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Literary Criticism English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

The Origins of Culture & Anarchy

Matthew Arnold & Popular Education in England

by (author) Fred G. Walcott

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1970
English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, General, Poetry
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1970
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Matthew Arnold stands before the world as a towering literary figure whose essays, particularly Culture and Anarchy, have a deep social and political significance. But there is another aspect of his life. For thirty-five years Arnold was an inspector of elementary schools, and during the time he served on several Royal Commissions, which entailed his study of the schools and universities on the COntinent. This work required him to write many official reports, some of which he ublished on his own initiative, others of which were published by societies which recognized their popular value.


The author contends that the origins of Culture and Anarchy, and of some of the other literary essays, are to be found in these reports. A thoughtful examination of both the reports and the essays shows that the ideas presented is both have a close consanguinity; the ideas Arnold developed in his study of the schools are expanded and re-enunciated in the literary essays. His reflections are basically pragmatic, and their origins he is the problems he confronted in his work.


He ornamented these practical observations with the treasures gathered from a fine classical education. The essays contain countless literary allusions which reflect upon his current thoughts his deep sense of an endless social continuum. Herein lies his literary genius. Nevertheless, it is important to know that these different aspects of Arnold's life merge -- that the universe of his mind preseved its rational connections with all of the experiences he suffered or enjoyed. Viewed together, they present a fair prospect of inductive resoning -- of useful knowledge applied to the selection of present problems.


Professor Walcott gives a clear a succinct account of Arnold's plans for the improvement of English education, and provides an informative context for many of his letters. He delves deep into the history of popular education in England and Arnold's part in it, and in so doing gives a warm, human portrayal of Matthey Arnold and his hopes and frustrations as a superintendent.

About the author

FRED G. WALCOTT is the author of several texts and articles on English language and literature. For many years he was Professor of English and Education at the University of Michigan, and Head of the English Department in the University High School. In 1964 he retired with the title Professor Emeritus of Education in the School of Education and of English in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Fred G. Walcott's profile page