It must be added that in Mr. Arnold's case they are connected with something very important, his interest in religious ideas, his constant, characteristic sense of the reality of religion.Henry James, "Matthew Arnold," English Illustrated Magazine, January 1884.
The union of this element with the other parts of his mind, his love of literature, of perfect expression, his interest in life at large, constitutes perhaps the originality of his character as a critic, and it certainly (to my sense) gives him that seriousness in which he has occasionally been asserted to be wanting. Nothing can exceed the taste, the temperance, with which he handles religious questions, and at the same time nothing can exceed the impression he gives of really caring for them. To his mind the religious life of humanity is the most important thing in the spectacle humanity offers us, and he holds that a due perception of this fact is (in connection with other lights) the measure of the acuteness of a critic, the wisdom of a poet. He says in his essay on Marcus Aurelius an admirable thing — "The paramount virtue of religion is that it has lighted up morality;" and such a phrase as that shows the extent to which he feels what he speaks of. To say that this feeling, taken in combination with his love of letters, of beauty, of all liberal things, constitutes an originality is not going too far, for the religious sentiment does not always render the service of opening the mind to human life at large.