Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Arnold, Thomas Kerchever

ARNOLD, THOMAS KERCHEVER (1800–1853), voluminous writer of educational works and theologian, was born in 1800. His father, Thomas George Arnold, was a doctor of Stamford. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, was seventh junior optime in the mathematical tripos of 1821, and was elected fellow of his college shortly afterwards. He took his degree of B.A. in the same year, and that of M.A. in 1824. In 1830 he was presented to the living of Lyndon, in Rutlandshire, where his parishioners only numbered one hundred. He at first devoted his ample leisure to theology, and showed himself an obstinate opponent of the views advanced by the leaders of the Oxford movement. From 1838 until his death he applied himself mainly to the preparation of school books, which procured him a very wide reputation. He died at Lyndon Rectory of bronchitis after a few days' illness on 9 March 1853. A writer in the 'Guardian' at the time of his death describes him as 'remarkable for an almost feminine gentleness of manner, and for the unaffected simplicity of his life.'

Arnold began his career as an educational writer with the publication of the 'Essentials of Greek Accidence' in 1838, and this work was followed almost immediately by his 'Practical Introduction to Greek Prose Composition,' which had an unprecedented success, and was 'the keystone of his literary fortunes,' The book reached a fouith edition in 1841, and a seventh in 1849, when its sale had exceeded 20,000 copies. It was at once adopted as a text-book in the higher classes of the chief schools of England. Its leading merit consisted in its author's judicious use of the system and researches of recent German scholars — 'in applying the method of Ollendorff to the syntax of Buttmann.' In 1839 Arnold issued a 'Latin Prose Composition' on a similar plan, and it met with a welcome little less warm than that accorded to its forerunner, and in the succeeding years he prepared a whole library of classical school-books, which included translations and adaptations of many German and American works. In association with the Rev. J. E. Riddle he published in 1847 an 'English-Latin Lexicon,' based on a German work by Dr. C. E. Georges, which cost him, he wrote in the preface, 'many years of labour.' Between 1848 and 1853 he edited, in twenty-five volumes, portions of all the chief Latin and Greek authors, and published handbooks of classical antiquities, an 'Anticleptic Gradus,' and similar works. Nor did he confine himself to the classics. He superintended the publication of English, French, German, Italian, and Hebrew grammars, and aided in the preparation of a 'Handbook of Hebrew Antiquities' and a 'Boy's Arithmetic.' Almost all his educational writings bear the distinct impress of German influence. In his classical work he depended largely on Madvig, Krüger, Zumpt, and other less known scholars; his treatment of modern languages was also based on German models, and Arnold was generally ready to acknowledge his obligations to foreign writers.

As a theological writer Arnold was almost equally voluminous. His earliest published work was a sermon on the 'Faith of Abel,' which appeared in the third volume of a collection of 'Family Sermons' in 1833, and four years later he projected and edited a periodical under the title of the 'Churchman's Quarterly Magazine,' which soon perished. Subsequently he made two similar attempts to further the interests of the church of England by means of periodical literature. In January 1844 he published the first number of the 'Churchman's Monthly Companion,' which succumbed to popular indifference eight months later, and in 1851 he started another monthly magazine, entitled the 'Theological Critic,' which lived on until his death in 1853. Arnold's contributions to theological literature also included five pamphlets on ecclesiastical questions raised by the Oxford movement; an abridgment of an American version of Hengstenberg's 'Christology;' two volumes of sermons, one published in 1845, and the other posthumously in 1858; and 'Short Helps to Daily Devotion' (1847). He likewise issued controversial treatises criticising well-known theological works like Taylor's 'Interpretations of the Fathers,' Elliott's 'Horæ Apocalypticæ,' and Dean Close's sermons, in all of which, according to a sympathetic critic in the 'Guardian' of 1853, 'his critical eye discerned unsoundness . . . which, if not exposed, was likely to do extensive mischief.'

Of the value of Arnold's educational writings, by which alone he is now remembered, more than one opinion has been held. The multifarious character of his literary work necessarily rendered it of very unequal quality, and a very small part of the classical portion of it has alone stood the test of time. In an article in 'Fraser's Magazine' for February 1853, which was afterwards published in pamphlet form, and has been attributed, correctly, as we believe, to Dr. J. W. Donaldson, the author of the 'New Cratylus,' the attempt was made in very forcible language to throw discredit on the whole of Arnold's classical schoolbooks. But the unmeasured vituperation of the criticism, which attracted considerable attention at the time, is only very partially justified. In a temperate reply, written a few weeks before his death, Arnold successfully rebutted some of the more sinister imputations on his character introduced into the article he justly remarks, in reference to the multiplicity of his works, that 'regular industry with a careful division of time and employment, carried on, with hardly any exception, for six days in every week, will accomplish a great deal in fifteen years.' The popularity of a few of the books that Donaldson specially denounced has, moreover, survived his fierce attack, and his Latin and Greek 'Prose Compositions,' new editions of which, revised by leading scholars, appeared in 1881, are valued highly at the present day by many teachers of eminence.

[Gent. Mag. (new series), xxxix. 667; Athenæum for 1853, i. 353; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Arnold's Few Words in Answer to the Attack on my Classical School Books (1853).]

S. L. L.