This book isintended to deal with substance rather than with form. But, in estimating thework of a teacher who taught exclusively with the pen, it would be perverseto disregard entirely the qualities of the writing which so penetrated andcoloured the intellectual life of the Victorian age. Some cursory estimate ofArnold's powers in prose and verse must therefore be attempted, before wepass on to consider the practical effect which those powers enabled him toproduce.
And here it behoves a loyal andgrateful disciple to guard himself sedulously against the peril ofoverstatement. For to the unerring taste, the sane and sober judgment, of theMaster, unrestrained and inappropriate praise would have been peculiarlydistressing.
This caution applies with specialforce to our estimate of his rank in poetry. That he was a poet, the mostexacting, the most paradoxical criticism will hardly deny; but there is urgentneed for moderation and self-control when we come to consider his place amongthe poets. Are we to call him a great poet? The answer must be carefullypondered.
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