Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clough, Arthur Hugh

CLOUGH, ARTHUR HUGH (1819–1861), poet, was the second son of James Butler Clough, by Anne, daughter of John Perfect, a banker at Pontefract. Richard Clough [q. v.], of Plas Clough in Denbighshire, was agent to Sir Thomas Gresham at Antwerp in the sixteenth century. His descendants continued to live at Plas Clough. A Hugh Clough, born in 1746, was a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, a friend of Cowper and Hayley, and a writer of poetry. The brother of this Hugh, Roger of Bathafern Park, Denbighshire, was the father of James Butler Clough. James Butler Clough was the first of his family to leave the neighbourhood. He settled as a cotton merchant at Liverpool, and had four children. In the winter of 1822-3 he emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina. He was of a lively, sociable, and sanguine temperament, and strongly attached to his children. His wife was of simple, lofty, and retiring character, and during her husband's absences made a special companion of her son Arthur. In June 1828 the doughs sailed for England, returning to Charleston in October. Arthur and his elder brother Charles were sent to a school at Chester in November, and to Rugby in the summer of 1829. Arnold had then been head-master for a year. Clough spent his holidays with relations, except in the summer of 1831, when his parents visited England, and his recollections of the time are turned to account in 'Mari Magno.' The long separation from his family made him prematurely self-reliant and thoughtful. He distinguished himself at school work, winning a scholarship open to the whole school at the age of fourteen; he contributed to, and for some time edited, a school magazine; and was excellent at football, swimming, and running. He became a favourite with Arnold, whose system had a powerful influence in stimulating his moral and mental development. In July 1836 his family returned to settle at Liverpool. In the following November he gained the Balliol scholarship, and in October 1837 went into residence. He became known to his most distinguished contemporaries, especially to W. G. Ward, to B. Jowett (the present master of Balliol), Dean Stanley, Professor Shairp, Bishop Temple, and Dr. Arnold's two eldest sons, Matthew and Thomas. The influence of Newman was stirring all thoughtful minds at Oxford, and Clough, whose intellect had been aroused and perhaps overstrained at Rugby, took the keenest interest in the theological controversies of the time. The result in his case was a gradual abandonment of his early creed. He never became bitter against the church of his childhood, but he came to regard its dogmas as imperfect and untenable. His lofty principle, unworldliness, and intellectual power won general respect, and his friends were astonished when he only obtained a second class in 1841. In the following spring, however, he was elected to a fellowship at Oriel, then the greatest distinction obtainable at Oxford. In 1843 he was appointed tutor, and continued to reside in college, taking reading parties in the long vacation, one of which suggested the 'Bothie.'

Family troubles were coming upon him. His younger brother died of fever at Charleston at the end of 1842, and his father never recovered the blow, dying a few months later. The business was not prosperous, and Clough undertook liabilities which pressed upon him. Meanwhile, his religious scruples developed, while the famine in Ireland and the political difficulties of the time increased his dissatisfaction with the established order of things. He resigned his tutorship in 1848, and his fellowship in October of the same year. In September he wrote the 'Bothie,' published at Oxford soon afterwards. His sympathies were strongly aroused by the revolutionary movements of the year. He was at Paris with Emerson in May 1848, and in the next winter went to Rome, where he stayed during the siege by the French in June 1849. Here he wrote 'Amours de Voyage.' His last long poem, the 'Dipsychus,' was written on a trip to Venice in 1850.

The headship of University Hall, London, had been offered to him in the winter of 1848, and he entered upon his duties in October 1849. He seems to have found his life in London uncongenial, though he gained some valuable friends, especially Carlyle. Carlyle, as Mr. Froude says (Carlyle in London, i. 468), had been strongly attracted by Clough, and regarded him as 'a diamond sifted out of the general rubbish-heap.' He led a secluded life, and was still hampered by his pecuniary liability. After two years at University Hall, he had to give up the appointment, and finally resolved to try America. He sailed to Boston in October 1852 in the same ship with Thackeray and Mr. Lowell. Emerson, whom he had first met in England in 1847, welcomed and introduced him. He formed a warm friendship with Mr. C. E. Norton, to whom many of his letters are addressed, and with many other Americans. He took pupils, wrote articles, and began to revise Dryden's translation of Plutarch's 'Lives.' His friends meanwhile obtained for him an appointment to an examinership in the education office. He returned to England in July 1853, and in June 1854 was married to Blanche, eldest daughter of Samuel Smith of Combe House, Surrey. From this time he was fully occupied with official work of various kinds. His domestic happiness gave him peace of mind, and he took a lively interest in helping the work of his relation, Miss Nightingale. After 1859 his health began to break. His mother died of paralysis in 1860. In 1861 change of scene was ordered. He went to Greece and Constantinople, and in July visited the Pyrenees, where he met his friends the Tennysons, and afterwards travelled to Italy. He was attacked by a malarial fever, and, after it had left him, died, like his mother, of paralysis, on 13 Nov. 1861, at Florence. He was buried in the protestant cemetery at that place. He left a widow and three children.

Clough's lovable nature attracted all who 'knew him as it attracted Carlyle. Circumstances compelled change of occupation; he was diffident, and his intellect was wanting in quickness and audacity. He failed to carry out any large design, and his poetry is deficient in form and polish; yet it has a greater charm for congenial minds than much poetry of superior refinement and more exquisite workmanship. It reveals, without self-consciousness, a character of marked sweetness, humour, and lofty moral feeling. Though Clough was in part a disciple of Wordsworth, he shows the originality of true genius in his descriptions of scenery, and in his treatment of the great social and philosophical problems of his time. If several contemporaries showed greater artistic skill, no one gave greater indications of the power of clothing serious contemplation in the language of poetry. He is commemorated in the fine poem, 'Thyrsis,' by Mr. Matthew Arnold, who speaks warmly of his powers in his 'Last Words on Translating Homer.' Mr. Lowell says of him: 'We have a foreboding that Clough, imperfect as he was in many respects, and dying before he had subdued his sensitive temperament to the requirements of his art, will be thought a hundred years hence to have been the truest expression in verse of the moral and intellectual tendencies, the doubt and struggle towards settled convictions of the period in which he lived.'

His works are: 1. 'The Bothie of Toperna-Fuosich (afterwards Tober-na-Vuolich), a Long Vacation Pastoral,' 1848. 2. 'Ambarvalia; Poems by Thomas Burbidge and A. H. Clough,' 1849. 3. 'Plutarch's Lives; the translation called Dryden's corrected from the Greek and revised,' Boston, 1859 and 1864; London, 1876. 4. 'Greek History in a series of Lives from Plutarch' (selected from the last), 1860. 5. 'Poems, with Memoir (by F. T. Palgrave), 1862. 6. ' Poems and Prose Remains, with a selection from his Letters and a Memoir.' Edited by his wife, 2 vols. 1869.

[Memoir prefixed to Remains, as above, 1869; see also Arthur Hugh Clough, a monogram by Samuel Waddington, 1883, where many notices by contemporaries are cited.]

L. S.