he sources of Arnold's Hellenism in German thought from Winckelmann to Heine are complex and not easily arranged in a meaningful pattern. Certainly he, no more than Pater, shows wide knowledge of the prime original texts of German aesthetic [181/182] thought. The evidence of Arnold's essays, notebooks, and reading lists is scattered and fragmentary, and not until recently was it known that Arnold undertook an extensive course of philosophical readings in the mid-forties. (Kenneth Allott, pp. 254-66.) He read Victor Cousin's history of eighteenth-century thought, apparently as a guide. Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason appears twice in the list, along with Herder's Metakritik. Schelling's Bruno and his Philosophy of Art share room with Creuzer's Symbolik und Mythologie der alten VdIker, besonders der Griechen. Arnold read Humboldt's essay on the Bhagavad-Gita, which would have appealed to him on several counts. Also listed are Carlyle's Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, which we know Arnold read carefully (p. 264; Tillotson, pp. 133-153). But a survey of Carlyle's numerous essays on German literature reveals, not unexpectedly, that he is remarkably indifferent to the Hellenizing side of German thought. The essay on Jean Paul brings up, without referring to either Herder or Goethe or Humboldt, the idea of a harmonious comprehensive culture: "For the great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of being; expand, if possible, to his full growth"; "A harmonious development of being, the first and last object of all true culture, has been obtained" (Carlyle, XXVI, pp. 19,20). In the essay on Schiller Carlyle cites a passage from the Aesthetic Letters on the freedom of poetry from moral and political restraints (XXVII, p. 213). But that is nearly all.
Arnold says that he came to Goethe through his reading of Carlyle. It is known that he read Wilhelm Meister in Carlyle's translation (DA, p. 143) and that he bought Goethe's Werke in the mid-forties (Allott, p. 257). What Arnold found in Goethe at this period is too broad a speculation for the present study, but certainly in a late work like the Wanderjahre (1821), Goethe's "most nearly Christian work," Arnold found a [182/183] Goethe who, as Henry Hatfield says, had gone well beyond "the doctrinaire classicism of his middle years" (p. 217). The emphasis on "renunciation " and service to others, even at the expense of the universal cultivation of the individual (p. 224), suggests Arnold's religious writings of the seventies. Above all, the Pedagogic Province (Chapters X and XI), with its "religion of Sorrow" — which was to occupy the center of Arnold's 1863 essay "Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment" and was to be the exciting cause of Pater's "Winckelmann" — presents a Goethe far from paganism. His Christianity, though it averts its gaze from "blood and wounds," is authentic enough to recognize "humility and poverty, mockery and despite, disgrace and wretchedness, suffering and death," as somehow "divine." Moreover, "the Christian religion having once appeared, cannot again vanish; having once assumed its divine shape, can be subject to no dissolution" (Carlyle, translation of Wilhelm Meister, II, p. 267 (Works, XXIV)). Goethe's religion of "suffering" and "renunciation" remains, to be sure, highly aesthetic, and its practice is largely elaborate play-acting; but Arnold's version of Christianity was demonstrably influenced by it.
Arnold's knowledge of the major German figures seems to have been largely derived from articles in the English and French periodicals by means of which he sustained his intellectual life, especially with regard to current Continental thought. In the mid and late sixties, the years of the Celtic lectures and Culture and Anarchy, there appear in the notebooks a number of suggestive references to the German Hellenist tradition. In 1866 Arnold quotes three substantial passages from the review of a life of Winckelmann in the Revue Moderne. Clearly Arnold, though he could not subscribe to Winckelmann's extreme anti-Christian sentiments, found congenial the emphasis on "the harmonious and free development of human nature," and on those virtues which raise the dignity of man," since these are key ideas in the farewell lecture of 1867, where culture is said to place perfection "in the ever-increasing efficacy and in the general harmonious expansion [183/184] of those gifts of thought and feeling which make the peculiar dignity, wealth, and happiness of human nature" (CPW, V, 94).
Arnold accords Lessing and Herder special honor by linking them with Abelard as "great men of culture," for having attempted to "humanise" knowledge and diffuse it "outside the clique of the cultivated and the learned" (CPW, V, 113). The Preface to Merope (1858) refers several times to "the great Lessing," "the great German critic," and to the Hamburgiscbe Drainaturgie (CPW, 1, 42 ff.). In 1863 Arnold ranks Lessing with Goethe and Voltaire as one of the three great sources of "intellectual influence" in Europe of the past century and a half and shows his acquaintance with the Erziehung des Menscbengemblechts (CPW, 111, 41, 53; Lessing is praised in the Celtic lectures [CPW, III, 359] for his intense perception of "the incongruous and absurd.") In 1868 Arnold obviously read with considerable attention a lengthy two-part article on Lessing by Victor Cherbuliez, the French critic, in the Revue des Deux Mondes. Among the several ideas of interest to Arnold were the modern view of universal explication through history and the distinction [184/185] between Christianity and the accounts of the Evangelists and Apostles (pp. 71, 75) (See also pp. 76, 90. Arnold also read an essay on Lessing in the North American, in 1867 [p. 56]).
In 1864 Arnold shows interest in Herder by copying a passage on the French background of Herder's "sentiment de la sympathie humaine," his "passion de l'humanité" (pp. 26-27). Moreover, "Herder's Ideen" appears in the list of reading each year from 1866 to 1869 (pp. 579, 581, 584, 586). The subject of Arnold's obvious affinity for Herder's optimistic view of the progressive movement of God through history again goes beyond the scope of the present work; but certainly the Hellenism of Culture and Anarchy is centrally indebted to the ideal of Humanitåt in the Ideen and elsewhere, an ideal of total human realization through the development of all of man's powers which Herder associated with the Greeks. Herder's ideal involved, as Hatfield explains, "the reconciliation of the ethical with the aesthetic, and the humane with the humanistic"(Hatfield, p. 58). In the eighteen-sixties Arnold would not have endorsed the detachment from the Bible and Christianity implied in the phrase he quotes from Lessing, "la Bible n'est pas la religion" (p. 75). But what would have interested Arnold, as well as Pater, was the notion advanced by both Lessing and Herder of two Christianities, medieval Christianity as opposed to a "reasonable Christianity" acceptable to the eighteenth century. Lessing explicitly opposed a barbarous, "superstitious" Christianity to a Christianity of reason (Ibid., p. 28). Herder, less explicitly, distinguishes superstitious, medieval, "decayed" Christianity, which was fearful of the flesh and fit for the vulgar and which had no part in the great synthesis, from his own higher, humane Christianity, which is the original religion of Christ (Ibid., pp. 54, 59). This notion is echoed in Arnold's distinction in Literantre and Dogma between the religion of Christ and the Aberglatibe, both popular and learned, attached to it during the benighted Christian centuries. The idea is even more emphatically used in Chapter XXI (" 'The Minor Peace of the Church' ") [185/186] of Pater's Marius, in the distinction between the authentic "humane" Christianity of the second century and the monastic and ascetic Christianity of later times. This also seems in effect much the same distinction made in the Greek Studies, where the crude and earthy religion of the many is several times contrasted to the refined religious consciousness of the few, the "special souls." For Arnold at least, Herder's Humanität would have appealed because of its insistence on the need for beauty balanced by its deeply ethical strain. At times Arnold's Hellenismand certainly his Hebraism-sound closer to Herder's ideal than to Goethe's.
Perhaps Arnold's rather academic Hellenism is best described as a synthesis of Herder and Goetbe, mediated by Wilhelm von Humboldt. In Culture and Anarchy, against a reviewer who had invoked Humboldt's name in support of keeping governmental action within the strictest limits, Arnold argued:
Wilhelm von Humboldt, one of the most beautiful souls that have ever existed, used to say that one's business in life was first to perfect oneself by all the means in one's power, and secondly to try and create in the world around one an aristocracy, the most numerous that one possibly could, of talents and characters. He saw, of course, that, in the end, everything comes to this,-that the individual must act for himself, and must be perfect in himself; and be lived in a country, Germany, where people were disposed to act too little for themselves, and to rely too much on the Government. But even thus, such was his flexibility, so little was he in bandage to a mere abstract maxim, that he saw very well that for his purpose itself, of enabling the individual to stand perfect on his own foundations and to do without the State, the action of the State would for long, long years be necessary. (CPW, V, 161)
This notion of going beyond self-cultivation to the creation of an effective aristocracy of talents was of course a paramount goal of Arnold's mature Hellenism. He had copied out these ideas from the Revue Germanique as early as November 1864. In the same year, he read a long [186/187] earlier three-part article on Humboldt, also in the Revue Germanique, and thus was aware of the full scope of Humboldt's career (p. 630). This reading is reflected in the first of the Celtic lectures (delivered in December 1865) in a passage cited above on removing the "Semitic" elements from Christianity (CPW, 111, 301). Arnold is clearly a little uncomfortable with this "genuine Teuton," and even apologizes a little: "Humboldt's is an extreme case of Indo-Europeanism." It seems likely, however, that Humboldt confirmed the social implications of Arnold's doctrine of culture which were present to some degree even in the "Function of Criticism" where they were seen as the idea of propagating the best that is known and thought in the world and thereby creating and establishing a current of true and fresh ideas (CPW, 111, 271, 282). Above all, Humboldt would have reinforced the essentially educational character of culture, and Arnold shows himself especially alive to Humboldt's reforming activities as Prussian Minister of Education and as the founder of the University of Berlin (CPW, V, 161). Arnold would have found substantially congenial the new humanism of the German schools, described in Friedrich Paulsen's words: "In the Greek ideal the new age found the image of perfection, instead of in Christianity: the image of the perfect man instead of the God who became man... . Hellenizing humanism is a new religion, the philologists are its priests, the universities and schools its temples"(Hatfield, p. 210). Arnold was never, however, as icily detached from Christianity as was this formidable, remote — Teuton," and immediately after Culture and Anarchy he turned his attention to establishing his own "religion of the Bible," which would profoundly alter the Hellenic quality of his humanism.
The notebooks reveal that, almost by a reflex action, the rather self-regarding Germanic Hellenism that attracted Arnold until the mid-sixties was being superseded by an outward-turning, social, ethical, and educational doctrine involving some inevitable, if reluctantly acknowledged, straitening of the idea of self-perfection. In 1866 Arnold copied [187/188] the following orthodox statement of German Hellenic aestheticism, attributed to Friedrich Wolf the great philologist:
The Greek ideal is this; a purely human education, and elevation of all the powers of mind and soul to a beautiful harmony of the inner and outer man.... As long as there exists in the world a generation who make this elevation their aim, so long they will turn to the ancients for instruction and encouragement in prosecuting it. The simplicity, the dignity, the grand comprehensive spirit of their works, will ever make them a source from which the human soul will draw perpetual youth. (NB, p. 40)
This statement, one half of the doctrine of "Sweetness and Light," is echoed as late as 1868 in a citation from a French source on the Sophoclean model of the ideal man: "la, plénitude et l'élévation du développernent intellectuel, la noblesse inaltérable de la beauté virile" (P. 75). But even within the classical context, other currents were in motion. In 1866 Arnold cites the following: "We must sacrifice, says Plato, all individual will to reason, to that higher nature which is incapable of being the object of selfish impulse" (p. 40). Two years later Arnold shows himself interested in the notion that "Les Grâces étaient chez les Grecs le symbole de cette harmonie sociale qu'établissent la bienveillance et la mutuelle sympathie" (p. 81). The religious character of this social harmony and mutual sympathy is indicated in a quotation of the same year from Edmond Scherer, a favorite critic of Arnold's: L'oeuvre de notre perfectionnement est une oeuvre collective et éternelle" (p. 73). This is of course a statement of the reflex side of Arnold's doctrine of "culture — thot the individual, if his own culture is to be perfect, is obliged "to carry others along with him in his march towards perfection, ... to enlarge [188/189] and increase the volume of the human stream sweeping thitherward" (CPW, V, 94). This evolution of ideas prepared the way for the ethical doctrine of Literature and Dogma. Arnold's was never a thorough going "pagan" Hellenism; his demand for beauty is always balanced by a deeply ethical view of what the Greeks can provide for both the intellectual and moral "deliverance" of the nineteenth century. It is significant, however, that his own ethical crisis is played out within the context of what may broadly be called German Hellenism and aestheticism and only then transferred to an explicitly Christian context.
Goethe's total impact on Arnold is very complex indeed."18 We know that Arnold read him continually from the forties onward; Goethe's name appears again and again in the reading lists of the fifties. But Arnold, whose moralized view of Goethe as "a strong tower into which the doubter and the despairer might run and be safe" (MxE, p. 213) was derived from Carlyle, cites surprisingly little from Goethe in the notebooks of the fifties, often only maxims, almost Carlylean in tone, on the need for work and discipline. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Goethe played a notably small part in the development of Arnold's Hellenism in the sixties. Admittedly, Goethe's view of the classical culture and classical art had important effects on Arnold's literary judgments. The Preface to Merope, for instance, approves Goethe's idea of "repose" in Greek tragedy (CPW, 1, 59); and in the Homer lectures, Arnold approvingly cites, in defense of a "noble poetry," the implicitly Promethean definition of "the noble or powerful nature-the bedeutendes Individuum of Goethe" (CPW, 1, 189). [189/190] Moreover, Arnold cit s Goethe's severe view of the Homeric mood ("in our life here ab e ground we have ... to enact Hell") as preferable to "the tender pantheism" of Ruskin (CPW, 1, 102). Goethe's influence on Arnold is limited by Arnold's reservations concerning his poetic achievement, which is not, in his view, "in the true grand style" (CPW, 1, 144). although Goethe remains a man of "strongest head and widest culture" (CPW, 1, 14), his major poetry is not what Arnold sought in his own special critical mission: works like Faust and Hermann und Dorothea are regularly disparaged as lacking in the Goethean Architectonicè recommended in 1853. However, Goethe's own intense Hellenism from 1785 to about 1805 and its formulation in Schiller at the same period did not directly mold Arnold's critical Hellenism of the sixties. Instead, Goethe's role in the shaping of Arnold's Hellenism was, I think, as the sponsor of the "complete culture and unfettered thinking" Arnold found in Goethe's Germany (CPW, III, 263). In the essays of 1863, it is Goethe's "profound, imperturbable naturalism," his "mind profoundly impartial and passionately aspiring after the science, not of men only, but of universal nature" (CPW, 111, 110, 176), which provide the climate for Arnold's "great intellectual effort" of that and the following years. The presentation of the Hellenism of Culture and Anarchy is a crucial episode in a longer and sustained effort to deepen and "Christianize" the ethical and social basis of Arnold's humanism. In that effort Goethe's Hellenism, anti-Christian and focused almost exclusively on problems of art and the artist, was already irrelevant. More important to Arnold's view of the Greeks was the fact that, as the notebooks show, all during the fifties and sixties he was acquiring, in connection with works like Merope and the Homer lectures, a wide knowledge of ancient culture (no doubt more accurate than Goethe's could have been) through reading some of the best products of German historical and literary scholarship-though the degree to which the spirit of nineteenth-century classical studies was itself indebted to the German Hellenists is not to be disregarded. [190/191]
Heinrich Heine, whose name appears frequently in the reading lists from 1852 on, is a special case in the development of Arnold's Hellenism. He and Goethe figure as the great heroes of the "modern spirit." Arnold's essay on Heine remains probably the finest and most influential in English, and Heine's treatment of the Greeks, though profoundly revaluated by Arnold, provides a springboard for Arnold's first contrast of the Greek and Christian, in the seminal "Pagan and Medieval Religious Sentiment." It should also be borne in mind that not only in Pater, but in Robert Buchanan, James Thomson, Charles Algernon Swinburne, and others, Heine is repeatedly invoked in the seventies and later in the resurgence of "paganism" in England (Liptzin). The present study should be placed within this larger cultural context, a context created and shaped to an important extent by Arnold and Pater.
Last modified 29 August 2007