Lecture 5. Personality in Apologetic

{102} I PROPOSE today to deal with an objection which I feel sure will have arisen in the minds of many of Newman's readers to the general view outlined in my previous lectures.

I said in them that the chief motive force which gave unity to his work was the intense desire to defend Christianity in view of the incoming tide of infidelity. I have also said that his sense of the plausibleness of religious scepticism was keen and constant. I have traced even some of the greater qualities of his style to his lifelong and passionate struggle to preserve Christianity against the sceptical movement. I have shown that his philosophy was primarily directed towards showing—as against Agnosticism—that the human mind can have some knowledge of the reality behind the world of sense. It will be urged against this view that if we look, not at the few works I have selected for comment, but at his writings as a whole, the subject of infidelity, far from being prominent, is one rarely alluded to. To take first his writings from the beginning of the Tractarian Movement in 1833, to the end of his connection with the British Critic in 1840—excepting only in the 'University Sermons,' preached at wide intervals—the subject of faith and unfaith does not enter into them at all. The 'Tracts for the Times' dealt simply with the current theological controversies of the hour, and with the high Church doctrines which he desired to revive. They were directed, not against infidelity, but against liberalism and latitudinarianism among churchmen. The first Tract was concerned with Apostolical succession; the most famous of the Tracts {103} dealt with a subject as far removed from sceptical speculation as the Thirty-nine Articles. In Tract 85, indeed, the question of faith and doubt is touched, but only slightly and incidentally. The Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church are entirely concerned with defending the Tractarian theory of the Anglican Church. Again, the lectures which made up his work on Justification are theological, and not philosophical. It is the same with his works subsequent to 1845. The 'Apologia' is autobiography; 'Callista' and 'Loss and Gain' are fiction; the poems are spiritual poems, not philosophical. They are much on the model of Keble's 'Christian Year.' The 'Idea of a University' is primarily educational; the 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' and the 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' are defences of distinctive Roman Catholic doctrines. Indeed, as M. Houtin has recently said, it is the controversy between England and Rome which seems most closely to occupy Newman's mind in both periods.

But, again, a number of his writings are not controversial at all. They are literary, or biographical, or historical. Open the first volume of the 'Historical Sketches,' and you find lectures on the history of the Turks; open the second volume, and you find biographical sketches of the Fathers—St. Basil and St. Gregory, St. Anthony and St. Augustine, and studies of the Benedictine history and spirit; open the third, and you find studies of university life, and essays on the Athenian schools, on the Lombards, on the University of Paris.

To all this I reply, firstly, that Newman's preoccupation with the question of religious unbelief is not a theory, but a fact of which we have testimony in his own words and in those of his most intimate friends. Secondly, that the bulk of his writings do not deal directly with this question is, I admit, also a fact. Thirdly, I shall contend that the combination of these two facts not only does not contradict what I have said above if it is carefully understood, but confirms it.

If a wise and practical man was peculiarly sensitive to the danger of a revolution, he would not keep talking of the {104} subject or arguing about it—a course which might do as much to spread revolutionary ideas in the imagination of the many as it did to refute them for the reason of the few. On the contrary, his policy would be to encourage law-abiding conduct and principles, and to strengthen existing institutions and take from them such abuses or sources of weakness as might justify or provoke revolution; and the case is similar with religion.

If the complicated network of associations, which enshrine for a living mind and for a society its fundamental beliefs, were once broken up by disturbing argumentative discussion, it could not possibly be replaced by mere arguments.

I have said in my second lecture that Newman felt deeply that, in practice, reasoning and argument were not adequate defences or supports of religious belief. That a belief is justified by reason does not at all mean that in practice it will be effectively preserved by argument alone. He held with Pascal that custom, old associations, and tradition are valuable as securing the affections. But a further point has to be noted. In the course of a Christian education really cogent reasons and associations on behalf of belief become inseparably blended—the reasons being often subconscious and beyond the individual's power of analysis and expression. A process of conscious argument on infidelity might confuse minds which were unequal to it and might obscure deep reasons for belief which were not clearly separated by them from the feelings and old associations with which such reasons are intertwined. He aimed then primarily at strengthening the rational and spiritual supports of belief actually present in society and in individuals and its supports in their affections and their imagination, not at disturbing the habitual religious associations of their minds by argument on fundamental questions.

Arguments were, for most minds, in his judgment auxiliary and medicinal—no more. Medicine cures a living body that is diseased; it does not take the place of diet. The object of medicine is to restore the body to its normal state. And the normal religious life of a community {105} would not be helped by constantly dealing with fundamental questions which nine-tenths of that community could not understand.

This point is vital to his whole life-work. Newman was quick to see the just distribution of conservatism and reform, which would most effectively safeguard the faith of a community against a danger not yet apparent to all its members. If the existing network of living forces—rational or non-rational—which actually sustained the religious faith of so many were destroyed by the doubts which argument might suggest, further arguments, however able, would not effectually replace them. Logic had not the depth or tenacity of life. Its conclusions could not have the vital force of habitual beliefs on which men had long acted without question. To start an alarmist campaign of argument against unbelief might then most seriously weaken the faith of those devout minds which were not given to speculation and were not even conscious of the wave of unbelieving thought. He opposed the actual aggressive liberal movement in the Church of England, in which he saw the seeds of infidelity—but he did not advertise the dangers to Christian faith itself which he foresaw, and the spread of which he hoped to check.

His first work was to strengthen the existing Church of England, which embodied so much of the influence of custom and habitual association on behalf of Christian belief among a large section of Englishmen. The force of custom that Church did represent; the force of spiritual life and of appeal to the imagination it had largely ceased to possess. Hence a great revival of the Church of England was called for and undertaken in the Oxford Movement. That revival was calculated to break through the deadness of mere custom in an old establishment and at the same time to claim on the side of faith all the force which the Church still embodied of dogmatic teaching, of an inspiring spiritual tradition, and of long-existing bonds of affection. But Newman desired also to make it intellectually alive—that is, to make it realise the depth of its own foundations. He strove to point out that the powerful appeal of the {106} corporate Catholic Church to the affections and imagination could be represented by a comprehensive philosophy as in its essence a reasonable appeal. The assumption of the rationalistic liberals was that mere sentiment and the love of old associations stood on one side, cold reason on the other. But he argued that a deeper and more historical and philosophical view enlisted reason on the side of Christian tradition and Church. Like Coleridge, he insisted on the wisdom of the past embodied in existing traditions.

The intellectual basis of the Anglican Church, which consisted in the fact that it was part of an organic body, which had preserved by a continuous life the very spirit and dogmatic teaching of Christ, could only be realised by making good its claim as part of the Catholic Church. The 'Tracts for the Times' were then undertaken with that object. He lectured also at great length in Adam de Brome's chapel on the 'Prophetical Office of the Church,' vindicating the claim of the Anglican Establishment to be a truer representative of the Church Catholic than was the Roman Church itself. But this raised incidentally many theological discussions and such tracts and lectures as those on Justification and on Miracles were undertaken with a view to dealing with them in this connection. Thus there is no contradiction between the statement that his great preoccupation was to provide an antidote to the impending inroads of unbelief and the fact that his writings, during the Anglican period, are not for the most part directly concerned with the consideration of that danger. His writings were designed not to discuss a danger, but to meet it practically by strengthening the existing defences of religion.

The case is the same in a yet stronger degree with his later writings after he had come to hold that the representative of the corporate Catholic Church was the Catholic and Roman Church. His conviction became even more definite after 1845 that only the Catholic Church could supply an effectual defence, intellectual and social, against the incoming tide of scepticism. This position is stated with greater clearness in the 'Apologia' and the {107} 'Development of Religious Error' [Note 1] than in any of his earlier writings. And it was constantly reinforced by the drama of the battle between the Church and modern secularism, visible especially in the ecclesiastical politics of Italy and France. Nineteenth-century secularism saw in the Catholic Church its natural enemy; and the Church was the uncompromising foe of its irreligious tendencies which other religious bodies were apt to overlook. He found, as he tells us in the 'Apologia,' even in Rome's attitude of exclusiveness—her infallible claim—a providential antidote to modern intellectual excesses. The Church really strengthened the intellect for its profitable exercise by restraining it from useless and unpractical discussions.

In his new communion as in his old, his primary object was to work for the well-being of the Church, to extend its influence, to meet the objections which made many reject its claim. Hence such controversial works as his 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' on Marian devotion, his 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' on Papal Infallibility, his lectures on the 'Difficulties of Anglicans.' These have an object similar to that of his Tracts and Lectures of early days. They were designed to strengthen the forces of the Church, to draw men to it or enable them to hold fast to it. Thus the fact that his writings do not for the most part discuss infidelity does not tell against my account of his purpose. They were designed not to discuss it but to prevent it. [Note 2] {108}

But a further point has to be noted—and this brings me to the direct subject of this lecture. In his work of strengthening the existing supports of belief he saw that, as a matter of experience, religion is best kindled and intensified, not by argument, but by appeals to the whole man—his conscience, his affections, his imagination. And these appeals are the work of the personal influence of the great preacher or Christian writer. In his famous letters of 1841 on the Tamworth Reading Room we find some pregnant sentences on this subject:

The heart is commonly reached [he writes], not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion ... Logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude; first shoot round corners, and you may not despair of converting by a syllogism ... To most men argument makes the point in hand only more doubtful, and considerably less impressive. After all, man is not a reasoning animal; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal. He is influenced by what is direct and precise ... There is no difference here between true religion and pretended ... Christianity is a history supernatural, and almost scenic: it tells us what its Author is, by telling us what He has done. [Note 3]

We see in this passage how large a place in the work before him was occupied by the functions of the preacher. The literary artist, too, could make the story of Christianity and the power of its ideal live by vivid historical description. Both were instances of what I may call the power of personality in apologetic. {109}

One of his famous Oxford sermons was on Personal Influence as a means of propagating religious truth, and that influence could be exercised not only by the intense personal conviction which communicates itself to others, but by the varied exhibition of the Christian ideal for which literature gives opportunities.

In his later days even more clearly than in his early career he saw that the infidel movement drew its force very largely from the growing prevalence of a secularist ideal of life and of the world from which religion was banished. One of his finest argumentative treatises in 'The Idea of a University' is directed to showing that the secularist ideal of education, which leaves religion out, is an imperfect one, not commensurate with human nature. But the secularist ideal might be refuted, and still if assumed and visibly set forth in the literature of the day it would leave its taint on the imagination. It was best counteracted by literature based on the Christian ideal. A work like 'Callista,' his sketches of the Benedictine ideal, and his works on the early Fathers contribute to this object. He was, I think, conscious of gaining influence on many minds, including those whom intellectual discussions might easily confuse, by exercising all the varied powers of a gifted personality on the side of faith. At Oxford his personality acted largely in direct intercourse with his disciples from the pulpit and in conversation. But in the retreat of Birmingham this personal contact of a religious leader was achieved mainly by the exhibition of his personality in his writings. Even his literary brilliance had its place in exposing injustice in the enemies of religion. His powers of irony had never been displayed at all in his Oxford days; now they found exhibitions which fairly amazed people—notably in the 'Present Position of Catholics' and in the Kingsley controversy. His poetry had hitherto consisted exclusively of short poems, but now he depicted the Christian view of life as revealed in the drama of death in a really great poem—'The Dream of Gerontius.'

All this explains how one who had the simple enthusiasm {110} of an apostle and the direct aim of a controversialist has left works which for art and imagination take so high a place in our literature. We should never have had the revelation we possess of a mind of singular grace, beauty, and brilliancy as well as holiness and penetration, but for the view Newman held of the wide field in which work for religion is profitable as an opportunity for bringing to bear on others the influence of a Christian personality.

His poetry, his fiction, his historical sketches, his Dublin satires on educational deficiencies—none of them are apologetic in the sense in which the works of which I have specially spoken in my second and third lectures are apologetic. And they contain charming contributions to literature and charming illustrations of the temperament of the man, passages wholly uncontroversial and purely literary, written with the artist's love of minute truth for its own sake. To take a few well-known instances—but for his wide view of the utility of literature in religious interests we should never have had his definition of the typical gentleman, for he would never have written it simply for its own sake. It comes as part of the theory of education; and he had made up his mind that the work he was commissioned to do in founding an Irish University was an occasion given him by Providence for forming Christian minds by an exact analysis of a Christian education. The admirable character sketch of Jucundus—the typical Roman man of the world—would never have been given to the public except as part of a work in which the Greek heroine Callista affords the unique opportunity of delineating the rapidly transforming power of Christianity on a refined nature. Again, he would never, like Horace, have written for the sake of describing a 'bore'; but in the pages of 'Loss and Gain,' which presented the Oxford Movement in fiction, we have in Bateman the typical bore painted to the life.

These passages are the spontaneous exhibition of a nature alive to all around him, which is peculiarly interesting to observe in one whose special message to his fellow-men was that of the ascetic and the prophet. The description of the beau idéal of a gentleman, in one of his Dublin lectures, {111} has often been quoted, yet it will be well to read a page from it as illustrating what I have said:

The true gentleman carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;—all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make everyone at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well-employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. [Note 4]

Let me now read from his tale, 'Loss and Gain,' as a good specimen of the quiet humour with which he alertly watched men and things, his introduction of Bateman, the bore:

… They saw before them a tall, upright man, whom Sheffield had no difficulty in recognising as a bachelor of Nun's Hall, and a bore at least of the second magnitude. He was in cap and gown, but went on his way, as if intending, in that extraordinary guise, to take a country walk. He took the path which they were going themselves, and they tried to keep behind him; but they walked too briskly, and he too leisurely, to allow of that. It is very difficult duly to delineate a bore in a narrative, for the very reason that he is a bore. A tale must aim at condensation, but a bore acts in solution. It is only on the long-run that he is {112} ascertained. Then, indeed, he is felt; he is oppressive; like the sirocco which the native detects at once, while a foreigner is often at fault. Tenet, occiditque. Did you hear him make but one speech, perhaps you would say he was a pleasant, well-informed man; but when he never comes to an end, or has one and the same prose every time you meet him, or keeps you standing till you are fit to sink, or holds you fast when you wish to keep an engagement, or hinders you listening to important conversation, then there is no mistake, the truth bursts on you, apparent dirae facies, you are in the clutches of a bore. You may yield, or you may flee; you cannot conquer. Hence it is clear that a bore cannot be represented in a story, or the story would be the bore as much as he. The reader, then, must believe this upright Mr. Bateman to be what otherwise he might not discover, and thank us for our consideration in not proving as well as asserting it. [Note 5]

For exhibitions of his higher powers of humour and irony he needed a direct and urgent call of duty. These powers are fully visible in only two publications—the lectures on 'The Present Position of Catholics'—delivered at the time of the agitation of 1851 against the 'Papal Aggression,' as it was called—and the controversy with Kingsley. In both cases he felt that only by exerting to the full his brilliant gift of irony could he make an effectual impression on public opinion. The lectures of 1851 aimed at discrediting a really gross libel on Catholics which had become current coin. Not only did he let out his full force of sarcasm and humour, but his style was transformed to suit the occasion. Little is visible of those cross currents of which I spoke in my last lecture, which in most of his works represent and anticipate the objections and exceptions to the views he set forth. The very close perception of facts which, in ordinary cases, made him alive to objections to general statements or strong statements, made him now alive to the absence of material objections or exceptions. The hue and cry against Catholics at that time was grossly unjust, and was not based on really plausible objections to the action of the Catholic religion to which he was as keenly alive as anyone. It was based on sheer ignorance and fanatical bigotry. Therefore he {113} let himself go for all he was worth in ridiculing it. We have the very curious spectacle of a grave religious apologist giving rein for the first time at the age of fifty to a sense of rollicking fun and gifts of humorous writing, which if expended on other subjects would naturally have adorned the pages of Thackeray's Punch. I can only give an idea of the first of these lectures by extracts which run to some length, as its special character is due to the thoroughness with which Newman throws himself into a sustained and elaborate burlesque. He attempts to bring home to Englishmen the absurdity of the scarecrow of Papal Aggression and Popery which their prejudices and lack of real knowledge of Roman Catholics had erected, by comparing it to an imaginary scare against English aggression and John Bullism amongst the Russians, whom he supposes to be as ignorant of the real England as Englishmen are of the real Catholic Church. He supposes heated speeches in Russia against John Bullism, parallel to the heated speeches against Popery which were in 1851 being daily delivered in England.

I will suppose, then [he writes], a speaker, and an audience too, who never saw England, never saw a member of parliament, a policeman, a queen, or a London mob; who never read the English history, or studied any one of our philosophers, jurists, moralists, or poets; but who has dipped into Blackstone and several English writers, and has picked up facts at third or fourth hand, and has got together a crude farrago of ideas, words, and instances, a little truth, a deal of falsehood, a deal of misrepresentation, a deal of nonsense, and a deal of invention.

Those were days when the British constitution was profoundly admired and beginning to be widely imitated on the Continent, and the Russian Count Potemkin warns a mass meeting at Moscow against the insidious and perfidious atheistical machinations of John Bullism, which is engaged in one enormous conspiracy against all European states, and which was even aiming at modifying the old institutions of the north and dressing up the army, navy, legislature, and executive of Russia in the livery of Queen Victoria. He {114} is horrified at learning that this John Bullism is actually making dupes and finding sympathisers among educated Muscovites. This fills him with amazement. Newman thus epitomises his remarks:

He could understand those who had never crossed out of their island, listening to the songs about 'Rule Britannia,' and 'Rosbif,' and 'Poor Jack,' and the 'Old English Gentleman'; he understood and he pitied them; but that Russians, that the conquerors of Napoleon, that the heirs of a paternal government, should bow the knee, and kiss the hand, and walk backwards, and perform other antics before the face of a limited monarch, this was the incomprehensible foolery which certain Russians had viewed with so much tenderness. He repeated, there were in that city educated men, who had openly professed a reverence for the atheistical tenets and fiendish maxims of John-Bullism.

Then the Count proceeds to open the eyes of these dupes, and reveal to them what a combination of folly and knavery John Bullism really is, and to make good the words 'fiendish and atheistical' which he had applied to its maxims. He tells them of a certain volume called 'Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England'—not known to the ordinary Englishman, circulated only among the ruling and official classes—but which is, he explains, the esoteric gospel of John Bullisim. He had obtained it after a long search at an immense cost. Far be it from him to suggest that Englishmen at large are aware of the insidious character of that John Bullism which is nevertheless the guiding principle of their legislature, and is nakedly set forth in this carefully concealed text-book which he has so fortunately unearthed. He imparts to his hearers, as they listen with breathless attention, some of the revelations in this really diabolical book as to the true inwardness of John Bullism.

'I open the book, gentlemen, and what are the first words which meet my eyes? “The King can do no wrong.” I beg you to attend, gentlemen, to this most significant assertion; one was accustomed to think that no child of man had the gift of impeccability; one had imagined that, simply speaking, impeccability was a divine attribute; but this British Bible, as I may call it, {115} distinctly ascribes an absolute sinlessness to the King of Great Britain and Ireland. Observe, I am using no words of my own, I am still but quoting what meets my eyes in this remarkable document. The words run thus. “It is an axiom of the law of the land that the King himself can do no wrong.” Was I wrong, then, in speaking of the atheistical maxims of John-Bullism? But this is far from all. The writer goes on actually to ascribe to the Sovereign (I tremble while I pronounce the words) absolute perfection; for he speaks thus: “The law ascribes to the King in his political capacity ABSOLUTE PERFECTION; the King can do no wrong!” (Groans.) One had thought that no human power could be thus described; but the British legislature, judicature, and jurisprudence, have had the unspeakable effrontery to impute to their crowned and sceptred idol, to their doll,'—here cries of 'Shame, shame,' from the same individual who had distinguished himself in an earlier part of the speech—'to this doll, this puppet whom they have dressed up with a lion and a unicorn, the attribute of ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!' Here the individual who had several times interrupted the speaker sprung up, in spite of the efforts of persons about him to keep him down, and cried out, as far as his words could be collected, 'You cowardly liar, our dear, good little Queen,' when he was immediately saluted with a cry of 'Turn him out,' and soon made his exit from the meeting.

Order was restored, and the Count resumed his speech and quotations. He had not yet brought out how completely this blasphemous doctrine is acknowledged in the aforesaid gospel of John Bullism. For this Blackstone, not content with saying that the King can do no wrong, goes on to commit himself to the following words:

'The King moreover is not only incapable of doing wrong, but even of thinking wrong!! he can never do an improper thing; in him is no folly or weakness!!!' (Shudders and cheers from the vast assemblage, which lasted alternately some minutes.) At the same time a respectably dressed gentleman below the platform begged permission to look at the book; it was immediately handed to him; after looking at the passages, he was observed to inspect carefully the title-page and binding; he then returned it without a word.

The speech proceeds and the burlesque heightens. He {116} shows that Queen Victoria by English law is entitled to assume the airs of divine sovereignty; she is spoken of by the shameless Blackstone as the 'fount of justice.' The book also predicates the ubiquity of the sovereign; Blackstone uses the very term, and explains that the sovereign is 'present in all his law courts.' He even predicates, by an awful blasphemy immortality for the English monarch. The King, he says, never dies. With equally amazing blasphemies he describes the functions of the British parliament, his account of which seriously suggests the scriptural account of Antichrist, 'the lawless one.' The power of parliament is spoken of by Blackstone as being 'transcendent,' and he adds: 'It may make law; and that which is law it may make no law.'

The gallant speaker then delivered the following passage from Blackstone's volume, in a very distinct and articulate whisper: '“Some have not scrupled to call its power—the OMNIPOTENCE of Parliament!”' No one can conceive the thrilling effect of these words; they were heard all over the immense assemblage; every man turned pale; a dead silence followed; one might have heard a pin drop. A pause of some minutes followed.

The indictment of John Bullism at home and abroad which follows cannot be abridged within limits suitable for this lecture. As a running riot of a fantastic imagination and a keen sense of humour—of neither of which qualities Newman's earlier writings show any trace—it is very memorable, and those who wish fully to understand some characteristic gifts of the man should read it. I must content myself here with giving in conclusion the Count's peroration:

'And now, gentlemen, your destiny is in your own hands. If you are willing to succumb to a power which has never been contented with what she was, but has been for centuries extending her conquests in both hemispheres, then the humble individual who has addressed you will submit to the necessary consequence; will resume his military dress, and return to the Caucasus; but if, on the other hand, as I believe, you are resolved to resist unflinchingly this flood of satanical imposture and foul ambition, and force it back into the ocean; if, not from hatred to the English—far from it—from love to them (for a distinction must {117} ever be drawn between the nation and its dominant John-Bullism); if, I say, from love to them as brothers, from a generous determination to fight their battles, from an intimate consciousness that they are in their secret hearts Russians, that they are champing the bit of their iron lot, and are longing for you as their deliverers; if, from these lofty notions as well as from a burning patriotism, you will form the high resolve to annihilate this dishonour of humanity; if you loathe its sophisms, “De minimis non curat lex,” and “Malitia supplet ætatem,” and “Tres faciunt collegium,” and “Impotentia excusat legem,” and “Possession is nine points of the law,” and “The greater the truth, the greater the libel”—principles which sap the very foundations of morals; if you wage war to the knife with its blighting superstitions of primogeniture, gavelkind, mortmain, and contingent remainders; if you detest, abhor, and abjure the tortuous maxims and perfidious provisions of its habeas corpus, quare im edit, and qui tam' (Hear, hear); 'if you scorn the mummeries of its wigs, and bands, and coifs, and ermine' (vehement cheering); 'if you trample and spit upon its accursed fee simple and fee tail, villanage, and free soccage, fiefs, heriots, seizins, feuds' (a burst of cheers, the whole meeting in commotion); 'its shares, its premiums, its post-obits, its percentages, its tariffs, its broad and narrow gauge'—Here the cheers became frantic, and drowned the speaker's voice, and a most extraordinary scene of enthusiasm followed. One half of the meeting was seen embracing the other half; till, as if by the force of a sudden resolution, they all poured out of the square and proceeded to break the windows of all the British residents. They then formed into procession, and, directing their course to the great square before the Kremlin, they dragged through the mud, and then solemnly burnt, an effigy of John Bull which had been provided beforehand by the managing committee, a lion and a unicorn, and a Queen Victoria. These being fully consumed, they dispersed quietly; and by ten o'clock at night the streets were profoundly still, and the silver moon looked down in untroubled lustre on the city of the Czars. [Note 6]

This extract certainly shows a power of sustained and, one must admit, very broad burlesque which would win distinction as a humourist for a mere man of letters.

We may search in vain through his writings and correspondence {118} to find any such exhibition of it except when it was brought into play as the only means of effectively defending what he regarded as a sacred cause.

Perhaps the best instance of his powers of satire is found in the Kingsley controversy. And no instance is more typical than the résumé of Kingsley's rather clumsy letters of apology for his unjust and unprovoked attack on Newman in the correspondence which preceded the publication of the 'Apologia.' Let it be observed that Kingsley had slandered, not Newman only, but the Catholic priesthood at large. It was again in opposing injustice that Newman gave free vent to a biting irony for which there is no parallel in his other writings:

Mr. Kingsley begins then by exclaiming,—'Oh, the chicanery, the wholesale fraud, the vile hypocrisy, the conscience killing tyranny of Rome! We have not far to seek for an evidence of it. There's Father Newman to wit: one living specimen is worth a hundred dead ones. He, a Priest writing of Priests, tells us that lying is never any harm.'

I interpose: 'You are taking a most extraordinary liberty with my name. If I have said this, tell me when and where.'

Mr. Kingsley replies: 'You said it, Reverend Sir, in a Sermon which you preached, when a Protestant, as Vicar of St. Mary's, and published in 1844; and I could read you a very salutary lecture on the effects which that Sermon had at the time on my own opinion of you.'

I make answer: 'Oh ... Not, it seems, as a Priest speaking of Priests;—but let us have the passage.'

Mr. Kingsley relaxes: 'Do you know, I like your tone. From your tone I rejoice, greatly rejoice, to be able to believe that you did not mean what you said.'

I rejoin: 'Mean it! I maintain I never said it, whether as a Protestant or as a Catholic.'

Mr. Kingsley replies: 'I waive that point.'

I object: 'Is it possible? What? waive the main question! I either said it or I didn't. You have made a monstrous charge against me; direct, distinct, public. You are bound to prove it as directly, as distinctly, as publicly;—or to own you can't.'

'Well,' says Mr. Kingsley, 'if you are quite sure you did not say it, I'll take your word for it; I really will.'

My word! I am dumb. Somehow I thought that it was my {119} word that happened to be on trial. The word of a Professor of lying, that he does not lie!

But Mr. Kingsley reassures me: 'We are both gentlemen,' he says: 'I have done as much as one English gentleman can expect from another.'

I begin to see: he thought me a gentleman at the very time that he said I taught lying on system. After all, it is not I, but it is Mr. Kingsley, who did not mean what he said. 'Habemus confitentem reum.'

So we have confessedly come round to this, preaching without practising; the common theme of satirists from Juvenal to Walter Scott! 'I left Baby Charles and Steenie laying his duty before him,' says King James of the reprobate Dalgarno: 'O Geordie, jingling Geordie, it was grand to hear Baby Charles laying down the guilt of dissimulation, and Steenie lecturing on the turpitude of incontinence.' [Note 7]

I will for one moment turn aside here to quote a very remarkable testimony to the crushing effect on Kingsley's reputation of the attack of which this passage constitutes the first chapter and the 'Apologia' the last. I quote it as testimony to Newman's power of carrying public opinion with him even in so unpromising a task as the defence of Popery in 1864 against a popular writer. Kingsley's friend, Max Müller, has left the following record of the effect of the controversy on public opinion and on Kingsley himself:

Kingsley felt his defeat most deeply; he was like a man that stammered, and could not utter at the right time the right word that was in his mind. What is still more surprising was the sudden collapse of the sale of Kingsley's most popular books. I saw him after he had been with his publishers to make arrangements for the sale of his copyrights. He wanted the money to start his sons, and he had the right to expect a substantial sum. The sum offered him seemed almost an insult, and yet he assured me that he had seen the books of his publishers, and that the sale of his books during the last years did not justify a larger offer. He was miserable about it, as well he might be. He felt not only the pecuniary loss, but, as he imagined, the loss of that influence which he had gained by years of hard labour. {120}

I have quoted specimens of his lighter vein at some length because it marks off Newman so completely from the ordinary theologian or controversialist. It shows him bringing to bear great personal powers of wit or sarcasm in order to expose an attitude of bigotry in his opponents which is the true source of their unfair controversial method. Such writing affords the very interesting spectacle of exhibitions which arrest the critic as literature—even as humorous and ironical literature—being prompted by the motives which inspire the religious apologist. A remarkably faithful psychology is apparent even when the writer makes controversial points—they are hardly caricatures, or only caricatures of the kind which brings true features into relief. And his great success in controversy was due to this. There were plenty of dispassionate critics who felt rem acu tetigisti [Note 8]. The injustice of Kingsley's attack, the absurdity of the 'No Popery' movement in the form then so widespread were, I think, on the whole brought home by him to the country at large. Kingsley has his defenders, and Popery is not yet popular, but the common opinion of the country has moved very many degrees, in consequence of Newman's writing. Extravagances which were widespread in 1851 are now confined to the successors of Mr. Kensit and to the Protestant Alliance.

No doubt these examples of Newman's humour have a directly controversial object. But they speak of a far subtler method than that of the typical controversialist. They show his power of playing on the mind of his hearers as on an instrument—of enlisting their sympathies by the art which belongs to the great man of letters.

A large proportion of his writings, however (as I have said), brings literary gifts en évidence without any controversial object.

These writings—in prose and poetry—not only show us his literary gifts, but bring the man himself nearer to us. We have not only his views, but the habitual thoughts {121} which marked the man and the visions which were constantly with him. He exercised through them, as I have said, that indefinable power—personal influence. He was himself deeply sensitive to the power of personal influence. He has told us of the awe and reverence with which, as a young man, he had looked at Keble. Later he himself had exercised over a large circle a far greater influence than Keble's. His own deep sense of all that a great personality meant in life is conveyed incidentally in one of the essays of his Irish years on the School of Athens. He describes the progress of an imaginary visitor, and the sights that arrest his attention:

Onwards he proceeds still; and now he has come to that still more celebrated Academe, which has bestowed its own name on Universities down to this day; and there he sees a sight which will be graven on his memory till he dies. Many are the beauties of the place, the groves, and the statues, and the temple, and the stream of the Cephissus flowing by; many are the lessons which will be taught him day after day by teacher or by companion; but his eye is just now arrested by one object; it is the very presence of Plato. He does not hear a word that he says; he does not care to hear; he asks neither for discourse nor disputation; what he sees is a whole, complete in itself, not to be increased by addition, and greater than anything else. It will be a point in the history of his life; a stay for his memory to rest on, a burning thought in his heart, a bond of union with men of like mind, ever afterwards. Such is the spell which the living man exerts on his fellows, for good or for evil. How nature impels us to lean upon others, making virtue, or genius, or name, the qualification for our doing so! A Spaniard is said to have travelled to Italy, simply to see Livy; he had his fill of gazing, and then went back again home. Had our young stranger got nothing by his voyage but the sight of the breathing and moving Plato, had he entered no lecture-room to hear, no gymnasium to converse, he had got some measure of education, and something to tell of to his grandchildren. [Note 9]

Newman's sense of the dominating force of personal presence and influence, which this extract illustrates, gives the key to the view I am taking of the life-work of the man {122} himself, for that force enters into all those departments of his work which I have attempted to analyse. He realised in his own self the power of a great personality which he here depicts in the case of Plato and which was so much to him in life. I have said that his varied work, by revealing his own attractive and gifted mind and soul, brings the man himself nearer to his readers. He was steeped in Christianity. And he endeavoured to impart to others the visions and feelings as well as the arguments which inspired his own faith. By bringing them nearer to himself he made his own personality react upon them. He brought to the aid of the Christian Church in winning and keeping human sympathies all the force of his great individuality. He realised the theme of his own sermon on 'Personal Influence as the means of Propagating Religious Truth'; he realised his own chosen motto, Cor ad cor loquitur. By winning the personal love of his followers he gained the supremacy over them which enabled him to instil with authority the Christian ethos which filled his own nature. He was by nature and culture alike a true artist, and he communicated to his disciples by means of his art his own self, with its many-sided living and intensely Christian way of looking at the world. This really sums up all I have said of his philosophy, his history, his apologetic and his style. When he argued he communicated not dry, formal, theoretical arguments, but the living process of mind through which he had himself passed. So, too, in history. The picture he had formed for himself from his study of the literature of the early church, he passed on to his readers. All his views were presented through the pictorial medium of his own mind—a medium of very exquisite make. In this sense the German insistence on Newman's 'subjectivity' is just. It lies at the root of his strength and of his limitations alike. His most objective study was of the genius of the Church as manifest in succeeding civilisations—the subject of the 'Essay on Development.' Here his knowledge of the early Christian literature was so thorough that the reader often feels even closer to the facts than to the artist who paints them. Still, from first to last the method is the same. {123} It is that of an artist who is likewise poet, historian, thinker and theologian, painting, with a minuteness which only great literary endowment can achieve, the living process of his own mind—his philosophical thought, his historical studies, his imagination, his emotion—presenting to others the picture of Christianity which this process first paints for himself, depicting also the depth of his own conviction as a testimony to the force of the considerations which have convinced him. Occasionally rhetoric or irony are invoked to brush away obstacles which may prevent the public for which he paints from giving due attention and just appreciation to his work. But the main outcome of the writings is that they convey his own vision of Christianity to the intellect and imagination of his readers, and his own resulting passionate conviction; his principal aim being to form in them the Christian mind and the Christian character—to bind fast to Christianity with numerous and fine tendrils the imagination, the conscience, and the intellect of his disciples; to draw them within the ark of the Christian Church while the deluge of unbelief is being poured throughout the world at large (to use his own chosen metaphor), while the old Christendom is being transformed into a new and non-Christian civilisation.


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1. Contemporary Review, October 1885. See Life of Newman, vol. ii. p. 505, for account of this article.—ED.
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2. Similar was the object in the very valuable introduction of 1877 to the republished Via Media pamphlets. It was designed to meet criticisms which were based on an insufficient recognition of the variety of the church's functions. She was often denounced as obscurantist, or as indifferent to truth and science. She was denounced as autocratic. But the key to her action was often found in the conflict of different duties equally imperative. The interests of order or devotion might for the moment take precedence of the interests of intellectual speculation or secular science—which were, after all, not her direct concern. He accounted for her occasional failure in one department by showing that it was attributable to her duties in another. The church, he said, had three offices. She was the guardian of devotion and worship, the defender of theological truth, the embodiment of a great ecclesiastical polity. Her rulers had, therefore, to consider the several interests of devotion, of truth, and of expediency in ecclesiastical politics. Her rulers might on occasion decline to disturb the devotion of the many by intellectual discussions in the domain of theology and science, not from indifference to truth, but from tenderness to the interests of worship and prayer. Or she might be severe on intellectuals who were also ecclesiastical rebels. Here again was a discussion with no direct relation to the infidel movement, yet all-important with a view to confirming trust in the Church which was the most effective opponent of that movement.
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3. Discussions and Arguments, Article 4, pp. 293-5, quoted in Grammar of Assent, pp. 92-6.
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4. Idea of a University, p. 209.
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5. Loss and Gain, pp 11-12.
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6. Present Position of Catholics in England, pp. 25-41.
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7. Apologia (Oxford University Press, 1913), pp. 20-1.
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8. Newman insists, and I think justly, that his imaginary picture of Russian Anglophobism, which may appear to us in 1914 to be extravagant, did not exaggerate the absurdities of the 'No-Popery' speeches of 1851.
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9. Historical Sketches, vol. iii., pp. 41-2.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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