The Press on Cardinal Newman

The Athenĉum

{20} "In the grave, whither thou goest,"
O weary Champion of the Cross, lie still:
Sleep thou at length the all embracing sleep:
Long was thy sowing day, rest now and reap:
Thy fast was long, feast now thy spirit's fill.
Yea, take thy fill of love, because thy will
Chose love not in the shallows but the deep:
Thy tides were springtides, set against the neap
Of calmer souls: thy flood rebuked their rill.
Now night has come to thee—please God of rest:
So some time must it come to every man;
To first and last, where many last are first.
Now fixed and finished thine eternal plan,
Thy best has done its best, thy worst its worst:
Thy best its best, please God, thy best its best.
—Christina G. Rossetti.

Peace to the virgin heart, the crystal brain!
Peace for one hour through all the camps of thought
Our subtlest mind has rent the veil of pain,
Has found the truth he sought.
Who knows what page these newborn eyes have read?
If this set creed, or that, or none be best?—
Let no strife jar above his sacred head;
Peace for a saint at rest.
—Edmund Gesse. {21}

Athenĉum

A great leader of men, an influential ecclesiastic, a man of saintly life, a spiritual force of great power, a master of English prose, has passed away this week with JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. To modern England he has been as one of the dead from the night, and he has himself written the biography of that dead self in one of the masterpieces of English literature.

It seems almost a paradox to say of the author of fifty volumes that his true sphere was in action, not thought or literature, yet it is a paradox that contains more than the usual fraction of truth. He was born to lead men; the very modesty that caused him at times to deny this concealed his dissatisfaction even with the enormous mastery he wielded over men's souls and fates for so many years. It was by personal intercourse he sought to move the world and did move it. The tenacity with which he clung to his old friendships was significant of much. His whole life was a sermon, the test of which might well be the title of his epoch-making discourse, "Personal Intercourse the Means of propagating the Truth"—the sermon that really started the Tractarian movement, and not Keble's on National Apostasy.   *   *   *   *   *   His was not the writer's nature that is irresistibly impelled to writing and thinking for their own sakes. He thought, he wrote, that he might influence the actions of men. He did influence their actions.   *   *   *   *   *   "Lead, Kindly Light," the one hymn of our language—the "Apologia," and perhaps the "Idea of a University" will form permanent additions to English literature   *   *   *   *   *   Dealing for the most part with subjects remote from human interest, he would so order his argument that it would have the attraction of a plot for us. Topics that seemed forbidding, both for their theological technicalities and their repulse of reason were {22} presented by him with such skill that they appeared as inevitable as Euclid, and as attractive as Plato. All the resources of a master of English style—except, perhaps, one, description—were at his command: pure diction, clear arrangement, irony, dignity, a copious command of words, combined with a reserve in the use of them—all these qualities went to make up the charm of NEWMAN'S style; the finest flower that the earlier system of a purely classical education has produced. It is curious by the way that the only two men of our time who have written on Theology and possessed a style, Dr. Martineau and NEWMAN, have had Huguenot blood in their veins, and with NEWMAN all this was informed with the attraction of a personality so rare, and a nature so rich that the appeal is irresistible even to those who care little for his topics. Yes, that was an exceptionally rich nature which has just been removed from the world. He moved many men because he had within him the making of many men. He had points of contact with nearly all the currents of thought and feeling which were to transform the higher England in Queen Victoria's reign. That revolt of his against "Liberalism," as he called it, was prophetic of nearly all the deeper movements of our time. The resort to history for spiritual nourishment, which led him from the Evangelicalism of Simeon to Rome herself, has become a source of inspiration for the higher politics and economics of our time. There was something, too, of the romantic temper in him—that return to the mystic glow and unimaginative colouring of the Middle Ages, that has done so much for our literature and our art.

But it was chiefly and mainly in his passion for theology that he came nearest to the higher strivings of his countrymen. In no one of his time was manifested more strongly the wish to believe which some of his disciples have ranked so high above the desire to know. His whole life was dominated by this {23} wish, and it is this that gives such dramatic unity to the Apologia. No other autobiography—certainly not that of St. Augustine, its nearest prototype in literature—is so intensely theological. It is not the life of a man we read, it is the drama of a soul, and of a soul entirely occupied with the relations of itself to God. Surely few men have always lived their life so completely in the great Taskmaster's eye. He seems to have ever lived in the sphere of that childish fancy of his that the men around him were angels disguised in human form—in other words that God and he were the only noumenal realities of the world. It was characteristic of his whole tone of thought that in dealing with what seemed to be a purely logical problem in his "Grammar of Assent" he postulates a new sense—the Illative Sense—clearly for the one purpose of giving validity to faith. Logician as he was, he subordinated here, as elsewhere, the claims of logic to the claims of theology.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

He had the head of a lawyer, we have said, but of it should be added that he had the heart of a saint. The saintly life has never been more faithfully followed than by JOHN  HENRY NEWMAN. It is due to his life more than to his doctrines or his presentation of them that so marked a change of public opinion has occurred about NEWMAN and about his Church. After all, men judge creeds by the characters they produce rather than by the theological consistency of their doctrines; and that the pendulum of public opinion about Roman Catholics in England has swung back from violent antipathy to sympathetic admiration is due in large measure to the saintly life of JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. {24}

Academy

We will not give a sketch of the life of the remarkable man who has just been taken from us. Neither will we attempt a critical analysis of his writings, or a history of the Oxford Movement, with which his name is so inseparably connected. But it is possible that some few remarks of a more personal character from one who was his churchwarden at St. Mary's, fifty years ago, and who was always treated by him with the greatest kindness—even though he did not altogether embrace his theological views—may not be unwelcome to some of our readers. NEWMAN'S wonderful power of attracting the devoted affection of younger men   *   *   *   *   *   *   his own love for his "dear old first college," as he called Trinity in after years, and his yearning after Oxford,. which continued through life, all testify to the affectionate loveableness of his character. Who can wonder that the closing words of the last sermon that he preached at Littlemore drew tears from the eyes of his sorrowing friends and disciples? "And, O my brethren, O kind and affectionate hearts, O loving friends, should you know anyone whose lot it has been, by writing or by word of mouth, in some degree to help you thus to act; if he has ever told you what you knew about yourselves, or what you did not know; has read to you your wants or feelings, and comforted you by the very reading; has made you feel that there was a higher life than this daily one, and a brighter world than that you see; or encouraged you, or sobered you, or opened a way to the inquiring, or soothed the perplexed; if what he has said or done has ever made you take interest in him, and feel well inclined towards him; remember such a one in time to come, though you hear him not, and pray for him, that in all things he may know God's will, and at all times he may be ready to fulfil it." {25}

As an instance of his loving remembrance of Oxford, we should like to mention the "Bird's-eye View" which we noticed some years ago on the walls of the waiting-room at the Oratory, with these touching words (Ezek. xxxvii. 3), in large blue capital letters, at the top and bottom of the print "Fili hominis, putasne vivent ista ossa? Domine Deus, Tu nosti."

But especially his love for the Anglican Church with all its faults and shortcomings, as expressed in another passionately pathetic passage in the same sermon, "On the parting of Friends," is quite sufficient to explain the slow, gradual way in which he at last made up his mind to leave it, which some persons at the time said he ought to have done long before.

Aberdeen Journal

The manner and power of his sermons have been testified to by many. No one, it is said, who heard his sermons in those days can ever forget them. They were seldom directly theological. "NEWMAN, taking some Scripture character for a text," says Froude, "spoke to us about ourselves, our temptations, our experiences. His illustrations were inexhaustible. He never exaggerated, he never was unreal. A sermon from him was a poem formed on a distinct idea, fascinating by its subtlety, welcome—how welcome—for its sincerity, interesting for its originality, and to others who wished to be religious, but had found religion dry and wearisome, it was like the springing of a fountain out of a rock." Froude on another occasion said of him—"NEWMAN'S mind was world-wide. He was interested in everything which was going on in science, in politics, in literature. Nothing was too large for him, nothing too trivial, if it threw light upon the central question, what man really was, and what was his destiny." {26}

Banner

The third member of the great triumvirate whose names are inseparably bound up with the history of the Oxford movement, and indeed with the history of the Church of England during the present century—PUSEY, KEBLE, and NEWMAN—has passed to his rest; and the Cardinal whose face and figure were so familiar at the Oratory at Birmingham has died "full of years," leaving many golden memories behind him. Living in virtual retirement, Dr. NEWMAN had been dead to the world for many years; and now that his death has actually taken place, and the newspapers have chronicled the well-known facts of his career, the younger generation of Churchmen are almost surprised to find that such an ecclesiastical celebrity had been living in their midst. It is impossible to look back upon his career without a feeling of deep regret that he was lost to the Church in which his powerful mind would have had free play. It would be the basest ingratitude if English Churchmen were to forget or undervalue what they owed to him, and if his beautiful hymn "Lead, kindly light" is sung, as it might well be sung, in our churches on Sunday next, it would afford an opportunity for a reference by the clergy to the work which he did for us before he left us. That Rome appreciated him may be true, but that she honoured him as he deserved to be honoured no one can say. {27}

Belfast News

Cardinal NEWMAN was presented at Norfolk House with a testimonial in gold and silver from his admirers in Australia. The gentle voice and the sad smile that played upon his face had great effect upon all present. It was a wonderful face, with its asceticism toned down by an every-day manner. The eye was large and steady, of bluish tint, and full of depth. He read his little speech of thanks to the deputation in a clear, nervous voice, and when all was over he bowed everybody gracefully out of the apartment. It was easy to perceive the great influence that such a man could exercise over his fellow-creatures.

Belfast News—(London Letter)

If JOHN HENRY NEWMAN had lived in the sixteenth or the seventeenth century he assuredly would have been a Minister of State—an arbiter, perhaps of the destinies of empires. A Richelieu, a Mazarin, a De Retz? Possibly. But there was nothing of the eighteenth century Prince of the Church about him. Not in the least like Fleury, or de Bohan; but go back a couple of hundred rears thence and read the life of Cardinal Bellarmine. That mighty controversialist had, to my thinking, much that was intellectually in common with the illustrious recluse of Edgbaston. Bellarmine found a foeman worthy of his steel in Fra Paoli Sarpi; Newman had an antagonist able enough, but scarcely of his own calibre in Charles Kingsley.

Belfast Morning News

One of the most notable and important effects on English social life of the remarkable career of Cardinal NEWMAN was the product, not of the busy years and heated controversies of the times when he {28} headed the Tractarian movement, but the saintly, secluded, and unostentatious period during which his holy teachings, his gentle demeanour, his lofty Christianity, and his tender and charitable exhortations wrought a gradual, almost imperceptible, change in the minds of Protestant Englishmen towards the body of their Catholic fellow-countrymen. This, it would seem, was the most immediate and apparent result of his unblemished life. Cardinal NEWMAN had made it impossible for Protestant Englishmen to dismiss the religion which he professed, as a farrago of absurdities and superstitions not worth examining. The prevalent opinion regarding Catholicism some thirty or forty years ago was that it was such a farrago, and it is mainly owing to the silent teaching and example of the great Cardinal who has gone that such a prejudiced view has been replaced by a saner and more commonsense estimate. Englishmen of all creeds, in spite of religious differences, and in spite of antagonism aroused by the conversion of Dr. NEWMAN, came in the course of time to feel proud of the man who shed a lustre on Christianity, and whose teachings they were glad to honour and revere. These teachings arc not likely soon to be forgotten, and the lesson will, it may be predicted, bear fruit for generations after his remains have mingled with their kindred dust.

Birmingham Daily Mail

The world is all the darker for the extinction of a mighty light. JOHN HENRY NEWMAN is at rest, and far and wide will the sad truth be recognised that an enormous name has passed from amongst us into the shadowy domain of history. In the calm seclusion of the simple home he loved so well, the illustrious Oratorian has faded quietly out of existence, and with {29} him disappears an intellectual and religious force which may never be replaced. Such a deprivation is an event which makes even the keenest expressions of regret seem cold and conventional. There was a sublimity in the career of this remarkable man which commanded the respectful homage of all thinking people. Though shut out from the feverish rush of life by the cloisters of the Oratory, he wielded a power over the minds and hearts of the human race which statesmen might have envied and potentates adored. For him there was no necessity to learn the meretricious methods by which some leaders of men find for themselves a place in the Temple of Fame. He shrank instinctively from the incense of applause and the honours of the transitory life, and whether as preacher or controversialist, Anglican reformer, Tractarian disputant, or Prince of the Roman Church, he has impressed even those who dissented most strongly from his religious belief with his earnestness and conscientiousness, and the unobtrusive piety of his stainless life. And what a life it is that has flickered out; what a vista to look back upon; what memories it conjures up. Men whose hair is now silvered o'er with advancing years were lisping at their mother's knee when Dr. NEWMAN was first bringing into play those matchless gifts which revealed the presence of an intellectual giant in the land, a controversialist of incomparable power, and the profoundest thinker of the time. Of those who took part in, or even watched with breathless interest the momentous conflict which began with the Tractarian movement, how few are left, how many have bowed their heads submissively to the common sentence which is passed upon all humanity? And how small by contrast does everybody appear who are associated with NEWMAN in that mighty convulsion. It has been truly said that "compared with him they all were but ciphers, and he the indicating number." It was NEWMAN, and NEWMAN alone, who gave the real {30} character to the Oxford movement, and who inflicted upon the Church of England the greatest blow she has received during her entire history.   *   *   *   *   *   One effect of his life is already plain and palpable—men's eyes are not so obscured as they used to be by the mists of religious bigotry. The odium theologicum, though not altogether extinct, has passed its sharpest point of friction ; the mental quality of the pervert made even the most aggressive Protestants moderate their hostility to the Church of his adoption; and of the hundreds of Romish churches and chapels which have sprung up in this country during the last half century, how many may be said to literally owe their foundation stones to this memorable change of creed.

Whether as the representative of a great spiritual and intellectual movement, or as a leader of religious thought, or as a supreme master of the English tongue, JOHN HENRY NEWMAN confronts us as a colossal figure. To form a correct estimate of his work it is necessary to understand the condition of religious thought in England during his early years. As MILLS put it, "the age seemed smitten with an incapacity of producing deep or strong feeling such as, at least, could ally itself with meditative habits." Nothing was more conspicuous than the intellectual littleness of the theological leaders of that day. NEWMAN'S enquiring mind found Evangelicalism nothing but a petrefaction which he yearned to vivify.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Though the great majority of his countrymen during the later years of his life were at variance with him on cardinal points of dogma and doctrine, no man of the century has commanded by the purity of his motives and his marvellous erudition, a greater measure of homage, veneration, and affection. Posterity will require no further knowledge of the evolution of NEWMAN'S religious opinions than is to be found in his own published {31} works. As one of the shrewdest of his biographers has pointed out, despite his long drifting on an unknown sea his thoughts have always been in substance the same. As an Anglican he battled for the dogmatic principle, and as a Roman Catholic he has carried on the same battle under different conditions. His reason for leaving the Church of England was that it was not truly dogmatic, but as he expresses it in his "Via Media" merely "a civil Establishment daubed with doctrine." His ideal Church was one which could be looked up to as "the one earthly object of religious loyalty and veneration, the source of all spiritual power and jurisdiction, and the channel of all grace." If we read these powerful Lectures on Anglican Difficulties it is easy to see how steadily NEWMAN'S views on the subject of Dogma were attracting him towards Rome. When recognised at last that there was no other home for his dominating theological tendency, it was, as he has since told us, like coming into port alter a rough sea."

The effect of Cardinal NEWMAN'S death will be that we shall miss from the tangible realities of life a type of the noblest work of God—an honest man. The men who have the courage and strength to live their thoughts are rare. Pleasure and ambition point on one path, conscience points another. The multitude follow the first; the rare spirits like NEWMAN hold it in disdain, and turn solitary along the cheerless track where there are no honours to be gathered and worn. It is characteristic of greatness that it may often misapprehend the exact effect of its particular powers. NEWMAN may have regarded the Tracts for the Times as the momentous works of his life. Perhaps they were to him. It was whilst he composed them that he was led on step by step in thought from Oxford to Rome. It may well be that today we too should regard the composition of those works as the remarkable work of his life. But posterity will give the final decision. The purpose and event of Newman's life has been the reconciliation of the {32} tenets existing in the Roman Church with that part of its constitution which he believed to be of divine origin. And yet his "Grammar of Assent" is less read than his "Apologia." The world shows no hungry desire for the absorption of those creeds, formulas, and symbols which he would so sacredly preserve. He was the greatest living master of pure English; his knowledge was extensive and profound, his reasoning was lucid and inexorable. Yet is it probable that his writings will bring many more converts to Rome? it may be that when all the noise and dust of disputation has subsided with the receding years, the soul of NEWMAN, seen in that durable jewel of English literature, his "Apologia," will shine like a star, exalting the minds which turn towards it; and that when his precepts have been forgotten in the generations, he will still teach mankind by the lofty eloquence of his example.

Birmingham Daily Post

It is not too much to say that the world is poorer today by the death of one who was yesterday the greatest of living Englishmen, except one, his friend and his antagonist in his last encounter, who was amongst the crowd of Oxford undergraduates who flocked to listen to his preaching in St. Mary's Church just sixty years ago. It is not easy in the columns of a secular newspaper to attempt any judgment of the life and work of JOHN HENRY NEWMAN. There are high matters, transcending all sectional differences, with which we may not deal, yet which absorbed his inner life, with him even more active and strenuous than that physical existence which was prolonged in patient strength far beyond the assigned limit of mortal life; and there are thorny matters, sharpened by centuries of controversy and strife, which it is not possible for a daily newspaper to too scrupulously avoid. Nor is it easy for Liberals to forget that the supreme act of NEWMAN'S {33} life was a protest against the full liberty of thought, and that the whole force of his unexampled powers was exerted on the side of authority and against freedom. Yet it is not difficult to pay a reverent tribute to the character and the memory of NEWMAN without touching matters that are too high for us, and without trespassing upon forbidden territory. His actions belong to the ancient and august Church in whose service they were wrought; his opinions may be left to the theologians and ecclesiastics whom forty years ago they exercised so deeply; but his intellectual attainments were the glory of his country, and his magnificent character is the heritage of his race. No discord will mar the universal panegyric which will be passed upon his qualities of mind and heart. His intellect was at once extraordinarily powerful and extraordinarily elastic. Perhaps no man has ever possessed so complete a control over powers so great. His learning was profound, but it was handled with an ease which seemed unconscious of its burden. Dialectical skill is not one of the traditional English gifts. We fight with the broadsword and not with the rapier. In our country, in religion, philosophy, and politics alike, controversy has been more remarkable for strength than subtlety. Yet in dialectical fence NEWMAN had no rival in his own age, and no superior in the whole history of polemics. The swiftness of his strokes, and the suppleness of his defence bewildered his antagonists out of all control over the little skill they possessed. The duel with KINGSLEY was an almost unexampled triumph. It was not that he completely disarmed a manifestly inferior antagonist, but that all England at the outset was on KINGSLEY'S side. That robust member of the Church militant had, in his charge against the effect of NEWMAN'S teaching, but thrown into a sentence the fierce and general outcry with which Tract 90 had been received. But NEWMAN not only disposed of his assailant, but he silenced and convinced the world. The {34} friend who came to KINGSLEY'S rescue with the treatise "But Was Not Kingsley Right After All?" did little but add the unwilling testimony of his title to the utterness of the defeat and to the unanimity with which public opinion regarded KINGSLEY as vanquished. Not only for his achievements, not only because he led and inspired a movement which changed the aspect of the religious world and half revolutionised a great church, but because of the supreme brilliancy of his powers and the unexampled adroitness of his mind will JOHN HENRY NEWMAN stand out as one of the historic figures of the century. Nor will the testimony be less ungrudging to his serene and lofty character. No purer or more gracious human spirit ever inhabited the earth. His character is all the more striking because of a kind not usually the complement of such attainments as his. Profound ingenuity and subtlety of mind are more often perhaps associated with duplicity of character, or at any rate with a power of self-deception difficult to distinguish from duplicity. Dialectical skill is a sort of intrigue in words, not always deemed to be possible in a man of frankness and simplicity. But NEWMAN was frankness and simplicity itself. The great step of his life was probably rendered necessary by the courage with which he apprehended his true logical position, and the inevitable goal towards which mind and conscience were hurrying him. He neither deceived himself nor dared to disobey the dictates of his conscience. The most precious legacy he has bequeathed to his brethren and the world is the influence which his unswerving and unhesitating conscientiousness has long exerted, and will long continue to exert. His changes were the supreme demonstrations of his sincerity. He passed in a few years from Calvinism to Liberalism, and from Liberalism to Romanism, thus traversing the full length and breadth of religious faith, in search not of fame or of influence, but of the final satisfaction of his conscience. He had many other fine and generous qualities. Though in the {35} fierce encounters of his active years, he used his skill with unsparing hand, though sometimes in the heat of conflict he was needlessly cruel, yet there was much that was tender and almost womanly about him. He had survived all his friends, but of enemies he had none to survive. He was cheered, too, by the knowledge that he possessed the regard of his fellow-countrymen before whom he had played so brilliant and often so puzzling a part. Once only he had had to draw his sword in defence of his own integrity, and he had laid bare the history of his life to the judgment of his fellows; but at that one stroke he dissipated all mistrust and suspicion. For the religious world he accomplished much. He gave a new impulse to the spiritual life of the nation. He quickened with a life-giving stream the stagnant waters of theology. For the Church of his adoption he did perhaps still more. He allayed the distrust which centuries of conflict had built up. His character was the chief instrument in destroying bigoted hatred of Roman Catholicism which had almost become an English tradition. And even those who are farthest from the Romish Church will forgive her much for having afforded a haven of rest to his busy and perturbed spirit.

Birmingham Daily Gazette

The greatest theologian of the century, the sweetest singer of the world unseen, the gentlest and the noblest of Englishmen has passed away. JOHN HENRY NEWMAN is dead, and a blank is left in the world of cultured piety which no man can fill. Sad thoughts will not thrill the hearts of those only with whom in his riper years the Cardinal has been associated. NEWMAN sought the shelter of the Roman Catholic Church, and Anglicanism quivered under {36} the shock of his desertion. But he never lost—never could lose—the loving confidence and respect of his countrymen without distinction of party or of creed. The sweet piety which in him was mingled with profoundest scholarship and loftiest thought has surrounded all his actions with a halo of saintly humility. No arrogant assumptions of superiority marked his change of faith. He never turned upon those he had left with jibes and sneers, but always with the prayer trembling upon his lips that the "Kindly Light" which had led his own faltering steps to the Rock of Salvation might guide others to a Soul's rest, and anchorage. Who can hear that the hand of death has at last fallen upon the great and the good old man without casting the mind back upon those years of keen and anxious controversy in which he played the leading part? Who that has felt the warm breath of his impassioned pleadings to the hearts of men, or that has been thrilled by the tender earnestness of his eloquence as he urged some doctrine which had brought peace and comfort to his own heart, can think without a sigh of that voice hushed for ever, and of the light extinguished in those eyes that erst beamed lovingly upon his fellow-men? The world is poorer now than when JOHN HENRY NEWMAN lived and breathed in it, and prayed for the welfare of the human race. At such a time as this all men will recall more willingly the catholicity of the late Cardinal's sympathies, the gentleness of his nature, the great and noble characteristics of his mind and heart, than the points of difference that jarred upon many minds fifty years ago when the Oxford scholar was still battling with his doubts and fears—still striving to reconcile his convictions with the dogmas of the Church in which he had been reared, and of which it was fondly hoped he would become a distinguished ornament and a staunch defender.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

To check the "suicidal excesses" into which frail reason led {37} too many of its votaries NEWMAN could see no more perfect means than the acceptance of the Roman Church's claim to Infallibility. Even he seems, in the deep humility of spirit which was one of the leading traits in his character, to have felt a want of something outside himself upon which to rest all doubts. Many have said that NEWMAN'S choice in those early days lay between Roman dogmatism and blank scepticism. That is probably a rash view, and yet it is not wholly improbable when we consider the peculiar constitution of his mind. His intellect seems to have demanded an explanation to every question it could raise, and as many questions could not be answered to his intellectual satisfaction, he silenced doubt by blind submission to an infallible authority. Those who cannot see their way to do that, and who gravely doubt whether the world would be better under a creed of blind confidence and submission, will marvel at NEWMAN'S decision, and regret that he found it necessary to barter his intellectual liberty for a soul's anchorage beyond the beetling waves of doubt. One great fact, however, is singularly clear, and it is that the mental and spiritual rest which seems to have followed immediately upon his choice enabled him to devote the whole force of his nature to the defence and the revivification of the Church with which he had allied himself. What he has done for it cannot be better expressed than in the words of Mr. FROUDE:—"To him if to any man the world owes the intellectual recovery of Romanism. Fifty years ago it was in England a dying creed, lingering in retirement in the halls and chapels of a few half-forgotten families. A shy Oxford student has come out on its behalf into the fields of controversy armed with the keenest weapons of modern learning and philosophy, and wins illustrious converts, and has kindled hopes that England herself, the England of ELIZABETH and CROMWELL, will kneel for absolution again before the Father of Christendom." These hopes have not and never will be realized; yet the thrill which JOHN {38} HENRY NEWMAN sent through the dry bones of the old creed justified them a little. There are thousands who would heave a deep, deep sigh of relief if they could rest upon an infallible human authority as confidently as NEWMAN did, but whose reason revolts from the submission which gave him the sweetest hope and confidence. Today we can only think of his life as one great effort for the regeneration of the human race, and we do not form our estimate of his noble purpose by our mistrust of the means which he deemed all-sufficient to accomplish it.

Blackpool Times

The Roman Catholic Church, and, indeed the whole Christian world has lost a great man. Few Englishmen have attained to a loftier eminence or lived more honourably. A half a century ago, the name of JOHN HENRY NEWMAN sounded through the length and breadth of the land. He was then close upon 40 years of age, and had become one the most prominent men in the controversy that has been productive of most significant results. Possibly few men of that generation impressed themselves so distinctly upon the minds of large numbers of educated Englishmen. Dr. NEWMAN was then a clergyman of the Anglican Church, and wielded, especially over the younger men then at the Oxford University, a most remarkable power. Those who remember him at that time, tell of his clearness of intellectual perception, his disdain for conventionalities, his resolute will, his unmistakeable gentleness, and his manifest singleness of heart. He had, on a large scale, the faculty of attracting to himself the passionate devotion of His intense his friends. It is this intense personal power which gave him his preponderating influence. We may say at once, that with many of the views, political {39} and religious, held and advocated by the late Cardinal NEWMAN we are not in sympathy. He was neither liberal in politics nor in religion. Many of his theories seem from our stand-point as though they would be destructive alike of progress and freedom. Yet, he was a great man. He was one of the foremost preachers of the century. He was a poet, too, of no mean order. Some of his sacred songs will hold their place in the Hymnals of Christendom long as the earth shall be the home of man. Thus it is, that from under the domes of stately cathedrals, and from beneath the roofs of homely village barns, extemporised for Christian service, NEWMAN'S well known stanzas float upon the listening air. Conformist and Non-conformist, High Churchmen and low, Orthodox and Heterodox alike, all unite in asking that the "Kindly Light will lead them on." And now over the new made grave in the little Rednal burying ground, Christians of all orders will unite in sympathetic sorrow, believing that for him "the night has gone," and the "morn has come."

Bolton Weekly Guardian

Cardinal NEWMAN'S death takes away from us one of the most interesting and distinguished figures England has known during the nineteenth century. He was the flower and the ultimate expression of a religious movement, which, for good or ill, has made a lasting mark on the spiritual life of our times. In no nobler or more characteristic mind can the student of today trace the currents of thought which resulted in the Tractarian movement of fifty years ago, and which carried so many devout members and clergymen of the Church of England into the fold of Roman Catholicism. In some cases the motives of the change might be mingled; religious unrest might be simply the covering, or the outcome of ambition, of {40} vanity, of the love of change, of the desire for more imposing ritual. In the case of Cardinal NEWMAN the hint of any but the purest motives is impossible. The tranquil harmony of his life forbids the suggestion of ambition; and he was too clear-sighted to deceive himself as to the reasons which impelled him to take the decisive step of his life. In these days it may seem needless to insist upon the absolute purity of the motives which lead any man to submit himself to the Roman Catholic Church; and in connection with NEWMAN'S name, the mention may seem almost sacrilege. But it should be remembered that it was Cardinal NEWMAN'S distinguished example that first opened the eyes of the average Englishman to the possibility of the make and state of mind which made reconciliation with Rome inevitable. Fifty years ago or more such a step seemed to most people the act of a weak-minded enthusiast or worse. It seemed impossible to associate conversion to Roman Catholicism with a man of NEWMAN'S high intellectual power and absolute sincerity. Cardinal NEWMAN placed in clear light the strong attraction which authority in matters of religion is bound to have for men of a certain type of mind under certain circumstances; and this is perhaps the greatest service he had done to the Church of his adoption. Before his time Roman Catholicism in England was a hated and despised sect. Now it is respected and acknowledged as the representative of a great principle, an organization of world-wide extent, a movement rich with ancient historic memories and of abiding significance. This difference in public feeling is largely to be ascribed to the force of Cardinal NEWMAN'S personal example; its full explanation is found in the religious movement of which he was the great representative.

Such is the debt owed to NEWMAN by Roman Catholicism; Englishmen generally must look at him from a different standpoint. He is full of interest to them as the representative of a great religious movement, and a notable change in public {41} feeling; but apart from historic associations his character has a significance of its own. On whichever side NEWMAN had fought, Englishmen would have admired his intellectual greatness. They would have wondered at his acuteness, his quick grasp of metaphysical distinctions, his unsurpassed power of making them clear to ordinary intelligence. They would have appreciated the simple majesty and beauty of his style. They would have rejoiced in his controversial skill, which enabled him to utterly crush an opponent before the eyes of all the world, and yet to deal with him gently and lovingly. Whatever religious garb he had worn, they could not have helped being attracted by the personal charm of his character—his loveableness and sincerity, his unselfishness and humility, his absolute devotion to the truth as he saw it. Wherever his religious associations or the circumstances of his time might have led him, he would have been a great and a good man; as such he belongs not merely to Roman Catholicism, but to England and to the world. It is as a man and not as a Roman Catholic that we admire and love him.

Bradford Observer

There is probably no parallel for the widely spread regret with which the news of the death of Cardinal NEWMAN was received this morning. To the present generation he is a name, but everyone has learned to admire and even to love the beauty of his personal character. At one time the centre of the great controversy was always free from the acrimony that pertains to controversy, more particularly when it takes a religious turn. This did not arise from any natural inability on his part to provoke by saying bitter things—witness his denunciation of the renegade priest Achilli, which led to a famous action for libel. {42} The English language does not contain any more scathing or more pitilessly sustained denunciation than the passage upon which that action was founded. It was a rare and unprecedented outburst, but at least it proved that when occasion arose the gentle NEWMAN was equal to it.

Mr. Gladstone, as everyone knows, was at Oxford Gladstone when NEWMAN was still occupier of the pulpit at St. Mary's, and conceived for him a profound admiration, approaching to reverence. A friend, personally acquainted with both eminent men, tells me that in these last years, as far as one feature was concerned, there came to pass a strong resemblance between the two old friends. They had exactly the same finely-formed, massively-shaped nose. If anyone will compare the portraits of Cardinal NEWMAN taken in profile, or, better still, three-quarter face, either with their knowledge of Mr. Gladstone's face or with their acquaintance with his portraits, they will see how true is this observation.

Brighton Gazette

Though for a long time the once eloquent and most potent controversialist of the age has lived the life of a recluse, there are few, if any, persons acquainted with the character and history of the late Cardinal who will fail to recognise the suitability of the general chorus of respect and veneration that has accompanied his decease. Very rare indeed has it been found that one who, for a period, led the van of religious controversy, and afterwards subsided into "the silent life," carried with him as NEWMAN did to such an extraordinary degree, the affectionate regard not of any particular sect or party, or of any exclusive school of religion, but of all with whom he was brought into contact, or who had been brought to realise the beauty of his character, which indeed {43} outshone the brilliancy of his abilities. It is not a little remarkable that though at the time of his secession from the Church of England the late Lord Beaconsfield most truthfully remarked that "the Anglican Church reeled under the shock of Dr. NEWMAN'S withdrawal," yet in his secession he carried with him the hearts of his former associates, and though his withdrawal from his position in the English Church was regarded as a calamity, yet it was attended with little or no resentment on the part of those who felt bitterly his desertion. This was chiefly owing to the natural sweetness and gentleness of his disposition, as well as to the thorough conscientiousness by which his actions were guided, so that it needed not the publication of the "Apologia pro vita sua" to convince anyone who knew Dr. NEWMAN that however dubious may have been the logic by which his actions were determined, his heart was true and his motives quite unquestionable.

Bristol Observer

It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that to the great majority of the present generation Cardinal NEWMAN has been dead for years, and that the only link that bound him to the world of today was the record of the great controversy in which he was the principal actor. But forty years ago, or more, Cardinal NEWMAN was regarded with feelings somewhat akin to those with which a timorous traveller might regard a slumbering volcano. The religious thought of the world surged and seethed around him like an angry sea, and, as he ran the whole theological gamut in search of peace for his own conscience, he was an object of intense—painfully intense—interest for those who were fascinated by the vital controversy in which he was engaged. The part which Cardinal NEWMAN played in the historic polemical duel with {44} Canon Kingsley will never be forgotten; and by some, it may be said, it will never be forgiven, even though his opponents, from one generation to another, do not desire to withhold from him the tribute of reverent admiration from his character and personality command. Cardinal NEWMAN'S apologists hold that in the course he pursued from the time of the publication of "Tract XC.," onwards, he never deviated one hair's-breadth from the path marked out by rigid consistency. To discuss that, however, would be to re-open the thorny controversy which his secession from the Church of England finally settled, so far as he himself was concerned. It was, at any rate, fully recognised then, as it is now, that his conversion to the Church of Rome was an event of the greatest importance and significance; but it is questionable whether it has exercised all the powerful influence which was at the moment of its occurrence predicted. The blow was, doubtless, shattering when first it was dealt. NEWMAN'S keen and unsparing attacks on his opponents lent it additional poignancy; but the lapse of years suddenly assuaged the bitterness, the rankling sore healed, and Cardinal NEWMAN'S secession is, perhaps, now-a-days estimated less as a semi-disruptive movement, than as an individual severance of old ties and bonds. But even when the enmity with which NEWMAN was regarded was at fever-heat, it was never sufficiently strong to blind his adversaries to his personal worth; and in the later years of his quiet and unobtrusive life Cardinal NEWMAN strengthened the feelings of admiration and respect in which he had from the first been held. If his courage in the fight was the courage that seemed to invite hard knocks from hands that itched to deal them, his character in private life was lovable in every attribute. He was frank; he was simple in everything but argument; he was a lover of the beautiful in every shape and form; his intellectual attainments in the more placid bye-ways that did not lead to polemics, were superlative; and his poetic feeling can scarcely be better gauged {45} than in the touching and soothing lines of his famous hymn, "Lead Kindly Light." Cardinal NEWMAN'S sincerity was immeasurably beyond suspicion, just as the dazzling brilliancy of his peculiar powers was beyond dispute. He passed triumphantly through an ordeal from which most men would have emerged bearing a burden of reproach. Cardinal NEWMAN'S lofty personal character survived through it all; and that alone, irrespective of his very unique position as a theological controversialist, marks him out as one of the great historic figures of the century.

Bristol Times and Mirror

London, like all the rest of the civilized world today, is honouring the memory of a great Englishman. Gerontius has fulfilled his dream. JOHN HENRY NEWMAN has passed that mysterious boundary, the crossing of which he has described with such marvellous insight. Few men have exercised a more potent influence over their fellows than the recluse of Edgbaston. If Disraeli's definition of a great man as one who affects the mind of his generation be a true one, NEWMAN was among our greatest. Though for well nigh a generation he had withdrawn from the ken of active life, and had buried in seclusion those powers of argument and oratory which had so often routed his able antagonists, NEWMAN'S name never failed to awake interest and to excite respect.

It has been said of him that it was his rare good fortune to retain the affection of rival schools which hated each other with the peculiar bitterness of religious animosity. Though he well-nigh ruined the Oxford movement by his secession, he kept to the last the love and esteem of the High Churchmen. Though he shocked their strongest convictions by his surrender {46} to Rome, he has always been regarded with respect by the Evangelical party.

Few people will read without regret the news of the death of Cardinal NEWMAN, which took place yesterday. Of the aged Cardinal, it may be said with truth, as it was of Lord Palmerston, that "we are all proud of him." Englishmen who take an interest in religious controversies have had so much to occupy them, in successive movements and developments, that they remember only vaguely the fierce war of words which was waged over "Tract No. 90," and the excitement to which this publication gave rise. Logic, to say nothing of conscience, forbad the author of this tract to remain a clergyman of the Established Church. That, at least, is what old-fashioned people used to say. But of late years, most of us had come to regard Dr. NEWMAN as a Roman ecclesiastic who did credit to the country of his birth by his learning, his piety, and his zeal in good works. Cardinal NEWMAN has died full of honours and full of years; for he was nearly as old as the century. His name is enrolled among those of English worthies, whatever bitterness the mention of it may have once aroused.

Bristol Mercury

The death of JOHN HENRY NEWMAN at the great age of eighty-nine years removes from the world's stage our greatest theologian. There can be no doubting with the regard to the position which Cardinal NEWMAN must assume on the role of fame. He was a giant intellectually, and there is no living man to take his place. He possessed profound knowledge, wonderful sympathy, intense energy, and an unsurpassed brain. When the religious history of this century comes to be written, no figure will stand out more prominently than that of Cardinal {47} NEWMAN. His life is a record of an intensely interesting process of evolution, and the phenomenon is thrown into relief, because the career of his own brother is an illustration of evolution in a directly opposite direction. Two things the Tractarian movement did; it left JOHN HENRY NEWMAN standing alone as the greatest controversialist of the age, and it confirmed with him that distrust of human speculation and that reliance upon accredited authority which ultimately led him to the Roman Church. His brother, with no less logic, but rejecting authority, took the opposite road, and like the elder, never faltered on the way. Cardinal NEWMAN has left a worthy memorial of a great career in the shape of his works, which are models of incisive, analytical thought and a noble English style.

British Daily Mail

One of the foremost and most venerable figures which this century has seen passed away yesterday. Naturally one's thoughts are first impelled to a remembrance of the personal characteristics of the man—his nobility of temper, the purity and loftiness of his aims, his unswerving courage and earnestness of purpose, his absolute sincerity in word and deed, the depth of his religious instincts, and his entire self-devotion to what he believed to be truth. Even his strongest antagonists cannot but acknowledge the singular beauty of a life such as his. We enter upon what is still thorny ground when, passing from personalities, we come to discuss the public life and work of one who showed the way from Calvinism to Catholicism, who once leaned towards Liberalism in thought, and afterwards found his resting-place in authority; who devoted himself heart and soul to the strengthening of the English Church, and who inflicted upon that {48} Communion a blow from the effects of which it is still staggering. There is no man of this century who has engraved his character upon the history of English religious life more deeply than Dr. NEWMAN, and it is because of the greatness and nobility of his character that the impression has been so deep. His appearance at this time is thus graphically described by Froude: —"He was above the middle height, slight and spare. His head was large, his face remarkably like that of Julius Cĉsar. The forehead, the shape of the ears and nose, were almost the same. The lines of the mouth were very peculiar, and I should say exactly the same. I have often thought of the resemblance, and believed that it extended to the temperament. In both there was an original force of character which refused to be moulded by circumstances, which was to make its own way, and become a power in the world; a clearness of intellectual perception; a disdain for conventionalities; a temper impetuous and wilful, but along with it a most attaching gentleness, simpleness of heart and purpose. Both were formed by nature to command others; both had the faculty of attracting to themselves the passionate devotion of their friends and followers; and in both cases, too, perhaps, the devotion was rather due to the personal ascendency of the leader than to the cause which he represented."

NEWMAN'S celebrity as a preacher was quickly gained, and became permanent. His style was singularly clear and picturesque, but the effect of his sermons was due to the matter rather than to the manner aided by his high character, both intellectual and moral. "When I was an undergraduate at Oxford," said Mr. Gladstone, "Dr. NEWMAN was looked upon rather with prejudice as what is termed a Low Churchman, but was very much respected for his character and his known ability. Without ostentation or effort, but by simple excellence, he was constantly drawing undergraduates more and more around him. Now NEWMAN'S manner in the pulpit was one about which, if {49} you considered it in its separate parts, you would arrive at very unsatisfactory conclusions. There was not much change in the inflexion of the voice; action there was none. His sermons were read, and his eyes were always bent on his book, and all that, you will say, is against efficiency in preaching. Yes, but you take the man as a whole, and there was a stamp and seal upon them; there was a solemn sweetness and music in the tone; there was a completeness in the figure, taken together with the tone and with the manner which made even his delivery such as I have described it, and though exclusively from written sermons singularly attractive."

British Weekly

It is as a preacher that Dr. NEWMAN will live, and his power as a writer and speaker of sermons cannot be considered apart from his convictions, his character, and his literary power. He almost owed his soul to that great saint and doctor of the evangelical party, Thomas Scott, the commentator, for whom he had a life-long reverence, shared by Mozley. The real peril of the soul, its preciousness, the terror of the sinner's future, were at the base of all his thought and action. He had also, in unequalled degree, that conviction of the real weakness of wrong and untruth for which men in all ages have fled to the sanctuary of God: "The Giants are falling, the Saints are alive." It is impossible to say how often, how sweetly, how victoriously, that note is struck through all his works. Then he had amazing acquaintance with the English Bible, from which he quoted lavishly, and often with striking effect. He must be a very dull preacher to whom NEWMAN'S collocations of verses have not furnished many discourses. Above all, as Dean Church says in a memorable estimate {50} of NEWMAN'S preaching he made the sermon an "earnest letter"—a call which came home to each hearer—a summons to ascend. And with him the heights of religion were very high.

The praise of NEWMAN'S style has become sickening in its iteration, and the clumsiest provincials have been noisiest in laud. We need only say that in its music, sweetness, and combined passion and reserve it remains alone. What needs emphasising is that NEWMAN was first of all a writer of sermons. His oratory had its own peculiar and holding charm, but he was not an orator. He read his sermons to an audience he respected. The many sermons which he preached extempore as a Roman Catholic were utter rubbish in the judgment alike of himself and his hearers. With a pen in hand he could do anything.   *   *   *   *   *   His romantic character went far in explaining his influence. His delicate literary criticisms, as well as subtler indications, show how his spirit was cradled in romance, and there was always about him something high, chivalrous, daring, uncalculating. From the first he showed himself willing to surrender all things for a certain inner harmony, and in this high strain his long life was spent. He was never rewarded vulgarly; he never waxed gross; he never underwent the disenchanting processes of domesticity; he was always poor—even his great popularity as an author did little, we believe, to enrich him.

He was a most gracious and assiduous correspondent, and a proper selection from the immense mass of his letters should be an English classic. When strangers of other churches sent him their books, he did not put them off with formal acknowledgments, but found time to read the volumes, and commend them if he could. But of his countless deeds of charity volumes may be written. Of the spirit of his life and thought—sensitive, yearning, lifted up to God—a {51} picture hung in his room at the Oratory impressively spoke. It was a view of Oxford, on which he had written, Fili hominis, putasne vivent ossa ista? Domine Deus, tu nosti: Son of man, can these bones live? O Lord God, Thou knowest.

Top | Contents | Biographies | Home


Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright İ 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.