Friday, 27 March 2009
Sweetness and Light:Matthew Arnold In Japan
Thirteen years after its first UK publication, my biography of Matthew Arnold has just appeared in Japanese which raises the interesting question of how he is seen in Japan today. Perhaps someone will let me know. Often seen in Britain in caricature as an "élitist" who defined culture as "the best that has been thought and said in the world", Arnold in fact remains an interesting and relevant thinker. If his detractors just read his two essays, "Democracy" and "Equality" they would see an utterly different Arnold from the bewhiskered "elegant Jeremiah" attacked by one of his contemporaries. And his belief that inequality damages everyone not just the disadvantaged is the theme, if I am not mistaken, of a much-praised book on equality published this month.