By Paul Elmer More
He was the father of a long line of writers and preachers who handed down the tradition of the contemplative life from his own day to Newman's, even to ours - a slender band of other-worldly men who from time to time seem merged and forgotten in the great, ruthless, practical population of England, and of whom our histories of literature speak far too little. In this he was a normal representative of one important and wholesome aspect of human nature; but there was another side to him also, that which may be called the romantic twist to the emotions and is by no means a necessary concomitant o[ contemplation. In his glorification of the emotions and of the contemplative love of God there was always a lurking element of self-exaltation, and his praises of the secluded life were filled with outbursts of indignation against a society which was only too willing to take him at his word and leave him to his seclusion. He is an early type of the soul that magnifies love and sympathy and at the same time clamours against its isolation in the midst of mankind. He is consumed with ennui and the feeling of futility; he cries out to heaven to remove him from a community of fools and worldlings among whom he languished in unregarded uselessness. Like another Carlyle he is afflicted by the very noises of society - penales sunt mihi vociferantes et crucior quasi per incommodum quando clamor clangentium me tangit.
This long tradition, in its aspects both of strength and of weakness, must not be forgotten when we consider the ground out of which sprang the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century; that movement was a part of the great romantic flood that swept over Europe, and owed more to Germany than the men of Oxford were aware of, but it was still primarily English. The immediate impulse came as a reaction against the all-invading Liberal and Erastian notions of the day, and as an attempt to find a substitute within the Church of England for the fervour of Wesleyanism, and for the Evangelicalism which threatened to convert the Church into a weak imitation of Wesley's congregation. The little group of Fellows of Oriel College saw that the enthusiasm of this Evangelical revival had no tenacious anchor in that form of the religious imagination, that still-brooding celestial love, which is almost inseparable from a humble reverence for tradition; that it was a kind of emotional effervescence from a utilitarian rationalism and must in the end serve only to strengthen the sway of irreligion. "'Unstable as water, it cannot excel,'" Newman was to write of this kind of Protestantism. "It is but the inchoate state or stage of a doctrine, and its final resolution is in Rationalism. This it has ever shown when suffered to work itself out without interruption." Newman himself reckoned the active beginning of the propaganda as coincident with Keble's sermon of July 14, 1833, against the liberalizing attacks on the Church, and the first of the Tracts that were to create such a furor was dated September 9 of the same year. Keble himself, a Fellow of Oriel, though he may be said to have fired the first gun in the warfare, was not one of the militant saints, and the brunt of the battle he soon let fall on other shoulders.
Keble found his peace in the quiet ministrations of his parish at Hursley. As did Newman, he looked upon his pupil at Oriel, Richard Hurrell Froude, brother of the historian, as the real leader of the movement - or rather instigator, for Froude was early carried out of active life by ill-health and died of consumption in 1836, when still a young man. In the first shock of his loss, it was the brilliance of his intellect that seemed to stand out as his preeminent trait. "I never, on the whole, fell in with so gifted a person," Newman wrote in a letter the day after hearing of his friend's death. "In variety and perfection of gifts I think he far exceeded even Keble. For myself, I cannot describe what I owe to him as regards the intellectual principles of religion and morals." Brilliant he no doubt was, yet, as one reads the many testimonies of his character gathered together in Miss Guiney's biography, it is not so much his intellect as his audacity that impresses one. He would have been the Rupert of the war had he lived, dashing into the ranks of the enemy without fear and without too much circumspection. When others doubted, he was sure; and the most vivid picture we have of him shows him pacing Trinity Gardens with his hand on the shoulder of a friend, and saying blithely, "Isaac, we must make a Row in the world!" Dean Church speaks of his "fiery impetuosity and the frank daring of his disrespectful vocabulary"; and James Mozley describes him as hating "the present state of things so excessively that any change would be a relief to him." His own mother wrote of him in childhood that he was "exceedingly impatient under vexatious circumstances; very much disposed to find his own amusement in teasing and vexing others; and almost entirely incorrigible when it was necessary to reprove him." No, he was not the intellect of the movement, and even Newman later admits in the Apologia that" he had no turn for theology" and that "his power of entering into the minds of others was not equal to his other gifts." Had he lived, he would not have added to the gravity and lasting influence of the movement, I think; but by his reckless indifference to the opinion of the world he might have cut short the long hesitation of Newman between the Church of England and Rome. He would have brought more acrimony into the debate, but would have deprived it also of much of its profounder significance.
There were other men, important in their day, who fought by the side of Keble and Froude and Newman, following them at various distances. Pusey especially should not be overlooked, whose high Tory connections brought a certain standing to the group of rebels among the Philistines of the land. One surmises that his social position, quite as much as his scholarship, caused the name Puseyism to be attached to the movement in its earlier phases. Pusey was a laborious student and plunged deep into the German literature of the day in order to combat its infidel tendencies - went so deep that he never quite emerged to the surface. In the long run Newman became the leader and representative of the group, and to-day his commanding personality and the long agony of his conversion alone retain significance in the common memory, while the other men are but names of history. Such is the prerogative of genius that the whole Oxford Movement seems to us now but the personal concern of a single soul.
John Henry Newman was born in 1801. He was, as were also by a curious coincidence Manning and Ward, the son of a London banker. In childhood he read much in the Arabian Nights and was filled with odd, solitary imaginings. At the age of fifteen he underwent some kind of conversion, the nature of which he has not made perfectly dear. It was, however, attended with a dedication of himself to missionary or other religious work, and with the conviction that he should remain a celibate through life. More important was the strengthening within him of the feeling, never after that to leave him, which would appear to be the guiding sense of all deeply religious minds - the feeling that material phenomena are unreal and that the only realities are God and the human soul. "From a boy," he writes in the midst of his later struggle, "I had been led to consider that my Maker and I, His creature, were the two beings, luminously such, in rerum natura." From boyhood, too, he could not look upon the natural world without a strange sense of baffled illusion. Of all his letters that I have read, none, perhaps, lets us closer to the secret of his heart than the one written to his sister in the spring of 1828, after returning to Oxford from a ride to Cuddesdon:
The country, too, is beautiful; the fresh leaves, the scents, the varied landscape. Yet I never felt so intensely the transitory nature of this world as when most delighted with these country scene. And in riding out to-day I have been impressed more powerfully than before I had an idea was possible with the two lines:For one who can really understand the meaning of that letter I suspect the dark places of Newman's career will have little difficulty. He in whom these words awaken no response had better lay down his Newman and take up his Darwin; he will find nothing to concern him in the experience of a soul to whom, as Newman wrote in another letter, "time is nothing except as the seed of eternity.""Chanting with a solemn voiceI could hardly believe the lines were not my own, and Keble had not taken them from me. I wish it were possible for words to put down those indefinite, vague, and withal subtle feelings which quite pierce the soul and make it sick .... What a veil and curtain this world of sense is! beautiful, but still a veil.
In 1817 he went up to Oxford, entering at Trinity College. In 1822 he was elected a Fellow of Oriel, where religion was the one serious topic of the Common Room. Two years later he was ordained, and in 1828, becoming Vicar of St. Mary's, he began those sermons whose restrained eloquence held so many of the young men of Oxford spellbound. What with a less introspective mind would have been an important event was a tour of the Mediterranean taken with Hurrell Froude and his father. As a matter of fact one cannot see from his letters that the view of so many great and memorable scenes of history had much meaning for him. From Rome he wrote that he had "alas, experienced none of that largeness and expansion of mind" which he had been told he "should get from travelling." All his interest was in the journeying of his own soul, which before this had started on the long and obscure road that was to lead it to its spiritual Rome. The actual Rome of the Pope seems to have repelled and attracted him at the same time. Much that he saw there appeared to him "polytheistic, degrading, idolatrous"; but the longing in him was nevertheless increased for reunion with the ancient mother. "Oh, that Rome were not Rome!" he exclaims; "but I seem to see as clear as day that a union with her is impossible. She is the cruel Church asking of us impossibilities, excommunicating us for disobedience, and now watching and exulting over our approaching overthrow." At bottom one suspects that this spectacle of the visible centre of Catholicism fixed more deeply in his heart the desiderium Roma, as Erasmus felt and called it, the haunting memory, the "perfume of Rome," which was really but another form of the common romantic homesickness for some place of ideal peace and loveliness where the self-tortured soul may find sympathy and healing for the coldness of this world.
In literature the chief result of the journey was the series of short poems, issued in 1834 in the Lyra Apostolica. Those particularly which were written after his almost fatal illness in Sicily are filled with a deep emotional realization of the other world, and belong with the best of England's religious poetry. The stanzas beginning "Lead, Kindly Light," composed on shipboard while sailing from Sicily to Marseilles, express with lyric poignancy the sense of an ever-present divine Providence, but they have become too familiar for quotation. Another poem, written only a few days later at Marseilles, although the last twelve lines were added after the death of Froude, shows how close the world of spirits seemed to Newman's heart, very close yet separated by the strangeness of this earthly veil:
Do not their souls, who 'neath the Altar waitFrom these personal lines the mind reverts to one of the greatest of Newman's Parochial Sermons, that on The Invisible World, in which, from inability to understand the lower world of animals so real to our physical senses, the preacher argues a like reality for the higher world known to our spiritual senses:
And yet in spite of this universal world which we see, there is another world, quite as far-spreading, quite as close to us, and more wonderful; another world all around us, though we see it not, and more wonderful than the world we see, for this reason if for no other, that we do not see it. All around us are numberless objects, coming and going, watching, working, or waiting, which we see not: this is that other world, which the eyes reach not unto, but faith only....It may not be irrelevant to add that in the words of the poem, And yet we both refrain: It were not good, one may come close to the distinction between a vivid faith and the pseudo-science of psychical research, faith resting in profound realization of the different kinds of knowledge, pseudo-science attempting to confuse them together.
Meanwhile the religious situation had become more acute at Oxford, and on returning thither Newman plunged into the thick of the controversy. The famous series of Tracts for the Times was begun. The most important of these, Number 90, was written by Newman, and touches the core of the argument. Against the evangelizing and liberalizing tendency of religion at that time, Newman here proclaimed that the Church of England was essentially Catholic and had never accepted the reformed dogmas of the sixteenth century. He attempted to prove, not without some sophistry one is forced to admit, that the Thirty-nine Articles were really not intended to favour the Reformation, but were a loose compromise of contending views, and might best be interpreted as a summary of the old faith with only such verbal concessions to the radical party as the times made necessary. This was in 1841, and within a few months twelve thousand five hundred copies of the Tract had been sold. The storm that broke upon the Tractarians showed what the common sense of England perceived as the logical conclusion of their position. It saw clearly that they were tending, not towards a vague Anglican Catholicism as the Tractarians fondly believed of themselves, but towards the Catholicism of Rome; and to know all that this meant to England one must take into consideration the long history of the land, the plotting and counterplotting that followed the Reformation of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, the horrors of the Gunpowder Plot as it was conceived in the popular mind, the treacheries of Charles II, and the death struggle with the Stuart party of the eighteenth century. And essentially the common sense of England was right. The life of Newman for the next four years was a hidden tragedy in which the protagonists were his loyalty to the national tradition and his logical integrity of mind; and in the end logic with him won the day. In 1843 he resigned the Vicarage of St. Mary's, feeling that he could no longer with honesty preach in an Anglican pulpit. With a band of sympathetic comrades he retired to Littlemore, a suburb of Oxford, where he had built a Chapel of Ease on St. Mary's and converted a row of cottages into a kind of Protestant monastery. Here he set himself to the task of clarifying his own mind by analyzing the office of the church in developing, under divine guidance, the depositum fidei which was originally entrusted to it in the Scriptures. In this attempt to reconcile the changes of history with the everlasting immutability of truth, he began with this one assumption as certain: "Whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism.... To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." Meanwhile the drama of his soul was worked out so quietly and with so little consultation with the world that the final step, however it had been seen in theory, came as a shock even to his friends. Wilfrid Ward, in his Life of Cardinal Wiseman, gives a vivid picture of Newman in these days:
Those who still survive describe him as standing upright at a high desk, writing for hours together - towards the end for fourteen hours in the day - at his book [the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine]. The younger men looked in awe at their inscrutable Rector, who never spoke (unless in private to Ambrose St. John) of what was in his thoughts, and never gave them an indication that he expected them to take the great step. Day by day he seemed to grow paler, and taller, and thinner - at last almost transparent - as he stood in the light of the sun and worked at his task.At this time Cardinal Wiseman, desiring to know how Newman stood towards the Roman Church, sent a convert, Mr. Bernard Smith, who had been Newman's curate at Littlemore, to sound him. There is a touch of humour in the only indication that Newman gave of his position. At dinner-time he appeared and stood for a moment conspicuously in the middle of the room. He wore grey trousers, and Mr. Smith, who was acquainted with Newman's strict adherence to the clerical costume, understood that he no longer regarded himself as a priest of the Church. Shortly after this, Newman invited the Passionist Father Dominic, an Italian, to Littlemore, and on the 8th of October, 1845, he received conditional baptism. On the first day of the month following he was formally confirmed at Oscott by Cardinal Wiseman, and the great conversion was accomplished. But first, to the unfinished manuscript of his Essay on Development lying on his desk at Littlemore he had added this paragraph, of which it has been said that it "will be remembered as long as the English language endures":
Such were the thoughts concerning the "Blessed Vision of Peace," of one whose long-continued petition had been that the Most Merciful would not despise the work of His own Hands, nor leave him to himself;- while yet his eyes were dim, and his breast laden, and he could but employ Reason in the things of Faith. And now, dear Reader, time is short, eternity is long. Put not from you what you have here found; regard it not as mere matter of present controversy; set not out resolved to refute it, and looking about for the best way of doing so; seduce not yourself with the imagination that it comes of disappointment, or disgust, or restlessness, or wounded feeling, or undue sensibility, or other weakness. Wrap not yourself round in the associations of years past, nor determine that to be truth which you wish to be so, nor make an idol of cherished anticipations. Time is short, eternity is long.Newman's act of conversion was, undoubtedly, the most important religious event of England in the nineteenth century - so much, after all, do the struggle and destiny of a great individual soul outweigh in significance the unconscious or undeliberate movements of masses of men. Nor is the process by which he passed from Anglicanism to Romanism hard to follow. We have seen that from boyhood the one reality to him was the existence of his own soul and of God, and we have heard his confession of strange uneasiness in the presence even of the beautiful things of this world. In a passage of the Apologia of noble eloquence he deduces his creed quite logically from these feelings:
Starting then with the being of a God .... I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress.... The sight of the world is nothing else than the prophet's scroll, full of "lamentations, and mourning, and woe."In these paragraphs, which I have weakened somewhat by condensing, we have expressed, then, the basis of Newman's faith - the two realities of God and of man's fall from God, with the consequent state of the world's misery and blind ignorance. From these two supreme realities, as they seem to him, he argues that it would be perfectly natural to expect, that indeed we must expect, some clear instrument of revelation, or provision of the Creator, "for retaining in the world a knowledge of Himself, so definite and destined as to be a proof against the energy of human scepticism." This was Newman's creed when he went up to Oxford, it was his creed when he retired to Littlemore, and it was his creed when he wore the cardinal. The only difference lay in his conception of the manner in which this divine provision, or instrument of revelation, manifested itself to mankind. And his change in this respect may be expressed in a series of exclusions. To Newman it seemed that the minds of men were sharply divided, in accordance with their ways of regarding revelation, into the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, the Protestant, and the rationalistic. The last-named condition, rationalism, as it left no place for an absolute revelation, was immediately excluded by him; it was abhorrent to everything his nature craved. There remained the three forms of Christianity. But of these, Protestantism was also excluded, because he saw at once, and rightly, I think, that its certain goal was rationalism. Protestantism, as he properly used the word, differs from the Anglican and Roman creeds in looking to the Bible alone for its source of revelation, and in making the individual mind the judge of what the Bible teaches instead of subordinating the judgement of the individual to the authority of the Fathers and of the Church. Now it is clear, if the reason of the individual is to determine the meaning of revelation, that reason is the ultimate authority, and the step to rationalism is easy and inevitable. This was seen perfectly well by the controversialists of the seventeenth century, and the great bulwark of Protestantism, Chillingworth's The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation, or, as one of the books of that work is entitled, Scripture the only Rule whereby to judge of Controversies, was a long and, it must be said, fundamentally unsuccessful attempt to rebut just such charges made against Protestantism by a certain Jesuit, Matthias Wilson, who wrote under the name of Edward Knott. History was on the side of the Jesuit, for it can be demonstrated that the deistic rationalism of the eighteenth century was a direct outcome of the Protestant rationalism of such writers as Chillingworth; and again in the nineteenth century Newman perceived that this same close kinship existed between the Protestant, or Evangelical, wing of the Church and the rationalistic and scientific tendencies of his own day.
Protestantism of the Bible was therefore excluded by Newman for a Church which claimed a direct authority outside of and supplementary to, though never subversive of, the Bible. His principal work, before his final conversion, was The Via Media, an endeavour to maintain the supremacy of the Anglican creed as a middle and safe way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. His argument, in brief, is this. He agrees with Rome in demanding some instrument of revelation outside of the individual's understanding of the Bible, some authority which can answer directly and unmistakably the many questions which the Bible leaves obscure, and he agrees with Rome in holding that the only authority which has the divine commission to answer such questions is the Church. But he differs from Rome in defining the Church. The voice of the Church with him is in the writings of the Fathers and the decisions of the Councils up to a certain point of time. That is to say, up to and including the Council of Nicaea the Church, he thought, was united and authoritative in its interpretation and expansion of the faith, or depositum fidei, which was originally entrusted to it. After that date the Councils ceased to represent the whole Christian community and were subject to errors of passion and judgement. Newman at this time made much of the famous saying of St. Vincent of Lerins, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus (What has been believed always, everywhere, and by all); as a matter of fact he accepted the ubique and the ab omnibus, but rejected the semper. The true reformation adopted by Anglicanism was, in his view, merely a return to the ancient and universal faith of the Church by eliminating the false accretions which had been added since the Council of Nicaea and which constituted the corruptions of the Roman branch of the Church; Anglicanism was truly catholic; Romanism was sectarian.
But Newman's logical mind soon found this position as difficult to hold as that of Bible Protestantism which he had so summarily rejected. For, after all, what is the essential difference between clinging to one particular book as the sole depository of faith and accepting the books of a determined period ? The Fathers and Councils must be interpreted, and selection must be made among their various sayings, by the individual reason just as in the case of the Bible. The distinction is one of magnitude only, not of kind. Against this need of interpreting the Bible or a closed set of books, Rome upheld the institution of the Church, as a living voice having divine authority to answer the questions of men as they arise and to develop the faith in accordance with the growth of human knowledge. Grant Newman's unshakable demand for a distinct verbal revelation, grant his demand for a rigidly logical and external authority, and the path would seem to be step by step to Rome.
Yet I confess I have never been able to follow him in his course without a feeling of uneasiness, and that feeling has been deepened into something like distress by reading the authoritative record of his life.* The very plan of Mr. Ward's work is of a sort to 'raise disquieting questions. It gives only a single chapter to the events of Newman's life down to and including his conversion, and devotes the remainder of two bulky volumes to his experiences in the Roman Church. For this outrageous disproportion Mr. Ward is not altogether responsible. The story of the early years and conversion has already been related by Newman himself in the Apologia, and this has been supplemented by the two volumes of his letters edited by Miss Mozley. It was Newman's own desire that nothing should be added to those records by his present official biographer. Mr. Ward's work, therefore, should properly be read, not as a complete and independent memoir, but as a continuation of Miss Mozley's record. I am bound to say, however, that, even with this reservation, the present volumes err somewhat in proportion. Newman was seldom at his best as a letter-writer, and a good deal of the correspondence now printed is neither necessary to an understanding of Newman's character nor entertaining in itself. For the rest, Mr. Ward's difficult task has been admirably and courageously carried through. When he himself takes the pen in hand his narrative and characterization are clear, succinct, and interesting.
[* The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman: Based on His Private Journals and Correspondence. By Wilfrid Ward. 2 vols. New York; Longmans, Green & Co. 1912.]
But with all Mr. Ward's tact and despite his good faith as a Catholic, one cannot close these two volumes without feeling that Newman's surrender to the appeal of Rome was a pathetic mistake. It was as if the convert, by altering his direction, had suddenly brought himself face to face with a stone wall. To every plan he broached for new activity came the benumbing reply, Non possumus. He was hemmed in, barked at by opposition on every side, beaten down by exasperating distrust and envy. Mr. Ward tells with valiant honesty all the plans of the convert that were balked in one way or another. The difficulties that beset him as editor, as rector of the Irish Catholic University, and as promoter of a propaganda in Oxford to influence the intellectual life of England, are typical of his career. In the end, when his active years were past and he could no longer disturb those in authority, he received due recognition in the Cardinalate, and his closing days were, we like to believe, crowned with a great peace. It is true also that more than once in his bitter years, with a tone of conviction it would be dishonourable to doubt, he repudiated the suggestion of regret over his move. In his saddest moment he could write - ex animo, as he said - "that Protestantism is the dreariest of possible religions." He could distinguish clearly between the Church and its rulers:
To-day is the 20th anniversary of my setting up the Oratory in England, and every year I have more to thank God for, and more cause to rejoice that He helped me over so great a crisis. - Since A.B. obliges me to say it, this I cannot omit to say:- I have found in the Catholic Church abundance of courtesy, but very little sympathy, among persons in high place, except a few - but there is a depth and a power in the Catholic religion, a fulness of satisfaction in its creed, its theology, its rites, its sacraments, its discipline, a freedom yet a support also, before which the neglect or the misapprehension about oneself on the part of individual living persons, however exalted, is as so much dust, when weighed in the balance. This is the true secret of the Church's strength, the principle of its indefectibility, and the bond of its indissoluble unity. It is the earnest and the beginning of the repose of heaven.Yet it is true nevertheless that he resented keenly and sometimes denounced sharply not only the thwarting of his personal ambitions, but also the limitations imposed upon his intellectual and spiritual mission. He who felt himself born to be a leader of his people found himself suddenly thrust into ignoble obscurity. To his beloved Ambrose St. John he wrote, in 1857: "To the rising generation, to the sons of those who knew me, or read what I wrote fifteen or twenty years ago, I am a mere page of history.... It was at Oxford, and by my Parochial sermons, that I had influence - all that is past." And three years later, in the intimacy of his diary, he could exclaim: "O my God, I seem to have wasted these years that I have been a Catholic. What I wrote as a Protestant has had far greater power, force, meaning, success than my Catholic works, and this troubles me a great deal." It is not strange that his inner vision was at times perturbed, his faith almost touched. "As years go on," he records in his diary, "I have less sensible devotion and inward life." He even notes a change in his physical expression: "Till the affair of No. ninety and my going to Littlemore, I had my mouth half open, and commonly a smile on my face - and from that time onwards my mouth has been closed and contracted, and the muscles are so set now, that I cannot but look grave and forbidding." Inevitably, as this feeling of failure and loneliness deepened, he contrasted the poverty of the present with the actual power and richer promise of his Oxford career. There is a pathetic letter written in 1863 to Keble, who had started on the path with him, or even before him, but had drawn back at the edge of the precipice- a letter whose closing words are, as it were, the revelation of a great and hidden tragedy:
I have said all this, knowing it will interest you. Never have I doubted for one moment your affection for me, never have I been hurt at your silence. I interpreted it easily - it was not the silence of others. It was not the silence of men, nor the forgetfulness of men, who can recollect about me and talk about me enough, when there is something to be said to my disparagement. You are always with me a thought of reverence and love, and there is nothing I love better than you, and Isaac, and Copeland, and many others I could name, except Him Whom I ought to love best of all and supremely. May He Himself, Who is the over-abundant compensation for all losses, give me His own Presence, and then I shall want nothing and desiderate nothing, but none but He can make up for the loss of those old familiar faces which haunt me continually.It would be easy to exaggerate, possibly the tone of Mr. Ward's narrative tempts one to exaggerate, the sadder aspect of Newman's life in the Catholic Church. It must not be forgotten that his Apologia, which contains some of the most beautiful religious writing of the age, his Idea of a University, and other works which will not be forgotten, were written after his conversion. Yet withal it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in a purely literary way something was lost to him when he severed himself from the tradition in which his imagination and feelings were so deeply rooted. The mere physical change from the glories and haunting memories of the colleges of Oxford to the crudeness of the Oratory at Edgbaston took away one of the props of his imagination. The knowledge that he no longer belonged to the faith of the great body of his countrymen, but was regarded by them, whether rightly or wrongly, as one of a sect, deprived him of that support of sympathy which was necessary to the full unfolding of his genius. And the loss was not Newman's alone, but ours and all men's. At the close of the chapter which includes the conversion Mr. Ward quotes the beautiful words of Principal Shairp on the effect of what seemed to Anglicans an act of apostasy:
How vividly comes back the remembrance of the aching blank, the awful pause, which fell on Oxford when that voice had ceased, and we knew that we should hear it no more. It was as when, to one kneeling by night, in the silence of some vast cathedral, the great bell tolling solemnly overhead has suddenly gone still. To many, no doubt, the pause was not of long continuance. Soon they began to look this way and that for new teachers, and to rush vehemently to the opposite extremes of thought. But there were those who could not so lightly forget. All the more these withdrew into themselves. On Sunday forenoons and evenings, in the retirement of their rooms, the printed words of those marvellous sermons would thrill them till they wept "abundant and most sweet tears." Since then many voices of powerful teachers they may have heard, but none that ever penetrated the soul like his.With no desire to intrude into the debate between Anglican and Roman, with interest centred rather upon the purely human aspect of the act, one may well feel, even to-day, something of that deep chagrin which Principal Shairp and Matthew Arnold and other contemporaries expressed. Not for Oxford controversialists alone, but for all who draw their spiritual sustenance from English literature, that event was, if not the silencing, at least the muffling, of a magic voice.
Newman, as we have seen, was led to take the fatal step by strictly logical deductions. Grant his premisses, that the human mind is confined to a choice within the circle of religious authority and rationalism, and it is easy to follow him on his path to Rome. But the question remains whether this circle is indeed the boundary of man's intellectual and spiritual power. Certainly beyond the reach of rationalism, or science, to use its modern equivalent, there lies the purely sceptical habit; and there are those who will maintain that in the other direction, beyond the utmost bounds of dogma and revelation, they have discerned, more or less clearly, a realm of pure religious intuition which is reserved for the mystical eye. Now if we try to determine in what way Newman's inner circle of revelation and science is separated from the outer circle of mysticism and scepticism which he barely touched, we shall find no better mark of distinction than in the attitude of the mind, in one and the other circle, towards the unrelated details of experience. Using this criterion, we shall see that in the circle of revelation and science (philosophical science, that is, as the modern form of rationalism) the mind relaxes its grip to a certain extent on the insistent reality of details or individual moments of experience in order to preserve its belief in the universality of some supposed personal force or of some natural law; whereas in the circle of the mystic and the sceptic the mind never relaxes its grip on the individual detail for such a personal or material law. It may sound somewhat paradoxical to bring revelation and science together in such a bond, and indeed in one sense there is a real difference between the two, in so far as religion has to do with a spiritual experience while science is concerned with physical or material experience; but in their manner of dealing with these two kinds of experience they are in accord. The man to whom religion means revelation only, holds resolutely to the reality of a personal God, at once Creator and Providence, who reveals himself by the voice of authority, whether written or spoken. It makes no difference to him that creeds have changed from age to age, or that a thousand creeds exist side by side, or that this or that moment of his experience seems to contradict such a belief: his belief abides. And so with the man of science. He holds resolutely to the reality of some infallible natural cause controlling the world, which reveals itself by tradition and experiment. It makes no difference to him that the formulation of this cause has changed from age to age, or that a host of contradictory formulae exist side by side, or that individual experiments are constantly forcing him to question his scientific belief: his belief abides. Such a definition of the scientific method may seem contrary to what is commonly held, for we are apt to think of science as the habit of mind which searches for and clings to the actual individual fact independently of presupposition or theory and regardlessly of consequence; and science in its positive form may be of that character. But the rationalistic science of which I speak, the science which really counts and which colours to-day our popular philosophies, is of quite another sort. Take as an illustration the present state of evolutionary biology: what is the actual practice of the leading biologists? They all, or nearly all, start with the presupposition that the whole animate world is developing under some evolutionary cause which has been, or can be, discovered and formulated. To one biologist this cause is the survival of the fit, to another it is Lamarckianism, or othogenesis, or mutation, or kinetogenesis, or metakinesis, or orthoplasy, or - who shall say what? I quote a strange language ignorantly. The theories differ, are indeed often diametrically opposed, but the method of theorizing is always the same. Having observed a certain number of phenomena the biologist proceeds to formulate from them his notion of the evolutionary cause. But to do this he inevitably neglects, it may be by an unconscious absorption or it may be by half dishonest closing of the eyes, all the phenomena that will not fit into his formula. Then comes a brother theorist who takes part of these neglected phenomena and builds up a different formula. The point is that this rationalistic form of science depends on an invincible belief in some universal law of nature, and on a tendency to overlook if necessary the individual phenomenon in favour of this law. The various theories "keep and pass and turn again," but the faith in theory, like the Brahma of the poem, abides unshaken:
I am the doubter and the doubt.I cannot see that the method differs one whit from that of the dogmatist in religion: the one, maintaining his faith in an unvarying cause, and untroubled by refractory details, formulates his experience with material phenomena into a scientific hypothesis; the other, holding fast to his faith in God's revelation of himself to the human soul, expands his inner experience into a mythology, unconcerned by individual facts that cannot be reconciled to his creed. And just as these two methods agree together, so they differ in the same way from the habit of mind of the sceptic and mystic. As a confirmation of this agreement and difference you will find that the dogmatist, whose religion is confined to revelation, and the rationalistic man of science may in the long run come together, are actually coming together to-day. It is a notable fact that Newman's doctrine of development is taken by the modernists as a substantial bond between revelation and evolution. Both dogmatist and scientist avert their faces from the outer ring of the mystic and the sceptic. On the other hand, it was perfectly easy for a sceptic like Sainte-Beuve to enter into the mind of a mystic such as Pascal, while Pascal himself avowed explicitly his supreme scepticism.
The genuine sceptic is very rare, but his characteristics may be known by comparing such a mind as Sainte-Beuve's with Taine's. Both men wrote much on literature, but they approached the subject in utterly different ways. Taine believed that an absolute law could be found for determining why a particular sort of writing should appear at any time. Given a complete knowledge of an author's race, environment, and epoch, his works could be analyzed as accurately as a chemist analyzes the ingredients of sugar or vitriol. This is the famous formula on which he based his History of English Literature; it is, as you see, the extreme application of the scientific or rationalistic method, and Taine is properly regarded as the father of scientific criticism. In his essay on Taine's History, Sainte-Beuve observes that such a formula, however interesting it may be, errs in leaving out of account the inexplicable and unpredictable personal equation of the writer himself. Here was the individual fact which no extent of knowledge could bring under scientific rule, but which must be held and considered in itself. And exactly here lies the distinction between the scientific and the sceptical attitude of mind - on the one side the dominating desire to correlate individual facts by means of a general cause, on the other side the grasp of the individual fact at all hazards and through all losses. Sainte-Beuve liked to think of himself as a scientific investigator, and so far as that phrase applies to laborious painstaking he is justified; but his interest clung always to the individual phenomenon and not to the general cause, and in this respect he was, I think, the most perfect example of the sceptic in modern times. Whither his scepticism led him may be known by reading the great and melancholy confession which he wrote down at the end of his long labours on the Port-Royal. There, too, he calls himself a servant of science and a man of truth, as indeed he was; yet he continues
But even that, how little it is! how limited is our view! how quickly it reaches an end! how it resembles a pale torch lighted for a moment in the midst of a vast darkness! and how he who desires most earnestly to know his subject, who is most ambitious to seize it and has most pride in depicting it, feels himself impotent and unequal to his task, on that day when, in the presence of the finished work and the result obtained, the intoxication of his energy passes away, when the final exhaustion and the inevitable distaste come over him, and when he, too, perceives that he is only a fleeting illusion in the bosom of the infinite Illusion.That is the confession of a mind not essentially scientific but sceptical, the certain sad conclusion of one who grasps each experience as it arises, who will not relax his hold at the bidding of any command or authority or inner need, and who sees nothing in life but these unrelated experiences. And at the other extreme, beyond the believer in authority and revelation in whatsoever form, is the mystic, who, like the sceptic, keeps a firm grip on phenomena as they appear and sees in them only illusion and no ruling of Providence or of a definable law, but who, unlike the sceptic, knows within himself an infinite something, unnamed, indefinable, the one absolute reality. I scarcely know where to turn in modern times for an example of the perfect mystic. Tennyson in some of his utterances crossed the dark border, but Tennyson's mind was too much concerned also with the dominant theories of his day to afford the desired model. Certainly Newman, essentially religious as his temper was in some respects, stopped short of this last step. In my study there hang side by side the portraits of the great Cardinal and the great critic, and I often compare their faces as types of two of the master tendencies of the nineteenth century. In the firm, sinuous line of Sainte-Beuve's mouth, in the penetrating, self-contained glance of the eyes, and in the smooth capaciousness of the brow with the converging furrows of concentration over the nose, I see the supreme expression of an intelligence that saw all, and comprehended all, and retained every detail, surrendering nothing of itself; but of faith or religious submission I discover no look or mark. And then I turn to the other portrait. Cardinal Newman, as we have seen, speaks of the contraction of his features under the stress of his new life. The word, to one who examines the engraving of Timothy Cole after the painting by Ouless, does not seem quite precise. The marks of struggle are visible enough, but signs of contraction, in the sense of hardening or strengthening, I do not see. The mouth is strong, but the lines are a little relaxed; the eyes are veiled and look wistfully beyond what is immediately before them to some visionary hope; the brow is high and wrinkled transversely from the perplexity of an inner conflict. Something has gone out of this face, the contact with individual facts has been broken, and in its place has come the sweetness of self-surrender, the submissive pride of one who has given up much that he may find all - if haply he has found.
This, in the end, must be our reservation in the praise due to Newman's beautiful life, that he stopped short of the purest faith. He was born a man with deep religious needs and instincts, a man to whom the spiritual world was the absorbing reality, beside which the material world and its appearances were but as shadows gathered in a dream. But he was born also in an age when the old faith in an outer authority based on an exact and unequivocal revelation could be maintained only by doing violence to the integrity of the believer's mind. That was his dilemma, and there lay the tragedy of his choice. Two ways were open to him. On the one hand, he might have accepted manfully the sceptical demolition of the Christian mythology and the whole fabric of external religion, and on the ruins of such creeds he might have risen to that supreme insight which demands no revelation and is dependent on no authority, but is content within itself. Doing this he might possibly, by the depth of his religious nature and the eloquence of his tongue, have made himself the leader of the elect out of the long spiritual death that is likely to follow the breaking-up of the creeds. Or, if that task seemed impossible or fraught with too great peril, he might have held to the national worship as a symbol of the religious experience of the people, and into that worship and that symbol he might have breathed the new fervour of his own faith, waiting reverently until by natural growth his people were prepared, if ever they should be prepared, to apprehend with him the invisible truth without the forms. It is written: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." But in the hour of need his heart failed him, and he demanded to see with his eyes and feel with his hands. He was not strong enough to hold fast to the actual discords of life and to discern his vision of peace apart from their illusory sphere, but found it necessary to warp the facts of spiritual experience so as to make them agree with a physical revelation. There is a sentence in a letter of Cardinal Wiseman which comes naturally to memory when one thinks of the agony through which the later prelate was to pass. Speaking of his own struggle as a young man in Rome, Wiseman wrote:
I was fighting with subtle thoughts and venomous suggestions of a fiendlike infidelity which I durst not confide to any one, for there was no one that could have sympathized with me. This lasted for years; but it made me study and think, to conquer the plague - for I can hardly call it danger - both for myself and for others.... But during the actual struggle the simple submission of faith is the only remedy. Thoughts against faith must be treated at the time like temptations against any other virtue - put away.There is the quick of the matter: thoughts against faith must be treated at the time like temptations against any other virtue - put away. The sentiment, it must be admitted, recalls a little the original metaphor of Hobbes: "For it is with the mysteries of our religion as with wholesome pills for the sick, which, swallowed whole, have the virtue to cure, but, chewed, are for the most part cast up again without effect." The same idea occurs over and over again in Newman's writings, is, in fact, the very basis of his Grammar of Assent and of his logical system. If we look closely into the reasoning by which he was driven step by step from Anglicanism to complete surrender to the authority of Rome, we shall see that his logic rests on an initial assumption which implies a certain lack of the highest faith and of that sceptical attitude towards our human needs upon which faith must ultimately rest. No doubt the same charge might in a way be laid against all those who from the beginning have professed a definite religious belief. Certainly this weakness, if we may so call it, is almost inextricably bound up with the Christian conception of the deity and of salvation; and one might retort that, if the religious course of Newman can be condemned as a defection from the purest insight, the same condemnation must apply to the great writers of the seventeenth century. We may admit the retort, and yet see a difference. The very fact that the central idea of a definite revelation had not yet been completely undermined permitted the men of that earlier age to accept it more naively, so to speak, and without so grave a surrender of their mental integrity. If the writings of such men as Henry More and the other Platonists of the seventeenth century give us a sense of freedom and enlargement which we cannot quite get from Cardinal Newman, it is because these earlier theologians, notwithstanding their apparent dogmatism, were in reality akin to the mystics of all ages who find their peace in a faith that needs no surrender. Pascal was in a sense one of the forerunners of modern romanticism, and there is unquestionably a taint of morbidness in his practices; yet, withal, Pascal was saved by his scepticism, and beneath his apology for a fading mythology one may penetrate to the depths of the purest spiritual faith. For me, at least, there is a change in passing from these men to Newman. Say what one will, there was something in Newman's conversion of failure in duty, a betrayal of the will. In succumbing to an authority which promised to allay the anguish of his intellect, he rejected the great mission of faith, and committed what may almost be called the gran rifiuto. In the agony of his conversion and in his years of poignant dejection there is something of the note of modern romanticism intruding into religion. His inability to find peace without the assurance of a personal God answering to the clamour of his desires is but another aspect of that illusion of the soul which has lost its vision of the true infinite and seeks a substitute in the limitless expansion of the emotions. It has happened to me sometimes, while reflecting on Newman clothed in the cardinal and crowned with ecclesiastical honours, that, as by a trick of the imagination, I have been carried back to the vast hall to which Vathek came at the end of his journey, and that, looking intently and reverently at the sublime figure on his throne, I have "discerned through his bosom, which was transparent as crystal, his heart enveloped in flames." I have turned away in sadness and awe from the face of one who had perhaps the finest religious nature of the age, yet failed his country at her hour of greatest need.
But it would be presumptuous to end in such a strain. As we think of the many forces that were shaping the thoughts and ambitions of the century from which we have just emerged, of its dark materialism, its intellectual pride, its greed of novelty, its lust of change, its cruel egotism and blind penance of sympathy, its wandering virtues and vices, its legacy of spiritual bewilderment - as we think of all these, then let us remember also how the great convert surrendered these things and counted them as dust in the balance beside the vision of his own soul face to face with God. It may be that his seclusion in the Oratory at Edgbaston was not unrelated to the almost inevitable inability of the romantic temperament to live in harmony with society; but it sprang also from a nobler discontent. Who will be brave to assert that his prayers and penance were wasted? We of to-day need his example and may be the better for it, and life will be a little darker when his struggle and conquest are forgotten. Criticism may well stand abashed before that life. More than that, it would be uncritical not to remember that the Oxford University Sermons, however they may point forward to what we were bound to regard as an act of defection, contain in themselves perhaps the noblest appeals in the English tongue to the hazard of the soul. They may well stand preeminent among those witnesses to "the victory of Faith over the world's power" which their author has so passionately celebrated:
To see its triumph over the world's wisdom, we must enter those solemn cemeteries in which are stored the relics and the monuments of ancient Faith - our libraries. Look along their shelves, and every name you read there is, in one sense or other, a trophy set up in record of the victories of Faith. How many long lives, what high aims, what single-minded devotion, what intense contemplation, what fervent prayer, what deep erudition, what untiring diligence, what toilsome conflicts has it taken to establish its supremacy! This has been the object which has given meaning to the life of Saints, and which is the subject-matter of their history. For this they have given up the comforts of earth and the charities of home, and surrendered themselves to an austere rule, nay, even to confessorship and persecution, if so be they could make some small offering, or do some casual service, or provide some additional safeguard towards the great work which was in progress.