Matthew Arnold's Christ and the Unity of Culture and Religion


  • Catherine A. Runcie


The latter years of Matthew Arnold's life, W. H. Auden writes of as years of self-betrayal, self-imprisonment. Arnold, says Auden, 'Thrust his gift in prison till it died', leaving 'nothing but a jailor's voice and face. This view has wide acceptance among those who regret that Arnold turned to writing criticism and theology when as late as 1866 he could write poetry as well as he had ever done, 'Thyrsis' being proof of that. But can one regret that Arnold's final years are a culmination and a unity not given to many to achieve? The years of writing poems that Arnold said were fragments just as he was fragments3 gave way in the end to works of theology and criticism that signify a triumphant unity, the end of a life-long search. Arnold refused the provisionalism, the relativism of most of the liberal thought of his era and without any of the consolations of Romanticism, he pressed on to find certitude and unity. That certitude comes ultimately from Arnold's own particular notions of Christ.