by D. C. Lathbury
The English Churchman's Library
London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. , 1905
Transcribed by Dr
Elizabeth G. Melillo
Amid all this strife and confusion one voice had been ominously silent. Newman had withdrawn to Littlemore, and, except for an expression of his thanks to the Proctors, had made no comment on what had passed at Oxford. He had been busy with the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. On the 3rd of October, he asked the Provost of Oriel to remove his name from the books of the College and the University, and on the 8th he was received into the Roman Church.
Those of his disciples who had specially associated themselves with Ward followed him in the course of the same or the next year. To them, at all events, the call of duty was unmistakable. But for those who remained there arose the most painful of all necessities. They had to ask themselves why they stayed behind when "the person whom they had been accustomed to revere as few men are revered, whose labours, whose greatness, whose tenderness, whose singleness and holiness of purpose they had been permitted to know intimately(1)," had thought himself bound to sacrifice all that had been closest and dearest to him, and to go out into a strange land. This was the question that confronted Church in the closing months of 1845 and for many months after. How he answered it we know, though, as no letters of 1846 have been preserved, the details of the process have to be gathered from various quarters and arranged with only occasional help from himself. There is no formal Apologia for his decision to remain in the Church of England. Certainly the authorities of that Church took not the slightest pains to keep him or any one else. "Here in Oxford," wrote Charles Marriott in 1846, "the way in which one sees men worried out of our Church is enough to stir up no little bitterness." Bishops and Heads had alike shown their entire incapacity for managing the Movement. Their one desire was to get rid of it altogether. They would have given a good deal probably if they could but have driven Pusey and Keble to follow Newman's example.
As far back as 1841, Church had thought it right to tell the Provost that he was in general agreement with Tract 90, and his offer to resign his tutorship had been accepted, though it left the Provost with three vacancies on his hands. Later he had been warned that in the event of his applying for testimonials for priest's Orders the College might refuse them, and his use of the Proctors' veto had not made his position more assured. Nor was Church at all blind to the augmentative force with which circumstances seemed to invest Newman's decision. "A number of good and able men," he wrote long afterwards, "who had once promised to be among the most valuable servants of the English ChurchÉ. Were invited on one side to come; they were told sternly and scornfully on the other to go." What was there to stay them, when in the bitter, and in many cases agonising, struggle which they had gone through as to their duty to God and conscience, a sign seemed now to be given them which they could not mistake? Indeed the wonder is, not that so many went but that they did not all go. Today, as we look back over the intervening sixty years, we see that the Movement has grown and prospered to an extent which hardly anyone - except perhaps Pusey - would then have thought possible. But in 1845 it seemed at an end. In 1843, Church could write, "There is no use despairing till the last chance is lost, which is not yet by a good deal." He could hardly have said that after Newman had gone. Those who out-stayed him had then to review the whole array of their convictions in the light of what Church rightly calls, "The Catastrophe."
To some of them this necessity did not present itself for the first time in that eventful year. In the last chapter of The Oxford Movement, there are two extracts from contemporary papers, genuine records of private perplexities actually felt, which evidently describe Church's own state of mind. The first belongs to a time when the storm had not yet come. "As things are going on, a man does not know where he is going toÉ. I cannot at all imagine myself a convert; but how am I likely in the probable state of things to be able to serve as an English clergyman? Shall I ever get Priest's Orders? Shall I be able to continue always serving? What is one's line to be; what ought to be one's aims; or can one have any?" The second extract, dating from a time when "the storm" had at length come, though before its "final violence," shows that the writer's mind was already clearing. He finds himself set down as a man who may any day, and certainly will some day, go over. Nor, though in his own case he knows this belief to be unfounded, can he deny that the action of others has given ground for it. There is a strong tendency among many to Rome and he will be supposed to share this tendency "unless he gives up his best friends and the most saint-like men in England." The only road by which he can escape this suspicion is not open to him. He cannot deny that the Western Church under Rome "is a true, living, venerable branch of the Catholic Church," without doing violence to his own strongest convictions. "Corruptions these Churches may have, so may we; but putting these aside, they are Catholic Christians, or Catholic Christianity has failed out of the world: we are no more Catholic than they." If to say this in the then state of public opinion was to be suspected of disloyalty to the English Church - as it was - under this suspicion he must be content to lie.
But Church had also to consider the grounds on which he parted from the leader whom he had so faithfully followed. Newman had been accused of disloyalty to the Church of England, and the accusation, wholly false in the first instance, had proved true in the end. Why should it not be equally true in his own case? Church found the answer in an appeal from Newman harassed, disappointed, despairing - the Newman of 1845 - to Newman at ease, resolute, undismayed - the Newman of 1839. During the summer of the latter year Newman was perfectly satisfied with his position, and all that time Church had been in entire agreement with him. So long as Newman remained in the Church of England, his friends were little disposed to question his judgement on the conduct of the controversy with Rome. But, when he had left it, these same friends were compelled to consider "whether the reasons which had brought him to that conclusion were strong enough to draw them after him. We had our Sparta, a noble, if a rough and incomplete one; patiently to do our best for it was better than leaving it to its fate, in obedience to signs and reasonings which the heat of strife might well make delusive." For what was it after all that had transformed the Newman of 1839 into the Newman of 1845? The discovery that in three of the theological conflicts of the fourth and fifth centuries Rome had been right when a large part of the Church had been wrong. But the conclusion which Newman came in the end to found on this fact was inevitable only to himself. Granted that Rome had been right in three great controversies, it did not follow that she was, much less that she must be, right in all controversies. If this last position was to be proved, it must be proved by a very much larger induction than Newman had made.
Again, in his readiness to rest the whole case upon three possibly isolated incidents, Newman had taken no account of the change in ecclesiastical conditions. When the Church was one, it was natural gladly to accept the leadership of the chief Patriarchal See. But, when the Church had broken up into separate bodies and that largely by the action of this very See, much more was needed to justify the claim to universal supremacy than words, however "palmary," of a single Father. Here, it may be, the history of Newman's mind in regard to Rome placed him at a disadvantage. The reaction from a time when he thought her Antichrist naturally tended to carry him to the opposite extreme. To find that he had thus misjudged a Church which had so consistently defended the faith of Christ, had conferred such blessings upon Europe, had been the mother of so many saints and the nurse of such heroic enterprises, was a shock which might well unfit him for judging the Roman claims fairly. It might not be possible for Newman long to content himself with the conviction that "whatever might be said against the modern Roman Church - and the charges against it were very heavy - it was still, among serious corruption and error, a teacher to the nations of the Christian creed and hope." The pendulum had once swung so far in the other direction that it could hardly be expected to stop half way on its return. But to those who had not the same need to make expiation for past misconceptions, there were facts that needed to be accounted for, and were not accounted for on the Roman theory. The existence of the Eastern Church was one such fact. The history of the English Church was another.
Newman, says Church - speaking of the time before 1839 - "was quite alive to the difficulties of the Anglican position," and so we may be sure was Church. But before 1839 Newman and Church had alike "learned as a first principle to recognise the limitations of human knowledge, and the unphilosophical folly of trying to round off into finished and pretentious schemes our fragmentary yet uncertain notions of our own condition and of God's dealing with it." To this first principle Church could still adhere, though Newman had grown impatient of it. The Via Media was an unhappy phrase, for it suggested an artificial compromise which was more concerned in securing that there should not be too much of any one truth than that there should be enough of any. Still, though the name might be ill-chosen, the substance was worth keeping, for the substance was "the certain fact that in the early and undivided Church there was such a thing as Authority, and there was no such thing known as Infallibility." The line taken, by Ward and others almost from the first, and by Newman in the end, was that the Via Media had no real existence. It was nothing but a paper theory. To this Church replied at the time of which I am writing, as Newman had replied ten years earlier: "Let us see if we cannot make it something more than a paper theory." In 1845, Newman had given up the hope of doing this, and at that date, it may be, he seemed more likely to be right than Church. But in the end Church had proved so far the truer prophet that he was able before his death to write, "This at least may be said, that the longer experience of the last fifty years has shown that the Church of England had been working more and more on such a theory, and that the Church of England, whatever its faults may be, is certainly not a church only on paper." In its main outlines Newman's view "has become the accepted Anglican viewÉ. The fundamental idea of the relation and character of the two Churches remains the same as it was shadowed forth in 1836."
Newman was received into the Roman Church in October. He stayed on at Littlemore till the following February, "still seeing something of his friends." No record, however, is preserved of these meetings. Church, says Newman, was one of the few who "came to see the last of me" at the Obsrvatory, at what was to be his last sight of Oxford for just thirty-two years. "It was felt at the time on both sides," says Miss Church, "to be a parting of more than ordinary significance. A friendship which had been so close and which had been bound up with the hopes and enthusiasm of a great enterprise, could scarcely at once withdraw itself within the limits of mere friendly intercourse. Time was needed for its readjustment to new and strange conditions; and much had to happen before the old companionship could be resumed, as it was at length on almost the old terms of freedom and confidence and affection, to last with no further interruption till the end of life. In the interval, however, the separation was strangely and pathetically complete. After the parting at the Observatory fifteen years elapsed, during which no direct communication by word or letter passed between them(2)."
From 1846 to 1852 Church remained at Oxford, taking no very prominent part in University matters - probably indeed finding University life flat and uninteresting after the excitement of previous years, and Oxford society commonplace after the tremendous breach made in it by the secession of 1845. But he put his hand to whatever work offered itself and contributed largely to newspapers and reviews. The foundation of the Guardian, in 1846, furnished him with much employment of this kind. It was felt by the Tractarians who had not followed Newman that a quarterly organ was not enough for a party which did not mean to be suppressed; and in these years of difficulty and suspicion, when every man's hand was against them, the Guardian did excellent service. The founders of the paper long constituted its staff, and Lord Blachford has left an amusing description of the vigorous and original way in which the work was done. "We made an agreement with some printers in Little Pulteney Street, and hired a room opposite the printing establishment in the shop of a baker, where we could attend or meet to see what was going on, and where some of us spent the greater part of every Tuesday night, correcting proofs, rejecting or inserting matter, writing articles on the last subjects which had turned up, giving last touches and generally editing. Bernard, Haddan, and I being in London, must, I suppose, have done most of this work, but Church and Mozley used to take their share, making use of a bedroom in my lodgings in Queen Street, Mayfair. To these we used sometimes to return at four or five o'clock in the morning - sometimes perhaps later - for I connect some of these returns home with the smell of hot bread from the oven, on which, I think, we sometimes made our breakfast!"
If the history of the Movement after it ceased to be distinctively associated with Oxford is ever written, the early numbers of the Guardian will form the chief material for this part of the work. It is difficult now to conceive the persistent zeal which animated this little group of men, holding on, as it might well seem, to a sinking ship from which the captain and a large part of the crew had made their escape. Suspected and decried in every quarter, distrusted by the bishops, misunderstood by the mass of the clergy, disliked by the laity, they were generally set down as men who had wanted the honesty or the courage to go to Rome with their leader. But their resolution never flinched even in the second catastrophe of 1851. Grave differences of opinion arose among them later on, and after a time the lead passed in a great measure into the hands of men who pursued the same object by different means and who were not always rightly judged by their elders. But nowhere were the Tractarian tradition and temper more consistently maintained than in this earlier generation. By none was it better understood that the test of a religious movement is the influence which it exercises on the characters and lives of those who take part in it. The work of which Church had special charge in the Guardian was reviewing, and the early numbers showed the wide area which his interests embraced. Carlyle's Cromwell, D'Aubigné's Reformation, Keble's Lyra Innocentium, and the Vestiges of Creation are among the books noticed. The last review attracted the commendation of Sir Richard Owen, and an article on LeVerrier's discovery of the planet Neptune drew a letter to the Guardian from the astronomer himself.
Except in 1847 - a memorable year spent, with lasting results, in Greece, France and Italy - reviewing was for more than twenty years a regular element in Church's work. Life in college first and life in a small country parish afterwards left him the necessary leisure, and his own knowledge and judgement made him an admirable critic. Many of these reviews have been rescued from the grave of anonymous journalism and live in books, as do some of the longer papers which he contributed to the British Critic, the Christian Remembrancer, the Times, the Guardian, and the Saturday Review. Journalism has rarely seen a style at once so characteristic and so free from the mannerisms on which a great writer's reputation rests. His work indeed is the exact expression of his own theory of writing. "It has always seemed to me," he says in a letter of 1887, "that thoughts brought their own words, which of course had to be considered and sifted; but the root of the expression must be in the thought itself, which, if it was real and worth any thing, would suggest the expression. And except in watching against the temptation of unreal and of fine words, I do not recognise in myself any special training for style. The great thing in writing is to know what you want and mean to say, and to say it in words that come as near to your meaning as you can get them to comeÉ. That is the old and the true rule of writing, because it is based on the effort after reality, and is the counter-charm to laziness and negligence and to show and make-believe. It involves certain bye-rules against these faults - care and trouble, and satisfying yourself that you have said what you meant; merciless cutting out of merely fine language and of useless adjectives and adverbs; care about your verbs in preference to your adjectives. After all, self-restraint and jealousy of what one's self-indulgence or vanity tempts us to is the best rule in writing as in eating."
And he adds, "I heard and read a good deal of Mr Newman's preaching and it is, I am sure, to him that I owe it, if I can write at all simply and with the wish to be real(3)."
1. A short appeal to Members of Convocation on the proposed censure of No. 90. By Frederick Rogers (Lord Blanchford), quoted in Life and Letters.
2. Life and Letters, pp. 60, 61.
3.Life and Letters, pp. 325, 326