Chapter 16. Catholic Reviews (1858-1859)

{478} WHEN Newman retired from the Rectorship of the University in November 1858, it was arranged, that the Atlantis was to be continued. In the following month Sir John Acton, captivated by Newman's vivid sketch—in his lectures and in the Gazette—of a University as the home of all the sciences, and the instrument of their gradual synthesis, under the ćgis of the Church, urged that the Dublin professors should, in its pages, take the active lead of English Catholic thought, and proposed that the Atlantis should enlarge its scope and become a Quarterly Review. He held that it would directly influence a large public in England, for many Anglicans were constantly on the look-out for such writings. Newman, however, in view of the existing state of culture among English Catholics, held that the time was not yet ripe for such a great enterprise in periodical literature. He designed first (as we have said) to prepare the way by the educative influence of more strictly scientific articles in the Atlantis, which appeared only twice a year. The style proper to a magazine or even a Quarterly Review, and the class of readers to which such a publication would appeal, were both obstacles to the realisation of Acton's suggestion. In the existing state of opinion, to deal with burning topics in a Review, especially after the fashion in which Acton and Simpson were likely to deal with them, might irritate rather than help people.

Newman seems at first to have felt that a really weighty work by himself, appealing to thinking minds rather than designed for the general reader, would best serve the interests at stake. Such a work he had hoped to accomplish in his projected 'Prolegomena' to the new English translation of {479} the Bible. After this was abandoned, came his plan for a book on 'Faith and Reason,' for which he had already made many notes. He desired first an interval of rest after his work at Dublin, and the repose of mind necessary to enable him to think out such an essay and to equip himself for its preparation. The vexatious mal entendus and controversies of periodical literature must impede the progress of a constructive work, and he refused at first both Acton's suggestion and Oakeley's request a month later that he should join in rehabilitating the Dublin Review, which had sunk to a low ebb of vitality. 'I often feel,' he wrote to Acton, 'that I am used up—at least for such purposes. A person should be younger in age, in mind, in thought, in experience, and in views than I am, to write with freshness and energy. And then things seem to have gone past me. I don't know whom I am likely to influence.' He declined a similar request from Henry Wilberforce that he should contribute to the Weekly Register. 'I need rest,' Newman wrote, 'and have promised myself a fallow year. Even writing letters is a great tease, and writing for publication is as inconsistent with rest, as knocks at the bedroom door with sleep. And everything I write on current and ephemeral matters takes me from the more arduous subjects on which I wish to engage myself.' [Note 1]

This position of detachment proved, however, impossible. The Rambler was growing at once in the scale and in the value of its articles, and causing increased irritation to an Episcopate which had no adequate appreciation of the intellectual work which it was attempting. The August number contained the following sentence: 'Because St. Augustine was the greatest doctor of the West, we need not conceal the fact that he was also the father of Jansenism.' Döllinger defended this statement in the December number against the outcry it raised, and certain passages in his article were delated to Rome. Cardinal Wiseman was at the same time angered by a criticism in the Rambler of certain episcopal utterances on the Royal Commission on Education in 1858. And now, at the beginning of the year 1859, the threat was held out that the Review, which was at the time edited by Mr. Simpson with Sir John Acton as collaborator, was to be {480} censured in the forthcoming Pastorals of the English Bishops. Newman held that the Rambler had placed itself in a false position; yet he believed that its censure would be disastrous, and said so in a letter to Simpson, in which he dwelt on the good work done by the Review. And he found himself to be the only possible intermediary to prevent this most undesirable collision between Simpson and the hierarchy. He, and he alone, commanded the confidence of the various sections of the community concerned. He was trusted by Acton and Simpson. Cardinal Wiseman wrote that things were 'always safe in his hands.' W. G. Ward had, as yet, complete confidence in him as the natural leader of the Catholic intellect in England. And the general readers, and even the more extreme adherents of the London Oratory, knew how sensitively he regarded the pious feelings of the Catholic community which the Rambler had in some cases shocked.

Newman's first step was to persuade Mr. Simpson to resign the editorship of the Rambler on condition that the Bishops should refrain from the threatened censure. In the end this compromise was effected. Simpson resigned and the censure was withheld. But then the question arose: Who was to be editor? It was clearly conveyed to Newman that Sir J. Acton was equally distasteful to the ecclesiastical authorities. And there was no one else but himself available who could keep up the intellectual prestige of the Review. To Newman himself the idea of his own editorship was that of 'a bitter penance,' as he said. His own time was precious. He felt that it might be short. He had expressed already in a letter to W. G. Ward his fear that he might at any time be visited by paralysis; and the sudden death of his friend Mr. Manuel Johnson a year earlier had been regarded by him as a warning to get forward with the work he had long contemplated on Faith and Reason. Again, the Rambler was popularly regarded as representing a party hostile to the Bishops and to the Dublin Review; and the fathers of the Oratory were anxious that he should not mix himself up with such a quarrel. It seemed, however, to be a choice between the Review dying and his taking the editorship. Under the deepest sense of duty, and after a good deal of hesitation and {481} consultation with the fathers of the Oratory, after praying long to know God's Will, he accepted it in March 1859. He did so at the wish of Bishop Ullathorne and Cardinal Wiseman, and after explicitly writing to W. G. Ward, who with Oakeley was temporary editor of the Dublin, that he contemplated no kind of rivalry with that periodical. His letters show that he regarded the undertaking as a duty—a most important one, though in some ways a most unwelcome one. And he seems to have felt somewhat bitterly that his motives were little appreciated. He was credited with wishing to exercise influence, to propagate his own ideas.

To add to his difficulties, W. G. Ward, who sympathised with Newman's own programme at this time, was so intolerant towards what he regarded as the secularistic tone and principles of the Rambler that he had to be counted on the whole as a foe rather than as a friend to the special work which Newman was now undertaking.

An interview took place on December 30, 1858, between Newman and Acton, at which the future of the Rambler was discussed, its continuance appearing to be the most practicable means of preserving an efficient Review for Catholics. It was on this occasion that Newman first learnt that Döllinger's article had been denounced to the authorities. Newman was in the highest degree indignant at the attitude of the theological busybodies towards one of Döllinger's weight and learning, and Acton has left an interesting account of their conversation in a letter to Richard Simpson.

' … I had a three hours' talk with the venerable Newman, who came out at last with his real sentiments to an extent which startled me with respect both to things and persons, as Ward, Dalgairns, &c., &c.; natural inclination of men in power to tyrannise; ignorance and presumption of would-be theologians. I did not think he would ever cast aside his diplomacy and buttonment so entirely, and was quite surprised at the intense interest he betrayed in the Rambler. He was quite miserable when I told him the news, and moaned for a long time, rocking himself backwards and forwards over the fire like an old woman with a toothache. He thinks the move provoked both by the hope of breaking down the Rambler, and by jealousy of Döllinger ... He has no present advice, being ignorant of the course of such {482} affairs in Rome, except that we should declare, if you can make up your mind to do so, that we do not treat theology in our pages. He thinks such a declaration would go a great way. If you wish, it can be done at the end of my paper, when I come to speak of our position and aims, subject, as the whole article will more particularly be, to your correction. He wants us to have rather more levity and profaneness, less theology and learning. A good story, he thinks, would turn away wrath, and he enjoys particularly your friendly encounters with Bentham, Combe, Buckle, and the like. On the other hand, he wants our more ponderous efforts to be devoted to the Atlantis, which he would be ready to quarter, Longmans urging him thereto, and Sullivan promising 400 subscribers in Ireland. There are some difficulties in the way, but I think we can promise him contributions with willingness. He is most entirely friendly, and considered the Rambler invaluable, to be kept, according to Madame Swetchine's [translation of] the "vers Latin: Quis custodiet custodes?" for the Authorities.'

The letters I shall now cite—chiefly from Newman himself—illustrate the further sequence of events already indicated. And the reader will not fail to perceive that while dealing immediately with the programme of a not very important Review, they bear on the most vital questions which were agitating the religious world. The first was written on the day following the interview with Acton, which has just been described. Newman's views as to the true diplomacy in conducting a Catholic Review under the difficult circumstances of the times is brought out in some characteristic sentences:

'Private.       The Oratory, Birmingham: Dec. 31st, 1858.
'My dear Sir John,—I have thought over what we talked of yesterday, and, as I promised, I write to you.

'Deeply as it pained me to hear from you the indignity to which Dr. Döllinger was to be subjected, I am, on the whole, disposed to make light of it. Perhaps the denunciation won't be made. If it is, he is able to hold his own. And they will be shy of meddling with him at Rome. And on what plea? for what kind of offence is it, to take a certain historical view of the person of heretics, while condemning their writings? Mayn't I say that Luther was a loving and amiable papa, and yet abominate him? So I don't think, if this is all, much will come of it. {483}

'No one, however, can deny, that it is the bad repute of the Rambler which causes it, if it is done.

'I certainly have long thought that the Rambler was in a false position. If I recollect rightly, it commenced as a literary work. At one time it called itself, Journal of the Fine Arts, &c. It generally had a tale in series. It was properly a magazine. I think it was a mistake to treat of Theology proper at all; and a double mistake to treat it in magazine fashion. And a third mistake for laymen to do so.

'Everyone has his own line. I should be surprised to find myself writing on Contingent Remainders. It requires an explanation when a layman writes on theology. From all I hear, I believe Ward has done good at St. Edmund's, but even he surely was in a false position, though he had the direct sanction of his Diocesan for what he did, and the indirect encouragement of the Holy See. Here then is mistake the fourth, that the Rambler on the contrary has attacked ecclesiastical authorities and their organs.

'It is true that the Holy See, or its representatives, have sometimes taken up laymen, as Dr. Brownson—nay, against local superiors, as M. Veuillot; but such persons have been thoroughgoing partizans of its rights and claims. The position of the Holy See must be considered, especially in a missionary country. It has to act, to act promptly and forcibly, and is forced to use such instruments as come to hand. It is common, indeed, with statesmen, if necessary to look to the present, and to live from hand to mouth. They adopt courses which are immediately effective, and measure services by what is showy, telling, and successful. If there be a power which need not look to the future, it is one which has a promise that it cannot fail, and is told not to be solicitous about the morrow. We are in a world of imperfection—truth and its propagation is committed to "earthen vessels." Hence some Saints,—as St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. Thomas M., St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. Alfonso—have been neglected at Rome during their lifetime. There is need constantly, in this or that locality, if the work is to go on, of rough and ready instruments, of thick and thin supporters, of vehemence, of severity. When a house is in flames, you may rightly expostulate with the fireman who curses and swears, but it may be his way—his only way—of waking you.

'However, it is quite another matter what is to be thought of this freedom of tongue when exercised not in the cause of the great interests to which I have referred; and {484} still more, when, without benefiting them, it is directed against venerable authorities at home.

'When Lucas, e.g., went to Rome, I was glad of it because I thought that on the one hand kindness would have been shown him for his loyal service,—and on the other that by means of that kindness he would have been persuaded to modify his political views. I forgot that, while the particular cause that took him to Rome was not Ultramontane, he had his Bishop against him in it. In consequence he could hardly find a person to introduce him to the Pope, and zealous servant as he was of the Holy See, he wandered about the Churches of Rome, seeking consolation where consolation is ever to be found.

'How different from the case of Lamennais, whose future was not contemplated, since he was doing a present direct service to religion!

'So again Wallis—he has found it simply impossible to hold his ground against Dr. Cullen, considering he was not undertaking any direct championship of any special Roman interest.

'It is then to me quite clear that, if the Rambler perseveres in its present course, it will find it cannot hold on, but must come to an end. A change of rulers in the diocese of Westminster will not mend matters.

'Moreover the question occurs whether, even for the sake of its own subjects, it should not abstain from theology. While it teaches it, it provokes opposition, and this opposition is practically a siding with the parties whom the Rambler assails, nay, and will become so actually, and avowedly. These parties have Catholic society with them at present, for society naturally sides with authority. But, if the Rambler retires from the field of controversy, they, united as they may be at present, will quarrel with each other. Restlessness must have an object to attack; pride of intellect will not bear a rival; men in rule will become suspicious of others who are not writers in magazines. The general proposition: "all converts are dangerous," at present is applied to such as Simpson; let him be silent in theological matters and that Eternal Truth, as it is felt to be, must find its fulfilment in other converts. When I was a Protestant I used to say that no cause could progress without a view or theory; and, when I came to be unsettled in religious opinion, I thought that, even humanly speaking, my work was over in the Anglican Church because I had no principles to put forth. But I was wrong. The Christian Remembrancer and the Guardian have gone on {485} with as much éclat without principles as the British Critic with them. How have they gone on? simply by clever writing, by attacking their opponents, by hitting hard, though they made themselves responsible for little or nothing positive.

'Here is a suggestion for the Rambler, supposing it feels the duty to give up theology, aims at escaping the displeasure of its ecclesiastical superiors, yet wishes to promote the good ends to which it is devoted.

'Let it adopt the policy of Wellington in the lines of Torres Vedras, who kept within shelter, while the enemy scoured the plain, but kept a sharp eye on him and took him at disadvantage, whenever it was possible.

'Let it go back to its own literary line. Let it be instructive, clever, and amusing. Let it cultivate a general temper of good humour and courtesy. Let it praise as many persons as it can, and gain friends in neutral quarters, and become the organ of others by the interest it has made them take in its proceedings. Then it will be able to plant a good blow at a fitting time with great effect, it may come down keen and sharp and not only on Protestants,—and without committing itself to definite statements of its own, it may support authority by attacking views which authority will be the first to be jealous of if the Rambler is not the first to attack them. Power to be powerful, and strength to be strong, must be exerted only now and then. It then would be strong and effective, and affect public opinion without offending piety or good sense.

'I don't think all this is a mere dream—but to be realized it requires the grace of patience.

'The best wishes of the New Year to you. The clock is now striking twelve.
'Very sincerely yours in Xt.,

Simpson and Acton both professed to fall in with the idea of henceforth excluding theology from the Rambler, and Newman rejoiced. 'I am very glad,' he wrote on January 13, 'that Simpson disclaims a theological character for the Rambler. I have a great opinion of his powers, and a great respect for his character, and a great personal liking for him, though I have hardly seen him since I used to dine with him at Bouisse's on the Capitol, and fleas were more numerous than dishes on the table cloth. It seems to me {486} a sad thing that we should have so many clever men, and that their exertions should not be brought together—but the difficulty of doing so is great.'

In spite of the good intentions of the editors, they were not successful in so acting as to allay the dissatisfaction of the average Catholic reader, which strengthened the hands of the Bishops in their opposition to the Rambler. 'I send you the proof of the first sheet of the Rambler for next March,' writes Mr. Burns the publisher. 'You will, I fancy, see in this very sheet, some of those offensively worded expressions which set people against the Rambler, and which are quite uncalled for by the argument.'

Mr. Wenham again—himself a man of culture and breadth of mind—in a letter to Newman of nearly the same date thus expresses the cause of offence to be found in Mr. Simpson's tone: 'He writes about the Church in a sort of sore tone, and at times, as if from without; and when people complain, he takes it as a want of boldness and liberty of mind.'

On February 16, Bishop Ullathorne gave Newman private notice by letter of an impending censure of the Rambler by the Bishops, and counselled Simpson's retirement as the only course which could avert it.

Newman persuaded Simpson to resign and the Bishop was, for the moment, satisfied with his action. 'I thank you in my own name and that of the other Bishops who have moved in the affair of the Rambler,' he wrote on February 21, 'for having brought the matter of Mr. Simpson's Editorship to a satisfactory conclusion.'

The publishers' view of the financial prospects of the Rambler for the future was that all depended on Newman's avowed support.

'What I think quite necessary to give the Review a chance,' Mr. Burns writes to Newman, 'is that you should be known to be bona fide at the head of it, and that the public should be satisfied that nothing will be printed in it unless it has passed under your eye.' [Note 2] {487}

Newman endeavoured during the months that followed to make the Rambler more palatable to the authorities.

'Our Bishop is much edified and pleased by your conduct,' he writes to Mr. Simpson on February 22, 'and sees in it so much high principle and good feeling, that I feel you are in a position of immense advantage with him and those whom he represents, and the Rambler together with you.

'I don't think the article on Catholic Freedom of the Press will do; cannot you keep it in type for some time? And I am very suspicious about the Gothic Architecture though I am much interested in the three pages, which alone I have seen of it.

'I wish you would turn over in your mind and give me your deliberate opinion, and Burns's, if he has anything to observe, on the proposal I made to have a Department of Correspondence. It seems to me that much might be said there which could not be said in formal articles. The Editor would profess that he was only responsible for points de fide and might moderate when things were said strongly. The two articles which I have spoken of above might be admitted in this way—that on Gothic Architecture in the May No.'

Mr. Simpson was amenable to counsel from Newman, but still very angry. In his reply he entered a vehement protest against the 'tyrannous and despotic intentions of the Bishops.' 'The question occurs,' he continues, 'is this kind of thing always to be acquiesced in? or is it at one time or other to be resisted? and, if so, when? When it (the Rambler) is found to be carried on on a principle of making people think and discuss, will it not immediately rekindle the old fires and draw down a new persecution of enemies flushed with conquest?' But he ends his letter with words of submission. 'I will cut out "theological howl" and kindred expressions from "Gothic Architecture."


'The Oratory, Birmingham: February 25th, 1859.
'My dear Simpson,—It seems hardly kind when you have so much to try you, to preach; yet I know you will excuse {488} what comes from one who has, on various occasions already, had to practise what he preaches.

'I assure you that the principal person who has unfairly used you, and whose wishes I have been executing in my negotiation with you, [Cardinal Wiseman] has been personally unkind to me by word and deed. I consider myself much aggrieved, and, had not the experience of long years made me tire of indignation and complaint, I could indulge myself in both the one and the other.

'But, depend upon it, no advice is better than that of the holy Apostle: "If our enemy hungers, to feed him,"—and to leave our cause simply in the Hands of the good God. He will plead our cause for us in His own way, and, even though it be not His high Will to redress us openly, He can make compensation to us by inward blessings. Noli ćmulari. To fret, and to be troubled does not pay,—it is like scratching a wound instead of letting it heal.

'You have mentioned once or twice "Bright" in reprobation. He is our member, and it is not so often you get so honest a man. And I should not like to commit myself to opposition to him.

'Let it be "we" not "I" in the articles,—though I confess I think the evils of anonymous tribunals great.

'I am sure you deserve a long holiday. Throw off the "fumum strepitumque Romae" from your mind, and, with St. Philip, "sta allegro."
'Yours most sincerely in Christ,
Of the Oratory.'

Mr. Simpson, now eager for the fray, urged Newman to accept the editorship without further delay, and implied that one reason for keeping the Rambler in existence was the importance of counteracting in some way the influence of the Dublin. From this Newman strongly dissented. He pleaded, however, for time fully to consider his decision. The process of weighing pros and cons was with him ever a long one.

'It is to be borne in mind,' he wrote, 'that the Will of God is not known in a hurry. I have said Mass on the subject this morning, and not for the first time. Moreover, when, in the course of these days of waiting, the two events have occurred which I before mentioned to you, viz. the prospect of my having the Atlantis thrown on me, and the death of a {489} friend under circumstances which might possibly be my own, it certainly was natural to ask myself whether these were not providential intimations to me as to the decision I ought to make.'

Newman, in order to make his position in regard to the Dublin quite clear, communicated his views at once to W. G. Ward. 'This I am sure of,' he wrote, 'that, if I undertook the Rambler, it would be as unlike a Quarterly Review, as possibly could be. I do not even contemplate a staff of writers. It would have no tendency whatever, as far as its shape and other circumstances go, to come into competition with the Dublin.'

W. G. Ward's reply was extremely characteristic:

'Northwood Park, Cowes: Shrove Tuesday, 8th Mar. 1859.
'My dear Father Newman,—All of us, except Oakeley, were occupied entirely against the grain: nor, I think, is there one who would have dreamed of accepting the Dublin Review on the terms we did, except for our detestation of the Rambler, and our wish to serve the Cardinal in his war against it.

'For myself, the whole thing (as I plainly told him) was a greater nuisance than could well be supposed. I am occupied with matter which interests me extremely, and, for my own part, would not care to walk across the room if by merely doing so I could turn out a first-rate Quarterly. My whole wish (putting it roughly) was to try that the Cardinal should feel the converts would help him.

'We were all delighted to have a good excuse for retiring. I understood from Burns that your editorship was a fixed thing, and on that I wrote to the Cardinal.

'I have the most perfect conviction that, at best, ours would have been a wretched failure. No one has less right to be suspected of false modesty than I have; but I am about as competent to direct a Review as to dance on the tight rope, and Oakeley is not much better.

'I am perfectly sure, and never doubted for a moment, that nothing can make the Dublin even tolerable. The Cardinal is an omnipresent supreme inquisitor into every detail, and, even if he were responsible editor, if there is one man on earth more unfit than me for such a post, it is he,—abounding (as I think) in most admirable instincts, but not a reasonable being in any shape. {490}

'I am writing in a hurry, currente calamo, to save the post. I hope I have made myself intelligible.

'On public grounds I don't care one button for having a good Review, nor do I see who would be the better for one, in our miserable state of intellectual degradation. But I am perfectly certain that our only chance of having one, would be that you should throw aside scruples which are most misplaced, and simply take the editorship of the Rambler, working it into a regular Quarterly. The Dublin then must die, and I should with great delight dance at its funeral.

'On personal grounds it would be the most delightful thing to me in the world to have again a real exhibition of yourself.

'All this, of course, in confidence. But if you wish a quasi-official answer about our Dublin negotiations, such as you could quote, let me have the word, and I will send you one.
'Ever affectionately yours,
W. G. WARD.'

A postscript to this letter, written on the following day, urges that the Rambler, which Ward accuses of having advocated 'detestable principles,' should change its name under its new editor, and become a Quarterly. But Newman had no thought of so marked a disavowal of sympathy with the past of the Rambler.

'March 10th, 1859.
'My dear Ward,—I thank you for your very kind letters, but every post brings me fresh perplexity, and I have to make up my mind without delay.

'Your notion that I should change the name of the Rambler is the climax. Why, then it would be altogether new,—bran new; new in name, in size, in arrangement, in times of issue, in editor. What would it have old? I should merely be embarking in a new undertaking, as distasteful to me as it possibly can be to you, though from your tone you don't seem quite to realize this.

'My position is this. I have got Simpson simply to put the Rambler into my hands at our Bishop's request. He consents on the condition it is not censured in the Lent Pastorals. This is granted. I have gained my object; but what am I to do with the Rambler now that I have got it? Damno auctus sum. My preventing it to go on in the old hands is the condition of the Pastorals not noticing it. {491} I think it important they should not notice it; important it should not go back into the old hands; but what am I to do with it? I can but do one of two things; stop it or get some one to go on with it.

'I can stop it,—but dare I? Is it fair to Simpson? Is it safe as regards a number of floating difficulties?

'But, if I do not stop it, who is to go on with a work which does not pay editor, writers, publisher? though, I suppose, in my hands it might cover expenses.

'Truly damno auctus sum, and I am in this position because, as in so many cases in my life, I have done (what I can never repent) what seemed to me at the moment my duty, without looking at consequences. I cannot help saying this, for it is my only consolation.

'So it is; I do not do things from any pleasure of mine; what bystanders may think my tastes are, in my view of it, my conscience.

'At this moment I am in a great fix. One thing you may be sure of,—I shall not make a Quarterly Review.

'However, ad rem. Please tell me what you mean by the detestable principles of the Rambler. I have disliked its tone as much as anyone could,—but what of its principles? [Note 3]
'Ever yours affectionately,

Both Simpson and Acton were earnest to overcome Newman's hesitation in accepting the editorship, and gave him a message from Döllinger to the effect that he should regard the cessation of the Rambler as an irreparable loss.

But Newman still hesitated. He found that Simpson expected a pledge that he should in some sense identify himself with the principles of the Rambler in the past. To this he would no more consent than to Ward's opposite proposal that he should change its name.

'I am sure you really think and feel,' he wrote, 'that the only pledge I have to give you when I take the Rambler is {492} myself. I cannot let any pledge of principles or of manner of conducting it enter in any sort of shape into the arrangement. When you say in such kind terms: "I cannot fancy myself in opposition to one to whom I owe &c.," you surely do not mean to imply anything inconsistent with this.'

'Next morning, March 17th,' Newman writes in a note appended to the above, 'on receipt of this letter, Simpson at once put himself into the train and came down here. He left us next day,—the 18th. I believe I have no record of what passed between us.' It is clear, however, that this conversation finally decided the question of the editorship. On March 21 Newman communicated formally to Cardinal Wiseman the fact that he had accepted it. To his own Bishop he wrote two days later:

'March 23rd, 1859.
'From what Mr. Estcourt said to me, I please myself with the thought that you will hear with satisfaction that I am, for the present, editor of the Rambler; but it is the only sort of pleasure which I can feel in an arrangement which is in itself to me a most bitter penance.

'From the evening when your Lordship showed to me the Cardinal's letter hesitating about engaging to omit the Rambler's name from his Pastoral, on the ground that I had not expressly stated in my letter that Sir John Acton, as well as Mr. Simpson, would be excluded from the editorship, and I replied to you that I had surely said enough in saying that the magazine was in my hands, I felt that I should be forced into the editorship by the impossibility of finding any editor whose appointment would not lay me open with the Cardinal to the charge of evading my side of the arrangement.'

Newman's hope in accepting the editorship was gradually to modify what was offensive in the method and tone of the Rambler and eventually to make the Bishops more alive to the great importance of the aims which a Catholic Review ought to attempt to compass. In spite of the irksomeness of the work and of his sense of increasing difficulty in all work as he grew older, he felt that his new position might give him great opportunities [Note 4]. 'His hand is getting so stiff,' writes Acton to Simpson, 'that he is looking out for an {493} amanuensis ... I gather that he is in great spirits at having the Rambler, although he bitterly complains of his old age and the time he is going to devote to it. But he throws himself into it vigorously and has large plans.'

Newman's own high view of the functions and possibilities of a Catholic Review is indicated in a Memorandum written a year later in reference to Mr. Ward's programme in editing the Dublin Review. He gives as the chief objects of such a Review, 'to create a body of thought as against the false intellectualism of the age, to surround Catholicism with defences necessary for and demanded by the age, to take a Catholic view of and give a Catholic interpretation to the discoveries of the age.' He had not sufficient confidence in the possibility of carrying out this programme systematically as yet in view of the small appreciation among Catholics of its necessity, and their readiness to find fault, to have undertaken a Review at all except at the call of duty. But that call had come, and he meant to do his utmost to bring home to his readers the necessity of the undertaking, and to accomplish it with due regard to their traditional views and existing feelings.

In both sides of his view he had the sympathy of Döllinger, who was already an occasional contributor to the Review. Indeed, on one point he found Döllinger's caution and regard for existing opinion more scrupulous than his own. He urged Döllinger to reply to some strictures of Dr. Gillow of Ushaw on a communication he had sent to an earlier number of the Rambler, and, in doing so, to point out the disregard of history shown for the most part by the scholastic theologians. Döllinger, however, thought that the task was unwise and useless in the existing state of public opinion, and would only further prejudice the Rambler.

'It would be an easy task to expose Dr. Gillow,' he wrote, 'and yet, as far as my knowledge of the English Catholic clergy goes, I have no doubt that 49 among 50 would think my letter completely put down. At the same time, you have thrown out a bait in the Rambler to make me enter into the ticklish question of the historical ignorance prevailing in the common divinity of the Schools ... Now, some queries arise. (1) Is it at all prudent, advisable, to write ... and to try to shake prejudices which seem so firmly {494} rooted? (2) Has not Mozley's book on the Augustinian doctrine excited some sensation among Catholics? (3) Would not the position and influence of the Rambler get injured by publishing my strictures upon Gillow's pamphlet? I am firmly persuaded that the services which the Rambler, conducted as it now is, will render to the good cause, cannot be too highly rated.'

Newman's own more mature judgment acquiesced (as he states in a letter to Acton) in Döllinger's decision so far as the criticism of the scholastics was concerned. It was necessary before breaking new ground to win the public confidence in the Rambler. He looked ahead to a gradual work. The faults of tone and temper which had prejudiced Catholic readers against it must first be cured. Then with public sympathy in his favour he could attempt the urgently needed work of dealing with problems raised by current thought and historical criticism. He promised himself, moreover, to attack the problem of Biblical inspiration, as well as to write on Faith and Reason, in view of the present state of the controversy on both subjects. But in his first few numbers he must before all things avoid giving fresh offence.

In a memorandum dated May 24, 1882, he writes as follows on this subject:

'In the "Advertisement" (to the new series of the Rambler) not a word was said of any change of matter, drift, objects, tone, &c., of the Rambler, though my purpose was in fact to change what had in so many ways displeased me.

'But I had no wish to damage the fair fame of men who I believed were at bottom sincere Catholics, and I thought it unfair, ungenerous, impertinent, and cowardly to make in their behalf acts of confession and contrition, and to make a display of change of editorship, and (as if) so virtuous a change.

'In consequence I tried to make the old series of the magazine in keeping with the new; and, when faults were objected to in my first number I said to Mgr. Manning, with a reference to the Great Eastern which was then attempting to get down the river, that I too was striving to steer an unmanageable vessel through the shallows and narrows of the Thames, and that Catholic readers must be patient with me and give me time if I was to succeed eventually in my undertaking.' {495}

Patience was, however, not the order of the day. While Newman had his eyes chiefly on the great interests of the Church Universal, on the policy which would prove wisest in the long run for the Church in England, for educating Christians and making them able to understand the bearings of their own theology and hold their faith intelligently in a secularist civilisation, each of the parties he was dealing with seemed to be sensitive only to the class of considerations which immediately concerned themselves at the moment. By the Bishops the Rambler seems to have been regarded not as a periodical attempting valuable and necessary work, though betraying at times a one-sided and disrespectful spirit and tone, but rather as a wanton disturber of the peace which did no good and went out of its way to criticise them and weaken their authority. To Acton, and still more to Simpson, the flings at the Bishops were such a favourite indulgence that self-denial on this point seemed unattainable by them. The respect due alike to authority, to tradition, and to public feeling, though recognised by them in theory, was made light of in practice. To such as Faber and W. G. Ward, on the other hand, the intellectualism which coloured the Rambler appeared so opposed to the Catholic spirit that they were not disposed to dwell on its positive merits much more than were the Bishops themselves. Thus, while the Review had sympathy from such learned Catholic writers as the Bollandists, from the thinkers and scholars of Munich, from friends of Montalembert and Lacordaire in France, the prejudice against it in England was so general that even the May number which Newman edited aroused sharp criticism. He was not given the time he needed. The importance and difficulty of the work was not recognised. Dr. Gillow, theological Professor at Ushaw, who had already criticised Döllinger's article, attacked one of the articles in the new number. Newman asked Dr. Ullathorne for a theological censor for the Review. The Bishop replied that the style of the Rambler made censorship practically impossible. He called at the Oratory to explain matters on May 22, and expressed his feeling that the old spirit had not left the Rambler. He said that the laity found it irritating, and {496} were disturbed at the idea which its articles suggested, that people had doubts. He ended by expressing his hope that Newman would cease from being editor after the July number. And Newman acquiesced. Newman has left several accounts of this interview. The fullest is contained in the following letter to his friend, Mr. Healy Thompson, a recent convert and able writer:

'May 29th, 1859.
'My dear Thompson,—I must not convey a wrong impression. Our Bishop expressed his wish; it was not an act of authority. I have no intention of publishing to the world that it is his act. My only concern is that those whom it concerns should receive from me that explanation which I am bound to give them ...

'Your letter leads me to state the circumstances under which the catastrophe took place; and, since I have no time to write it twice, I wish you would let Simpson see this if he cares. What I mean is that, if I were he, I should fear my being annoyed too much. This has been the reason why I have not told him particulars; but, now that I take up my pen to tell them to you, there seems an impropriety in my keeping him in ignorance of them.

'Dr. Gillow of Ushaw wrote to me to say that there were "statements and principles" in the May Rambler, "which appeared to him very objectionable." He instanced one. A correspondence ensued in which he wrote with great friendliness and frankness. I on the other hand don't think I got the worst of it. I thought it a duty to show it to our Bishop. And, at the same time, I asked him, since he had distinctly told me before that all theological writings ought to have the Bishop's imprimatur, to appoint revisors for the Rambler. I felt strongly, (and I feel) that I should have been in a false position if, after his expressed wish and Dr. Gillow's letter, I had not done so.

'He answered that he would come and talk with me on the subject, adding that he found there was a general impression that the old spirit was not clean gone out of the Rambler.

'On Sunday last he came. He said first of all that he would not undertake the revision. (1) I ought to go to the Ordinary of Westminster in which diocese the Rambler was published. (2) that all the Rambler, or no part, should be revised, for the theological difficulties cropped up in half sentences. I did not quarrel with the justice of either {497} remark, but he put me thereby, as I felt, in a most awkward dilemma, committed to the principle of revision over and above his express wish, (by my request to him) and bound, in a periodical which comes out every other month, on a fixed day, and which must be written in part currente calamo and at the last moment, to the slow machinery of a theological revision.

'He then went on to ask whether I had seen the criticism on the Rambler in the Tablet of the day previous. He said it mainly expressed his sentiments. The Catholics of England were a peaceable people; the Church was peace. Catholics never had a doubt; it pained them to know that things could be considered doubtful which they had ever implicitly believed. The Rambler was irritating.

'I stated my own view strongly. I said I thought I saw a side of things which the Bishops and clergy did not see [Note 5]. It must be considered that England and Ireland were one country. The Irish laity must be considered as well as the English. The Holy Father had made them one by setting up the University. Looking at the educated laity as a whole, and in prospect, I could not say that I thought their state satisfactory. Why did I go to Ireland except with the hope of doing something towards the various objects for which I had consented to undertake the Rambler?

'He did not allow the weight of anything I said. I then said that, for no object of my own had I undertaken it. He said he knew it, and that everyone knew it; but he had conversed with various persons and they all agreed with him. It was the fault he found in Lucas, in spite of his excellencies, and he implied that an old Catholic was different.

'I said that it had been an extreme annoyance to me to undertake it, and it would be an enormous relief to me if I did not. And this, as he recollected, I had said to him already.

'He answered that he had been surprised that I had taken it. Then he abruptly said: Why not give it up? I said {498} how could I do so without giving it back to the proprietors? I said this, thinking he would feel it a great objection to let it revert to them; but he answered quickly: "No difficulty at all if you give them fair notice; if you give it up in July you will give them fair notice."

'I then spoke of expense. I said I feared I should be out of pocket by having had it. He went off (not with any intention of evasion) to speak of the translation of Scripture; hoped I would take care not to involve myself, &c., &c.

'I then promised him I would give up the Rambler after July. There was no sort of unpleasantness of any kind in our conversation from beginning to end.

'It is impossible with the principles and feelings on which I have acted all through life that I could have acted otherwise. I never have resisted, nor can resist, the voice of a lawful Superior speaking in his own province. I should have been in an utterly false position if I had continued, without a revision, which my Bishop thought necessary, and which was impossible, a work, of the very object and principle of which my diocesan disapproved.

'Since then he has written kindly, saying that he sees "with pain and regret that I am overworking myself and straining the machine. No man can be ten men. Are you not consuming the fuel of years in months? &c., &c." Kind as this is, it means, I don't at all repent of what I have done, for "divergent occupations" as he calls them, "mixed" together, have or will have, "results."
'Ever yours, &c.,

Newman's feelings on resigning the Rambler were a curious mixture. For the moment he experienced a sense of relief at being quit of a difficult task. Then supervened great sadness.

The first feeling is apparent in a letter to Mr. John Wallis, editor of the Tablet, who had expressed his regret that Newman should edit the Rambler, which had a bad name among Catholics, instead of starting a Review of his own [Note 6].

'The Oratory, Birmingham, May 24th, 1859.
'My dear Wallis,—Thank you for your valuable letter. I tell you in confidence that I give up the Rambler after next number. I only engaged to take it till Christmas, and our {499} Bishop came up to me on Sunday and expressed a wish that I should give it up at once, which I am doing.

'What you say is good, true, and important, but does not apply. Nothing, except a command which it would be a duty to obey, would make me set up a review or a magazine—the idea of it! I have no love for the thing, and, at my time of life, I feel it a departure from that seemliness which ought to accompany all our actions.

'You will say, to take up and continue a review or magazine is still less seemly, but I suppose it would be allowable in a fire, old as one was, or dignified, to throw off one's coat, tuck up one's shirt sleeves, and work at the pump. And then, if a fireman came and said, "My good old boy, you are doing your best, but don't you see you are doing nothing but drowning all your friends in your ill-directed attempts," I should, with the best heart in the world, say, "I take your hint," and leave the management of the fire and its extinction to others.

'This does not apply in all its parts to the state of the case, but it will do something to show you why I have not any dream of undertaking a new magazine, why I attempted the Rambler, and how with the greatest possible joy I relinquish it.
'Ever yours most sincerely,

Two months of reflection wrought a change in the feelings apparent in the last words of this letter.

The Bishop's action was in reality a great blow to Newman. It added one more to the list of tasks he had undertaken in hope, and which had been frustrated by those who failed to understand its importance. The brief chapter of his Editorship may be concluded by the following words on the subject, marked by sadness and resignation, in a letter, of July 17, to Henry Wilberforce:

'I did all I could to ascertain God's Will, and, that being the case, I am sure good will come of my taking it. I am of opinion that the Bishops only see one side of things, and I have a mission, as far as my own internal feelings go, against evils which I see. On the other hand, I have always preached that things which are really useful, still are done, according to God's Will, at one time, not at another; and that, if you attempt at a wrong time, what in itself is right, you perhaps become a heretic or schismatic. What I may aim at may be real and {500} good, but it may be God's Will it should be done a hundred years later. What an illustration is poor Gioberti! He actually advocated the Italian Confederacy with the Pope at the head, in his book (I think) called "Il Primato." He pressed it unreasonably, and died, I fear, out of the Church. When I am gone it will be seen perhaps that persons stopped me from doing a work which I might have done. God overrules all things. Of course it is discouraging to be out of joint with the time, and to be snubbed and stopped as soon as I begin to act.'

Top | Contents | Biographies | Home


1. Letter dated January 18, 1858.
Return to text

2. Mr. Burns did not at this stage regard the good name of the Review among Catholics as at all past recovery.

'The Rambler has only become obnoxious,' he wrote to Father St. John, 'from their offensive personalities and from the flippancy of tone. All that is good in it is, I really believe, fully appreciated and valued, except by that class of persons who are narrow-minded enough to dislike everything like freedom and progress, however carefully guarded as to orthodoxy.

'I think that the Jesuits, though I have not yet spoken to them, and also Mr. McMullen and other friends of the Rambler, would take precisely the above view from what I have heard them say before.'
Return to text

3. The following words by Mr. Simpson in a letter written about this time, and included in Newman's collection, may be read in connection with the foregoing correspondence:

'In talking with Ward he said the same of you that I said at Birmingham: "I feel more and more that there is scarcely a positive idea in my mind for which, or at least for whose seed, I am not entirely indebted to Newman." I was surprised and made him repeat it, which he did in even stronger terms than at first.'
Return to text

4. See his own words on this subject in the letter to Miss Bowles, p. 587.
Return to text

5. In another account he adds: 'He thought there were remains of the old spirit. It was irritating. Our laity were a peaceable set; the Church was peace. They had a deep faith; they did not like to hear that anyone doubted. It was Lucas's fault; a contra, how well Wallis got on with the Tablet!

'I said in answer that he saw one side, I another; that the Bishops &c., did not see the state of the laity, e.g. in Ireland, how unsettled, yet how docile.

'He said something like "Who are the laity?" I answered (not these words) that the Church would look foolish without them.'
Return to text

6. The text of Mr. Wallis's letter is given in the Appendix at p. 633, together with other letters relating to Newman's connection with the Rambler at this time.
Return to text

Top | Contents | Biographies | Home

Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2004 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.