'One has often wondered whether upon the whole earth there is anything so unintelligent, so unapt to perceive how the world is really going, as an ordinary young Englishman of our upper class.'
Poet, education reformer, social theorist and passionate critic of Victorian England, Matthew Arnold condemned an industrial society in 'bondage to machinery' and argued instead that the wonder and joy of culture - in particular the 'sweetness and light' of classical civilization - were essential to human life. The other pieces here, on literary criticism, schools, France, journalism and democracy, form a powerful call to arms from a writer who believed that the English needed to be taught not what to think, but how to think.
Matthew Arnold (1822-88) was the son of the famous Dr Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School. After studying at Oxford, Arnold spent several years travelling and writing experimental verse. Having established his reputation with his poetry, Arnold went on to writing prose. His influence as a social and literary critic and a controversial thinker on religious and educational issues has been felt throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
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