Date 1850-02-01
Publication Germ
Topic WMR reviews Arnold's first poetry collection.
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Subject literature
Keywords Arnold's 1st poetry collection
  ↳ The Germ
Standards PRB aesthetic standards
Notes Second WMR Germ review
  ↳ statement re: imitation

Annotation details

1850 January The Germ


WMR reviews Matthew Arnold's first poetry collection.


Rossetti, William M. "The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems. By A." The Germ: The Literary Magazine of the Preraphaelites. Ed. Andrea Rose. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1992. 84-96. Print.


In this review, Rossetti never identifies Matthew Arnold by name. Rossetti opens the review with a general warning about aspiring artists sacrificing art for imitation who, "in their desire to emulate the really great, feel themselves under a kind of obligation to assume opinions, vague, incongruous or exaggerated, often not only not their own, but the direct reverse of their own . . . That the systematic infusion of this spirit into the drama and epic compositions is incompatible with strict notions of art will scarcely be disputed . . ."

This preface to his review sets out some of the earliest PRB aesthetic theory, and also, the inclusion of writing in the category of art. It also foreshadows Arnold as one of the artists with whom Rossetti can hold up as an exemplar or more importantly, show which artistic principles in Arnold's work demonstrate Rossetti's own notions of sound artistic creation.

Qualitatively, Rossetti finds weaknesses in Arnold's loose versification and untamed rhythm: "Strayed Reveler is written without rhyme-(not being blank verse, however,)-and not unfrequently, it must be admitted, without rhythm . . .Seldom indeed, as it appears to us, is the attempt to write without some fixed laws of metrical construction attended with success; never, perhaps, can it be considered as the most appropriate embodiment of thought." This practice is a matter of fashion, Rossetti posits, "and will die out."

Rossetti presents close reading with some limited commentary about mechanical and structural elements of the poetry as the reader would encounter these factors in the reading of the collection-for example, he offers a firm critique of Arnold's unorthodox word usage required to fit words into his rhyme scheme.

Rossetti specifies the discovery of both Tennysonian and Shelleyan influences in Arnold's poetry. He praises Arnold's uncomplicated poetic style: "it is clear and comprehensive, and eschews flowery adornment . . . it may be said that the author has little, if anything, to unlearn."




Matthew Arnold

Standards of Judgment:

Pre-Raphaelite artistic standards

Rhetoric and tone:

evaluative, definitive


Matthew Arnold, Tennyson, Shelley