John Henry Newman
Biography of John Henry Newman
John Henry Newman, D.D., C.O., also referred to as Cardinal Newman and Blessed John Henry Newman, was an important figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was known nationally by the mid-1830s.
Originally an evangelical Oxford academic and priest in the Church of England, Newman was a leader in the Oxford Movement. This influential grouping of Anglicans wished to return the Church of England to many Catholic beliefs and forms of worship traditional in the medieval times to restore ritual expression. In 1845 Newman left the Church of England and was received into the Roman Catholic Church where he was eventually granted the rank of cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, which evolved into University College, Dublin, today, the largest university in Ireland.
Newman's beatification was officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 September 2010 during his visit to the United Kingdom. His canonisation is dependent on the documentation of additional miracles.
Newman was also a literary figure of note: his major writings including his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–66), the Grammar of Assent (1870), and the poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865), which was set to music in 1900 by Edward Elgar as an oratorio. He wrote the popular hymns "Lead, Kindly Light" and "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" (taken from Gerontius).
Early Life and Education
Newman was born in the City of London, the eldest of a family of three sons and three daughters. His father, John Newman, was a banker with Ramsbottom, Newman and Company in Lombard Street. His mother, Jemima (née Fourdrinier), was descended from French Huguenot refugees in England. Francis William Newman was a younger brother. His eldest sister, Harriet Elizabeth, married Thomas Mozley, also prominent in the Oxford Movement.
At School in Ealing
At the age of seven Newman was sent to Great Ealing School conducted by George Nicholas. There George Huxley, father of Thomas Henry Huxley, taught mathematics, and the classics teacher was Walter Mayers. Newman took no part in the casual school games. He was a great reader of the novels of Walter Scott, then in course of publication, and of Robert Southey. Aged 14, he read sceptical works by Thomas Paine, David Hume and perhaps Voltaire.
At the age of 15, during his last year at school, Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was "more certain than that I have hands or feet". Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed, though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery. Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814, lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition. It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman "fell under the influence of a definite creed," and received into his intellect "impressions of dogma, which, through God's mercy, have never been effaced or obscured". He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the Pope was Antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton, as well as his reading of Joseph Milner's History of the Church of Christ. Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist, and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature. He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.
Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul, he gradually outgrew his early Calvinism. As Eamon Duffy puts it, "He came to see Evangelicalism, with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism that ignored the Church's role in the transmission of revealed truth, and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism."
Newman's name was entered at Lincoln's Inn. He was, however, sent shortly to Trinity College, Oxford, where he studied widely. Anxiety to do well in the final schools produced the opposite result; he broke down in the examination, under Thomas Vowler Short, and so graduated as a BA with third-class honours in 1821.
Desiring to remain in Oxford, Newman then took private pupils and read for a fellowship at Oriel, then "the acknowledged centre of Oxford intellectualism." He was elected at Oriel on 12 April 1822. Edward Bouverie Pusey was elected a fellow of the same college in 1823.
On 13 June 1824, Newman was ordained as an Anglican deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Ten days later he preached his first sermon in Holy Trinity at Over Worton, near Banbury, Oxfordshire when on a visit to his former teacher, the Reverend Walter Mayers, who had been curate there since 1823. On Trinity Sunday, 29 May 1825, he was ordained a priest in Christ Church. He became, at Pusey's suggestion, curate of St Clement's Church, Oxford. Here, for two years, he was engaged in parochial work, and wrote articles on Apollonius of Tyana, Cicero and Miracles for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana.
Richard Whately and Edward Copleston, Provost of Oriel, were leaders in the group of Oriel Noetics, a group of independently thinking dons with a strong belief in free debate. In 1825, at Whately's request, Newman became vice-principal of St Alban Hall, but he only held this post for one year. He attributed much of his "mental improvement" and partial conquest of his shyness at this time to Whately. He assisted Whately in his popular work Elements of Logic (1826, initially for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana), and from him he gained a definite idea of the Christian Church as institution: "... a Divine appointment, and as a substantive body, independent of the State, and endowed with rights, prerogatives and powers of its own".
He broke with Whately in 1827 on the occasion of the re-election of Robert Peel as Member of Parliament for the university: Newman opposed Peel on personal grounds. In 1826 he returned as tutor of Oriel, and the same year Richard Hurrell Froude, described by Newman as "one of the acutest, cleverest and deepest men" he ever met, was elected fellow there. The two formed a high ideal of the tutorial office as clerical and pastoral rather than secular, which led to tensions in the college. In 1827 he was a preacher at Whitehall.
In 1828 Newman supported and secured the election of Edward Hawkins as Provost of Oriel over John Keble. This choice, he later commented, produced the Oxford Movement with all its consequences. In the same year he was appointed vicar of St Mary's, to which the living of Littlemore south of the city of Oxford was attached, and Pusey was made Regius Professor of Hebrew.
At this date, though Newman was still nominally associated with the Evangelicals, his views were gradually assuming a higher ecclesiastical tone. George Herring considers that the death of his sister Mary in January had a major impact on Newman. In the summer he worked to read the Church Fathers thoroughly.
While local secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Newman circulated an anonymous letter suggesting a method by which churchmen might practically oust Nonconformists from all control of the society. This resulted in his being dismissed from the post, 8 March 1830; and three months later he withdrew from the Bible Society, completing his move away from the Low Church group. In 1831–1832 he was select preacher before the university. In 1832, his difference with Hawkins as to the "substantially religious nature" of a college tutorship became acute and he resigned from that post.
In December 1832, Newman went with Hurrell Froude, on account of the latter's health, for a tour in Southern Europe. On board the mail steamship Hermes they visited Gibraltar, Malta and the Ionian Islands, and subsequently Sicily, Naples and Rome, where Newman made the acquaintance of Nicholas Wiseman. In a letter home he described Rome as "the most wonderful place on Earth," but the Roman Catholic religion as "polytheistic, degrading and idolatrous."
It was during the course of this tour that Newman wrote most of the short poems which a year later were printed in the Lyra Apostolica. From Rome, instead of accompanying the Froudes home in April, Newman returned to Sicily alone, and fell dangerously ill with gastric or typhoid fever at Leonforte. He recovered, with the conviction that God still had work for him to do in England; he saw this as his third providential illness. In June 1833 he left Palermo for Marseille in an orange boat, which was becalmed in the Strait of Bonifacio, and here he wrote the verses, Lead, Kindly Light, which later became popular as a hymn.
Tracts for the Times
Newman was at home again in Oxford on 9 July 1833 and, on 14 July, Keble preached at St Mary’s an assize sermon on "National Apostasy," which Newman afterwards regarded as the inauguration of the Oxford Movement. In the words of Richard William Church, it was "Keble who inspired, Froude who gave the impetus and Newman who took up the work"; but the first organisation of it was due to Hugh James Rose, editor of the British Magazine, who has been styled "the Cambridge originator of the Oxford Movement." Rose met Oxford Movement figures on a visit to Oxford looking for magazine contributors, and it was in his rectory house at Hadleigh, Suffolk, that a meeting of High Church clergymen was held over 25–26 July (Newman was not present, but Hurrell Froude, Arthur Philip Perceval and William Palmer had gone to visit Rose), at which it was resolved to fight for "the apostolical succession and the integrity of the Prayer Book."
A few weeks later Newman started, apparently on his own initiative, the Tracts for the Times, from which the movement was subsequently named "Tractarian." Its aim was to secure for the Church of England a definite basis of doctrine and discipline. At the time the state's financial stance towards the Church of Ireland had raised the spectres of disestablishment, or an exit of High Churchmen. The teaching of the tracts was supplemented by Newman's Sunday afternoon sermons at St Mary's, the influence of which, especially over the junior members of the university, was increasingly marked during a period of eight years. In 1835 Pusey joined the movement, which, so far as concerned ritual observances, was later called "Puseyite".
In 1836 the Tractarians appeared as an activist group, in united opposition to the appointment of Renn Dickson Hampden as Regius Professor of Divinity. Hampden's 1832 Bampton Lectures, in the preparation of which Joseph Blanco White had assisted him, were suspected of heresy; and this suspicion was accentuated by a pamphlet put forth by Newman, Elucidations of Dr Hampden's Theological Statements.
At this date Newman became editor of the British Critic. He also gave courses of lectures in a side chapel of St Mary's in defence of the via media ("middle way") of Anglicanism between Roman Catholicism and popular Protestantism.
Doubts and Opposition
Newman's influence in Oxford was supreme about the year 1839. Just then, however, his study of monophysitism raised a doubt whether the Anglican position was really tenable on the principles of ecclesiastical authority which he had accepted. He then read, in Nicholas Wiseman's article in the Dublin Review on "The Anglican Claim," the words of Augustine of Hippo against the Donatists, "securus judicat orbis terrarum" ("the verdict of the world is conclusive"). He later wrote of his reaction,
For a mere sentence, the words of St Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before ..... they were like the 'Tolle, lege, — Tolle, lege,' of the child, which converted St Augustine himself. 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum!' By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theology of the Via Media was absolutely pulverised. (Apologia, part 5)
After a furore in which the eccentric John Brande Morris preached for him in St Mary's in September 1839, Newman began to think of moving away from Oxford. One plan that surfaced was to set up a religious community in Littlemore, outside the city of Oxford. He had had a chapel built there, with foundation stone laid by his mother in 1835, based on a half-acre plot and £100 given by Oriel College. His plans for Littlemore had involved bringing in Charles Pourtales Golightly, an Oriel man, as curate, in 1836; but a sermon of Newman's had changed Golightly's views, and brought him into the camp of aggressive anti-Catholics. Isaac Williams filled in as curate, and then John Rouse Bloxam acted as Littlemore curate from 1837 to 1840. William John Copeland acted as curate from 1840.
Newman continued his work, however, as a High Anglican controversialist until he had published, in 1841, Tract 90, in fact to be the last of the series. It was a detailed examination of the Thirty-Nine Articles, suggesting that their negations were not directed against the authorised creed of Roman Catholics, but only against popular errors and exaggerations. This theory, though not altogether new, aroused indignation in Oxford, and Archibald Campbell Tait, with three other senior tutors, denounced it as "suggesting and opening a way by which men might violate their solemn engagements to the university." The alarm was shared by the heads of houses and by others in authority; and, at the request of Richard Bagot, the Bishop of Oxford, the publication of the Tracts came to an end.
Retreat to Littlemore
Newman also resigned the editorship of the British Critic, and was thenceforth, as he later described it, "on his deathbed as regards membership with the Anglican Church." He now considered the position of Anglicans to be similar to that of the semi-Arians in the Arian controversy. The joint Anglican-Lutheran bishopric set up in Jerusalem was to him further evidence that the Church of England was not apostolic.
In 1842 Newman withdrew to Littlemore, and lived under something like monastic conditions with a small band of followers. The first to join him there was John Dobree Dalgairns. Others were William Lockhart on the advice of Henry Manning, Ambrose St John in 1843, and Frederick Oakeley in 1845. Buildings were adapted in what is now College Lane, Littlemore, opposite the inn. Called by Newman "the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Littlemore" (now called Newman College) they had comprised stables and granary for stage coaches. The construction work on this "Anglican monastery" attracted publicity, and much curiosity in Oxford, which Newman tried to downplay, but the nickname Newmanooth (from Maynooth College) was given to the development.
Newman assigned the task to some of his disciples of writing of the lives of the English saints, while his time was largely devoted to the completion of an Essay on the development of Christian doctrine. In February 1843, he published, as an advertisement in the Oxford Conservative Journal, an anonymous but otherwise formal retractation of all the hard things he had said against Rome. In September 1843, after Lockhart's conversion to Catholicism, Newman preached his last Anglican sermon at Littlemore and resigned the living of St Mary's.
Conversion to Roman Catholicism
An interval of two years then elapsed before Newman was received into the Roman Catholic Church (9 October 1845) by Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist, at the College in Littlemore. The personal consequences for Newman of his conversion were great: he suffered broken relationships with family and friends, attitudes to him within his Oxford circle becoming polarised. The effect on the wider Tractarian movement is still debated, since Newman's leading role is regarded by some scholars as overstated, as is Oxford's domination of the movement as a whole. Tractarian writings had a wide and continuing circulation after 1845, well beyond the range of personal contacts with the main Oxford figures, and Tractarian clergy continued to be recruited into the Church of England in numbers.
In February 1846, Newman left Oxford for Oscott, where Bishop Wiseman, then vicar-apostolic of the Midland district, resided; and in October he went to Rome, where he was ordained priest by Cardinal Giacomo Filippo Fransoni and awarded the degree of D.D. by Pope Pius IX. At the close of 1847, Newman returned to England as an Oratorian and resided first at Maryvale (near Old Oscott); then at St Wilfrid’s College, Cheadle; and then at St Ann's, Alcester Street, Birmingham. Finally he settled at Edgbaston, where spacious premises were built for the community, and where (except for four years in Ireland) he lived a secluded life for nearly forty years.
At the London Oratory in 1851, Newman delivered a course of lectures on The Present Position of Catholics in England. Largely ignored by the press at the time, they analysed at length traditional views of Catholicism held by Protestants. In the fifth of them he protested against the anti-Catholic utterances of Giacinto Achilli, an ex-Dominican friar, whom he accused in detail of numerous acts of immorality.
Popular Protestant feeling ran high at the time, partly in consequence of the bull Universalis Ecclesiae which reestablished the Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England by Pope Pius IX. Criminal proceedings against Newman for libel in the "Achilli trial" in 1852 resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff. Newman was found guilty, and sentenced to pay a fine of £100, while his expenses as defendant amounted to about £14,000. This sum was raised by public subscription; a surplus was spent on the purchase of a small property in Rednal, on the Lickey Hills, with a chapel and cemetery, where Newman was eventually buried.
In 1854, at the request of the Irish Catholic bishops, Newman went to Dublin as rector of the newly established Catholic University of Ireland, now University College, Dublin. It was during this time that he founded the Literary and Historical Society. After four years, he retired. He published a volume of lectures entitled The Idea of a University, containing some of his most effective writing:
...the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery of experiment and speculation...
In 1858, Newman projected a branch house of the Oratory at Oxford; but this project was opposed by Father (later Cardinal) Henry Edward Manning, another influential convert from Anglicanism, and others as likely to induce Catholics to send their sons to that university, and the scheme was abandoned. When Catholics did begin to attend Oxford from the 1860s onwards, a Catholic club was formed and, in 1888, it was renamed the Oxford University Newman Society in recognition of Newman's efforts on behalf of Catholicism in that university city. The Oxford Oratory was eventually founded over 100 years later in 1993.
In 1859, Newman established, in connection with the Birmingham Oratory, a school for the education of the sons of gentlemen along lines similar to those of English public schools. The Oratory School flourished as a boy's boarding school, dubbed as 'The Catholic Eton'.
Relationships with Other Converts
Newman had a special concern in the publisher Burns & Oates; the owner, James Burns, had published some of the Tractarians, and Burns had himself converted to Roman Catholicism in 1847. Newman published several books with the company, effectively saving it. There is even a story that Newman's novel Loss and Gain was written specifically to assist Burns.
In 1863, in a response to Thomas William Allies, while agreeing that slavery was bad, Newman would not publicly condemn it as "intrinsically evil" on the grounds that it had been tolerated by St Paul – thus asserting that slavery is "a condition of life ordained by God in the same sense that other conditions of life are".
Newman and Henry Edward Manning both became significant figures in the late 19th century Roman Catholic Church in England: both were Anglican converts and both were elevated to the dignity of cardinal. In spite of these similarities, in fact there was a lack of sympathy between the two men, who were different in character and experience, and they clashed on a number of issues, in particular the foundation of an Oratory in Oxford. On theological issues, Newman is seen as the more liberal because of his reservations about the declaration of papal infallibility (Manning favoured the formal declaration of the doctrine).
In 1862 Newman began to prepare autobiographical and other memoranda to vindicate his career. The occasion came when, in January 1864, Charles Kingsley, reviewing James Anthony Froude's History of England in Macmillan’s Magazine, incidentally asserted that "Father Newman informs us that truth for its own sake need not be, and on the whole ought not to be, a virtue of the Roman clergy." Edward Lowth Badeley, who had been a close legal adviser to Newman since the Achilli trial, encouraged him to make a robust rebuttal. After some preliminary sparring between the two, Newman published a pamphlet, Mr Kingsley and Dr Newman: a Correspondence on the Question whether Dr Newman teaches that Truth is no Virtue, (published in 1864 and not reprinted until 1913). The pamphlet has been described as "unsurpassed in the English language for the vigour of its satire". However, the anger displayed was later, in a letter to Sir William Cope, admitted to have been largely feigned.
Subsequently, again encouraged by Badeley, Newman published in bi-monthly parts his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a religious autobiography of abiding interest. Its tone changed the popular estimate of its author, by explaining the convictions which had led him into the Roman Catholic Church. Kingsley's general accusation against the Catholic clergy was not precisely dealt with; a passing sentence, in an appendix on lying and equivocation, maintained that English Catholic priests are as truthful as English Catholic laymen. Newman published a revision of the series of pamphlets in book form in 1865; in 1913 a combined critical edition, edited by Wilfrid Ward, was published.
In 1870, Newman published his Grammar of Assent, a closely reasoned work in which the case for religious belief is maintained by arguments somewhat different from those commonly used by Roman Catholic theologians of the time. In 1877, in the republication of his Anglican works, he added to the two volumes containing his defence of the via media, a long preface in which he criticised and replied to anti-Catholic arguments of his own which were contained in the original works.
At the time of the First Vatican Council (1869–1870), Newman was uneasy about the formal definition of the doctrine of papal infallibility, believing that the time was 'inopportune'. In a private letter to his bishop (William Bernard Ullathorne), surreptitiously published, he denounced the "insolent and aggressive faction" that had pushed the matter forward. Newman gave no sign of disapproval when the doctrine was finally defined, but was an advocate of the "principle of minimising", that included very few papal declarations within the scope of infallibility. Subsequently, in a letter nominally addressed to the Duke of Norfolk when Gladstone accused the Roman Church of having "equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history," Newman affirmed that he had always believed in the doctrine, and had only feared the deterrent effect of its definition on conversions on account of acknowledged historical difficulties. In this letter, and especially in the postscript to the second edition, Newman answered the charge that he was not at ease within the Catholic Church.
In 1878, Newman's old college elected him an honorary fellow, and he revisited Oxford, after an interval of thirty-two years, on the same day Pope Pius IX died. Pius had mistrusted Newman, but Pope Leo XIII was encouraged by the Duke of Norfolk and other English Catholic laymen to make Newman a cardinal, despite the fact that he was neither a bishop nor resident in Rome. Cardinal Manning seems not to have been interested in having Newman become a cardinal, and remained silent when the Pope asked him about it; Bishop Ullathorne, as Newman's immediate superior, sent word to Leo that he would welcome the honour. The offer was made in February 1879. Newman accepted the gesture as a vindication of his work, but made two requests: that he not be consecrated a bishop on receiving the cardinalate (as was standard procedure); and that he might remain in Birmingham.
Newman's elevation to the rank of cardinal took place on 12 May, making him Cardinal-Deacon of San Giorgio al Velabro. Newman while in Rome insisted on the lifelong consistency of his opposition to "liberalism in religion."
After an illness, Newman returned to England and lived at the Oratory until his death, making occasional visits to London and chiefly to his old friend, R. W. Church, now Dean of St Paul's. As a cardinal, Newman published nothing beyond a preface to a work by Arthur Wollaston Hutton on the Anglican Ministry (1879) and an article "On the Inspiration of Scripture" in The Nineteenth Century (February 1884).
From the latter half of 1886, Newman's health began to fail, and he celebrated Mass for the last time on Christmas Day in 1889. On 11 August 1890, he died of pneumonia at the Birmingham Oratory. Eight days later, his body was buried in the cemetery at Rednal Hill, Birmingham, at the country house of the Oratory. At the time of his death, he had been Protodeacon of the Holy Roman Church.
In accordance with his express wishes, Newman was buried in the grave of his lifelong friend, Ambrose St. John. The pall over the coffin bore the motto that Newman adopted for use as a cardinal, Cor ad cor loquitur ("Heart speaks to heart"), which William Barry, writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), traces to Francis de Sales and sees as revealing the secret of Newman's "eloquence, unaffected, graceful, tender, and penetrating". Ambrose St. John had become a Roman Catholic at around the same time as Newman, and the two men have a joint memorial stone inscribed with the motto Newman had chosen, Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem ("Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth"), which Barry traces to Plato's allegory of the cave.
On 27 February 1891, Newman's estate was probated at £4,206.
Newman's grave was opened on 2 October 2008, with the intention of moving any remains to a tomb inside Birmingham Oratory for their more convenient veneration as relics during Newman's consideration for sainthood; however, his wooden coffin was found to have disintegrated and no bones were found. Peter Jennings from the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory claimed this was because the coffin was wooden and the burial took place at a damp site. Contemporary sources show that the coffin was covered with a softer type of soil than the clay marl of the grave site. Forensic expert Professor John Hunter, from the University of Birmingham, tested soil samples from near the grave and said that total disappearance of a body was most unlikely over that timescale. He said that extreme conditions which could remove bone would also have removed the coffin handles which were found.
Some of Newman's short and earlier poems are described by R. H. Hutton as "unequalled for grandeur of outline, purity of taste and radiance of total effect"; while his latest and longest, The Dream of Gerontius, attempts to represent the unseen world along the same lines as Dante. His prose style, especially in his Catholic days, is fresh and vigorous, and is attractive to many who do not sympathise with his conclusions, from the apparent candour with which difficulties are admitted and grappled; while in his private correspondence there is charm. James Joyce had a lifelong admiration for Newman's writing, and in a letter to his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver humorously remarked about Newman that "nobody has ever written English prose that can be compared with that of a tiresome footling little Anglican parson who afterwards became a prince of the only true church".
Around 1830, Newman developed a distinction between natural religion and revealed religion. Revealed religion is the Judeo-Christian revelation which finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Natural religion refers to the knowledge of God and divine things that has been acquired outside the Judeo-Christian revelation. For Newman, this knowledge of God is not the result of unaided reason but of reason aided by grace, and so he speaks of natural religion as containing a revelation, even though it is an incomplete revelation.
Newman's view of natural religion gives rise to passages in his writings in which he appears to sympathise with a broader theology. Both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, he put forward the notion of a universal revelation. As an Anglican, Newman subscribed to this notion in various works, among them the 1830 University Sermon entitled "The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively", the 1833 poem "Heathenism", and the book The Arians of the Fourth Century, also 1833, where he admits that there was "something true and divinely revealed in every religion". As a Catholic, he included the idea in A Grammar of Assent: "As far as we know, there never was a time when...revelation was not a revelation continuous and systematic, with distinct representatives and an orderly succession."
Newman held that "freedom from symbols and articles is abstractedly the highest state of Christian communion", but was "the peculiar privilege of the primitive Church." In 1877 he allowed that "in a religion that embraces large and separate classes of adherents there always is of necessity to a certain extent an exoteric and an esoteric doctrine."
Character and Relationships
A recent biography of Newman notes that since his death in 1890 he has suffered almost as much misrepresentation as he did during his lifetime. In the Apologia he had exorcised the phantom which, as he said, "gibbers instead of me" — the phantom of the secret Romanist, corrupting the youth of Oxford, devious and dissimulating. But he raised another phantom — that of the oversensitive, self-absorbed recluse who never did anything but think and write. Unwary readers took the book as autobiography, but it is strictly what Newman called its first parts — "A History of My Religious Opinions".
In Newman's letters and memoranda and those of his friends, a more outgoing and humorous character is revealed. Newman lived in the world of his time, travelling by train as soon as trains came in and writing amusing letters about his adventures on railways and ships or during his travels in Scotland and Ireland. He was an indefatigable walker, and as a young don at Oriel he often went out riding with Hurrell Froude and other friends. At Oxford he had an active pastoral life, though nothing of it appears in the Apologia, and later he was active as a Catholic priest. His Oratory parishioners, apart from a few professional men and their families, were mainly factory workers, Irish immigrants, and tradespeople. He was a caring pastor, and their recorded reminiscences show that they held him in affection.
Newman, who was only a few years younger than Keats and Shelley, was born into the Romantic generation, when Englishmen still wept in moments of emotion. But he lived on into the age of the stiff upper lip, with the result that later generations, hearing of his tears on a visit to his mother's grave or at the funerals of old friends such as Henry Wilberforce, thought him not only sensitive but melancholy.
The "sensitive recluse of legend" had a wide currency, appearing, for instance, in Lytton Strachey's description of Newman's "soft, spectacled, Oxford manner, with its half-effeminate diffidence". Geoffrey Faber, whose own account of Newman in Oxford Apostles was far from hagiographic, found Strachey's portrait a distasteful caricature, bearing scant likeness to the Newman of history and designed solely "to tickle the self-conceit of a cynical and beliefless generation".
Strachey was only ten when Newman died and never met him. In contrast to Strachey's caricature, James Anthony Froude, Hurrell Froude's brother, who knew Newman at Oxford, saw him as a Carlylean hero. Compared with Newman, Froude wrote, Keble, Pusey and the other Tractarians "were all but as ciphers, and he the indicating number". Newman's face was "remarkably like that of Julius Caesar.... I have often thought of the resemblance, and believed that it extended to the temperament. In both there was an original force of character which refused to be moulded by circumstances, which was to make its own way, and become a power in the world; a clearness of intellectual perception, a disdain for conventionalities, a temper imperious and wilful, but along with it a most attaching gentleness, sweetness, singleness of heart and purpose. Both were formed by nature to command others, both had the faculty of attracting to themselves the passionate devotion of their friends and followers.... For hundreds of young men Credo in Newmannum was the veritable symbol of faith."
Newman's celibacy, which he embraced at the age of 15, also contributed to negative representations of his character, laying him open to what he called "slurs". To exponents of Muscular Christianity such as Charles Kingsley, celibacy was synonymous with unmanliness. Kingsley, who interpreted the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as expressing a "binary law of man's being; the want of a complementum, a 'help meet', without whom it is not good for him to be", feared and hated vowed sexual abstinence, considering it, in Laura Fasick's words, "a distinct and separate perversion". The charge of effeminacy was aimed not just at Newman but at Tractarians and Roman Catholics in general. "In all that school," wrote Kingsley in 1851, "there is an element of foppery — even in dress and manner; a fastidious, maundering, die-away effeminacy, which is mistaken for purity and refinement." John Cornwell comments that "the notion of Newman's effeminacy tells us more about the reaction of others to him at the time than (about) any tendency in his own nature."
To many members of the Oxford Movement, Newman included, it was Kingsley's ideal of domesticity that seemed unmanly. As R. W. Church put it, "To shrink from [celibacy] was a mark of want of strength or intelligence, of an unmanly preference for English home life, of insensibility to the generous devotion and purity of the saints." Defending his decision to remain single, Charles Reding, the hero of Newman's novel Loss and Gain, argues that "surely the idea of an Apostle, unmarried, pure, in fast and nakedness, and at length a martyr, is a higher idea than that of one of the old Israelites sitting under his vine and fig-tree, full of temporal goods, and surrounded by sons and grandsons?" If manliness is equated with physical and psychological toughness, then perhaps, as James Eli Adams observes, "manhood cannot be sustained within domesticity, since the ideal is incompatible with ease." A "common antagonism to domesticity" links "Tractarian discipline to Carlylean heroism".
Although Newman's deepest relationships were with men, he had many affectionate friendships with women. One of the most important was with Maria Giberne, who knew him in his youth and followed him into the Catholic Church. She was a noted beauty, who even at fifty was described by one admirer as "the handsomest woman I ever saw in my life". A gifted amateur artist, she painted many portraits of Newman at various periods, as well as several of the pictures hanging in the Birmingham Oratory. Newman had a photo of her in his room and was still corresponding with her into their eighties. Emily Bowles, who first met Newman at Littlemore, was the recipient of some of his most outspoken letters on what he felt to be the mistaken course of the extreme infallibilists and his reasons for not "speaking out" as many begged him to do. When she visited Newman at the Birmingham Oratory in 1861, she was welcomed by him "as only he can welcome"; she would never forget "the brightness that lit up his worn face as he received me at the door, carrying in several packages himself".
Men born in the first decades of the nineteenth century had a capacity for intense male friendships that did not survive into later generations. The friendship of Alfred Tennyson and Arthur Hallam, immortalized in In Memoriam A.H.H., is the most famous example. Less well-known is that of Charles Kingsley and his closest friend at Cambridge, Charles Mansfield. Newman, too, experienced such friendships, the first with Richard Hurrell Froude (1803–1836), the longest with Ambrose St John (1815–1875), who shared communitarian life with Newman for 32 years from 1843 (when St John was 28). Newman wrote after St John's death: "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine."He directed that he be buried in the same grave as St. John: "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave — and I give this as my last, my imperative will."
Newman spelt out his theology of friendship in a sermon he preached on the Feast of St John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the same person as the disciple John, "whom Jesus loved". In the sermon, Newman said: "There have been men before now, who have supposed Christian love was so diffuse as not to admit of concentration upon individuals; so that we ought to love all men equally.... Now I shall maintain here, in opposition to such notions of Christian love, and with our Saviour's pattern before me, that the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate our intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us." For Newman, friendship is an intimation of a greater love, a foretaste of heaven. In friendship, two intimate friends gain a glimpse of the life that awaits them in God. Juan R. Vélez writes that someday Newman "may well earn a new title, that of Doctor amicitiae: Doctor of the Church on Friendship. His biography is a treatise on the human and supernatural virtues that make up friendship."
Issues of Sexual Identity
In his 1933 book Oxford Apostles, Geoffrey Faber, as David Hilliard observes, offered a "portrait of Newman as a sublimated homosexual (though the word itself was not used)". On Newman's relations with Hurrell Froude, Faber wrote: "Of all his friends Froude filled the deepest place in his heart, and I'm not the first to point out that his occasional notions of marrying definitely ceased with the beginning of his real intimacy with Froude." However, while Faber's theory has had considerable popular influence, scholars of the Oxford Movement tend either to dismiss it entirely or to view it with great scepticism, with even scholars specifically concerned with same-sex desire hesitating to endorse it.
Ellis Hanson, for instance, writes that Newman and Froude clearly "presented a challenge to Victorian gender norms", but "Faber's reading of Newman's sexlessness and Hurrell Froude's guilt as evidence of homosexuality" seems "strained". When John Campbell Shairp combines masculine and feminine imagery in his highly poetic description of Newman's preaching style at Oxford in the early 1840s, Frederick S. Roden is put in mind of "the late Victorian definition of a male invert, the homosexual: his (Newman's) homiletics suggest a woman's soul in a man's body." Roden, however, does not argue that Newman was homosexual, seeing him rather — particularly in his professed celibacy — as a "cultural dissident" or "queer" in relation to Victorian norms. In the same sense, "Victorian Roman and Anglo-Catholicism were culturally queer". In Newman's case, Roden writes, "homoaffectivity" (found in heterosexuals and homosexuals alike) "is contained in friendships, in relationships that are not overtly sexual".
In a September 2010 television documentary, "The Trouble with the Pope", Peter Tatchell discussed Newman's underlying sexuality, citing his close friendship with Ambrose St John and entries in Newman's diaries describing their intense love for each other. Alan Bray, however, in his 2003 book The Friend, saw the bond between the two men as "entirely spiritual", noting that Newman, when speaking of St John, echoes the language of John's gospel. Shortly after St John's death, Bray adds, Newman recorded "a conversation between them before St John lost his speech in those final days. He expressed his hope, Newman wrote, that during his whole priestly life he had not committed one mortal sin. For men of their time and culture that statement is definitive.... Newman's burial with Ambrose St John cannot be detached from his understanding of the place of friendship in Christian belief or its long history." Bray cites numerous examples of friends being buried together. Newman's burial with St John was not unusual at the time and did not draw contemporary comment.
David Hilliard writes that relationships such as Newman's with Froude and St John "were not regarded by contemporaries as unnatural.... Nor is it possible, on the basis of passionate words uttered by mid-Victorians, to make a clear distinction between male affection and homosexual feeling. Theirs was a generation prepared to accept romantic friendships between men simply as friendships without sexual significance. Only with the emergence in the late nineteenth century of the doctrine of the stiff-upper-lip, and the concept of homosexuality as an identifiable condition, did open expressions of love between men become suspect and regarded in a new light as morally undesirable."
When Ian Ker reissued his biography of Newman in 2009, he added an Afterword in which he put forward evidence that Newman was a heterosexual. He cited diary entries from December 1816 in which the 15-year-old Newman wrote about the temptations awaiting him when he returned home from boarding school and met girls at Christmas parties. As an adult, Newman wrote about the deep pain of the "sacrifice" of the life of celibacy. Ker comments: "The only 'sacrifice' that he could possibly be referring to was that of marriage. And he readily acknowledges that from time to time he continued to feel the natural attraction for marriage that any heterosexual man would." In 1833, Newman wrote that, despite having "willingly" accepted the call to celibacy, he felt "not the less...the need" of "the sort of interest [sympathy] which a wife takes and none but she — it is a woman's interest".
Influence and Legacy
Within both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, Newman's influence was great in dogma. For the Roman Catholic Church in Britain, Newman's conversion secured prestige. On Catholics, his influence was mainly in the direction of a broader spirit and of a recognition of the part played by development, in doctrine and in church government. In his judgment, spiritual truth is apprehended by direct intuition, as an antecedent to the professedly purely rational basis of Catholic belief.
If his teaching on the Church was less widely followed, it was because of doubts as to the thoroughness of his knowledge of history and as to his freedom from bias as a critic. Some hundreds of clergymen influenced by the Oxford Movement, made submission to the Holy See; but a larger number, who also came under its influence, did not accept that belief in the Church necessitated acceptance of the Pope.
The university which Newman founded, the Catholic University of Ireland, evolved into University College, Dublin, a college of Ireland's largest university, the National University of Ireland, which has contributed significantly to the intellectual and social development of that country.
A number of Newman Societies (or Newman Centers in the United States) in Newman's honour have been established throughout the world, in the mould of the Oxford University Newman Society. They provide pastoral services and ministries to Catholics at non-Catholic universities; at various times this type of "campus ministry" (the distinction and definition being flexible) has been known to Catholics as the Newman Apostolate or "Newman movement".
Newman's Dublin lecture series The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated is thought to have become "the basis of a characteristic British belief that education should aim at producing generalists rather than narrow specialists, and that non-vocational subjects – in arts or pure science – could train the mind in ways applicable to a wide range of jobs."
Cause for His Canonisation
In 1991, Newman was proclaimed venerable after a thorough examination of his life and work by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints. One miracle was investigated and confirmed by the Vatican, so he was beatified on 19 September 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. A second miracle is necessary for his canonisation.
John Henry Newman's Works:
The Arians of the Fourth Century (1833)
Tracts for the Times (1833–1841)
British Critic (1836–1842)
On the Prophetical Office of the Church (1837)
Lectures on Justification (1838)
Parochial and Plain Sermons (1834–1843)
Select Treatises of St. Athanasius (1842, 1844)
Lives of the English Saints (1843–44)
Essays on Miracles (1826, 1843)
Oxford University Sermons (1843)
Sermons on Subjects of the Day (1843)
Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845)
Retractation of Anti-Catholic Statements (1845)
Loss and Gain (novel – 1848)
Faith and Prejudice and Other Unpublished Sermons (1848–1873; collected 1956)
Discourses to Mixed Congregations (1849)
Difficulties of Anglicans (1850)
The Present Position of Catholics in England (1851)
The Idea of a University (1852 and 1858)
Cathedra Sempiterna (1852)
Callista (novel – 1855)
The Rambler (editor) (1859–1860)
Apologia Pro Vita Sua (religious autobiography – 1864; revised edition, 1865)
Letter to Dr. Pusey (1865)
The Dream of Gerontius (1865)
An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870)
Sermons Preached on Various Occasions (various/1874)
Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1875)
Five Letters (1875)
Sermon Notes (1849–1878)
Select Treatises of St. Athanasius (1881)
On the Inspiration of Scripture (1884)
Development of Religious Error (1885)
Other miscellaneous works
Historical Tracts of St. Athanasius (1843)
Essays Critical and Historical (various/1871)
Tracts Theological and Ecclesiastical (various/1871)
Discussions and Arguments (various/1872)
Historical Sketches (various/1872)
Addresses to Cardinal Newman and His Replies, with Biglietto Speech (1879)
Realizations: Newman's Own Selection of His Sermons (edited by Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J., 1964). Liturgical Press, 2009
Mary the Second Eve (compiled by Sister Eileen Breen, F.M.A., 1969). TAN Books, 2009
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- Lead, Kindly Light
- The Pillar of the Cloud
- The Elements
- Consolations in Bereavement
- Flowers Without Fruit
- A Picture
- The Trance of Time
- A Voice from Afar
- The Sign Of The Cross
- Paraphrase of Isaiah, Chap. 64
- My Lady Nature and her Daughters
WHEN mirth is full and free,
Some sudden gloom shall be;
When haughty power mounts high,
The Watcher’s axe is nigh.
All growth has bound; when greatest found,
It hastes to die.
When the rich town, that long
Has lain its huts among,