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Matthew Arnold

Victorian-era poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888) was the son of Thomas Arnold, the legendary headmaster of Rugby School who was celebrated in the novel Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Matthew Arnold himself attended Rugby and then Oxford University (Balliol College). He wrote most of his best-known poetry before the age of forty, after which he turned to literary and cultural criticism. His poem "Dover Beach", with its depiction of a nightmarish world from which the old religious verities have receded, is sometimes held up as an early, if not the first, example of the modern sensibility. In a famous preface to a selection of the poems of William Wordsworth, Arnold identified himself, a little ironically, as a "Wordsworthian." The influence of Wordsworth, both in ideas and in diction, is unmistakable in Arnold's best poetry.

He was led on from literary criticism to a more general critique of the spirit of his age. Between 1867 and 1869 he wote Culture and Anarchy, famous for the term he popularised for a section of the Victorian population: "Philistines", a word which derives its modern cultural meaning from him.

His niece (daughter of his younger brother Thomas), Mary Augusta Arnold, was a novelist under her married name of Mrs Humphry Ward.