Chapter 35. Last Years (1881-1890)

{510} FATHER NEVILLE has left some touching though fragmentary recollections of the Cardinal's life during his last years. He prefixes to them the following words giving the general impression left by the Cardinal's demeanour and conversation on those who lived with him—words spoken in a sermon by John Henry Newman in 1828 at the funeral of his friend the Rev. Walter Mayer, but 'applying,' says Father Neville, 'exactly to the Cardinal himself':

'His was a life of prayer. The works and ways of God, the mercies of Christ, the real purpose and uses of this life, the unseen things of the spiritual world, were always upper-most in his mind. His speech and conversation showed it ... It pleased God to show to all around him the state of his heart and spirit, not only by the graces of a meek and peaceable and blameless conversation (which is of course displayed by all good Christians), but also by the direct religiousness of his conversation. Not that he ever spoke for the sake of display—he was quite unaffected, and showed his deep religion quite naturally.'

But the Cardinal's profound religiousness did not prevent a most lively interest in literary and political events. In the bleak winter of 1881 he writes to Mr. Bedford:

'The late severe weather did me no harm. I had one or two brief colds, but they were such as might have been in the mildest winter. I never had the thought come upon me, "What an unusual winter is this!"—I mean from the cold.

'I have felt the political atmosphere far more trying. I wish with all my heart that the cruel injustices which have been inflicted on the Irish people, should be utterly removed—but I don't think they go the best way to bring this about.' {513}

He dreaded (as we have seen) the growth of democracy, and consistently held that the Bill of 1832 was an irreparable evil—'It opened a door which can never again be shut,' he said. At the time of Gladstone's renewed activity in 1885 he writes to Dean Church:

'What a dreadful thing this democracy is! How I wish Gladstone had retired into private life, as he seems to have contemplated some 10 years ago.'

In the same year he read the manuscript of Dean Church's 'Oxford Movement.' '"Charles Marriott" and "Hampden" are first rate each in its own way,' he writes to its author. 'All are good, and done as no one else could do them.' And again: 'I think you have succeeded wonderfully in your account of R. H. Froude, and marvel how without knowing him you could be so correct.' He greatly admired the volume of Dr. James Mozley's letters which appeared in the early eighties, edited by Miss Anne Mozley, but the "Reminiscences" of Mr. Thomas Mozley, published in 1882, were criticised by him as seriously inaccurate. 'If a story cannot stand on two legs,' he remarked, 'Tom supplies a third.'

Father Neville, who had been with him in Dublin at the time of the Crimean war, was reminded once again of Newman's rapt attention to all its details, by his similar interest, during the years 1884 and 1885, in the war in Egypt and the Soudan.

'In 1854,' Father Neville writes, 'while still in middle life, and when, after about forty years of peace, war was new to the country, Dr. Newman followed in detail the anxieties and successes of the Crimean War with great interest and deep feeling. He watched Lord Raglan almost as a personal friend, from respect for him, and from sympathy with the difficulties of his position. Day by day, with the newspaper in his hand, he would give as in précis to those about him, a most vivid picture of what had gone on, and the sufferings of the soldiers, which he described, seemed to be as pain to himself. When the great chartered ship, The Prince, with its half-million worth, as was said, of gifts of good things, was lost in a storm the night it arrived off Balaclava, he most completely broke down in tears of sorrow for the disappointment to those for whom such a cargo as that had been sent. {514}

'And such as had been his interest in the Crimean War, proportionately so was it, in his last years, with the Egyptian. The expedition for the relief of General Gordon had all his best hopes, and his full appreciation of its adventurous gallantry. When it became lost to sight in the desert, he received the news of this as of a very solemn occurrence. And the sacrifice of Gordon, for such he judged and termed the General's fate, had the same effect upon his bearing as a personal loss. He felt it as an almost unparalleled disgrace to the country. The cause and source of it, so far as he could comprehend it, and spoke of it, is a subject which, at this date, it would be almost churlish to enter upon. But to the Cardinal it was a subject of very solemn reflection, of which he hardly could speak, and his strong feeling about it never really died in him. All through the war he kept three maps of the country hung up before him that he might follow the route, and he would not afterwards have them removed; two remain to this day.'

'Though I know no one in the Soudan, and scarcely any of their relatives,' the Cardinal himself writes to Mrs. Deane in February 1885, 'I am in real distress at the thought of what those relatives are suffering. Neither the Crimea nor the Indian Mutiny has come home to me, I don't know why, as this has. Perhaps it is because the misfortune is so wanton, and on that ground makes one so indignant. Five successful engagements, won at a cruel price, but all for nothing.'

Having been thus profoundly moved by the Gordon tragedy as an onlooker and an outsider, it may be imagined that he learnt with a quite special feeling that, though they were strangers to one another, Gordon had interchanged thoughts with him on the most solemn of subjects. General Gordon, it transpired, had with him at Khartoum a copy of 'The Dream of Gerontius,' in which he had marked his favourite passages in pencil and underlined the name 'Gordon' in the dedication to the memory of Father Joseph. The book was given by the General to Mr. Power, who sent it to a relative in Ireland, who in turn offered it for the Cardinal's inspection. 'It is indeed,' Newman wrote in his letter of thanks for the volume, 'far more than a mere compliment to have my name {515} associated in the mind of the public with such a man—so revered, so keenly and bitterly mourned for as General Gordon.'

To Dean Church he writes as follows of the episode on April 7:

'I have received a little book which has taken my breath away. It is the property of Mrs. Murphy, who received it from Mr. F. Power, her brother, and was given to him by Gordon at Khartoum. So Mr. Power writes in the first page; and attests that the pencil marks, thro' the book, are Gordon's. The book is the "Dream of Gerontius."'

The Cardinal could not but feel that the love of his book on the part of the heroic soldier meant that he had his own death continually in view. 'What struck me so much in his use of the "Dream,"' Newman writes to another friend, 'was that in St. Paul's words he "died daily"; he was always on his deathbed, fulfilling the common advice that we should ever pass the day as if it were our last.'

Of the Cardinal's habits as to giving in charity Father Neville writes:

'He did not like, indeed, he shunned, the ordinary wayside beggar; but poor people whom he knew, or were specially recommended to him, had the advantage sometimes of a large gift from him, rather than alms—an unpretending-looking little box would be put into the hand, and it would amuse him as he went home to think of the surprise when the contents came to be seen—he was sure the poor people would be glad to pay off at the shop that they might begin to get credit again. Such a box might have five pounds, even more.

'He was very particular that anything given in his name, after he was Cardinal, should be done without stint. But this was not the way with him simply as Cardinal, for he never liked half-measures in what it concerned him to do. But with regard to money, there had been times after his conversion when at best he could not do more than take half-measures, nor as much.'

The Cardinal would not give up personal correspondence with his friends until writing became quite impossible to him. In letter after letter he complains of the fatigue of using his hand, and when I myself saw him write only his {516} name and the date for an autograph book in 1885, it was a process which lasted several minutes. A single letter must have taken him hours at that time—though the failure had of course been very gradual. I subjoin a few letters of the last ten years of his life, taken almost at random, yet each from some point of view characteristic.

To his old Oxford friend Canon McMullen, the Rector of St. Mary's, Chelsea, who had in 1881 almost completely lost his eyesight and was retiring from active work, he wrote thus:

'The Oratory, Birmingham: Feb. 24, 1881.
'My dear McMullen,—I saw your letter to your Parishioners the other day, and that leads me to write you a few lines to express my sympathy with you and my kindest wishes.

'I know the new life of calm and peace, which God is giving you, will be united with trial and suffering; but I know, too, that, out of His abundant grace, He will in some way or other make up to you for such burden as He lays upon you.

'However, why I write this is to say to you that I have begun to say a Mass weekly for you between this and Easter, and that I propose to do so, not only from my true attachment to you, but especially in deep gratitude for the fidelity with which you have so long and so unswervingly taken my part, through years in which I have had much to try me from adverse tongues.

'That you may be bountifully, royally recompensed by our Great Master, for all your good deeds, is the constant prayer of
Yours affectionately,

In this same year he sat for his picture to Millais, on the occasion of a visit to London. He writes as follows to Sister Maria Pia, from Rednal, on July 21:

'Mr. Millais thinks his portrait the best he has done and the one he wishes to go down to posterity by. Every one who has seen it is struck with it. He did it in a few short sittings.

'We have been shocked by the almost sudden death of Dean Stanley. He had some illness or other, which turned to erysipelas; and he was carried off almost as soon {517} as he was in danger. He was about 65, showing that old men may be quite well to all appearance, yet may be gone in a few days ...

'I went to London and to the Oratory, then [to] the Cardinal's [Note 1], and was received with great attention.'

The following two letters to his nephew, Mr. J. R. Mozley, give the Cardinal's feeling in his last years on the relations between Ireland and England:

'Birmingham: Oct. 20, 1881.
'I am anything but a politician, whether in grasp of principles or knowledge of facts. As to Ireland, judging by what I saw in Ireland 20 years ago, the question between the countries is not one of land or property, but of union.

'Cromwell, and others have, by their conduct to the Irish, burned into the national heart a deep hatred of England, and, if the population perseveres, the sentiment of patriotism and the latent sense of historical wrongs will hinder even the more rational, and calm judging, the most friendly to England, from separating themselves from their countrymen. They are abundantly warmhearted and friendly to individual Englishmen, of that I have clear experience in my own case, but what I believe, though I have no large experience to appeal to, is, that there is not one Anglophilist in the nation.

'Observe, Gladstone the other day at Leeds complained of the little support given him by the middle class and gentry in Ireland. I think it was at the time of the Fenian rising that the Times had an article to the same effect. Gladstone seemed to think them cowards: no, they are patriots.

'I knew, when in Ireland, one of the leaders of the Smith O'Brien movement in 1848; his boast was, that from Henry II.'s time the people had never condoned the English occupation. They had by a succession of risings, from then till now, protested against it.

'Our rule has been marked by a persistent forcing on them English ways. Such, I suppose, was our law of property, founded on the feudal system, instead of their own communism.

'About this I know very little. What I do know is the stupid forcing on their Catholicism our godless education. Since 1845 all English parties have been resolved that primary education and University education in Ireland should be without religion, except that ... the Bible without {518} comment should be allowed in the primary ... But to conclude, I can but say, we are suffering partly from "delicta majorum," partly from our own. Is it too late, for one thing, to give Ireland a Catholic University?

'Recollect Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Lombardy, all have got free in my lifetime.'

'Birmingham: October 24.
'I am no politician. I have long thought that the Irish would gain Home Rule in some shape, and that both because of the issue of the series of past conflicts with Great Britain, which seems to portend it, and because of Greece, Belgium, Lombardy, Hungary and Bulgaria. But I am no advocate for such issue, rather it seems to me a blow on the power of England as serious as it is retributive.

'As to the University question, it opens a question larger than itself. Why has not England acted towards Ireland as it has treated Scotland? Scotland had its own religion, and after a short time the attempt to impose Episcopacy on it was given up, and so indulgent has been England to Scotland, that even the Queen, the head of the Anglican Church, goes to kirk and listens to Presbyterian preachers. On the contrary, not only great sums have been poured through centuries into Ireland from England by the State and by the people, to force Protestantism on the Irish, but there were persecuting laws, of which I say nothing, because the question you have asked is one of property. The Irish people consider the sums which the Anglo-Irish Establishment took year by year from the Irish population, as the property of their own Church, which Church was proscribed by English law. In asking back a small portion of these confiscations (I think one or two of the Anglican Irish Archbishops in my day left behind them towards £500,000 apiece, on their death) they have not acted unreasonably. The sums given for Protestant education were as prodigious as those for religion.

'Now what was done as regards the University? First Peel set up his godless colleges, aided by public yearly grants, I am almost sure, or quite sure: then our Bishops set up in opposition their University—not at once, but after it had been much and long discussed both in Catholic Ireland and at Rome. We were obliged to raise £5,000 a year from the peasantry, and this we did for 20 years! There was no cry for money from us then. All we asked, and what we could not get, little as it was, was the power of granting degrees. No—we were not even to have a fair stage. At {519} length the Irish took, in defence of the peasantry, to ask for money. By a Catholic University I mean one in which the Officers and Teachers are Catholics: and I demand it for Ireland because the country is Catholic. This would be secured by the Bishops having a Veto on appointments.'

The thought of death was now continually with Newman, and the friends and acquaintances acquired during a long life were dying constantly. Lord Henry Kerr, who belonged to the former category, and Mr. Eyston, the head of a well-known Catholic family, who belonged to the latter, both passed away in 1882. Lord Henry was James Hope-Scott's brother-in-law, and his death caused some delay in the appearance of the biography of Hope-Scott, in which the Cardinal was specially interested. To both of these events he refers in the following letters to Miss Bowles:

'March 10, 1882.
'It grieves me very much to see the notice of Mr. Eyston's death in the paper. I can scarcely have seen him, since I made his and his uncle's acquaintance on the top of a mail coach in a heavy downfall of rain, but I have never forgotten him, nor his name Charles, ever since.

'How the old generation is fading away, out of sight! What a mystery is life, and how it comes home to such as me to think of old Nestor's melancholy lines, "as the outburst and fall of leaves, such the generations of man." How inwardly miserable must the life of man be, without the Gospel, and now men are doing their utmost to destroy our sole solace ...'

'April 13, 1882.
'Thank you for your affectionate Paschal greetings, which I return with all my heart. I send them also to Frederick, since I find you are still with him, and to Miss Bathurst and her community ...

'I suppose dear Lord Henry's death has thrown back the printing of the Memoir. The facts, that is, Hope-Scott's acts and letters, are so striking, that they carry his wonderful character with them, and need no comment. I say "wonderful," because it is rare to find a man of the world so deeply religious, so holy in the inner man. A man may have many good points, yet have no interior. Hope-Scott speaks for himself ...

'I am very well, thank you, though infirm. I wish people {520} would learn the difference between the two words. Then, they would not wish me to leave home.'


'Bm: July 3, 1882.
'I did not forget you on the Visitation, but said Mass for you on two other days instead, because I heard that William George Ward was dying. How it was that his serious state of health was not known generally before, I cannot tell, but they say that it is a simple break up. His principal complaint is that of which Fr. Joseph Gordon died, and that was three years upon him.

'It will be still some time before Palmer's Journal will issue from the Press. I shall send it to you. It seems to me very interesting—but 40 years is more than a generation and I can't prophesy how it will strike most people. The Czar does not appear in it, though afterwards he had Palmer to dine with him. I think the book shows the impossibility of a union of Greece with Anglicans, and of Greece with Rome. As for the Russian ecclesiastics, he found that they had all but given up the idea of unity, or of the Catholicity of the Church. So far they were behind the Anglicans, who at least profess belief in one Catholic Church.

'I am very well as far as health goes—but I am more and more infirm. I am dim sighted, deaf, lame, and have a difficulty in talking and writing. And my memory is very bad.

'I fear the enemies of the Church are all but effecting its absolute fall in France. The first and second generation after us will have a dreadful time of it. Satan is almost unloosed. May we all be housed safely before that day!

'Are you not 80 now?'

In 1883 the news came that Dean Church's eldest daughter Helen was engaged to be married to Mr. Paget, afterwards Bishop of Oxford. The news gave occasion for a gift to the bride's twin sister Mary, very touching in all that it recalled. It is announced in the following letter to her father:

'March 28, 1883.
'I said Mass for Helen and her husband elect this morning. So did Fr. Neville. Of course it is, however glad an event, a very trying one for all of you, and not the least for Mary.

'I don't suppose she will find a fiddle make up for Helen, but it has struck me that you and Blachford will let me give {521} the beautiful instrument you and he gave me, to Mary. I don't think she will refuse it; I hear much of her proficiency.

'You gave it me in 1865—and I had constant use and pleasure in the use till lately—but I find now I have no command of it; nay, strange to say I cannot count or keep time. This is a trouble to me; one gets an affection for a fiddle, and I should not like to go without getting it a good master or mistress. My friends in this house have instruments of their own. So has Mary doubtless—but this would come with associations in its history.'


'June 22, 1883.
'As the 24th is the day on which the Achilli trial ended 31 years ago, I mean to say Mass for you in grateful remembrance of the part you had in it.

'As to the Affirmation Bill, I tried to sign my name against it, but had no opportunity, so far was I from refusing. The only opportunity I had was from an anonymous Birmingham petition to Parliament—but, when I had almost got the pen in my hand, I felt that a Cardinal had no right to put down his name amid a mixed multitude. And then I thought "have any clergy signed the petition?" and "would not the Bishop have told me?" So having no hint and no means, I did not express an opinion. At the same time, if you ask my real thought, I should say that, tho' I wished to sign, I should merely have done so because others did, not to be singular. For I think it a piece of humbug, and no good would come of the Bill being rejected and no harm by its passing. No atheist is kept out as it is, and within the last fortnight a daily paper has in earnest said that atheism ought to be considered one form of theism! (Look at pp. 36-38 of my "Idea of a University.") When it was all over, some one wrote to a Paper to say he had authority from me to state that I disapproved in every way of the Bill. This was not true, and I was obliged to write a letter to say that I neither approved of it nor disapproved—that it was a mere political bill with which I had nothing to do.

'I am sorry to hear your accounts of Princess Borghese.'

Mr. Hutton published early in the following year, in the Contemporary Review, a very appreciative criticism of some of the Cardinal's writings, which he sent to the Oratory, following up his gift by a letter, to which Newman thus replied: {522}

'May 6, 1884.
'My dear Mr. Hutton,—You have anticipated my letter which was going to you today.

'I should have written to thank you sooner, but I was like a man out of breath from the action of a plunging or shower bath, or rather like a baby in Martha Gunn's hands, who begins to cry. Not that I did not feel your extreme kindness, or rather indulgence, as well as the depth and force of your criticism. But I am necessarily suffering from having lived too long.

'I can't expect that affectionate friends such as you (for the words "affectionately yours" were in my own heart and at the end of my pen before I found them in your letter) that such can wait till my full years on earth have run out, before they speak of me; nor that the purveyors of gossip of the past should refrain from tearing off my morbidly sensitive skin, while they can, with public interest; but turning from what is accidental, I am obliged to look higher—but I am too tired to bring out here my meaning. Don't suppose I am strong, because my writing is clear—unless I wrote very slowly, letter by letter, my writing would be unreadable.

'Here I am but writing a letter of thanks. It is about 20 years since I wrote to thank you for your notice in the Spectator of my "Apologia" on its first publication. I daresay it was against the etiquette of the literary world, for no one was kind enough to answer me but you. In consequence I called on you at your office. I have never seen you since, have I? but, whenever in London, from the gratitude I felt for the continuance of the kindness you first showed in 1864, I have wished to do so. Now I suppose there is no chance of my ever going to London, at least for many hours. You will accept instead, I am sure, the blessing of a Cardinal of Holy Church, even though you cannot accept that title of "Holy" as given her in the Creed.
'Yours affectionately

The present writer saw Mr. Hutton after he received this reply, which caused him some anxiety lest he had simply given pain to the man whose influence he had wished to serve by writing his article. He conveyed his anxiety to the Cardinal in a letter which brought the following characteristic note in reply: {523}

'May 11, 1884.
'My dear Mr. Hutton,—I am very ungrateful to you if I have given you serious pain. But I do not understand you so, and I feel that really you understand me.

'The shock of a shower bath turns into a feeling both pleasurable and permanent, and it was a great omission in me, if I did not make this clear to you.
'Yours affectionately


'Dec. 19, 1884.
'Your letter has just come, and I think it better to send you my affectionate congratulations and Cardinalitian blessing by anticipation of the Feast, than to run the risk of engagements and over fatigue when the day comes.

'I don't think anything of your special mental trouble, for it does not argue any want of faith, but is merely that now you realize more exactly what lies before you, and your enemy takes advantage of what is really a meritorious state of mind to frighten you. I am reading with great interest Wilfrid Ward's (son of W. G. Ward) book, "The Wish to Believe," and if, when I have finished it, I like it as much as I do when I am half through it, I will send it to you.

'What I am anxious about is your state of health. You have never, as I think, realized that the misfortune you have had is very serious. You do not now, I fear, protect yourself against what may happen as you ought. I have known cases, which, for want of proper habitual precaution, terminated in sudden death. Perhaps I am quite wrong in my fear that you neglect it, but, if so, I am doing no harm by my mistake.

'You are, I know, in our Lord's loving hands. You have given yourself to a life of great penance for His sake, and He will not, does not, forget it. "When thou shalt pass through the waters, He will be with thee, and when thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt," for you are one of those who have taken your purgatory in this life, and I rejoice to think that, when God has taken you hence I shall have one to plead for me in heaven. For me, I have no sign on me of dying yet.'

I add a few specimens of his letters and notes in 1885 and 1886: {524}


'April 22, 1885.
'My dear Dean,—Thank you for your impressive Easter Sermon.

'It is 63 years today since I was elected at Oriel; the turning day of my life.
'Yrs affly


'Christmas Eve, 1885.
'Thank you for your long letter. I rejoice to find that Frederick is such a support to you, and you to him. You have indeed had severe trials this year past. Xmas Day was the death day of my last sister, in the year I returned from Rome (1879). I will not forget your wish.

'I am much weaker than this time last year, but, as far as I know have nothing the matter with me. The two last Christmases I have had most kind and gratifying messages from the Holy Father.

'I send you and your brother my blessing, as Christmas calls for it.'

To Mr. John Pollen, who wrote to him in the course of a long voyage, he thus replied:

'May 6, 1885.
'My dear Pollen,—Your letter of this morning is most welcome, and I thank you for it. I thought it a plucky thing your going all that way by yourself, and I rejoice that you are back safe and sound. Though no traveller myself, I can sympathise in what you tell me. I have gone through the Gibraltar galleries and brought away from them at least one piece of knowledge which, after all the changes in the science of warfare, seems, [by] the account of poor Colonel Stewart's act on running on the rock on the Nile, still to hold good, that there are two ways of disabling a gun, spiking it, and knocking it off the end of the trunnion. Also I recollect a window in the galleries from which you looked down 800 feet sharp descent.

'Well, and I sympathise with you in the strange feeling of coming on deck of a morning and seeing before you Cadiz, Algiers, Palermo or Ithaca, like the rounds in a Magic Lantern, though the middies and the crew take it as a matter of course.

'One thing I confess lies outside my sympathy, though it touches me much, and all the more, viz. your having recourse {525} to "The Grammar of Assent" as a refuge from the palm trees and apes. My imagination will not take it in, except as a pendant to that great Ch. Ch. Greek scholar who to relieve himself of the excitement of the subjunctive mood, used to take up a volume of the Tracts for the Times. I think he told me so himself.

'Your sketchy account of India made me understand why the Russians should covet it ...

'When you see Lord Ripon, please to tell him how I rejoice in his triumphant return. I have not written my congratulations because I feel myself passé and thereby privileged. Indeed I am really old now. I write slowly and with effort and pain, and have various small ailments which I seem unable to throw off, and I am writing this as I lie upon a sofa.
Ever yours affectionately,

In the same year he sent his collected works as a gift to his old College, Trinity, with the following letter to Dr. Percival, its president:

'May 18, 1885.
'My dear President,—I have been asking myself how I could show that I was still mindful of the kindness done me by the College in giving me a place among its Fellows, now that I can no longer present myself to them in person on the annual "Gaudy"; and the bold thought has come to me that, instead of myself, perhaps they would let me offer to them a set of the books I have published in the course of my life.

'I know indeed how books grow on the shelves of a Library, and how precious in consequence is the space, and I shall be content if there is room only for some of mine; still it seems a duty to offer all if I offer any, while, in order to give the Librarian a choice, I send you, with this letter, a complete list of them.

'I hope you will not think me unreasonable in thus writing to you. This May the 18th on which I write is the anniversary of the Monday on which in 1818 I was elected a member of your Foundation.

'May your yearly Festival ever be as happy a day to you all, as in 1818 it was to me.
'I am, my dear President, Sincerely yours,

'P.S. Excuse my hand writing. I am now scarcely able to form any letters.' {526}


'March 25, 1886.
'My dear Dean,—Many thanks. I am going up to the Duchess [of Norfolk's] Requiem Mass on Monday. How I am to get thro' it, I can't tell. I hope I shall not be using your house as an Infirmary—I am, not ill, but so weak and sleepy.
Ever yrs affly,


'Dec. 11, 1886.
'I wish the state of my fingers allowed me to write a sufficient, or at least a readable answer to your question. I must be abrupt, because I must be short.

'Who can have dared to say that I am disappointed in the Church of Rome? I say "dared," because I have never uttered, or written, or thought, or felt the very shadow of disappointment. I believe it to be a human institution as well as a divine, and so far as it is human it is open to the faults of human nature; but if, because I think, with others, that its rulers have sometimes erred as fallible men, I therefore think it has failed, such logic won't hold; indeed, it is the wonderful anticipation in Our Lord's and St. Paul' teaching, of apparent failure [and real] success in the times after them which has ever been one of my strong arguments for believing them divine messengers.

'But I can't write more. One word as to your next page. Faith is a divine gift. It is gained by prayer. Prayer must be patient and persevering. I have not strength to explain and defend this here. God bless you.'

He exchanged some letters at the end of this year with Mr. G. T. Edwards, formerly secretary to the London Evangelical Society, and in closing the correspondence expressed his own feeling that he had found in the Catholic Church the fuller development of all that he had most reverenced and still reverenced in the Evangelical creed of his youth.

'Feby. 24th, 1887.
'My difficulty in writing breaks my thoughts, and my feelings, and I not only can't say, what I wish to say, but also my wishes themselves fare as if a dish of cold water was thrown over them.

'I felt your letter, as all your letters, to be very kind to me, and I feel very grateful to you. I don't know why {527} you have been so kind, and you have been so more and more.

'I will not close our correspondence, without testifying my simple love and adhesion to the Catholic Roman Church, not that I think you doubt this; and did I wish to give a reason for this full and absolute devotion, what should, what can I say but that those great and burning truths which I learned when a boy from Evangelical teaching, I have found impressed upon my heart with fresh and ever increasing force by the Holy Roman Church? That Church has added to the simple Evangelicalism of my first teachers, but it has obscured, diluted, enfeebled, nothing of it. On the contrary I have found a power, a resource, a comfort, a consolation in our Lord's Divinity and atonement, in His real presence in Communion, in His Divine and Human power, which all good Catholics indeed have, but which Evangelical Christians have but faintly. But I have not strength to say more.

'Thank you for the beautiful Edition of the New Testament. I have a great dislike to heavy books.'

There is a curious letter belonging to the same year dictated in reply to one in which the Jesuit Father Hopkins had recorded his experience of the anti-English feeling in parts of Ireland:

'March 3, 1887.
'Your letter is an appalling one—but not on that account untrustworthy. There is one consideration however which you omit. The Irish Patriots hold that they never have yielded themselves to the sway of England and therefore never have been under her laws, and never have been rebels.

'This does not diminish the force of your picture, but it suggests that there is no help, no remedy. If I were an Irishman, I should be (in heart) a rebel. Moreover, to clench the difficulty the Irish character and tastes [are] very different from the English.

'My fingers will not let me write more.'

On the same day he wrote to his cousin, Miss Emmeline Deane, who was anxious to paint his picture:

'My dear Emmeline,—It would be a great pleasure and favour to me to be painted by you. These are not idle words, and I should rejoice to see you. But my time is not my own. It is not now my own as if I were young, and I {528} have much to do, and have no certainty when the supply of time will cease, and life end.

'You may recollect the histories of St. Bede and St. Anselm. They were each of them finishing a great work, and they had to run a race with time. Anselm did not finish his—but Bede just managed to be successful. Anselm was 76—but Bede was only 62. I, alas, alas, am 86.

'What chance have I of doing my small work, however much I try? and you lightly ask me, my dear child, to give up the long days, which are in fact the only days I have!

'The only days I have, because it is my misfortune not to be able to read by candle-light, and at this very time, though March has begun, I am anxiously waiting day by day, though as yet in vain, for the morning light to be strong enough to enable me to say Mass without the vain attempt to use a candle.

'I must add that now for two years I have lost the use of my fingers for writing, and am obliged to write very slowly in order to form my letters.

'It is all this which hinders my saying categorically "yes" to your kind, and, to me, welcome question.

'But I will say this—I am labouring to carry two volumes of "St. Athanasius" through the press—I fear this will take at least half a year—this must be—but I know no excuse, if it suits you, why you should not write again to me then, if I am then alive.
Yours affectly,

He read in this year a short religious tale [Note 2] by a daughter of his old friend Mr. Hope-Scott, and thus wrote to its author:

'June 21st, 1887.
'My dear Josephine,—I should like to send you a long letter, but my fingers won't write, and I fear you will not be able to read this attempt.

'I like your book extremely. It has great merits. You have hit off your characters very well. Few Catholics have described so well a pious dissenting Evangelical. And in her way Fanny is as good as Bessie. And the contrast of motives (each supernatural) which led the two into the Church is excellently brought out.

'You are somewhat ambitious in your sketch of Staples, but it is good as an imagination, which requires filling out. {529}

'There is perhaps too much direct teaching and preaching in the Tale—though perhaps it could not be helped. You have referred to Bishop Hay once; I think it would have been more prudent if, at the foot of the page, you had now and then [given references]: "Vid. Bp. Hay," "vid. Fr. Faber," or the like.

'Now, my dear Child, I hope this criticism will not frighten you. If I was not pleased with your work, if I did not think it likely to do glory to God, if I did not love you and take an interest in you, I should not have written. You must not be startled at my abruptness, that arises from the effort and trouble with which I write.

'I always have you and your sisters and brother in my prayers.
Yours affectionately,

Henceforth he wrote but little in his own handwriting, and the following unfinished fragment to Dean Church tells its own story:

'July 3, 1887.
'I was very glad to receive your letter, for I feared the heat of London was telling upon you, and the Papers said nothing of you good or bad. For myself, though I have no complaint, "senectus ipsa est morbus," showing itself in failure of sight, speech, joints, hearing.'

The last autograph letter the present writer has seen is the following, written to himself on the occasion of his engagement to the daughter of the Cardinal's old friend, Mr. Hope-Scott, to whom the letter already cited was addressed:

'Sept. 28th, 1887.
'My dear Wifrid,—What a capital letter you have sent me. I rejoice to receive it, and send you gladly my congratulations and blessing.

'I have neither eyes to see, nor fingers to write. So these lines (are they lines?) are but an ungrateful return for yours and Josephine's.      Yours affectly,

Other habitual tasks besides letter-writing soon became impossible. The Cardinal preached for the last time on January 1, 1888, at the celebration of the sacerdotal Jubilee of Leo XIII. The thought which had so long tried him—that he had been allowed to do so little since his admission {530} to the Catholic Church up to the last years of his life—was apparent in this sermon. He found in this a point of sympathy with Pope Leo, who was himself (he believed) an old and comparatively unknown man when the great opportunity of his elevation to the Pontificate was given him. It was the way of God's Providence.

'When we look back,' he said, 'at the lives of holy men it often seems wonderful that God had not employed them more fully.' He pointed out the inscrutable ways of Almighty God in choosing persons to do His work, Moses being eighty years of age before he began his career as leader of the Israelites, while St. John the Baptist was cut off at the beginning of his work. After citing as instances St. Gregory Nazianzen, and others from ecclesiastical history, the Cardinal said: 'I do not directly compare our present Holy Father with Moses, but still the same rule applies in his case. He had lived a long life before he was Pope; and he has now done things which it might be said no other man could do, yet it is scarcely to be supposed that any one present had heard his name before he was Pope. There did not seem any likelihood that he would leave his Perugia bishopric, but he was found as others were found, by the special providence and inspiration of God, and we in our ignorance knew nothing of him.'

'In conclusion,' so runs the newspaper report of the sermon, 'the Cardinal thanked God, as for one of the special blessings of his life, that he was allowed to stand there and say a few words that day, and that by the special favour of God he had lived thus long to see such a man.'

To the very last the feeling of regret for lost time would at times find fresh expression. The opposition of men—of good men—had for years defeated so many of his efforts. And now the night was approaching and he could do but little. Nevertheless, while he could not cease to feel this fact keenly, he recognised how small such personal considerations would look in the light of eternity.

'As to what may be called wrongs to him, his own last words on such subjects,' writes Father Neville, 'were nearly these: "You must not suppose that these little affairs of mine will be on the tapis in the courts of the next world." This was said with a cheerfulness and gravity very expressive {531} of great kindness, a good conscience, and solemn thought. It was said after a long silence: a silence which he resumed for a considerable time. He had been speaking of his many years of wasted work.'

So far as age and infirmity allowed it, the Cardinal kept up his intercourse with old friends. Three meetings in the last years of his life with his faithful ally and staunch supporter Bishop Ullathorne are chronicled in that prelate's Biography. On August 18, 1887, Dr. Ullathorne writes to a friend as follows:

'I have been visiting Cardinal Newman today. He is much wasted, but very cheerful. Yesterday he went to London to see an oculist. When he tries to read black specks are before his eyes. But his oculist tells him there is nothing wrong but old age. We had a long and cheery talk, but as I was rising to leave an action of his caused a scene I shall never forget ... He said in low and humble accents, "My dear Lord, will you do me a great favour?" "What is it?" I asked. He glided down on his knees, bent down his venerable head, and said, "Give me your blessing." What could I do with him before me in such a posture? I could not refuse without giving him great embarrassment. So I laid my hand on his head and said: "My dear Lord Cardinal, notwithstanding all laws to the contrary, I pray God to bless you, and that His Holy Spirit may be full in your heart." As I walked to the door, refusing to put on his biretta as he went with me, he said: "I have been indoors all my life, whilst you have battled for the Church in the world."'

Again, on April 16, 1888, Dr. Ullathorne writes:

'Today I have been honoured with a visit from Cardinal Newman, and never did he look more venerable, and show more feeling. He had fixed his mind all Lent to come and see me on Easter Monday. When that day came he was forbidden to leave the house. Today was bright, and he came; he was brought to my room leaning on the arms of two priests, and we talked for an hour, after which he left. He can no longer read, and even if he tries to sign his name he cannot see what strokes he makes. But I was much touched by his conversation.'

The last meeting of all was in the following July at Stone convent, so long the home of Mother Margaret Hallahan and {532} Mother Imelda. The meeting has been described by one of the nuns:

'On the 16th of July the Community received an unexpected visit from the venerable Cardinal Newman, the last time they were ever to enjoy that privilege. His coming had been announced in the morning, and on his arrival he was met at the door by the Archbishop, who gave him his arm, and supported him to the Community room, where he received the Religious, saying a kind word to each whom he knew. He spoke of a visit he had lately made to London, and of the impression which the sight of the great metropolis had made on him, "like a glimpse of the great Babylon ... It made me think of the words, 'Love not the world nor the things of the world.' Perhaps, however, I am too severe, and only think in that way because I am an old man." After a while he rose and blessed the Community and returned to the guest room, still leaning on the Archbishop's arm. There he consented to rest for a short space and take some refreshment, the Archbishop pouring out tea for him and holding it to his lips. To see these two venerable men thus together, one waiting on the other and supporting his feebleness, was a sight never to be forgotten; and few who then saw them would have predicted that the elder, and more infirm of the two, would be the survivor." [Note 3]

Of the last two years, with the gradual failure which they brought, Father Neville has left a simple and touching narrative:

'According to the custom of Cardinals he said his own private Mass in a private chapel, and always as early as convenient to others; for the last time, the Christmas Day before he died, after which Feast he always declined to say Mass himself from fear of an accident. Sight and strength had already very greatly failed him, and he feared lest he should overbalance in taking the chalice. Reverence forbade such a risk. Nevertheless he learnt by heart a Mass of the Blessed Virgin and a Mass of the Dead. One or other of these Masses he repeated daily, whole or part, and with the due ceremonies, for the chance that he hoped for, since his sight and strength varied, that with the brighter sunlight of the spring he might some day find himself in condition to say Mass once again. He was determined, he said, that no want of readiness on his part should cause him to miss the {533} opportunity should it occur. This preparation became to him the great pleasure of the day, both from what he could look forward to in hope, and also from the reverence that filled him by the solemnity of the words and different actions. This reverence would sometimes be manifest in his face and voice, and sometimes he would give expression of it by word to those who assisted him. He continued this preparation until within two or three days of his death, August 11, 1890. The hoped-for opportunity to say Mass never came.

'Other religious privations had already come upon him. First that of the daily Office in the Breviary. He had always been greatly attached to the recital of the Office, and he rejoiced especially in the recurrence of the Sunday and other longer offices; his favourite parts of which never palled upon him as subjects for conversation. But the time came when he could no longer use the Breviary, and then, by the advice of Bishop Ullathorne, he substituted the Rosary in its stead. What the Rosary became to him under these new circumstances, those can imagine who know what his attachment to the daily Office had been; his ready reply to a condolence on his loss of the power to say it being, that the Rosary more than made up for it; that the Rosary was to him the most beautiful of all devotions and that it contained all in itself. In time, however, the Rosary had to be abandoned, a want of sensitiveness in his finger-ends disabling him from its use. From far back, in the long distance of time, memory brings him forward, when not engaged in writing or reading, as most frequently having the Rosary in his hand.'

One by one, too, old habits and amusements had to follow these devotional exercises, leaving dictation and the reading of others to take their place. He was unable any longer himself to preach. But when in 1889 Leo XIII. protested against the erection in Rome of a statue to Giordano Bruno, Cardinal Newman dictated some words to be read by one of the Fathers from the pulpit, vehemently endorsing the Holy Father's protest.

In the same year Englishmen were talking a good deal of the conspicuous part which Cardinal Manning was taking in arbitrating between masters and men in the dockers' strike. The subject gave occasion for a pleasant exchange of letters between the two English Cardinals. Father Neville speaks as follows of Newman's feeling in relation to Cardinal Manning's action in the matter: {534}

'"What did Cardinal Newman think of that movement?" It is a subject that had not been brought before him in former years, and it was not now in his power to judge of it at all fully; but he could see with great satisfaction how Cardinal Manning had manifested to the whole country the interest Holy Church takes in the welfare of the poor. To Cardinal Newman this was a subject for rejoicing; he therefore dictated a little letter to the Cardinal Archbishop congratulating his Eminence most heartily thereon. Cardinal Manning's reply was as follows:

'Archbishop's House, Westminster: September 30, 1889.
'My dear Cardinal,—Your letter of this morning is as grateful to me, as it was unlooked for; and I thank you for it very heartily.

'I was rejoiced to see the other day the words you spoke in Church about Giordano Bruno. They showed the old energy of days now past for both of us.

'Do not forget me in your prayers; every day I remember you at the altar.
'Believe me always,
Yours affectionately,

To the very end Cardinal Newman longed to do some useful work, though the failure of his powers left him little opportunity. One occasion did present itself only a few months before his death. I slightly abridge Father Neville's account of it:

'It concerned a number of young Catholics employed in a large manufactory where great care was taken of them, all of the hands being girls. It was the rule that every one on the premises should assemble at a fixed time in the working hours, once a day, for religious instruction, viz. the reading of Scripture with an exposition thereon by the masters themselves, who were of the Society of Friends. This rule had been complied with a very long time, but when the priest of the mission heard of it, he strictly forbade his own people to attend, no matter how short the time. The masters would not take the priest's word as final; they would like, they said, the opinion of some such liberal-minded Catholic as Cardinal Newman on so unexpected a command. This our Cardinal thought a call upon him to come forward, and he lost no time. It was in the month of November, the year before he died, a time of thick snow and thaw, which obliged him to walk some little way to the works; but he would not hear of delay and drove to see the masters. {535}

'The masters maintained very well their own religious grounds for the observance of the rule, and since they could not enter into the Cardinal's argument for relaxation which he rested on the need of the entirety of the Creed [Note 4], he had, he said, to have his wits well about him not to go wrong. That, however, he rather enjoyed. The masters received what he put forward with kindness and respect, and they said they would talk the matter over by themselves. Anticipating success, the Cardinal's first words on re-entering his carriage came with pleased briskness: "If I can but do work such as that, I am happy and content to live on." A few days brought the good news that all difficulties had been got over by a room having been set apart for the Catholics to meet in for prayer by themselves—a very great privilege that is in force to this day.'

Two letters written in 1889 and 1890 should be added to those that have been given. One relates to the death of Father Hecker, the Paulist whose efforts to interpret the Catholic religion to his contemporaries in America had commanded Newman's close sympathy. The other shows him at the end of his long life of nearly ninety years exchanging words of sympathy and fellowship with an adherent of his own early Evangelical creed—Mr. Edwards, and sending him his own translation of the ancient prayer, used by St. Ignatius Loyola in his spiritual exercises, 'Anima Christi sanctifica me.'


'Feb. 28th, 1889.
'My dear Father Hewit,—I was very sorrowful at hearing of Father Hecker's death. I have ever felt that there was this sort of unity in our lives, that we had both begun a work of the same kind, he in America and I in England, and I know how zealous he was in promoting it. It is not many months since I received a vigorous and striking proof of it in the book he sent me. Now I am left with one friend less, and it remains with me to convey through you my best condolement to all the members of your Society.

'Hoping that you do not forget me in your prayers,
'I am, dear Father Hewit,
Most truly yours,


'29th January, 1890.
'My dear Mr. Edwards,—Accept my tardy Christmas greetings and good wishes to you for fulness in faith, hope, charity, gladness and peace; for the blessings of Holy Church, and of Gospel gifts, for the Communion of Saints, and the Life Everlasting.

'I shall venture to send you what I may call my Creed over-leaf.
'Yours most truly,
J. H. N.'


Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ's side, wash out my stains,
Passion of Christ, my comfort be,
O good Jesus, listen to me
In thy wounds I fain would hide
Ne'er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me.
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy Saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.'

'It might be said of the Cardinal,' writes Father Neville, 'that he clung to life to the end. He knew how he would be missed by some, and he felt for them; and there were objects and interests which he held very tenderly in mind with this thought of them—what would happen in the struggle which in his forecast of the future seemed likely to come? God's cause was ever in his mind. And as long as he could in any way serve it he desired to stay.'

However, in the summer of 1890 it was clear that the end was not far distant. Father Neville records that the Cardinal was displeased with the doctors for speaking as though he might yet live a year or two when they must know that it was a matter of months or even weeks. Death did come almost suddenly. But it was immediately preceded by a somewhat remarkable momentary rally on the evening of August 9, which Father Neville thus records: {537}

'The Cardinal entered his room ... his footstep was slow yet firm and elastic; indeed, it was not recognized as his, his attendant was surprised that it was he; soon, when seen, his bearing was in keeping with his step;—unbent, erect to the full height of his best days in the 'fifties; he was without support of any kind. His whole carriage was, it may be said, soldier-like, and so dignified; and his countenance was most attractive to look at; even great age seemed to have gone from his face, and with it all careworn signs; his very look conveyed the cheerfulness and gratitude of his mind, and what he said was so kind; his voice was quite fresh and strong, his whole appearance was that of power, combined with complete calm.' …

That night he was taken ill of congestion of the lungs. He rose next morning, but had to go to bed again. Then happened a little incident which brings before us vividly his clinging and grateful memory of those who had ministered by their kindness to his suffering temperament in days of trial. I relate it in Father Neville's own words:

'A poor, an indigent person, a stranger to him, had once left for him at the house door a silk handkerchief with a message of respect. This was very many years before he was Cardinal, and when he seemed, so to speak, much set aside; at a time, too, when he was himself very poor. Both present and message were received by him as they were meant, and with a solemn gravity which checked even a smile. He kept the handkerchief as something he prized. When he went to bed expecting to die, he had it brought to him, and put it on, and, though the doctors said he might as well be without it, he died with it on. He had kept it quite thirty years, even more.'

The Cardinal received the last Sacraments on August 10, and passed away at a quarter to nine in the evening of August 11, having been unconscious for most of the day. The funeral was at Rednal on the 19th. He was buried in accordance with the instructions he had left, in the grave of his beloved friend Ambrose St. John, and on the pall was his chosen motto 'Cor ad cor loquitur.' On the memorial slab at his own desire were engraved the words 'Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem.'

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1. Cardinal Manning's.
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2. In the Way, Burns & Oates.
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3. See Life of Archbishop Ullathorne, ii. 533. Dr. Ullathorne on resigning his See was made a titular Archbishop.
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4. His argument had ever been that heretics held part of the Creed, Catholics the whole—obviously not a popular argument.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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