Postscript

{426} THE chronological limit assigned to the Editor is reached, but some letters remain from different sources which will interest the reader—interest wholly irrespective of the great change which was set as a close to the task imposed. Any words that allude to that change are only given where they fix the date.

The Editor thanks the Rev. C. L. Coldwell for allowing the following letter on Style, which was addressed to his father-in-law, the late Rev. John Hayes, vicar of Colebrookdale, to have a place in these pages.

The Oratory, Birmingham: April 13, 1869.
My dear Sir,—I saw the article you speak of in the 'Times,' and felt flattered by the passage which referred to myself.

The writer must have alluded in the sentence which leads to your question to my 'Lectures and Essays on University Subjects,' which is at present out of print. In that volume there are several papers on English and Latin composition.

It is simply the fact that I have been obliged to take great pains with every thing I have written, and I often write chapters over and over again, besides innumerable corrections and interlinear additions. I am not stating this as a merit, only that some persons write their best first, and I very seldom do. Those who are good speakers may be supposed to be able to write off what they want to say. I, who am not a good speaker, have to correct laboriously what I put on paper. I have heard that Archbishop Howley, who was an elegant writer, betrayed the labour by which he became so by his mode of speaking, which was most painful to hear from his {427} hesitations and alterations—that is, he was correcting his composition as he went along.

However, I may truly say that I never have been in the practice since I was a boy of attempting to write well, or to form an elegant style. I think I never have written for writing sake: but my one and single desire and aim has been to do what is so difficult—viz. to express clearly and exactly my meaning; this has been the motive principle of all my corrections and re-writings. When I have read over a passage which I had written a few days before, I have found it so obscure to myself that I have either put it altogether aside or fiercely corrected it; but I don’t get any better for practice. I am as much obliged to correct and re-write as I was thirty years ago.

As to patterns for imitation, the only master of style I have ever had (which is strange considering the differences of the languages) is Cicero. I think I owe a great deal to him, and as far as I know to no one else. His great mastery of Latin is shown especially in his clearness.
Very faithfully yours,
JOHN H. NEWMAN.

The Rev. John Hayes.

P.S. Thank you for what you so kindly say of me in old times.

On the back of the following letter were written these words: 'Copy of a letter in answer to Dr. Greenhill’s inquiry as to the exact meaning of the last two lines in "Lead, kindly Light," which I had discussed forty years ago with our dear friend Charles Marriott. (Signed J. H. N.)'

January 18, 1879.
My dear Dr. Greenhill,—You flatter me by your question; but I think it was Keble who, when asked it in his own case, answered that poets were not bound to be critics, or to give a sense to what they had written; and though I am not, like him, a poet, at least I may plead that I am not bound to remember my own meaning, whatever it was, at the end of almost fifty years. Anyhow, there must be a statute of limitation for writers of verse, as it would be quite a tyranny if, in an art which is the expression, not of truth, but of imagination {428} and sentiment, one were obliged to be ready for examination on the transient states of mind which came upon one when homesick or seasick [Note], or in any other way sensitive or excited.
Yours most truly,
JOHN H. NEWMAN.

On the death of Thackeray, Dr. Newman writes to Miss H.:

December 27, 1863.
My best Christmas greetings to you, and to Mr. and Mrs. Leigh.

But I do not write to say what you will believe I feel, though I do not say it, but to express the piercing sorrow that I feel in Thackeray’s death.

You know I never saw him, but you have interested me in him, and one saw in his books the workings of his mind—and he has died with such awful suddenness.

A new work of his had been advertised, and I had looked forward with pleasure to reading it; and now the drama of his life is closed, and he himself is the greatest instance of the text of which he was so full, Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas. I wonder whether he has known his own decay, for a decay I think there has been. I thought his last novel betrayed lassitude and exhaustion of mind, and he has lain by apparently for a year. His last (fugitive) pieces in the 'Cornhill' have been almost sermons. One should be very glad to know that he had presentiments of what was to come.

What a world this is! how wretched they are who take it for their portion! Poor Thackeray! it seems but the other day since we became Catholics; now all his renown has been since that—he has made his name, has been made much of, has been feted, and has gone out, all since 1846 or 1847.

On being asked some questions about musical Tones, Mr. Newman writes to Miss H.:

December 31, 1850.
I think with you that what is called Gregorian is but a style of music—viz. before the fixing of the diatonic scale, and the various keys as rising out of it. The Pagan and Jewish tunes are necessarily in this style. And in this sense certainly {429} the Gregorian comes from the Pagan and the Jewish. The names 'Lydian,' 'Phrygian,' &c., look like Pagan. One should think, however, some must be Jewish. I can’t answer your question about the genuineness of the professed specimens of Pagan, as in Rousseau’s Dictionary. Will Rousseau answer your question?

All true art comes from revelation (to speak generally), I do think, but not necessarily through the Jewish Dispensation. The Fathers look upon Paganism as preserving traditions too: e.g. the Sibyls. It seems to me a very contracted view, and not borne out by facts, to trace Plato’s glowing thoughts on the religious rites of Paganism to Judaism.

A tone of isolation characterises the following letter. The reader will observe from the date, that it was written immediately before the events occurred that produced the 'Apologia.'

April 28, 1863.
I myself, though I have a fixed place to live in, and so far have a great blessing, am in the most strange way cut off from other people. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose; but so it is that I know nothing of how things are going on, what there is to do, and who is doing it. When we get to heaven, if we are worthy, we shall enjoy the sight of how all our failures and disappointments, if borne well, have been for God’s glory and our own salvation.

Passing from a definition of what the 'Grammar of Assent' is, Dr. Newman meditates on old age and the limit of its powers.

March 2, 1870.
You will be disappointed with my 'Grammar,' and so will everyone be. It is what it is, and it is not what it is not; and what it is not most people will expect that it is. It won’t be out for ten days or a fortnight yet. It is my last work. I say 'work,' for though I may fiddle-faddle, henceforth a real piece of labour will be beyond me. This is what old men cannot do; when they attempt it, they kill themselves. An old horse or an old piece of furniture will last a long time if you take care of it—so will the brain; but if you forget that it is old, it soon reminds you of the fact by ceasing to be. {430}

On Horace, and the lessons to be learnt from him, Dr. Newman writes to Mr. Leigh:

November 24, 1873.
I have not forgotten your question through Miss H. It is not difficult to answer, but to give satisfactorily the grounds for that answer is difficult.

She tells me you have been interesting yourself in Horace, and that you wish to know whether the lessons you get from him are not learnt better from Thomas a Kempis. I think not, because a heathen’s experience of life is not the same as a Christian’s. Our Lord had a full knowledge and love of fallen man. He came to save that which was lost. And St. Paul had that love according to his measure after Him, and so the great missionaries, as St. Francis Xavier. We may gain from the classics, especially from the Latin, a good deal in the way of that knowledge, both of man and of God. The poems of Horace, I grant, are most melancholy to read, but they bring before us most vividly and piteously our state by nature; they increase in us a sense of our utter dependence and natural helplessness; they arm us against the fallacious promises of the world, especially at this day—the promises of science and literature to give us light and liberty. It is most piercingly sad to observe how the heathen writers yearn for some unknown good and higher truth, and cannot find it; how Horace in particular tries to solace himself with the pleasures of sense, and how stern a monitor he has within him, telling him that Death is coming. Lucretius is another author teaching still more solemnly the same awful lesson. 'We should be happy,' he says, 'were it not for that dreadful sense of Religion which we all have, which poisons all our pleasures. I will get rid of it.' But he could not, and he destroyed himself. Who can but pity such a race, so great and so little? Who does not recognise the abyss of misery which lies in that wound which sin has made in us? Who does not begin to see from such a spectacle the Love of the Eternal Father, who felt it in fulness, and sent His Son to die for His dear rebellious children? Have you seen Conington’s Translations of Horace? If not, will you accept them from me. Horace is untranslatable, but I think they will interest you.

The following thoughts were written on Dr. Newman’s 74th birthday: {431}

February 21, 1875.
 … A birthday is a very sad day at my age, or rather I should say a solemn day. When I call it sad, it is when it brings before me the number of friends who have gone before me; though this is a most ungrateful sadness, since I have so many affectionate and anxious friends left, who are so good to me.

I think what makes me low is the awful thought that where my lost departed friends are, there I must be; and that they can and do rejoice in their trial and their judgment being over, whereas I am still on trial and have judgment to come. The idea of a judgment is the first principle of religion, as being involved in the sentiment of conscience, and as life goes on it becomes very overpowering. Nor do the good tidings of Christianity reverse it, unless we go into the extreme of Calvinism or Methodism, with the doctrine of personal assurance. Otherwise, the more one has received, the more one has to answer for. We can but throw ourselves on the mercy of God, of which one’s whole life is a long experience.

The Editor’s task was undertaken for half a life, but, nearing its close, Cardinal Newman could contemplate it as a whole. There is no recognition of a break, in the thankfulness which illuminates the last words of a correspondence with his nephew, J. R. Mosley. Writing in March 1884, he closes his letter with the words:—

For myself, now, at the end of a long life, I say from a full heart that God has never failed me, never disappointed me, has ever turned evil into good for me. When I was young I used to say (and I trust it was not presumptuous to say it) that our Lord ever answered my prayers. And what He has been to me, who have deserved His love so little, such will He be, I believe and know, to every one who does not repel Him and turn from His pleading.

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Note

When the poem in question was written, in 1833, the author was becalmed on the Mediterranean.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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