Letter: Matthew Arnold: man of the people

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Sir: Bryan Appleyard grossly misrepresents Matthew Arnold by inventing a tradition of 'ever-more paranoid assertion of the need for an inner cultural priesthood that would protect the highest and the best from the lowest and the worst' and frog-marching Arnold into it. The author of Culture and Anarchy believed

the men of culture are the true apostles of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time . . .

Arnold wanted to make culture 'efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned' and was driven by a deep conviction of the need for it to be widely diffused - 'to prevail' and not be the property or badge of an elite. Far from despising 'the masses', Arnold was keener to flay the sort of people who patronise them.

His text is so relevant to today's cultural debates it should be reprinted and distributed cheaply like a Leninist pamphlet.

Yours faithfully,


Kinnerton, Powys