''Indeed I care very little whether I miss or not": cramming for his finals, with possibly the earliest manuscript of "To the great Metropolis", hitherto unknown

Clough, Arthur Hugh, English poet (1819-1861). Autograph letter signed ("A. H. Clough"), with the draft of a poem.

[Oxford], "Sunday Morning ('Tis the Second Morn of May)", 2 May [1841].

3 pp. on bifolium with integral address panel, to the "Revd. T. Burbidge, Rugby". One penny postage stamp. Traces of seal. Includes a photographic albumen print copy of a portrait of Clough.


A very early, unknown letter to his friend Thomas Burbidge (1816-92) at Rugby, written while Clough was preparing for his final exams at Balliol:

"My dear Burbidge, You must not let another washing-day go by without writing to me. I am not very hard at work, for I am very tired &, since Yesterday Morning, not over well; perhaps in part owing to the heat which was more than worthy of May-day. I find that I have forgotten my books by wholesale, & I really cannot get them up again; so I take my chance; & indeed I care very little whether I miss or not. I fell into another Sonnet the other day; which I will send you to fill up the half sheet, & for that reason only, I am sure. / To the great Metropolis. / Traffic, to speak from knowledge scarce begun, / I saw & travelling & fashion. Yea, / And if that Competition & display / Make a great Capital, then thou art one, / One, it may be, unrivalled neath the Sun. / But [outward, corrected to:] sovereign Symbol of the great and good, / True Royalty & genuine Statesmanhood, / Nobleness, learning, Piety was none. / If such realities indeed there are / Working within, unsignified, tis well; / The Stranger's fancy of the thing thou art / Is rather truly of a huge Bazaar, / A railway-terminus, a gay Hotel, / Anything but a mighty Nation's heart. Or should we begin better / If speak I may from knowledge but begun / Travelling there is, traffic, & fashion; - Yea, / If Stir & Competition &c.".

Clough had first visited London that April - on two weeks' vacation for extra tuition from a science tutor, Robert Lowe - and the satirical sonnet he produced reveals how little he must have enjoyed his stay. The poem was first published in 1951 in Lowry's, Norrington's and Mulhauser's edition, from a fair copy in the author's 1839-42 notebook. The present textual witness, hitherto unknown, provides interesting variations and amendments and may well pre-date the fair copy, which is simply annotated "April 1841".

Clough's ostensible indifference toward the results of his imminent examinations - the first paper would be written a week later, on 10 May, and the final oral exam was due for the 19th - was given the lie when, upon obtaining merely second class honours, he at once walked all the way to Rugby to confess to Dr Arnold, "I have failed".


Unpublished in F. L. Mulhauser (ed.), The Correspondence of Arthur Hugh Clough (OUP 1957), nor in his census of known letters.

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