Tom Arnold (literary scholar)

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Thomas ("Tom") Arnold
Born (1823-11-30)30 November 1823
Staines, Surrey, England
Died 12 November 1900(1900-11-12) (aged 76)
Dublin, Ireland
Occupation school inspector, teacher, writer, academic
Nationality British
Period Victorian
Genre non-fiction
Subject History of literature
Spouse Julia Sorell (1826-1888); Josephine Benison
Children nine children, of whom five lived to adulthood
Relatives Thomas Arnold (father), Matthew Arnold (brother), Mary Augusta Ward (daughter), Julian Huxley (grandson), Aldous Huxley (grandson)
Family tree

Tom 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 younger brother of the poet Matthew Arnold. After gaining a first class degree at University College, Oxford, Arnold became discontented with 19th century Britain and attempted to farm in New Zealand. Failing to make a success of this career, during 1850 he relocated to Tasmania, having been invited to have the job of Inspector of Schools by Governor William Denison. Soon after arriving in Hobart, he became enamored of and married Julia Sorell, granddaughter of former Governor William Sorell. They had nine children (four of whom died young), among them: Mary, who became a novelist by the name Mrs Humphry Ward; Julia, who married Leonard Huxley, the son of Thomas Huxley, and gave birth to Julian and Aldous Huxley; and William Thomas, a journalist.[1] After being widowed during 1888, Arnold during 1890 married for a second time, to Josephine Benison, daughter of James Benison, Ballyconnell, County Cavan, Ireland.

While in Tasmania Arnold converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, 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 concerning religious loyalty until Julia's death. At the time Tasmania would not employ Catholics in senior civil service positions, and so during 1857 the family relocated back to England. Arnold accepted 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 during 1862 to become head of classics at The Oratory School in Birmingham. His employment there ended during 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 began a private tutoring establishment in Oxford, and began to attend Church of England services. He edited a number of important literary works, including Beowulf. During 1876 he stood for election to the professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Finding that some endorsers were campaigning for him as the "Anglican" candidate, he disliked the false premise; 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 lost 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 during 1882 as professor of English literature for University College, teaching to the end of his life during 1900. One of his last students was James Joyce.


As author[edit]

  • A Manual of English Literature, Historical and Critical. London: Longman & Co., 1862 (much reprinted to 1897).
  • Chaucer to Wordsworth: a Short History of English Literature to the present day. London: Thomas Murby, 1870. 2nd ed. 1875.
  • Catholic Higher Education in Ireland. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1897.
  • Notes on Beowulf. London: Longmans, Green, 1898.
  • Passages in a Wandering Life. London: Edward Arnold, 1900.

As editor[edit]

  • Select English Works of John Wycliffe from Original Manuscripts. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1869–1871.
  • Selections from Addison’s Papers contributed to the Spectator. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1875.
  • Beowulf: an Heroic Poem of the Eighth Century, with a translation. London: Longmans, Green, 1876.
  • Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum. The History of the English, by Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, from A.D. 55 to A.D. 1154. Chronicles and memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages ("Rolls Series") 74. London: Longman & Co., 1879.
  • English Poetry and Prose: a collection of illustrative passages from the writings of English authors, commencing in the Anglo-Saxon period, and brought down to the present time. 2nd edition. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1882.
  • Symeonis monachi opera omnia. 2 vols. Rolls Series 75. London: Longman & Co., 1882-1885.
  • Edward Hyde, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England. Book VI. Second edition, 1894.
  • Together with William E. Addis he compiled A Catholic Dictionary. First edition, London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1884. Much reissued.


  1. ^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1912). "Arnold, William Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement​ 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co.