Eminent Victorians eText - Chapter VI.

Chapter VI.

MANNING'S appointment filled his opponents with alarm. Wrath and vengeance seemed to be hanging over them; what might not be expected from the formidable enemy against whom they had struggled for so long, and who now stood among them armed with archiepiscopal powers and invested with the special confidence of Rome? Great was their amazement, great was their relief, when they found that their dreaded master breathed nothing but kindness, gentleness, and conciliation. The old scores, they found, were not to be paid off, but to be wiped out. The new archbishop poured forth upon every side all the tact, all the courtesy, all the dignified graces of a Christian magnanimity. It was impossible to withstand such treatment. Bishops who had spent years in thwarting him became his devoted adherents; even the Chapter of Westminster forgot its hatred. Monsignor Talbot was extremely surprised. 'Your greatest enemies have entirely come round,' he wrote. 'I received the other day a panegyric of you from Searle. This change of feeling I cannot attribute to anything but the Holy Ghost.' Monsignor Talbot was very fond of the Holy Ghost; but, so far, at any rate as Searle was concerned, there was another explanation. Manning, instead of dismissing Searle from his position of 'oeconomus' in the episcopal household, had kept him on--at an increased salary; and the poor man, who had not scrupled in the days of his pride to call Manning a thief, was now duly grateful.

As to Dr. Errington, he gave an example of humility and submission by at once withdrawing into a complete obscurity. For years the Archbishop of Trebizond, the ejected heir to the See of Westminster, laboured as a parish priest in the Isle of Man. He nursed no resentment in his heart, and, after a long and edifying life of peace and silence, he died in 1886, a professor of theology at Clifton.

It might be supposed that Manning could now feel that his triumph was complete. His position was secure; his power was absolute; his prestige was daily growing. Yet there was something that irked him still. As he cast his eyes over the Roman Catholic community in England, he was aware of one figure which, by virtue of a peculiar eminence, seemed to challenge the supremacy of his own. That figure was Newman's.

Since his conversion, Newman's life had been a long series of misfortunes and disappointments. When he had left the Church of England, he was its most distinguished, its most revered member, whose words, however strange, were listened to with profound attention, and whose opinions, however dubious, were followed in all their fluctuations with an eager and indeed a trembling respect. He entered the Church of Rome, and found himself forthwith an unimportant man. He was received at the Papal Court with a politeness which only faintly concealed a total lack of interest and understanding. His delicate mind, with its refinements, its hesitations, its complexities--his soft, spectacled, Oxford manner, with its half-effeminate diffidence- such things were ill calculated to impress a throng of busy Cardinals and Bishops, whose days were spent amid the practical details of ecclesiastical organisation, the long-drawn involutions of papal diplomacy, and the delicious bickerings of personal intrigue. And when, at last, he did succeed in making some impression upon these surroundings, it was no better; it was worse. An uneasy suspicion gradually arose; it began to dawn upon the Roman authorities that Dr. Newman was a man of ideas. Was it possible that Dr. Newman did not understand that ideas in Rome were, to say the least of it, out of place? Apparently, he did not-- nor was that all; not content with having ideas, he positively seemed anxious to spread them. When that was known, the politeness in high places was seen to be wearing decidedly thin. His Holiness, who on Newman's arrival had graciously expressed the wish to see him 'again and again', now, apparently, was constantly engaged. At first Newman supposed that the growing coolness was the result of misapprehension; his Italian was faulty, Latin was not spoken at Rome, his writings had only appeared in garbled translations. And even Englishmen had sometimes found his arguments difficult to follow. He therefore determined to take the utmost care to make his views quite clear; his opinions upon religious probability, his distinction between demonstrative and circumstantial evidence, his theory of the development of doctrine and the aspects of ideas--these and many other matters, upon which he had written so much, he would now explain in the simplest language. He would show that there was nothing dangerous in what he held, that there was a passage in De Lugo which supported him-- that Perrone, by maintaining that the Immaculate Conception could be defined, had implicitly admitted one of his main positions, and that his language about Faith had been confused, quite erroneously, with the fideism of M. Bautain.

Cardinal Barnabo, Cardinal Reisach, Cardinal Antonelli, looked at him with their shrewd eyes and hard faces, while he poured into their ears which, as he had already noticed with distress, were large and not too clean--his careful disquisitions; but, it was all in vain-- they had clearly never read De Lugo or Perrone, and as for M. Bautain, they had never heard of him. Newman, in despair, fell back upon St. Thomas Aquinas; but, to his horror, he observed that St. Thomas himself did not mean very much to the Cardinals. With a sinking heart, he realised at last the painful truth: it was not the nature of his views, it was his having views at all, that was objectionable. He had hoped to devote the rest of his life to the teaching of Theology; but what sort of Theology could he teach which would be acceptable to such superiors? He left Rome, and settled down in Birmingham as the head of a small community of Oratorians. He did not complain; it was God's will; it was better so. He would watch and pray.

But God's will was not quite so simple as that. Was it right, after all, that a man with Newman's intellectual gifts, his devoted ardour, his personal celebrity, should sink away out of sight and use in the dim recesses of the Oratory at Birmingham? If the call were to come to him to take his talent out of the napkin, how could he refuse? And the call did come. A Catholic University was being started in Ireland and Dr. Cullen, the Archbishop of Armagh, begged Newman to become the Rector. At first he hesitated, but when he learned that it was the Holy Father's wish that he should take up the work, he could doubt no longer; the offer was sent from Heaven. The difficulties before him were very great; not only had a new University to be called up out of the void, but the position was complicated by the presence of a rival institution--the undenominational Queen's Colleges, founded by Peel a few years earlier with the object of giving Irish Catholics facilities for University education on the same terms as their fellow-countrymen. Yet Newman had the highest hopes. He dreamt of something greater than a merely Irish University--of a noble and flourishing centre of learning for the Catholics of Ireland and England alike. And why should not his dream come true? 'In the midst of our difficulties, he said, 'I have one ground of hope, just one stay, but, as I think, a sufficient one, which serves me in the stead of all other argument whatever. It is the decision of the Holy See; St. Peter has spoken.'

The years that followed showed to what extent it was safe to depend upon St. Peter. Unforeseen obstacles cropped up on every side. Newman's energies were untiring, but so was the inertia of the Irish authorities. On his appointment, he wrote to Dr. Cullen asking that arrangements might be made for his reception in Dublin. Dr. Cullen did not reply. Newman wrote again, but still there was no answer. Weeks passed, months passed, years passed, and not a word, not a sign, came from Dr. Cullen. At last, after dangling for more than two years in the uncertainties and perplexities of so strange a situation, Newman was summoned to Dublin. There he found nothing but disorder and discouragement. The laity took no interest in the scheme; the clergy actively disliked it; Newman's authority was disregarded. He appealed to Cardinal Wiseman, and then at last a ray of hope dawned. The cardinal suggested that a bishopric should be conferred upon him, to give him a status suitable to his position; Dr. Cullen acquiesced, and Pius IX was all compliance. 'Manderemo a Newman la crocetta,' he said to Wiseman, smilingly drawing his hands down each side of his neck to his breast, 'lo faremo vescovo di Porfirio, o qualche luogo.' The news spread among Newman's friends, and congratulations began to come in. But the official intimation seemed to be unaccountably delayed; no crocetta came from Rome, and Cardinal Wiseman never again referred to the matter. Newman was left to gather that the secret representations of Dr. Cullen had brought about a change of counsel in high quarters. His pride did not allow him to inquire further; but one of his lady penitents, Miss Giberne, was less discreet. 'Holy Father,' she suddenly said to the Pope in an audience one day, 'why don't you make Father Newman a bishop?' Upon which the Holy Father looked much confused and took a great deal of snuff.

For the next five years Newman, unaided and ignored, struggled desperately, like a man in a bog, with the overmastering difficulties of his task. His mind, whose native haunt was among the far aerial boundaries of fancy and philosophy, was now clamped down under the fetters of petty detail and fed upon the mean diet of compromise and routine. He had to force himself to scrape together money, to write articles for the students' Gazette, to make plans for medical laboratories, to be ingratiating with the City Council; he was obliged to spend months travelling through the remote regions of Ireland in the company of extraordinary ecclesiastics and barbarous squireens. He was a thoroughbred harnessed to a four-wheeled cab--and he knew it. Eventually, he realised something else: he saw that the whole project of a Catholic University had been evolved as a political and ecclesiastical weapon against the Queen's Colleges of Peel, and that was all. As an instrument of education. it was simply laughed at; and he himself had been called in because his name would be a valuable asset in a party game. When he understood that, he resigned his rectorship and returned to the Oratory.

But, his tribulations were not yet over. It seemed to be God's will that he should take part in a whole succession of schemes, which, no less than the project of the Irish University, were to end in disillusionment and failure. He was persuaded by Cardinal Wiseman to undertake the editorship of a new English version of the Scriptures, which was to be a monument of Catholic scholarship and an everlasting glory to Mother Church. He made elaborate preparations; he collected subscriptions, engaged contributors, and composed a long and learned prolegomena to the work. It was all useless; Cardinal Wiseman began to think of other things; and the scheme faded imperceptibly into thin air. Then a new task was suggested to him: "The Rambler", a Catholic periodical, had fallen on evil days; would Dr Newman come to the rescue, and accept the editorship? This time he hesitated rather longer than usual; he had burned his fingers so often-- he must be specially careful now. 'I did all I could to ascertain God's Will,' he said, and he came to the conclusion that it was his duty to undertake the work. He did so, and after two numbers had appeared, Dr. Ullathorne, the Bishop of Birmingham, called upon him, and gently hinted that he had better leave the paper alone. Its tone was not liked at Rome; it had contained an article criticising St. Pius V, and, most serious of all, the orthodoxy of one of Newman's own essays had appeared to be doubtful. He resigned, and in the anguish of his heart, determined never to write again. One of his friends asked him why he was publishing nothing. 'Hannibal's elephants,' he replied, 'never could learn the goose-step.'

Newman was now an old man--he was sixty-three years of age. What had he to look forward to? A few last years of insignificance and silence. What had he to look back upon? A long chronicle of wasted efforts, disappointed hopes, neglected possibilities, unappreciated powers. And now all his labours had ended by his being accused at Rome of lack of orthodoxy. He could no longer restrain his indignation, and in a letter to one of his lady penitents, he gave vent to the bitterness of his soul. When his Rambler article had been complained of, he said, there had been some talk of calling him to Rome. 'Call me to Rome,' he burst out--'what does that mean? It means to sever an old man from his home, to subject him to intercourse with persons whose languages are strange to him-- to food and to fashions which are almost starvation on the one hand, and involve restless days and nights on the other--it means to oblige him to dance attendance on Propaganda week after week and month after month--it means his death. (It was the punishment on Dr. Baines, 1840-1, to keep him at the door of Propaganda for a year.)

'This is the prospect which I cannot but feel probable, did I say anything which one Bishop in England chose to speak against and report. Others have been killed before me. Lucas went of his own accord indeed--but when he got there, oh!' How much did he, as loyal a son of the Church and the Holy See as ever was, what did he suffer because Dr. Cullen was against him? He wandered (as Dr. Cullen said in a letter he published in a sort of triumph), he wandered from Church to Church without a friend, and hardly got an audience from the Pope. 'And I too should go from St. Philip to Our Lady, and to St. Peter and St. Paul, and to St. Laurence and to St. Cecilia, and, if it happened to me as to Lucas, should come back to die.'

Yet, in spite of all, in spite of these exasperations of the flesh, these agitations of the spirit, what was there to regret? Had he not a mysterious consolation which outweighed every grief? Surely, surely, he had.

he exclaims in a poem written at this time, called 'The Two Worlds':

A sort of fairy ground,
Where suns unsetting light the sky,
And flowers and fruit abound.

Such were Newman's thoughts when an unexpected event occurred which produced a profound effect upon his life: Charles Kingsley attacked his good faith, and the good faith of Catholics in general, in a magazine article. Newman protested, and Kingsley rejoined in an irate pamphlet. Newman's reply was the Apologia pro Vita Sua, which he wrote in seven weeks, sometimes working twenty-two hours at a stretch, 'constantly in tears, and constantly crying out with distress'. The success of the book, with its transparent candour, its controversial brilliance, the sweep and passion of its rhetoric, the depth of its personal feeling, was immediate and overwhelming; it was recognised at once as a classic, not only by Catholics, but by the whole English world. From every side expressions of admiration, gratitude, and devotion poured in. It was impossible for one so sensitive as Newman to the opinions of other people to resist the happy influence of such an unlooked-for, such an enormous triumph. The cloud of his dejection began to lift; et l'espoir malgre lui s'est glisse dans son coeur.

It was only natural that at such a moment his thoughts should return to Oxford. For some years past proposals had been on foot for establishing there a Hall, under Newman's leadership, for Catholic undergraduates. The scheme had been looked upon with disfavour in Rome, and it had been abandoned; but now a new opportunity presented itself-- some land in a suitable position came into the market. Newman, with his reviving spirits, felt that he could not let this chance go by, and bought the land. It was his intention to build there not a Hall, but a Church, and to set on foot a 'House of the Oratory'. What possible objection could there be to such a scheme? He approached the Bishop of Birmingham, who gave his approval; in Rome itself there was no hostile sign. The laity were enthusiastic and subscriptions began to flow in. Was it possible that all was well at last? Was it conceivable that the strange and weary pilgrimage of so many years should end at length in quietude, if not in happiness, where it had begun?

It so happened that it was at this very time that Manning was appointed to the See of Westminster. The destinies of the two men, which had run parallel to one another in so strange a fashion and for so many years, were now for a moment suddenly to converge. Newly clothed with all the attributes of ecclesiastical supremacy, Manning found himself face to face with Newman, upon whose brows were glittering the fresh laurels of spiritual victory--the crown of an apostolical life. It was the meeting of the eagle and the dove. What followed showed, more clearly perhaps than any other incident in his career, the stuff that Manning was made of. Power had come to him at last; and he seized it with all the avidity of a born autocrat, whose appetite for supreme dominion had been whetted by long years of enforced abstinence and the hated simulations of submission. He was the ruler of Roman Catholic England, and he would rule. The nature of Newman's influence it was impossible for him to understand, but he saw that it existed; for twenty years he had been unable to escape the unwelcome itterations of that singular, that alien, that rival renown; and now it stood in his path, alone and inexplicable, like a defiant ghost. 'It is remarkably interesting,' he observed coldly, when somebody asked him what he thought of the Apologia: 'it is like listening to the voice of one from the dead.' And such voices, with their sepulchral echoes, are apt to be more dangerous than living ones; they attract too much attention; they must be silenced at all costs. It was the meeting of the eagle and the dove; there was a hovering, a swoop, and then the quick beak and the relentless talons did their work.

Even before his accession to the Archbishopric, Manning had scented a peculiar peril in Newman's Oxford scheme, and so soon as he came into power, he privately determined that the author of the Apologia should never be allowed to return to his old University. Nor was there any lack of excellent reasons for such a decision. Oxford was by this time a nest of liberalism; it was no fit place for Catholic youths, and they would inevitably be attracted there by the presence of Father Newman. And then, had not Father Newman's orthodoxy been impugned? Had he not been heard to express opinions of most doubtful propriety upon the question of the Temporal Power? Was it not known that he might almost be said to have an independent mind? An influence? Yes, he had an influence no doubt; but what a fatal kind of influence to which to subject the rising generation of Catholic Englishmen!

Such were the reflections which Manning was careful to pour into the receptive car of Monsignor Talbot. That useful priest, at his post of vantage in the Vatican, was more than ever the devoted servant of the new Archbishop. A league, offensive and defensive, had been established between the two friends. 'I daresay I shall have many opportunities to serve you in Rome,' wrote Monsignor Talbot modestly, 'and I do not think any support will be useless to you, especially on account of the peculiar character of the Pope, and the spirit which pervades Propaganda; therefore, I wish you to understand that a compact exists between us; if you help me, I shall help you.' And a little later he added, 'I am glad you accept the league. As I have already done for years, I shall support you, and I have a hundred ways of doing so. A word dropped at the proper occasion works wonders.' Perhaps it was hardly necessary to remind his correspondent of that.

So far as Newman was concerned, it so fell out that Monsignor Talbot needed no prompting. During the sensation caused by the appearance of the Apologia, it had occurred to him that it would be an excellent plan to secure Newman as a preacher during Lent for the fashionable congregation which attended his church in the Piazza del Popolo; and, he had accordingly written to invite him to Rome. His letter was unfortunately not a tactful one. He assured Newman that he would find in the Piazza del Popolo 'an audience of Protestants more educated than could ever be the case in England', and 'I think myself,' he had added by way of extra inducement, 'that you will derive great benefit from visiting Rome, and showing yourself to the Ecclesiastical Authorities.' Newman smiled grimly at this; he declared to a friend that the letter was 'insolent'; and he could not resist the temptation of using his sharp pen.

'Dear Monsignor Talbot,' he wrote in reply, 'I have received your letter, inviting me to preach in your Church at Rome to an audience of Protestants more educated than could ever be the case in England.

'However, Birmingham people have souls; and I have neither taste nor talent for the sort of work which you cut out for me. And I beg to decline your offer.

I am, yours truly,

JOHN H. NEWMAN.'

Such words were not the words of wisdom. It is easy to imagine the feelings of Monsignor Talbot. 'Newman's work none here can understand,' he burst out to his friend. 'Poor man, by living almost ever since he has been a Catholic, surrounded by a set of inferior men who idolise him, I do not think he has ever acquired the Catholic instincts.' As for his views on the Temporal Power-- 'well, people said that he had actually sent a subscription to Garibaldi. Yes, the man was incomprehensible, heretical, dangerous; he was "uncatholic and unchristian."' Monsignor Talbot even trembled for the position of Manning in England. 'I am afraid that the old school of Catholics will rally round Newman in opposition to you and Rome. Stand firm, do not yield a bit in the line you have taken. As I have promised, I shall stand by you. You will have battles to fight because every Englishman is naturally anti-Roman. To be Roman is and effort to an Englishman. Dr. Newman is more English than the English. His spirit must be crushed.'

His spirit must be crushed! Certainly there could be no doubt of that. 'What you write about Dr Newman,' Manning replied, 'is true. Whether he knows it or not, he has become the centre of those who hold low views about the Holy See, are anti-Roman, cold and silent, to say no more, about the Temporal Power; national, English, critical of Catholic devotions, and always on the lower side. ... You will take care,' he concluded, 'that things are correctly known and understood where you are.'

The confederates matured their plans. While Newman was making his arrangements for the Oxford Oratory, Cardinal Reisach visited London. 'Cardinal Reisach has just left,' wrote Manning to Monsignor Talbot: 'he has seen and understands all that is going on in England.' But Newman had no suspicions. It was true that persistent rumours of his unorthodoxy and his anti-Roman leanings had begun to float about, and these rumours had been traced to Rome. But what were rumours? Then, too, Newman found out that Cardinal Reisach had been to Oxford without his knowledge, and had inspected the land for the Oratory. That seemed odd; but all doubts were set at rest by the arrival from Propaganda of an official ratification of his scheme. There would be nothing but plain sailing now. Newman was almost happy; radiant visions came into his mind of a wonderful future in Oxford, the gradual growth of Catholic principles, the decay of liberalism, the inauguration of a second Oxford Movement, the conversion--who knows?--of Mark Pattison, the triumph of the Church.... 'Earlier failures do not matter now,' he exclaimed to a friend. 'I see that I have been reserved by God for this.'

Just then a long blue envelope was brought into the room. Newman opened it. 'All is over,' he said, 'I am not allowed to go.' The envelope contained a letter from the Bishop announcing that, together with the formal permission for an Oratory at Oxford, Propaganda had issued a secret instruction to the effect that Newman himself was by no means to reside there. If he showed signs of doing so, he was blandly and suavely ('blande suaviterque' were the words of the Latin instrument) to be prevented. And now the secret instruction had come into operation-- blande suaviterque: Dr. Newman's spirit had been crushed.

His friends made some gallant efforts to retrieve the situation; but, it was in vain. Father St. John hurried to Rome and the indignant laity of England, headed by Lord Edward Howard, the guardian of the young Duke of Norfolk, seized the opportunity of a particularly virulent anonymous attack upon Newman, to send him an address in which they expressed their feeling that 'every blow that touches you inflicts a wound upon the Catholic Church in this country'. The only result was an outburst of redoubled fury upon the part of Monsignor Talbot. The address, he declared, was an insult to the Holy See. 'What is the province of the laity?' he interjected. 'To hunt, to shoot, to entertain. These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all.' Once more he warned Manning to be careful. 'Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England, and you will see that he will make use of the laity against your Grace. You must not be afraid of him. It will require much prudence, but you must be firm. The Holy Father still places his confidence in you; but if you yield and do not fight the battle of the Holy See against the detestable spirit growing up in England, he will begin to regret Cardinal Wiseman, who knew how to keep the laity in order.' Manning had no thought of 'yielding'; but, he pointed out to his agitated friend that an open conflict between himself and Newman would be 'as great a scandal to the Church in England, and as great a victory to the Anglicans, as could be'. He would act quietly, and there would be no more difficulty. The Bishops were united, and the Church was sound.

On this, Monsignor Talbot hurried to Father St. John's lodgings in Rome to express his regret at the misunderstanding that had arisen, to wonder how it could possibly have occurred, and to hope that Dr. Newman might consent to be made a Protonotary Apostolic. That was all the satisfaction that Father St. John was to obtain from his visit to Rome. A few weeks later, the scheme of the Oxford Oratory was finally quashed.

When all was over, Manning thought that the time had come for a reconciliation. He made advances through a common friend; what had he done, he asked, to offend Dr. Newman? Letters passed, and, naturally enough, they only widened the breach. Newman was not the man to be polite. 'I can only repeat,' he wrote at last, 'what I said when you last heard from me. I do not know whether I am on my head or my heels when I have active relations with you. In spite of my friendly feelings, this is the judgment of my intellect.' 'Meanwhile,' he concluded, 'I propose to say seven masses for your intention amid the difficulties and anxieties of your ecclesiastical duties.' And Manning could only return the compliment.

At about this time, the Curate of Littlemore had a singular experience. As he was passing by the Church he noticed an old man, very poorly dressed in an old grey coat with the collar turned up, leaning over the lych gate, in floods of tears. He was apparently in great trouble, and his hat was pulled down over his eyes as if he wished to hide his features. For a moment, however, he turned towards the Curate, who was suddenly struck by something familiar in the face. Could it be--? A photograph hung over the Curate's mantelpiece of the man who had made Littlemore famous by his sojourn there more than twenty years ago-- he had never seen the original; but now, was it possible--? He looked again, and he could doubt no longer. It was Dr. Newman. He sprang forward, with proffers of assistance. Could he be of any use? 'Oh no, no!' was the reply. 'Oh no, no!' But the Curate felt that he could not run away and leave so eminent a character in such distress. 'Was it not Dr. Newman he had the honour of addressing?' he asked, with all the respect and sympathy at his command. 'Was there nothing that could be done?' But the old man hardly seemed to understand what was being said to him. 'Oh no, no!' he repeated, with the tears streaming down his face, 'Oh no, no!'

'Unveil, 0 Lord, and on us shine,
In glory and in grace,'

'This gaudy world grows pale before
The beauty of Thy face.

'But when Thy keener, purer beam
Is poured upon our sight,
It loses all its power to charm,
And what was day is night...

'And thus, when we renounce for
Thee Its restless aims and fears,
The tender memories of the past,
The hopes of coming years,

'Poor is our sacrifice, whose eyes
Are lighted from above;
We offer what we cannot keep,
What we have ceased to love.'