Project Canterbury

Lead, Kindly Light:
Studies of Saints and Heroes of the Oxford Movement

by Desmond Morse-Boycott

transcribed by Mr Robert Stevens
AD 2000


Henry Edward Manning

IN devoting this chapter to a leader of the Catholic Revival who passed from the Archdeaconry of Chichester to direct the fortunes of the Holy Roman Church in the thronged streets of London, and stand, if the assertion of a biographer is true, for a glittering moment on the steps of the Papal Throne, and turn from it in magnificent renunciation, I lay myself open to criticism. "How can you call Manning a ‘Hero’ of the Oxford Movement," I may be asked, "when, sorely needed, he deserted it in the plenitude of his power, gave it a crushing blow ere it had recovered from that administered by Newman; and returned to oppose it in an ultramontane temper that stiffened the veil of separation; making the Movement appear but a nursery and hot-bed of Papalism?"

Well, a precedent has been set by the inclusion of Newman and Faber, and I ascribe heroism as well to those who "went out" as to those who stayed.

The pain of secession must be weighed by a seceder’s sensitiveness; his environment; his importance to others. To some, the act of secession is a relief overweighing pain. To others, if filled with the pastoral spirit, it is an agony. To others, again, with few pastoral ties but many friendships, and a love of old associations, secession causes the pain of exile. Nowadays such pain is mitigated. A cleric finds that he is not excluded by secession from fellowship with old friends. I have one in mind who, having left the Anglican barque for Peter’s, comes back for social cruises. I meet him at Anglican cocktail parties. He does not seem to have lost connexion. This could not be the case eighty years ago. Secession, then, meant loss of everything held dear. A seceder had to begin a new life, numbed by loss. He was universally held to have sold the pass. He was often ruined financially as well as socially. To leave, then, was an act of heroism of a higher sort than to stay, though the lesser suffering of staying was a lasting one, while that of going was (save in such a sensitive soul as Newman’s) a spasm of exquisite agony succeeded by healing and happiness.

However inadequate my excuses may seem, they must serve, and I hope that my treatment may appease my Anglican critics, for I propose to invert a pyramid, and make its great Roman base depend upon a slender Anglican apex, a method complimentary to both Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, according to the way you look at the apex, which the Papist will regard as an insignificant beginning to expanding truth and the Anglican as the crown and perfection (which an apex is by rights) spoiled by a monstrous excrescence.

Manning during his Cardinalate (1875-1892) was a noble, awe-inspiring figure, with passions which the Englishman could not fully understand, though they compelled his respect. He came into his own publicly by his masterly handling of the great Dockers’ Strike led by Ben Tillett. He was deeply respected by Protestants for his rabid teetotalism. Even on the day he died (January 14, 1892) he refused to receive alcoholic stimulants, and no matter how ill he was he could be depended upon to attend a "Temperance" meeting, to speak in vile weather in the open air, or endure one stuffy meeting after another during holidays (invariably devoted to the Temperance crusade). It may be unbecoming in me to suggest that he was a fanatic in this respect when much of our present sobriety may be the result of his ardent zeal; yet fanatic he was, apparently tinged with the Manichean heresy. He was a prolific writer whose influence was diminished by a didactic mode; an eloquent preacher, with a rich style and honeyed and persuasive manner. To hear him was to be warmed, almost converted. Manning was the greatest barrister who has ever failed to appear at the Bar, even as Gladstone was the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury who has ever failed to enter the ministry. Roll all eminent barristers of the last few generations, such as Marshall Hall and Lord Birkenhead, into one, and you have Manning-the-might-have-been, who would have robbed the gallows of many a prisoner, innocent or otherwise. Roll all Archbishops of recent memory into one and you have Gladstone-the-might-have-been (though I do not, of course, suggest that Providence makes mistakes). Gladstone and Manning were school-chums, by the way, and life-long friends.

When gracing a banquet, at which he might have eaten a morsel—or not—for he lived a life of stern asceticism, his room at Westminster being a cell and his fare the simplest, he looked what he was, an ascetic who loved his fellow-beings too well to stand apart from them; when clothed in robes of office at a ceremony he might have been St. Augustine come down from a stained-glass window. There is no doubt that we should look upon him as a fine example of the saintly life, a view which may come somewhat as a shock to the younger generation of Anglo-Catholics (of whom I am one) whose affection for Newman has led them into a dislike for the memory of Manning.

He was a gentle friend to all who sought him, with a happy knack of making them feel that he understood their point of view entirely, and in a large measure sympathized with it. Like St. Paul, he could be all things to all men. For instance, he really admired the Salvation Army; he really appreciated the High Churchman who was not merely a ritualist; he really liked to join in learned discussions with atheists; and he really loved the poor and outcast and sinful.

I confess that I have disliked him on account of his treatment of Newman, but I confess, also, that he really believed, when he frustrated Newman’s scheme to settle in Oxford to encourage Roman Catholic parents to send their boys there, that his liberalism suggested danger and an admission that education was not the primary concern of the Church. There was also the prosperity of the existing Catholic colleges to be considered.

He was a great administrator, with a martial disposition. As may be supposed, he was not always popular. Clergy established comfortably in well-to-do parishes, in which they had gained a notoriety for success, did not relish being told to pack their bags and go to some poverty-stricken district at a moment’s notice. Nothing irks the lax more than such discipline. It is said that one of his own Canons once remarked that the death of Mrs. Manning was the greatest misfortune that had ever befallen the Catholic Church in England. But his sternness as an administrator was tempered by willingness to meet the disobedient face to face, and plead with them as father with sons. There is a pathetic story of how one of his elderly clergy refused to move from his comfortable cure, and remained excommunicate until, four years later, while he lay dying, the aged Cardinal came to plead with him and restore him to the Sacraments. He reminds me of the Apostle John in his love of the outcast. To build a great cathedral in London seemed to him idle until there were sufficient orphanages for the children whom he grieved to see torn from the bosom of the Church to be nurtured at the sterile breasts of Protestant Boards of Guardians.

Such I conceive to be Manning-of-the-purple. It is time to see Manning-of-the-Anglican-surplice; to turn from the great base to the slender apex.

He was born at Copped Hall, Totteridge, in Hertfordshire, on July 15, 1808. The house had been bought by his grandfather, a West India merchant. Manning’s father followed a like avocation, taking a part, as well, in public affairs, by holding seats in Parliament for thirty years. He married twice, first the daughter of a banker, and then a lady, Mary Hunter, who came of an Italian family named Venatore. In his Italian blood may lie the explanation of Manning’s "painless" transition to Romanism. Manning passed his boyhood at a school where Charles and Christopher Wordsworth were being educated.

With these boyish companions [says Hutton in his memoir], who were later to become bishops, of St. Andrew’s and of Lincoln respectively, the youthful Manning had what is popularly called "a good time." Of the three he seems to have been the most venturesome and mischievous; but a story that he told with some humour of an exploit in which they were all engaged—a raid on the vinery at Coombe Bank—puts the three future prelates pretty much on a level in this respect. His boyhood was distinguished from that of others who have subsequently become known as great ecclesiastics, in that he was a thorough boy, fond of games and of sport; riding, shooting, boating and cricket being his especial favourites. As an old man he would still tell, with a gleam of satisfaction in his eye, that he killed a hare with his first shot.

A certain precocious dignity earned him the sobriquet of General. He went up to Balliol in 1827, and became noticeable for his persuasive oratorical powers. Then financial losses which his father had incurred cast their shadow upon him, and changed his life. He was thrown upon his own resources, and became transformed into a thoughtful scholar, gaining a much-needed first-class in his finals. He was converted by the discipline of disappointment and anxiety, the need of withdrawing into a shell in order to bring his studies to a successful end, and the frustration of his ambitious hopes of becoming a Parliamentary orator. At this time, too, he came under the influence of a good woman who afterwards wrote little books of piety. Peep of Day and Line upon Line provoke, I admit, one’s risible faculties, and yet how ungenerous one is! I perhaps owe more to them than I care to admit, or know how to admit; and Manning was converted by their authoress. In a letter to The Times in 1892 it was pointed out that Miss Bevan, with whom he stayed at Trent Park, tried to cheer him, telling him there were higher aims still that he had not thought of. "What are they?" he asked. She replied, "The kingdom of heaven; heavenly ambitions are not closed against you." He listened, and said in reply, he did not know but that she was right. She suggested reading the Bible together, saying she was sure her brother Robert (his school-chum, and later the well-known banker) would join them. This they did during the whole of that vacation, every morning after breakfast. It was her conviction that this was the beginning of Manning’s religious life. He always used to speak of her as his spiritual mother.

To me it is a consoling thought that the future Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster was thus spiritually awakened by a pious evangelical lady. My happiness would be complete had he become Pope. From Line upon Line to the Throne of Peter would satisfy the most voracious appetite for sheer, unimaginable romance, and be a symbol of the inner unity of all forms of Christianity!

When he left Oxford he worked for a few months in the Colonial Office, but went back to prepare for Holy Orders, became a Fellow of Merton in 1832, and a year later Rector of Lavington with Graffham, near Chichester. He married, becoming brother-in-law to Samuel Wilberforce, afterwards Bishop of Oxford and Winchester. His wife was young and beautiful, but died childless four years later. Manning worshipped her, and his lovely Rectory, when she was gone, became a lonely retreat, for, holding strict Church principles, he would not marry again. He began to lose his life among his agricultural labourers, whose deplorable lot caused him constant worry. He took little or no part in the Oxford Movement, being a High Churchman of the old school and no more. But he read the Tracts and was influenced by them. What seized hold of his mind more than anything else was the need—the essential need—of unity in ecclesiastical organization. His oratorical genius seems, in the springtide of his Anglican ministry, to have flowered to the full, in a way which makes his later sermons seem but the luscious, over-ripe fruit of late summer. Here are examples of early oratory:

We have a people straitened by poverty—worn down by toil they labour from the rising to the setting of the sun; and the human spirit will faint or break at last. It is to this unrelenting round of labour that the sourness, so unnatural to our English poor, but now too often seen, is to be ascribed. There is something in humanity which pines for a season of brighter and fresher thoughts, and becomes sharp and bitter if it be not satisfied. . . . Time must be redeemed for the poor man. The world is too hard upon him, and makes him pay too heavy a toll out of his short life. . . . Little is needed to make their holiday. The green fields, and tools idle for a day, the church bells, an active game, simple fare, the sport of their children, the kindly presence and patient ear of superiors, is enough to make a village festival.

There is a passage worthy of Newman; but I am not so sure about the following, which should, however, delight the soul of James Douglas, of the Daily Express. It is a passage from a sermon about fallen women, preached in 1844 on behalf of the Magdalen Hospital, six years before his secession:

None are to be pitied more; none are more sinned against. Shame, fear and horror bar their return. The drop has fallen; behind them is a gulf they cannot pass. . . . God alone is witness of the groanings which are breathed unknown, and the burning tears which are shed in the very depths of impurity. What harrowing recollections of faces dearly loved, last seen in anguish, of the fresh years of early childhood, and the hopes and joys and fair prospects of an innocent and gentle life all seared and blasted, come back upon them in the hours of unholy revel, to be their mockery and torment. No eye but His can read the visions of home and happy days which rise upon their desolate hearts in the tumult and darkness of these crowded streets, and the agonizing dreams of a blessedness no longer theirs, by which their broken sleep is haunted. None other but He can know what unutterable agony goes up by day and by night from the loathsome chambers and pestilential dens in which these homeless, hopeless, decaying mortals hide themselves in misery to die. And what a death is the death of a harlot! When the baffled heart wanders in dreams of sickness to die in the home of its birth, and waken up from the happiness of delirium to madden itself again in the sights and sounds which harass its miserable death-bed; when the eye strains itself in vain for the vision of a mother’s pitying face, and the ear is sick for the listening for the coming of brother, husband, child, whose footfall shall never be heard again. Then comes death, and after death the judgment, and the great white throne on which He sitteth from whose face both heaven and earth shall flee away. Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon them and upon us in that day.

When Manning was made Archdeacon he quickly showed that he did not regard his office as an honorific sinecure. He visited every parish like a bishop, and issued charges regularly. From 1841 until his secession he grew to be a power in the diocese hardly second to the Bishop. His influence extended, indeed, far beyond it, and he came to be regarded as the virtual leader of the Oxford Revival, although he had had no hand in its inception. His power was greater than Pusey’s or Keble’s, and increased with the loss of Newman. Men’s eyes were upon him as one marching straight to Canterbury, and fair might have been the pilgrimage of Anglo-Catholics down a century had he sat in the seat of Augustine. He had a way of overcoming opposition such as none possessed in equal measure. He had become a thorough Catholic without ever having worn a chasuble or kindled incense at the altar. He had a passion for unity which would have led him, as Primate, in spite of his prejudice against Romanism (which made Newman once to refuse to see him), to anticipate Malines by several decades. He would have made his presence felt, and the House of Lords, had he been there when it played shuttlecock and battledore with the revised Prayer Book, would have been overwhelmed by his influence, as the Commons would have writhed under his censure. Indeed, there is nothing that might not have happened. But it was not to be.

The Gorham Judgment is a humiliating episode of English Church history, inexcusably disgraceful. A Mr. Gorham, a minister with Calvinistic sympathies, held that grace was not necessarily given before Holy Baptism, in it or after it. The Bishop of Exeter refused to institute him to a benefice. The Lord Chancellor, who had presented Mr. Gorham with the living, opposed the Bishop. The Court of Arches upheld the Bishop, but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council reversed its decision. That Committee, which had no true ecclesiastical character, was composed of Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury; Musgrave, Archbishop of York; Blomfield, Bishop of London, and six laymen. Its preposterous claim to be the final authority in matters of faith disturbed Manning terribly, and in 1851 England was shocked by his secession. Within a few weeks, to the indignation of old Roman Catholics, he was "re-ordained" a priest, to return some years later to found the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Charles at Bayswater. By this time he was the friend and confidant of Pope Pius IX, who made him Archbishop of Westminster in 1865 and Cardinal ten years later.

He was an ardent supporter of the temporal power of the Pope, an ultramontane of ultramontanes. The convening of the Vatican Council to define the dogma of Infallibility was as welcome to him as it was painful to Newman, who seemed to regard it as a personal affront, complaining bitterly, while forgetting the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, that Œcumenical Councils were never convened unless the Faith was impugned.

A Council’s proper office is [Newman maintained] when some great heresy or other evil impends, to inspire hope and confidence in the faithful, but now we are told to prepare for something, we know not what, to try our faith, we know not how! No impending danger is to be averted, but a great difficulty is to be created! Is this the proper work of an Œcumenical Council? What have we done to be treated as the faithful never were treated before? When has a definition de fide been a luxury of devotion and not a stern painful necessity?

The rustic quietude of Sussex; the peaceful hills on which sheep graze away unthinking lives; the murmurous streams that thread sinuous, silvery ribands through the woodlands; lose sweet serenity when a storm breaks over them. The men of Lavington are used to storms. They bring in their oxen from the ploughing and drive their sheep into the folds. A storm means an extra hour of leisure, a pleasant wind-fall, if none of their beasts has strayed. They take off their wet smocks then, and wash, and put on their Sunday ones, and brave the rain to the tavern, or sit around the fireside with their bairns until it is time to betake themselves to their beds, where, for a few hours only, they can forget their troubles. One trouble never ceases to fret their minds; an incomprehensible trouble, one that has robbed them of the priest they loved and trusted. Their Mr. Manning has joined the Pope of Rome. A cruel blow, the Pope being a wicked creature condemned in the Revelations. He is up in "Lunnon," now, in a palace, dressed in scarlet when he should be striding over the fields to ring his bell for daily service. Ah! he wore proper black then. The years wear on, and these downsmen cease not to revere his memory. Why, he baptized many of them, and cared for them in their childhood, and led them to the Sacrament. And now he is a Cardinal, and so far gone in Popery that they can never hope for his return, and "some do say that he may be Pope o’ Rome hisself before he’s finished, and repented."

A storm in the heavens they understand. It is nature. A storm in a Church is a storm in a tea-cup. It seems to be about nothing. Yet it lasted until the last of them slept with his fathers, perhaps recalling wistfully on his death-bed, with simple, faithful love, how the Archdeacon had patted his head one morning when he met him going out for mushrooms, and bade him say his prayers in the church when returning. When the decree affirming Infallibility was passed a terrific storm of thunder and lightning broke over Rome. Manning may have thought of Sussex. Did he think, in the midst of successful and engrossing labours, of the suffering of his yokels? One wonders. "Ah, sir! " said one of the rustics once to Manning's successor at Lavington, pointing to the setting sun, "that is just what the Archdeacon was so fond of. He used often to admire it, as he stood, over the hill there: ‘Don’t it look beautiful, John, sinking to rest when his work is done? That is how you and I will sink to rest when our work is done, if’"—here the old man’s memory failed him—"‘if we has luck.’"

The bell still peals over Lavington, for men may come and men may go, but Ecclesia Anglicana survives the storms of winter by God’s Providence, and goes on in the freshness of a second spring, for all her fresh springs are in Zion.

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