Tom Arnold (literary scholar)

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Thomas Arnold
Born(1823-11-30)30 November 1823
Staines, Surrey, England
Died12 November 1900(1900-11-12) (aged 76)
Dublin, Ireland
OccupationSchool inspector, teacher, writer, academic
Period Victorian
Subject History of literature
Julia Sorell
(m. 18261888)

Josephine Maria Benison
(m. 1890)
Children9 (including Mary Augusta, William, Julia and Ethel)
Family tree Huxley-Arnold family tree.svg
Family tree

Thomas Arnold (30 November 1823 – 12 November 1900), also known as Thomas Arnold the Younger, was an English literary scholar.



He was the second son of Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, and his wife Mary Penrose. He was the younger brother of the poet Matthew Arnold and older brother of author and colonial administrator William Delafield Arnold. After gaining a first class degree at University College, Oxford, Arnold grew discontented with Victorian Britain and attempted to take up farming in New Zealand. Failing to make a success of this career, in 1850 he moved to Tasmania, having been invited to take the job of Inspector of Schools by Governor William Denison. Soon after arriving in Hobart, he fell in love with and married Julia Sorell, granddaughter of former Governor William Sorell. [1] They had nine children (four of whom died young), among them: Ethel, who was a suffragist and child model; [1] Mary, who became a novelist under the name Mrs Humphry Ward; Julia, who married Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas, and gave birth to Julian and Aldous; and William Thomas the journalist. [2] After being widowed in 1888, Arnold married for a second time in 1890, to Josephine Maria Benison, daughter of James Benison, Ballyconnell, County Cavan, Ireland.

While in Tasmania, Arnold converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, a move which angered his Protestant wife sufficiently to cause her to smash the windows of the chapel during his confirmation. The marriage was to be plagued by domestic strife over religious loyalty until Julia's death. At the time, Tasmania would not employ Catholics in senior civil service positions, and so in 1857 the family moved back to England. Arnold took a job teaching English literature at the Catholic University in Dublin, and wrote A Manual of English Literature (1862), which became a standard textbook. He resigned from the university in 1862 to become head of classics at The Oratory School in Birmingham. He left in 1865, when a letter he had written insisting that he would need a higher salary to continue at the school was interpreted by Cardinal Newman as a tendering of resignation.

Arnold opened a private tutoring establishment in Oxford, and began to attend Church of England services. He edited a number of important literary works, including Beowulf . In 1876 he stood for election to the Chair of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Finding that some supporters were campaigning for him as the "Anglican" candidate, he felt this put him in a false position; on the eve of the election he announced his intention of being reconciled to the Catholic Church. It is unlikely that this had much effect on the election, but family tradition maintained that he had cast away a great opportunity for a scruple. After a period of financial hardship, in which his main occupation was editorial work for the Rolls Series, Arnold returned to Dublin in 1882 as professor of English literature at University College, teaching to the end of his life in 1900. One of his last students was James Joyce.


As author

As editor

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  1. 1 2 Anne M. Sebba, 'Arnold, Ethel Margaret (1864/5–1930)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 Nov 2017
  2. Lee, Sidney, ed. (1912). "Arnold, William Thomas"  . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). Vol. 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co.