In a letter of 25 April 1821 to his close friend J. T. Coleridge, Thomas Arnold reponded to criticisms of the plain, direct prose style he has employed in a review of Poppo's Observationes Criticæ:

As to the general plainness of the style, I do not think I clearly see the fault which you allude to, and to say the truth, the plainness, i. e. the absence of ornament and long words, is the result of deliberate intention. At any rate, in my own case, I am sure an attempt at ornament would make my style so absurd that you would yourself laugh at it. I could not do it naturally, for I have now so habituated myself to that unambitious and plain way of writing, and absence of Latin words as much as possible, that I could not write otherwise without manifest affectation. Of course I do not mean to justify awkwardnesses and clumsy sentences, of which I am afraid my writings are too full, and all which I will do my best to alter wherever you have marked them; but any thing like puff, or verbal ornament, I cannot bring myself to. Richness of style I admire heartily, but this I cannot attain to for lack of power. All I could do would be to produce a bad imitation of it, which seems to me very ridiculous. For the same reason I know not how to make the review more striking; I cannot make it so by its own real weight and eloquence, and therefore I think I should only make it offensive by trying to make it fine. . . . You know you always told me I should never be a poet, and in like manner I never could be really eloquent, for I have not the imagination or fulness of mind needful to make me so. [I, 72]


Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D., late head-master of Rugby school, and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford. 4th ed. 2 vols. London: B. Fellowes, 1845.

Last modified 16 July 2006