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Arthur Hugh Clough

Arthur Hugh Clough (January 1, 1819 – November 13, 1861) was an English poet, the brother of suffragist Anne Clough (who ended up as principal of Newnham College, Cambridge), and assistant to ground-breaking nurse Florence Nightingale.



Arthur Clough was born in Liverpool to James Butler Clough, a cotton merchant of Welsh descent, and Anne Perfect, originally from Yorkshire. In 1822 the family moved to the United States, and Clough's childhood was spent mainly in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1828 Clough and his older brother Charles returned to England to attend school in Chester. In 1829 Clough began attending Rugby School, then under Thomas Arnold, whose strenuous views on life and education he accepted. (See Muscular Christianity.)

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

Oxford, in 1837, was in the full swirl of the High Church movement led by John Henry Newman. Clough was for a time influenced by this movement, but eventually rejected it. He surprised everyone by graduating from Oxford with only Second Class Honours, but won a fellowship with a tutorship at Oriel College. He became unwilling to teach the doctrines of the Church of England, as his tutorship required of him, and in 1848 he resigned as tutor and traveled to Paris, where he witnessed the revolution of 1848. Returning to England in a state of euphoria, he wrote his long poem The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich, a farewell to the academic life, following it up with poems from his time as student and tutor, in the shared publication Ambarvalia. In 1849 he witnessed another revolution, the siege of the Roman Republic, which inspired another long poem, Amours de Voyage. Easter Day, written in Naples, was a passionate denial of the Resurrection and the fore-runner of the unfinished poem Dipsychus.[1]

Since 1846 Clough had been financially responsible for his mother and sister (following the death of his father and younger brother and the marriage of his elder brother). In the autumn of 1849, to provide for them, he became principal of University Hall, a hostel for Unitarian students at University College, London, but found its ideology as oppressive as that which he had left behind in Oxford. He soon found that he disliked London, in spite of the friendship of Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane Welsh Carlyle. A prospect of a post in Sydney led him to engage himself to Blanche Mary Shore Smith, but when that failed to materialize, he traveled in 1852 to Cambridge, Massachusetts, encouraged by Ralph Waldo Emerson. There he remained several months, lecturing and editing an older edition of Plutarch for the booksellers, until in 1853 the offer of an examinership in the Education Office brought him to London once more. He married Shore Smith and pursued a steady official career, diversified only by an appointment in 1856 as secretary to a commission sent to study foreign military education. He devoted enormous energy to work as an unpaid secretarial assistant to his wife's cousin Florence Nightingale. He wrote virtually no poetry for six years.

In 1860 his health began to fail. He visited first Great Malvern and Freshwater, Isle of Wight. From April 1861 he traveled strenuously in Greece, Turkey and France, where he met up with the Tennyson family. Despite his fragile health, this continental tour renewed a state of euphoria like that of 1848-9, and he quickly wrote the elements of his last long poem, Mari Magno. His wife joined him on a voyage from Switzerland to Italy, where contracted malaria. He died in Florence on 13 November. He is buried in the English Cemetery there , in a tomb that his wife and sister had Susan Horner design from Jean-François Champollion's book on Egyptian hieroglyphs. Matthew Arnold wrote the elegy of Thyrsis to his memory.

His youngest child was Blanche Athena Clough (1861-1960), who devoted her life to Newnham College, Cambridge, where her aunt (his sister) was principal[2].


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

Clough's output is small and a large portion of it appeared post-humously. Anthony Kenny notes that the editions prepared by Clough's wife, Blanche, have "been criticized ... for omitting, in the interests of propriety, significant passages in Dipsychus and other poems." But editing Clough's literary remains has proven a challenging task even for later editors. Kenny goes on to state that "it was no mean feat to have placed almost all of Clough's poetry in the public domain within a decade, and to have secured for it general critical and popular acclaim."[3]

His long poems have a certain narrative and psychological penetration, and some of his lyrics have a strength of melody to match their depth of thought. He is regarded as one of the most forward-looking English poets of the 19th century, in part due to a sexual frankness that shocked his contemporaries. He often went against the popular religious and social ideals of his day, and his verse is said to have the melancholy and the perplexity of an age of transition. His work is interesting to students of metre, owing to the experiments which he made, in the Bothie and elsewhere, with English hexameters and other types of verse formed upon classical models.


  1. ^ Anthony Kenny, 2005, pg. 181, 218.
  2. ^ Newnham College biography
  3. ^ Anthony, Kenny, 2005, pg. 286.


  • Clough's Poems (1862) edited, with a short memoir, by F.T. Palgrave,
  • Letters and Remains, with a longer memoir, privately printed in 1865. *Both volumes published together in 1869, and reprinted
  • Robindra Biswas, Arthur Hugh Clough: Towards a Reconsideration(1972)
  • Samuel Waddington, Arthur Hugh Clough: A Monograph (1883)
  • Anthony Kenny, Arthur Hugh Clough, a Poet's Life (2005)
  • Howard F. Lowry and Ralph Leslie Rusk (editors), Emerson-Clough Letters, Hamden: Archon Books, 1968.
  • Selections from the poems were made by Mrs Clough for the Golden Treasury series in 1894, and by E. Rhys in 1896.
  • "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1969), by John Fowles.
  • Poem Hunter

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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


  • ’Twas on a sunny summer day
    I trod a mighty city’s street,
    And when I started on my way
    My heart was full of fancies sweet;
    But soon, as nothing could be seen,
    But countenances sharp and keen,
    Nought heard or seen around but told
    Of something bought or something sold,
    And none that seemed to think or care
    That any save himself was there.
  • Truth is a golden thread, seen here and there
    In small bright specks upon the visible side
    Of our strange being’s party-coloured web.
  • Come back again, old heart! Ah me!
    Methinks in those thy coward fears
    There might, perchance, a courage be,
    That fails in these the manlier years;
    Courage to let the courage sink,
    Itself a coward base to think,
    Rather than not for heavenly light
    Wait on to show the truly right.
  • Thought may well be ever ranging,
    And opinion ever changing,
    Task-work be, though ill begun,
    Dealt with by experience better;
    By the law and by the letter
    Duty done is duty done
    Do it, Time is on the wing!
  • Loving—if the answering breast
    Seem not to be thus possessed,
    Still in hoping have a care;
    If it do, beware, beware!
    But if in yourself you find it,
    Above all things—mind it, mind it!
    • Love, Not Duty, st. 5
  • When panting sighs the bosom fill,
    And hands by chance united thrill
    At once with one delicious pain
    The pulses and the nerves of twain;
    When eyes that erst could meet with ease,
    Do seek, yet, seeking, shyly shun
    Ecstatic conscious unison,—
    The sure beginnings, say, be these
    Prelusive to the strain of love
    Which angels sing in heaven above?
  • Thy duty do? rejoined the voice,
    Ah, do it, do it, and rejoice;
    But shalt thou then, when all is done,
    Enjoy a love, embrace a beauty
    Like these, that may be seen and won
    In life, whose course will then be run;
    Or wilt thou be where there is none?
    I know not, I will do my duty.
  • Grace is given of God, but knowledge is bought in the market;
    Knowledge needful for all, yet cannot be had for the asking.
  • A world where nothing is had for nothing.
    • The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich, Pt. VIII
  • There is a great Field-Marshal, my friend, who arrays our battalions;
    Let us to Providence trust, and abide and work in our stations.
    • The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich.
  • So in the sinful streets, abstracted and alone,
    I with my secret self held communing of mine own.
  • Hope conquers cowardice, joy grief;
    Or at least, faith unbelief.
    • Easter Day II, l. 34-35
  • Alas! the great world goes its way,
    And takes its truth from each new day;
    They do not quit, nor can retain,
    Far less consider it again.
  • Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
    Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
    And where the land she travels from? Away,
    Far, far behind, is all that they can say.
  • Go; say not in thy heart, And what then were it accomplished,
    Were the wild impulse allayed, what were the use or the good!
    Go, when the instinct is stilled, and when the deed is accomplished,
    What thou bast done and shalt do, shall be declared to thee then.
    Go with the sun and the stars, and yet evermore in thy spirit
    Say to thyself: It is good: yet is there better than it.
    This that I see is not all, and this that I do is but little;
    Nevertheless it is good, though there is better than it.
  • And almost every one when age,
    Disease, or sorrows strike him,
    Inclines to think there is a God,
    Or something very like Him.
  • Trust me, I’ve read your German sage
    To far more purpose e’er than you did;
    You find it in his wisest page,
    Whom God deludes is well deluded.
    • Dipsychus, Pt. II, sc. ii
  • I sit at my table en grand seigneur,
    And when I have done, throw a crust to the poor;
    Not only the pleasure, one’s self, of good living,
    But also the pleasure of now and then giving.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.
    • Dipsychus, Pt. II, sc. ii
  • “There is no God,” the wicked saith,
    “And truly it’s a blessing,
    For what He might have done with us
    It’s better only guessing.”
  • Say not the struggle nought availeth,
    The labour and the wounds are vain,
    The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
    And as things have been, things remain.
  • For while the tired waves vainly breaking
    Seem here no painful inch to gain,
    Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
    Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
    • Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth, st. 3
  • In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
    But westward, look, the land is bright.
    • Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth, st. 4
  • Honour thy parents; that is, all
    From whom advancement may befall:
    Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive
    Officiously to keep alive.
    • The Latest Decalogue, l. 9-12
  • Thou shalt not covet, but tradition
    Approves all forms of competition.
    • The Latest Decalogue, l. 19-20
  • I watched them from the window, thy children at their play,
    And I thought of all my own dear friends, who were far, oh, far away,
    And childish loves, and childish cares, and a child’s own buoyant gladness
    Came gushing back again to me with a soft and solemn sadness;
    And feelings frozen up full long, and thoughts of long ago,
    Seemed to be thawing at my heart with a warm and sudden flow.
  • Put forth thy leaf, thou lofty plane,
    East wind and frost are safely gone;
    With zephyr mild and balmy rain
    The summer comes serenely on;
    Earth, air, and sun and skies combine
    To promise all that’s kind and fair:—
    But thou, O human heart of mine,
    Be still, contain thyself, and bear.
  • Our ills are worse than at their ease
    These blameless happy souls suspect,
    They only study the disease,
    Alas, who live not to detect.
  • Each for himself is still the rule
    We learn it when we go to school—
    The devil take the hindmost, O!
  • O tell me, friends, while yet we part,
    And heart can yet be heard of heart,
    O tell me then, for what is it
    Our early plan of life we quit;
    From all our old intentions range,
    And why does all so wholly change?
    O tell me, friends, while yet we part!
  • My wind is turned to bitter north,
    That was so soft a south before;
    My sky, that shone so sunny bright,
    With foggy gloom is clouded o’er
    My gay green leaves are yellow-black,
    Upon the dank autumnal floor;
    For love, departed once, comes back
    No more again, no more.
  • ’Tis possible, young sir, that some excess
    Mars youthful judgment and old men’s no less;
    Yet we must take our counsel as we may
    For (flying years this lesson still convey),
    ’Tis worst unwisdom to be overwise,
    And not to use, but still correct one’s eyes.
  • Dance on, dance on, we see, we see
    Youth goes, alack, and with it glee,
    A boy the old man ne’er can be;
    Maternal thirty scarce can find
    The sweet sixteen long left behind.
  • As ships becalmed at eve, that lay
    With canvas drooping, side by side,
    Two towers of sail, at dawn of day
    Are scarce, long leagues apart, descried.
    • Qua Cursum Ventus. Compare: "Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863-1874), Pt. III, The Theologian's Tale: Elizabeth, sec. IV.

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