Arthur Hugh Clough (1 January 1819 – 13 November 1861) resided in Rodney Street, a rather affluent area of Liverpool during the early nineteenth century, a street that also included such famous residents as the Gladstone’s and Dr Henry Duncan. His sister Anne J Clough, born in 1820, was an early English Suffragist, she promoted higher education for women, and became the first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. Arthur’s father was a cotton merchant, and the family moved to South Carolina in the United States in 1822, though Arthur returned to Britain in 1828 for his education. He attended Oxford and became friends with another poet associated with Liverpool; Mathew Arnold.
Clough’s poetry is typically Victorian and in some of his poems he experimented with various types of meter, basing his verse on classical models. One of his most popular poems Through a Glass Darkly conveys religious themes and examines that darkness visible to us all:
What we, when face to face we see
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
Ah! did he tell what we are here!’
In All is Well, Clough writes about dreams and the sea, with a ship sailing away on the ocean to a place unknown, imagery taken from his childhood in Liverpool perhaps, the port being filled with sailing ships unloading their goods and awaiting the wind to sail back over the sea. Or perhaps it was a memory of sailing to America as a child:
‘In spite of dreams, in spite of thought,
‘Tis not in vain, and not for nought,
The wind it blows, the ship it goes,
Though where and whither, no one knows.’
Clough died in Florence in 1861, and is very much a lost poet in the sense that many people today have not heard of him, as Julian Barnes commented in an article in The Guardian ‘Clough has often been treated as a marginal figure, both on the university English syllabus and in the English canon’. He is often overlooked, but perhaps his poetry is due for rediscovery.