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Matthew Arnold Biography | Poet

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Matthew Arnold was born on December 24, 1822 in Laleham, Middlesex, England. He began writing poetry at the Rugby school where his father was headmaster. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oxford in 1844 and returned to Rugby to teach. He married in 1851 and began to work as Inspector of Schools.This position allowed him extensive travel opportunities throughout England. He held this position for over thirty years. Some of his earliest well known works include Empedocles on Etna, which was written in 1852 and Poems, written in 1853. The reputation garnered from these works led to a teaching position at Oxford where he taught from 1857 to 1867 as Professor of Poetry. Arnold died suddenly in 1888 from heart failure while on the way to visit one of his daughters.

Matthew Arnold accomplished much while teaching at Oxford. He published On Translating Homer in 1861 which was a written version of his lectures on literary criticism related to Homer's Illiad and Odyssey. One of his most famous works Essays in Criticism: First Series which was published in 1865 followed by Essays in Criticism:Second Series in 1888. Arnold's poetry is sometimes compared with Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He is believed to be one of the best Victorian poets as far as his ability to express the issues surrounding him at the time. Much of his work dealt with issues related to morality. He wanted to inspire readers to find religious faith and return to a time of classical morals. His famous poem "Dover Beach" deals with being isolated and not having faith. "The Scholar Gypsy" and "Requiescat" are two more of his better known poems.

Matthew Arnold’s education began at home where he was tutored by his uncle Rev. John Buckland. He was sent to Winchester College in 1836 but returned to Rugby school in 1837. The next year he moved up to sixth form where his father became his instructor. At Rugby school he won several awards for essay writing in English and for his poetry in Latin and English. He received a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford in 1841. He completed his undergraduate degree from Oxford University in 1844 and returned to Rugby school to teach.

Arnold's career as school inspector allowed him to travel all throughout England. Through this travel he gained the knowledge of the how people lived in different parts of the country. This helped inspire some of his writing and gave him an advantage over other writers of that time who hadn't seen those different places and the living conditions there. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1857 and re-elected to the position in 1862.He was the first professor at Oxford the lecture in English instead of Latin. He made two trips to The United States and Canada where he gave lectures on democracy and education. He retired from school inspection in 1886.

Matthew Arnold is considered a great poet because his subject matter dealt with the Victorian Era in which he lived. His poetry often dealt with isolation of the mind and how faith was declining. He was also very influential with his works "The Function of Criticism" and "The Study of Poetry." Both of these called for a new type of poetry to address what he saw as the declining morals in society. He has been very influential to most literary critics who came after him including T.S.Eliot and Harold Bloom. He also influenced journalism when coined the term "New Journalism" which dealt with the tendency of some Victorian newspapers to write sensational and exaggerated articles. Matthew Arnold contributed many things to modern literature and his influence in poetry, journalism and literary critiques can still be seen today. 


Matthew Arnold, English critic, essayist, and poet, was born at Laleham, near Staines, 1822, being a son of Dr. Arnold of Rugby. He was educated at Winchester, Rugby, and Oxford, and became a Fellow of Oriel College. He was private secretary to Lord Lansdowne, 1847-51; appointed inspector of schools, 1851; professor of poetry at Oxford, 1858; published A Strayed Reveller and other poems, 1848; Empedocles on Etna, 1853; Merope, 1858; Essays in Criticism, 1865; On the Study of Celtic Literature, 1867; Schools and Universities on the Continent, 1868; St. Paul and Protestantism, 1870; Literature and Dogma, 1873; Last Essays on Church and Religion, 1877; God and the Bible, 1878; Discourses on America, 1885, &c. He received the degree of LL.D.from Edinburgh, and that of D.C.L. from Oxford, and lectured in Britain and in America. He died in 1888. A complete edition of his works in 15 vols. appeared in 1905.—Bibliography: H. W. Paul, Matthew Arnold (English Men of Letters Series); G. Saintsbury, Matthew Arnold (Modern English Writers Series); G. W. E. Russell, Matthew Arnold (Literary Lives Series); F. Bickley, Matthew Arnold and his Poetry.

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