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The Letters of Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang

BUY Cloth · 549 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813916514 · $85.00 · Jun 1996
BUY Cloth · ISBN 9780813917061 · $85.00 · Jun 1997
BUY Cloth · ISBN 9780813917658 · $85.00 · Oct 1998
BUY Cloth · ISBN 9780813918969 · $85.00 · Mar 2000
BUY Cloth · ISBN 9780813919997 · $85.00 · Mar 2001
BUY Cloth · ISBN 9780813920283 · $85.00 · Jan 2002

The University Press of Virginia edition of The Letters of Matthew Arnold, edited by Cecil Y. Lang, represents the most comprehensive and assiduously annotated collection of Arnold's correspondence available. When complete in six volumes, this edition will include close to four thousand letters, nearly five times the number in G.W.E. Russell's two-volume compilation of 1895. The letters, at once meaty and delightful, appear with a consecutiveness rare in such editions, and they contain a great deal of new information, both personal (sometimes intimate) and professional. Two new diaries are included, a handful of letters to Matthew Arnold, and many of his own that will appear in their entirety here for the first time. Renowned as a poet and critic, Arnold will be celebrated now as a letter writer. Nowhere else is Arnold's appreciation of life and literature so extravagantly evident as in his correspondence. His letters amplify the dark vision of his own verse, as well as the moral background of his criticism. As Cecil Lang writes, the letters "may well be the finest portrait of an age and of a person, representing the main movements of mind and of events of nearly half a century and at the same time revealing the intimate life of the participant-observer, in any collection of letters in the nineteenth century, possibly in existence."

Volume 1 begins with an account of the Arnold children by their father, headmaster of Rugby School. The letters show Arnold as a precocious schoolboy, doted on and remonstrated by his extended family; as a foppish Oxonian; as a young man enjoying the pleasures of Paris and working at a perfect and undemanding job; then as a new husband in an imperfect, too-demanding job; as Professor of Poetry at Oxford; and finally as an emergent European critic. As Cecil Lang writes in his engaging and spacious introduction, "Arnold learned to live with a boring, demanding, underpaid, unrewarding occupation largely because—questing intellectual, husband and father, school inspector, clubbable man-about-town and cosmopolite-about-Europe and America, hunter, fisherman, skater, voracious reader—he lived to learn."


It is entirely clear from volumes 1 and 2 that Lang has pulled off yet another triumph or industry, wisdom, and precision....The letters that do survive have now been edited respectfully but not pedantically, and with a light touch that Arnold would have relished. Arnold altogether, we feel sure, would have approved of Cecil Lang.


The book is a model of the kind of careful, loving scholarship that demands years of work, the kind of scholarship denigrated by people who whip out a new book of High Theory every year..I cannot think of anything that could restore humanity to Arnold's idea of the canon more than the volume of his letters in the years 1829-1859.

Sewanee Review

In Lang's expert hands Arnold emerges as a Stendhalian observer of the major European tendencies of his time. He is also seen in his non-Stendhalian capacities as a devoted friend and family member, as engaged social critic and hardworking civil servant, as poet, nature-lover, and Francophile.

Nineteenth-Century Literature

About the Author(s): 

Cecil Y. Lang was Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Virginia. He was the editor of The Swinburne Letters, New Writings of Swinburne, and The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle, and coeditor of The Tennyson Letters.

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