“Say not the struggle nought availeth” and “Thou shalt not kill, but need’st not strive/ Officiously to keep alive” are probably the only lines most people know by Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861), although the standard Oxford edition of 1974 contains nearly two hundred items, excluding fragments and translations. That edition, and the excellent annotated selection edited by J. P. Phelan in 1995, are out of print, so it is to be hoped that this new biography by Anthony Kenny, formerly Master of Balliol, Clough’s old college, will prompt a resurgence of interest in the work of a poet who has increasingly come to seem the most modern-minded of any in the nineteenth century.

Kenny is terse to the point of brusqueness, rattling us with no nonsense through Clough’s forty-two years, which were lived out in an atmosphere of personal and international ferment. The son of a Liverpool merchant, he...


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