Uncle Matthew

Wilson, Edmund. "Uncle Matthew." Review of Matthew Arnold, by Lionel Trilling. The New Republic, March 1939. Reprinted in Lionel Trilling and the Critics: Opposing Selves. 


But if Mr. Trilling has followed this fashion it is evidently not due to lack of competence. His observations on Arnold’s style are admirably phrased as well as just: “The Victorians, with Keats and Tennyson in mind, like to watch for the soft intertwinings of vowels and liquid consonants. But what slips off the tongue may slip easily from the mind, and the soft liquidity could not represent the struggle with the world and the self”; “Arnold breaks into melody only occasionally, but through all his verse runs the grave cadence of the speaking voice . . . his very colloquialism. . . is one of Arnold’s charms; it is the urbanity of the ancient poets . . . which assumes the presence of a hearer and addresses himwith a resultant intimacy and simplicity of manner that is often very moving”; Arnold’s prose is “elegant yet sinewy, colloquial yet reserved, cool yet able to glow into warmth, careful never to flare into heat. It was a style that kept writer and reader at a sufficient distance from each other to allow room between them for the object of their consideration.”

The New Republic