Chapter 1. Early Homes & Early Influences

The Cardinal's father—An unsuccessful career—"A Mother of Men"—
Studious Sisters—Frank Newman and a severance—Charles Newman's
failure—The training of John Henry—His Catholic intuitions—Brief
homes—Travelling with preoccupations—The coming again

{1} BANKING in mid-Victorian England is associated with philanthropy and a benign evangelicalism. Strange to say, three of the most illustrious converts to the Catholic Church in the early middle of the nineteenth century were sons of men connected with those innermost shrines of Babylon, London banks—Manning, Newman, Ward. Like bankers, brewers also, perhaps by some freak of restitutional justice, were men mostly given to good works—out of the brewery.

Cardinal Newman's father first banked, and then brewed, failing at both. It was not that he allowed his diversions, his Freemasonry, or his music, or his great scheme for the reafforesting of England, to distract him from business; the bank in Lombard Street broke during a financial crisis, and the brewery at Alton had his almost slavish exertions—to no purpose. What comfort Mr. John Newman then had, he had from his son, John Henry, who was {2} able to give him the good news of his election to a fellowship at Oriel in 1823. Even so, when he died soon afterwards, a man disappointed in himself, he did not foresee the greatness which awaited the son who bore his name. He was a Cambridge man by birth. The family—not of German-Jewish extraction, as has been sometimes suggested—had been small proprietors of land; and it was Newman's want of "high connexions" that placed Pusey at the nominal head of the Oxford Movement.

Jemima Fourdrinier, when she married John Newman in 1799, brought her husband a small fortune, which, after the bank and brewery went, luckily remained for the family to live upon, until John Henry's earnings swelled the slender purse. Of Huguenot descent, and belonging to a family of famous paper-makers, whose plate still appears on Ludgate Hill, she was a woman of sense and piety—Calvinistically tinged. Misfortune she took resignedly; also—perhaps as itself a misfortune—her son's Catholicizing mission. This had not gone very far at the date of her death, in the spring of 1836, the Oxford Movement being then only three years old. In the church at Littlemore which Newman built, with the funds of Oriel, he placed a tablet to the memory of his mother, who died just before its consecration; and her portrait remained upon his mantelpiece in Birmingham until the end.

The six Newman children were equally divided as to sex. The names of the three girls were Harriet, {3} Jemima and Mary. Harriet, the eldest, married in September, 1836, the Rev. Thomas Mozley, then already the brilliant Boswell of the future Cardinal; and she herself made two appearances as the author of children's stories, The Fairy Bower and The Lost Brooch. Jemima married Mr. John Mozley, of Derby, in the spring of 1836; outlived her husband; and died, still in Derby, about ten years before the death of the Cardinal. Yet another of the Mozley brothers, the Rev. Dr. James Mozley, had in 1832 described his future sisters-in-law in a letter home: "The Miss Newmans are very learned persons, deeply read in ecclesiastical history, and in all the old divines, both High Church and Puritanical. Notwithstanding [notwithstanding!] they are very agreeable and unaffected." These two sisters were hero-worshippers, and John Henry was their hero. They looked after his poor at Littlemore, and they gave him what he thanked GOD for—

                       A countless store
Of eager smiles at home.

The family circle had been lessened so early as in 1828 by the death of the third and youngest girl. Of her might be used Charlotte Brontë's poignant words about Emily: "Never in all her life had she lingered over any task that lay before her, and she did not linger now. She sank rapidly. She made haste to leave us." Apparently in perfect health one noon, Mary Newman by the next noon was gone. {4} Pusey's thoughts turned affectionately to his friend in this hour of grief; near to panic. "Every consolation," he wrote, "which a brother can have he has most richly—her whole life having been a preparation for that hour." Other "Consolations in Bereavement" Newman had, and he thus expressed them:

Death was full urgent with thee, sister dear,
    And startling in his speed;
Brief pain, then languor till thy end came near—
    Such was the path decreed,
                        The hurried road
To lead thy soul from earth to thine own G
OD'S abode.

Death wrought with thee, sweet maid, impatiently:
    Yet merciful the haste
That baffles sickness;—dearest, thou didst die,
    Thou wast not made to taste
                        Death's bitterness,
Decline's slow-wasting charm, or fever's fierce distress.

Death wrought in mystery; both complaint and cure
    To human skill unknown:—
OD put aside all means, to make us sure
    It was His deed alone;
                        Lest we should lay
Reproach on our poor selves that thou wast caught away.

Death came and went:—that so thy image might
    Our yearning hearts possess,
Associate with all pleasant thoughts and bright,
    With youth and loveliness;
                        Sorrow can claim,
Mary, nor lot nor part in thy soft soothing name.

Joy of sad hearts and light of downcast eyes!
    Dearest, thou art enshrined
In all thy fragrance in our memories;
    For we must ever find
                        Bare thought of thee
Freshen this weary life, while weary life shall be.


To both of his brothers, John Henry was able to be a benefactor, in part a father: a common rôle which accords to many elder brothers a little, remembered place among heroes. Francis William, only four years younger, followed him to school at Ealing, and then to Oxford, where he lived in lodgings, pursuing his studies with as much docility as was in him under John Henry's direction. Already the difference of temperament was marked, though in religion Frank was then an Evangelical, John Henry much the same. But, even then, Frank thought his brother wanting in sympathy with his Evangelical friends, so did not consult him about his own difficulties. But Frank himself! A master of style, he made his words fit his strange fancies about the Catholic religion; and John Henry, when Frank was to follow him into Orders, was deeply offended with the brother whom he had formerly invoked in such fraternal rhymes as these:

Dear Frank, we both are summoned now,
    As champions of the L
Enrolled am I; and shortly thou
    Must buckle on the sword;
A high employ, nor lightly given,
To serve as messengers of heaven.

For a time they ceased to speak. This season of silence in turn passed away. The difference indeed grew greater, but with a difference—they agreed to differ. They met from time to time in after years, Frank visiting his brother at Maryvale (where spirits were high), at Rednal, and in Birmingham. Writing {6} to Mr. Lilly in 1877, Dr Newman, as he then was, says: "The Dublin has a practice of always calling me F. Newman, whereas my brother is commonly distinguished from me by this initial, his name being Francis. I say this because, much as we love each other, neither would like to be mistaken for the other." Nor was there much fear. Francis William Newman, Arian, vegetarian, anti-vaccinationist, to whom a monastery was even as a madhouse, had an utterance too distinct in its idiosyncrasy to be any but his own: distinct in matter, as in manner, for no one has been so ungenerous a critic of his brother as he.

It remains to speak of the least spoken-of member of the family, he of whom the Rev. Thomas Mozley ventures only: "There was also another brother, not without his share in the heritage of natural gifts." Charles Robert Newman, before he was out of his teens, decided that his brothers and sisters were too religious for him; and he wrote to cousins, begging that he should no longer be thought of as a Newman: a vain desire, for only as such has he remembrance now. His mother was still alive, and she and his sisters tried to win him, but without success, from the life of self-elected loneliness. Never was a kindness denied him, however one-sided the kindnesses might be. Both his brothers, after they had been "cast off" by him, not he by them, as some have hinted, managed to put together funds for sending him to Bonn. But he came {7} away without even offering himself for examination, a step he explained by saying that the judges would not grant him a degree because he had given offence by his treatment of faith and morals in an essay which they called teterrima. This was only one of a series of aids given by John Henry and Francis, who, unlike in so much, resembled each other in their generous desires and actions towards their mother's youngest son. But in him they found, as one of them expresses it in a letter to me, only "the closest representation of an ancient cynic philosopher this nineteenth century can afford." He had vicissitudes of fortune; and fortune was never much kinder than to cede him an ushership in a country school; a post it was not in his character to keep. For the last forty years of his life, which ended in 1884, he lived at Tenby; and there, two years before he died, he had a short visit from the Cardinal. Newman, more than any other one man, made converts to the Catholic Church; but it was his strange fate not to see included a single member of his family in that chosen number.

Born in Birchin Lane in the City of London in 1801, and spending his early years within sound of the hum of traffic, John Henry Newman did not go further afield than to Ealing for his first schooling. Benjamin Disraeli, who is said to have played in the same garden at the same time as Newman, when they were both little boys and their families {8} were neighbours in Bloomsbury Square, wrote Contarini Fleming in part to prove that "nature is more powerful than education"; and we cannot imagine that school-life at Ealing could do much to mould, or even to train, though it might easily retard, the boy who in the Apologia gives us his own account of himself, some of it from notes written in earlier years:

"I was brought up as a child to take great delight in reading the Bible; but I had formed no religious convictions till I was fifteen ... I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true; my imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers and talismans. I thought life might be a dream, or I an angel; my fellow angels, by a playful device, concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me with the semblance of a material world. Reading a sentence of Dr. Watts's, [beginning] 'the Saints unknown to the World,' to the effect that there 'is nothing in their figure or countenance to distinguish them,' I supposed he spoke of angels who lived in the world, as it were disguised [Note].

"I was very superstitious, and, for some time previous to my 'conversion,' when I was fifteen, used constantly to cross myself on going into the {9} dark. Of course I must have got this practice from some external source or other, but I can make no sort of conjecture whence; and certainly no one had ever spoken to me on the subject of the Catholic religion, which I knew only by name. The French master was an émigré priest, but he was simply made a butt, as French masters too commonly were in that day, and spoke English very imperfectly. I had once been into Warwick Street chapel with my father, who, I believe, wanted to hear some piece of music; all that I bore away from it was the recollection of a pulpit and a preacher, and a boy swinging a censer.

"When I was at Littlemore, I was looking over old copy-books of my school-days, and I found among them my first Latin verse book, and in the first page there was a device which almost took my breath away with surprise. I have the book before me now, and have just been showing it to others. I have written on the first page in my schoolboy hand: 'John H. Newman, February 11, 1811, Verse Book'; then follow my first verses. Between 'Verse' and 'Book' I have drawn the figure of a solid cross upright, and next to it is, what may indeed be meant for a necklace, but what I cannot make out to be anything else but a set of beads suspended, with a little cross attached. At this time I was not quite ten years old. I suppose I got the idea from some romance, Mrs. Radcliffe's or Miss Porter's, or from some religious picture.

"When I was fourteen, I read Paine's Tracts {10} against the Old Testament, and found pleasure in thinking of the objections which were contained in them. Also I read some of Hume's Essays, and perhaps that on Miracles. Also I recollect copying out some French verses, perhaps Voltaire's, against the Immortality of the Soul, and saying to myself something like 'How dreadful, but how plausible!'

"When I was fifteen, in the autumn of 1816, a great change of thought took place in me. I fell under the influence of a definite Creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma which, through GOD'S mercy, have never been effaced or obscured."

Another sentiment, and no transitory one, which possessed this boy of fifteen, can be told only in his own words: "I am obliged to mention, though I do it with great reluctance, another deep imagination which about this time took possession of me—there can be no mistake about the fact—viz., that it was the will of GOD that I should lead a single life. This anticipation, which has held its ground almost continuously ever since—with the break of a month now and a month then up to 1829, and after that date without any break at all—was more or less connected in my mind with the notion that my calling in life would require such a sacrifice as celibacy involved; as, for instance, missionary work among the heathen, to which I had a great drawing for some years. It also strengthened my feeling of separation from the visible world, of which I have spoken above." {11}

From Dr. Nicholas's school Newman went straight to Trinity College, Oxford. Almost immediately afterwards the Newman family removed to Alton, where they stayed for two or three years and where during that time John Henry spent his holidays, delighting in White's Natural History of Selborne, a few miles away. Other holidays in those earlier years of his Oxford life he spent with the Rev. Samuel Rickards, at Ulcombe in Kent, or at Stowlangtoft near Bury St. Edmunds. In 1827 he and his sisters paid a visit to Mr. Wilberforce, at Highwood, one of whose four sons was already his pupil, and three of whom were to be among his followers to Rome. Holidays were his season of verse-making. At Ulcombe he wrote Nature and Art in 1826, and Snapdragon (a Trinity memory) in 1827. At Highwood he wrote The Trance of Time.

After settling for a short term at Strand-on-the-Green, all who were left of the Newmans at home—the mother and two girls—went, in 1829, to a cottage at Horspath, to be near John Henry; then to a cottage at Nuneham Courtney, offered to Newman by Dornford, a Fellow of Oriel and a warm friend. "In the Midlands," says Thomas Mozley, "it would have been set down as the habitation of a family of weavers or stockingers." But it had its associations. Rousseau had stayed in it; and Nuneham was supposed to be Goldsmith's Deserted Village. From Nuneham to Rosebank Cottage, Iffley, was no great move; and it was the last the family made. {12}

In these wanderings during the earlier 'twenties of the century the Newmans had lived at Brighton. There John Henry wrote his Paraphrase of Isaiah, Chapter lxiv, the second piece of his Verses on Various Occasions, in 1821. Six years and eight years later he visited Brighton again to see cousins, in one of whose albums he wrote lightly serious verses on each visit. At Brighton, too, after his mother and sisters had left it for the neighbourhood of Oxford, Newman landed from the memorable journey with Hurrell Froude to the South of Europe, the manuscript of Lead, Kindly Light in his pocket, and the conviction that "he had a work to do for England" in his heart.

To Brighton, too—but again I am anticipating—the Cardinal was to go after yet another noteworthy journey. This was on his return to England after visiting Rome in the still distant year 1879 to receive his Cardinal's hat. On this journey, too, it had seemed that he must die; but the time had not yet come, though he had done—how well, a multitude can attest—the work he felt he had to do when he set foot there nearly fifty years before. In the morning of the last Sunday in June, 1879, accompanied by Father Neville, he went to the Church of St. John the Baptist, and there he assisted at High Mass—for the first time in this country as a Cardinal. But as yet the very name of Pope or Cardinal was to him anathema.

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Dr. Watts gave other false impressions to youth; for one boy, when he said the lines,

And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees,

pictured the weakest saint seated upon Satan's knees.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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