My foremost design in writing this Preface is to address a word of exhortation to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In the essay which follows, the reader will often find Bishop Wilson quoted. To me and to the members of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge his name and writings are still, no doubt, familiar; but the world is fast going away from old-fashioned people of his sort, and I learnt with consternation lately from a brilliant and distinguished votary of the natural sciences, that he had never so much as heard of Bishop Wilson, and that he imagined me to have invented him. At a moment when the Courts of Law have just taken off the embargo from the recreative religion furnished on Sundays by my gifted acquaintance and others, and when St. Martin's Hall [iv] and the Alhambra will soon be beginning again to resound with their pulpit-eloquence, it distresses one to think that the new lights should not only have, in general, a very low opinion of the preachers of the old religion, but that they should have it without knowing the best that these preachers can do. And that they are in this case is owing in part, certainly, to the negligence of the Christian Knowledge Society. In old times they used to print and spread abroad Bishop Wilson's Maxims of Piety and Christianity; the copy of this work which I use is one of their publications, bearing their imprint, and bound in the well-known brown calf which they made familiar to our childhood; but the date of my copy is 1812. I know of no copy besides, and I believe the work is no longer one of those printed and circulated by the Society. Hence the error, flattering, I own, to me personally, yet in itself to be regretted, of the distinguished physicist already mentioned.
Culture and Anarchy is a series of essays by Matthew Arnold. According to his view advanced in the book, "Culture is a study of perfection". His often quoted phrase "[culture is] the best which has been thought and said" comes from the Preface to Culture and Anarchy: The whole scope of the essay is to recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits, which we now follow staunchly but mechanically, vainly imagining that there is a virtue in following them staunchly which makes up for the mischief of following them mechanically. The book contains most of the terms - culture, sweetness and light, Barbarian, Philistine, Hebraism, and many others - which are more associated with Arnold's work influence.
Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold wrote the essays that constitute Culture and Anarchy between 1867 and 1869, a time of rapid social change and uncertainty. Defining culture as "the best that has been thought and said," Arnold offers concrete suggestions for its role as a corrective to the chaos of materialism, industrialism, and self-interest. Acclaimed by Commentary as "the classic defense of high culture against the depredations of modernity," these essays continue to spark debate on both sides of the cultural aisle. Leftists assail Arnold's views as elitist, while rightists applaud his appeal to order and the strong regulatory arm of the state. Written in the author's distinctively lucid prose, this landmark of Western intellectual philosophy continues to inform ongoing debates about the relationship between politics and culture.
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