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Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) was an English poet who exemplified in his life the poetry and illustrated the religious crisis that was faced by Englishmen during the mid-Victorian period. He managed to write some extraordinary lot in his short life span.

Early Life of Arthur Hugh Clough

Arthur Clough was born in Liverpool at Jan 1 in 1819 to James Butler Clough and Anne Perfect. James was an unsuccessful cotton merchant in Liverpool because of which he had to immigrate to Charleston, South Carolina in 1822 with his four children. During this Arthur was just three years old and stayed 6 more years in America. Meanwhile, he was constantly under the religious influence of his mother.

Arthur Hugh Clough
Arthur Hugh Clough

At age of 9 years, Arthur was sent back to England to attend a school in Chester. In the year 1829, he along with his brother Charles entered the Rugby School. This year of life was a turning point in his life and also for the history of English Public School. Here he met Thomas Arnold, who was appointed as new Headmaster of Rugby only a year before. Thomas had started to implement his reforms and tried to focus on moral earnestness for students rather than only on curriculum changes.

In short duration, Arthur became the favourite student of Thomas Arnold with his intellect. He was the role model for his companions eventually being appointed as Head of the School, an honourable position. This position of Arthur became a vivid example of the success of Arnold’s methodology. He also formed a lifelong friendship with the Mathew Arnold the eldest son of Thomas Arnold.

During the school, Arthur worked hard on Arnold’s idea, winning many prizes, taking part in school government, achieving small honours in football, swimming and running. He also became a Chief Editor of the school magazine. Arnold fostered the ideas of a commitment to reason, deep moral continence in foreseeing public affairs, and meticulous discipline in achieving high goals.

University Life 

In the year 1827, Arthur won a prominent scholarship to Balliol College in Oxford. Here he was with William George Ward and Benjamin Jowett whose company he enjoyed a lot. In the year 1841 Clough earned a second class degree after which he was denied fellowship in his own college after the graduation as all expected more from him.

In 1842, Clough was elected to continue his fellowship at Oriel College and then becoming a tutor in 1843, thus staying back in Oxford. But then difficult time started for Clough as all educational reformats that were undertaken in Oxford were under the influence of High Church. He resigned his tutorship in the year 1848 when he was asked to teach the religious doctrines at Oriel College.

Arthur Hugh Clough’ Poetic Career

Returning to England and waving goodbye to his academic career, Clough entered the phase of “after-Boyhood”, which made him write and publish his first poem “The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich”. It was a Long Vacation pastoral containing 1700 verses. It was based on the context of the Scottish Reading party, of which the tutor and students resemble highly with Clough and his friends. The poem Described the Charming and lighter personality side of Clough.

In 1848, Clough traveled to Paris to observe the revolution thus turning his attention to political crises from religious ones. He was present in Rome in 1849 when the city was attacked by French. During his stay in Rome, he wrote his second best poem “Amours De Voyage”. This poem explored the uncertainty in decisive power of the main character which ultimately leads to end his love affair.

Both of his poems were written in hexameters. In 1849, Clough and Thomas Burbidge published “Ambarvalia”, their volume of shorter poems. In 1850 Clough Started to write “Dipsychus” which was a long poem modeling Goethe’s Faust but never completed it.

“The Last Decalogue “was one of the compositions by Clough which shows the sharpest criticism to Victorian moral contentment. Most of his work remained unpublished at his death.

Family Life of Arthur Clough

In 1850 Clough became the professor of English Literature at University College, London which he resigned soon after a year. It was then important for him to find alternative job employment as he was in love with his then-wife Blanche Smith.

He then made many attempts to find academic employment in America and Australia in which he failed. In 1852 Clough went to America as a tutor at Cambridge Massachusetts. He returned to England in the year 1853 to join the Department of Education. In the year 1854, he was appointed as an examiner in the Education Office which enabled him to marry his love, Blanche Smith. They had four children’s.

He thereafter he spent much of his time in helping his wife cousin, Florence Nightingale, who was in the nursing profession for the reforming of military hospitals. By 1861, Clough’s health deteriorated and was approved sick leave for foreign tour. He then moved to Greece and Constantinople to write his last poetic venture “Mari Magno”, a series of a tale. It illustrated different stages of marriage and relationship between sexes.

At age of 42, Clough died in Florence on November 13 and was buried in a protestant cemetery.