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The Oxford Movement
Twelve Years 1833-1845

by R. W. Church, M.A., D.C.L.,
Sometime Dean of St Paul's, and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

London: Macmillan & Co. 1894

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2003


LONG before the Oxford movement was thought of, or had any definite shape, a number of its characteristic principles and ideas had taken strong hold of the mind of a man of great ability and great seriousness, who, after a brilliant career at Oxford as student and tutor, had exchanged the University for a humble country cure. John Keble, by some years the senior but the college friend and intimate of Arnold, was the son of a Gloucestershire country clergyman of strict character and considerable scholarship. He taught and educated his two sons at home, and then sent them to Oxford, where both of them made their mark, and the elder, John, a mere boy when he first appeared at his college, Corpus, carried off almost everything that the University could give in the way of distinction. He won a double first; he won the Latin and English Essays in the same year; and he won what was the still greater honour of an Oriel Fellowship. His honours were borne with meekness and simplicity; to his attainments he joined a temper of singular sweetness and modesty, capable at the same time, when necessary, of austere strength and strictness of principle. He had become one of the most distinguished men in Oxford, when about the year 1823 he felt himself bound to give himself more exclusively to the work of a clergyman, and left Oxford to be his father's curate. There was nothing very unusual in his way of life, or singular and showy in his work as a clergyman; he went in and out among the poor, he was not averse to society, he preached

plain, unpretending, earnest sermons; he kept up his literary interests. But he was a deeply convinced Churchman, finding his standard and pattern of doctrine and devotion in the sober earnestness and dignity of the Prayer Book, and looking with great and intelligent dislike at the teaching and practical working of the more popular system which, under the name of Evangelical Christianity, was aspiring to dominate religious opinion, and which, often combining some of most questionable features of Methodism and Calvinism denounced with fierce intolerance everything that deviated from its formulas and watchwords. And as his loyalty to the Church of England was profound and intense, all who had shared her fortunes, good or bad, or who professed to serve her, had a place in his affections; and any policy which threatened to injure or oppress her, and any principles which were hostile to her influence and teaching, roused his indignation and resistance. He was a strong Tory, and by conviction and religious temper a thorough High Churchman.

But there was nothing in him to foreshadow the leader in a bold and wide-reaching movement. He was absolutely without ambition. He hated show and mistrusted excitement. The thought of preferment was steadily put aside both from temper and definite principle. He had no popular aptitudes, and was very suspicious of them. He had no care for the possession of influence; he had deliberately chosen the fallentis semita vitae, and to be what his father had been, a faithful and contented country parson, was all that he desired. But idleness was not in his nature. Born a poet, steeped in all that is noblest and tenderest and most beautiful in Greek and Roman literature, with the keenest sympathy with that new school of poetry which, with Wordsworth as its representative, was searching out the deeper relations between nature and the human soul, he found in poetical composition a vent and relief for feelings stirred by the marvels of glory and of awfulness, and by the sorrows and blessings, amid which human life is passed. But his poetry was for a long time only for himself and his intimate friends; his indulgence in poetical composition was partly playful, and it was not till after much hesitation on his own part and also on theirs, and with a contemptuous undervaluing of his work, which continued to the end of his life, that the anonymous little book of poems was published which has since become familiar wherever English is read, as the Christian Year. His serious interests were public ones. Though living in the shade, he followed with anxiety and increasing disquiet the changes which went on so rapidly and so formidably, during the end of the first quarter of this century, in opinion and in the possession of political power. It became more and more plain that great changes were at hand, though not so plain what they would be. It seemed likely that power would come into the hands of men and parties hostile to the Church in their principles; and ready to use to its prejudice the advantages which its position as an establishment gave them; and the anticipation grew in Keble's mind, that in the struggles which seemed likely, not only for the legal rights but for the faith of the Church, the Church might have both to claim more, and to suffer more, at the hands of Government. Yet though these thoughts filled his mind, and strong things were said in the intercourse with friends about what was going on about them, no definite course of action had been even contemplated when Keble went into the country in 1823. There was nothing to distinguish him from numbers of able clergymen all over England, who were looking on with interest, with anxiety, often with indignation, at what was going on. Mr. Keble had not many friends and was no party chief. He was a brilliant university scholar overlaying the plain, unworldly country parson; an old-fashioned English Churchman, with great veneration for the Church and its bishops, and a great dislike of Rome, Dissent, and Methodism, but with a quick heart; with a frank, gay humility of soul, with great contempt of appearances, great enjoyment of nature, great unselfishness, strict and severe principles of morals and duty.

What was it that turned him by degrees into so prominent and so influential a person? It was the result of the action of his convictions and ideas, and still more of his character, on the energetic and fearless mind of a pupil and disciple, Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude was Keble's pupil at Oriel. and when Keble left Oriel for his curacy at the beginning of the Long Vacation of 1823, he took Froude with him to read for his degree. He took with him ultimately two other pupils, Robert Wilberforce and Isaac Williams of Trinity. One of them, Isaac Williams, has left some reminiscences of the time, and of the terms on which the young men were with their tutor, then one of the most famous men at Oxford. They were on terms of the utmost freedom. "Master is the greatest boy of them all," was the judgment of the rustic who was gardener, groom, and parish clerk to Mr. Keble. Froude's was a keen logical mind, not easily satisfied, contemptuous of compromises and evasions, and disposed on occasion to be mischievous and aggressive; and with Keble, as with anybody else, he was ready to dispute and try every form of dialectical experiment. But he was open to higher influences than those of logic, and in Keble he saw what subdued and won him to boundless veneration and affection. Keble won the love of the whole little society; but in Froude he had gained a disciple who was to be the mouthpiece and champion of his ideas, and who was to react on himself and carry him forward to larger enterprises and bolder resolutions than by himself he would have thought of. Froude took in from Keble all he had to communicate--principles, convictions, moral rules and standards of life, hopes, fears, antipathies. And his keenly-tempered intellect, and his determination and high courage, gave a point and an impulse of their own to Keble's views and purposes. As things came to look darker, and dangers seemed more serious to the Church, its faith or its rights, the interchange of thought between master and disciple, in talk and in letter, pointed more and more to the coming necessity of action; and Froude at least had no objections to the business of an agitator. But all this was very gradual; things did not yet go beyond discussion; ideas, views, arguments were examined and compared; and Froude, with all his dash, felt as Keble felt; that he had much to learn about himself, as well as about books and things. In his respect for antiquity, in his dislike of the novelties which were invading Church rules and sentiments, as well as its creeds, in his jealousy of the State, as well as in his seriousness of self-discipline, he accepted Keble's guidance and influence more and more; and from Keble he had more than one lesson of self-distrust, more than one warning against the temptations of intellect. "Froude told me many years after," writes one of his friends, "that Keble once, before parting with him, seemed to have something on his mind which he wished to say, but shrank from saying, while waiting, I think, for a coach. At last he said, just before parting, ÎFroude, you thought Law's Serious Call was a clever book; it seemed to me as if you had said the Day of Judgment will be a pretty sight.' This speech, Froude told me; a great effect on his after life."'

At Easter 1826 Froude was elected Fellow of Oriel. He came back to Oxford, charged with Keble's thoughts and feelings; and from his more eager and impatient temper, more on the look-out for ways of giving them effect. The next year he became tutor, and he held the tutorship till 1830. But he found at Oriel a colleague, a little his senior in age and standing, of whom Froude and his friends as yet knew little except that he was a man of great ability, that he had been a favourite of Whately's, and that in a loose and tough way he was counted among the few Liberals and Evangelicals in Oxford. This was Mr. Newman. Keble had been shy of him, and Froude would at first judge him by Keble's standard. But Newman was just at this time "moving," as he expresses it, "out of the shadow of liberalism." Living not apart like Keble, but in the same college, and meeting every day, Froude and Newman could not but be either strongly and permanently repelled, or strongly attracted. They were attracted; attracted with a force which at last united them in the deepest and most unreserved friendship. Of the steps of this great change in the mind and fortunes of each of them we have no record: intimacies of this kind grow in college out of unnoticed and unremembered talks, agreeing or differing, out of unconscious disclosures of temper and purpose, out of walks and rides and quiet breakfasts and common-room arguments, out of admirations and dislikes, out of letters and criticisms and questions; and nobody can tell afterwards how they have come about. The change was gradual and deliberate. Froude's friends in Gloucestershire, the Keble family, had their misgivings about Newman's supposed liberalism; they did not much want to have to do with him. His subtle and speculative temper did not always square with Froude's theology. "N. is a fellow that I like more, the more I think of him," Froude wrote in 1828; "only I would give a few odd pence if he were not a heretic."' But Froude, who saw him every day, and was soon associated with him in the tutorship, found a spirit more akin to his own in depth and freedom and daring, than he had yet encountered. And Froude found Newman just in that maturing state of religious opinion in which a powerful mind like Froude's would be likely to act decisively. Each acted on the other. Froude represented Keble's ideas, Keble's enthusiasm. Newman gave shape, foundation, consistency, elevation to the Anglican theology, when he accepted it, which Froude had learned from Keble. "I knew him first," we read in the Apologia, "in 1826, and was in the closest and most affectionate friendship with him from about 1829 till his death in 1836."' But this was not all. Through Froude, Newman came to know and to be intimate with Keble; and a sort of camaraderie arose, of very independent and outspoken people, who acknowledged Keble as their master and counsellor.

"The true and primary author of it" (the Tractarian movement), we read in the Apologia, "as is usual with great motive powers, was out of sight. . . . Need I say that I am speaking of John Keble?" The statement is strictly true. Froude never would have been the man he was but for his daily and hourly intercourse with Keble; and Froude brought to bear upon Newman's mind, at a critical period of its development, Keble's ideas and feelings about religion and the Church, Keble's reality of thought and purpose, Keble's transparent and saintly simplicity. And Froude, as we know from a well-known saying of his, brought Keble and Newman to understand one other, when the elder man was shy and suspicious of the younger, and the younger, though full of veneration for the elder, was hardly yet in full sympathy with what was most characteristic and most cherished in the elder's religious convictions. Keble attracted and moulded Froude: he impressed Froude with his strong Churchmanship, his severity and reality of life, his poetry and high standard of scholarly excellence. Froude learned from him to be anti-Erastian, anti-methodistical, anti-sentimental, and as strong in his hatred of the world, as contemptuous of popular approval, as any methodist. Yet all this might merely have made a strong impression, or formed one more marked school of doctrine, without the fierce energy which received it and which it inspired. But Froude, in accepting Keble's ideas, resolved to make them active, public, aggressive; and he found in Newman a colleague whose bold originality responded to his own. Together they worked as tutors; together they worked when their tutorships came to an end; together they worked when thrown into companionship in their Mediterranean voyage in the winter of 1832 and the spring of 1833. They came back, full of aspirations and anxieties which spurred them on; their thoughts had broken out in papers sent home from time to time to Rose's British Magazine--" Home Thoughts Abroad," and the "Lyra Apostolica." Then came the meeting at Hadleigh, and the beginning of the Tracts. Keble had given the inspiration, Froude had given the impulse; then Newman took up the work, and the impulse henceforward, and the direction, were his.

Doubtless, many thought and felt like them about the perils which beset the Church and religion. Loyalty to the Church, belief in her divine mission, allegiance to her authority, readiness to do battle for her claims, were anything but extinct in her ministers and laity. The elements were all about of sound and devoted Churchmanship. Higher ideas of the Church than the popular and political notion of it, higher conceptions of Christian doctrine than those of the ordinary evangelical theology--echoes of the meditations of a remarkable Irishman, Mr. Alexander Knox--had in many quarters attracted attention in the works and sermons of his disciple, Bishop Jebb, though it was not till the movement had taken shape that their full significance was realised. Others besides Keble and Froude and Newman were seriously considering what could best be done to arrest the current which was running strong against the Church, and discussing schemes of resistance and defence. Others were stirring up themselves and their brethren to meet the new emergencies, to respond to the new call. Some of these were in communication with the Oriel men, and ultimately took part with them in organising vigorous measures. But it was not till Mr. Newman made up his mind to force on the public mind, in a way which could not be evaded, the great article of the Creed-"I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church"--that the movement began. And for the first part of its course, it was concentrated at Oxford. It was the direct result of the searchings of heart and the communings for seven years, from 1826 to 1833, of the three men who have been the subject of this chapter.

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