Autobiographical Memoir — Chapter 4

{129} IN 1826, as has been already said, Mr. Newman was appointed one of the Public Tutors of Oriel College, resigning the Vice-Principalship of Alban Hall and the curacy of St. Clement's. In 1827 he was appointed by Dr. Howley, the then Bishop of London, one of the preachers at Whitehall. In 1827-1828 he held the University office of Public Examiner in Classics for the B.A. degree, and for the Honour list attached to the examination. In 1828, on Mr. Hawkins becoming Provost of Oriel, he was presented by his College to the vicarage of St. Mary's, the University church. In 1830 he served as Pro-proctor; in 1831-1832 he was one of the University Select Preachers. This may be called his public career. He relinquished the college tutorship in 1832, and the vicarage, which was neither a University nor college office, in 1843. The other offices enumerated were of a temporary character.

As regards his tutorship at Oriel and his incumbency, both of which were permanent appointments, his separation from each of them in turn, though not abrupt, had something of violence in its circumstances. He had accepted each of them as if for an indefinite term of years, or rather for life. He did not look beyond them; he desired nothing better than such a lifelong residence at Oxford; nothing higher than such an influential position as these two offices gave him. How, by his own act, slowly brought into execution, he broke off his connexion with St. Mary's, he has described in his 'Apologia'; how he gradually, at the end of a few years, died out of his tutorship, shall be told in the pages that follow. It is too important an event in his history to pass it over, together with the sentiments and motives which led to it; for, {130} as the Oxford theological movement proper (so to call it) may be said to have ended in his resignation of St. Mary's, so it dates its origin from his and Hurrell Froude's premature separation from the office of college tutor.

The story, however, cannot be told without mention of the mournful differences which arose between Mr. Newman and his dear friend the new Provost of Oriel—Dr. Hawkins—who, on Dr. Copleston's promotion to the bishopric of Llandaff, at the end of 1827, succeeded to the Headship; but in a case in which each party in the quarrel held his own ground on reasons so intelligible and so defensible, and with so honest a sense of duty, the narrative which is now to follow will involve as little to the disparagement of Dr. Hawkins as of Mr. Newman.

There was a standing difference of opinion among religious men of that day, whether a college tutorship was or was not an engagement compatible with the ordination vow; and Mr. Newman's advisers of different schools had, with more or less of emphasis, answered for him the question in the negative. His friends of the Low Church party, though they might wish him to take orders early, had not thought of his doing so as the qualification, which it was then commonly considered, for holding the office of college tutor. He thus speaks on the point in his Private Journal of June 1823:

Scott says, as a general rule, not soon. Hawkins says the same: Why bind yourself with a vow when there is no necessity, and which may mean something incompatible with staying at college and taking pupils? [He continues:] R. doubts the propriety of college tutors being clergymen; Mr. Mayers (and he has been consulting Marsh of Colchester) advises immediate entrance into the Church by all means. 'Nothing,' he says, 'does the Church want so much as clergymen who, without the tie of regular duty, can make progresses among their brethren, and relieve them at certain seasons.'

So far his Private Journal; here we are principally concerned with Dr. Hawkins's view, as just given. It will be observed that, in his view of the principle laid down, he did not go so far as to pronounce college employments directly {131} and formally unclerical, but it was a question with him whether they might not be so; they required an apology, and raised at first sight a reasonable scruple. The onus probandi that a college tutorship was in the instance of a clergyman allowable, lay upon its advocates, as (to take cases which some might think parallel) whether it was allowable for him to hunt, shoot, or go to the theatre. It was lawful for a time, or under circumstances, but anyhow, it was no fulfilment of the vow made at ordination, nor could be consistently exercised by one who was bound by such a vow as his lifelong occupation. Just this, neither more nor less, it is here believed was the decision of Dr. Hawkins.

But far other was Mr. Newman's view of the matter. He had as deep a sense of the solemnity of the ordination vow as another could have, but he thought there were various modes of fulfilling it, and that the tutorial office was simply one of them. As to that vow he has recorded in his Private Journal what he calls his terror at the obligation it involved. He writes the hour after he had received the Diaconate, 'It is over; at first, after the hands were laid on me, my heart shuddered within me; the words "For ever" are so terrible.' The next day he says, 'For ever! words never to be recalled. I have the responsibility of souls on me to the day of my death.' He felt he had left the secular line once for all, that he had entered upon a Divine ministry, and for the first two years of his clerical life he connected his sacred office with nothing short of the prospect of missionary work in heathen countries as the destined fulfilment of it. When then, as time went on, the direct duties of a college exerted a more urgent claim upon him, and he became Tutor, it must be understood that, in his view, the tutorial office was but another way, though not so heroic a way as a mission to idolaters, of carrying out his vow. To have considered that office to be merely secular, and yet to have engaged in it, would have been the greatest of inconsistencies. Nor is this a matter of mere inference from the sentiments and views recorded in his Journal. On occasion of his Father's death, three months after his ordination, he observes, 'My Mother said the other day she hoped to live to see me married, but I {132} think I shall either die within college walls, or as a missionary in a foreign land,' thus coupling the two lives together, dissimilar as they were in their character. A few years later we find in his verses a like reference to college engagements, not as a clergyman's accident of life, but as his divinely appointed path of duty. He says that he is 'enrolled' in a sacred warfare, and that he would not exchange it for any other employment; that he is a 'prisoner' in an Oxford 'cell,' according to the 'High dispose' of Him 'who binds on each his part'—that he is like the snapdragon on the college walls, and that such a habitat was so high a lot that well might he 'in college cloister live and die.' And, when it was decided that he was to be one of the Public Tutors, and he was about to enter upon the duties of his new office, he says in his Journal, 'May I engage in them, remembering that I am a minister of Christ, and have a commission to preach the Gospel, remembering the worth of souls, and that I shall have to answer for the opportunities given me of benefiting those who are under my care.' It will be seen presently why it is necessary thus distinctly to bring out Mr. Newman's view of the substantially religious nature of a college tutorship.

It was in Easter term, 1826, that Newman entered upon duties which he felt thus sacred, and he commenced them with an energy proverbial in the instance of 'new brooms.' He was one of four tutors, and the junior of them, and, though it would be very unjust to say of him that he intentionally departed from the received way of the College, it cannot be denied that there was something unusual and startling in his treatment of the undergraduate members of it who came under his jurisdiction. He began by setting himself fiercely against the gentlemen commoners, young men of birth, wealth, or prospects, whom he considered (of course, with real exceptions) to be the scandal and the ruin of the place. Oriel he considered was losing its high repute through them, and he behaved towards them with a haughtiness which incurred their bitter resentment. He was much annoyed at the favour shown them in high quarters, and did not scruple to manifest as much annoyance with those who favoured as with those who were favoured. He had hardly got through his first month of office {133} when he writes in his Private Journal, 'There is much in the system which I think wrong; I think the tutors see too little of the men, and there is not enough of direct religious instruction. It is my wish to consider myself as the minister of Christ. Unless I find that opportunities occur of doing spiritual good to those over whom I am placed, it will become a grave question whether I ought to continue in the tuition.'

He was especially opposed to young men being compelled, or even suffered as a matter of course, to go terminally to communion, and shocked at the reception he met with from those to whom he complained of so gross a profanation of the sacred rite. When he asked one high authority whether there was any obligation upon the undergraduates to communicate, he was cut short with the answer, 'That question never, I believe, enters into their heads, and I beg you will not put it into them.' When he told another that a certain number of them, after communion, intoxicated themselves at a champagne breakfast, he was answered, 'I don't believe it, and, if it is true, I don't want to know it.' Even Hawkins was against him here; and when one of the well-conducted minority [Note 1] of the gentlemen commoners—for, as has been said, it must not be supposed that there were none such—keenly feeling the evil of the existing rule from what he saw around him, published a pamphlet of remonstrance against it, Hawkins published an answer to him in defence of it.

In consequence, in much disgust with the state of the undergraduates at large, Newman turned for relief to his own special pupils, and primarily to the orderly and promising among them. He offered them his sympathy and help in college work, and in this way, as time went on, he gained first their attachment and then their affection. He set himself against the system of private tutors—that is, as a system, and except in extraordinary cases—viz. the system then prevailing {134} of young graduates, bachelors or masters, undertaking the work of preparing candidates for the honours of the schools, and by their interposition between college tutor and pupil inflicting an expense on the latter, and a loss of legitimate influence on the former, which neither party was called upon to sustain. He laid it down as his rule, which in great measure he was able to carry out, that, on such of his pupils as wished to work for academical honours, he was bound to bestow time and trouble outside that formal lecture routine which was provided for undergraduates generally in the Table of Lectures put forth at the beginning of each term. With such youths he cultivated relations, not only of intimacy, but of friendship, and almost of equality, putting off as much as might be the martinet manner then in fashion with college tutors, and seeking their society in outdoor exercise on evenings and in Vacation. And, when he became vicar of St. Mary's in 1828, the hold he had acquired over them led to their following him on to sacred ground, and receiving directly religious instruction from his sermons; but from the first, independently of St. Mary's, he had set before himself in his tutorial work the aim of gaining souls to God.

About the time of his entering upon his vicarage, important changes took place in the Oriel staff of tutors, and that in a direction favourable to his view of a tutor's duties. The two seniors retired, their places being supplied by two young Fellows, Mr. Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Mr. R. Hurrell Froude, disciples of Mr. Keble, and both of them, as being such, in practical agreement with Mr. Newman, as to the nature of the office of college tutor. As Mr. Dornford, who was the senior of the new tutorial body, was far from indisposed to the view of his three colleagues, there ensued in consequence a sudden, though at first unobserved, antagonism in the college administration between Provost and tutor, the former keeping to that construction of a tutor's duties towards the young men which he had held hitherto, and which may be called the disciplinarian, and the four tutors adhering to the pastoral view of those duties. And thus, strangely enough, Mr. Newman, at the very moment of his friend Dr. Hawkins's entering upon the Provostship, became conscious for the first time of his {135} own congeniality of mind with Keble, of which neither Mr. Keble nor he had had hitherto any suspicion, and he understood at length how it was that Keble's friends felt so singular an enthusiasm for their master.

It had been Froude's great argument in behalf of Keble, when the election of Provost was coming on, that Keble, if Provost, would bring in with him quite a new world, that donnishness and humbug would be no more in the college, nor the pride of talent, nor an ignoble secular ambition. But such vague language did not touch Newman, who loved and admired Hawkins, and who answered with a laugh that, if an angel's place was vacant, he should look toward Keble, but that they were only electing a Provost [Note 2]. Little did Newman suspect that Froude's meaning when accurately brought out was that Keble had a theory of the duties of a college towards its alumni which substantially coincided with his own. Nor was it only deficiency in analysis of character which caused Froude's advocacy of his master to be thus ineffectual with Newman; by reason of that almost fastidious modesty and shrinking from the very shadow of pomposity, which was the characteristic of both Keble and Froude, they were, in a later year as well as now, indisposed to commit themselves in words to a theory of a tutor's office, which nevertheless they religiously acted on. Newman, on the contrary, when he had a clear view of a matter, was accustomed to formulate it, and was apt to be what Isaac Williams considered irreverent and rude in the nakedness of his analysis, and unmeasured and even impatient in enforcing it. He held almost fiercely that secular education could be so conducted as to become a pastoral cure.

He recollected that Origen had so treated it, and had by means of the classics effected the conversion of Gregory the Apostle of Pontus, and of Athenodorus his brother. He recollected that in the Laudian statutes for Oxford, a tutor was not a mere academical policeman or constable, but a moral and religious guardian of the youths committed to him. If a tutor was this, he might, allowably, or rather fittingly, have received {136} Holy Orders; but if the view of Hawkins was the true one then he, Newman, felt he was taking part in a heartless system of law and form in which the good and promising were sacrificed to the worthless and uninteresting. On this he was peremptory, but in all this he received no sympathy from the new Provost, who, as far as he mastered Newman's views, maintained that Newman was sacrificing the many to the few, and governing not by intelligible rules and their impartial application, but by a system, if it was so to be called, of mere personal influence and favouritism.

This conflict of opinion, however, between Provost and tutor did not affect their united action all at once. For a time all went on well, with the prospect of a future tinted with that rose-colour which prevails at the opening of a new reign. The Provost loyally and energetically backed up his tutors in their measures for the enforcement of discipline and the purification of the College. He inflicted severe punishment on offenders; he showed no hesitation in ridding the place of those who were doing no good there either to themselves or to others. It began to be the fashion at Oriel to be regular in academical conduct, and admission into the tutors' set became an object of ambition to men hitherto not remarkable for a strict deportment. First classes were once more looming in the offing. With whatever occasional rubs and disputes between Provost and tutors, the former, as a man of straightforward religious principle and severe conscientiousness, could not but be much gratified at finding himself so well served by them, and they, eager and hopeful in their work, had no anticipation that they should not get on well with him. This was, on the whole, the state of things in 1828; but still there was at bottom that grave though latent difference in principle, as has been described above, which was too likely at one time or another to issue in a serious collision between the one party and the other.

At length the cause of quarrel came, and, when it came, it was so mixed up with both academical and ecclesiastical differences between the two parties, difficulties which it would involve much time and trouble, as well as pain, to bring out intelligibly now, that a compromise was hopeless. Its immediate {137} occasion was a claim of the tutors to use their own discretion in their mode of arranging their ordinary terminal lecture-table——a claim which, on the Provost's denying it, they based upon the special relation existing, from the nature of the case and the University statutes, between each tutor and his own pupils, in contrast with his accidental relation to the rest of the undergraduates whom he from time to time saw in lecture.

The Provost practically made the relation very much one and the same in both cases; but at least three of the tutors—Newman, Wilberforce, and Froude—considered that their interest in their office was absolutely at an end, and they could not continue to hold it, unless they were allowed to make a broad distinction between their duties severally to their own pupils and those of other tutors.

A long discussion and correspondence followed, of which nothing came, reaching through 1829 to June 1830. Then the Provost closed it, by signifying to Newman, Wilberforce, and Froude his intention to stop their supply of pupils, as he had a right to do, thus gradually depriving them of their office, according as their existing pupils took their degrees and left the University. After expressing in a last letter on the subject the reluctance which he had all along felt to allude to any course of action which might have the air of a threat, he continues:

And I am most reluctant to do so still, but I yield to what you seem to desire, and feel bound, therefore, to say that, if you cannot comply with my earnest desire, I shall not feel justified in committing any other pupils to your care.

Among Mr. Newman's papers are letters written by Dornford and Froude at the very beginning and at the close of the controversy, and as they accurately express what Newman himself felt also on the points in debate, and afford him the sanction of their concurrence in his first step and in his last, they shall here be given.

Dornford's, written in December 1828, states distinctly his opinion that the arrangement of the college lectures, which was the point in dispute, lay with the tutors and not with the Provost. Froude's insists upon the practical effect upon {138} himself, and upon his view of duty, of that particular arrangement of lectures which alone the Provost would hear of.

1. Dornford, under date of December 26, 1828:

And now for your new plan of lecturing. There is much in it that I like, and at a first glance it seemed open to no objection; but now it appears to me that it is much better adapted to 200 men than to 50, and ... will add very much to the labour ... However, there can be no objection, I think, if you all feel strongly about it, to make the experiment and see how it works. And I perfectly agree with you here that we are not at all bound to consult anyone but ourselves on the adoption of it.

2. This was when the new system of lectures was just contemplated. When the Provost had finally disposed of it by depriving the tutors who advocated it of their office, Froude wrote to him as follows:

June 10, 1830.—I do not find that your explanation sets the system you recommend in a light in any respect different from that in which I have before considered it. I have, therefore, no need to deliberate long as to my answer.

In order to comply with such a system I should be obliged to abandon all hope of knowing my pupils in the way in which I know them at present, and, consequently, of retaining that influence over them which I believe I now possess.

Of this I can be certain from my knowledge of myself and from my present experience, slight as it may be.

But, in abandoning this hope, I should be giving up the only thing which makes my present situation satisfactory to myself, and should, therefore, have no inducement to retain it, except a wish to obviate the inconvenience which a sudden vacancy might occasion.

For this reason, in the event of its being proved to me that I cannot with propriety act contrary to your wish on this point, I shall be desirous of withdrawing from my situation at the earliest time which suits your convenience, and at any rate shall resign at Christmas.

He (Froude) wrote again on June 15 to the Provost thus:

I have never thought, as you suppose, that [your] view itself is necessarily at variance with the Statutes. When I appealed to them as a sanction of my conduct, it was not to {139} show that they disallowed the system which you approve, but simply that they recognised such a relation between tutor and pupil as would justify me in acting on my own views, though they should not happen to be consistent with yours.

Unless I believed that they do recognise such a relation, I should feel bound either to acquiesce at once in the system which you approve, or to resign my situation in any manner that might best suit your convenience. But as it is I feel no less bound to consult to the best of my judgment for the good of those pupils that have been committed to me, and to act on this judgment, such as it is, till you think proper to revoke my authority over them.

When I speak of acting on my own judgment, I should mention in vindication of myself that, in principle, it coincides with that which Keble formed, when a tutor here, and which he still retains as strongly as possible; and that almost in detail it has been suggested by the late Bishop of Oxford [Lloyd], who thought [however] that the Christ Church system was carried to an injurious length, and that some modification of it might be found that would combine the advantages of both.

And though I see the absurdity of assuming that whatever could suit Keble and Lloyd is suitable also to me, I would remind you that, while almost everyone who is put under me requires a superintendence which I find myself unable to give under your system, there are very few who require instruction beyond what any educated person is able to afford.

Mr. Newman had already written to the Provost to the same effect on June 8, and, according to his way, more abruptly.

My chief objection [he says] to the system you propose is that in my own case, as I know from experience (whatever others may be able to effect), the mere lecturing required of me would be incompatible with due attention to that more useful private instruction, which has imparted to the office of tutor the importance of a clerical occupation.

To the same purpose he wrote afterwards to Mr. James, a late Fellow of the College, on December 8, 1831, a year and a half later, on occasion of a report that he had resumed his post as tutor:

Had the tutorship been originally offered me by the late Provost on the terms interpreted by the present, I never {140} should have accepted it; or, if so, only as a trial. I have ever considered the office pastoral, such that the tutor was entrusted with a discretionary power over his pupils. It was on this ground that, four years ago, I persuaded Robert Wilberforce to undertake it; I have before now, while the Provost was a Fellow, expressed the same view to him. My decision, right or wrong, was made not in haste or passion, but from long principle; and it is immutable, as far as any man dare use such a term of his resolves.

Mr. Newman's connexion with the college tutorship did not altogether terminate till the summer of 1832. As has been said, the Provost declined to give him more pupils; but Newman was not disposed to surrender those whom he still had, both from the great interest he took in them, and their prospective success in the schools, and also as holding that the tutorship was a University office, of which the Vice-Chancellor only could directly deprive him. By the Long Vacation of 1832 his pupils had, all but a few, passed their B.A. examination; and the two or three who remained he gave over into the hands of the Provost. At the end of the year he went abroad with Hurrell Froude and his father.

Perhaps it is worth noticing, though it does not seem to be set down in Mr. Newman's memoranda, that the main practical argument which the Provost urged upon him, on behalf of his continuing tutor on the old system of lecturing was, 'You may not be doing so much good as you may wish or think you would do, but the question is, whether you will not do some good, some real substantial good.' Mr. Newman used to laugh and say to his friends, 'You see the good Provost actually takes for granted that there is no possible way for me to do good in my generation, except by being one of his lecturers; with him it is that or nothing.' In the year after his relinquishing the tutorship, on his return from abroad, the Tract movement began. Humanly speaking, that movement never would have been, had he not been deprived of his tutorship; or had Keble, not Hawkins, been Provost.

Here closes Mr. Newman's Memoir; henceforward he is to be represented by his letters.



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1. ['In my letter of October 1884 in answer to Lord Malmesbury's report of my conduct at that time, I say that the well-conducted portion of the college was the majority. These separate statements need not be contradictory. The undergraduates were no stationary body, but continually changing in number. In the years between 1824-1828 what was the majority in one term, or half-year, might be the minority in another.']
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2. Pusey expresses the same feeling in his sermon on the opening of Keble College Chapel in 1876, where he says that 'We thought Hawkins the more practical man.'
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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