Praise for the Poems of John Keble

In a letter of 3 March 1823 to his close friend J. T. Coleridge, Thomas Arnold praised the lyrics that later appeared in John Kebele's The Christian Year — one of the best selling works of Christian poetry during Victoria's reign:

I do not know whether you have ever seen John Keble's Hymns. He has written a great number for most of the holidays and several of the Sundays in the year, and I believe intends to complete the series. I live in hopes that he will be induced to publish them; and it is my firm opinion that nothing equal to them exists in our language: the wonderful knowledge of Scripture, the purity of heart, and the richness of poetry which they exhibit, I never saw paralleled. If they are not published, it will be a great neglect of doing good. I wish you could see them; the contemplation of them would be a delightful employment for your walks between Hadlow Street and the Temple. [I, 74]

Given Arnold's dislike of the Tractarian approach to religion advocated by Keble and his associates, such as Pusey, his approval of the poems that became The Christian Year has interest because it shows they had ecumenical appeal.

Tayor, Milton, and Bunyan

In a letter of 30 November 1836 to Justice Coleridge, Arnold expressed his disagreement with what his friend had termed "our old Divines":

I admire Taylor's genius, but yet how little was he capable of handling worthily any great question? and, as to interpreters of Scripture, I never yet found one of them who was above mediocrity. I can not call it a learning worth any thing, to be very familiar with writers of this stamp, when they have no facts to communicate; for, of course, even an ordinary man may then be worth reading. I have left off reading our Divines, because, as Pascal said of the Jesuits, if I had spent my time in reading them fully, I should have read a great many very indifferent books. But if I could find a great man amongst them, I would read him thankfully and earnestly. As it is, I hold John Bunyan to have been a man, of incomparably greater genius than any of them, and to have given a far truer and more edifying picture of Christianity. His Pilgrim's Progress seems to be a complete reflexion of Scripture, with none of tlie rubbish of the theologians mixed up with it. I think that Milton, in his "Reformation in England," or in one of his Tracts, I forget which, treats the Church writers of his time, and their show of learning, utterly uncritical as it was, with the feeling which they deserved. [II, 67]


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