellowship, isolated him greatly; many of his old friends looked coldly on him, and the new acquaintances among whom he was thrown were often uncongenial to him. The transition from the intimate and highly refined society of Oxford to the bustling miscellaneous external life of London, to one not well furnished with friends, and without a home of his own, could hardly fail to be depressing. He had hoped for liberty of thought and action; he had found solitude, but not perfect freedom. Though not bound by any verbal obligations, he found himself expected to express agreement with the opinions of the new set among whom he had fallen, and this was no more possible to him here than it had been at Oxford. His old prestige at Oxford availed him little in London; it has been remarked by his friends that he often failed to show himself to the best advantage, and this was doubly the case when he felt himself not understood. This was without doubt the dreariest, loneliest period of his life, and he became compressed and reserved to a degree quite unusual with him, both before and afterwards. He shut himself up, and went through his life in silence.
Yet here too he gradually formed some new and valuable friendships. Among these, his acquaintance with Mr. Carlyle was one of the most important; and to the end of his life he continued to entertain the warmest feeling for that great man. It was part of the sensitiveness of his character to shrink from going back on old impressions; and though he always retained his affection for his early friends, yet intercourse with fresh minds was often easier to him than with those to whom his former phases of life and thought were more familiar. In the autumn of 1850 he took advantage of his vacation to make a hasty journey to Venice, and during this interval he began his third long poem of ‘Dipsychus,’ which bears the mark of Venice in all its framework and its local colouring.
We have now mentioned, at the dates at which they were composed, all his longest works-the ‘Bothie,’ the ‘Amours de Voyage,’ and ‘Dipsychus.’ No other long work of his remains except the ‘Mari Magno,’ which is properly a collection of short poems, more or less united by one central idea, and bound together by their setting, as a series of tales related to each other by a party of companions on a sea voyage. The ‘Ambarvalia,’ poems written between 1840 and 1847, chiefly at Oxford, though without any setting at all, have something of the same inward coherence. They are all poems of the inner life, while the ‘Mari Magno’ poems deal with social problems, and the questions of love and marriage. His voyage to America, again, produced a cluster of little sea poems, closely linked together by one or two main thoughts.
It has often been a subject of surprise, that with such evident powers and even facility of production, Clough should have left so little behind him, even considering the shortness of his life, and that for such long periods he should have been entirely silent. We think the best explanation is to be found in his peculiar temper of mind, and we might say physical conformation of brain, which could not work unless under a combination of favourable circumstances. His brain though powerful was slow to concentrate itself, and could not carry on several occupations at once. Solitude and repose were necessary for production. This, combined with a certain inertia, a certain slowness of movement, constantly made it hard for him to get over the initial difficulties of self-expression, and would often, no doubt, cause him to delay too long and lose the passing inspiration or opportunity. But, once started, his very weight carried him on, as it did in the ‘Bothie,’ ‘Amours,’ and ‘Dipsychus,’ and ‘Mari Magno.’
Besides this, much in the very quality of his poetry will explain this scantiness of production. His absolute sincerity of thought, his intense feeling of reality, rendered it impossible for him to produce anything superficial, and therefore actually curtailed the amount of his creations. His excessive conscientiousness winnowed away so much as to leave often a sense of baldness. His peculiar habits of thought also, his sense of being constantly at variance with the ordinary sentiments is of those who surrounded him, his incapability of treating the common themes of poetry in the usual manner, his want of interest in any poetry which did not touch some deep question, some vital feeling in human nature (always excepting his love for the simple beauty of nature), all combined to diminish his range of subjects. He had to enter on a new line, to create a new treatment of old subjects, to turn them over and bring them out in the new light of his critical but kindly philosophy. This, in ‘Mari Magno,’ he had begun to do, and the rapid production of these last poems makes us believe that this new vein would have continued had he lived, and that we should have received a further expression of his views about the daily problems of social life.
Looking now to, the facts of his life, we see that there were in it very few intervals during which he enjoyed the combination of favourable circumstances necessary to enable him to write. He never was free, except during those short intervals, from the pressure of constant hard practical work. He was constantly under the necessity of using his power of work for the purpose of immediately making a living. His conscientious efforts, first to relieve his parents from the burden of his education, and then to assist them, have been related before. As fellow and tutor his earnings were freely contributed, and no doubt the desire of doing this was one great reason for undertaking the tutor’s work at Oriel. It is true that this was a time of comparative wealth, but it was earned by hard labour of a practical kind, and it has been already shown that during this period he made a pecuniary engagement which burdened him for many years after. Thus his duty to others never allowed him for any interval to cast himself on his fortune, and run risks for a while for the sake of freedom and opportunities. To many men this burden would have been lighter, but he was a heavy moving vessel; he could not turn and set his sails to catch light favouring winds. He could not use spare half-hours to write well-paid reviews, or popular articles, or even poetry. The demand for his wares seemed to spoil the supply. That it should be profitable, seemed to make it impossible to him to write. Thus he was driven to harder, less congenial work, simply because it was positive and certain. Nothing, for instance, would have been more grateful to him than after leaving Oxford to be free for a few years to roam about the world before settling to a new vocation, but this was never to be thought of. No doubt there is another side to the picture; the real acquaintance with life and men, which this entire acceptance of various positions taught him, not only gave him valuable training, but furnished him with materials which in a mind of his calibre would, we doubt not, have come out in some literary form. But for the time they simply choked his power of production, and no doubt prevented the utterance of many thoughts on religious and other subjects.
After two years at University Hall, the founding of a new college at Sydney induced him to seek a change, and he presented himself as a candidate for its principalship, a post which Dr. Woolley eventually obtained. This would have brought him a safe income, and one on which he could afford to marry. He had great hopes of success, and this tempted him to engage himself to be married. But very soon after he had done this the appointment was decided against him, and he was at the same time obliged to give up University Hall. His prospects were thus less hopeful than ever. Yet the stimulus which he had received supported him in the struggle to obtain some kind of position in which he might gain a livelihood. His friends endeavoured to procure an appointment for him in the Education Office; but the downfall of the Liberal Ministry destroyed all his chances for the time. Then, after much deliberation and inward hesitation, he resolved to go out to America, and try what opening he might find there, as a teacher or a literary man. But to leave England, to make a new beginning in life, and to pull himself up again, as it were, by the roots, was not an easy matter to one of his tenacious temperament. Some expression of the feelings which possessed him comes out in the poems written on shipboard. Eventually he sailed, in October 1852, and settled at Cambridge, Massachusetts. There he was welcomed with remarkable cordiality, and formed many friendships which lasted to the end of his life. Still his position was too solitary to be cheerful, but he appreciated very highly the hopefulness and the moral healthiness of the new country, and he always retained warm feelings of admiration and affection for its citizens.
At Cambridge he remained some time without much employment, but by degrees he gathered a certain number of pupils. He also wrote several articles at this time in the ‘North American Review,’ and in ‘Putnam’s Magazine,’ and other magazines, and before long undertook a revision of the translation, known as Dryden’s, of Plutarch’s ‘Lives,’ for an American publisher. Thus he carried on a great deal of work, and was gradually making himself an assured position; and he would probably have felt no difficulty in settling down in America as his home, had not the offer of an examinership in the Education Office, which his friends obtained for him, come to draw him homewards again. The certainty of a permanent, though small income, the prospect of immediate marriage, and his natural affection for his own country, decided him to accept the place, and give up his chances in America, not without some regret, after he had gradually brought his mind to the idea of adopting a new country. His genuine democratic feeling rejoiced in the wider diffusion of prosperity and substantial comforts which he found in America; at the same time he would doubtless have suffered greatly from the expatriation, and would probably have always regretted his exclusion from what he calls ‘the deeper waters of ancient knowledge and experience’ to be found in the old country.
In July 1853 he returned to England, and at once entered on the duties of his office. Henceforth his career was decided for him. He was freed from perplexing questions as to choice of occupation. His business life was simple, straightforward, and hard-working; but it was made up of little beyond official drudgery, and the fact of his entering the public service so late diminished his prospect of reaching higher posts. His immediate objects, however, were answered; and in June 1854 he married. For the next seven years he lived quietly at home; and during this time three children were born to him, who formed his chief and unfailing delight. No events of any moment marked this period; but it was one of real rest and contentment. It is hard to speak of happiness which has vanished from the earth; yet what comfort remains lies chiefly in the thought that now at last his life did reach a sort of culmination, that a great-hearted man did for a short time find his natural repose in the pleasures of a home, and that he was able, for a short space at least, to devote his great faculties freely to the service of others. Up to this date we may almost say that he had been too free from active and absorbing employment for his own happiness. Circumstances had forced him to try different schemes and to engage in various undertakings with very moderate success, and the want of definite and continuous occupation left his mind free to deal restlessly with the great insoluble problems of the world, which had for him so true a vitality that he could not dismiss them from his thoughts. After his marriage there was none of this enforced and painful communing with self alone. He had plenty to do; and the close relations into which he was brought with various members of his wife’s family kept him actively employed, and tasked his sympathies to the full. All the new duties and interests of domestic life grew up and occupied his daily thoughts. The humour which in solitude had been inclined to take the hue of irony and sarcasm, now found its natural and healthy outlet. The practical wisdom and insight into life, for which he was distinguished, were constantly exercised in the service of his friends; and the new experience which he was daily gathering at home made many perplexed questions, both social and religious, clear and simple to his mind. In this way, though he did not cease to think about the problems which hitherto had occupied his leisure, he thought about them in a different way, and was able, so to speak, to test them by the facts of actual life, and by the intuitions and experience of those whose character he valued, instead of submitting them only to the crucible of his own reflection. The close and constant contact with another mind gave him a fresh insight into his own, and developed a new understanding of the wants of other people, so that the results of many years of meditation grew distinct and solid. Having thus passed from the speculative to the constructive phase of thought, it is quite certain, from little things which he was in the habit of saying, that, had he been permitted, he would have expressed his mature convictions in works of a more positive and substantial kind. But, unfortunately, he was too willing and too anxious to take work of every sort, and to spend himself for others. Therefore he soon became involved in labours too exciting for a constitution already somewhat overtasked, nor was he ever able to yield himself wholly to the healthful indolence of private life. To a period of wasting thought and solitude succeeded one of overstrenuous exertion; bracing indeed, but, for a man of his sympathetic temperament and laborious past life, too absorbing and engrossing. What, however, must always be remembered is, that Clough was happy in his work, and happy in his home life. It would be easy, were it necessary, to show from his poems how strong in him was the sense of family feeling, how tenderly and delicately he appreciated the family relations, how fond he was of children and young people, how naturally he enjoyed domestic life. Nor can anyone doubt that in work itself he found full satisfaction, especially in such work as made him helpful to others, and brought him into vivid human contact with his fellow-workers. Both of these sources of satisfaction, home life and congenial work, had hitherto been denied him. Now they were largely given to him, and, had his strength been equal to the demands which were made upon it, a long life of happiness and usefulness was clearly open to him.
Besides the work of the office, the translation of Plutarch, begun in America, absorbed a great part of his scanty leisure during five years after his return from America. In the spring of 1856 he was appointed secretary to a commission for examining the scientific military schools on the continent. He visited, in consequence, the great schools for artillery and engineers in France, Prussia, and Austria. The travelling lasted about three months, and besides being very interesting and agreeable, it afforded him much occupation during a considerable time afterwards. Another employment, which frequently fell to him, was the examining of candidates in his own special subject of English literature, sometimes for Woolwich, sometimes in his own office. But the work in which he took the deepest interest was that of his friend and relation, Miss Nightingale. He watched over every step in her various undertakings, affording her assistance not merely with advice, and little in his life gave him greater satisfaction than to be her active and trusted friend.
We see that his life, though uneventful, was full of work, and we can also understand why this period of his life produced no poetical result. The conditions under which he could create were at this time wholly wanting. He had not time or strength or leisure of mind to spend on his natural gift of writing; and to his friends it must ever be a source of sorrow that his natural vocation, what he himself felt as such, was unfulfilled. He himself always looked forward to some time when greater opportunity might be granted him, when the various experiences of later life, the results of his later thought, might ‘assort themselves upon the brain,’ and be given out in some definite form. In the mean time he waited, not impatiently or unwillingly, for he was slow to draw conclusions, as he was also patient in hearing the views of others, and ready in his appreciation of them. Yet his mind did not fail to exercise a powerful influence upon others. All who knew him well will bear witness to the strong impression left by his character, and by the force and originality of his intellect. He was not prompt to give out distinct opinions or answers to theoretical questions, but he seldom failed to find a practical solution to any immediate difficulty, whether mental or practical. His mind turned more and more to action as its natural relief; and in his family circle his gentle wisdom and patience and great tenderness of feeling caused him to be constantly appealed to in all difficulties. It was indeed only in the intimacy of daily life that the full charm and grace of his nature was felt, the intense loveableness of it, the tender unselfishness, and the manly courage with which he met the difficulties of life, and helped others through them. His was a character not easy to describe, whose charm was so personal that it seems to evaporate when translated into words. He was a singular combination of enthusiasm and calmness, of thoughtfulness and imagination, of speech and silence, of seriousness and humour. Ordinarily somewhat slow of utterance, he often seemed, as a friend said of him, ‘to be choked by his own fulness.’ His own words in the ‘Bothie’ not unaptly described him—
Author forgotten and silent of currentest phrases and fancies;|
Mute and exuberant by turns, a fountain at intervals playing;
Mute and abstracted, or strong and abundant as rain in the tropics.
On special occasions he would pour out the accumulation of his mind, but most often the stream remained hid, and only came to the surface in his poetry, or in little incisive phrases, most apt to engrave themselves sharply on the minds of his hearers. He had a strong sense of humour, and was always ready to look on this side of the daily incidents of life; and his friends will long remember his genial smile, and his hearty, almost boyish, laugh. This brightness, and the sunny sweetness of his temper, gave cheerfulness to what might otherwise have been too serious a temperament, for though not specially anxious in personal things, yet the habit of his mind, his highwrought conscientiousness and susceptibility of feeling, rendered him liable to be deeply impressed by the sad things of the world, the great difficulties especially of modern social life, which were in truth to him ‘a heavy and a weary weight.’
It has been remarked that in his later poems there is no distinct expression of the peace he had attained. It is true we find in them rather a freedom from disturbance than a positive expression of belief. But his peace was not the result of a crisis, of a sudden conversion, which often pours itself out in words; it was the fruit of years of patient thought and action, it was a temper of mind. He felt no impulse to speak of it. He turned his mind to the practical questions of the world, as appears in these later poems, which instantly began to flow forth as soon as his brain was relieved from the constant pressure of work.
With so much of inward peace, absolutely free from envy or jealousy, not depressed by the want of outward success, given in so much larger measure to many of his contemporaries, capable of looking at outward things from a truly philosophic height, gifted with genuine humour, and open in his soul to all kindly natural feelings, endowed with a rare power of inspiring unclouded affection, he could not but enjoy a high degree of happiness. It has been called a broken life. Broken indeed it was, by death, too soon for the work he might have done, too soon for any full comprehension of him by the public, or by any but his near friends, too soon for those who loved him and depended on him. But not too soon for the realisation of a great and manly character, for the achievement in himself of the highest and purest peace; not too soon to give to a few who really knew him the strongest sense of what he was in himself. It was easiest to describe him by negatives, yet perhaps no one ever made a more concrete positive impression on those who knew him. As one of his friends said, ‘I always felt his presence;’ and truly he was above all a power, a warm supporting presence. His poems tell us of his perplexities, his divided thoughts, his uncertainties; those who remember him will think rather of his simple directness of speech and action, the clearness of his judgment on any moot point; above all, it is remarkable how unanimous all those who knew him are in expressing their feeling of his entire nobleness, his utter purity of character. It seems impossible to speak of him without using these words.
But now this happy and peaceful though laborious life was approaching a too early close. There was never to be any complete opportunity given here for showing to the full what his best friends believed to be in him, and what his poems partly reveal. Probably ever since very early youth he had been subjected to a too severe moral and intellectual strain. His health, though good, had never been strong, and after 1859 it began to cause anxiety to his family, when a series of small illnesses and accidents combined to weaken his constitution. In the summer of 1860 he also suffered the loss of his mother. After a lingering illness of several years, she died of paralysis, a disease to which several of the family had succumbed, and which was so soon after to strike down her son.
His usual autumn holiday, this time spent chiefly in Scotland, failed of its usual good effect in reviving him, and finding himself seriously out of health, he obtained six months’ leave from the Council Office. He then underwent several weeks’ treatment at Malvern, which appeared to improve his health. Afterwards, in February 1861, he removed to Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, and here, though at first in a suffering state, he soon improved and regained his spirits, and for the last time really enjoyed his family life with his wife and children. He was naturally fond of children, and to his own little ones he was a most tender and devoted father; he never tired of strolling about with them, carrying them on his back along the country lanes, and listening to their just beginning talk. The pleasures of the country had always had a strong hold upon him, and the opening spring in that sweet spot brought many pleasant sights; many walks among daffodil and snowdrop beds, and discoveries of ferns in sheltered nooks. He always rose early, and was often seen strolling over the downs before breakfast. At this time he returned to his old employment of translating Homer, the only form of versification which he had not laid aside altogether during his office work. This became now a great pleasure to him. At this time too he wrote two or three of the miscellaneous poems. Here also it was a source of great enjoyment to him to be near friends whom he especially valued, and whose society gave him just the intellectual stimulus he needed for enjoyment.
But this pleasant time came too soon to an end. Though himself unwilling to move from a place where he felt happy, and where he had experienced an improvement in his health, he was warned that the good would soon be exhausted, and that the climate was too relaxing for warmer weather. Further change of air, and still more change of scene, were ordered, and in the middle of April he went alone to Greece and Constantinople. Apparently he greatly enjoyed this journey, and no sooner was he again at leisure and in solitude than the old fountain of verse, so long dry within him, reopened afresh. During this journey he wrote the first and perhaps the second of the Mari Magno stories. In June he returned for a few weeks to England; he seemed unable to bear any protracted absence, and to long for his home; yet he consented to quit it again in July and to go to Auvergne and the Pyrenees. There he was fortunate enough to join, though but for a short time, his friends Mr. and Mrs. Tennyson, whose companionship made his solitary wanderings pleasant, and to it he owed probably more than pleasure, some of the stimulus which produced the poems which were his last creations. While travelling in Auvergne and the Pyrenees he composed all the remaining Mari Magno tales, except the last, which was conceived and written entirely during his last illness. In the south of France he remained till the middle of September, when he went to Paris to join his wife. Their three little children had been left in England; he had very much wished to come home and see them before starting on a further journey, but in the present state of his nerves it was considered desirable to avoid any unnecessary emotion, and he unwillingly yielded this point. He felt the privation very keenly, though he shrank from any words, and could hardly endure to hear about the children whom he had not been allowed to revisit. In this way it unfortunately came to pass that he never even saw his youngest child, a little girl who was born after he left England the second time. In Paris he spent a few days and then set out to travel through Switzerland to the Italian lakes, intending to stay some time at Florence, and reach Rome before the winter. He was then able to enjoy much, though he could bear but little fatigue. They stopped at Dijon to see the beautiful Puits de Moyse and the sculptures in the Museum by the same hand; and then crossed the Jura from Salines to Pontarlier and Neufchâtel. Between Salines and Pontarlier was then still a beautiful drive in the diligence over low grassy hills crowned with pine woods. At Pontarlier they rejoined the railway; a striking line, seen as they saw it by moonlight, a ‘chemin très accidénts,’ keeping half-way up the hill-side, equally steep whether looking up or down, and continually darting in and out through numerous tunnels. After this came three pleasant vetturino days over the Simplon, one spent in the long drive up the Valais, monotonous but pleasant, with occasional walks and halts to gather the deep blue gentians and mountain pinks on the wayside. The next day, on which they crossed the pass, a sudden deep snow came on, unusual so early in the year as September; many little avalanches fell, and it was with some difficulty they reached the crest. Then on descending the slope of the great alpine wall, into the country of the sun, everything changed suddenly, the snow disappeared, and all seemed bursting into rich vegetation. Arthur enjoyed this part of the journey excessively; first the beautiful Pass of Gondo, full of waterfalls and cascades, then the descent lower down on Domo d’Ossola, among walnut and chestnut trees. The sense of southern beauty and richness seemed to penetrate him with enjoyment. The third day’s drive to Stresa on Lago Maggiore was also full of pleasure. At Stresa they rested a few days and made expeditions to Isola Bella, Orta, and Magadino; but here he became slightly unwell, and hurried on to Milan, thinking it would be more bracing. He did apparently improve, and took pleasure in visiting the pictures and churches, but never recovered himself; and they continued their painful journey, during which he grew gradually worse, to Florence, where they expected to meet friends, and where they found good medical help. Some days were better than others, and at Parma he spent a few hours among the pictures of Correggio with great enjoyment. The last day before entering Florence they had a drive of several hours over the Apennines, coming down on Pistoia. It was a lovely sunny day; the hills were covered with young chestnuts and flowering arbutus; the air was fresh and soothing, and he seemed to revive on the heights, but looked with dread on the valley lying beneath, with its white towns shining hot in the sun.
They reached Florence early in the day of October 10th. That afternoon Arthur went to the Boboli Gardens, and to look at the grand arches of Orcagna in the Piazza del Granduca. The next day too he attempted to walk as far as the Cathedral and the Baptistery, which were close to the hotel. But on the 12th, when a permanent lodging had been found, he went to bed, unable longer to resist the fever. He had suffered much rheumatic pain in the head, but it very soon gave way to treatment, and after this he did not suffer much. The fever, a sort of malaria, had its course, and appeared to give way. During the first three weeks he seemed perpetually occupied with a poem he was writing, the last in the volume of his poems; and when he began apparently to recover, and was able to sit up for several hours in the day, he insisted on trying to write it out, and when this proved too great an effort he begged to dictate it. But he broke down before it was finished, and returned to bed never to leave it again. A few days before his death he begged for a pencil and contrived to write down two verses, and quite to the end his thoughts kept hold of his poem. Fortunately it had all been completed and written out in pencil in the first stage of his illness, and was found after his death in his note-book. It seemed a comfort to him to have his mind preoccupied and relieved from the weight of illness and anxiety by this creative instinct.
The fever left him worn out, and then paralysis, with which he had been threatened, struck him down. On the 13th of November he died, in his forty-third year.
Three days before his death his sister reached him from England. He knew her, and was glad to see her near him, but he was too weak to realise the parting that was coming.
He lies buried in the little Protestant cemetery, just outside the walls of Florence, looking towards Fiesole and the hills which he loved and which he had gazed on as he entered Florence, little thinking he should leave it no more. ‘Tall cypresses wave over the graves, and the beautiful hills keep guard around;’ nowhere could there be a lovelier resting-place.
The memory of Arthur Clough will be safe in the hearts of his friends. Few beyond his friends have known him at all; his writings may not reach beyond a small circle; but those who have received his image into their hearts, know that something has been given them which no time can take away, and to them we think no words will seem fitter than those of the poet, happily also his friend, which have cherished the memory of another beautiful soul:—
So, dearest, now thy brows are cold,|
We see thee as thou art, and know
Thy likeness to the wise below,
Thy kindred with the great of old.
|1. Head of St. John’s, and at that time Vice-chancellor. [back]|