by Lytton Strachey
THE history of the Victorian Age will never be written; we know too much about it. For ignorance is the first requisite of the historian—ignorance, which simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits, with a placid perfection unattainable by the highest art. Concerning the Age which has just passed, our fathers and our grandfathers have poured forth and accumulated so vast a quantity of information that the industry of a Ranke would be submerged by it, and the perspicacity of a Gibbon would quail before it. It is not by the direct method of a scrupulous narration that the explorer of the past can hope to depict that singular epoch. If he is wise, he will adopt a subtler strategy. He will attack his subject in unexpected places; he will fall upon the flank, or the rear; he will shoot a sudden, revealing searchlight into obscure recesses, hitherto undivined. He will row out over that great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from those far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity. Guided by these considerations, I have written the ensuing studies. I have attempted, through the medium of biography, to present some Victorian visions to the modern eye. They are, in one sense, haphazard visions— that is to say, my choice of subjects has been determined by no desire to construct a system or to prove a theory, but by simple motives of convenience and of art. It has been my purpose to illustrate rather than to explain. It would have been futile to hope to tell even a precis of the truth about the Victorian age, for the shortest precis must fill innumerable volumes. But, in the lives of an ecclesiastic, an educational authority, a woman of action, and a man of adventure, I have sought to examine and elucidate certain fragments of the truth which took my fancy and lay to my hand.
I hope, however, that the following pages may prove to be of interest from the strictly biographical, no less than from the historical point of view. Human beings are too important to be treated as mere symptoms of the past. They have a value which is independent of any temporal processes— which is eternal, and must be felt for its own sake. The art of biography seems to have fallen on evil times in England. We have had, it is true, a few masterpieces, but we have never had, like the French, a great biographical tradition; we have had no Fontenelles and Condorcets, with their incomparable eloges, compressing into a few shining pages the manifold existences of men. With us, the most delicate and humane of all the branches of the art of writing has been relegated to the journeymen of letters; we do not reflect that it is perhaps as difficult to write a good life as to live one. Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead—who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortege of the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism. One is tempted to suppose, of some of them, that they were composed by that functionary as the final item of his job. The studies in this book are indebted, in more ways than one, to such works— works which certainly deserve the name of Standard Biographies. For they have provided me not only with much indispensable information, but with something even more precious— an example. How many lessons are to be learned from them! But it is hardly necessary to particularise. To preserve, for instance, a becoming brevity— a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant— that, surely, is the first duty of the biographer. The second, no less surely, is to maintain his own freedom of spirit. It is not his business to be complimentary; it is his business to lay bare the facts of the case, as he understands them. That is what I have aimed at in this book— to lay bare the facts of some cases, as I understand them, dispassionately, impartially, and without ulterior intentions. To quote the words of a Master—'Je n'impose rien; je ne propose rien: j'expose.'
A list of the principal sources from which I have drawn is appended to each Biography. I would indicate, as an honourable exception to the current commodity, Sir Edward Cook's excellent Life of Florence Nightingale, without which my own study, though composed on a very different scale and from a decidedly different angle, could not have been written.
HENRY EDWARD MANNING was born in 1807 and died in 1892. His life was extraordinary in many ways, but its interest for the modern inquirer depends mainly upon two considerations—the light which his career throws upon the spirit of his age, and the psychological problems suggested by his inner history. He belonged to that class of eminent ecclesiastics — and it is by no means a small class — who have been distinguished less for saintliness and learning than for practical ability. Had he lived in the Middle Ages he would certainly have been neither a Francis nor an Aquinas, but he might have been an Innocent. As it was, born in the England of the nineteenth century, growing up in the very seed-time of modern progress, coming to maturity with the first onrush of Liberalism, and living long enough to witness the victories of Science and Democracy, he yet, by a strange concatenation of circumstances, seemed almost to revive in his own person that long line of diplomatic and administrative clerics which, one would have thought, had come to an end for ever with Cardinal Wolsey.
In Manning, so it appeared, the Middle Ages lived again. The tall gaunt figure, with the face of smiling asceticism, the robes, and the biretta, as it passed in triumph from High Mass at the Oratory to philanthropic gatherings at Exeter Hall, from Strike Committees at the Docks to Mayfair drawing-rooms where fashionable ladies knelt to the Prince of the Church, certainly bore witness to a singular condition of affairs. What had happened? Had a dominating character imposed itself upon a hostile environment? Or was the nineteenth century, after all, not so hostile? Was there something in it, scientific and progressive as it was, which went out to welcome the representative of ancient tradition and uncompromising faith? Had it, perhaps, a place in its heart for such as Manning—a soft place, one might almost say? Or, on the other hand, was it he who had been supple and yielding? He who had won by art what he would never have won by force, and who had managed, so to speak, to be one of the leaders of the procession less through merit than through a superior faculty for gliding adroitly to the front rank? And, in any case, by what odd chances, what shifts and struggles, what combinations of circumstance and character, had this old man come to be where he was? Such questions are easier to ask than to answer; but it may be instructive, and even amusing, to look a little more closely into the complexities of so curious a story.
UNDOUBTEDLY, what is most obviously striking in the history of Manning's career is the persistent strength of his innate characteristics. Through all the changes of his fortunes the powerful spirit of the man worked on undismayed. It was as if the Fates had laid a wager that they would daunt him; and in the end they lost their bet.
His father was a rich West Indian merchant, a governor of the Bank of England, a Member of Parliament, who drove into town every day from his country scat in a coach and four, and was content with nothing short of a bishop for the christening of his children. Little Henry, like the rest, had his bishop; but he was obliged to wait for him—for as long as eighteen months. In those days, and even a generation later, as Keble bears witness, there was great laxity in regard to the early baptism of children. The delay has been noted by Manning's biographer as the first stumbling-block in the spiritual life of the future Cardinal; but he surmounted it with success.
His father was more careful in other ways. 'His refinement and delicacy of mind were such,' wrote Manning long afterwards, 'that I never heard out of his mouth a word which might not have been spoken in the presence of the most pure and sensitive—except,' he adds, 'on one occasion. He was then forced by others to repeat a negro story which, though free from all evil de sexu, was indelicate. He did it with great resistance. His example gave me a hatred of all such talk.'
The family lived in an atmosphere of Evangelical piety. One day the little boy came in from the farmyard, and his mother asked him whether he had seen the peacock. 'I said yes, and the nurse said no, and my mother made me kneel down and beg God to forgive me for not speaking the truth.' At the age of four the child was told by a cousin of the age of six that 'God had a book in which He wrote down everything we did wrong. This so terrified me for days that I remember being found by my mother sitting under a kind of writing-table in great fear. I never forgot this at any time in my life,' the Cardinal tells us, 'and it has been a great grace to me.' When he was nine years old he 'devoured the Apocalypse; and I never all through my life forgot the "lake that burneth with fire and brimstone". That verse has kept me like an audible voice through all my life, and through worlds of danger in my youth.'
At Harrow the worlds of danger were already around him; but yet he listened to the audible voice. 'At school and college I never failed to say my prayers, so far as memory serves me, even for a day.' And he underwent another religious experience: he read Paley's Evidences. 'I took in the whole argument,' wrote Manning, when he was over seventy, 'and I thank God that nothing has ever shaken it.' Yet on the whole he led the unspiritual life of an ordinary schoolboy. We have glimpses of him as a handsome lad, playing cricket, or strutting about in tasselled Hessian top- boots. And on one occasion at least he gave proof of a certain dexterity of conduct which deserved to be remembered. He went out of bounds, and a master, riding by and seeing him on the other side of a field, tied his horse to a gate, and ran after him. The astute youth outran the master, fetched a circle, reached the gate, jumped on to the horse's back and rode off. For this he was very properly chastised; but, of what use was chastisement? No whipping, however severe, could have eradicated from little Henry's mind a quality at least as firmly planted in it as his fear of Hell and his belief in the arguments of Paley.
It had been his father's wish that Manning should go into the Church; but the thought disgusted him; and when he reached Oxford, his tastes, his ambitions, his successes at the Union, all seemed to mark him out for a political career. He was a year junior to Samuel Wilberforce, and a year senior to Gladstone. In those days the Union was the recruiting-ground for young politicians; Ministers came down from London to listen to the debates; and a few years later the Duke of Newcastle gave Gladstone a pocket borough on the strength of his speech at the Union against the Reform Bill. To those three young men, indeed, the whole world lay open. Were they not rich, well-connected, and endowed with an infinite capacity for making speeches? The event justified the highest expectations of their friends; for the least distinguished of the three died a bishop. The only danger lay in another direction. 'Watch, my dear Samuel,' wrote the elder Wilberforce to his son, 'watch with jealousy whether you find yourself unduly solicitous about acquitting yourself; whether you are too much chagrined when you fail, or are puffed up by your success. Undue solicitude about popular estimation is a weakness against which all real Christians must guard with the utmost jealous watchfulness. The more you can retain the impression of your being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses of the invisible world, to use the scripture phrase, the more you will be armed against this besetting sin.' But suddenly it seemed as if such a warning could, after all, have very little relevance to Manning; for, on his leaving Oxford, the brimming cup was dashed from his lips. He was already beginning to dream of himself in the House of Commons, the solitary advocate of some great cause whose triumph was to be eventually brought about by his extraordinary efforts, when his father was declared a bankrupt, and all his hopes of a political career came to an end forever.
It was at this time that Manning became intimate with a pious lady, the sister of one of his College friends, whom he used to describe as his Spiritual Mother. He made her his confidante; and one day, as they walked together in the shrubbery, he revealed the bitterness of the disappointment into which his father's failure had plunged him. She tried to cheer him, and then she added that there were higher aims open to him which he had not considered. 'What do you mean?' he asked. 'The kingdom of Heaven,' she answered; 'heavenly ambitions are not closed against you.' The young man listened, was silent, and said at last that he did not know but she was right. She suggested reading the Bible together; and they accordingly did so during the whole of that Vacation, every morning after breakfast. Yet, in spite of these devotional exercises, and in spite of a voluminous correspondence on religious subjects with his Spiritual Mother, Manning still continued to indulge in secular hopes. He entered the Colonial Office as a supernumerary clerk, and it was only when the offer of a Merton Fellowship seemed to depend upon his taking orders that his heavenly ambitions began to assume a definite shape. Just then he fell in love with Miss Deffell, whose father would have nothing to say to a young man without prospects, and forbade him the house. It was only too true; what WERE the prospects of a supernumerary clerk in the Colonial Office? Manning went to Oxford and took orders. He was elected to the Merton Fellowship, and obtained through the influence of the Wilberforces a curacy in Sussex. At the last moment he almost drew back. 'I think the whole step has been too precipitate,' he wrote to his brother-in-law. 'I have rather allowed the instance of my friends, and the allurements of an agreeable curacy in many respects, to get the better of my sober judgment.' His vast ambitions, his dreams of public service, of honours, and of power, was all this to end in a little country curacy 'agreeable in many respects'? But there was nothing for it; the deed was done; and the Fates had apparently succeeded very effectively in getting rid of Manning. All he could do was to make the best of a bad business.
Accordingly, in the first place, he decided that he had received a call from God 'ad veritatem et ad seipsum'; and, in the second, forgetting Miss Deffell, he married his rector's daughter. Within a few months the rector died, and Manning stepped into his shoes; and at least it could be said that the shoes were not uncomfortable. For the next seven years he fulfilled the functions of a country clergyman. He was energetic and devout; he was polite and handsome; his fame grew in the diocese. At last he began to be spoken of as the probable successor to the old Archdeacon of Chichester. When Mrs. Manning prematurely died, he was at first inconsolable, but he found relief in the distraction of redoubled work. How could he have guessed that one day he would come to number that loss among 'God's special mercies? Yet so it was to be. In after years, the memory of his wife seemed to be blotted from his mind; he never spoke of her; every letter, every record, of his married life he destroyed; and when word was sent to him that her grave was falling into ruin: 'It is best so,' the Cardinal answered, 'let it be. Time effaces all things.' But, when the grave was yet fresh, the young Rector would sit beside it, day after day, writing his sermons.
IN the meantime, a series of events was taking place in another part of England, which was to have a no less profound effect upon Manning's history than the merciful removal of his wife. In the same year in which he took up his Sussex curacy, the Tracts for the Times had begun to appear at Oxford. The 'Oxford Movement', in fact, had started on its course. The phrase is still familiar; but its meaning has become somewhat obscured both by the lapse of time and the intrinsic ambiguity of the subjects connected with it. Let us borrow for a moment the wings of Historic Imagination, and, hovering lightly over the Oxford of the thirties, take a rapid bird's-eye view.
For many generations the Church of England had slept the sleep of the...comfortable. The sullen murmurings of dissent, the loud battle-cry of Revolution, had hardly disturbed her slumbers. Portly divines subscribed with a sigh or a smile to the Thirty- nine Articles, sank quietly into easy living, rode gaily to hounds of a morning as gentlemen should, and, as gentlemen should, carried their two bottles of an evening. To be in the Church was in fact simply to pursue one of those professions which Nature and Society had decided were proper to gentlemen and gentlemen alone. The fervours of piety, the zeal of Apostolic charity, the enthusiasm of self-renunciation— these things were all very well in their way and in their place; but their place was certainly not the Church of England. Gentlemen were neither fervid nor zealous, and above all they were not enthusiastic. There were, it was true, occasionally to be found within the Church some strait-laced parsons of the high Tory school who looked back with regret to the days of Laud or talked of the Apostolical Succession; and there were groups of square-toed Evangelicals who were earnest over the Atonement, confessed to a personal love of Jesus Christ, and seemed to have arranged the whole of their lives, down to the minutest details of act and speech, with reference to Eternity. But such extremes were the rare exceptions. The great bulk of the clergy walked calmly along the smooth road of ordinary duty. They kept an eye on the poor of the parish, and they conducted the Sunday Services in a becoming manner; for the rest, they differed neither outwardly nor inwardly from the great bulk of the laity, to whom the Church was a useful organisation for the maintenance of Religion, as by law established.
The awakening came at last, however, and it was a rude one. The liberal principles of the French Revolution, checked at first in the terrors of reaction, began to make their way into England. Rationalists lifted up their heads; Bentham and the Mills propounded Utilitarianism; the Reform Bill was passed; and there were rumours abroad of disestablishment. Even Churchmen seemed to have caught the infection. Dr. Whately was so bold as to assert that, in the interpretation of Scripture, different opinions might be permitted upon matters of doubt; and, Dr. Arnold drew up a disquieting scheme for allowing Dissenters into the Church, though it is true that he did not go quite so far as to contemplate the admission of Unitarians.
At this time, there was living in a country parish, a young clergyman of the name of John Keble. He had gone to Oxford at the age of fifteen, where, after a successful academic career, he had been made a Fellow of Oriel. He had then returned to his father's parish and taken up the duties of a curate. He had a thorough knowledge of the contents of the Prayer-book, the ways of a Common Room, the conjugations of the Greek Irregular Verbs, and the small jests of a country parsonage; and the defects of his experience in other directions were replaced by a zeal and a piety which were soon to prove themselves equal, and more than equal, to whatever calls might be made upon them. The superabundance of his piety overflowed into verse; and the holy simplicity of the Christian Year carried his name into the remotest lodging-houses of England.
As for his zeal, however, it needed another outlet. Looking forth upon the doings of his fellow-men through his rectory windows in Gloucestershire, Keble felt his whole soul shaken with loathing, anger, and dread. Infidelity was stalking through the land; authority was laughed at; the hideous doctrines of Democracy were being openly preached. Worse still, if possible, the Church herself was ignorant and lukewarm; she had forgotten the mysteries of the sacraments, she had lost faith in the Apostolical Succession; she was no longer interested in the Early Fathers; and she submitted herself to the control of a secular legislature, the members of which were not even bound to profess belief in the Atonement. In the face of such enormities what could Keble do? He was ready to do anything, but he was a simple and an unambitious man, and his wrath would in all probability have consumed itself unappeased within him had he not chanced to come into contact, at the critical moment, with a spirit more excitable and daring than his own.
Hurrell Froude, one of Keble's pupils, was a clever young man to whom had fallen a rather larger share of self-assurance and intolerance than even clever young men usually possess. What was singular about him, however, was not so much his temper as his tastes. The sort of ardour which impels more normal youths to haunt Music Halls and fall in love with actresses took the form, in Froude's case, of a romantic devotion to the Deity and an intense interest in the state of his own soul. He was obsessed by the ideals of saintliness, and convinced of the supreme importance of not eating too much. He kept a diary in which he recorded his delinquencies, and they were many. 'I cannot say much for myself today,' he writes on September 29th, 1826 (he was twenty-three years old). 'I did not read the Psalms and Second Lesson after breakfast, which I had neglected to do before, though I had plenty of time on my hands. Would have liked to be thought adventurous for a scramble I had at the Devil's Bridge. Looked with greediness to see if there was a goose on the table for dinner; and though what I ate was of the plainest sort, and I took no variety, yet even this was partly the effect of accident, and I certainly rather exceeded in quantity, as I was fuzzy and sleepy after dinner.' 'I allowed myself to be disgusted, with — 's pomposity,' he writes a little later, 'also smiled at an allusion in the Lessons to abstemiousness in eating. I hope not from pride or vanity, but mistrust; it certainly was unintentional.' And again, 'As to my meals, I can say that I was always careful to see that no one else would take a thing before I served myself; and I believe as to the kind of my food, a bit of cold endings of a dab at breakfast, and a scrap of mackerel at dinner, are the only things that diverged from the strict rule of simplicity.' 'I am obliged to confess,' he notes, 'that in my intercourse with the Supreme Being, I am be come more and more sluggish.' And then he exclaims: 'Thine eye trieth my inward parts, and knoweth my thoughts ... Oh that my ways were made so direct that I might keep Thy statutes. I will walk in Thy Commandments when Thou hast set my heart at liberty.'
Such were the preoccupations of this young man. Perhaps they would have been different, if he had had a little less of what Newman describes as his 'high severe idea of the intrinsic excellence of Virginity'; but it is useless to speculate.
Naturally enough the fierce and burning zeal of Keble had a profound effect upon his mind. The two became intimate friends, and Froude, eagerly seizing upon the doctrines of the elder man, saw to it that they had as full a measure of controversial notoriety as an Oxford common room could afford. He plunged the metaphysical mysteries of the Holy Catholic Church into the atmosphere of party politics. Surprised Doctors of Divinity found themselves suddenly faced with strange questions which had never entered their heads before. Was the Church of England, or was it not, a part of the Church Catholic? If it was, were not the Reformers of the sixteenth century renegades? Was not the participation of the Body and Blood of Christ essential to the maintenance of Christian life and hope in each individual? Were Timothy and Titus Bishops? Or were they not? If they were, did it not follow that the power of administering the Holy Eucharist was the attribute of a sacred order founded by Christ Himself? Did not the Fathers refer to the tradition of the Church as to something independent of the written word, and sufficient to refute heresy, even alone? Was it not, therefore, God's unwritten word? And did it not demand the same reverence from us as the Scriptures, and for exactly the same reason—BECAUSE IT WAS HIS WORD? The Doctors of Divinity were aghast at such questions, which seemed to lead they hardly knew whither; and they found it difficult to think of very apposite answers. But Hurrell Froude supplied the answers himself readily enough. All Oxford, all England, should know the truth. The time was out of joint, and he was only too delighted to have been born to set it right.
But, after all, something more was needed than even the excitement of Froude combined with the conviction of Keble to ruffle seriously the vast calm waters of Christian thought; and it so happened that that thing was not wanting: it was the genius of John Henry Newman. If Newman had never lived, or if his father, when the gig came round on the fatal morning, still undecided between the two Universities, had chanced to turn the horse's head in the direction of Cambridge, who can doubt that the Oxford Movement would have flickered out its little flame unobserved in the Common Room of Oriel? And how different, too, would have been the fate of Newman himself! He was a child of the Romantic Revival, a creature of emotion and of memory, a dreamer whose secret spirit dwelt apart in delectable mountains, an artist whose subtle senses caught, like a shower in the sunshine, the impalpable rainbow of the immaterial world. In other times, under other skies, his days would have been more fortunate. He might have helped to weave the garland of Meleager, or to mix the lapis lazuli of Fra Angelico, or to chase the delicate truth in the shade of an Athenian palaestra, or his hands might have fashioned those ethereal faces that smile in the niches of Chartres. Even in his own age he might, at Cambridge, whose cloisters have ever been consecrated to poetry and common sense, have followed quietly in Gray's footsteps and brought into flower those seeds of inspiration which now lie embedded amid the faded devotion of the Lyra Apostolica.
At Oxford, he was doomed. He could not withstand the last enchantment of the Middle Age. It was in vain that he plunged into the pages of Gibbon or communed for long hours with Beethoven over his beloved violin. The air was thick with clerical sanctity, heavy with the odours of tradition and the soft warmth of spiritual authority; his friendship with Hurrell Froude did the rest. All that was weakest in him hurried him onward, and all that was strongest in him too. His curious and vaulting imagination began to construct vast philosophical fabrics out of the writings of ancient monks, and to dally with visions of angelic visitations and the efficacy of the oil of St Walburga; his emotional nature became absorbed in the partisan passions of a University clique; and his subtle intellect concerned itself more and more exclusively with the dialectical splitting of dogmatical hairs. His future course was marked out for him all too clearly; and yet by a singular chance the true nature of the man was to emerge triumphant in the end. If Newman had died at the age of sixty, today he would have been already forgotten, save by a few ecclesiastical historians; but he lived to write his Apologia, and to reach immortality, neither as a thinker nor as a theologian, but as an artist who has embalmed the poignant history of an intensely human spirit in the magical spices of words.
When Froude succeeded in impregnating Newman with the ideas of Keble, the Oxford Movement began. The original and remarkable characteristic of these three men was that they took the Christian Religion au pied de la lettre. This had not been done in England for centuries. When they declared every Sunday that they believed in the Holy Catholic Church, they meant it. When they repeated the Athanasian Creed, they meant it. Even, when they subscribed to the Thirty-nine Articles, they meant it-or at least they thought they did. Now such a state of mind was dangerous—more dangerous indeed— than they at first realised. They had started with the innocent assumption that the Christian Religion was contained in the doctrines of the Church of England; but, the more they examined this matter, the more difficult and dubious it became. The Church of England bore everywhere upon it the signs of human imperfection; it was the outcome of revolution and of compromise, of the exigencies of politicians and the caprices of princes, of the prejudices of theologians and the necessities of the State. How had it happened that this piece of patchwork had become the receptacle for the august and infinite mysteries of the Christian Faith? This was the problem with which Newman and his friends found themselves confronted. Other men might, and apparently did, see nothing very strange in such a situation; but other men saw in Christianity itself scarcely more than a convenient and respectable appendage to existence, by which a sound system of morals was inculcated, and through which one might hope to attain to everlasting bliss.
To Newman and Keble it was otherwise. They saw a transcendent manifestation of Divine power flowing down elaborate and immense through the ages; a consecrated priesthood, stretching back, through the mystic symbol of the laying on of hands, to the very Godhead; a whole universe of spiritual beings brought into communion with the Eternal by means of wafers; a great mass of metaphysical doctrines, at once incomprehensible and of incalculable import, laid down with infinite certitude; they saw the supernatural everywhere and at all times, a living force, floating invisible in angels, inspiring saints, and investing with miraculous properties the commonest material things. No wonder that they found such a spectacle hard to bring into line with the institution which had been evolved from the divorce of Henry VIII, the intrigues of Elizabethan parliaments, and the Revolution of 1688. They did, no doubt, soon satisfy themselves that they had succeeded in this apparently hopeless task; but, the conclusions which they came to in order to do so were decidedly startling.
The Church of England, they declared, was indeed the one true Church, but she had been under an eclipse since the Reformation; in fact, since she had begun to exist. She had, it is true, escaped the corruptions of Rome; but she had become enslaved by the secular power, and degraded by the false doctrines of Protestantism. The Christian Religion was still preserved intact by the English priesthood, but it was preserved, as it were, unconsciously—a priceless deposit, handed down blindly from generation to generation, and subsisting less by the will of man than through the ordinance of God as expressed in the mysterious virtue of the Sacraments. Christianity, in short, had become entangled in a series of unfortunate circumstances from which it was the plain duty of Newman and his friends to rescue it forthwith. What was curious was that this task had been reserved, in so marked a manner, for them. Some of the divines of the seventeenth century had, perhaps, been vouchsafed glimpses of the truth; but they were glimpses and nothing more. No, the waters of the true Faith had dived underground at the Reformation, and they were waiting for the wand of Newman to strike the rock before they should burst forth once more into the light of day. The whole matter, no doubt, was Providential—what other explanation could there be?
The first step, it was clear, was to purge the Church of her shames and her errors. The Reformers must be exposed; the yoke of the secular power must be thrown off; dogma must be reinstated in its old pre-eminence; and Christians must be reminded of what they had apparently forgotten—the presence of the supernatural in daily life. 'It would be a gain to this country,' Keble observed, 'were it vastly more superstitious, more bigoted, more gloomy, more fierce in its religion, than at present it shows itself to be.' 'The only good I know of Cranmer,' said Hurrell Froude, 'was that he burned well.' Newman preached, and soon the new views began to spread. Among the earliest of the converts was Dr Pusey, a man of wealth and learning, a professor, a canon of Christ Church, who had, it was rumoured, been to Germany. Then the Tracts for the Times were started under Newman's editorship, and the Movement was launched upon the world.
The Tracts were written 'with the hope of rousing members of our Church to comprehend her alarming position ... as a man might give notice of a fire or inundation, to startle all who heard him'. They may be said to have succeeded in their objective, for the sensation which they caused among clergymen throughout the country was extreme. They dealt with a great variety of questions, but the underlying intention of all of them was to attack the accepted doctrines and practices of the Church of England. Dr. Pusey wrote learnedly on Baptismal Regeneration; he also wrote on Fasting. His treatment of the latter subject met with considerable disapproval, which surprised the Doctor. 'I was not prepared,' he said, 'for people questioning, even in the abstract, the duty of fasting; I thought serious-minded persons at least supposed they practised fasting in some way or other. I assumed the duty to be acknowledged and thought it only undervalued.' We live and learn, even though we have been to Germany.
Other tracts discussed the Holy Catholic Church, the Clergy, and the Liturgy. One treated of the question 'whether a clergyman of the Church of England be now bound to have morning and evening prayers daily in his parish church?' Another pointed out the 'Indications of a superintending Providence in the preservation of the Prayer-book and in the changes which it has undergone'. Another consisted of a collection of 'Advent Sermons on Antichrist'. Keble wrote a long and elaborate tract 'On the Mysticism attributed to the Early Fathers of the Church', in which he expressed his opinions upon a large number of curious matters. 'According to men's usual way of talking,' he wrote, 'it would be called an accidental circumstance that there were five loaves, not more nor less, in the store of Our Lord and His disciples wherewith to provide the miraculous feast. But the ancient interpreters treat it as designed and providential, in this surely not erring: and their conjecture is that it represents the sacrifice of the whole world of sense, and especially of the OldDispensation, which, being outward and visible, might be called the dispensation of the senses, to the FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, to be a pledge and means of communion with Him according to the terms of the new or evangelical law.
They arrived at this idea by considering the number five, the number of the senses, as the mystical opponent of the visible and sensible universe— ta aistheta, as distinguished from ta noita. Origen lays down the rule in express terms. '"The number five,"' he says, '"frequently, nay almost always, is taken for the five senses."' In another passage, Keble deals with an even more recondite question. He quotes the teaching of St. Barnabas that 'Abraham, who first gave men circumcision, did thereby perform a spiritual and typical action, looking forward to the Son'. St. Barnabas's argument is as follows: Abraham circumcised of his house men to the number Of 318. Why 318? Observe first the 18, then the300. Of the two letters which stand for 18, 10 is represented by 1, 8 by H. 'Thou hast here,' says St. Barnabas, 'the word of Jesus.' As for the 300, 'the Cross is represented by Tau, and the letter Tau represents that number'.
Unfortunately, however, St. Barnabas's premise was of doubtful validity, as theRev. Mr. Maitland pointed out, in a pamphlet impugning the conclusions of the Tract. 'The simple fact is,' he wrote, 'that when Abraham pursued Chedorlaomer "he armed his trained servants, BORN IN HIS OWN HOUSE, three hundred and eighteen". When, more than thirteen (according to the common chronology, fifteen) years after, he circumcised "all the men of his house, BORN IN THE HOUSE, AND BOUGHT WITH MONEY OF THE STRANGER", and, in fact, every male who was as much as eight days old, we are not told what the number amounted to. Shall we suppose (just for the sake of the interpretation) that Abraham's family had so dwindled in the interval as that now all the males of his household, trained men, slaves, and children, equalled only and exactly the number of his warriors fifteen years before?' The question seems difficult to answer, but Keble had, as a matter of fact, forestalled the argument in the following passage, which had apparently escaped the notice of the Rev. Mr. Maitland: 'Now whether the facts were really so or not (if it were, it was surely by special providence), that Abraham's household at the time of the circumcision was exactly the same number as before; still the argument of St. Barnabas will stand. As thus: circumcision had from the beginning, a reference to our SAVIOUR, as in other respects, so in this; that the mystical number, which is the cipher of Jesus crucified, was the number of the first circumcised household in the strength of which Abraham prevailed against the powers of the world. So St. Clement of Alexandria, as cited by Fell.' And Keble supports his contention through ten pages of close print, with references to Aristeas, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and Dr. Whitby.
Writings of this kind could not fail in their effect. Pious youths in Oxford were carried away by them, and began to flock around the standard of Newman. Newman himself became a party chief— encouraging, organising, persuading. His long black figure, swiftly passing through the streets, was pointed at with awe; crowds flocked to his sermons; his words were repeated from mouth to mouth; 'Credo in Newmannum' became a common catchword. Jokes were made about the Church of England, and practices, unknown for centuries, began to be revived. Young men fasted and did penance, recited the hours of the Roman Breviary, and confessed their sins to Dr. Pusey. Nor was the movement confined to Oxford; it spread in widening circles through the parishes of England; the dormant devotion of the country was suddenly aroused. The new strange notion of taking Christianity literally was delightful to earnest minds; but it was also alarming. Really to mean every word you said, when you repeated the Athanasian Creed! How wonderful! And what enticing and mysterious vistas burst upon the view! But then, those vistas, where were they leading? Supposing—oh heavens!—supposing after all they were to lead to—!
IN due course, the Tracts made their appearance at the remote rectory in Sussex. Manning was some years younger than Newman, and the two men had only met occasionally at the University; but now, through common friends, a closer relationship began to grow up between them. It was only to be expected that Newman should be anxious to enroll the rising young Rector among his followers; and, on Manning's side, there were many causes which impelled him to accept the overtures from Oxford.
He was a man of a serious and vigorous temperament, to whom it was inevitable that the bold high principles of the Movement should strongly appeal. There was also an element in his mind that element which had terrified him in his childhood with Apocalyptic visions, and urged him in his youth to Bible readings after breakfast—which now brought him under the spell of the Oxford theories of sacramental mysticism. And besides, the Movement offered another attraction: it imputed an extraordinary, transcendent merit to the profession which Manning himself pursued. The cleric was not as his lay brethren; he was a creature apart, chosen by Divine will and sanctified by Divine mysteries. It was a relief to find, when one had supposed that one was nothing but a clergyman, that one might, after all, be something else—one might be a priest.
Accordingly, Manning shook off his early Evangelical convictions, started an active correspondence with Newman, and was soon working for the new cause. He collected quotations, and began to translate the works of Optatus for Dr. Pusey. He wrote an article on Justin for the British Critic, "Newman's Magazine". He published a sermon on Faith, with notes and appendices, which was condemned by an evangelical bishop, and fiercely attacked by no less a person than the celebrated Mr. Bowdler. 'The sermon,' said Mr Bowdler, in a book which he devoted to the subject, 'was bad enough, but the appendix was abominable.' At the same time he was busy asserting the independence of the Church of England, opposing secular education, and bringing out pamphlets against the Ecclesiastical Commission, which had been appointed by Parliament to report on Church Property. Then we find him in the role of a spiritual director of souls. Ladies met him by stealth in his church, and made their confessions. Over one case—that of a lady, who found herself drifting towards Rome—he consulted Newman. Newman advised him to 'enlarge upon the doctrine of I Cor. vii'; 'also, I think you must press on her the prospect of benefiting the poor Church, through which she has her baptism, by stopping in it. Does she not care for the souls of all around her, steeped and stifled in Protestantism? How will she best care for them by indulging her own feelings in the communion of Rome, or in denying herself, and staying in sackcloth and ashes to do them good?' Whether these arguments were successful does not appear.
For several years after his wife's death, Manning was occupied with these new activities, while his relations with Newman developed into what was apparently a warm friendship. 'And now vive valeque, my dear Manning', we find Newman writing in a letter dated 'in festo S. Car. 1838', 'as wishes and prays yours affectionately, John H. Newman'. But, as time went on, the situation became more complicated. Tractarianism began to arouse the hostility, not only of the evangelical, but of the moderate churchmen, who could not help perceiving in the ever-deepening, 'catholicism' of the Oxford party, the dread approaches of Rome. The "Record" newspaper an influential Evangelical journal— took up the matter and sniffed Popery in every direction; it spoke of certain clergymen as 'tainted'; and after that, preferment seemed to pass those clergymen by. The fact that Manning found it wise to conduct his confessional ministrations in secret was in itself highly significant. It was necessary to be careful, and Manning was very careful indeed. The neighbouring Archdeacon, Mr. Hare, was a low churchman; Manning made friends with him, as warmly, it seemed, as he had made friends with Newman. He corresponded with him, asked his advice about the books he should read, and discussed questions of Theology—'As to Gal. vi 15, we cannot differ.... With a man who reads and reasons I can have no controversy; and you do both.' Archdeacon Hare was pleased, but soon a rumour reached him, which was, to say the least of it, upsetting. Manning had been removing the high pews from a church in Brighton, and putting in open benches in their place. Everyone knew what that meant; everyone knew that a high pew was one of the bulwarks of Protestantism, and that an open bench had upon it the taint of Rome. But Manning hastened to explain: 'My dear friend,' he wrote, 'I did not exchange pews for open benches, but got the pews (the same in number) moved from the nave of the church to the walls of the side aisles, so that the whole church has a regular arrangement of open benches, which (irregularly) existed before ... I am not today quite well, so farewell, with much regard—Yours ever, H. E. M.' Archdeacon Hare was reassured.
It was important that he should be, for the Archdeacon of Chichester was growing very old, and Hare's influence might be exceedingly useful when a vacancy occurred. So, indeed, it fell out. A new bishop, Dr. Shuttleworth, was appointed to the See, and the old Archdeacon took the opportunity of retiring. Manning was obviously marked out as his successor, but the new bishop happened to be a low churchman, an aggressive low churchman, who went so far as to parody the Tractarian fashion of using Saints' days for the dating of letters by writing 'The Palace, washing- day', at the beginning of his. And—what was equally serious—his views were shared by Mrs. Shuttleworth, who had already decided that the pushing young Rector was 'tainted'. But at the critical moment Archdeacon Hare came to the rescue; he persuaded the Bishop that Manning was safe; and the appointment was accordingly made—behind Mrs. Shuttleworth's back. She was furious, but it was too late; Manning was an Archdeacon. All the lady could do, to indicate her disapprobation, was to put a copy of Mr. Bowdler's book in a conspicuous position on the drawing-room table, when he came to pay his respects at the Palace.
Among the letters of congratulation which Manning received, was one from Mr Gladstone, with whom he had remained on terms of close friendship since their days together at Oxford. 'I rejoice,' Mr Gladstone wrote, 'on your account personally; but more for the sake of the Church. All my brothers-in-law are here and scarcely less delighted than I am. With great glee am I about to write your new address; but, the occasion really calls for higher sentiments; and sure am I that you are one of the men to whom it is specially given to develop the solution of that great problem—how all our minor distractions are to be either abandoned, absorbed, or harmonised through the might of the great principle of communion in the body of Christ.'
Manning was an Archdeacon; but he was not yet out of the woods. His relations with the Tractarians had leaked out, and the Record was beginning to be suspicious. If Mrs. Shuttleworth's opinion of him were to become general, it would certainly be a grave matter. Nobody could wish to live and die a mere Archdeacon. And then, at that very moment, an event occurred which made it imperative to take a definite step, one way or the other. That event was the publication of Tract No. 90.
For some time it had been obvious to every impartial onlooker that Newman was slipping down an inclined plane at the bottom of which lay one thing, and one thing only—the Roman Catholic Church. What was surprising was the length of time which he was taking to reach the inevitable destination. Years passed before he came to realise that his grandiose edifice of a Church Universal would crumble to pieces if one of its foundation stones was to be an amatory intrigue of Henry VIII. But, at last he began to see that terrible monarch glowering at him wherever he turned his eyes. First he tried to exorcise the spectre with the rolling periods of the Caroline divines; but it only strutted the more truculently. Then in despair he plunged into the writings of the early Fathers, and sought to discover some way out of his difficulties in the complicated labyrinth of ecclesiastical history. After months spent in the study of the Monophysite heresy, the alarming conclusion began to force itself upon him that the Church of England was perhaps in schism. Eventually he read an article by a Roman Catholic on St. Augustine and the Donatists, which seemed to put the matter beyond doubt. St. Augustine, in the fifth century, had pointed out that the Donatists were heretics because the Bishop of Rome had said so. The argument was crushing; it rang in Newman's ears for days and nights; and, though he continued to linger on in agony for six years more, he never could discover any reply to it. All he could hope to do was to persuade himself and anyone else who liked to listen to him that the holding of Anglican orders was not inconsistent with a belief in the whole cycle of Roman doctrine as laid down at the Council of Trent. In this way he supposed that he could at once avoid the deadly sin of heresy and conscientiously remain a clergyman in the Church of England; and with this end in view, he composed Tract No. 90.
The object of the Tract was to prove that there was nothing in the Thirty-nine Articles incompatible with the creed of the Roman Church. Newman pointed out, for instance, that it was generally supposed that the Articles condemned the doctrine of Purgatory; but they did not; they merely condemned the Romish doctrine of Purgatory— and Romish, clearly, was not the same thing as Roman. Hence it followed that believers in the Roman doctrine of Purgatory might subscribe the Articles with a good conscience. Similarly, the Articles condemned 'the sacrifices of masses', but they did not condemn 'the sacrifice of the Mass'. Thus, the Mass might be lawfully celebrated in English Churches. Newman took the trouble to examine the Articles in detail from this point of view, and the conclusion he came to in every case supported his contention in a singular manner.
The Tract produced an immense sensation, for it seemed to be a deadly and treacherous blow aimed at the very heart of the Church of England. Deadly it certainly was, but it was not so treacherous as it appeared at first sight. The members of the English Church had ingenuously imagined up to that moment that it was possible to contain, in a frame of words, the subtle essence of their complicated doctrinal system, involving the mysteries of the Eternal and the Infinite on the one hand, and the elaborate adjustments of temporal government on the other. They did not understand that verbal definitions in such a case will only perform their functions so long as there is no dispute about the matters which they are intended to define: that is to say, so long as there is no need for them. For generations this had been the case with the Thirty-nine Articles. Their drift was clear enough; and nobody bothered over their exact meaning. But directly someone found it important to give them a new and untraditional interpretation, it appeared that they were a mass of ambiguity, and might be twisted into meaning very nearly anything that anybody liked. Steady-going churchmen were appalled and outraged when they saw Newman, in Tract No. 90, performing this operation. But, after all, he was only taking the Church of England at its word. And indeed, since Newman showed the way, the operation has become so exceedingly common that the most steady- going churchman hardly raises an eyebrow at it now.
At the time, however, Newman's treatment of the Articles seemed to display not only a perverted supersubtlety of intellect, but a temper of mind that was fundamentally dishonest. It was then that he first began to be assailed by those charges of untruthfulness which reached their culmination more than twenty years later in the celebrated controversy with Charles Kingsley, which led to the writing of the Apologia. The controversy was not a very fruitful one, chiefly because Kingsley could no more understand the nature of Newman's intelligence than a subaltern in a line regiment can understand a Brahmin of Benares. Kingsley was a stout Protestant, whose hatred of Popery was, at bottom, simply ethical—an honest, instinctive horror of the practices of priestcraft and the habits of superstition; and it was only natural that he should see in those innumerable delicate distinctions which Newman was perpetually drawing, and which he himself had not only never thought of, but could not even grasp, simply another manifestation of the inherent falsehood of Rome. But, in reality, no one, in one sense of the word, was more truthful than Newman. The idea of deceit would have been abhorrent to him; and indeed it was owing to his very desire to explain what he had in his mind exactly and completely, with all the refinements of which his subtle brain was capable, that persons such as Kingsley were puzzled into thinking him dishonest. Unfortunately, however, the possibilities of truth and falsehood depend upon other things besides sincerity. A man may be of a scrupulous and impeccable honesty, and yet his respect for the truth— it cannot be denied— may be insufficient. He may be, like the lunatic, the lover, and the poet, 'of imagination all compact'; he may be blessed, or cursed, with one of those 'seething brains', one of those 'shaping fanatasies' that 'apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends'; he may be by nature incapable of sifting evidence, or by predilection simply indisposed to do so. 'When we were there,' wrote Newman in a letter to a friend after his conversion, describing a visit to Naples, and the miraculous circumstances connected with the liquefaction of St. Januarius's blood, 'the feast of St. Gennaro was coming on, and the Jesuits were eager for us to stop—they have the utmost confidence in the miracle—and were the more eager because many Catholics, till they have seen it, doubt it. Our father director here tells us that before he went to Naples he did not believe it. That is, they have vague ideas of natural means, exaggeration, etc., not of course imputing fraud. They say conversions often take place in consequence. It is exposed for the Octave, and the miracle continues—it is not simple liquefaction, but sometimes it swells, sometimes boils, sometimes melts—no one can tell what is going to take place. They say it is quite overcoming - and people cannot help crying to see it. I understand that Sir H. Davy attended everyday, and it was this extreme variety of the phenomenon which convinced him that nothing physical would account for it. Yet there is this remarkable fact that liquefactions of blood are common at Naples- -and, unless it is irreverent to the Great Author of Miracles to be obstinate in the inquiry, the question certainly rises whether there is something in the air. (Mind, I don't believe there is— and, speaking humbly, and without having seen it, think it a true miracle— but I am arguing.) We saw the blood of St Patrizia, half liquid; i.e. liquefying, on her feast day. St John Baptist's blood sometimes liquefies on the 29th of August, and did when we were at Naples, but we had not time to go to the church. We saw the liquid blood of an Oratorian Father; a good man, but not a saint, who died two centuries ago, I think; and we saw the liquid blood of Da Ponte, the great and holy Jesuit, who, I suppose, was almost a saint. But these instances do not account for liquefaction on certain days, if this is the case. But the most strange phenomenon is what happens at Ravello, a village or town above Amalfi. There is the blood of St. Pantaleon. It is in a vessel amid the stonework of the Altar - it is not touched but on his feast in June it liquefies. And more, there is an excommunication against those who bring portions of the True Cross into the Church. Why? Because the blood liquefies, whenever
it is brought. A person I know, not knowing the prohibition, brought in a portion, and the Priest suddenly said, who showed the blood, "Who has got the Holy Cross about him?" I tell you what was told me by a grave and religious man. It is a curious coincidence that in telling this to our Father Director here, he said, "Why, we have a portion of St. Pantaleon's blood at the Chiesa Nuova, and it is always liquid."'
After leaving Naples, Newman visited Loreto, and inspected the house of the Holy Family, which, as is known to the faithful, was transported thither, in three hops, from Palestine. 'I went to Loreto,' he wrote, 'with a simple faith, believing what I still more believed when I saw it. I have no doubt now. If you ask me why I believe it, it is because everyone believes it at Rome; cautious as they are and sceptical about some other things. I have no antecedent difficulty in the matter. He who floated the Ark on the surges of a world-wide sea, and enclosed in it all living things, who has hidden the terrestrial paradise, who said that faith might move mountains, who sustained thousands for forty years in a sterile wilderness, who transported Elias and keeps him hidden till the end, could do this wonder also.'
Here, whatever else there may be, there is certainly no trace of a desire to deceive. Could a state of mind, in fact, be revealed with more absolute transparency?
When Newman was a child he 'wished that he could believe the Arabian Nights were true'. When he came to be a man, his wish seems to have been granted.
Tract No. 90 was officially condemned by the authorities at Oxford, and in the hubbub that followed, the contending parties closed their ranks; henceforward, any compromise between the friends and the enemies of the Movement was impossible. Archdeacon Manning was in too conspicuous a position to be able to remain silent; he was obliged to declare himself, and he did not hesitate. In an archidiaconal charge, delivered within a few months of his appointment, he firmly repudiated the Tractarians. But the repudiation was not deemed sufficient, and a year later he repeated it with greater emphasis. Still, however, the horrid rumours were afloat. The "Record" began to investigate matters, and its vigilance was soon rewarded by an alarming discovery: the sacrament had been administered in Chichester Cathedral on a weekday, and 'Archdeacon Manning, one of the most noted and determined of the Tractarians, had acted a conspicuous part on the occasion'. It was clear that the only way of silencing these malevolent whispers was by some public demonstration whose import nobody could doubt. The annual sermon preached on Guy Fawkes Day before the University of Oxford seemed to offer the very opportunity that Manning required. He seized it; got himself appointed preacher; and delivered from the pulpit of St. Mary's a virulently Protestant harangue. This time there could indeed be no doubt about the matter: Manning had shouted 'No Popery!' in the very citadel of the Movement, and every one, including Newman, recognised that he had finally cut himself off from his old friends. Everyone, that is to say, except the Archdeacon himself. On the day after the sermon, Manning walked out to the neighbouring village of Littlemore, where Newman was now living in retirement with a few chosen disciples, in the hope of being able to give a satisfactory explanation of what he had done. But he was disappointed; for when, after an awkward interval, one of the disciples appeared at the door, he was informed that Mr. Newman was not at home.
With his retirement to Littlemore, Newman had entered upon the final period of his Anglican career. Even he could no longer help perceiving that the end was now only a matter of time. His progress was hastened in an agitating manner by the indiscreet activity of one of his proselytes, W. G. Ward. a young man who combined an extraordinary aptitude for a priori reasoning with a passionate devotion to Opera Bouffe. It was difficult, in fact, to decide whether the inner nature of Ward was more truly expressing itself when he was firing off some train of scholastic paradoxes on the Eucharist or when he was trilling the airs of Figaro and plunging through the hilarious roulades of the Largo al Factotum. Even Dr. Pusey could riot be quite sure, though he was Ward's spiritual director. On one occasion his young penitent came to him, and confessed that a vow which he had taken to abstain from music during Lent was beginning to affect his health. Could Dr. Pusey see his way to releasing him from the vow? The Doctor decided that a little sacred music would not be amiss. Ward was all gratitude, and that night a party was arranged in a friend's rooms. The concert began with the solemn harmonies of Handel, which were followed by the holy strains of the '0h Salutaris' of Cherubini. Then came the elevation and the pomp of 'Possenti Numi' from the Magic Flute. But, alas! there lies much danger in Mozart. The page was turned and there was the delicious duet between Papageno and Papagena. Flesh and blood could not resist that; then song followed song, the music waxed faster and lighter, until, at last Ward burst into the intoxicating merriment of the Largo al Factotum. When it was over, a faint but persistent knocking made itself heard upon the wall; and it was only then that the company remembered that the rooms next door were Dr. Pusey's.
The same entrain which carried Ward away when he sat down to a piano possessed him whenever he embarked on a religious discussion. 'The thing that was utterly abhorrent to him,' said one of his friends, 'was to stop short.' Given the premises, he would follow out their implications with the mercilessness of a medieval monk, and when he had reached the last limits of argument, be ready to maintain whatever propositions he might find there with his dying breath. He had the extreme innocence of a child and a mathematician. Captivated by the glittering eye of Newman, he swallowed whole the supernatural conception of the universe which Newman had evolved, accepted it as a fundamental premise, and 'began at once to deduce from it whatsoever there might be to be deduced.' His very first deductions included irrefutable proofs of (I) God's particular providence for individuals; (2) the real efficacy of intercessory prayer; (3) the reality of our communion with the saints departed; (4) the constant presence and assistance of the angels of God. Later on he explained mathematically the importance of the Ember Days: 'Who can tell,' he added, 'the degree of blessing lost to us in this land by neglecting, as we alone of Christian Churches do neglect, these holy days?' He then proceeded to convict the Reformers, not only of rebellion, but'—for my own part I see not how we can avoid adding—of perjury.' Every day his arguments became more extreme, more rigorously exact, and more distressing to his master. Newman was in the position of a cautious commander-in-chief being hurried into an engagement against his will by a dashing cavalry officer. Ward forced him forward step by step towards - no! he could not bear it; he shuddered and drew back. But it was of no avail. In vain did Keble and Pusey wring their hands and stretch forth their pleading arms to their now vanishing brother. The fatal moment was fast approaching. Ward at last published a devastating book in which he proved conclusively, by a series of syllogisms, that the only proper course for the Church of England was to repent in sackcloth and ashes her separation from the Communion of Rome. The reckless author was deprived of his degree by an outraged University, and a few weeks later was received into the Catholic Church.
Newman, in a kind of despair, had flung himself into the labours of historical compilation. His views of history had changed since the days when, as an undergraduate, he had feasted on the worldly pages of Gibbon. 'Revealed religion,' he now thought, 'furnishes facts to other sciences, which those sciences, left to themselves, would never reach. Thus, in the science of history, the preservation of our race in Noah's Ark is an historical fact, which history never would arrive at without revelation.' With these principles to guide him, he plunged with his disciples into a prolonged study of the English Saints. Biographies soon appeared of St. Bega, St. Adamnan, St. Gundleus, St. Guthlake, Brother Drithelm, St. Amphibalus, St. WuIstan, St. Ebba, St. Neot, St. Ninian, and Cunibert the Hermit. Their austerities, their virginity, and their miraculous powers were described in detail. The public learned with astonishment that St Ninian had turned a staff into a tree; that St. German had stopped a cock from crowing, and that a child had been raised from the dead to convert St. Helier. The series has subsequently been continued by a more modern writer whose relation of the history of the blessed St. Mael contains, perhaps, even more matter for edification than Newman's biographies.
At the time, indeed, those works caused considerable scandal. Clergymen denounced them in pamphlets. St. Cuthbert was described by his biographer as having 'carried the jealousy of women, characteristic of all the saints, to an extraordinary pitch'. An example was given, whenever he held a spiritual conversation with St Ebba, he was careful to spend the ensuing ours of darkness 'in prayer, up to his neck in water'. 'Persons who invent such tales,' wrote one indignant commentator, 'cast very grave and just suspicions on the purity of their own minds. And young persons, who talk and think in this way, are in extreme danger of falling into sinful habits. As to the volumes before us, the authors have, in their fanatical panegyrics of virginity, made use of language downright profane.'
One of the disciples at Littlemore was James Anthony Froude, the younger brother of Hurrell, and it fell to his lot to be responsible for the biography of St. Neot. While he was composing it, he began to feel some qualms. Saints who lighted fires with icicles, changed bandits into wolves, and floated across the Irish Channel on altar-stones, produced a disturbing effect on his historical conscience. But he had promised his services to Newman, and he determined to carry through the work in the spirit in which he had begun it. He did so; but he thought it proper to add the following sentence by way of conclusion: 'This is all, and indeed rather more than all, that is known to men of the blessed St. Neot; but not more than is known to the angels in heaven.'
Meanwhile, the English Roman Catholics were growing impatient; was the great conversion never coming, for which they had prayed so fervently and so long? Dr. Wiseman, at the head of them, was watching and waiting with special eagerness. His hand was held out under the ripening fruit; the delicious morsel seemed to be trembling on its stalk; and yet it did not fall. At last, unable to bear the suspense any longer, he dispatched to Littlemore Father Smith, an old pupil of Newman's, who had lately joined the Roman communion, with instructions that he should do his best, under cover of a simple visit of friendship, to discover how the land lay. Father Smith was received somewhat coldly, and the conversation ran entirely on topics which had nothing to do with religion. When the company separated before dinner, he was beginning to think that his errand had been useless; but, on their reassembling, he suddenly noticed that Newman had changed his trousers, and that the colour of the pair which he was now wearing was grey. At the earliest moment, the emissary rushed back post-haste to Dr. Wiseman. 'All is well,' he exclaimed; 'Newman no longer considers that he is in Anglican orders." Praise be to God!' answered Dr Wiseman. 'But how do you know?' Father Smith described what he had seen. 'Oh, is that all? My dear father, how can you be so foolish?' But Father Smith was not to be shaken. 'I know the man,' he said, and I know what it means. Newman will come, and he will come soon.'
And Father Smith was right. A few weeks later, Newman suddenly slipped off to a priest, and all was over. Perhaps he would have hesitated longer still, if he could have foreseen how he was to pass the next thirty years of his unfortunate existence; but the future was hidden, and all that was certain was that the past had gone forever, and that his eyes would rest no more upon the snapdragons of Trinity.
The Oxford Movement was now ended. The University breathed such a sigh of relief as usually follows the difficult expulsion of a hard piece of matter from a living organism, and actually began to attend to education. As for the Church of England, she had tasted blood, and it was clear that she would never again be content with a vegetable diet. Her clergy, however, maintained their reputation for judicious compromise, for they followed Newman up to the very point beyond which his conclusions were logical, and, while they intoned, confessed, swung incense, and burned candles with the exhilaration of converts, they yet managed to do so with a subtle nuance which showed that they had nothing to do with Rome. Various individuals underwent more violent changes. Several had preceded Newman into the Roman fold; among others an unhappy Mr. Sibthorpe, who subsequently changed his mind, and returned to the Church of his fathers, and then— perhaps it was only natural— changed his mind again. Many more followed Newman, and Dr. Wiseman was particularly pleased by the conversion of a Mr. Morris, who, as he said, was 'the author of the essay, which won the prize on the best method of proving Christianity to the Hindus'. Hurrell Froude had died before Newman had read the fatal article on St. Augustine; but his brother, James Anthony, together with Arthur Clough, the poet, went through an experience which was more distressing in those days than it has since become; they lost their faith. With this difference, however, that while in Froude's case the loss of his faith turned out to be rather like the loss of a heavy portmanteau, which one afterwards discovers to have been full of old rags and brickbats, Clough was made so uneasy by the loss of his that he went on looking for it everywhere as long as he lived; but somehow he never could find it. On the other hand, Keble and Pusey continued for the rest of their lives to dance in an exemplary manner upon the tight-rope of High Anglicanism; in such an exemplary manner, indeed, that the tightrope has its dancers still.
MANNING was now thirty-eight, and it was clear that he was the rising man in the Church of England. He had many powerful connections: he was the brother-in-law of Samuel Wilberforce, who had been lately made a bishop; he was a close friend of Mr. Gladstone, who was a Cabinet Minister; and he was becoming well known in the influential circles of society in London. His talent for affairs was recognised not only in the Church, but in the world at large, and he busied himself with matters of such varied scope as National Education, the administration of the Poor Law, and the Employment of Women. Mr. Gladstone kept up an intimate correspondence with him on these and on other subjects, mingling in his letters the details of practical statesmanship with the speculations of a religious thinker. 'Sir James Graham,' he wrote, in a discussion of the bastardy clauses of the Poor Law, 'is much pleased with the tone of your two communications. He is disposed, without putting an end to the application of the workhouse test against the mother, to make the remedy against the putative father "real and effective" for expenses incurred in the workhouse. I am not enough acquainted to know whether it would be advisable to go further. You have not proposed it; and I am disposed to believe that only with a revived and improved discipline in the Church can we hope for any generally effective check upon lawless lust.' 'I agree with you EMINENTLY,' he writes, in a later letter, 'in your doctrine of FILTRATION. But it sometimes occurs to me, though the question may seem a strange one, how far was the Reformation, but especially the Continental Reformation, designed by God, in the region of final causes, for that purification of the Roman Church which it has actually realised?'
In his archdeaconry, Manning lived to the full the active life of a country clergyman. His slim, athletic figure was seen everywhere in the streets of Chichester, or on the lawns of the neighbouring rectories, or galloping over the downs in breeches and gaiters, or cutting brilliant figures on the ice. He was an excellent judge of horse-flesh, and the pair of greys which drew his hooded phaeton so swiftly through the lanes were the admiration of the county. His features were already beginning to assume their ascetic cast, but the spirit of youth had not yet fled from them, so that he seemed to combine the attractions of dignity and grace. He was a good talker, a sympathetic listener, a man who understood the difficult art of preserving all the vigour of a manly character and yet never giving offence. No wonder that his sermons drew crowds, no wonder that his spiritual advice was sought for eagerly by an ever-growing group of penitents; no wonder that men would say, when his name was mentioned, 'Oh, Manning! No power on earth can keep HIM from a bishopric!'
Such was the fair outward seeming of the Archdeacon's life; but, the inward reality was different. The more active, the more fortunate, the more full of happy promise his existence became, the more persistently was his secret imagination haunted by a dreadful vision—the lake that burneth forever with brimstone and fire. The temptations of the Evil One are many, Manning knew; and he knew also that, for him at least, the most subtle and terrible of all temptations was the temptation of worldly success. He tried to reassure himself, but it was in vain. He committed his thoughts to a diary, weighing scrupulously his every motive, examining with relentless searchings into the depths of his heart. Perhaps, after all, his longings for preferment were merely legitimatehopes for 'an elevation into a sphere of higher usefulness'. But no. there was something more than that. 'I do feel pleasure,' he noted, 'in honour, precedence, elevation, the society of great people, and all this is very shameful and mean.'
After Newman's conversion, he almost convinced himself that his 'visions of an ecclesiastical future' were justified by the role that he would play as a 'healer of the breach in the Church of England'. Mr. Gladstone agreed with him; but there was One higher than Mr. Gladstone, and did He agree? 'I am pierced by anxious thoughts. God knows what my desires have been and are, and why they are crossed. ... I am flattering myself with a fancy about depth and reality. ... The great question is: Is God enough for you now? And if you are as now even to the end of life, will it suffice you? ... Certainly I would rather choose to be stayed on God, than to be in the thrones of the world and the Church. Nothing else will go into Eternity.'
In a moment of ambition, he had applied for the Readership of Lincoln's Inn, but, owing chiefly to the hostile influence of the Record, the appointment had gone elsewhere. A little later, a more important position was offered to him— the office of sub- almoner to the Queen, which had just been vacated by the Archbishop of York, and was almost certain to lead to a mitre. The offer threw Manning into an agony of self-examination. He drew up elaborate tables, after the manner of Robinson Crusoe, with the reasons for and against his acceptance of the post:
FOR AGAINST1. That it comes unsought. 1. Not therefore to be accepted. Such things are trials as well as leadings.2. That it is honourable. 2. Being what I am, ought I not therefore to decline it - (1) as humiliation; (2) as revenge on myself for Lincoln's Inn; (3) as a testimony?
And so on. He found in the end ten 'negative reasons', with no affirmative ones to balance them, and, after a week's deliberation, he rejected the offer.
But peace of mind was as far off from him as ever. First the bitter thought came to him that 'in all this Satan tells me I am doing it to be thought mortified and holy'; and then he was obsessed by the still bitterer feelings of ineradicable disappointment and regret. He had lost a great opportunity, and it brought him small comfort to consider that 'in the region of counsels, self-chastisement, humiliation, self-discipline, penance, and of the Cross', he had perhaps done right.
The crisis passed, but it was succeeded by a fiercer one. Manning was taken seriously ill, and became convinced that he might die at any moment. The entries in his Diary grew more elaborate than ever; his remorse for the past, his resolutions for the future, his protestations of submission to the will of God, filled page after page of parallel columns, headings and sub-headings, numbered clauses, and analytical tables. 'How do I feel about Death?' he wrote. 'Certainly great fear:
1. Because of the uncertainty of our state before God. 2. Because of the consciousness-(1) of great sins past, (2) of great sinfulness, (3) of most shallow repentance. What shall I do?'
He decided to mortify himself, to read St Thomas Aquinas, and to make his 'night prayers forty instead of thirty minutes'. He determined during Lent 'to use no pleasant bread (except on Sundays and feasts) such as cake and sweetmeat'; but he added the proviso 'I do not include plain biscuits'. Opposite this entry appears the word 'KEPT'. And yet his backslidings were many. Looking back over a single week, he was obliged to register 'petulance twice' and 'complacent visions'. He heard his curate being commended for bringing so many souls to God during Lent, and he 'could not bear it'; but the remorse was terrible: 'I abhorred myself on the spot, and looked upward for help.' He made out list upon list of the Almighty's special mercies towards him, and they included his creation, his regeneration, and (No. 5) 'the preservation of my life six times to my knowledge:
(1) In illness at the age of nine. (2) In the water. (3) By a runaway horse at Oxford. (4) By the same. (5) By falling nearly through the ceiling of a church. (6) Again by a fall of a horse. And I know not how often in shooting, riding, etc.'
At last he became convalescent; but the spiritual experiences of those agitated weeks left an indelible mark upon his mind, and prepared the way for the great change which was to follow.For he had other doubts besides those which held him in torment as to his own salvation; he was in doubt about the whole framework of his faith. Newman's conversion, he found, had meant something more to him than he had first realised. It had seemed to come as a call to the redoubling of his Anglican activities; but supposing, in reality, it were a call towards something very different—towards an abandonment of those activities altogether? It might be 'a trial', or again it might be a 'leading'; how was he to judge? Already, before his illness, these doubts had begun to take possession of his mind. 'I am conscious to myself,' he wrote in his Diary, 'of an extensively changed feeling towards the Church of Rome ... The Church of England seems to me to be diseased: 1. ORGANICALLY (six sub-headings). 2. FUNCTIONALLY (seven subheadings) ... Wherever it seems healthy, it approximates the system of Rome.' Then thoughts of the Virgin Mary suddenly began to assail him :
'(1) If John the Baptist were sanctified from the womb, how much more the B.V.!
(2) If Enoch and Elijah were exempted from death, why not the B.V. from sin?
(3) It is a strange way of loving the Son to slight the mother!'
The arguments seemed irresistible, and a few weeks later the following entry occurs— 'Strange thoughts have visited me:
(1) I have felt that the Episcopate of the Church of England is secularised and bound down beyond hope....
(2) I feel as if a light had fallen upon me. My feeling about the Roman Church is not intellectual. I have intellectual difficulties, but the great moral difficulties seem melting.
(3) Something keeps rising and saying, "You will end in the Roman Church".'
He noted altogether twenty-five of these 'strange thoughts'. His mind hovered anxiously round—
'(1) The Incarnation, (2) The Real Presence, i. Regeneration, ii. Eucharist, and (3) The Exaltation of S. M. and Saints.'
His twenty-second strange thought was as follows: 'How do I know where I may be two years hence? Where was Newman five years ago?'
It was significant, but hardly surprising, that, after his illness, Manning should have chosen to recuperate in Rome. He spent several months there, and his Diary during the whole of that period is concerned entirely with detailed descriptions of churches, ceremonies, and relics, and with minute accounts of conversations with priests and nuns. There is not a single reference either to the objects of art or to the antiquities of the place; but another omission was still more remarkable. Manning had a long interview with Pius IX, and his only record of it is contained in the bald statement: 'Audience today at the Vatican'. Precisely what passed on that occasion never transpired; all that is known is that His Holiness expressed considerable surprise on learning from the Archdeacon that the chalice was used in the Anglican Church in the administration of Communion. 'What!' he exclaimed, is the same chalice made use of by everyone?' 'I remember the pain I felt,' said Manning, long afterwards, 'at seeing how unknown we were to the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It made me feel our isolation.'
On his return to England, he took up once more the work in his Archdeaconry with what appetite he might. Ravaged by doubt, distracted by speculation, he yet managed to maintain an outward presence of unshaken calm. His only confidant was Robert Wilberforce, to whom, for the next two years, he poured forth in a series of letters, headed 'UNDER THE SEAL' to indicate that they contained the secrets of the confessional— the whole history of his spiritual perturbations. The irony of his position was singular; for, during the whole of this time, Manning was himself holding back from the Church of Rome a host of hesitating penitents by means of arguments which he was at the very moment denouncing as fallacious to his own confessor. But what else could he do? When he received, for instance, a letter such as the following from an agitated lady, what was he to say?
'MY DEAR FATHER IN CHRIST,
'... I am sure you would pity me and like to help me, if you knew the unhappy, unsettled state my mind is in, and the misery of being ENTIRELY, WHEREVER I AM, with those who look upon joining the Church of Rome as the most awful "fall" conceivable to any one, and are devoid of the smallest comprehension of how any enlightened person can do it. ... My old Evangelical friends, with all my deep, deep love for them, do not succeed in shaking me in the least. ...
'My brother has just published a book called "Regeneration", which all my friends are reading and highly extolling; it has a very contrary effect to what he would desire on my mind. I can read and understand it all in an altogether different sense, and the facts which he quotes about the articles as drawn up in 1536, and again in 1552, and of the Irish articles of 1615 and 1634, STARTLE and SHAKE me about the Reformed Church in England far more than anything else, and have done so ever since I first saw them in Mr. Maskell's pamphlet (as quoted from Mr Dodsworth's).
'I do hope you have some time and thought to pray for me still. Mr. Galton's letters long ago grew into short formal notes, which hurt me and annoyed me particularly, and I never answered his last, so, literally, I have no one to say things to and get help from, which in one sense is a comfort when my convictions seem to be leading me on and on, and gaining strength in spite of all the dreariness of my lot.
'Do you know I can't help being very anxious and unhappy about poor Sister Harriet. I am afraid of her GOING OUT OF HER MIND. She comforts herself by an occasional outpouring of everything to me, and I had a letter this morning. ... She says Sister May has promised the Vicar never to talk to her or allow her to talk on the subject with her, and I doubt whether this can be good for her, because though she has lost her faith, she says, in the Church of England, yet she never thinks of what she could have faith in, and resolutely without inquiring into the question determines riot to be a Roman Catholic, so that really, you see, she is allowing her mind to run adrift and yet perfectly powerless.
'Forgive my troubling you with this letter, and believe me to be always your faithful, grateful and affectionate daughter,
'P.S. I wish I could see you once more so very much.'
How was Manning, a director of souls, and a clergyman of the Church of England, to reply that in sober truth there was very little to choose between the state of mind of Sister Emma, or even of Sister Harriet, and his own? The dilemma was a grievous one: when a soldier finds himself fighting for a cause in which he has lost faith, it is treachery to stop, and it is treachery to go on.
At last, in the seclusion of his library, Manning turned in agony to those old writings which had provided Newman with so much instruction and assistance; perhaps the Fathers would do something for him as well. He ransacked the pages of St. Cyprian and St. Cyril; he went through the complete works of St. Optatus and St. Leo; he explored the vast treatises of Tertullian and Justin Martyr. He had a lamp put into his phaeton, so that he might lose no time during his long winter drives. There he sat, searching St. Chrysostom for some mitigation of his anguish, while he sped along between the hedges to distant sufferers, to whom he duly administered the sacraments according to the rites of the English Church. He hurried back to commit to his Diary the analysis of his reflections, and to describe, under the mystic formula of secrecy, the intricate workings of his conscience to Robert Wilberforce. But, alas! he was no Newman; and even the fourteen folios of St. Augustine himself, strange to say, gave him very little help.
The final propulsion was to come from an entirely different quarter. In November, 1847, the Reverend Mr. Gorham was presented by the Lord Chancellor to the living of Bramford Speke in the diocese of Exeter. The Bishop, Dr. Phillpotts, was a High Churchman, and he had reason to believe that Mr. Gorham held evangelical opinions; he therefore subjected him to an examination on doctrine, which took the form partly of a verbal interrogatory, lasting thirty-eight hours, and partly of a series of one hundred and forty-nine written questions. At the end of the examination he came to the conclusion that Mr. Gorham held heretical views on the subject of Baptismal Regeneration, and he therefore refused to institute. Mr. Gorham, thereupon, took proceedings against the Bishop in the Court of Arches. He lost his case; and he then appealed to the judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The questions at issue were taken very seriously by a large number of persons. In the first place, there was the question of Baptismal Regeneration itself. This is by no means an easy one to disentangle; but it may be noted that the doctrine of Baptism includes: (1) God's intention, that is to say, His purpose in electing certain persons to eternal life—an abstruse and greatly controverted subject, upon which the Church of England abstains from strict definition; (2) God's action, whether by means of sacraments or otherwise—concerning which the Church of England maintains the efficacy of sacraments,' but does not formally deny that grace may be given by other means, repentance and faith being present; and (3) the question whether sacramental grace is given instrumentally, by and at the moment of the act of baptism, or in consequence of an act of prevenient grace rendering the receiver worthy—that is to say, whether sacramental grace in baptism is given absolutely or conditionally.
It was over this last question that the dispute raged hottest in the Gorham Case. The High Church party, represented by Dr. Phillpotts, asserted that the mere act of baptism conferred regeneration upon the recipient and washed away his original sin. To this the Evangelicals, headed by Mr. Gorham, replied that, according to the Articles, regeneration would not follow unless baptism was RIGHTLY received. What, then, was the meaning of 'rightly'? Clearly it implied not merely lawful administration, but worthy reception; worthiness, therefore, is the essence of the sacrament; and worthiness means faith and repentance. Now, two propositions were accepted by both parties—that all infants are born in original sin, and that original sin could be washed away by baptism. But how could both these propositions be true, argued Mr. Gorham, if it was also true that faith and repentance were necessary before baptism could come into operation at all? How could an infant in arms be said to be in a state of faith and repentance? How, therefore, could its original sin be washed away by baptism? And yet, as every one agreed, washed away it was.
The only solution of the difficulty lay in the doctrine of prevenient grace; and Mr. Gorham maintained that unless God performed an act of prevenient grace by which the infant was endowed with faith and repentance, no act of baptism could be effectual; though to whom, and under what conditions, prevenient grace was given, Mr. Gorham confessed himself unable to decide. The light thrown by the Bible upon the whole matter seemed somewhat dubious, for whereas the baptism of St. Peter's disciples at Jerusalem and St. Philip's at Samaria was followed by the gift of the Spirit, in the case of Cornelius the sacrament succeeded the gift. St. Paul also was baptised; and as for the language of St. John iii 5; Rom. vi 3, 4; I Peter iii 21, it admits of more than one interpretation. There could, however, be no doubt that the Church of England assented to Dr. Phillpotts' opinion; the question was whether or not she excluded Mr. Gorham's. If it was decided that she did, it was clear that henceforward, there would be very little peace for Evangelicals within her fold.
But there was another issue, even more fundamental than that of Baptismal Regeneration itself, involved in the Gorham trial. An Act passed in 1833 had constituted the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council the supreme court of appeal for such cases; and this Committee was a body composed entirely of laymen. It was thus obvious that the Royal Supremacy was still a fact, and that a collection of lawyers appointed by the Crown had the legal right to formulate the religious doctrine of the Church of England. In 1850 their judgment was delivered; they reversed the decision of the Court of Arches, and upheld the position of Mr. Gorham. Whether his views were theologically correct or not, they said, was not their business; it was their business to decide whether the opinions under consideration were contrary or repugnant to the doctrine of the Church of England as enjoined upon the clergy by its Articles, Formularies, and Rubrics; and they had come to the conclusion that they were not. The judgement still holds good; and to this day, a clergyman of the Church of England is quite at liberty to believe that Regeneration does not invariably take place when an infant is baptised.