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A Tractarian at Work: A Memoir of Dean Randall

By J. F. Briscoe and H. F. B. Mackay

London: Mowbray, [1932]

Chapter III. Oxford

THE following letter written by his father to Randall when he went to Oxford is so admirable and so characteristic that it is worth transcribing in full:

4 October, 1842.


You are now going to Oxford; which is a very great and important Step in your Life; and both your Success and Comfort in this World, and your everlasting Happiness will be at Stake, and may be for ever established or destroyed by your Conduct while you are an Undergraduate.

I shall therefore set down, as they occur to me, a few things to which it is most important you should attend. They will not come in the Order of their Importance; for some of the gravest may be postponed to some of the lightest; as I shall set them down quite at Hazard.

Remember that you have your Fortune to make by your Industry. I shall be able to leave you no more than just enough to maintain you (and that with Frugality on your Part) in the Rank of a Gentleman unmarried. All beyond that you must achieve of yourself. The sooner you set about it, the greater will be the Probability of Success.

Therefore, as soon as ever you get to College, show yourself diligent. Do not say, the first Term does not signify. If it were true (which it is not) that the Loss of that Time is of no Consequence in itself, there is another fatal Consequence of early Idleness, which is, that it gives Tutors and Heads an evil Opinion of you at the Outset of your Career, which you may afterwards have a good deal of Difficulty to remove: and besides, it throws you out of the diligent into the idle Set; an Association which it is hard to break. I know by Experience that a great deal depends upon first Impressions in this Matter. If Tutors get an early Notion that you mean to be diligent, they keep their Eyes and Thoughts upon you, as a Person fit to be called out and put forward upon Occasions when Distinction or Advantage is to be obtained.

Be very watchful over your Temper in your Intercourse with your Head and Tutors. (1 will not mention Head any more; let it be understood that Tutors include Head.) Tutors are but Men; and sometimes queer-tempered ones; but in all Disputes between you and them, they have hold of the right End of the Stick; and if you were ever so much in the Right at the Beginning, still, if you overstep the Bounds of respectful Deference to them, you will put yourself in the Wrong, and have to eat the Bread of Humiliation, vulgo dict: Humble-Pie, accordingly. Good Temper among your Companions is perhaps, in the long Run, the most endearing of all good Qualities; but towards those Persons who are set over you, and whose favourable Judgement and Patronage are desirable, it is indispensable.

I have said that in after Life you will have to be frugal. Begin then at once to form frugal Habits. You have not as yet had much Occasion to discipline yourself in this Way. Even at School, there is a great difference between Boys who are extravagant, and Boys who are moderate in their Expenses. But the Difference at College is much greater; and there is this additional Circumstance to be attended to, that young Men of Fortune may with the strictest Prudence indulge in many Expenses which it would be the Height of Extravagance in poorer Men to incur. If you were the Heir of £5,000 a Year, there would be no more Extravagance in your taking a Ride every Day, than there will be now in your putting on a clean Pair of Shoes every Day; supposing always that you did not unduly sacrifice your Time to your Rides, for Time at the University is equally valuable, and Diligence equally a Duty, to Rich and Poor. But you must now learn, that you cannot do all that your richer Friends can with Propriety do; and you must not attempt to keep in a Set whose Amusements are expensive, even though they may be innocent. Thus Riding, except very, very seldom, is quite out of the Question. Cricket, in a Club, equally so; but to this I believe you have not much Inclination. Boating, either by yourself or with occasional Companions, need not be very costly; but to belong to a regular Boat generally becomes expensive, because there are always some silly Fellows, who introduce Uniforms, Dinners, and suchlike unnecessary Adjuncts, which run up the Account. Besides which a regular Boat requires regular Practice, and thus becomes a Tax upon Time, which is not only detrimental to Study, but is often felt as a Slavery, as I know by Experience; for which Reason, though I belonged in my second Year to a very good and pleasant Crew, I declined engaging with them in my 3rd Year.

Eating at Pastry Cooks' Shops is in every View abominable. But to speak of it only as an Expense; I knew many Men who scarcely spent a Day without it. It was their regular Practice; to omit it was the rare Exception. Suppose they only spent 6d. a Day; there was a Waste of above £9 a Year--dead Waste. But considering the Temptations of the Fruit and Ice Seasons in Summer, and the rich Soups in Winter, I doubt whether they got off under 2 or 3 Times as much. Think of squandering between £20 and £30 a Year in that Way, and then being uncomfortable when you saw your Taylor walking across the Quad towards your Rooms.

On the whole, it is not possible to say, that a Man, whether young or old, is bound to limit himself to what is strictly necessary; but this I may say, that he will be both the happier and the better, in Proportion to the Self-Denial he can learn to exercise in Matters of Superfluity. The Command of Money makes People comfortable, and enables them to be liberal; and a Man with a small Income may have a Command of Money, if he will limit his Expenses according to his Means. I have devised a Maxim, which I think ought to go along with those of the 7 Sages of Greece. I advise you to put it into good aphorismatical Greek, and then print it on your Memory, and practise it. The Maxim is 'Do without.' Be content not to possess those Things which though they tickle Fancy, or gratify Luxury, are not indispensable to Comfort and that Respectability of Appearance which your Station requires.

I am the more careful to impress this upon you, because you are my eldest Son. Your Example will much influence the younger ones: and not only that, but even their receiving a College Education at all may depend upon your going through yours with Frugality. My Means are limited--my Expenses cannot be cut down below a certain Point; and while the Course of Education of you and your Brothers is going on, I shall be barely able to make both Ends meet. As far as my own personal Expenses or the gratification of my own Tastes and Inclinations is concerned, I think you will all do me the Justice to own that I rigidly apply my own Maxim. There are not many Things of which you could justly say, My Father might 'do without' this. The House and Garden Establishments are indeed larger than my Station requires; but these are forced upon me by Circumstances, which render it impossible for me to reduce them. These Things being so, you must all be as careful as ever you can; and you in Particular, must consider, that if you draw too deeply upon me, you will be cutting one or two of them off from a University Education, for which I am sure you would be heartily sorry.

Now for one or two of the graver Considerations to which I alluded in the Beginning of this Letter, and let us put them upon the highest ground, which is also the best, because it is the soundest and truest.

'Flee youthful Lusts, which war against the Soul.' There is a Verse for you, of which Part comes from S. Paul, and Part from S. Peter. Receive it as a solemn Charge from those great Apostles. Youth is the Season in which the Passions are developed; and unhappily Oxford supplies too many Incentives to them, and too many Objects for them to be exercised upon. It is impossible for any Vigilance of University Authorities to guard young Men from Temptations of this Sort. They must be defended, if at all, by the Grace of God, and their own Vigilance and Self-Control in Subordination thereto. Drunkenness and Revellings are in themselves a great Evil. They lower the Tone of the Mind, and relax the Health of the Body, and thus unfit both for Study, which requires a clear Head, and a clear Stomach. I do hope that in this Matter the University is better than it was in my Time; but I am afraid it is still much in Need of Improvement. And I am not quite easy about you in this Respect; for I believe that you rather like Wine; and therefore I am afraid that when you get to Parties, you will get on so fast that you will be on the wrong Side of the Post before you are aware. You must therefore be cautious; and look upon a Wine-Party as a Scene, where, instead of giving Loose to your Inclinations, you are to exercise more than ordinary Self-Restraint and Watchfulness.

But I am afraid that the Conversation in these Parties is even more mischievous than the Intemperance. Young Men at College are too often profligate in their Doings; but the Profligacy of their Talk is absolutely dreadful. You cannot help hearing this. If you would avoid it, you must go out of the (undergraduate) World. But you may refrain yourself from talking of Vices, which God preserve you from practising. It is not necessary for you to be known as a Man ready to join in such Conversation whenever it is started. Rather, if you can, draw it off to other Subjects; and let it be seen that there may be Fun and Jollity, without Ribaldry and Blasphemy; though these two latter are so often made Companions of the others. Lewd Conversation naturally leads to Contempt of the Virtue of Chastity; a Subject upon which it is difficult to enlarge with Propriety, and embarrassing to be obliged to speak at all. But it would be false Delicacy in me to leave you without a Warning upon this Point. The Conversation and Example of too many of those about you will go to persuade you that Breaches of Chastity are hardly Sins; that they are Indulgences all but permitted to Youth; that it is a ridiculous Strictness not to partake of them. Believe it not, my Boy! Not all the Wit of the Scoffers, nor all the Sophistry of the Logicians of Oxford can set aside the Sentence, that 'because of these Things cometh the Wrath of God upon the Children of Disobedience.' Whether you, by Watchfulness over yourself, under the superintending Providence of God, held over you in Answer to your and my Prayers, will keep yourself free from these Contaminations, is more than I can foresee, and probably more than I shall ever know; for the Subject is obviously one not to be talked about, except under the Pressure of extraordinary Circumstances. But this I know, for I have had abundant Occasion to observe it, that of all Sins, there is none that is more certainly followed by its appropriate Punishment in this Life, than that of Unchastity. And to my Mind, that is a great Corroboration of what the Scriptures tell us of the Heinousness of the Sin, and of the Wrath of God against it; which Wrath it certainly does most eminently deserve, as one of the greatest Troublers of the Peace and good Order of the World, and greatest Hindrances to true Religion. It is apparent enough, that a Vice so pernicious in Practice ought not to be made the Subject of Conversation. Men ought not to excite their sinful Propensities, by dwelling upon the Thoughts of gratifying them, nor to lessen their Fears of Transgression, by having the Pleasure of it continually before their Imaginations.

I have said that the Sin of which I have been speaking is one of the greatest Hindrances to Religion. E converse, religious Exercises should be the most effectual Preservatives against the Sin. And so they will be, if performed with an attentive and faithful Mind. Try to draw this Advantage from the frequent Returns of public Prayer in College. Not only of this but of all sinful Habits, it has been well remarked that they cannot consist with the Practice of frequent and fervent Prayer. Either Sinning will make a Man leave off praying or Praying will make him leave off sinning.

The Misfortune is, that Prayer in College has been made too much a Matter of mere Form and Academic Discipline, and has been attended with unpraying Minds. I am willing to believe that in this Respect also, there is much improvement since my Time. But even then, with all the Defects in the Performance, I still think the frequent Recurrence of public Prayer was, on the whole, advantageous. Good Thoughts were sometimes put into the Mind; bad Courses met with a quiet Reproof; they who had but little Religion were prevented from forgetting that little, and so emancipating themselves from every Check of Conscience; and they who were tolerably well disposed were admonished of the Presence and Judgement of God, at a Time when they were probably about to forget it. But, as I said, I hope you will endeavour to make the College Prayers a Business of the Heart. Though many of those about you may be inattentive, and worse than inattentive, there will be sure to be some Souls (and you can hardly tell how many) raised up to God. Let yours be among them. The few who thus lift up their Hearts will be the Salt that will season the whole Service, and make it not wholly unacceptable at the Throne of Grace. Happy, if they shall bring down Grace upon their Companions also, that the Spirit of Devotion may abound among them more and more.

I believe I shall end as I began, with a Recommendation of Diligence. My Opinion of you is, that you are qualified both by natural Ability and previous Preparation, to make a distinguished Figure at the University. Yet I shall not be at all disappointed if you do not. I am too well aware of the Uncertainty of all such Successes, to set my Heart upon them. But I shall be very much disappointed if you do not try. And if you will try, then, whether you obtain academical Honours or not, you will be sure to get something worth carrying away, both in Knowledge actually acquired, and in Habits of Application. And these are of more Value, than having your Name in the First Class. What is the University for? Is it to give half a dozen Men the Opportunity of distinguishing themselves? No; but to give all the Men, that will be industrious, such a Degree of knowledge, and such a Power of exercising their Faculties, as they may afterwards avail themselves of in whatever Line of Life they adopt. And many a Man, who has failed of the immediate Object of getting a high Class, has yet, while in Pursuit of it, laid a Foundation, upon which, by subsequent Labour, he has built up a Reputation towering above that of many of his Compeers, who thought when they had gained their Classes that they had done enough, and might give themselves a Holiday for the Rest of their Lives.

And now, the third Sheet being full, I think I have lectured enough for one Time; so I remain,

Your affectionate Father,


Randall matriculated at Christ Church in the October of 1842. He went to Oxford with every advantage. He was a gentleman, a Wykehamist, a good scholar; his education and his life at home had prepared him to appreciate to the full all the social, intellectual, and aesthetic attractions of the University. Though his father was not a rich man, he would write to his son that when he wanted more money he had only to ask for it; his father was anxious to provide him with all he could desire within reasonable limits; for instance, with plate, carefully inscribed with his initial and crest, and supplies of wine as he required it.

Randall's cousin, Richard Lowndes, who had been his senior at Winchester, was already in residence at Christ Church; he was a well-known 'buck' Master of the Beagles, and had rowed seven in the Oxford boat in the famous seven oar race against Cambridge at Henley in 1843. Randall did not row, but he was an excellent horseman and a very fine whip, sometimes driving four horses or a tandem. In after years he would tell his sons how he was once larking over some fields near Oxford when he was pursued by an irate farmer; he tried to swim his horse over the river, but they parted company, and the rider swam a mile with his whip in his hand before he could get out on the side most remote from the farmer, while the horse got out on the other side and had to be sent for.

For a time at least Randall was something of a dandy: a costume was remembered which consisted of a rhubarb-coloured coat, fawn trousers, and a blue plush waistcoat. A blue cut-away coat, with brass buttons, survived as a curiosity to Lav-ington days, and a waistcoat embroidered with devices of horses and hunting-horns.

In the long vacation of 1844 Randall was staying with his uncle, Loftus Lowndes, at Aldenham Park, Salop, and here he met with a serious accident: his gun exploded as he was loading it, and part of his first finger was blown off. Randall might well have been killed, and ever afterwards he kept the anniversary of his fortunate escape. For many years in consequence of this injury he wrote with his left hand, and shook hands so: but in the 'sixties a pulling horse injured the middle finger of his left hand, and after this he would shake hands with three fingers of the right hand, sometimes giving unwitting offence by doing so.

In 1843 Mr. James Randall wrote a serious expostulation to his son, begging him not to risk the loss of his health by spending too long hours in reading.

I beg you, and charge you, as you value my Comfort and Happiness, which would be destroyed by your ruining your own, do not overwork yourself, and do not be anxious about Results. Do your duty, according to the measure which your strength allows; and leave the rest to God's Providence.

In spite of his father's advice to the contrary, Randall did not try for a Class in the Schools. He wrote about this to his mother:

The last month has been very hard reading. You speak of a Class--that is over. I do not go up. If I failed, which is too likely, I should incur the reputation of having arrogantly attempted, and miserably failed. If I succeeded, I should go forth into the world under false colours to disappoint every one. Better be a passman and exceed one's reputation (which with hard work I may do), than a pie in peacock's feathers--you know the fable. . . . You know that I have always been overrated. Besides that, I have thrown away time and talents woefully.

In the event Randall went in for a pass degree and was given an 'Honorary Fourth,' which was something of a distinction for a passman.

Randall's years at Oxford, 1842 to 1845, were years of very critical importance in the history of the Catholic Revival, in which he was in the future to take so keen an interest, and himself to play no small part. Nine years before he matriculated, on Sunday, July 14, 1833, Mr. Keble preached the Assize Sermon in the University pulpit, which was published under the title of National Apostasy. 'I have ever considered and kept the day as the start of the movement,' wrote Newman in Apologia pro vita sua.

On September 9, 1833, was published the first of the Tracts for the Times, Thoughts on the Ministerial Commission, respectfully addressed to the Clergy. Newman was the author.

The movement was, for its first years at least, a loyal and earnest effort to serve the cause of the Church. Its objects were clear and reasonable; it aimed at creating a sincere and intelligent zeal for the Church, and at making the Church itself worthy of the great position which her friends claimed for her. Its leaders were men well known in the University, in the front rank in point of ability and character; men of learning, who knew what they were talking about; men of religious and pure, if also severe lives. They were not men merely of speculation and criticism, but men ready to forgo anything, to devote everything for the practical work of elevating religious thought and life. ... If they spoke language new to the popular mind or the 'religious world,' it was not new--at least it ought not to have been new--to orthodox Churchmen, with opportunities of study, and acquainted with our best divinity. If their temper was eager and enthusiastic, they alleged the presence of a great and perilous crisis. Their appeal was mainly not to the general public, but to the sober and learned; to those to whom was entrusted the formation of faith and character in the future clergy of the Church.

At first the movement met with conspicuous success.

'It was the time of plenty,' wrote Newman afterwards; ' we prospered and spread. . . . The Anglo-Catholic party suddenly became a power in the National Church, and an object of alarm to her rulers and friends. ... In a very few years a school of opinion was formed, fixed in its principles, indefinite and progressive in their range; and it extended itself into every part of the country. . . . The Movement and its party-names were known to the police of Italy and to the back-woodmen of America.

Then followed violent collision with the nation and with the officials of the Church.

In 1838 Dr. Bagot, Bishop of Oxford, in a Charge made 'some light animadversions' on the Tracts for the Times, but Newman records that by the spring of 1839 'an annoyance had passed from my mind.' 'My position in the Anglican Church was at its height.'

Part I of the Remains of the late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude was published in 1838 and Part II (with Mr. Keble's preface) in 1839: as these books became known, consternation and fury were aroused at the denunciations of the Reformation contained in them.

In February, 1841, Newman published Tract 90, the object of which was to insist that the statements of the Thirty-nine Articles present no real difficulties to a Catholic Christian: that the Articles are patient of a Catholic interpretation. At once the new Tract made an ' immense commotion.' 'In March it was condemned by the Board of Heads of Houses on the ground that the interpretation of the Articles suggested therein was an evasion rather than an interpretation of their meaning. The bishops one after another began to charge against the Tract.

'I saw indeed clearly,' wrote Newman of this time, 'that my place in the Movement was lost; public confidence was at an end; my occupation was gone. It was simply an impossibility that I could say anything henceforth to good effect, when I had been posted up by the marshal on the buttery-hatch of every College of my University, after the manner of discommoned pastry-cooks, and when in every part of the country and every class of society, through every organ and opportunity of opinion, in newspapers, in periodicals, at meetings, in pulpits, at dinner-tables, in coffee-rooms, in railway carriages, I was denounced as a traitor who had laid his train and was detected in the very act of firing it, against the time-honoured Establishment.'

In February, 1842, Newman retired to Littlemore, within the limits of his parish, and lived in one of a group of small cottages he had built there. In September, 1843, he resigned S. Mary's, and remained at Littlemore 'in lay communion with the Church of England, attending its services as usual,' until he was received into the Roman Catholic Church on October 8, 1845.

Two other events which happened at Oxford must be noted. On May 14, 1843, Dr. Pusey preached at Christ Church before the University, 'the most important sermon of his life.' ' Its one object was to inculcate the love of our Redeemer for us sinners in the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a commemorative Sacrifice.' The doctrine of the sermon was held to be contrary to that of the Church of England, and he was suspended from preaching in the University for two years by a judgement of the Vice-Chancellor given on June 2nd.

In June of the following year William George Ward, Fellow of Balliol, published The Ideal of a Christian Church, in which he claimed to remain a clergyman of the Church of England while holding 'the whole cycle of Roman doctrine.' The book was condemned at a crowded and uproarious meeting of Convocation on February 13, 1845, and its author deprived of his degrees. A vote of censure on Tract go was proposed on the same occasion, but was defeated by the veto of the two proctors, personal friends of Newman--Mr. Guillemard and Mr. R. W. Church, the future Dean of S. Paul's. 'To ordinary lookers-on it naturally seemed that a shattering and decisive blow had been struck at the Tractarian party and their cause; ... it was more than a defeat, it was a rout in which they were driven and chased headlong from the field.'

There is no evidence in existing letters to show that Randall took any very intimate interest in the thrilling ecclesiastical events which were happening around him. Certainly nothing then or at any later time disturbed his serene confidence in the Church of England. In 1845 he wrote to his mother:

What a fearful position Ward's is. We must all sincerely pity him, if one who has behaved so arrogantly and undutifully deserves compassion. His last letter about Oxford is very distressing. The man's heart must indeed be black, or his mind perverted who could so speak of her his nursing mother. I fear he will yet have to pass through no ordinary suffering when he has realized the step he is taking. His secession is not to me so much an object of fears as to some, such is not the conduct that wins admirers and followers; he has gone out from us, for he was not of us. But there are clouds on the horizon's verge that are more alarming.

Ward became a Roman Catholic in September, 1845.

We find Randall sometimes dating his letters according to the ecclesiastical calendar, and deprecating a dinner party on an Ember Friday. He and his father exchanged letters on auricular confession and the worship of angels. He developed a keen interest in architecture, and wherever he went, would visit the churches with an eager and intelligent eye for all ancient features. Enthusiasm for the restoration of churches was already beginning, and Randall would note with delight the stripping off of plaster from the old walls and pillars, the erection of open seats, and the restoration of sedilia and piscinae.

He describes a visit he paid to Pudleston in Herefordshire:

I like the Whitfields most extremely. It would do most men, who were looking forward to taking Holy Orders, good to live a short time in such a family. Their ways and manners of living are comfortable and cheerful, but still there is an air, a tone that says plainly (as a good old bishop, whose name I forget, wrote in his hall) ' here you must serve God.' You know my morning draft is water, but you probably would scarcely have expected that I should have gained the reputation of a devout ascetic in consequence. But one morning Mrs. Whitneld was instructing her dairy woman not to send in cream of a morning as their visitor did not drink tea but water. The woman, a strange simple country wench, looked up admiringly into her mistress' face, and as if proud of her skill in reading character, ventured--'a young minister (!!) ma'am, I suppose?' To back this up, the clerk asked on Sunday if two Surplices would be wanted. And yet I wore a brown coat, and my flashiest ties.

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