The French Ideal: Matthew Arnold, Sainte-Beuve, and Renan

Date

2022-09-01

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

1052-0406

DOI

Volume Title

Publisher

Nineteenth-Century Prose, San Diego University

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

This article examines the significant but often conflicted roles that two prominent French intellectuals, Renan and Sainte-Beuve, played in Arnold’s construction of France as a counterpart to the narrowness and Philistinism of English cultural and intellectual life. Sainte-Beuve epitomised, for Arnold, the value of persuasion in critical writing, the power to “charm and disarm” opponents into submission almost in spite of themselves. Renan, on the other hand, represented the advanced critical spirit which enabled France to face the challenges of the future with a clarity and candour lacking in England. Together, these two critics provided Arnold with what he calls, in his studies of the Bible, the “method” and the “secret” needed to carry out his “true life’s work: the attenuation of the ‘Hebraic’ element in English cultural and political life, and in the Protestant Christianity that underpinned it.” This determination was founded, in part, on the ideas of racial difference that Arnold had inherited from his father, and to which Renan had given “the imprimatur or modern scholarship and criticism”.

Description

Keywords

Matthew Arnold, Ernest Renan, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Literary Criticism, Anglo-French Literary and Cultural Relations

Citation

Phelan, J. (2022) The French Ideal: Matthew Arnold, Sainte-Beuve, and Renan. Nineteenth-Century Prose 49.2 (Fall).

Rights

Research Institute

Institute of English