1822        Born at Laleham on the upper Thames, to Thomas Arnold, a young clergyman. His father will be known as a prominent educator and historian, and as a leader in the Broad Church movement of the Church of England.

1828        Moves to Rugby School, where his father became headmaster in 1821. His father's fame is spreading as an educational reformer.

1833        His father builds a summer cottage in the Lake Country, where Matthew makes friends with neighbors Dorothy and William Wordsworth.

1842        His father dies.

1844        Takes second honors at Balliol College, Oxford. His Rugby friends are dismayed, as he was expected to take first honors.

1844         Takes a year-long post at Rugby, as an assistant teacher, or classical undermaster.

1846        Redeems himself in eyes of his friends by election to a one-year fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford.

1847        Appointed as private secretary to Lord Landsdowne, a liberal peer.

1849        Publishes first volume of verse, The Strayed Reveller and other Poems.

1851         Marries Frances Lucy Wightman, daughter of an eminent judge. In order to support his family, he takes a job as an inspector of schools, a position he will hold for thirty-five years.

1852        Publishes second volume of verse, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems. Both volumes are eventually withdrawn from circulation.

1853        Publishes Poems with his famous "preface," Arnold's first important critical essay, in which he introduces the principle that a significant focus of criticism should be the work's effect on the emotional and moral health of the reader and the nation.

1855        Publishes Poems, Second Series.

1857        Becomes professor of poetry at Oxford, a position he will keep for ten years. During these years, he publishes several books of literary criticism, including On Translating Homer (1861), Essays in Criticism (1865), and On the Study of Celtic Literature (1867).

1861        Arthur Hugh Clough, a poet and childhood friend of Arthur's, dies at age forty-two; Arnold writes "Thyrsis," an elegy.

1865        Publishes Essays in Criticism, which includes the essay "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time," wherein he defines the mission of criticism as "to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world."

1867         Resigns chair at Oxford. Essentially gives up his poetic career. Turns to social and religious criticism.

1869        Publishes Culture and Anarchy, whereby he became known as "the apostle of culture."

1871         Publishes Friendship's Garland, an extension of his criticism of the unenlightened middle classes.

1873        Publishes Literature and Dogma, the first of four major studies of the Bible and the Church of England.

1879        Publishes the essay "Wordsworth" as the preface to The Poems of Wordsworth. Here begins his return to literary criticism.

1883         First tour of America, for which he prepares three lectures: "Literature and Science," "Emerson," and "Numbers." He is met with mixed responses, but is overall a success.

1886        Second tour of America. Age and poor health lead him to give up his post at school.

1888        Dies of a heart attack. He is buried at Laleham beside his three sons.


(Based in part on McGraw-Hill, pp. 169-171)

Last modified 25 November 2006