Chapter 32. The Gladstone Controversy (1874-1878)

{397} NEWMAN had said of the 'Grammar of Assent' that he expected it to be his 'last work.' And we have seen that the thought of further intervention in public matters was far from his mind in these years.

An attempt was made to draw him into public controversy on Mr. Gladstone's Irish University bill of 1873 but it failed. 'It is 14 years,' he wrote to the gentleman who approached him on the subject, 'since I was across St. George's Channel, and any words of mine would not be worth much more as regards the Irish question of 1873 than would have been a political tract of one of the seven sleepers on his waking from his long slumber at Ephesus.' He did however express to the same correspondent—Mr. Fottrell—in a letter dated December 10, 1873, a strong opinion as to the necessity of giving the Catholic laity their full share of influence in any scheme for University education, if it was to have a chance of success. His words on the subject were strong and weighty and deserve to be quoted:

'One of the chief evils which I deplored in the management of the affairs of the University 20 years ago when I was in Ireland was the absolute refusal, with which my urgent representations were met, that the Catholic laity should be allowed to co-operate with the Archbishops in the work.

'So far as I can see, there are ecclesiastics all over Europe, whose policy it is to keep the laity at arms-length, and hence the laity have been disgusted and become infidel, and only two parties exist, both ultras in opposite directions. I came away from Ireland with the distressing fear, that in that Catholic country, in like manner, there was to be an antagonism as time went on between the Hierarchy and the educated classes.

'You will be doing the greatest possible benefit to the Catholic cause all over the world, if you succeed in making {398} the University a middle station at which laity and clergy can meet, so as to learn to understand and yield to each other, and from which, as from a common ground, they may act in union upon an age which is running headlong into infidelity, and however evil in themselves may be the men and the measures which of late years have had so great a success against the Holy See, they will in the Providence of God be made the instruments of good, if they teach us priests that the "obsequium" which the laity owe religion is "rationabile."'

While responding thus with sympathy and interest to private communications on matters of importance, his main work continued to be the re-editing of his own writings and the arrangement of his past correspondence. He was putting his house in order before leaving it.

Yet two Memoranda dated respectively August 30, and October 14, 1874, show that he did not feel even now quite happy at his comparative inactivity:

'I have so depressing a feeling that I have done nothing through my long life, and especially that now I am doing nothing at all. Anglicans indeed rather think more of what I have written than they did, if I may judge from letters I receive—but, as to Catholics, they would not deny that I have done some good service towards bringing Anglicans into the Church, nay am perhaps doing so still; but as to the great controversies of the day, about the divinity of Christianity &c., they think I am passé. At least this, (perhaps rather) that I have taken a wrong line in respect to them. At least I think the Jesuits do. They would think my line too free and sceptical, that I made too many admissions &c. On the contrary I cannot at all go along with them—and since they have such enormous influence just now, and are so intolerant in their views, this is pretty much the same as saying that I have not taken, and do not take what would popularly be called the Catholic line.

'I may seem inconsistent or ungrateful to them in this,—that I must grant, that, in spite of their violence against Rosmini, Ubaghs &c. they have never fallen upon me—the contrary—yet I think they have not felt the same since the Vatican Council and the "Grammar of Assent"—certainly not if their sentiments towards me are to be measured and interpreted by my feelings towards them. They certainly {399} seem to me to be too powerful for the health of that Divine Body out of which they grow and which it is their business and duty to subserve.

'But then I think—what is this to me? God will provide—He knows what is best. Is He less careful for the Church, less able to defend it than I am? Why need I fash myself about it? What am I? my time is out. I am passé. I may have done something in my day—but I can do nothing now. It is the turn of others. And if things seem done clumsily, my business is, not to criticise, but to have faith in God. The 130th is the psalm that suits me. Alas! we never read it in the office—"Non est exaltatum cor meum, neque &c. Neque ambulavi in magnis, neque in mirabilibus super me—Sicut ablactatus est super matre sua, ita retributio in anima mea." It is enough for me to prepare for death, for, as it would appear, nothing else awaits me—there is nothing else to do.

'And He Who has been with me so marvellously all through my life will not fail me now, I know, though I have no claim upon Him. I certainly feel much weaker and less capable than I was—and whether this adunamia will rapidly increase upon me or not, I must give up the thought of the next generation & think of myself.'

'October 14, 1874.
'I have been startled on considering that in the last 15 years I have only written two books, the "Apologia" and the Essay on Assent—of which the former was almost extempore. What have I been doing with my time? though I have never been idle. The last four or five years I have been busy with my reprints—and my Essay on Assent took up four years from 1866 to 1870. Then my smaller publications since 1859 (viz. "Occasional Sermons," pp. 75; "Letter to Pusey," pp. 140; on "Ecce Homo," pp. 36; on St. Ignatius, pp. 36; on Anglican Orders, &c., pp. 40; on causes of Arianism and on Apollinarianism, pp. 190; and Theodoret, pp. 56), amount to pp. 572; that is, to (at least) a volume and a half—but these have been mostly done in the course of the last four years which have been already taken into account. Seven years (from 1859 to 1866) remain, with only the "Apologia," done in nine weeks (between April 10 and June 12), and the letter to Pusey and Sermon on Weedall; what was I doing all that time?—First, must be recollected, all through the fifteen years the great number of letters I wrote, whatever be their worth, most of them certainly ephemeral or of no permanent value {400} —next the time I have given to the schoolboys, especially in preparing and editing four Latin Plays for their use (but I did not begin these till 1864);—thirdly the time I gave through 1860 to the alterations, &c., in the Church, which were almost my occupation—fourthly my state of health for good part of 1861. Still the fact remains that, whereas before 1859 I wrote almost a book a year (viz. 30˝ volumes from 1826 to 1859—33 years), in the last 15 I have written between three and four—though such powers of writing as I may have are not less, to say the least, than they were.

'This is an unpleasant thought—more than unpleasant—what have I been doing? I have not mentioned above one occupation which has taken a great deal of time, though there is not much to show for it—viz., the transcription I have made of my own and my friends' letters. But cui bono?

'The cause of my not writing from 1859 to 1864 was my failure with the Rambler. I thought I had got into a scrape, and it became me to be silent. So they thought at Rome, if Mgr. Talbot is to be their spokesman, for, referring to the "Apologia" to Ambrose in 1867, he said of me: "He had ceased writing, and a good riddance—why did he ever begin again?" I certainly had myself in 1860 anticipated his view in 1867 of my services to religion. Vide my remarks above.

'Another reason, closely connected with this, was my habit, or even nature, of not writing and publishing without a call. What I have written has been for the most part what may be called official, works done in some office I held or engagement I had made—all my Sermons are such, my Lectures on the Prophetical Office, on Justification, my Essays in the British Critic, and translation of St. Athanasius—or has been from some especial call, or invitation, or necessity, or emergency, as my Arians, Anglican Difficulties, "Apologia" or Tales. The Essay on Assent is nearly the only exception. And I cannot write without such a stimulus. I feel to myself going out of the way, or impertinent, and I write neither with spirit nor with point. As to the "Assent," I had felt it on my conscience for years that it would not do to quit the world without doing it. Rightly or wrongly I had ever thought it a duty, as if it was committed to me to do it. I had tried to do it again and again, and failed; and though at length I did it, I did it after all with great difficulty. But it was a great relief to me in 1870 to have done it. But to return, this is the real account of my silence from 1859 to 1864—viz., I said to myself, "In 14 years (from 1845 to 1859) {401} I have written nine volumes, and have got no thanks for my labour—rather have been thought inopportune—why should I go on blundering?" On occasion of my "Apologia" Hope-Scott said, "Now you have got the ear of the public—take care not to lose it again by your silence."' [Note 1]

A month after these words were written there did come a 'special call' on him once more to enter the arena. He had to defend his co-religionists against an attack almost as virulent as that of Kingsley ten years earlier.

Mr. Gladstone had in 1874 retired from the leadership of his party, and employed the leisure thus gained in writing a strong attack on the Vatican decrees of 1870. The Irish Bishops had defeated his Irish University Bill of 1873, and in Catholic circles the publication of his pamphlet was associated with his irritation at their action. He had taken, largely owing to his friendship with Lord Acton, a close interest in Döllinger's attitude of resistance to the definition. 'It makes my blood run cold,' he wrote to Mrs. Gladstone, 'to think of his being excommunicated in his venerable but, thank God, hale and strong old age.' He wrote to one of the Irish Bishops (Dr. Moriarty) that he regarded the definition as 'the most portentous (taking them singly) of all events in the history of the Christian Church.'

Mr. Gladstone first published an article in one of the magazines, in which occurred the often-quoted statement that 'Rome had substituted for the proud boast of semper eadem a policy of violence and change in faith,' and that since the events of 1870 'no one can become her convert without renouncing his mental and moral freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.' His charge was that Rome had 'equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history.'

In November 1874 his attack was renewed and amplified in his 'political expostulation' entitled 'The Vatican Decrees in their bearing on Civil Allegiance.' Mr. Gladstone made capital out of Archbishop Manning's recently published {402} lecture on 'Cćsarism and Ultramontanism,' in which the undying contest between the Pope and the civil power, between 'Peter and Cćsar,' was dwelt on in mystical language and with extreme emphasis. This lecture—so Gladstone argued—represented the outcome of the Vatican decrees as 'understood by the most favoured ecclesiastics.' Lord Morley tells us that the pamphlet was 'meant for an argument that the doctrine of infallibility aimed a deadly blow at the old historic scientific and moderate school' of Catholics; that 'it was a degradation of the episcopal order; it carried to the furthest point the spirit of absolutist centralisation in its measure as fatal to the organic life in the Church as in the State.' The reader will at once see the special interest of this charge to Dr. Newman. Mr. Gladstone, in effect, treated the definition as identifying the Catholic Church for ever with the policy and spirit of such men as Manning, and Ward, and Louis Veuillot. Newman was in his own person the most complete refutation of Mr. Gladstone's contention. He not only loyally accepted the definition, but had held the doctrine which was defined by the Vatican Council ever since he was a Catholic at all. And yet he was in the strongest degree opposed to the centralising and absolutist extremes which so many of its champions had favoured. Many Catholics who sympathised in his view urged him to take the opportunity which Providence had put in his way for speaking out. Like Kingsley's attack, the Gladstone pamphlets gave him an excuse for answering Catholic extremists under cover of replying to the misrepresentations of an assailant of the Church. And in spite of his resolution not to write again, here was a chance which must not, he felt, lightly be thrown aside.

To Lord Blachford he wrote thus in October:

'Gladstone's excuse is, I suppose, the extravagance of Archbishop Manning in his "Cćsarism," and he will do us a service if he gives us an opportunity of speaking. We can speak against Gladstone, while it would not be decent to speak against Manning. The difficulty is who ought to speak?'

By December he had resolved to speak himself. He confided the secret to Dean Church: {403}

'The Oratory: December 10, 1874.
'I am writing against time, and my old fingers will not move quick. I am most dismally busy. Don't tell, for I wish nothing said from me as yet, but I am trying, as the Papers report, to answer Gladstone, but I don't like to commit myself till I have actually done. I have had so many urgent requests, asking me to do so. And I feel I must do so, if I can, for my own honour. I grieve indeed that he should have so committed himself—I mean, by charging people quite as free in mind as he is, of being moral and mental slaves. I never thought I should be writing against Gladstone! but he is as unfair and untrue, as he is cruel. It is a marvel. I think men like W. G. Ward have in part to answer for it—but he should have had clearer notions of what we hold and what we don't, before he sent 100,000 of his pamphlet through the country.

'I thought I should be in peace for the remainder of my life—and now I am in controversy again!'

The reason why Newman hesitated at once to reply to Mr. Gladstone was the very fact that his doing so must involve an explicit protest against what he regarded as the exaggerations and aggressions of the editors of the Univers and of the Dublin Review. He had made a compact with himself to speak plainly if he wrote at all. To do this without giving offence in powerful quarters was he knew most difficult. But it was a case of 'now or never.' And so he wrote with great anxiety, but under a sense of duty. 'You may suppose how anxious I am what will be thought of my pamphlet,' he writes to Miss Bowles. 'For if I am to write, I am not going to utter commonplaces.'

The 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk'—such was the form of his pamphlet—is well known. It is unnecessary to attempt any full analysis of it. The spirit of generous loyalty which breathes through its pages won the day with his fellow-Catholics. A few critics did isolate and quote with disapproval the passages which contained his protest against extreme views. But their efforts fell flat. The general spirit of the whole was so loyal to Rome, his arguments against Gladstone so powerful, that he was able to bring in his protests incidentally without the evil consequences he had feared. Thus in the course of a forcible and eloquent argument on behalf of the essential {404} reasonableness of the papal claims and of the Vatican definition he denounced the 'tyrannous ipse dixits' of the Dublin Review: he urged the dangers of the 'maximising' tendency which introduced into the theology taught to all Catholics alike those pious beliefs which often indeed expressed the generous zeal and loyal spirit of certain minds, but yet might eventually prove not to be founded on fact. He emphasised also points long recognised in the theological schools, which the party of Louis Veuillot often forgot or denied, and he expressed opinions of his own which explained his action at the time of the Council [Note 2]. {405}

Though anxious as to the effect of his pamphlet, Newman seems to have felt the happier for having spoken out, and he left the issue with God.

The 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' appeared in January. Its favourable reception among Catholics was immediate and marked. He writes to Lord Blachford within a week of its appearance:

'Feb. 5th, 1875.
'Of course I was much interested with your remarks on my letter, which you can fancy I was most reluctant to write. But I was bound to write from my duty to those many men who had been more or less influenced in their conversion by my own conversion—and whom I fancied saying to me, "Is this what you have let us in for?" And I certainly have had my reward on the other hand from the old Catholics [Note 3], {406} from Bishops, Jesuits, Dominicans, and various clergy, who have with one voice concurred in what I have written, as a whole and in its separate parts.

'I don't see that Gladstone's article in the Quarterly (tho' I have not seen it yet) touches me, as certainly it does not personally affect me. If in private "the Pope's lackies" (as St. Francis de Sales calls them) butter the Pope, and he, an old cruelly treated man allows it, and Gladstone comes down upon the Don Pasquales (is not that the name?) who publish all this to the world, I leave Don P. to answer Gladstone, and consider it no business of mine.'

The success of the pamphlet in the end surpassed Newman's most sanguine expectations. One circumstance helped largely to disarm opposition in a quarter where it was to have been expected. The subject was especially W. G. Ward's, and strong theological opposition from the Dublin Review would have been most unfortunate. Newman had considered this. With extraordinary skill, while maintaining the substance of Father Ryder's position in his 'Idealism and Theology' and its practical outcome, he had so stated the case as apparently to leave W. G. Ward's main abstract principles intact. Newman did not insist primarily on denying to this or that Pontifical document the character of an ex cathedra utterance, but rather argued that the determination as to precisely what was defined irreformably in such utterances appertained solely to the Schola Theologorum and was a matter of time. The issue he chiefly dwelt on was not the authority of this or that Pontifical document, but the precise scope of what it determined. His plea was for interpretation by experts after full discussion. The result was that W. G. Ward—whose main contest with Ryder had ostensibly turned only on the question What Papal utterances are ex cathedra?—finding his own principle apparently conceded, was far from critical as to details. He spoke in the Dublin Review with great cordiality of Newman's pamphlet, and expressly denied that its positions could be charged with the 'minimising' tendency he had denounced. This gave the note for others who belonged to his school of thought, and the pamphlet was welcomed almost without a dissentient voice.

Newman had sent his pamphlet to W. G. Ward at the {407} outset with a letter in explanation of the few passages in which he had alluded expressly to Ward's attitude in terms of strong disapproval. 'Bear with me where I allude to you,' he wrote. He added that, if he wrote at all, he must in conscience say out what he had felt so strongly, and that he had ever recognised and admired Ward's own straight-forwardness, while he deplored his extreme views. The letter was signed 'with much affection, yours most sincerely,' and Ward, with his curious combination of sensitive love of Newman with public opposition to his ecclesiastical policy complained to his friends that the 'yours affectionately' of so many years was dropped. He wrote a sad reply, declaring that, since his breach with his old leader, he had felt himself a kind of 'intellectual orphan.' [Note 4] After the publication in the Dublin Review of Ward's friendly review of the 'Letter,' Newman wrote him a letter of thanks both for the review itself and for appreciative and affectionate references to his writings in the Dublin, which in the heat of controversy he had overlooked until Bishop Ullathorne had at this time called his attention to them. The 'yours affectionately' reappeared in this letter, and although Ward later on published an apologia for the policy of the Dublin Review which Newman had deplored, active opposition between them was henceforth at an end.

Newman was eager to claim allies among the trained theologians, and welcomed an argument from Canon Neville of Maynooth, which took up ground somewhat different from his own, yet supported one of his conclusions. Some of his friends, who found his own arguments more persuasive than those of Dr. Neville, misunderstood his acquiescence in the Maynooth professor's argument—as we see in the following letter:


'The Oratory: Ap. 11, 1875.
'My dear Blachford,— ... As to my pamphlet, what you say of its success agrees, to my surprise as well as my pleasure, with what I hear from others. What surprises me most is its success among my own people. I had for a long time been urged by my friends to write—but I persisted in saying that {408} I would not go out of my way to do so. When Gladstone wrote, I saw it was now or never, and I had so vivid an apprehension that I should get into a great trouble and rouse a great controversy round me, that I was most unwilling to take up my pen. I had made a compact with myself, that, if I did write, I would bring out my whole mind, and specially speak out on the subject of what I had in a private letter called an "insolent and aggressive faction"—so that I wrote and printed, I may say, in much distress of mind. Yet nothing happened such as I had feared. For instance, Ward is unsaying in print some of his extravagances, and a priest who with others has looked at me with suspicion and is a good specimen of his class, writes to me, "I hope everybody will read it and re-read it ... I may also congratulate you that you have carried with you the Catholic mind of England, and made us feel but one pulse of Ultramontane sympathy beating in our body—May God give you length of days &c." In Ireland Cardinal Cullen spoke of me in the warmest terms in his Lent Pastoral, read in all the churches of his diocese, and my friend Dr. Russell of Maynooth, who had been frightened at the possible effect of some of my pages, wrote to me, after being present at a great gathering of bishops and priests from all parts of Ireland, on occasion of Archbishop Leahy's funeral, that I had nothing to fear, for there was but one unanimous voice there, and that was in my favour.

'Of course as time goes on "the clouds may return after the rain"—but anyhow I have cause for great thankfulness—and I trust that now I may be allowed to die in peace. Old age is very cowardly—at least so I find it to be.

'As to Canon Neville's passage, you must recollect what a strong thing it is to tell the party spirit, and the enthusiasm, and the sentiment unreasoning and untheological, of Catholics, that the Pope is ever to be disobeyed—not to speak of the political partisans of his cause and the tyranny of newspaper editors. To quote a Maynooth professor who could say that the Pope need not be obeyed in the critical case of an English war against him, that his command was to be resisted on any motive, for any reason, that this was the rule in such a case, was to possess a great ally, who would block any attack, any annoyance, which my words might have caused. Recollect, the contract under which soldiers are bound holds as soon as it is found to be lawful. And Canon Neville's argument secures its {409} legality. Nor did I at all mean, as the Saturday thinks, to withdraw my own ground.

'The Jesuits, as usual, have stood my friends. One of them only, F. Botalla, without the sympathy of the body, has made, in a Liverpool paper, five charges against me—but we have stood to our guns and all but silenced him.

'I don't forget that you have done all in your power to get me to Devonshire, but an old man is a coward in physical action as well as in moral; I am afraid of accidents. During that week last September when I was away from home I had or nearly had two. In the dark, getting out of the railway carriage, my foot dived into the space between the carriage and the platform—and on getting out of a chaise I fell and barely escaped its wheel. And besides, why I don't know, I am always well at home, scarcely ever when I leave it.

'I am so grieved at what you say of your sister. She is before me as she was near forty years ago, when last I saw her. What a dream life is!
Ever yours affly,
JOHN H. NEWMAN.' [Note 5]

Mr. Gladstone published a second pamphlet in April, and Newman rejoined in a postscript which further explained and developed some of the positions he had maintained in his letter.

The success of the 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' led Newman to feel that the work of Monsignor Fessler, Secretary-General to the Vatican Council, on 'True and False Infallibility,' of which he had made effective use in his pamphlet, ought to be available for English readers. Ambrose St. John threw himself with energy into the work of translating it. He knew—as perhaps none of the other Fathers did—how deeply Newman had at heart the work of spreading a strictly theological analysis of Catholic doctrine, such as would win the wider and deeper minds of the coming generation. It was a moment of great and unexpected success and bright hope. And then suddenly came a blow, crushing and overwhelming. St. John broke down from overwork. There were fears lest he might permanently lose his reason. Then for a moment there were hopes of recovery—followed by his death, which was sudden at the last, at Rednal in May. Of this loss of the dearest {410} friend of his later life Newman writes as follows to Lord Blachford:

'The Oratory: May 31, 1875.
'My dear Blachford,—I cannot use many words, but I quite understand the kind affectionateness of your letter just come. I answer it first of the large collection of letters which keen sympathy with me and deep sorrow for their loss in Ambrose St. John have caused so many friends to write to me. I cannot wonder that, after he has been given me for so long a time as 32 years, he should be taken from me. Sometimes I have thought that, like my patron saint St. John, I am destined to survive all my friends.

'From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable. At Rome 28 years ago he was always so working for and relieving me of all trouble, that being young and Saxon-looking, the Romans called him my Angel Guardian. As far as this world was concerned I was his first and last. He has not intermitted this love for an hour up to his last breath. At the beginning of his illness he showed in various ways that he was thinking of and for me. That illness which threatened permanent loss of reason, which, thank God, he has escaped, arose from his overwork in translating Fessler, which he did for me to back up my letter to the Duke of Norfolk. I had no suspicion of this overwork of course, but which reminds me that, at that time, startled at the great and unexpected success of my pamphlet, I said to him, "We shall have some great penance to balance this good fortune."

'There was on April 28 a special High Mass at the Passionists two miles from this. He thought he ought to be there, and walked in a scorching sun to be there in time. He got a sort of stroke. He never was himself afterwards. A brain fever came on. After the crisis, the doctor said he was recovering—he got better every day—we all saw this. On his last morning he parted with great impressiveness from an old friend, once one of our lay brothers, who had been with him through the night. The latter tells us that he had in former years watched, while with us, before the Blessed Sacrament, but he had never felt Our Lord so near him, as during that night. He says that his (A.'s) face was so beautiful; both William Neville and myself had noticed that at different times; and his eyes, when he looked straight at us, were brilliant as jewels. It was the expression, which was so sweet, tender, and beseeching. When his friend left him in the morning, Ambrose smiled on him and kissed his forehead, as {411} if he was taking leave of him. Mind, we all of us thought him getting better every day. When the doctor came, he said the improvement was far beyond his expectation. He said "From this time he knows all you say to him," though alas he could not speak. I have not time to go through that day, when we were so jubilant. In the course of it, when he was sitting on the side of his bed, he got hold of me and threw his arm over my shoulder and brought me to him so closely, that I said in joke "He will give me a stiff neck." So he held me for some minutes, I at length releasing myself from not understanding, as he did, why he so clung to me. Then he got hold of my hand and clasped it so tightly as really to frighten me, for he had done so once before when he was not himself. I had to get one of the others present to unlock his fingers, ah! little thinking what he meant. At 7 P.M. when I rose to go, and said "Good-bye, I shall find you much better tomorrow," he smiled on me with an expression which I could not and cannot understand. It was sweet and sad and perhaps perplexed, but I cannot interpret it. But it was our parting. W. N. says he called me back as I was leaving the room, but I do not recollect it.

'About midnight I was awakened at the Oratory, with a loud rapping at the door, and the tidings that a great change had taken place in him. We hurried off at once, but he had died almost as soon as the messenger started. He had been placed or rather had placed himself with great deliberation and self-respect in his bed—they had tucked him up, and William Neville was just going to give him some arrowroot when he rose upon his elbow, fell back and died.

'I daresay Church and Copeland, and Lord Coleridge, will like to see this—will you let them?
'Ever yours affectionately,

His friends among the holy women dedicated to the religious life gave him a sympathy which he gratefully appreciated.

To Mother Imelda Poole, the Prioress of the Dominicans, he writes:

'I thank God for having given him to me for so long.

'I thank Him for taking him away when there was a chance for him of a living death.

'I thank Him for having given me this warning to make haste myself and prepare for His coming.' {412}

He writes to Sister Maria Pia:

'What a faithful friend he has been to me for 32 years! yet there are others as faithful. What a wonderful mercy it is to me that God has given me so many faithful friends! He has never left me without support at trying times. How much you did for me in the Achilli trial, (and at other times) and I have never thanked you, as I ought to have done. This sometimes oppresses me—as if I was very ungrateful. You truly say that you have seen my beginning, middle, and end. Since his death, I have been reproaching myself for not expressing to him how much I felt his love—and I write this lest I should feel the same about you, should it be God's will that I should outlive you [Note 6]. I have above mentioned the Achilli matter, but that is only one specimen of the devotion, which by word and deed and prayer, you have been continually showing towards me most unworthy. I hope I don't write too small for your eyes.'

There are allusions to his loss—for the most part brief and significant in their brevity—in many letters of this time.

He writes to Miss Holmes: 'This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life, and so sudden. Pray for him and for me.' 'I doubt not,' he writes to another friend, 'or rather perceive, that this most severe blow was necessary to prepare me for death, for nothing short of it could wean me from life.' To another he says: 'I do not expect ever to get over the loss I have had. It is like an open wound which in old men cannot be healed.'

For a moment, in a letter of June 5 to Father Walford, he allows himself to dwell a little more fully on the thought of the past.


'The Oratory: June 2, 1875.
'I cannot be surprised that after so long a period as thirty-two years Our Lord should recall what He had given me. Was it not wonderful that, when I was stripped of friends, God should have given me just one who was ever to be faithful to me and to supply all needs to me? In 1847 at Rome they used to call him, as being fair and Saxon-looking, my Angel Guardian, and certainly he has been to me "Azarias the son of Ananias." This, of course, made me love him; but what has so greatly moved me and made me fear that I shall be so far below him if I ever get to Heaven that he will not notice me, is his fulness in good works. He was ever {413} doing something good. I could not take a walk with him except on Sundays, for he was always visiting the sick or the like, when he went out. He seemed never to have recreation when he was at home,—though his asthma, &c., forced him from time to time abroad—so punctual [was he] in his devotions; and again in his studies; and he was ever doing too much in the school. In this illness, he took up with him to Ravenhurst some work of St. John of the Cross to translate—and what was the cause of his illness and death was his translation of Fessler in the midst of other work.'

After Ambrose St. John's death others may have seemed lesser events by comparison; but they came, and they deepened the sorrows of Newman's declining years. William Wilberforce went in the summer; so too did the faithful matron of the Oratory School, Mrs. Wootten. Father Caswall in the following year was pronounced by the doctors to be hopelessly ill. Others, once his friends, though now either long separated from him or estranged, passed away—as Richard Simpson and J. D. Dalgairns. Newman's letters dwell constantly on these losses. A new degree of sadness and solemnity is apparent in them, little relieved by brighter thoughts.


'August 10th, 1875.
' … I was in London on my way to Surbiton to bid farewell to W. Wilberforce and his wife. They both have had strokes of paralysis—but hers is a gradual decay, while he (as it appears) will be carried off suddenly. He feels very much being stripped of all his brothers, and nearly all his friends. It is 48 years this month since I made his acquaintance at Hampstead, when I was coaching Henry Wilberforce and Golightly (aged both of them 20 I think) before I knew you. Her I have known in a way for 70 years, for my grandmother's house was next to her father's and the children in that way got acquainted—nearly all I recollect about it, however, is the boys sending off a rocket on the 5th of November.

'W. W.'s little son, whom you recollect a fair-haired little boy, has the look of an elderly man, seamed in face, and with the effect of having lost his teeth. The grandson is a fine tall fellow of (say) 24. Thus "one generation passeth away and another cometh" and everyone is his own centre as if he were not one of a throng—and it is all vanitas vanitatum.' {414}


'December 27, 1875.
'You refer to St. John's age. Yes, I often think, can it be God's will that, as the beloved disciple outlived all his brethren, I too am to have a portion of that special cross of his? Dear Mrs. Poncia, who went so unexpectedly two years ago, used to say on this day to me "Many, many returns of it": I used to answer, "You don't wish me to outlive you all"—and she answered, "Yes, till 90 or 100 years"—Then I said, "O how cruel!"

'Of late I have often thought whether it was God's will that I should have the trial of seeing those I loved die before me—but it was a very ungrateful thought to be suggested to me by God's great mercy in keeping me so well in health. Was it not enough to provoke Him to visit me with sickness and suffering? Well, I am in His Hands—and I can but repeat what I found among dear Father Ambrose's morning prayers, "Do with me what Thou wilt; I shall ever be in peace if I live and die in Thy love."

'May God be with you also as He has been with me; not only for 25 years, but, as He has been with you for so long a time, so also to the end—and with me too, till we all meet in the bosom of our God.'


'I am now entering a series of anniversaries of friends. Tomorrow, the 19th, died my oldest friend, Richard Westmacott—on the 21st my greatest school friend, Hans Hamilton—on the 22nd Samuel Wood—on the 23rd Henry Wilberforce—on the 24th Henry Woodgate—and on May 1st Isaac Williams.

'Only may we be ready, when our time comes!'


'December 29, 1876.
'We are losing one of our great props, to speak humanly, Father Caswall. He is one of four who one after another have generously thrown themselves and all they had into my hands—and whose loyalty and love God only can repay—my dear Father Ambrose St. John, Father Joseph Gordon, Mrs. Wootten, and Father Caswall. Three have gone, the fourth is going. I trust they may do something for me according to God's Blessed Will in compensation for my bereavement in losing them. And when am I to join {415} them? What a thick darkness is over the future! Pray that I may be ready whenever the time comes.'


'The Oratory: Jan. 22, 1878.
'It is natural that you should look with anxiety towards the future. The better you are, the more will the prospect before you be solemn. Again, the older you are, the more you realize what is to come. To younger people the unseen state is a matter of words—but as to people of our age they say to themselves, "For what I know I shall be in that unknown state tomorrow—" and that is very awful.

'So you must not allow yourself to be disturbed—but the more you feel that you have to give an account, you must look in faith, hope and love, towards our Lord Jesus, the Supreme Lover of souls, and your abiding Strength, towards the Blessed Virgin, and to St. Francis. They won't forsake you in your extremity, and your Guardian Angel will be faithful to the end ... '

His general gloom in these years showed itself in melancholy thoughts concerning the future of the world and the immediate prospects of the Church. His keen eye discerned the spread of principles, in the society of the day, which must issue in the widespread decay of Christian belief and in all the sadness of a world of sorrow without hope, which those who hailed the prospect as an emancipation realised so little. The following letters are samples of many such belonging to this period:


'The Oratory: Jan. 4, 1876.
'I thank you very much for your most kind letter, and reciprocate your good wishes for the New Year with all my heart, both as regards yourself and Mr. Maskell. The beginning of the year has always something very impressive in it, from the darkness which closes it in and only retreats day by day. Such mystery, though exciting in the case of the young and vigorous, has a very different effect upon us when we have got old—but, just at this time, its most solemn thought is when it is dwelt upon in connection with the fortunes of the Church. What a future, what awful events lie under that cloud. I don't mean as to happen in this very year, but as awaiting their birth in the years which lie before us. I don't know if you are well acquainted with the "Christian Year"—if {416} so, you will know that present always to the Author's mind was "the awful future as it nearer draws"—and though I don't mean to say that the end is coming, at least we are soon to enter upon a new cycle of sacred history. Also, we are told that, when the end actually does come, there will be the same high hopes, promise of good, jubilation, mutual congratulations, prosperity, and self confidence, to the virtual or actual denial of God, which is at present so rife and so growing.'


'The Oratory: Jan. 6th, 1877.
'As to the prospects of the Church, as to which you ask my opinion, you know old men are generally desponding—but my apprehensions are not new, but above 50 years standing. I have all that time thought that a time of wide-spread infidelity was coming, and through all those years the waters have in fact been rising as a deluge. I look for the time, after my life, when only the tops of the mountains will be seen like islands in the waste of waters. I speak principally of the Protestant world—but great actions and successes must be achieved by the Catholic leaders, great wisdom as well as courage must be given them from on high, if Holy Church is to (be) kept safe from this awful calamity, and, though any trial which came upon her would but be temporary, it may be fierce in the extreme while it lasts.'


'June 16th, 1877.
'Thank you for your thoughtful and valuable paper. The spread of scepticism is portentous—and the great mischief is that there is a general antecedent leaning to the side of unbelief, as the more reasonable and probable. A notion prevails that great changes are coming, so that men believe atheism before they have discovered revelation. As you say, Authority at least has a claim that the onus probandi should not be thrown upon its side. You are taking at Manchester a more useful and important line for your Academia, than they have chosen in London, as it seems to me.'


'The Oratory, Birmingham: July 12th, 1877.
'Your letter is a very good one—very much to the point and deserving a serious answer, but that answer cannot be given in few words. {417}

'It is quite true that Christianity should be far more effective to make men what it preaches than it is. This will not always be so, if we interpret the prophecies rightly—but that it was to be so at least at first, and for a season, is plain from our Lord's and St. Paul's intimations. Our Lord speaks of the Church as a net which gathered all kinds of fishes, good and bad; of the sower and his failures; of the wheat and cockle; of the foolish virgins; of the evil servant who ate and drank with drunkards. St. Paul of dangerous times, when men shall be covetous, without affection, incontinent, &c., &c. And the Corinthians, his converts, were guilty of sins which are marvellous in their strangeness under the circumstances.

'Then as to Catholics being worse than Protestants, &c., I think you must recollect that the corruptio optimi est pessima. And in our Lord's day, though "salvation was of the Jews," they seem to have been as a people in a worse state than the Samaritans.

'It is a wonderful phenomenon—but I think history tells us that the fierce Goths, &c., who came down upon the Roman Empire had the moral virtues as the Roman Christians had them not.

'One is led to say that those Christian people, forming the Roman State, were visited with the scourge of God, on account of their sins.

'And one is led to fear a similar judgment for similar reasons is sweeping, or will sweep, over the Church now.

'But of course I speak under the correction of those who have a right to speak with decision.'


'Rednal: July 30, 1877.
'I quite understand your great anxiety. And of course you make me anxious what to say also—what to say, that is, controversially.

'I fear I must go very deep and say this to the friend who made such an objection. Do you or do you not believe in a Personal God and Moral Governor? If you do not, then it is useless arguing—for if there is no God, there is no Revelation, no Church.

'But if you do, then do not all such difficulties resolve themselves in the great difficulty of the origin of evil? {418}

'If indeed you say, "The existence of evil proves there is no Almighty Ruler," then, I repeat, I have not to defend Revelation, for if there is no God, there is no Revelation, but if there be a God in spite of the fact of evil, then why do you make an objection to particulars, which are all included in the fact of evil? What wonder, if evil is so strong as it is, that Revealed Truth should have a hard battle with it? This is indeed the Scripture account of it. It says "the world lieth in evil," S. John V, 19. I can quite understand, shocking as it is, a man's saying "The existence of evil by itself proves there is no God,"—there is the field of battle—but to argue, "the existence of evil in the Church is a proof that the Church is not from God," is not going to the root of the matter, but trifling with a mere instance of a great and fearful fact instead of going straight to that fact itself.

'The fact of evil cannot be denied—the whole of Revelation not only allows, but requires it. All through Scripture a warfare with evil is made the very raison d'ętre of a Revelation. There need have been no Revelation, except for the existence of evil. The disasters and defeats of the Church are presupposed in Scripture. A time indeed is predicted when Truth will prevail, but that time is known to God alone.

'I am always doubtful whether what I feel myself will strike another. Write to me again if you think I can say anything to the purpose. All kind thoughts of the Baroness and the little child.
Ever yours most sincerely,

Newman's principal solace lay in work—in continuing the task of revising and editing his early writings [Note 8].

'Wonderful,' he writes to Dean Church, 'if I am kept to see a second generation here. I want to get through my papers, and to revise the volumes which remain as I published them, the "Prophetical Office," "Athanasius," and "Doctrinal Development," and fancy I shall then hail my Nunc dimittis.'

Two of the reprints referred to in this letter had special importance. The 'Essay on Development' was his greatest contribution to religious thought and also contained the main argument which brought him to the Catholic Church. It had (as we have seen) been attacked as in part at variance with {419} the traditional teaching of the Roman schools. He had ever maintained that this view was based on a misconception. And he had ever held the argument of the Essay to be essential to any satisfactory reply to modern agnosticism. To make himself then once more responsible for its contents, by reprinting it with notes and alterations as a contribution to Catholic theology, was a step of great importance. But almost equally important in the event proved his republication of the Tracts and lectures in which he had sketched the Via Media he had marked out for the Church of England in the heyday of the Oxford Movement. He had again been speaking, as he did before writing the 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,' as though his work were done, and he was waiting in daily expectation of his passing bell; but once more circumstances led him to break his resolution. To what he began as a reprint, with notes, of his Anglican Tracts, he was led in the end to add an introductory Essay of high importance.

When Newman came to revise his own attack on the Roman Catholic system, written in the days of the Oxford Movement, he found that a great deal of it was sound and true. But, as he now recognised, it was in reality a criticism not on the Church itself, or on the Catholic religion, but on the action of Catholic peoples or rulers in special circumstances. Since he had been a Catholic he had himself had experiences which greatly tried him. He had therefore found consolation in recognising this distinction. And in a letter to Lord Blachford, written in 1867, he had further traced the source of his trial to another fact. The Catholic Church was a body politic, as well as the maintainer of a special creed and theology. The ecclesiastical rulers had to consider the life of devotion among the many, and the interests of order and of self-defence for the community, as well as accuracy in the intellectual statement of beliefs involved in the Catholic religion. Rule, devotion, and theology were three separate aspects of Catholic life, each necessary, and yet often having conflicting interests. He regarded his very latest trial—namely, the events accompanying the Vatican Council—as a case illustrative of this general fact. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility had been, he complained, regarded by a certain party as a 'luxury of {420} devotion.' It supplied a great rallying cry, and made for loyal devotion and esprit de corps. The definition was, moreover, held to be an important practical step in the existing state of ecclesiastical politics—a check on the dangerous 'Liberal Catholic' movement in Germany, which apart from its more scientific aspect was sometimes marked by a censorious and even disloyal attitude towards the Roman See; and this was a moment when Rome was in trouble and needed a united phalanx of defenders. Thus the interests of rule and of devotion were in favour of the definition. And Newman's complaint had been that the interests of intellectual accuracy—the exhibition of the consistency of the dogma with acknowledged theological principles and historical facts—had been inadequately attended to. Conflicting interests had been apparent in his earlier trials also. In the difficulties presented in his early Catholic life by the Oratorian Saints' Lives also, the interests of popular devotion had been on one side, those of scientific treatment of evidence on the other. Athwart both these interests had come a third—guarded especially by the Bishops—namely, prudent rule and consideration for the feelings of the hereditary English Catholics, to whom foreign devotional literature appeared extravagant. Again, the rule of Propaganda, which he had regarded as at times injurious to intellectual interests, arose from England's holding technically the position of a missionary country. The same system did not act badly in other missionary countries where the condition of society was ruder. This was again an instance of rules made for the Church as a polity proving injurious to theological efficiency.

The whole modern Ultramontane movement, inaugurated by Joseph de Maistre, was indeed largely one of sentimental loyalty to the central authority, affecting devotion and rule far more than theology. Critics external to the Church identified these several interests. Ultramontanism was spoken of as aggressive. Regarded as a theology the term was quite inapplicable. The doctrine was that of the gentle Fénelon, and Newman himself had ever held it. It was not more aggressive than Gallicanism in its typical representatives. Bossuet was certainly not less militant than his great rival. It was the attempt to utilise Ultramontane {421} doctrine in the cause of undue centralisation, and practically to suspend the functions of the theological schools, which was aggressive and tyrannical in Newman's eyes. And this was a defect not of the doctrine itself or of Catholic theology as such, but of over-enthusiastic individual rulers and followers. It did not relate to the Catholic creed or its analysis, but to the Catholic polity and its action. If there was much in the existing state of the Church that was trying to one like Newman, to whom the interests of exact and deep Christian thought as a breakwater against infidelity were all-important, this did not, provided that the above distinctions were kept clear, cast any slur on the truth and sanctity of the Catholic religion. Yet friends and foes alike were apt to lose sight of such distinctions, and to identify interests which were in reality disparate. They were apt to regard the militant action of a Church in time of persecution, as normal, and due rather to the nature of the Catholic religion than to the circumstances of the time.

Owing to the fact that intellectual interests were not, in his opinion, given full and fair play, Newman had hitherto considered, as we have seen, that it was only in the shape of polemical writing, rebutting the exaggerated charges of outsiders, that he could successfully advocate a wider and more comprehensive view than was generally current. It was as the advocate of the Catholic cause against its critics rather than of the interests of theological accuracy, that he could best carry with him the sympathy of his co-religionists. He had done so successfully in 1864 in answer to Kingsley. He had done so again in 1866 in reply to Pusey, and yet again in 1875 in answer to Gladstone. Now there was indeed no eminent living assailant of the Catholic Church to reply to. But in reading, with a view to their republication, the old Tracts of 1837, he found in his dead Anglican self the foe whom he sought. He prefixed to the republished Tracts—which he entitled 'Via Media'—an introduction of high interest and value, called by him only a 'preface,' and inserted with no display and little suggestion of its special importance. In it he mapped out the plan of the Church, drawing the all-important distinction between the three fields of Catholic action. {422}

'Christianity,' he wrote in this Prefatory Essay, 'is at once a philosophy, a political power, and a religious rite; as a religion it is Holy; as a philosophy, it is Apostolic; as a political power, it is imperial, that is One and Catholic. As a religion, its special centre of action is pastor and flock; as a philosophy, the Schools; as a rule, the Papacy and its Curia.

'Though it has exercised these three functions in substance from the first, they were developed in their full proportions one after another, in a succession of centuries; first, in the primitive time it was recognised as a worship, springing up and spreading in the lower ranks of society, and among the ignorant and dependent, and making its power felt by the heroism of its Martyrs and confessors. Then it seized upon the intellectual and cultivated class, and created a theology and schools of learning. Lastly it seated itself, as an ecclesiastical polity, among princes, and chose Rome for its centre.

'Truth is the guiding principle of theology and theological inquiries; devotion and edification, of worship; and of government, expedience. The instrument of theology is reasoning; of worship, our emotional nature; of rule, command and coercion. Further, in man as he is, reasoning tends to rationalism; devotion to superstition and enthusiasm; and power to ambition and tyranny.

'Arduous as are the duties involved in these three offices, to discharge one by one, much more arduous are they to administer, when taken in combination. Each of the three has its separate scope and direction; each has its own interests to promote and further; each has to find room for the claims of the other two; and each will find its own line of action influenced and modified by the others, nay, sometimes in a particular case the necessity of the others converted into a rule of duty for itself.

'"Who," in St. Paul's words, "is sufficient for these things?" Who, even with divine aid, shall successfully administer offices so independent of each other, so divergent, and so conflicting? What line of conduct, except on the long, the very long run, is at once edifying, expedient, and true? Is it not plain, that, if one determinate course is to be taken by the Church, acting at once in all three capacities, so opposed to each other in their idea, that course must, as I have said, be deflected from the line which would be traced out by any one of them, if viewed by itself, or else the requirements of one or two sacrificed to the interests of the third? {423} What for instance, is to be done in a case when to enforce a theological point, as the Schools determine it, would make a particular population less religious, not more so, or cause riots or risings? Or when to defend a champion of ecclesiastical liberty in one country would encourage an Anti-Pope, or hazard a general persecution, in another? or when either a schism is to be encountered or an opportune truth left undefined?

'All this was foreseen certainly by the Divine Mind, when He committed to His Church so complex a mission; and, by promising her infallibility in her formal teaching, He indirectly protected her from serious error in worship and political action also. This aid, however, great as it is, does not secure her from all dangers as regards the problem which she has to solve; nothing but the gift of impeccability granted to her authorities would secure them from all liability to mistake in their conduct, policy, words and decisions, in her legislative and her executive, in ecclesiastical and disciplinarian details; and such a gift they have not received. In consequence, however well she may perform her duties on the whole, it will always be easy for her enemies to make a case against her, well founded or not, from the action or interaction, or the chronic collisions or contrasts, or the temporary suspense or delay, of her administration, in her three several departments of duty,—her government, her devotions, and her schools,—from the conduct of her rulers, her divines, her pastors, or her people.'

The interests of devotion, in so far as devotion depends on preserving the most fundamental religious beliefs, are the most essential. The securing of intellectual accuracy in matters less fundamental is not so important. The first condition of the influence of religion, is to preserve for the many their hold on the reality of the world behind the veil and their general trust in Christianity. Such fundamental beliefs are protected for them by the existing theology. The customary interpretation of Holy Writ, and the well-worn explanations in the theological text-books, become for many minds, by force of habit, inseparably bound up with their faith in the supernatural. To throw doubt on this or that detail in the existing structure by introducing novel opinions might be (Newman argues) for such minds to shake or destroy the whole—truth and incidental error alike. Great caution was thus a duty when questioning long-accepted views as to the meaning {424} of Holy Writ, lest the faith of the many should be imperilled. Views which have long been in possession must not be lightly set aside on the strength of ingenious scientific hypotheses.

'To the devotional mind,' he writes, 'what is new and strange is as repulsive, often as dangerous, as falsehood is to the scientific. Novelty is often error to those who are unprepared for it, from the refraction with which it enters into their conceptions.'

As to the upsetting effect on faith, of new discoveries at variance with traditionary beliefs, the Galileo case was the stock instance which he naturally quoted. And it could ever be used with effect for more than one reason. It brought about in its time a change as drastic in the received theological opinions, and in the interpretation of Scripture, as any which the more recent scientific hypotheses demanded. The theologians long resisted the change. They finally yielded. Thus the incident was an excellent illustration, at once of the conservative genius of Catholic theology as against mere hypothesis, and yet of its capacity to so far modify its seemingly uncompromising attitude as eventually to assimilate those hypotheses should they become proved facts.

Newman loyally defended a certain reserve and tenderness for the weak, in conducting theological discussions. Nevertheless he plainly indicated his own view that the danger of the time in which he lived lay in carrying this principle too far. 'I know well,' he writes, 'that "all things have their season," and that there is not only "a time to keep silence," but "a time to speak," and that, in some states of society, such as our own, it is the worst charity, and the most provoking, irritating rule of action, and the most unhappy policy, not to speak out, not to suffer to be spoken out, all that there is to say. Such speaking out is under such circumstances the triumph of religion, whereas concealment, accommodation, and evasion is to co-operate with the spirit of error;—but it is not always so.'

Now again, as when he replied to Gladstone, if he wrote at all on these great questions he held it to be his duty to express his dissatisfaction with the polemics of some of his co-religionists. Hence we find in the Preface the following significant sentence: {425}

'It is so ordered on high that in our day Holy Church should present just that aspect to my countrymen which is most consonant with their ingrained prejudices against her, most unpromising for their conversion; and what can one writer do against this misfortune?'

The Preface to the 'Via Media' (as he called the republished lectures) naturally did not arouse any such wide attention as the 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' had called forth. But it was well received among Catholics, the Jesuits in the Month and W. G. Ward in the Dublin Review speaking of it with special admiration.

At the end of 1877, while Newman was still hard at work, feeling that his time was short, and anxious before he died to complete the revision of all his works, there came amid the sorrows of loss the happier accompaniments of extreme old age—namely, the tokens of public recognition of his life of devotion and high example.

His old college (Trinity) made him an honorary Fellow [Note 9]; R. W. Church announced another mark of honour shortly to come from Oriel. Mr. James Bryce was eager to present to him his picture painted by a great artist—Mr. Ouless. A similar request came from his own parishioners in Birmingham. Gladstone referred to him in a public speech in terms which were so laudatory as to seem to him extravagant. 'Although,' he writes to Church, 'I am truly grateful for Gladstone's kindness, I am frightened at it. It was to most men's apprehensions out of place, and I dread a reaction.'

But these manifestations of respect and sympathy did something to soothe one of his temperament amid all the heavy trials of advancing life. 'I do not know when I have been so much pleased,' he writes of the offer from Trinity. But before accepting it he notified the occurrence to his Bishop, Dr. Ullathorne, giving him thereby an opportunity of raising any objection to his acceptance of what was offered if he saw one. {426}

'The Oratory: Dec. 18, 1877.
'My dear Lord,—I have just received a great compliment, perhaps the greatest I have ever received, and I don't like not to tell you of it one of the first.

'My old College, Trinity College, where I was an undergraduate from the age of 16 to 21, till I gained a Fellowship at Oriel, has made me an Honorary Fellow of their Society. Of course it involves no duties, rights or conditions, not even that of belonging to the University, certainly not that of having a vote as Master of Arts, but it is a mark of extreme kindness to me from men I have never seen, and it is the only instance of their exercising their power since it was given them.

'Trinity College has been the one and only seat of my affections at Oxford, and to see once more, before I am taken away, what I never thought I should see again, the place where I began the battle of life, with my good angel by my side, is a prospect almost too much for me to bear.

'I have been considering for these two days, since the offer came to me, whether there would be any inconsistency in my accepting it, but it is so pure a compliment in its very title that I do not see that I need fear its being interpreted by the world as anything else.

'Begging your Lordship's blessing, I am your obedient and affectionate servant in Christ,

'P.S.—The Pope made me a D.D., but I don't call an act of the Pope's a "compliment."'

The new edition of the 'Essay on Development' was ready, and Newman wished to dedicate it to the Fellows of Trinity as a thankoffering for the honour they had conferred on him. His letters on this subject to R. W. Church—whom he commissioned to sound Mr. Wayte, the President, as to how far the offering would be acceptable to the college—are very characteristic in their minute thoughtfulness for others, and as showing Newman's desire to do precisely what would be most agreeable to all those concerned as well as what was congenial to his own grateful feelings.

'The Oratory: Decr. 20, 1877.
'My dear Church,—A happy Xmas to you and yours. The Trinity Fellows have made me an Honorary Fellow of their Society. The first they ever made.
'Yours affectly
JOHN H. NEWMAN.' {427}


Jan. 21, 1878.
'I am on the point of publishing afresh a volume, which, having no dedication, I thought I would ask leave to dedicate to the President of Trinity.

'This seemed to me a bright thought—but soon came a fatal obstacle, as I fear—not simply is it a work in favour of the Church of Rome—for in the Dedication I might have parried this difficulty, but it is my Essay on Development of Doctrine, which though from beginning to end grave and argumentative, just at the beginning and at the end is not so.

'Now it would be a sad damper for me to offer it and Wayte to be obliged to decline it. Yet on the other hand it is just possible that, if I passed the idea over, he, at some future time on hearing it, might say "Why did you not tell me? I should not have cared for it at all." But I in his position think I should decline it, and that for two reasons.

'I should say

'1. "Dr. Newman will make people think he is beginning a crusade."

'2. "It is unfair to Trinity College, and will do it harm in the world. It interprets their generous act in the Papistical sense."

'If you take this view with me I shall quite acquiesce in it.

'I send a sketch of the proposed Dedication, and of the beginning and the end of my book.'


'Jany. 23 1878.
'I return Mr. Ouless's letter. These honours, if you are right about Oriel, have a great significancy in them. To use sacred words, they are an anointing for the burial,—and when I think that, when the curtain is drawn, the first will be last and the last first, the prospect makes one dizzy.

'Since I wrote to you the day before yesterday, it has struck me that I might do this:—print a dedication in presentation copies to the President and to Trinity Library, but in no others; the published copies having no dedication. In that case it would be as much a private act as "from the Author," then, in better times, if there was a new edition, the Dedication might be printed and published. Think of this.'

A visit of Mr. Wayte to Birmingham gave Newman an opportunity of consulting him directly as to the publication of the dedication of the 'Essay on Development.' {428}


'March 1, 1878.
'I am very thankful to you, but very much ashamed, that you should for me have so laborious a day as you had the day before yesterday.

'I also write to pay you thanks for the letter from you which I found on my table on my return. Bryce rather pressed me whether I had said to you Yes or No—and I seemed to myself very ungracious to a kind questioner not to answer him. But I think you understand me, and I could not say to him what I said to you. I don't like to be made an artistic subject; and Mr. Ouless' saying he will come down here for nothing is as if he paid me for sitting. I am afraid of writing thus, lest I should say something rude—yet I want to defend myself.

'I have not told you the result of my calling on Wayte. I opened by saying that if he decided the Dedication should not be published, he would not disappoint me, for in so delicate a matter not to publish was the safest course,—and, were I in Wayte's place I should say no. Then he said "I should like to think it over, and will give you my answer by six o'clock, but at first sight I must say that I am against your publishing the Dedication."

'I left the volume with him—he returned it as he promised with a note which began thus: "My second and I hope better thoughts are that 'you should publish.' I have tried in the intervals of a meeting of business, since I saw you, to weigh pros and cons, but I will not trouble you with my reasons."

'So you will receive a copy with the Dedication in.'

The Dedication—which was thereupon published—was one of those happy efforts of this kind in which Newman had few, if any, rivals. It ran as follows:

President of Trinity College, Oxford

'My dear President,—Not from any special interest which I anticipate you will take in this volume, or any sympathy you will feel in its argument, or intrinsic fitness of any kind in my associating you and your Fellows with it,—

'But, because I have nothing besides it to offer you, in {429} token of my sense of the gracious compliment which you and they have paid me in making me once more a member of a college dear to me from undergraduate memories;—

'Also because of the happy coincidence, that whereas its first publication was contemporaneous with my leaving Oxford, its second becomes, by virtue of your act, contemporaneous with a recovery of my position there:—

'Therefore it is that, without your leave or your responsibility, I take the bold step of placing your name in the first pages of what, at my age, I must consider the last print or reprint on which I shall ever be engaged.

'I am, my dear President, most sincerely yours,

The Trinity Fellows invited Newman to pay a visit to the college, and he did so in February. He visited his old rooms and found the walls adorned by its existing occupant with pictures of lights of the theatrical world. His former tutor, Thomas Short, was still alive, in his 89th year, and the meeting between them is remembered to have been very affecting.

Mr. James Bryce (now our Ambassador at Washington), who proposed his health in an after-dinner speech which is remembered as a masterpiece, thus recalls the event in a letter to myself:

'In response to the toast of his health he made a speech of perhaps ten minutes in length or a little more in a delightfully simple, natural and genial vein. My recollections of what he said are now unfortunately comparatively faint, but I remember the exquisite finish of his expressions and the beautiful clearness of his articulation and the sweetness of his voice. The subject was so far as I recollect mainly reminiscences of his college days at Trinity, and in particular he referred to one occasion when he went to call upon one of the former tutors who was still living, but who, if I remember right, had become so feeble in body that he was not able to come to the dinner. He was then Senior Fellow. That was Mr. Thomas Short, who was the Cardinal's senior by, I should think, 8 or 10 years. He mentioned to us that he found Mr. Short at lunch, and I remember how he entertained us by conveying indirectly and by a sort of reference that Mr. Short was lunching off lamb chops. I do not think he mentioned directly that the lunch consisted of lamb chops, but he {430} played round the subject in such a way as to convey that lamb chops were on the table. He spoke with the greatest respect and reverence of Mr. Short, who by that time had outlived all his contemporaries. There were other pleasing little recollections of Trinity as it was in those days, but I cannot at this moment recollect the substance of them.

'What struck us most was the mixture of sadness and pleasure with which he came among us and recalled his early days. The reference in one of his writings to his rooms in the college and to a plant of snapdragon which grew upon the wall opposite the window of the room in which he lived, on what we used to call the "kitchen staircase" will occur to your readers. I think the reference is in the "Apologia."

'There was something tenderly pathetic to us younger people in seeing the old man come again, after so many eventful years, to the hall where he had been wont to sit as a youth, the voice so often heard in St. Mary's retaining, faint though it had grown, the sweet modulations Oxford knew so well, and the aged face worn deep with the lines of thought, struggle and sorrow. The story of a momentous period in the history of the University and of religion in England seemed to be written there.'

Miss Giberne, eager to hear all about this memorable visit to Oxford, wrote to him for particulars and impressions, reminding him of a graphic account by St. John Chrysostom of some of his own experiences, and hoping that Newman would tell with similar fulness the story of the Oxford visit. She received the following very characteristic reply:

'The Oratory: In Fest. S. Joseph, 1878.
'My dear Sister M. Pia,—Your letter just received made me both sigh and smile. I can only say with the "needy knife grinder," "Story? heaven bless you, I have none to tell you—" I assure you I made no record of my feelings when I went to Oxford, and recollect nothing. I know it was a trial to me and a pleasure—but I could not say more, if you put me on the rack. And, when you talk of my writing, you must recollect that it is trouble to me to write now, a trouble both to head and hand—and, there are so many letters which I am obliged to write, that, unless necessary, I shirk it. {431}

'Now I might sit for an hour till I had bitten the top of my pen holder off, without being able to put down on paper my "impressions, pains and joys and reception." If, "like St. John Chrysostom," I was called to suffer, perhaps I might have something to say about my visit; but an Oriental is not a silent Englishman, nor a Saint any earnest or token of what a humdrum mortal is in the reign of Queen Victoria.

'I can but tell you that the Trinity Fellows seem to be a pleasing set of men and very kind to me, but I suppose they are very far from the Church—that the Keble College people were very friendly and showed me over the magnificent buildings which they have erected, and that Pusey, whom I have not seen since 1865, looks much older. I had no time to go to Littlemore—or indeed to do anything beyond calling on Pusey, at Oriel, and at Keble College.
'Ever yrs affly
J. H. N.

'I don't forget what I owe to your prayers.'

The Oratorian Fathers who remember that time speak of the years between 1875 and 1879 as very sad ones for Newman. His silence and depression were very noticeable to those who lived with him. The death of Ambrose St. John cast a shadow which could not be removed, and it was deepened by the loss of other friends. What is there to look forward to?—was the thought that would come as years advanced and strength diminished. The solemn conviction that he must think no more of an earthly future, but prepare to follow his friends who had gone, was never absent from his mind. Yet what he had done as a Catholic seemed as yet so fragmentary, so incomplete, accompanied with so much of failure! During all these years he had ever repeated 'Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom.' He had hoped to see a path of useful work open out from the surrounding obscurity. 'Have patience and the meaning of trial will be made clear' was the assurance which he constantly preached to himself. Now, however, he was nearer eighty than seventy, and the inexorable march of time seemed to bid him finally to put away further hope so far as this world was concerned. His life had had its successes, and, in later years especially, its heavy trials. The cloud which seemed to hang {432} over him, the evil report in many Catholic circles of his falling short of whole-hearted loyalty to the Church, because his duty to truth had held him back from the extravagant language which was demanded by so many as the watchword of orthodoxy, must be accepted as an irreversible fact. His companions felt that these were years of depression—if of resignation.

The Trinity Fellowship had come most opportunely, and was a real ray of sunshine. April 1878 saw another event which relieved the monotony of his life, namely the election to the Papal throne of Leo XIII. We may well suppose that one who was so ready as Newman to see a providential meaning in coincidences may have recalled words used by him in the 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.' He had spoken in that letter of the exaggerated interpretations of the great definition at Ephesus which Leo the Great set right by his condemnation at Chalcedon of the Monophysites. And he applied the parable to the exaggerated views on the prerogatives of the Papacy which in the eyes of some were countenanced by the Vatican definition. Should the need arise (he adds) to set right so false an interpretation of its true meaning 'another Leo will be given for the occasion; "in monte dominus videbit."'

The beginning of a new Pontificate was also for other reasons naturally an event which aroused him. And in the first year of his reign the new Pope took an opportunity of sending Newman a picture from his own breviary with his blessing,—a gift which was gratefully recorded in a letter to Miss Giberne.

But Newman soon relapsed into the sadness which had been for a while somewhat dissipated by these two incidents, though he settled down again into the groove of work. William Paine Neville was constantly with him—taking in some sort the place left vacant by Ambrose St. John's death. 'I have only my "Athanasius" to publish now,' he wrote to a friend, 'in order to get all my books off my hands. Then, as far as I can tell, I shall have no more to do with writing books.' Working and praying, sad yet resigned, he awaited the great summons which he felt might come any day.

Top | Contents | Biographies | Home


1. 'Feb. 27, 1876. Curiously enough the foregoing page (about writing not without a call) was written but a few weeks before the call made on me by Gladstone's pamphlets, and my consequent Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.—J.H.N.'
Return to text

2. In the following passages he repudiates extreme views:

He quotes from a declaration of the Swiss Bishops, approved by Pius IX. himself, to the effect that 'it in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine the object of a dogmatic definition.'—Difficulties of Anglicans, ii. 339.

' … If I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing) I shall drink,—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.'—p. 261.

The whole of section 5 is devoted to the elaboration of the supremacy of conscience—'not,' he is careful to note, 'as a fancy or an opinion, but as a dutiful obedience to what claims to be a Divine voice speaking within us.'—p. 255.

Newman lays down, however, at pp. 257-8 with great care the stringent conditions on which alone it is lawful to oppose 'the supreme but not infallible authority of the Pope.'

'Archbishop Kenrick says, "His power was given for edification, not for destruction. If he uses it from the love of domination (quod absit) scarcely will he meet with obedient populations."'—p. 243.

He quotes Bellarmine as saying 'As it is lawful to resist the Pope, if he assaulted a man's person, so it is lawful to resist him if he assaulted souls, or troubled the state (turbanti rempublicam), and much more if he strove to destroy the Church. It is lawful, I say, to resist him, by not doing what he commands, and hindering the execution of his will' (De Rom. Pont. ii. 29).—p. 243.

'Other, and they the highest Ultramontane theologians, hold that a Pope who teaches heresy ipso facto ceases to be Pope.'—p. 359.

'Now the Rock of St. Peter on its summit enjoys a pure and serene atmosphere, but there is a great deal of Roman malaria at the foot of it.'—p. 297.

' ... There are partisans of Rome who have not the sanctity and wisdom of Rome herself.'—p. 300.

'Of course Mr. Gladstone means Theologians—not mere courtiers or sycophants, for the Pope cannot help having such till human nature is changed.'—p. 378.

'I am not referring to anything which took place within the walls of the Council chambers; of that of course we know nothing; but even though things occurred there which it is not pleasant to dwell upon, that would not at all affect, not by a hair's breadth, the validity of the resulting definition.'—p. 300.

'They [the minority at Ephesus] had opposed it [the definition] on the conviction that that definition gave great encouragement to religious errors in the opposite extreme to those which it condemned; and, in fact, I think that, humanly speaking, the peril was extreme. The event proved it to be so, when twenty years afterwards another Council was held under the successors of the majority at Ephesus and carried triumphantly those very errors whose eventual success had been predicted by the minority.'—p. 306.

'Though the Holy Ghost has always been present in the Church to hinder error in her definitions, and in consequence they are all most true and consistent, yet it is not therefore to be denied that God, when any matters have to be defined, required of the Church a co-operation and investigation of those matters, and that, in proportion to the quality of men who meet together in councils, to the investigation and diligence which is applied, and the greater or less experience and knowledge which is possessed more at one time than at other times, definitions more or less perspicuous are drawn up and matters are defined more exactly and completely' (quoted from Molina).—p. 307.

'"Faith justifies when it works," or "there is no religion where there is no charity," may be taken in a good sense; but each proposition is condemned in Quesnel, because it is false as he uses it.'—p. 295.

'None but the Schola Theologorum is competent to determine the force of Papal and Synodal utterances, and the exact interpretation of them is a work of time.'—p. 176.

' … Instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope's act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened.'—p. 333.

' ... I think it a usurpation, too wicked to be comfortably dwelt upon, when individuals use their own private judgment, in the discussion of religious questions, not simply "abundare in suo sensu," but for the purpose of anathematizing the private judgment of others.'—p. 346.

He speaks of 'that principle of minimizing so necessary, as I think, for a wise and cautious theology.'—p. 332.

These passages should all be read in their context. They are none of them directed against even the most generous recognition of the Pope's powers as set forth by the majority of theologians, but against exaggerations which he held to be untheological and impossible to maintain in serious controversy.
Return to text

3. The hereditary Catholics as contrasted with the converts were spoken of as 'old Catholics.'
Return to text

4. The text of this letter is given in the Appendix at p. 565.
Return to text

5. Further letters relative to the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk and Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet will be found in the Appendix at p. 559.
Return to text

6. He did outlive her. Miss Giberne died in December 1885.
Return to text

7. Baron von Hügel had consulted Dr. Newman as to the best reply to be given to one who felt that the scandals in Church history were a decisive argument against the claims of the Church. [See also Five LettersNR.]
Return to text

8. From his correspondence at this time some further extracts are given in the Appendix at p. 566.
Return to text

9. Mr. Raper, now Senior Fellow of Trinity, first suggested this graceful compliment. The thought came to him, he tells me, when looking at Newman's picture in the Common room.
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.