Arthur Hugh Clough: A Poet’s Life by Anthony Kenny - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Accomplished, Witty, and Dandyish

Arthur Hugh Clough: A Poet’s Life


Continuum 298pp £20

Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive

Officiously to keep alive:

Do not adultery commit;

Advantage rarely comes of it…

Arthur Hugh Clough’s inversion of the Ten Commandments seemed agreeably witty and up to date when I first came on it, aged fourteen or so, in Lord Wavell’s anthology, Other Men’s Flowers. Next I knew of him as the subject of Matthew Arnold’s beautiful, if swoony, elegy ‘Thyrsis’, which, according to Anthony Kenny, was dismissed by Dr Jowett, the Master of Balliol, as ‘a most inadequate tribute’.

Then, in my last year at school, I read Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, where one encounters a feeble Clough who ‘had passed his life in a condition of uneasiness, which was increased rather than diminished by the practice of poetry’, this sad state of mind having been ‘occasioned by his

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend