Born on 24th of December 1822
Died in Liverpool, Merseyside
Died on 15th of April 1888
Matthew Arnold’s early years seems to lead inexorably towards his poetic calling: the son of Rugby headmaster Thomas Arnold, he met Wordsworth when the family holidayed at Fox How near the great romantic’s home; when he studied at Balliol one of his closest friends was the poet Arthur Hugh Clough; and in 1843 Arnold won the Newdigate Prize (other recipients include John Buchan, Andrew Motion, Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin).
There was another major thread in the poet’s life, however: that of education – again through his reforming father, but also as he worked for many years as an Inspector of Schools, soon being delegated by Parliament to report on continental education systems.
His school inspection work, undertaken to provide a steady income and allow him to marry, lasted from 1851 to 1886, though his poetic endeavours continued during that time: he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1857, and again for a further five year term in 1862, and published Poems: a New Edition in 1853, and New Poems in 1867.
Today Arnold’s poetry can seem dry and academic, but The Scholar Gypsy is approachable and lively, and Dover Beach is remarkable, a thing of beauty and freedom that could be from a far later age and a different author.
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