"All the questing and the guessing" : Arthur Hugh Clough as proto-modernist (1998)
AuthorsPrichard, André Colwynshow all
In the almost one hundred and forty years since the death of Arthur Hugh Clough two assumptions have become more or less universally accepted in the criticism of the poet. The first is that he was an unmitigated failure, both as a man and a writer; the second, originating after about 1930, is that Clough anticipated some of the characteristics of twentieth century Modernism. These generally unchallenged academic suppositions have, however, combined to restrict and deaden the opportunity for unrestrained speculation in Clough scholarship. Most recent work on Clough continues to promulgate both the idea of his difference and lack of success, and to impose, onto the man and his verse, an imprecise and narrow conception of his Modernism. This thesis intends to transcend both of these barriers by at once applying a more scrupulous and scholarly definition of Modernism to the poetry of Clough, and by illustrating the man who emerges through such an examination. By delineating Clough's dissatisfaction with the Victorian period and its poetic, and in the alternative philosophical and poetic stance which we see him assume, we are able to observe how Clough bids farewell to the stability afforded by Victorian retrospection and essentialism, and, in the process, develops a proto-Modernist fragmentation, prospectivity, and dynamism.