Apologia pro Vita Sua

by John Henry Newman

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Because the Apologia pro Vita Sua is nonfiction, it technically does not have characters. In another sense, the protagonist of John Henry Newman’s spiritual autobiography is the author himself, and influential figures in his life and career in the clergy can also be considered characters. During 1864, in a set of articles and correspondence, Newman and Charles Kingsley debated theological topics. Newman, previously a minister of the Church of England serving at Oriel College, Oxford, had converted to Catholicism in 1845. Kingsley was an Anglican minister; his sect was called the Broad Church, as contrasted to the High Church and Low Church.

This change was widely noted, as Newman had been an influential reformer in the 1830s – 1840s, contributing to The Tracts of the Times, a group of writings associated with the Oxford or Tractarian movement intended to return the Anglican Church to a more traditional, hierarchical form. After the publication of Kingsley’s initial attack, which sharply rebuked Newman as well as insulting Roman Catholicism in general by questioning the truthfulness of Roman Catholic clergy, Newsman published a strongly worded defense or, as he said, “more than a sharp retort.” Additional exchanges followed.

Newman decided to write the Apologia, also known as The History of My Religious Opinions, after Charles Kingsley attacked him in print. In The Apologia’s seven chapters, Newman explains how these religious opinions developed from adolescence through his conversion. Kingsley becomes a character as well because Chapters 1, 2, and 7 are addressed to him.

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