12 APRIL 1935, Page 38

MATTHEW ARNOLD AND,FRANCE By I. E. Sells When Arnold visited

George Sand at Nohant she spoke of him as a Milton jeune et voyageant. If she referred to his character rather than his poetic gifts her comparison was fairly apt. Milton, however, had an obstinacy and magnificent pig-headedness which made it possible for him to take his place in the social scheme. He overcame that distakte which every middle-Class poet feels at being middle- class. Arnold did not.; the attempt to fit himself into some sort of satisfactory system—real or imaginary—was his central problem, and around it most of his poetry was written. Naturally. he turned-to the French Romantics—the group of men who best typify the social revolt of the individual. It is the influence of France, and especially of Senaneour on Arnold, that Mrs. Sells traces in Matthew Arnold and France (Cambridge University Press, 12s. 6d.). It is a good book for two reasons. First because the subject—the sources of a poet now out of fashion—is made more than academically interesting. Secondly, because it succeeds in clearly pre- senting the similarities of thought between Arnold and Obermann. The parallelism is extraordinary and Mrs. Sells brings it out with a judicious use of quotation. The passages she cites, however, increase one's admiration of Senancour's style at the expense of Arnold's poetry. When the latter borrows he loses Senancour's subtlety and completely shaded statement. In their attempts to fit themselves into life Senancour and Arnold trod the same roads—stoicism, orientalism, pilgrimages loin des emanations sociales. (Even the Marguerite episode, which is made to live by some fine photographs of Thun and ,by flights of fancy probably less authentic, seems to have- had its literary antecedent in Obertnann's relations to Mine. Dellemar.) At bottom Senancour and Arnold were equally convinced that toute Write est dans la soumission a l'ordre—yet neither could find an order which satisfied their rational approach to man and their irrational attitude to nature and themselves.