Date of this Version
University of Nebraska Studies : New Series no. 23
Of the many literary and critical influences which combined to mold the thought and achievement of Matthew Arnold, few are more pronounced or more pervasive than those emanating from nineteenth-century France. French writers of Arnold's own time and of that immediately preceding were to him masters and companions whose aid he fully and frequently acknowledged.
Yet the number of scholarly studies devoted to Arnold's French sympathies are few. The only book-length study in existence is Iris Esther Sells's Matthew Arnold and France: the Poet (New York, 1935). As the title indicates, this book confines itself to an investigation of Arnold's poetic inspiration. Moreover, it suffers from its attempt to oversimplify Arnold's literary development by emphasizing the influence of one man-Etienne Pivert de Senancour, author of Obermann-at the expense of others whose importance is minimized or denied. Articles, less ambitious, have been published, showing Arnold's relation to Sainte-Beuve, Renan, Sand and Vigny.
These, however, are by no means all of Arnold's Gallic affinities, nor even all the important ones. Certainly they are, with the exception of Senancour and probably Sainte-Beuve, no more significant in the study of Arnold's literary development than Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), one of the last French writers to devote himself to the pensee-that literary form which the French have made peculiarly their own-and one of the finest. Yet the only published work on Joubert's relation to Arnold consists of brief comparisons in the biographies by Bonnerot and Trilling.