Springs of Possible Sympathy (Arnold, 1867)

1.634-35. Matthew Arnold, On the Study of Celtic Literature, (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1867), xvii-xviii. BL 11840.ppp.6

An extract from Matthew Arnold, On the Study of Celtic Literature, on relations between the English and the Celts.

This passage from the introduction to Arnold’s book looks to the English possession of “a thousand latent springs of possible sympathy” with the Celts as a means of addressing “the Celt’s alienation from the Englishman.” The responsibility for making the most of the new opportunity Arnold perceives seems to be laid fairly squarely at the door of the Celts themselves.

Let the Celtic members of this empire consider that they too have to transform themselves; and though the summons to transform themselves be often conveyed harshly and brutally, and with the cry to root up their wheat as well as their tares, yet that is no reason why the summons should not be followed so far as their tares are concerned.  Let them consider that they are inextricably bound up with us, and that, if the suggestions in the following pages have any truth, we English, alien and uncongenial to our Celtic partners as we may have hitherto shown ourselves, have notwithstanding, beyond perhaps any other nation, a thousand latent springs of possible sympathy with them.  Let them consider that new ideas and forces are stirring in England, that day by day these new ideas and forces gain in power, and that almost every one of them is the friend of the Celt and not his enemy.  And, whether our Celtic partners will consider this or no, at any rate let us ourselves, all of us who are proud of being the ministers of these new ideas, work incessantly to procure for them a wider and more fruitful application; and to remove the main ground of the Celt’s alienation from the Englishman, by substituting, in place of that type of Englishman with whom alone the Celt has too long been familiar, a new type, more intelligent, more gracious, and more humane.

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